The Summons: Part 3

Start with Part 1 here!

Harris forced them forward another two steps, a panicked sound escaping their throat. He let go of their shoulders and Jay realised what was about to happen. They just had the time to snake a finger through his belt buckle before the push came. A sudden burst of force against Jay’s back sent them shooting forward faster than they could keep up with. Their arms straightened as far as they could go and pain shot through their finger, but the buckle came free as they stumbled away.

Harris swore but he sounded far away now. Jay floundered on, unable to right themself with their hands still bound behind their back. They lasted three more steps before they finally lost their footing but the cold, hard smack against the stone floor never came.

Face first, Jay collided with what must have been Gelethil’s chest, his arms wrapping around them and supporting their weight. His touch wasn’t warm – it was hot. Falling against him had the same effect as stepping into a steaming shower on a cold winter’s day. He lifted them easily back to their feet and Jay tried to pull away but he held them still, firm yet gentle. One of his hands slid down their back until it reached Jay’s own. He carefully prised the belt buckle away from them.

Good, he thought after a few seconds, keeping them softly pinned against his chest with one arm. This will do nicely.

Jay’s body was so tense it ached. Here they were – in total darkness, held captive by a demon. Just this morning they were on the bus to work. His claws brushed against their back and their mind ceased to function. Gelethil must have sensed it, giving them a gentle shake.

We’re almost there, he told them. I still need you.

Jay just about managed a nod, difficult with their face pressed against him. They were less inclined to pull away now that their skin grew used to his heat, realising just how cold they had truly gotten. A shudder ran through them and Gelethil held them slightly tighter.

“You see?” came Caine’s echoing voice. “You’re fine.”

An almost inaudible whimper escaped them. With his other hand, Gelethil patted their head in a rather similar manner to how someone slightly afraid of dogs might pat an Alsatian.

Answer them.

“Fuck you,” Jay said, the sound muffled by Gelethil’s chest.

Caine tutted. “Now, now, all I need to do is flick a switch and you’re trapped with a desperate beast. Does that sound fun to you?”

Her conversational tone infuriated them. Gelethil stopped patting and moved his hand back to Jay’s. With a simple flick of his finger, the rope was severed. Their arms fell to their sides and they flexed their digits as the blood flooded back.

Give me your hand, he said and they held one up in the darkness. Gelethil placed the belt buckle into their palm. It already radiated heat. Caine was speaking again but Jay wasn’t listening as the demon put his hand over theirs, closing their fingers around the square buckle. He guided them deeper into the darkness.

Caine cleared her throat pointedly.

Gelethil crouched down to the ground, taking Jay with him. Such low level agents these must be, to be so foolish.

Agents? What’s going on?

“Do you want these lights turned back on?” Caine persisted. “Answer me.”

Jay glanced up and saw the silhouetted outlines of their captors against the eerie red glow. Gelethil guided their hand down to the stone floor.

She’s going to- Jay began, but he didn’t give them a chance to finish.

Do you feel the binding? he asked, pulling their fingers along the rough stone and onto something smooth. I can’t damage them myself.

“That’s it,” Caine said, her heel clicks sounding. “I warned you.”

Jay saw the shadowy shape of her arm moving up to the switch on the wall and held their breath. A slow, deep rumble of laughter emanated from Gelethil.

“Yes, you did,” he said aloud, his voice a low and satisfied purr.

Jay’s jaw dropped and time slowed. Their captors panicked and Caine hit the lights. Gelethil screamed, throwing Jay away and falling to the ground. Harris reached for the dial, cranking it up. Jay’s eyes burned and thick, black smoke erupted from Gelethil’s skin. They looked down, one of the pristine, obsidian lines running right between their knees. In a split second decision they chose what they prayed was the lesser of two evils.

Jay raised their hand up, bringing the edge of the buckle down on the paint. The tiniest piece of black flecked off, twirling through the air and landing with a gentle pitter on the stone.

The silence was striking. Both the smoke and Gelethil were gone. On the other side of the room stood the two captors, appearing frozen in place. The pair shared a glance and Harris dove for the door. He battered the thing but it would not budge.

“What do you want?” Caine asked, her previously authoritative voice trembling.

That rich laugh came from directly behind Jay and their heart rose to their throat. He was free, they knew. He was free and he was powerful.

“You’ve already given me everything I want,” Gelethil said. His hand lightly curled over Jay’s shoulder and they glanced at those long, frightening claws.

Caine paled. “It was all an act,” she said, the horrifying realisation shaking her. “The lights, the language…”

Jay’s mind raced, blood pounding in their ears. Had this all been about them?

“It was her,” Harris shouted, pointing at Caine. “She’s one of them! It’s just a job to me!”

Anger flared in Jay’s chest as they recalled the people coming for them, stopping the bus. They remembered the blood and the bodies, and their fear melted away in the heat of their outrage.

“She didn’t kill those people,” they spat. “You did.”

“Excellent,” Gelethil said. “He dies first.”

The room dropped into darkness. No red glow, just a crushing black that made Jay momentarily fear they’d gone blind. The warmth of Gelethil’s hand left their shoulder. Far ahead of them, something swiped through the air, followed by an agonised scream. Jay shuffled backwards in the darkness, a thick tremor in their limbs, until their back hit the wall. Caine shrieked, first in fear and then pain. Jay cradled their head, covering their ears, trying to block out the wailing, clattering and tearing sounds. The spattering. The pleading.

They buried their face in their knees and became so efficient at wishful thinking that all they heard was their own sobs. Time passed. Eventually they became aware of the stillness in the room. They risked a glance up. The room was light again. The opposite end was painted red. They retched. Sat cross-legged before them, covered in blood, was Gelethil.

“What an odd sort of day,” he said conversationally. His hands rested on his knees, blood lazily dripping from them.

Jay opened their mouth and air came out. No sound. They tried again to no avail.

“At first I truly thought you were one of them, you know,” he carried on. “I’m pleased you aren’t.”

“Why?” Jay managed, nothing more than a breath.

He shrugged. “Makes things easier. My escape, and now the rest of our business together, I expect.”

Jay shuddered.

“You’re cold,” Gelethil said, extending a bloody hand. “Come here.”

They shook their head frantically and tried to huddle closer to the wall. “What business?”

“These people, this… ‘organisation’ has been summoning demons and binding them. I want to kill these rats and free my brethren so we can return to our home.”


Gelethil’s eyes flicked to the floor and back up to Jay’s again. They felt a little sick.

“It’s real?” Jay asked.

“As real as I am.”

“What do you need me for?”

His tail flicked from side to side behind him. “Information.”

Jay’s gut roiled. “I swear I don’t know anything.”

Gelethil shuffled closer, leaning forward with a glint in his eye that caused Jay to tense further. “Not yet,” he said. “Torture is unreliable. You can read minds like a book.”

Jay considered his words. He was right, even if it did take somewhat more effort than that. Their mind crept back to the blood splattered bus and they looked up at the crimson stained walls. Jay probably wasn’t the first innocent to be taken but they might very well have been the first to live. Their brow hardened. Jay wasn’t tied anymore and the people who had wronged them were gone. Their heart was steadying. It was worth a shot.

“You want to stop this organisation, free your people and what? Just leave?” they asked. Their sense reached out, subtly picking their way into his head, like mental fingers flicking through the files of his mind.

They found purchase.

“That’s all I want,” Gelethil said, holding their eyes. “We’ve no interest in this realm.”

Able to focus, their sense held. It was the truth. Jay thought once more of that blood smeared bus and smiled.

“Alright,” they said. “I’m in.”

I hope you enjoyed and if you did, why not check out some of my other short stories!

The Summons: Part 2

Read Part 1 here!

“Well?” Caine asked.

“I’m getting there, give me a sec,” Jay snapped, scowling.

“Harris,” she said with a sigh.

The man’s fist pounded into Jay’s jaw, knocking their head to the side, splattering blood across the floor. It was dazzlingly bright in the pure, white light. The punch hurt. A lot. Jay groaned, closing their eyes. The initial sensation subsided quickly but a strong, pulsing ache was left behind. When Jay looked up again, they flinched: Gelethil stood at the edge of the runes closest to them. He was far taller than Jay had guessed – taller than any human. His face was stern and cold. With a squirm from their stomach, Jay noticed the thin haze of smoke rising from his flesh. The light was literally burning him. His next thoughts sounded incredulous.

You truly are a prisoner.

“Find out what we need,” Caine said. “Or that’ll seem like nothing.”

Jay’s mouth tasted of iron. Yeah. I am. They rolled their eyes. Thought it was a trick?

He nodded.

They want to know what your price is, Jay projected. Whatever that means.

Gelethil snarled, his ears dropping flat along the side of his head. I am no Bargainer, feeding on greed. This little organisation thinks they are so clever. Pah! They are insects, playing with things they do not understand.

“He says he doesn’t have a price,” Jay relayed to their captors. “You’ve got the wrong guy.”

Harris stepped behind Jay and grabbed their hair, jerking their head back. They cried out but fell silent as something cold pressed against their cheek. They glanced down to see a knife glinting there.

“An answer or an eye,” he growled. “Pick.”

“I can’t make him talk,” Jay spat back in a poor attempt to hide their terror.

A low, feral rumble drew the attention of all three humans.

What’s happening? Gelethil asked.

The blade was pressed harder against them and a sound escaped their throat. “They want an answer!” Jay cried out, both aloud and in thought.

Gelethil showed his lengthy fangs in a sneer. Idiots can’t even summon the right demon and they think they could handle a Bargainer?

“Tell it these lights only get brighter,” Caine said through grit teeth.

They’re going to torture you, Jay pressed on, limbs trembling. The blade bit their flesh.


The lights. They get stronger.

He growled and swore but then his ears perked up above his head, a wicked smirk creeping onto his face. Tell them I want you.

Jay balked. “What?” they asked aloud, stricken.

“What did he say?” Caine demanded. Harris flicked her an uncertain look.

Tell them, Gelethil insisted. Trust me or trust them.

Great choices. You want to EAT me, Jay thought. With their chest still tight, breathing took focus.

I was thinking of your other suggestion.

Harris moved the blade closer to their eye, a hot dribble of blood running over their cheek.

“Me,” Jay said, barely a whisper. “He wants me.”

That gave both captors pause. The pair glanced at each other before the woman nodded. Jay held their breath but Harris simply withdrew, taking the knife away. They released a shuddering exhale as the pressure was removed from their flesh.

Gelethil’s grin darkened. It seems you are an acceptable price. Ask the bitch what she wants.

What do you want with me?

Ask her, he replied curtly.

Jay’s mouth felt dry as sand, despite the blood. “He’s asking what you want,” they managed, at length, to say.

Caine chuckled. “Excellent. Tell it we’ll get to that after I’ve asked it some questions.”

Jay relayed the message as if on autopilot, too stunned for anything more. Gelethil threw his head back and laughed, a deep and rolling rumble. He then shook his head.

Tell them that isn’t how this works.

Jay did.

Caine glowered. “Turn up the lights.”

Harris mumbled discontentedly but reached for a dial on the wall opposite the switch and turned, eliciting a click from it. The brightness of the room doubled. Gelethil screamed and dropped to his knees, clutching at his eyes as thicker steam plumed from his skin. Jay shuddered, his agony pulling them from their shock.

“There are four more settings.”

Jay glanced uncertainly between the dial and the demon twice before relaying the message. Gelethil said nothing, curling over in his anguish. Jay chewed their lip anxiously. On one hand, he was terrifying and would kill all three of them given the chance. On the other, Jay and this demon were both captives, both wronged by these people.

“He said make it dark and he’ll talk.”

Caine took a long moment to consider the offer, brow furrowing theatrically. Taking her time, she reached up and flicked off the light, plunging them all back into the eerie red. Gelethil gasped and there was a soft thud that Jay assumed to be him falling to the ground.

Sweet darkness, came the velvet voice of his mind.

Jay exhaled slowly. I told them you’d talk if they killed the lights.

“Now,” Caine began, “to my questions.”

She had a series of queries about the dark world below and the truth of demons, which Gelethil answered tersely. Thanks to their talent, Jay had always suspected the world was not as mundane as advertised, but hearing such things discussed so candidly was chilling. The questions moved onto magic and the answers became slower and increasingly vague until she had to ask questions exceedingly specifically. Jay’s mind ticked through the exchange. Enough time passed that they began to feel brave again.

Has anything you’ve told them been true? They could practically feel his smirk from the darkness.

Of course not. This is not knowledge for mortal minds, much less these morons.

What about the things you told me?

My name is Gelethil, he replied. And I do very much intend to devour them both.

Jay’s shoulder was nudged, a reminder of the presence of Harris and his knife, and they relayed more of the demon’s bullshit.

And me? they asked.

He was silent for a time. You never told me your name.

They hesitated. Jay.

A telepath is a useful thing, the demon mused. Almost a shame I can’t make a true bargain for you.

Jay’s skin crawled.

Yes, a pity, Gelethil went on. Still, I’m sure we can come to some arrangement. You can tell them I’m done answering questions now. They’re not getting anything else until you’re with me.

“What?!” Jay exclaimed aloud.

“What did it say?” Caine asked. She rose from the desk, interest piqued.

Jay opened their mouth, heart thundering, but no sound came.

You need to listen very carefully, Gelethil said.

“What did it say?” she repeated, this time a barked order.

Answer her, the demon said, a surprising softness to his voice. Make sure she knows she has no choice.

Harris took a fistful of Jay’s hair and they grunted in discomfort.

When they bring you, you must grab something sharp or hard. You MUST.

I’m tied, I can’t-

Do it! he commanded, making them flinch.

With voice quaking and no other plan, Jay gave Gelethil’s demands to their captors. They braced for a punch that never came. Caine gestured and they both moved behind Jay, far enough that the ensuing whispers were inaudible. Jay glanced around, desperately looking for anything that might fit the bill. It was difficult in the gloom but a faint glint caught their eye. Harris’ knife was sat upon the desk to their side. Jay’s hands slickened with perspiration.

What’s happening? The demon asked.

I don’t know, I can’t hear, Jay replied, feeling sick. I don’t like this, I don’t trust you. They flexed their mental muscles to try and pick at his brain again but to the same result. They needed focus and none of that would come in this state.

It’s me or them, he shot back. I won’t hurt you. I need you.

And when you don’t?


Gelethil? Jay ventured, breath quickening.

The only sound was the steps of their captors returning. A near silent whine escaped their throat. They released a short, startled yelp as something grabbed their wrists. Harris was untying the bonds that held them to the chair. They instantly felt sick with regret.

“No!” Jay cried, limbs surging with desperate strength as they writhed against their bonds. “He’s gonna eat me!”

“Not until he’s free,” Caine replied, a cruel sneer on her face. “He needs you at least until then.”

Jay swore. Profusely. “You can’t do this!”

Come, come, little one, the demon crooned.

Jay, far less substantial than the bulky Harris, was easily pulled to their feet and dragged towards the darkness. They bucked and struggled but there was no give. Only one option presented itself – appease the demon and hope for the best. It wasn’t a great plan.

They rammed their shoulder into Harris with all the strength they had, causing him to stumble ever so slightly into the desk. He chuckled, amused by their pathetic efforts. So amused that he never noticed Jay’s fingers curl around the knife handle. A brief thrill went through them before something hard slammed down on their hand. They grunted and felt the knife pull away easily from their grasp as Harris righted them both. “Nice try,” Caine said, placing the tome she had used to assail Jay’s hand on the desk. “But you’ll need a little more than that to defend yourself from that thing.”

Read Part 3 here!

The Summons: Part 1

Jay was not having the best day, trudging god knew where with their hands bound behind their back. They’d given up struggling – that only resulted in exhaustion and pain. Between the bag on their head and the binder on their chest—which should have come off hours ago—breath was short. Jay didn’t know for certain why they were here but they could certainly guess. Their talent, unusual as it was, must have been discovered. Jay knew this because it wouldn’t work on their kidnappers.

As they were roughly pushed into an icy cold room, something stirred. Fear crushed the last breath of air from them. There was something in the room. Something inhuman. Jay could hear its ragged breath, hear the soft scraping of claw on stone and, most frighteningly, Jay could hear the creature’s mind.

Finally feeding time, is it? the thing wondered, thoughts oozing with gleeful malice.

“At last,” came a cool, feminine voice from directly in front of Jay. “We’ve been waiting for you.”

The mental image of white lights, electrodes and scalpels crossed their mind, as had happened many times on the journey here. Along with the image of the bus. Jay shuddered, red flashing before their eyes. How many people had been on that bus?

“Mmmph umph,” they replied, as good an expletive as they could muster through the gag.

“The subject has been… uncooperative,” said a voice to Jay’s side. One of the kidnappers from the bus—a chunky, block—headed man if they recalled right.

“As has ours,” said the feminine one. “It’s about time they met.”

“Are you sure we should be rushing into this, Caine?” the man asked.

“Why don’t you leave the thinking to someone who’s a little more than a paid grunt? I know what I’m doing.”

Jay was forced deeper into the room as the man grumbled something foul under his breath and shoved down onto a chill metal chair. Rope was threaded between their still bound hands and used to secure them tightly to the seat. What sounded like high-heeled shoes clicked across the floor towards them.

“Now, I’m sure you’re wondering why you’re here,” Caine said. “There are many people out there who’d kill to get their hands on you, to study your gift. You aren’t here as an artefact though – you’re here as a tool.”

The bag was pulled from Jay’s head, their eyes filling with dull red light. The room was long and sparse. Close to one side was a sharply dressed woman in a skirt suit—Caine, presumably—and to the other was the squarish kidnapper they expected. Both wore a band of metal around their heads, glinting in the crimson glow. Some kind of blocker? Jay wondered. In front of them, the lengthy room tapered into darkness. From the shadows, that soft scrape could be heard pacing back and forth.

“You’re going to communicate with the beast,” Caine continued. “Ask it our questions, give us its answers.”

Enough with your pomp, the creature thought, just give me the meat. Its impatience was palpable, emanating from the end of the room.

The man to Jay’s side stepped up to them, jerking their head to the side as he cut the gag free. Jay gasped for breath, still fighting their constricted chest, and flexed their aching jaw.

“What is it?” Jay asked.

“That’s none of your concern,” Caine said, pacing slowly to close the distance between them both. In a sudden movement, she grabbed a handful of Jay’s short hair and yanked their head back. The woman glared down, eyes cold and empty. “Your only concern is self-preservation. Believe me when I say it will be a difficult task that will require all of your concentration. Understand?”

Jay did their best to nod with their hair still in Caine’s bear-like grip, and they were released, head falling forward jarringly. The woman ambled to a low desk by the wall, the echoing of her heels filling the room again, and leant against it.

“Now,” she said, reaching onto the desk and clicking on a recorder. “Ask the beast its price.”

They screwed their face up. “What?”

Caine flicked a hand dismissively. “Harris.”

The man to Jay’s side balled a fist and took a step toward them.

“Okay, okay, I’m doing it!” Jay quickly added. They turned their attention from Caine to the shadows. It wasn’t really an improvement.

Scraaaape. Scraaaape. Scraaaape.

Jay pushed their fears away as best they could, focusing. It was always easier if they could see the person—or thing—but they were skilled enough that it didn’t matter much. They inhaled slowly and began to project.

What are you? Jay thought at the creature.

The pacing stopped abruptly and Jay felt eyes on them.

It speaks the infernal? the creature mused. A moment passed then the realisation struck, that Jay was in its head. Jay didn’t need to see its face to know, they could feel the change on the air – and so could their captors. Both of them straightened, becoming more alert.

Jay sensed the thing throwing itself towards them and screamed just as a deafening thunderclap rang through the room. Everything that followed sounded muffled and far away. More thunder rang out, each strike bringing a flash of light. Jay saw the thing in brief glimpses, watching as it hurled itself against an invisible barrier. In one flash Jay saw a torso, frigid blue in colour. Another revealed an arm. Despite the hue, both looked human but it was a boar-like wail that came from the darkness.

Caine calmly reached behind herself, flicking a switch on the wall. Pain seared Jay’s eyes as brilliant white light flooded the room. Their eyelids were promptly jammed shut but even then it still hurt. The creature’s wailing intensified and they could narrowly hear it scrambling about. A last single thunderclap sounded before calm descended. As their ears began to recover, Jay heard sobbing.

First my body, invaded and violated, and now my mind, came wretched thoughts. They would take from me everything and leave me a husk.

“Tell that beast the light will stay on until it has answered our questions,” Caine said. Her voice was utterly unchanged. Unfeeling.

Jay peeled their eyes open, adjusting to the blazing, clinical glare. The room was properly visible now, a long, grey rectangle of smooth concrete. At Jay’s end were a few desks with paperwork, computers, the recorder and other equipment that they didn’t recognise. The other end was devoid of any furnishings but was covered in a web of black painted runes. The symbols were not like anything Jay had seen before, sharp angled and complex. Right at the far end, huddled in the corner, was the creature.

Human in shape, its skin was vibrant azure. Its only attire was a pair of ragged black trousers, a long, slim tail protruding from the back and wrapped close to it defensively. It faced away, giving the room a good view of the ridges that ran down its back and along its arms. Its hands and feet had long, black claws. Pointed ears rose up far above its head, quivering.

“Tell it!” Caine barked, and Jay flinched.

“All right, I’m doing it,” they replied, voice cracking. They returned focus to the miserable creature.

I’m sorry, Jay thought at it. I didn’t mean to hurt you. They reached out with their mind but with the stress and anxiety they could not concentrate enough to find purchase there. They clenched their teeth, exhaling sharply.

I am a prisoner here, came the deflated reply. You experiment on me. Burn at my flesh with your light, and you do not mean to hurt me?

Look at me, Jay urged, I’m as much a prisoner as you. They kidnapped me to talk to you.

Tell them to return the darkness.

They won’t, Jay told the creature, a little of their courage seeping back. Not until you answer.

It released a long, slow whine.

“Is it cooperating?” the woman asked.

“Slowly,” Jay said.

“Ask it its price.”

Jay took a deep breath. Who are you?

They care? the thing thought bitterly.

I do.

I was Gelethil, it replied. He was strong. Fearless. Now I am a worm, caged and broken.

That makes them the pricks, not you, Jay thought to it- to him. One of his long, sweeping ears twitched. How can I get you out of here?

That ear flicked again. You would help me? I would have gladly eaten you.

A cold prickle ran over their flesh, but they forced a calm demeanour. Eat them instead.

Finally, Gelethil turned his head from the cradle of his arms. Greasy black hair framed his face and his eyes were slits, braced against the light. His thin-lipped mouth burst into a wide, menacing grin, baring pointed teeth.

I like you, he thought.

Read Part 2 here!

Book Review: Pacts Arcane and Otherwise by Joanna Maciejewska

It’s funny, for someone who both loves reading and loves writing, I sure am terrible at writing book reviews. I still leave something on the book’s Goodreads and Amazon pages to help the authors, but it’s never much more useful than “this is dead good, peeps”. That said, it’s something I’ve been meaning to get on for a good while and, with Joanna Maciejewska’s Pacts Arcane and Otherwise series coming to a close last week, it seemed like a good time to go for it. 

Spoiler alert: I’m not going to write reviews for books I don’t like because I don’t want to trash someone’s baby and I also don’t want to lie. Maybe I should call them book recommendations instead? Anyway-

To celebrate the release of the final book in the series, Demon Siege, I thought I would talk about where it all started and the series so far. It all starts with By The Pact, a high fantasy epic adventure starring quick witted but seemingly mediocre magic user Kamira and her good friend and professional muscle Veelk. Together they stumble across a powerful demon, imprisoned in the ancient ruins they are searching, who traps Kamira into a bargain which will either see him freed or her causing a huge disaster. Fortunately, both Kamira and Veelk are both more than they seem, and each step they take leads them closer and closer to the dark truth of their world. What ensues is a colourful and complex adventure of magic and demons and swords and snark. 

Image of the cover of novel "By the Pact" by Joanna Maciejewska, featuring two human figures looking towards a large crystal with a demon encased inside.

This is a great one for people who enjoy your classic sword and sorcery, but also those who like cutthroat political fantasy tales without crossing over into the grimdark genre. What are some of the major highlights for me, personally?

Pacts Arcane and Otherwise has a great cast of complex characters starting right with Book 1. Kamira, introduced as a low grade arcanist, grows and grows throughout and shows us what she’s made of. Her past and her future are ever expanding and fascinating, and her family history shows its influence so profoundly – despite how much she runs from it! The supporting cast hosts a great mix of altruistic princes, evil royalty, secretive societies, mysterious outcasts, and on and on. It’s a great series for people who love to debate characters – get all your friends to read and then battle to the death over who is Team Ryell and who is Team Put Ryell In The Sea! 

Also, I can’t neglect to mention the world building! Maciejewska has crafted a vibrant and real feeling world, with intricacies and details that reminded me of why I loved Patrick Rothfuss’ Kingkiller Chronicle in spite of a certain redheaded bard/wizard/etc. Kaighal is a living and breathing city with layers upon layers, and it doesn’t feel like an island. The world around it and the links are interconnected so well that it’s easy to become immersed in this magical place. 

As with most high fantasy series, the stakes rise exponentially as we move from one book to the next, but Maciejewska has crafted a story which flows without leaps or suspension of belief (y’know, apart from all the demons and magic and stuff). Every plot point has its place and every wall in the story has its foundation, which just keeps me hugely invested in what on earth is going to happen next. 

And now, the series is complete, so I get to find out! Time for me to go and keep reading, biting my nails as I wish for everyone to make it safely out the other side!

(Except you, Ryell. Get in the sea.)

The Tower of Storms: Part 4

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

Tamin had descended the stairs a half an hour prior. Baird waited, back pressed against the wall adjacent to the entrance. The only entrance. They were at the top of the tower here, with nowhere to go should things go wrong. A good few things could – Tamin betraying him being at the top of the list. He hoped against that for several wildly varying reasons.

Something stirred below. A voice. Baird held his breath and tightened his grip, sword in one hand and the mark of Oblear in the other. In Baird’s former cage was a makeshift dummy constructed from straw and armour taken from the dead. It was a poor likeness but the plan wouldn’t allow the sorcerer to stare for long. Echoing footsteps rose from the stairs.

“Idiot boy,” the elder grumbled, voice carrying up the stairwell. “There’s no way that fool could damage my bars, I don’t care what chemicals you thought you smelled.”

He reached the top step, striding past Baird into the room. A thrill went through him – this might actually work. The sorcerer halted.

“What the-“

Baird lunged, bringing his sword down in a sweeping arc towards the fiend’s back. With unnatural speed the sorcerer half turned and looked at Baird with wide, manic eyes. In the time it took for Baird’s sword to move an inch the sorcerer thrust out his hand. It felt like he had just been slammed in the chest by a bear. He took off from the ground and was thrown down the stairs. The impact knocked what little air he had left completely from him. His armour protected his bones from the solid steps but momentum and gravity sent him tumbling down the rest of them, landing in a dizzy and aching heap, wheezing for breath.

By the time he had his senses the sorcerer was already stood over him with a satisfied smile. Shouldn’t have taken the pendant off, Baird thought as a hacking cough racked his body. I hate magic. His sword could have been anywhere but the chain of Oblear’s mark was still wrapped around his fingers. At least he still had that – and the elder sorcerer hadn’t noticed it yet, instead calling for Tamin. He appeared from behind one of the painted wood partitions on the other side of Baird, looking timid.

“Come here, boy,” the father said and Tamin reluctantly approached. “Now is your chance to repent for this morning.”

“Yes, father.”

Uh oh, Baird thought.

The elder sorcerer turned his attention to the still struggling adventurer. “You’re going to tell me how you got out of that cage.”

Ratting out Tamin would just get them both killed. Plus Baird wasn’t exactly the type to bend to his enemies’ will. He was much too stubborn for that.

“Rot in the Pit,” he spat.

“As you wish,” the elder said before nodding to Tamin.

The young sorcerer paled. He lifted a trembling palm toward Baird. Baird froze, his hope extinguished under a volley of ice water. Tamin’s mouth twitched, eyes watered.

“I’m sorry,” he whispered.

Baird didn’t know what to say. The young man was terrified of his father. This life was all he knew. All Baird could do was brace himself for pain. Tamin thrust his hand forward and he winced.

A gust of wind blew through the room. It tingled Baird’s skin but assailed him no other way. The elder sorcerer exclaimed in surprise as his clothes passed through his flesh as though through water, billowing out and falling onto the steps behind him. It took both Baird and the sorcerer himself a moment to adjust to the fact that he was suddenly stood there in nought but his boots.

Baird was the first to react, pushing himself up with one hand and throwing the mark of Oblear hard at the wretch’s chest. The sorcerer thrust out his hand and a look of panic struck his face as the sigil sailed past his fingers. Baird grinned. The sigil hit the sorcerer square in the middle of his saggy, sallow chest.

He opened his mouth but no sound came, face twisting in agony. The sigil stuck to him and the flesh around it turned grey, blossoming in a grotesque wave across his body and turning to dust. He crumbled away until there was the clattering of bones into a dusty pile. Baird held his breath, watching the remains, but no retribution came. A small, pained sound came from behind him.

Tamin was on his knees, face in his hands. The weather raged on outside. Baird pulled himself up and crouched next to Tamin, wrapping his arms around him. Tamin’s whole life, everything he had ever known, just disintegrated before his eyes. It was seconds before the young sorcerer’s arms were around Baird’s neck, face sobbing into the metal plated crook of his shoulder. It could have been relief or despair. Probably both.

Baird resisted a long moment but could no longer wait, hating himself a little for his lack of restraint.

“How can I stop the storms?” Baird whispered into his ear as he held him.

Tamin pulled back from him and wiped his eyes, keeping his head down and avoiding Baird’s gaze. He rose to his feet and headed for the other partition, giving his father’s ashes and bones a wide berth. His movements bordered on mechanical. Baird felt a pang of guilt as he followed.

“What happened to him?”

“The mark turns the user’s magic against them,” Tamin said, voice small. “The magic that kept him alive past his years reversed.”

Baird placed a hand on his shoulder. “I’m sorry.”

They rounded a partition and came to a grand bedroom, lavishly plastered in rich fabrics and gold adornments. At the end of the master bed was a mahogany pedestal, a glowing blue orb upon it. Turbulent mist twisted and warped beneath the surface. Baird was drawn to it, soothed by it. Warming, unseen tendrils snaked into his being, calming his bruises and setting his mind at rest. He was unaware of his hand moving slowly toward it until Tamin grabbed his wrist.

“Don’t,” he said. “It makes people strange. Like father. Like mother.”

Baird’s skin crawled and he withdrew his hand. “What do I do?”

“Shatter it,” Tamin said, voice cracking slightly. “Set her free.”

Baird shook his head clear as the orb’s influence took another stab at him. He glanced behind himself and saw a small foot stool. Not wanting to risk the thing’s spell a moment longer, Baird grabbed the stool in both hands. He spun, bringing the makeshift bludgeon down on the orb with all his strength.

This was it, his moment, his self-appointed destiny. It all hinged upon the word on a man he just met.

The orb did not shatter. The stool sunk into it and it burst like a soap bubble. Mist from within swept into the air like a puff of pollen. Baird stumbled away but Tamin stayed put, releasing a giddy laugh. Baird panicked. Had he been played? The mist engulfed Tamin and he collapsed in a haze of blue, falling to the floor. Baird backed against the partition wall as the blue spread but it did not approach him. A warm, pleasant voice filled his mind, forcing upon him a brief wave of euphoria.

The ancients will not forget this heroism.

The mist was gone. It didn’t so much vanish as it just wasn’t there anymore. Worry struck him as he realised the voice was the last thing he heard. He smacked his ears with his hands but became confused as his armour rattled. His jaw dropped. He clambered to his feet, dashing past an unconscious Tamin, and approached the window.

No rain lashed against the glass. No wind howled, rocking the building. In that moment, Baird experienced silence for the first time in his life. It frightened him, the vast emptiness of it, the sheer depth of nothingness. Before that fear could grow too deep, the sprawling black clouds split like curtains and a beam of golden light fell upon his face. He began to tremble as he lifted his hands to his cheeks. It was warm.

Baird dropped to his knees and laughed. He’d done it. He’d actually done it. He laughed some more. Of course he had. He’d always known he could. Definitely. He pushed thoughts of the cage away and pulled off his gauntlets, wiping the joyful tears from his face. He loosed a deep exhale and buried his triumph. He needed to check on Tamin.

The young sorcerer hadn’t moved since he collapsed, breathing softly. Baird knelt next to him, carefully brushing the hair back from his bruised face. He looked so peaceful it was almost a shame to wake him. With his other hand, Baird softly tapped his shoulder.


It took a couple of attempts before Tamin’s eyes fluttered open. Baird frowned when they did – they were a rich, swirling blue. This faded so rapidly, returning to the proper soft grey, that Baird was certain he’d imagined it.

“Are you alright?” Tamin said as he tried to focus his weary eyes.

Baird blinked. “Me?” he asked, incredulous. “Of course I am! I’m a famous adventurer! You’re the one who collapsed.”

“Oh…” He closed and opened his eyes a few times. “Yes, I am well,” he replied. Physically at least, Baird thought. A sadness hung about him.

Baird smiled. “Good. I have something to show you.”

He helped Tamin to his feet. He was unsteady and shaken so Baird took the liberty of wrapping an arm around his waist. Purely for support. Tamin didn’t complain, leaning his weight against Baird as he was guided to the window. He gasped as they stepped into the warm beam of light, face filling with wonder at the landscape before them, laid out clearly for the first time in both their lives.

“It’s… incredible.”

Pride swelled in Baird’s chest. He had done this. Of all the heroes who had come and tried, it was Baird who had succeeded. Released the Glen. Avenged his father. Without Tamin though, he never would have. He grinned as he looked out of the window. He couldn’t quite see Glen Feen but the view was more than a victory for him. Flat, barren and laden with water, to Baird it was beautiful. He pointed to the horizon.

“You see where the sky touches the land?” he asked. Tamin nodded. Baird looked down at the slight man and their eyes met. “Just beyond lies your new home.”

They smiled at each other and looked back to the landscape, damp and bedraggled as it was. At his side, Baird’s fingers lightly grazed against Tamin’s. Slowly, their digits twined together as they both watched the clear blue sky before them.

And Baird would even have been telling the truth, if they had been looking out of the other window.


Goodbye Sir Terry

I’m not one for public mourning. Relatively recently, a lot of celebrities who have been close to my heart have passed away and I have, for the most part, remained silent about it. This is not because they were not special to me and certainly not because I did not think they were beautiful, wonderful people in need of praise. I just tend to be more private with this type of thing.

Today however, is the exception to the rule. There are dozens, even hundreds of people who inspire my writing in one way or another. Writers, actors, artists, loads of them. They all inspire my words and my worlds, my characters, my plots. They inspire it all.

But Sir Terry Pratchett is the reason I write.

I cannot remember how old I was when my older brother forced Guards! Guards! into my hands, but I was barely scraping double digits. It blew my mind and, without wanting to sound too dramatic, changed my life. I didn’t know books could be like this. I didn’t know stories could be so utterly ridiculous yet so magically real. I’d written before, frequently, and I loved it. Stupid little short stories, creative writing in school. Then I read this amazing book and I wanted to write one like it. The rest is history.

The news of Sir Terry’s passing has made me very emotional. I’m sad, yes, so sad that this world will see no more of his wonderful stories. Sad that I never had the chance to meet him. Sad for his family and his friends who will all be mourning the loss. It’s more than that though. I’m so incredibly grateful. Without him and his novels, I don’t know if I would be the person I am today. I feel like he is the person who gave writing to me.

So thank you, Terry Pratchett. Thank you, and I hope you are now somewhere as wonderful and wacky as you are.