Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Teaser Tuesday Cinco

Teaser Tuesday once again! Per popular request, today's excerpt comes from Project NaNo, or Peacemaker.

As a bit of set up, our intrepid hero Caleb has been captured by Cheyenne Dog Soldiers. The old shaman that leads them has forced Caleb into a magical duel with one of the braves, and things have gotten a bit out of hand.


The Indian man threw one hand out toward the remnants of the large fire, and the flame answered, rising in one sinuous line like a great serpent, the head weaving back and forth menacingly. In the trees overhead, leaves and twigs popped softly, the sap in them boiling in an instant. The scent of burning foliage permeated the clearing. They had only moments before the entire forest ignited, tinder-dry as it was.

“No!” Horrified, Caleb watched the serpent, careful not to be entranced. Like the snake it resembled, fire could ensnare the mind, luring people to their deaths with false promises of escape. The trick was not to look it in the eyes.

Regardless of where it originated, fire was pure energy, and this Caleb could grab. The hungry monster within him gleefully launched itself at the serpent of flame, gulping greedily. He felt the searing heat of it as it entered his body, and the blue flames around his fists turned orange, singing the hair from his forearms. The fire serpent hissed and writhed, coiling over and over itself in an effort to escape, but Caleb had a large gaping hole within himself. There was more than enough room to capture and hold it.

Dimly, he heard Ernst yelling for him to give it over, to bleed off the power that was never meant to be encased in a human form. Somewhere in the back of his mind, he knew he had to. Give it up, or burn with it. But oh, it felt good, the heat coursing through his veins. Even with his eyes closed, he could see the world tinged in shades of red and gold and at the very depths of his vision, the blue of hottest flame. If he let go, he could be part of it forever, his energy blended with the eternal energy of flame. He’d known, ever since Chicago, that this would be his fate.

Something struck him across the face, hard enough to jar his senses. When he opened his eyes, he found the ancient shaman standing before him, hand drawn back to slap him again. Seeing that he had Caleb’s attention, he shoved Ernst into the Peacemaker’s arms, the jackalope’s antlers gouging him through his shirt. His blood steamed where it oozed from those scratches, and others.

“Caleb, please give it to me. Please.” Ernst sat up on his haunches, quivering little nose nearly pressed to Caleb’s. His voice echoed, taking on the crackling sound of a burning fire. “You have to give it to me, or you’ll burn. Please.”

Yes. He’d seen men burn from within. Their fingers turned black and the skin curled, flaking away as ash. The fat bubbled, and they smelled like sizzling bacon. That was why he could never eat it. And to a man, they’d died with smiles on their faces, seduced by the very power that devoured them alive.

“Yes.” His own voice was barely audible, the air in his lungs too hot for his vocal chords to handle. “Take it!” Inside, the fire roared its denial, and it scrabbled at him with searing claws, not wanting to relinquish a ready meal.

Through the heat, he could feel Ernst’s forehead pressed against his, antlers pricking painfully. The brown fur was blessedly cool to the touch, and it cleared away some of the heated delirium from Caleb’s mind. The fire left him, kicking and screaming, but drawn inexorably out nonetheless. That tremendous power funneled through the tiny form that was Ernst and away into wherever a familiar put such things.

Caleb was left cold and sweating, hugging the furry form close to his chest. There was no need for him to say thanks, unless it was to the Almighty for sending him Ernst in the first place. He would be so lost without him.

Someone touched his shoulder, and he looked to find the old Indian peering intently into his eyes. After long moments, the ancient one nodded. “Epeva’e.” Whatever it meant, he was obviously finished with Caleb. He handed the staff back.


J.F. Posthumus said...

Wow... really great imagery here! Absolutely love his fight with reliquishing the fire. Tempation is a hard thing to fight.... so, appearantly, is fire! :-D

sue laybourn said...

Terrific stuff!
I love the whole notion of Caleb fighting temptation to keep the fire.
Fascinating premise for a story too. I'd love to read more.

Rose Pressey said...

Fantastic. Can't wait to read more.

Anonymous said...

Wow, love the description of Caleb and the fire. Awesome!

parametric said...

This is great! I can see why the protag doesn't want to give it up. Liked the blood steaming.

sunna said...

This is an awesome scene; I love the temptation to die in the fire here.

Oh, and the JACKALOPE!!! Instant win.

Debra Driza said...

Yeah, how can you not love a story with a jackalope? :) Seriously, though--amazing imagery and imagination here. What a great scene!

BeshterBooks said...

Very good...I love his familiar is a jackalope. I can't wait to see more of it.

Ella said...

Ah, reminds me of Carlos Castenada and the teachings of Don Juan. Love it. The intensity of the fire and the dance they do is wonderful.

I don't think burning flesh smells like bacon, ;0. I know burning hair is nasty.

Anonymous said...

I love Ernst! I've never read a story with a Jackalope character and now I must demand of all English literature: WHY NOT?!!

(I did find that opening paragraph a little purply--a lot of adjectives and adverbs--but you kick it up nicely by the second paragraph.)

S.H. said...

This is wonderful! I'd love to read more.