Sunday, 2 July 2017

Thank you.

After five years of publishing the works of some amazing authors, Bottom Drawer Publications has sadly closed its doors. We'd like to thank our authors for believing in us to bring their manuscripts to the world, our contract editors for their assistance, the bloggers and reviewers who help so much simply because of their love of books, and last, but definitely not least, the readers who supported us all by buying our books.

BK Publishing Trust's other imprint, Driven Press, which publishes general fiction, is continuing on as normal.

All enquiries to

Sam & Suz

Monday, 17 October 2016

BELONGING - New Release!

Introducing Belonging by Selaine Henriksen.


Morgan Campbell doesn’t know what is wrong with her. She is seeing things in the shadows everywhere—a dog that could be a wolf and a man staring up at her window. She feels like she’s losing her mind.

When she is summoned to her grandfather’s sickbed, she jumps at the chance to leave the city, and her messy life, behind. But, after a less than warm welcome at the creepy old farmhouse in the middle of nowhere with its strange inhabitants, she’s not sure she made the right decision.

And then there is the hot man who appears, naked, to save her from a pack of wolves when she strays off the track in the woods.

What Morgan discovers about the truth of her heritage will change her life forever. 


Enjoy this first look at Belonging.

The snow began to fall as Morgan left the restaurant through the kitchen door. A single bulb cast a feeble light over the exit. Dark shadows filled the silent alley, clustering around the dumpsters. Morgan felt eyes on her, intense, watching. She shivered and turtled her shoulders deeper into her parka. A car drifted by on the street at the end of the alley, its headlights flinging a slice of light across the opposite wall. Morgan couldn’t help herself. She watched out of the corner of her eye and, yes. For the third time in as many nights, she saw the head. It looked like a huge dog, a shepherd perhaps, or a wolf even. The shadow crawled across the wall as the headlights crossed the opening of the alley, the snout elongating into a grotesque parody of itself, and then the darkness snapped back into place.

Morgan stared, then slowly reached behind her and reopened the door. She kept her eyes on the alley as she stepped back through the doorway into the warmth and brightness of the kitchen. Paulo was sweeping, getting ready to close for the night.

“Forget something?” he asked.

Morgan shook her head. “Could you let me out the front? Please?”

Paulo gave her a sharp look. “Everything all right?”

“I thought I saw a dog in the alley. My imagination’s running away with me.” Morgan managed a grin as Paulo laughed and began to sing the song by the Rolling Stones. Morgan followed him through the darkened dining room. The white tablecloths covering the tables looked like humped dwarfs silently watching her in the gloom.

Paulo unlocked the front door and locked it behind her, waving good night through the glass. Morgan waved back and stepped to the side of the doorway. She waited, looking all around. There was nothing. At this time of night, people were snuggled in at home and only the occasional car passed. Morgan inched her way to the opening of the alley. She looked for anything that might cast such a strange, wolf-like shadow. There wasn’t even a dumpster in a likely spot. She took a deep breath and began the walk home.

The snowflakes in the light of the streetlights were pretty, sparkling like fairy lights as they skipped to the ground. Once there, they disintegrated to muddy slush as they melted under foot. Morgan’s apartment was three long blocks from the restaurant. Once again she felt eyes watching. She was sure she heard a sound behind her, footsteps, a soft splash. She began to run, dashing from the circle of light around one streetlight to the next until the lobby door was in front of her. Her key was already in her hand then she was through. She closed the door and peered through the glass into the dark beyond. Just as she turned to cross the lobby, a dark form darted across the puddle of light formed by the streetlight out front. Morgan whirled around to stare out of the front again. Nothing moved but the swirling snow.

Blue light flickered from the TV as Morgan entered the apartment. Carol, her roommate and best friend, as well as co-worker at the Thai-Italian restaurant, was still awake. She took one look at Morgan’s face and turned off the TV.

“What’s wrong?” she asked.

Morgan hung up her coat. “I think I’m losing my mind,” she said and, to her own surprise, burst into tears.

Carol wrapped an arm around Morgan’s shoulders and led her to the couch. She went to the kitchen and brought back two beers. “Tell me all about it,” she said.

Morgan did, feeling like a weight was lifting. She told how she felt watched all the time, night and day. How she’d see a dog, a big dog, out of the corner of her eye, but when she looked it would be gone. She told Carol she was sure she was being followed.

“By a dog?” Carol raised an eyebrow.

Morgan giggled. “Silly, right?”

Carol shrugged. “They say there is a lot of wildlife living in cities, feeding off dumpsters and so on. I’ve never seen anything around the restaurant, but you never know. Could be a raccoon or fox. I mean,” Carol leaned in and sniffed Morgan, “you do smell like food, and now I’m hungry.”

She jumped up from the couch. “I brought home left-over chicken after my shift. Do you want some?”


Morgan’s stomach was in knots. She felt like she would never eat again. She stood and went to look out of the window. Carol was probably right. Even a racoon’s shadow thrown huge onto a wall like that could look like a wolf’s snout. Or a fox. She looked down and gasped. A dark form, a man, stood at the edge of the streetlight’s glow. His head was turned to look up at her, his face in shadow. Watching her, she knew.

Her heart pounding, Morgan stepped back from the window. Carol came in carrying her plate of fried chicken. She set it down on the coffee table and crossed to Morgan’s side where she peered out of the window. “There’s nothing there.” She glanced at Morgan with a quizzical frown, quickly replaced with a bright smile.

“Have some chicken,” she said. “You’re barely eating these days.”

“I think I’ll just go to bed. Thank you, Carol. You’re probably right.” Morgan gave her a hug.

She was tired. Her eight-hour shift had extended to ten, and she’d been on her feet the whole time. Tired as she was, she tossed and turned all night.

She awoke still tired and disoriented from her restless night. She had to rush to shower and dress for the lunch shift. The winter sun hung low in the sky, glowing brightly yet throwing no heat.

Morgan made it into the restaurant a few minutes late. She had hoped her boss, Mario, wouldn’t be in yet, but, as everything seemed to be going wrong for her these days, he was there. He scowled at her and tapped his watch. As she hung up her coat, she suppressed a flare of temper at the injustice of him giving her a hard time. She had been waitressing a long time, and she was good at her job.

Morgan smiled weakly and mouthed a “sorry.”

It was Friday, a busy day for lunch. Every table was taken. Morgan rushed from the kitchen and back, barely looking up from the plates she balanced until something, a dark shape, a sense of being watched, made her glance out the front plate-glass window. She saw the dark form of a man standing there. The sun was behind him, leaving his face in shadow, but she was sure he was watching her. She started and dropped the plate of pasta in her hands.

“I’m sorry, so sorry,” Morgan apologized to the patrons who pulled their legs back in disgust from the splash of white sauce.

Paulo quickly came out and cleaned the mess. Morgan could feel Mario’s furious eyes on her, and she avoided going into the back until the lunch crowd had dwindled.

“What is wrong with you,” he hissed when she finally had to face the music. “You used to be such a good waitress, Morgan, but not lately. Pull yourself together or you’ll be out of here for good.”

Morgan apologized some more, fighting back the tears. Her chin trembled as she pulled on her coat. Couldn’t he give her the benefit of the doubt? She didn’t know what was wrong with her. She felt like she was losing her mind. Seeing shadows—shadows with nothing there. Anyone could have looked in the window of a busy, well-known restaurant. It didn’t mean she had a stalker.

The tears flowed as she stumbled home. The sun was already sinking deep into the west, the street a dark canyon. Morgan brushed angrily at her face as she stepped out onto the crosswalk. The driver making a right turn on red didn’t see her, and she didn’t notice the cab until she was suddenly jerked backwards. Wet slush splashed her legs, and the cabby yelled at her. Strong arms wrapped around her, keeping her from falling to the sidewalk. An electric shock jolted through Morgan’s whole body, raising the hair on the back of her neck.

Her heart thumped wildly. The arms let her go, and she stumbled. She turned around. A tall man stood behind her. He was holding his hands palm up, staring down at them. His hair was long and dark, and Morgan couldn’t see his face. “Thank you,” she said.

He simply shook his head, still staring at his hands. “Oh no,” he muttered, and to her surprise, turned and stalked away.

“Hey,” Morgan called after him, but with his long, loping stride he was gone around the corner.

She made it back home on trembling legs; from the shock of nearly being hit or from her reaction to the strange man, she didn’t know.

Carol was getting dressed for her evening shift. She demanded to know what was wrong. Morgan told her about dropping the plate, Mario saying she’d be done if it happened again, and almost getting hit by a cab. Something stopped her from mentioning the strange man who’d pulled her away from the car. She was afraid even Carol would start believing she was nuts too.

“You need a night out,” Carol decided. She had her phone in her hand in an instant. “Kayla and Lindsay are going to the Triad tonight. Kayla got the night off just to see this DJ. We’ll join them.”

“And your shift?” Morgan asked.

“I’ll find someone who wants it.”

It didn’t take Carol long to find a replacement for a busy Friday night shift. She texted Kayla and Lindsay and arranged to meet.

“We’ll do it right,” Carol said. “You’ve been moping about for days. We’ll go for a nice dinner that none of us have to serve and then dancing at the club.”

Morgan smiled and nodded. She didn’t feel much like going out, especially not with Lindsay and Kayla. They were Carol’s friends and only tolerated Morgan. Still, it would make Carol happy, and maybe getting drunk would be a good thing. Wipe out her brain and start with a fresh slate. Her stomach growled so loud she and Carol both burst out laughing.

“There’s still chicken.” Carol brought out the bucket and watched in astonishment as Morgan ate it all.

Morgan wiped her mouth. “I had no idea I was so hungry.”

“Good to see you eating.”

Morgan took a shower, wishing the water could wash away her strange visions as easily as the grime of the day sluiced off. She dressed in jeans and a silk shirt, tying a shiny scarf around her neck.

Carol sighed when she came out. “Really?” she asked. “We’re going dancing.”

“I’m not looking for anyone.” Morgan shrugged.

“You should.”

Morgan’s stomach growled again. Carol raised an eyebrow when Morgan made herself a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. “We’re going to dinner,” she remarked.

“This will tide me over. I’m starved.”

Carol laughed. “Are you pregnant?”

“Right, ’cause that makes sense.” Morgan swatted at Carol, who ducked.

When Kayla and Lindsay arrived at the apartment, Kayla took one look at Morgan’s outfit, rolled her eyes and didn’t even say hello. All three had dressed up in clingy spaghetti-strap dresses and heels.

“Which one of these four ain’t like the others?’ Lindsay sang. “Boots too?” She shared a look of disgust with Kayla.

“They have a heel,” Morgan said.

The women chose a restaurant that served nothing fancy, nothing fusion. They were all in the mood for pub fare. As soon as their waitress set the breadbasket on their table, Morgan’s stomach growled. The others were trying not to eat so Morgan ate all the bread, loaded with butter, too. Morgan felt flushed all of a sudden. She removed her scarf and rolled up her sleeves. Still hungry, she ordered a steak and baked potato with veggies and still had room for chocolate cake with raspberry sauce.

Carol was outright gaping. “Are you sure you’re not pregnant?”

Kayla and Lindsay both looked up from their plates. “Pregnant?”

“No, no, I’m not.” Morgan glared at Carol and kicked her under the table.

Morgan didn’t put her coat on when they left. The cold night air felt good on her over-heated skin. They hailed a cab to the club. Morgan hadn’t expected to have a good time, and she didn’t. She sat, sipping at a drink, watching everyone else enjoy themselves. After an hour or so with Kayla and Lindsay no longer speaking to her for not even trying to have fun, even Carol had given up trying to get her to loosen up. Morgan was uncomfortably hot and sweaty as though she had danced all night.

She caught Carol’s eye and motioned she was leaving. Carol simply waved from the dance floor. Morgan knew they were mad at her. She found out the next day just how mad. At the end of her shift, Mario took her aside. “I’ve heard rumours you’re pregnant. That would explain a lot,” he said. “You’ve been making a lot of mistakes, and mistakes cost me money.”

Morgan spluttered her denial, but he waved it away.

“As soon as you show, you’re done here.” He stalked away. “Sue me if you can afford it,” he called over his shoulder.

Kayla came into the kitchen. “Trouble?” She smirked.

“What’s the matter with you?” Morgan demanded. “Why would you do that?”

“What’s the matter with you?” Kayla shot back.

Morgan had no answer to that. She grabbed her coat and left. What was wrong with her? Why was her life falling apart?

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Author Profile:

Selaine lives in Ottawa, Ontario with her family and a growing pack of dogs and cats. Her other publications include short stories available on the webzines and, as well as works on and Amazon Kindle Worlds.

Find Selaine at:

and @SelaineHenrikse on Twitter.

Sunday, 9 October 2016

#samplesunday - VALAMINE

Today we revisit Valamine by Jane Stoker. Valamine is an InD'Tale "crowned heart of excellence" recipient and former Rone nominee. Don't miss this wonderfully fantastical and romantic book.

Valamine is a gifted healer, and her life studying with the herb witch, Elder-Sha Ameena, is peaceful. When her home is attacked and her elders slain, the fate of the land is thrust upon her with the dying breath of her mentor. Now she must leave everything she knows and journey to a far-off city to stop the forces of hell from overwhelming her world. But it isn't the daemons, hungry for her blood, making her nerves shatter and her heart pound like a tribesman’s drum, it's the two hundred and fifty pounds of lean, toned warrior sworn to keep her from harm.

Fighting is what Nyle lives for. He relishes the rush of battle, even with the odds against him and a horde of daemons bearing down on him. When he’s tasked with the latest mission, it is a seemingly simple one—protect the girl, save the world. Easy enough for a skilled warrior who prides himself on coolness under pressure. Something about the bold healer though is testing his restraint to beyond breaking, and he can’t keep his mind on the game. But if he fails and the daemons come, how can he face losing his bewitching Valamine?

Please enjoy this sample chapter from the book . . . 

NYLE ROLLED DEFTLY aside as yet another creature lashed at him. Fierce heat burned his skin as the muscular whip grazed his neck. He flinched—he’d not been fast enough. Gritting his teeth, he ignored the pain and sliced at the feeler. The whip-like instrument fell to the ground still twitching. The daemon screeched and dropped to its knees, black blood pouring from its shoulder. Beetle-black eyes squinted up at him, pieces of flesh clung to rows of splinter-sharp teeth. It screamed and unfurled its wings, launching itself to escape, but the warrior’s sword flashed, and the creature dropped at his feet, dead. Another daemon landed a few feet away. Nyle planted his feet in the mud and readied himself.

Fighting was what he lived for. Even now, with the odds against him and a horde of daemons bearing down, he relished the rush of battle. He was the best swordsman, the shrewdest leader; his warriors were the strongest from all the clans. It was to him the chieftains turned when creatures found ways into the Shaman lands, desperate to escape their own hellish Gehenna. However, this was not normal. Today they’d been fighting for hours, fending off feelers, teeth, claws, but the daemons just kept coming.

How had so many found a way through at the same time? He hated not knowing. He needed to capture one of these hellions and pry the truth from it with the tip of his blade. But for the first time he was beginning to consider the unthinkable, the possibility of rounding up the other three warriors and calling a tactical retreat.

The snarling daemon advanced. Nyle turned slightly to meet it to find his second in command, Sabre, was just behind him facing down another daemon from the opposite direction. Nyle smiled grimly; Sabre was a good man to have at your back.

Sabre tilted his head back and spoke in his usual gruff tone. “I thought we were just going to head off a few troglets, then spend the evening with a harem of grateful Shaman witches,” he paused to parry a blow, “not fighting an army of ażote.” He wiped something dark and pulpy from his cheek with the back of his hand.

Nyle grimaced as he dodged a claw. “I’d rather be here fighting, Sabre, than cooped up in a dusty library with a bunch of high-bred bookworms.”

A whip-like feeler struck out as the daemon attacked again; Sabre turned and caught the feeler in a massive leather bound fist as Nyle lunged for the creature’s heart.

Nyle took a breath and rounded on the next creature. “University women? They’d probably think themselves way above your rank, my friend.”

Sabre snorted and raised his massive blade, cleaving an approaching creature in two. “In my experience, Captain, educated Shaman witches have much lower standards than one might expect.”

The onslaught eased for a moment. “You sound like Torin,” said Nyle, wiping the sweat from his brow. Torin was Nyle’s archer, a warrior who had the power to shoot fire from his hands, as well as the seemingly magical ability to bed any woman he desired.

Sabre heaved his broad sword from the decimated daemon. “I can’t compete with Torin on that score, nor would I want to. It must be exhausting. So where is old firefingers?”

Nyle looked around over the carnage. At least twenty daemons lay slain. Yet another was circling readying to land. “Torin!” he called. A white light crashed into the creature above them causing it to burst into white-hot flames. A blond warrior came into view through the smoke, rubbing his hands together. “Well . . . this was not what I was expecting.”

Nyle groaned and wiped his sword on a patch of grass. “Yes, I know. You were hoping for more pretty witches, less death-wielding ażote monsters . . .” Nyle grunted as another ażote came into view. “Well, this is the life you signed up for. Where’s Alyssa?”

Torin reached for a regular arrow and nocked it, giving the power in his hands time to recharge. He let a shaft fly; the thunk of arrow meeting flesh confirmed he’d found his mark. The monster hung its horned head and looked at the arrow protruding from its chest before collapsing with a snarl. The archer nodded to a clearing a few yards away; a large pile of daemon bodies lay bleeding into the earth, and the screams of dying ażote could be heard bouncing off the trees. “She’s working out some issues.”

Alyssa, the only woman he’d ever trained, hated ażote over any other being from Gehenna. She’d dived into the fray without hesitation; her usual icy demeanour replaced by something that had looked to Nyle suspiciously like bloodthirsty glee.

Nyle looked up and took in a quick breath. Twenty or so ażote were darting through the air towards them. It was as if every azote that had escaped into the land—from his mountain home in the north to the southern isles—had suddenly converged in this place. But why? He gripped his sword firmly and concentrated on relaxing his shoulders. Kill daemons now, ask questions later.

Suddenly the creatures stopped as one and hung in the air.

Alyssa ran over to them, her preferred choice of weapon, a braided whip, coiled in her hands. Her long, pale plaits hung in clumps, black with blood, and her face was streaked with gore. Her eyes, however, shone with a fierce blue fever. “What are they doing?” She uncoiled her whip. “Why don’t they attack?” then louder, “Come here, you base wretches. Come here so I can flay the leather hide from your bones.”

Nyle raised his hand and Alyssa fell silent. Of all the weird things he’d seen these last few weeks, the increased incursions and the patterns in the attacks, this was the weirdest. A trickle of sweat ran over the base of his spine, and he suppressed a shiver.

All four warriors stood in the muddy clearing watching the creatures hover.

“Why don’t they attack?” whispered Sabre.

Nyle frowned. He’d spent years tracking creatures like these, through this realm and the hellish Gehenna. Daemons fought each other, often ate each other; they were chaotic and violent and consumed with hunger. But these winged horrors looked like they were listening to something—but to what? Another bead of cold sweat traced down his back. If something, someone, could organise these beasts . . .

The ażote stayed twenty feet up in the gloaming sky, floating in a perfect circle with just a slight movement in their scaly wings to keep them airborne.

A thud to his left made Nyle wrench his eyes from the eerie sight.

Torin was kneeling in the mud, his hands over his ears. Nyle bent down towards his archer. “What is it, Torin? Speak to me.” He touched Torin’s face; the archer was a cold as ice. Was this a spell, some kind of magic the ażote possessed but had never shown? No they would have felled him and his brothers many times over if they could have. “What is it, warrior? Speak!”

“A voice . . . it’s talking to the ażote. I can hear it. Ahh, it’s like I can feel it speak—as if it’s inside me.” Torin’s voice was strained, and he twitched as he spoke. “It says . . . the herb witch . . . at the university. Her magic holds the rift . . . closed. The pack make for her . . . we . . . the ażote are . . . summoned.” He looked up, as did the other three warriors. The creatures above, as one, turned to the east and sailed silently into the night sky.

“Who, Torin, who’s talking to you?” asked Alyssa, a worried edge to her tone.

But Torin didn’t answer. He raised his head and met Nyle’s stare. Torin’s eyes were pale and blank, like the eyes of a baked fish. The archer grinned, not the handsome smile that usually came so easily, but a wolfish grimace twisting his face into something ugly. But it was his voice that made Nyle take a step back, a bitter rasp that did not belong to his archer.

The brethren are coming! They will own you, use your women, and feed your children’s hearts to us.” Torin snarled and pushed his hand out towards Nyle. A white light flashed, and the captain ducked. A shot of pure energy went just over Nyle’s head, scorching a nearby tree.

Sabre fell on Torin pushing him into the mud and kneeling on his back. Torin struggled a moment then stilled.

“Torin?” Nyle barked. “Torin, look at me!” He gestured for Sabre to release him. Sabre hesitated before reluctantly getting up, but he stayed close to the archer, poised and ready.

Torin groaned and rolled over. He faced Nyle, his eyes now back to their usual deep green. He sat up and looked at the smoking tree behind his captain then down at his own hands. “I . . . oh goddess, I’m sorry. What did I . . .? I remember but . . .”

“Don’t worry about it now.” Nyle stood, and Alyssa helped Torin to his feet. The archer was shaking.
Nyle would need to get Torin looked at by a healer, but that would have to wait. “When you were entranced, you said something about a herb witch?”

Torin ran his hand over his face and nodded. “The voice . . . it told us . . . I mean it told the ażote to kill her . . . that she was protecting something . . . something important . . . a rift.” Torin rubbed his forehead and winced.

Nyle turned to Sabre. “You and Alyssa get the horses. We need to find this herb witch.” And we need to make it to the university before monsters, organised monsters, overwhelm it!

“We can’t ride as fast as they fly,” said Sabre as he led the horses into the clearing.

“They may stop to feed.” Alyssa’s voice was grim as she mounted.

Nyle nodded, taking his horse’s reins from Sabre and shifting himself into the saddle. He’d seen the aftermath of an ażote feeding frenzy; such horror would haunt him until his death.

“And if they don’t?” asked Sabre from his horse.

Nyle didn’t answer, but as he worked his mount up into a gallop, he hoped that there might be a few magic makers at the university whose power was of the more battle ready kind—ones that could fight off a horde of daemons.

He doubted it.

VALAMINE WATCHED the old woman’s features become less pained as she sipped the broth. Her teacher’s migraines were becoming more frequent and this worried her.

“This is good. You’ve made it perfectly.” The Elder-Sha smiled and leant back in the chair.

Valamine took the empty mug from her teacher and frowned. “You should let me do a proper analysis. If you just let me lay my hands on . . .”

“No.” Elder-Sha Ameena closed her eyes as she spoke. “I will stick to herbs and preparations—your gift is better used elsewhere.”

Valamine shook her head but kept quiet. It would take little effort on her part to use her goddess-given power to find the root of these headaches and cure them for good, instead of messing around with thistle milk and dried thyme. Her teacher’s mistrust of healing magic was frustrating.

Elder-Sha Ameena sighed. “Have I failed to teach you anything over the last seven years, child? You must learn your preparations, Valamine, and they will serve you as well if not better than your magic. Healing power has its limits.”

Valamine sighed. “Yes, Elder-Sha, but if I could only . . .?”

“How is Layla? Resting, I hope.”

It was a blatant change of subject, but Valamine let it slide. “I think so. She went off to bed after supper. She was tired from the trials today.”

“Good. She will need all of her strength for the advanced trials tomorrow. Elder-Sha Paulo will not have made it easy for her.”

Valamine nodded. Her best friend was expected to gain the highest level possible in physical magic. For a year now, her power had outstripped even what the Elder-Sha had taught her, much to his ill-concealed annoyance. Valamine, on the other hand, hadn’t even been entered into a basic trial. She’d dropped it all together in her first year, without regret, due to the fact that she didn’t possess the physical magic required to boil a pan of water. So what if she couldn’t lift a boulder. She could mend a knife wound. Not that there were many stabbings at the university, none actually; the closest she’d got to actual battle healing was salving the burned fingers of hapless kitchen maids, but she could—in theory at least.

Elder-Sha Ameena yawned. “Valamine, be a poppet and bring me that blanket.”

Valamine spread the quilt over her teacher and dimmed the light. She would miss her most after graduation. The old woman’s love had turned her from a surly, miserable child into a confident healer. Valamine looked down at her dark, creased face, so familiar, so unchanging; the face she turned to for council, for encouragement.

“Goodnight, Elder-Sha,” she whispered and left her snoring softly in the darkness.

She left Ameena’s chambers and stood on the landing, torn on which direction to go. Layla was no doubt tucked up in bed in the room they shared upstairs. That was where she should go, Valamine thought, to get some sleep and be well rested for her medical exams tomorrow. But something kept her alert.

The wind whined through the old stone walls of the university, and the rain beat down on the shutters. She thought she detected a soft hum behind the wind, a single breath waiting to be exhaled. She turned, half expecting to see someone hovering in the gloom, but the corridor was empty, just the soft glow of a few, low hanging, light spheres. She shivered.

She would never get to sleep in this storm. Turning right, she descended a curving flight of stone steps. At least she could get in some last minute revision, she thought as she made for the library. Tomorrow’s exams would be the hardest ones yet. She would make sure she was as prepared as possible—no matter what tests she might face.

NYLE IGNORED the exhaustion cramping his shoulders, he ignored the biting rain that stung his face, and kept riding, driven by the echo of the daemon’s words—the brethren are coming . . .

The bulk of the university loomed darkly on the horizon. The airborne creatures hadn’t stopped to feed and would get there before him. Regardless, he rode harder, motioning for his company to do the same.

After what seemed like an age, the great edifice grew larger before him. Columns and spires rose high against the lightening skyline. A flash of red illuminated the landscape; whether the source was inside the university or outside, he couldn’t tell. Red was the colour of witches’ magic. Could they hold the gates against the hoard? A handful of teachers and untrained youths?

Sabre rode up alongside the warrior and shouted to him over the beating hooves; his friend’s usual relaxed expression was gone, replaced with a grim scowl. “The Shaman are putting up a fight! There may still be time.”

Nyle kept his eyes on the track. “Healers, stone-smiths, academics. No, Sabre, the Shaman magic does not lend itself well to battle. We’ll be lucky if the creatures haven’t laid waste to the whole place.”

Another flash of red reflected off the clouds.

Sabre nodded. “I believe some can raise shields. She may still be alive.”

“Our best hope is that the ażote are distracted by the students and do not go straight for her.” It was a grim affair when your most likely chance of success depended on the slaughter of juveniles. Nyle put the thought from his mind. “Tell Torin and Alyssa—our priority is to find the witch.”

Sabre nodded and fell back.

Nyle could just about make out a number of winged shapes circling the highest turret. Hoping fervently that the Shaman were, indeed, able to hold out a short while longer, he crouched farther down into the saddle and quickened his pace as dawn tinged the indigo sky.

(ebook only)

Valamine is available in e-book and print from all major sellers. Details for Valamine, including sellers' links, are at:

Bottom Drawer Publications

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Valamine (Lover's Rift, #1)

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