QSFer Nita Round has a new FF Fantasy book out:
Lucinda Ravensburgh sees the truth in everything she touches. When Captain Magda Stoner of the airship Verity, asks for her help in a very strange and messy crime, Lucinda cannot refuse. From that moment on, Lucinda’s life is changed forever. She discovers, no matter what the obstacle, nor the troubles they encounter, finding the truth is paramount.
A Touch of Truth Book One: Raven, Fire & Ice
LUCINDA RAVENSBURGH SAT at her desk and stared at the items she’d dumped on the leather writing surface. Money, a lot of it, spilled over several sheets of paper folded and sealed with wax. She selected one, broke the seal, and glanced at the writing inside. “Pish,” she grumbled, and discarded it.
A flash of pale metal in the shape of a hummingbird brooch caught her attention. She didn’t touch it though, she just stared at the thumb-nail sized work of art. Crafted in silver, and made with such skill and attention to detail, the hummingbird could have flitted its wings and flown away. Lucinda wondered whom it belonged to, or rather who it had belonged to. She waited for inspiration, or something to come to mind, nothing did. She would have to touch it for that.
Since inspiration failed her, she reached into the top left drawer of her desk and took out a leather wrapped pouch no longer than the length and thickness of her hand. Inside lay three cylinders the length of her index finger, each bar clipped in place with leather strapping. Lucinda selected one of these slender bars and tested the bone insert and brown rubber covering for blemishes. Satisfied of the integrity of the bar, she placed the cylinder between her teeth. She ground her jaws together until bone and rubber sat comfortably in her mouth. Lucinda hated the bite bar, but better something she disliked rather than risk breaking a tooth or shredding her tongue.
She took a deep breath and snatched at the silver brooch from the desk as though she feared it would burn. Her fingers closed around the little bird and her grip tightened into a fist. The muscles in her back stiffened. Her perspective changed, and her place in her chamber ceased to exist. Reality, for Lucinda, shifted elsewhere. Her room, the tower in which it lay, and all of her world vanished. Other images, memories not her own, assailed her mind.
Blood. Blood everywhere. Fresh blood.
Once white walls, smeared from floor to ceiling with shades of wine and scarlet. Blood, and bandages.
Red on white.
More details rose to her mind in little bubbles of vision.
Eight little shower heads, standing in a row.
Drip, drip, drip. Blood fell in tiny noisy drops.
Copper pipes, wrapped in slimy strings of gore shone with reflected light.
Blood dripped into the pool of blood with a steadyplink, plink.
At her feet, ripples spread out like a single drop of rain on a still and silent pool.
Above her head, globules of slimy red and black clung to the ceiling with the tenacity of a barnacle, and once released, landed in the sea of blood with a solid blup.
She saw movement then. Neither a drip nor a splash this time. It rose from the flooded floor in a surge of red to stand, dripping, on two legs. A man. Wide-eyed and staring, his pupil-less eyes glowed with the colours of a deep shadow, and he opened a pus-filled mouth to reveal teeth pointed and ragged. He reached out with a claw-like hand and swiped with force and need. “Hungry.” The words roared through her mind along with pain, and need. Hunger most of all, and the hunger grew so great it tore at her insides. “Feed me.”
The creature swiped for her again. A hand, hers and not hers, pushed out to fend off the attacker. He reached out, and this time a flash of silver fell from his long, yellowed talons. A silver bird, tiny and perfect, glinted as it flipped over and over in a slow-motion somersault.
She screamed, or she thought she heard a scream. In this place of memories her truth seemed hard to separate from the memories, the truth of others.
When the screaming stopped, darkness came and she sank into the welcome embrace of oblivion.
LUCINDA OPENED HER eyes. She lay on the floor, cradled in the arms of her assistant, Amelia Woostenhead, and her nose a mere two inches away from a rather well-endowed bosom. With such a distraction, the nightmare began to fade from her thoughts.
“Lucinda? Are you all right?” Amelia asked.
Her jaw ached, her eyes stung, and she wanted to be sick. “Bad token,” she admitted. The distraction of Amelia’s proximity was already fading.
“What?” Amelia asked.
“The token, it’s a bad one.”
“What do you mean bad?”
“It’s been marked by two people, or a thing. I’m not certain what it means.” She paused to put her thoughts into order. “The victim, and the perpetrator, I think. But it felt like something different.”
“More? Never mind the token, are you all right? Lucinda, please answer.”
“Yes fine,” she mumbled, although in truth she couldn’t be at all sure. “Am I bleeding?” she asked.
“No, you’re not. At least I can’t see any marks or damage on you.”
Lucinda didn’t respond, at first. Yet the pain of the nightmare persisted, and the sensation of burning claws ripping across her chest almost took her breath away. This really did feel like something more.
“How many fingers am I holding up?” Amelia asked.
“How many fingers, Lucinda? You know the drill.” Lucinda took a moment to focus. “Four,” she answered.
“All right, are you sure you’re okay? You don’t look well. You’re pale, even for you.”
“Yes, now help me up. It’s neither comfortable nor dignified on the floor, although I have to say I’m rather distracted by the close proximity between your cleavage and my nose. I think I’d be happy to lie here and stare at the view if you don’t mind.”
“For goodness sake, grow up, Lucinda.”
“I am all grown up. Or haven’t you noticed?”
“You’re a twelve-year-old boy in the body of a thirty-year old woman.” “I’m so glad you noticed my body.” Amelia snorted, but said no more.
Lucinda straightened her skirts as she got to her feet. “I hate these long, full things,” she grumbled. “I think the corset near broke my ribs.”
“Why the hell didn’t you loosen it before you started?”
“I didn’t expect this reaction.”
“You expected enough of a response to put in the bite bar.”
Lucinda grimaced. “Didn’t say I had to be consistent, did I?”
“Good thing I did, too. Without it I’m sure I’d have shredded my tongue.”
“That’s bad, Lucinda, you should take better precautions.”
“How can I? I don’t know what I’ll see until I look.”
Amelia’s expression softened. “You’re a fool.”
“Yes,” Lucinda agreed and straightened her shoulders.
Nita Round lives in the heart of England with her wife and their King Charles Cavalier, Rosie. She has an extensive list of hobbies and things she likes to do, like reading, music, walking the dog on Cannock Chase, gardening, and growing things to cook and eat.
She loves gaming (poking things with a virtual sword), dungeons, dragons and things that go bump in the night. None of this interferes with drinking gin or wine, however.
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