QSFer Niamh Murphy has a new FF Fantasy book out: Dragon Whisper.
For fans of Sarah J. Maas, Game of Thrones, and Skyrim comes a queer, epic fantasy set in a land of Dark Wizards and Warrior Queens…
A LOOMING WAR. A DEVASTATING BLIGHT. A GOD HUNGRY FOR SOULS.
To save herself, she will first have to save the world.
In the dying forests of the Weald Wood, Breanna, a young outcast, is simply trying to earn a Hunter’s axe.
When she witnesses the sacred Forest Drake kill her father and destroy her village home, she knows her life is forever altered. But Breanna holds a secret that could be the key to stopping the Ancient Dragon God’s rampage.
The fate of every being in the land now depends on one young woman who can hear the Dragon’s Whisper.
Will she find her courage, or see her world destroyed?
Niamh is giving away an eBook copy of Escape to Pirate Island with this post – comment for a chance to win.
On the last day of summer, Breanna watched her father die.
It was her fault. She hadn’t moved fast enough. She hadn’t run.
Instead, she’d been mesmerised by a Whisper.
The daylight was just beginning to seep through the forest canopy. It pierced like a spear down through the trees and dissipated in the cool morning mist that hovered on the forest floor.
Breanna could barely hear her father, Coinin, stalking behind her, but she knew he was there. His occasional hissed suggestion reminded her that she was still a novice and still had yet to earn her axe. She sighed as, once again, he pointed out the deer tracks she was following and reminded her she needed to stay focused and think like a Hunter. But all she could think was that she needed to pass the test today.
She couldn’t go through all the training again.
There was a rustling in the bushes downwind. Breanna glanced over and caught a glimpse of messy brown hair: Luchog. She had to beat him. She couldn’t bear to witness yet another child earn their place, make their kill, pass the test, and move on into adulthood while she failed. She couldn’t live without earning her place for another day, another week, another month, another year. She had remained behind too long.
At seventeen summers, Breanna was an adult in age alone. She was the first Woodlander in living memory to come of age before she had earned her place. She had almost grown used to the stares and the talk.
She heard a twig snap and glanced forward. There it was. A buck, perhaps a few summers old. He was a good size; standing tall he was likely up to her waist. This was the one, this was the deer she had been tracking. This was her kill. And she had a clear shot.
Breanna’s blood seemed to thicken, and her mouth dried up as she watched the young creature nonchalantly munching on the juicy leaves of late-summer undergrowth.
‘Run,’ in her thoughts she urged the buck to dart away, ‘hear the danger, and run.’ She closed her eyes for a moment and willed the animal to hear the swish of leaves as she moved her feet, or the rustling of leathers as Hunters closed in.
Suddenly, the little buck started. His head bolted up, leaves half-eaten hanging from his mouth. He stared out into the woods. A wave of relief, tinged with regret, washed over Breanna.
“There.” Her father had spotted it. “Bree, take your shot.”
Reluctantly, she drew her sling. Her throat closed up as she readied a little runestone that was charged with enough magic to help it fly clean and true. She was crouched, poised and ready to fire in the stillness of the dawn.
Thinking himself safe, the young deer dropped his head and went back to his breakfast. Her shot was clear. All she had to do was release the runestone from her spinning sling. She would make her kill, earn her axe, and finally take her rightful place alongside her father and brother at the Hunter’s table. She would no longer be the outcast, the ‘un-child’, and the villagers would all soon forget how long it had taken her to earn her place.
She couldn’t breathe. Her hand began to shake.
“Take the shot, Breanna.” Coinin didn’t scold. He was ever-patient, ever-calm.
But who was she to decide between life and death?
It was over in an instant.
A whistle and a thud.
The deer crumpled to the ground. A cheer rang out in the forest as little Luchog burst from his hiding place and ran to inspect his kill. Breanna lowered her sling as she watched Luchog’s father, kind-faced, bright-eyed, and dark-featured, join his son and they laughed together. Luchog took charge, drew his bronze butchering knife, and swiftly began gutting the animal to avoid spoiling the meat.
Breanna stood, leaning against a tree, the cover of the undergrowth no longer needed.
“A Hunter must be swift.” Coinin placed a hand upon her shoulder. It was warm and heavy. His eyes were dark and kind, his thick beard flecked with grey, and his leathers were well worn and smelled of woodsmoke. Breanna took a deep breath as she listened patiently to the lecture she’d heard a thousand times before. Her father was calm, kind, and utterly infuriating. “It is not just other Hunters but predators, too: a fox might catch your rabbit, or a hawk can swoop on your dove. But it is early yet, we shall track another.” He tapped her heavily and she nodded.
She had nothing to say. He was right; he was always right. She should have been swift and taken the kill. If she had, then she would be celebrating now. She would be the one gutting the creature and making the sacred ritual to the Forest Drake.
Instead, she was tired, and bored, and about to spend another hour tracking a new beast to slaughter. Part of her wanted to just give up and go home. It would be easy to traipse back to the village empty-handed. But she couldn’t face another day of sitting on the children’s table outside the roundhouse, of hearing laughter behind her back, or seeing the look of disappointment in her brother, Broc’s, kind eyes as he realised that the space he’d saved next to him would, once again, remain empty.
So, she followed her father’s guidance and they picked up the trail of a boar. It was a young one, alone, and likely had not long left its brood. She slunk silently through the undergrowth, her dark leathers, and dark skin, allowing her to meld in with the trees perfectly.
She heard it grunting, and then, through the trees, she caught movement. Breanna could make out the dark fur and the lighter stripe down its back as it snuffled through the ground mulch searching for fallen acorns and mushrooms. It was a good size and healthy from a bounteous summer. Its little haunches wiggled in delight as it stumbled across something tasty.
Her father had seen it, too, and started his usual whispered instructions, as familiar to her now as the sound of her own breathing. In an instant she wished he wasn’t there. She wished he didn’t witness her failures and constant reluctance. She wished there was another way; a way out of the rituals to the Forest Drake, a way out of the tribe, and a way out of killing a happy, young boar.
She readied her sling and cursed the world that forced this cycle of life and death upon them.
Then she heard it.
Like the thundering roar of a waterfall calling to her. But silent as a thought. It was a sound and yet it wasn’t. She couldn’t hear it with her ears but instead with her whole body… and it wanted to kill.
“What is it?” Coinin sensed her hesitation.
Breanna opened her mouth to explain but she couldn’t speak. She was filled with a rage. A desire to consume. A desire to take the life of everything that surrounded her. It was a bloodlust unlike anything she had ever known. It took all her strength not to roar with the desperate fury that filled her.
Suddenly the boar squealed and took off at a run.
“Oh, Bree you’ve lost another!”
But as soon as the words were out of his mouth, there was a crashing in the forest behind them. They glanced at one another and took off toward the noise. They could hear Hunters yelling warnings as they ran.
“What’s happening?” Luchog and his father sped through the trees to meet them, both pale as they all stared at the creature destroying everything in its path.
“The Forest Drake,” Breanna muttered.
The Whisper grew louder within her as their Sacred Guardian of the Wood grew closer. She stared, motionless, as the dark brown Forest Drake, tall as two men, skin like tree bark, a long, flaring snout, and the unmistakable golden eyes of a Dragon, hurtled through the wood tearing through tree trunks like kindling.
“What have we done?” Luchog’s father voiced the question they all wondered and yet none had an answer.
The boy turned to run back toward the village, his recent kill still slung across his back.
“Luchog, no!” his father called but within seconds, the Forest Drake had beaten a path toward him.
Breanna watched, panic-stricken, as a golden halo of light emerged from the boy, torn from the very depths of his soul. Then his screams stopped abruptly and his body crumpled to the ground: his aura had been consumed.
Unable to even call his name, she watched in shock as the Dragon turned its hungry, golden eyes on her.
She opened her mouth to scream but no sound would come. She heard her father call to her, but she was frozen to the spot. The Whispering, a crescendo of all-consuming, hungry rage, filled her body. It was part of her and she was a part of it. She understood then that the Dragon needed her soul and she was willing to give it.
The Forest Drake gave a roar of agony and Breanna felt the torturing emptiness that drove it on relentlessly. Those golden eyes seemed to surround her and she felt a pain like no other, as if her body was being ripped apart and her soul torn from the depths of her being. She wanted to give herself, to quell the Dragon’s insatiable hunger and let the Sacred Guardian forgive her for her failings.
Her father yelled out, and Breanna was slammed hard against a tree. The shock stunned her for a moment and when she turned to look she saw Coinin had taken her place. His limbs spread apart, his head thrown back, and his body lifted impossibly from the ground as the golden light of his own aura surrounded him.
But there was nothing she could do. Two Hunters grabbed her, pulling her away to the safety of the village. She screamed for her father and watched helplessly as the life was torn from him.
The Forest Drake had answered her prayers. Nothing would ever be the same again.
Niamh Murphy is a historian and novelist specialising in romantic lesbian fiction. She is passionate about experimenting with different genres and has a fondness for romantic action and adventure. She has written stories with vampires, werewolves, elves, magic, knights, sorceresses, and witches as well as contemporary and humorous stories, but always with a lesbian protagonist and a romantic element to the tale.
Visit her website for exclusive content: http://www.AuthorNiamh.com