Whispers of Shadow & Flame by L. Penelope
Born with a deadly magic she cannot control, Kyara is forced to become an assassin. Known as the Poison Flame, she is notorious and lethal, but secretly seeks freedom from both her untamed power and the blood spell that commands her. She is tasked with capturing the notorious rebel called the Shadowfox, but everything changes when she learns her target’s true identity.
Excerpt from Whispers of Shadow & Flame
“I-I’m sure we can come to some kind of understanding.”
The man before Kyara scrambled backward, slamming his back against the wall. The scent of his fear was rancid, filling the interior of the dwelling. The stench overpowered the smell of fresh vegetables roasting in the clay oven. His whimpers drowned out the murmurings of the infant in a basket near the fire. A woman cowered next to the baby. Kyara judged the distance and determined that the mother and child were far enough away to remain safe but only if she stood very close to her target. Close enough to feel his sour breath on her skin.
Her stomach clenched at the thought, but she forced herself forward, erasing the few paces between them. Now the odor emanating from the man was mixed with piss. The dark stain spreading across the front of his trousers was proof enough that the fellow knew who she was and why she was here.
“W-we can negotiate. I’m sure there must be something you want.” Beads of sweat punctured his forehead, and the thick vein at his neck jumped with his rapid pulse.
Kyara’s warped Song prowled inside her, impatient. It wanted to launch itself into the maelstrom of source energy, to ride the brutal currents of the force like a kite in a violent wind. She shuddered and reined in her Song. Instead of giving in to the despised urge, she opened her mind’s eye. The world fell away, leaving only a field of black. She spread her senses and focused on this village, this home, this room. Moving arcs of white light burst across her vision, like the undulating waves of brightness produced by a fire dancer swinging a torch.
This was Nethersong.
As Ydaris had explained to her many years ago, while Earthsong was the energy of life, Nethersong was death energy. And Kyara’s broken Song had never been able to connect with anything else. She could not heal. She could not grow crops from seeds with a single intention or feel the pulse of life moving in the plants and animals around her.
She was cursed. She had killed her mother at birth, and this was her punishment.
The light of the man before her pulsed brightly. His death energy was a cyclone spinning out of control. Judging by the strength of Nethersong within him, he had not been kind to his body—a feat much easier when you were on the True Father’s payroll and could afford an abundance of rich food and drink. If the immortal king were a patient man, Kyara wouldn’t be needed at all. This pay-roller only had a few months to live as it was.
In the corner of the room, the wife’s light was dimmer. She was younger and healthier than her husband. The infant’s light was so weak it barely registered. Just a dull glow indicated the faintest traces of Nethersong. Kyara nearly smiled. Children had so much life, so much strength. She wished she could always see an endless field of dark in her inner vision.
She shuttered her extra sight, bringing the man’s face back into focus. “I am not here to negotiate with you.” Her voice was no louder than a whisper.
His eyes widened. He spread his arms out on both sides of him, attempting to press himself into the wall. Kyara didn’t move from her position a hairbreadth away. She didn’t need to touch him, but he didn’t know that.
“Whatever His Majesty believes I’ve stolen, I will return, threefold. I am but a simple man. A husband and father.” He waved a pudgy hand at the woman in the corner. “I give tribute for all I collect, I pay on time and—” His pleas became a drone in her ears, mingling with those of a hundred other men who had begged for their lives over the years. Other men in other homes like this, the ramshackle dwelling a palace in comparison to the others in the village. Thick rugs covered the dirt floor, and real glass hung in the windows. The enticing aroma of okra and butter tickled her nose. Some unidentifiable spice hung in the air, as well. Fresh vegetables, seasonings, real butter—these luxuries were virtually unknown to most people in the Midcountry.
Though her mouth watered, she never ate the food of the dead.
Guest Post: Visual Inspiration & Worldbuilding
Last Christmas my family decided to escape the frigid east coast weather and spend the holiday in Palm Springs, CA. I’d never been there before, but once I arrived I realized that this place where the was desert surrounded by mountains was exactly how I’d envisioned one of the countries in my fantasy world: I had arrived in Lagrimar.
The mountains are a huge part of the worldbuilding in the Earthsinger Chronicles series. The country of Lagrimar is completely surrounded, cut off from the rest of the world by this natural barrier, as well as a magical one. Driving down the highway through the Palm Desert with the imposing peaks towering over me was deeply inspiring and helped me sink into the world I was creating.
But it’s not always possible to travel to the exact place your story is set. Some of the other locations were shaped and polished by virtue of me stumbling across images accidentally. Like this one of Horseshoe Bend, AZ, which becomes Serpent’s Gorge in the book.
And this article about toxic lakes and the petrified animals in them haunted me until it found its way into the novel.
The sights, sounds and smells of reality all go into making a fantasy world work. Once a location is real to me and I can live inside it in my head, then I know it’s ready to put to the page.
Enther the Giveaway
Leslye Penelope believes love is magic and likes her romance with a healthy dose of imagination. She’s been writing since she could hold a pen and is the author of new adult, fantasy, and paranormal romance with multicultural characters.
At one time or another she’s been a filmmaker, tape dubber, tech support specialist, model, poll worker, professor, and DJ. She has a quote from The Matrix tattooed on her arm and sometimes dreams in HTML. After living on both coasts, she settled in Maryland with her husband and their furry dependents: an eighty-pound lap dog and an aspiring feral cat.
Sign up for new release information and monthly giveaways on her website:http://www.lpenelope.com.