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Krait’s Redemption (5)

5. Krait's Redemption COVER_smallKrait’s Redemption (The Cat’s Eye Chronicles, Book 5)
Epic Fantasy
ISBN:

Release Date: September 12th, 2017
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    With winter solstice fast approaching, Sora and her companions are running out of time. She must stop The Shade from awakening the Dark God, yet a powerful force has overtaken her Cat’s-Eye necklace, rendering the stone almost useless. To use the stone, Sora must learn to trust her instincts and embrace her own inner strength. She joins forces with unexpected allies, Lord Gracen Seabourne among them, to protect the City of Crowns. As the city dissolves into chaos, she finds herself barreling toward an epic battle that will decide the fate of mankind.

    At risk to his own life, Crash returns to the Hive seeking aid against Cerastes. However, the events that led him into exile have not been forgotten. Will the Hive offer him redemption, or will they demand he pay the ultimate price for his transgressions?

    Join Sora and Crash in their epic battle to save the City of Crowns!

    Prologue

    Crash watched the bonfires in the distance.

    Each day, more devotees swelled the Shade’s ranks. Shadow portals transported them from cities, from fields and mountains—from anywhere—to this forsaken desert. Nameless warriors pooled beneath a red plateau that towered in the twilight, blocking the moon.

    An army of the lost, Crash thought. Their burning pyres beckoned to him like lighthouses on a foreign shore. But he had left those fires behind, walking miles into the flat desert to sit among the sand.

    The Shade’s encampment might be in the Desert of Ester, but he wasn’t sure. His sense of certainty had fled long ago. He wondered at this unprecedented gathering. He wondered at the royal city’s evacuation, so close to winter solstice night.

    He watched the fires glint against the darkness. He watched, and sat, and pondered. At first, Cerastes’ army had puzzled him. He didn’t know why a Grandmaster, typically a solitary figure concerned with martial discipline and meditation, would want to gather so many numbers. But now, as Crash became more firmly entrenched in the Shade’s activities, he knew what they were about. He had thought Cerastes meant to wage war against the human kingdom, but he was wrong.
    Cerastes wanted the Hive.

    Crash had realized the Grandmaster’s ambition when the assassin Cobra had issued his last dying words. It had all become suddenly, perfectly clear. Stop him. Cobra’s death had returned the arrow to Crash’s compass, and perhaps for the first time, he knew true north. He knew what he had to do.

    He stood and walked away from the crimson fires on the horizon, behind an outcropping of rocks. There, he emptied a bag onto the ground. Ingredients for his spell, including a sheaf of yellowed parchment and fresh salamander ink, fell to the sand. He wrote the spell, then built a small fire out of venomgrass and willow bark. He drew symbols in the sand, and the flames turned indigo blue. Then he burned the paper with its written message. A wandering wind brushed the top of the dunes, carrying wafts of sand and smoke up to the stars.

    He doused the fire when he was finished. Then, his black hood pulled low over his face, he sat on his heels to wait.

    Redemption. A returning, a renewal. Would the Hive help him now, or would they hold him to his trespasses? Someone must answer, he thought. Someone must answer his call, his message burned on the wind, and someone must answer for his Grandmaster’s mistakes.

    He thought back to Sora and the rest of his companions in the City of Crowns, and he felt ashamed. Under the influence of Cerastes’ power, he had wavered. His demon had sensed his Grandmaster’s dark aura, had sensed a home, and for a while, he had lost himself. But Sora’s touch—more than that, her words, her spirit—had brought him back.

    He couldn’t fight Cerastes alone. He couldn’t trust his darker half to resist the Shade’s pull, because he, too, was a discarded outcast of the Hive. His Grandmaster’s demonic presence was irresistible, drawing close all those scattered savants with nowhere to belong. Crash had felt his own will tremble. Even now, he couldn’t quite steady his hands. He couldn’t show Sora his weakness. More importantly, he couldn’t show it to his own kind.

    Someone had to do the right thing. The right thing, he thought ironically. Someone had to warn the Hive. Anyone who can read the Wind can read this message, he thought. He only hoped Cerastes was too distracted to see it.

    Hours passed as he waited. The silence of the desert stretched, as spacious and echoing as a tomb. The stars and moon circled overhead, trailing across the heavens. He found the constellation of Kaelyn the Wanderer and asked, begrudgingly, for luck. Then his eyes picked out other celestial formations known to his race. He recounted their stories in his head: Sibilant, the assassin so stealthy and quiet, she could walk between this realm and the world of ghosts; Dartmouth, who replaced his teeth with knives; Marrow, so cunning he outsmarted the gods and stole the Dark God’s weapons in eons past. Crash found it ironic that, despite all that had transpired, a story could still lend him courage. And each star was a story, a light in the dark, a dream in the abyss.

    The wind picked up without warning. A whirl of sand twisted up from the ground, building, growing. Then a figure stepped from the dust.

    Crash stood up. He didn’t know what to expect.

    The sand settled. A woman dressed in black stood before him. She was insidiously tall. Her hair fell in plaited rows down her back. He noted the chakrams at her belt: circular blades that could remove a man’s head with a single powerful throw. Her eyes glowed the shocking green of aloe.

    Memory stirred, and he recognized her. He searched for her name. It came to him.

    “Grandmaster Natrix,” he bowed.

    “Viper,” she returned, and waited for him to straighten. “I have listened long for word of my brother. Tell me, what has Cerastes done?”

    Chapter 1

    Sora stood on an open expanse of meadowland behind her stepfather’s manor. Instead of green grass cushioning her feet, a layer of snow and ice caked her boots. Winter had overtaken the Fallcrest estate. The trees were licorice-limbed and sugar-coated, and the sky was a white, woolen quilt.

    She glanced behind her. A rose bush grew against a low stone wall, its limbs naked, its thorns menacing, its branches arced like claws against the sky.
    A chill wind blew her blond hair over her shoulder. She shuddered, wrapping her arms around herself. She didn’t wear a cloak. Her skin felt as cold and stiff as marble.

    She remembered this place. She had traveled here before in guided meditations. But the snow was new. The season had changed.

    She trudged up the icy hill. Before long, a gated corral came into view, ringed by thick metal poles. Her stomach tightened, and she unconsciously reached for the Cat’s-Eye stone at her neck, which sent only a little warmth to her hand.

    A monster waited beyond the corral’s closed gate, a monster whose strength she needed to harness. But every time she neared the garrolithe, it attacked her with terrifying rage. It stood on four legs, a great beast taller and broader than a bull. Its mane of bristling quills could pierce her skin. Its gaping jaws could swallow her in two wolfing bites. How could she tame a beast of such ferocity? The creature wasn’t flesh and blood, but formed of magical energy centuries before her time. How could she control it?

    Here, in the dreamscape of her mind, she must try.

    She walked across the snowy meadow to the corral. As she neared, her sense of unease grew. The corral’s gates dangled off their hinges like broken iron wings, the metal twisted and warped beyond use. Inside was empty.

    A sudden, low growl erupted behind her.

    Sora turned, numb with fear. She stared into the blue-fire eyes of the monster. Its teeth stretched as long as her forearm. A mane of bristling quills stiffened along its neck. It stood on four legs with shoulders as powerful as a bear.

    Sora tried to find her courage, but she could only summon thoughts of Crash. He’s gone, she thought, her fists curling at her sides. He’s left my side. How am I supposed to be strong?

    Her sense of hopelessness grew. The struggle seemed pointless. She couldn’t win against the garrolithe—she couldn’t win against herself. She knew, this time, she would be devoured.

    The rumbling growl, deep in the garrolithe’s throat, continued.

    Sora took a shaky breath. A small cloud of mist formed between herself and the monster. The beast breathed with her as one. Within its fiery eyes, she saw her own reflection. She saw someone small, her face too pale and thin, her brows too low and gaze too focused.

    Then the garrolithe widened its lionlike jaws. She closed her eyes and succumbed to its strength, to its dominion. She knew this moment was inevitable. A sense of relief filled her. This is the only way.

    She felt like a deer in its final moments, after a long and harrowing run from the wolves.

    The dank cave of the garrolithe’s mouth enveloped her, its hot breath on her hair, her face. Her fists tightened as she braced herself. The first prick of the beast’s fangs pierced her neck.

    Release Date: September 12th, 2017
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  • A Word from the Author

    Ferran’s Map (The Cat’s Eye Chronicles, Book 4) was very much a story about returning to one’s roots. Almost every member of the crew finds themselves returning to The City of Crowns face their past in some way. Crash once again confronts his old grandmaster, Cerastes. Sora and Ferran both return to the tiers of the nobility. Lori returns to the Healer’s seminary. Even Caprion runs into a face from the past.

    A central theme also runs through Krait’s Redemption (The Cat’s Eye Chronicles, Book 5), and it’s about — you guessed it – redemption and renewal. In some ways, this ties into the very spirit of winter solstice, which in Sora’s world, means the dawn of a new year and a time of rebirth:

    In her mother’s small town, bells were strung along the streets and villagers wore painted wooden masks on winter’s eve, dancing to pipes and lutes. [Their] masks were meant to remind people they were beings of Wind, ever-changing, and so their inner spirits bore no face. Troubles of the old year dissolved beneath the masks, and a new year was embraced when the masks were shed at dawn. In more superstitious areas, they believed the spirit was literally reborn with each new year.

    Redemption, however, is not easy to come by, and I can’t promise you that all of the characters end up as we might expect.

    I am very excited about the release of Krait’s Redemption. This could very well be the most epic installment of their journey to date. Thank you so much for reading and being part of Sora and Crash’s adventure.

    And for those of you wondering, yes, there will be a 6th book.

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