New dark fantasy short story collection
Hi, I'm a Polish writer of dark fantasy. Since English is not my firsth language, please forgive some mistakes I can make.
One of my book has been published by Devine Destinies, two others waiting in line for publication. To calm You down, they have been edited by a professional. Below I would like to present You short parts of two stories. I can't present You a whole story for the contract doesn't allow me to do so.
Book "Dark children of Naor", story "The Burden of Inheritance".
When they arrived, the sun’s rays had already gained intensity burned them both. If not for the breath of wind, it would have been unpleasantly hot.
The view shocked them all. On the rolling pasture lay about fifty dead cows, calves and young bulls. They were torn to pieces, and the grass and the ground beneath were red with blood. Bloated intestines and scraps of meat were splashed between the corpses. The nauseous smell of gore was mixing with the sharp, sour contents of the ripped bowels and feces.
The dead bodies covered a large space. Between them or over them, the surviving cows scattered wildly.
The Prince’s people tried to catch the surviving animals. They managed to drive a few of them into small hollow at the edge of the forest, which had formed something of a natural coral. The peasants hobbled them, so the animals couldn’t run away again. They were so frightened that any small thing would cause a panic among them and set them off again.
The wounded cattle were finished off, and the butchers, who had followed with their gear and wagons went to work butchering and storing any meat suitable for preserving with salt. Geyden watched the remainder of the massacre, stone faced.
He said with the bitter irony, as he jumped to the ground. “He had great fun.”
Nayana knew he still spoke of the dragon as if it were a man. He took the horse to the stream flowing alongside the pasture, where the mounts could quench its thirst.
“He kills like a wild wolf,” she said continuing to look at the surroundings in case he lurked.
“Because his heart is like the heart of a wild wolf.”
Nayana looked at the man. He seemed to control his agitation with great difficulty. He clenched teeth in such way that the muscles clenched in his jaw.
“That dying peasant,” she dared to say. “He knew you, sir.”
He twitched when she said these words, but he didn’t look at her.
“I can give you my noble word that I’ve never seen that man before.”
“However, the sight of you moved him, sir.”
“People on the border of two worlds can see different things” he replied coldly.
She didn’t understand his words.
“I only want to understand the situation I am in,” she informed him openly “I want to know if I can trust you.”
He probably hadn’t expected such a reaction from her. For the last few days, she’d been almost submissive to him, shamed by her ignorance and desire to learn more about the dragons. Now she was herself again, a strong woman, and independent warrior.
He brushed off her question with the meaningful silence.
While the horses drank their fill, Geyden looked around their surroundings. His face, like the day before, became the face of a hunter, sniffing the game.
“He’s there,” he said, pointing to the south.
“How do you know, sir?”
“I’ve been chasing him for so long, I’ve begun to know him.”
Before Nayana could ask any further questions, he moved in the direction he’d indicated. They passed through the forest until they reached another lush, expansive pasture. It was very similar to the previous one. Wide, rolling hills dotted with a few sparse trees which the shepherds hid under on hot days.
There was the dragon on the highest hill. The joint of a cow he’d snatched from the place of the massacre and was being devoured heartily. With the huge jaws, he easily crushed the bones of his victim, which cracked at the accompaniment of deaf crunching of dried twigs.
Bewitched by the spectacle, Nayana, gaze was fixed on the dragon. He was the same dragon who’d murdered her sister. With every move his dark-green scales along his back, flashed red and sparked on the sun. On his spine, he had bright, bone ridge, which the beast could raise according to the will of their owner. Rather small, in comparison with sizes of the body, the head was perched on the long, shapely neck and had ornaments like red fans covering the ear’s holes. Well-muscled front and back legs were supplied with long, light gray claws that ensured speed as well as lethal weapons when the brute clashes with an opponent. The long, muscular tail had a thin and flexible tip, which he used like a whip.
Book "Evil children of Naor", story "The silence of Kurgans":
This book is waiting in line.
Jansemi’s uriad, a short and stocky but very tough steppe horse, skilfully made his way through the snow. She was absolutely sure that the animal, relying on experience and instinct acquired from hundreds of generations before him, was choosing a sure footing for his hooves. She was certain that they wouldn’t fall into a rift covered with snow or drown under the ice of a small pond. The winter was already coming to an end, but the snow was still lying in a thick layer over the steppes. However, it didn’t seem to make any impression on the horse; he kept clearing his way through the snow with his wide chest. A long and thick fur coat protected him from the cold and frostbites, wide hooves prevented him from sinking into the duvet of the snow, and strong legs and a strong muscular body enabled him to move forward. When they were riding on open plains, where strong winds blew and the snow barely reached the horse's pasterns, they had been able to move at a trot, but for most of the journey they had travelled at a normal pace.
Just ahead of her rode a pack horse without a rider, which was being led by her uncle. The animal was mainly carrying her things on its back; she’d been using them for the last six months of winter. Now she was wearing the trousers made especially for horse riding, a few shirts, and a jacket with fur lining. She pulled on the hood to protect her head from the cold; it was trimmed with wolf’s fur, similar to her uncle’s pointed and long-eared hat. She had rubbed fat onto her whole body to protect her skin even more. Thanks to that she felt warmer, and her skin didn't crack. She didn’t mind its smell, though only few days ago she had sprinkled her body with fragrance.
Her uncle rode ahead, leading the way. He was a man trusted by Jansemi’s father, the chief of the Isher clan, which belonged to the Elmorian people. Ages ago, Elmorians had been a mighty nation, living in a wonderful empire stretching over the Elmor and Tinakor steppes. However, as legend had it, one of its masters angered the god Palimir and he made the Elmorian people entirely dependent on the Damarian Empire in the west, making them his vassals. Since that time, Elmorians couldn’t unite again and were forced to pay rent to their superiors in gold, horses, silk or seneuri shells. However, there was still hope. According to the bards and priests, the one who could appease Palimir and rule the Elmorian people was to be born soon.
Her uncle pointed at a snowy hill ahead of them on which the remains of walls, towers and palaces resembled skeletal ruins.
“I know. I’ve been there once.”
He turned to look at her without stopping the horse.
“When? We’ve never ridden this way.”
“When I was a child, Aunt Arnev took me and Unkuri to show us the might of our ancestors.”
“It’s a cursed place. It was destroyed by demons.”
She burst out laughing.
“Those are fairy tales used to frighten naughty children.”
He didn’t reply, but turned to inspect the safe road in front of them.
As late afternoon arrived, he started looking for a place for them to rest for the night. Dense thickets covered the nearby hill, making it stand out in contrast to the heavy snow. The fast-falling dusk blurred their vision, and they were unable to see if there were any other footprints. The humans could be not the only ones who wanted to look for shelter here. Wolves, jackals, lions, leopards, shaggy rhinoceros and big deer kutubu often looked for protection from the cold night winds. The herbivores could be as dangerous as the other predators when they felt threatened.
Jansemi and her uncle didn't expect the dragons because, in the winter, those reptiles preferred to stay in the mountains. However, not all dragons were alike, and Jansemi looked upward every now and then, expecting to see their familiar shapes against the darkening sky.
Her uncle gave her the pack horse’s rope and told her to stay a bit behind, pulled out his bow and made sure his javelin was situated so that he could reach it at any time, and then prepared to strike as he made his way towards the thickets. Despite the bad visibility, Jansemi could see the dim outlines of a number of black birds flying around.
Their nervous flight patterns, noisy cawing and mid-air fighting told her they were fighting over some food they had found, and that the carcass was probably in the thickets themselves. The birds were also behaving boldly, which told her there weren’t any predators around to scare them off.
Her uncle moved nearer to the bushes, avoiding the dark shadows she could now see lying in the snow. He slowly dismounted, and she could see that he looked confused. He stared at the carcass for a little too long, which told her that he suspected this was not an ordinary body.
Jansemi tapped her heels on the horse’s side and slowly moved closer. She immediately understood her uncle’s puzzled expression: two bodies were lying by the bushes, a few strides from each other. She could see that they were two male riders from a neighbouring clan. Their horses had long since run away, and the wind had nearly covered up their tracks. Deaths weren’t anything unusual here, especially in the winter. Careless wanderers could freeze, or else get attacked by predators or enemies from other clans.
However, these hunters appeared to have died differently. Jansemi had seen bodies brought back from the fields of war, but these two were nothing in comparison. Their stomachs were torn and their skulls split open. As she squinted to see more clearly in the fading light, she noticed that their livers, lungs, stomachs and brains were also missing. The ravens were now pecking out the muscles exposed by their deep wounds, and three of them were standing inside to the broken skulls.
Her uncle shouted, waving his bow to frighten off the scavengers. They flew a few feet away, but they weren't going to leave their find. They cawed defiantly, glowering with eyes as black as tar and cocking their heads fiercely.
“For Palimir’s arrows,” she whispered. “What animal could do this?”
Her uncle was now pacing, walking back and forth between the bodies.
“This wasn’t done by an animal. A predator would eat everything, not just a few specific innards here and there… it’s the same with both victims.”
Jansemi stared at the bodies from her horse. It hadn’t rained for three days, and the wind had only partly covered up whatever tracks remained. Snow had piled up next to the bodies, stained orange and red with blood. However, only the tracks of people and horses could be seen. She left the pack horse and directed her own uriad a few steps closer, then turned around the bushes. It was there that she saw the tracks of another human. They were small, probably belonging to a woman. She was wondering why neither of the men had given her a horse. Maybe they only had two saddled horses and were taking turns riding? She thought. She followed the tracks and saw that they led away from the dead bodies.
“Someone probably survived,” she said quickly. “She will die without a horse. We should follow her.”
Her uncle walked up to her. “They’ve been lying here for at least three days. If she hasn’t been found by now, she’s most likely dead.”
“We should follow her…”
Her uncle directed the horse to the bushes and seized the rope of the pack animal.
“It will get dark soon, and we don’t have shelter yet.”
They knew it wasn’t a good idea to stay near the bodies. The corpses could draw predators, and they both would feel uneasy in their vicinity. Jansemi felt that something terrible had happened here. The steppes seemed to be full of evil spirits and demons. It wasn’t in the Elmorians’ customs to leave lonely wanderers on their own, but for now they both felt that they should follow their own path.
They stopped to rest only when they had rode far enough away from their dreadful find. Their camp consisted only of a small bonfire in the hollow they had found; they didn’t even bother to set up a small tent.
“What could have killed them? Why didn’t I see the tracks of the predator?” Jansemi asked, refusing a slice of a dried meat her uncle tried to give her. “Many years ago I saw similar corpses. I was told that it was a vogun’s prank.”
“The demon of a mummy?”
Her uncle put the slices of dried and raw meat to his mouth, chewing them slowly. “A vogun eats the organs of the recently deceased the same, which are taken out of the body during the mummification process.”
“But we don’t act like this. We don’t eviscerate the bodies of the dead—”
“Damarians and their minions act like this.”
“But their tombs are too far. It’s impossible that one of those demons came all the way here.”
“There are vaults in the Damarish minion’s forts where they hide the dead. If the demon stirred in one of them, he would attack the garrison from the inside. But nothing like that happened. At least, I haven’t heard of such events lately.”
“Did you kill that vogun… at the time?”
He shook his head.
“The attacks had ceased… until now.”
“What do we do now?”
“We will be on the alert. Our horses will also alert us. My Inrei is vigilant,” he said proudly, looking over at his steed.