QSFer Nita Round has a new FF steampunk book out: Raven, Sand and Sun.
Lucinda, Ascara, and the Captain have survived several almost fatal encounters with various agents of Sh’Na. Now they must face the Mistress of the Night herself in the pyramid from Lucinda’s dreams and cut short the beast’s reign of terror. Captain Stoner, however, has met this Queen of the Desert before, and although the companions are together, she fears the three of them will not be enough to withstand Sh’Na’s evil.
Their journey is not a simple one and their trials start in the city of Port Ruth. Here the Captain must face her own past, fraught with its own perils, before they can enter the desert. Once outside the city, they travel into the inhospitable lands of sand and sun where they must face Sh’Na in a battle for more than their own lives. Failure means the end of everything. Success will bring the three to a new truth, and a new path will be revealed.
A low-slung half-moon cast weak light over the plains, and Gaia’s Rift looked like no more than a dark slash in the ground. She saw nothing untoward.
“Captain,” Ascara whispered.
Magda raised a finger to her lips. “Shush.” She pointed then, along the Rift.
“I see it,” Ascara said. “A flash?”
“Perhaps.” She squinted into the darkness, and caught another flash. Then another. “What the hell is it? People in the Rift?”
“They’re wearing or carrying something metallic or reflective, that’s for sure.”
“Are we about to be attacked?” Magda asked. A tapping sound over to her right caught her attention. It looked like a boulder, about a foot across, but this boulder grew legs. Eight of them, and at the front, small glowing spots of light seemed to home in on her location. “What the hell?”
Ascara stepped farther to her left, her body low and her limbs loose. Magda recognised this pose. The spider, for that is what it appeared to be, spun toward Ascara. Magda took a step to her right, increasing their distance and attracting the spider’s attention. Out of the corner of her eye she could see other “things” sitting on the rift edge, watching, she supposed. She crouched lower, and started toward the beast.
Other details became more apparent. The spider analogy worked well as far as descriptions go. She could see a rounded body and an articulated section to hold the head. Jaws protruded from the head area, and the legs, all shiny metal, seemed as spider-like as any true spider. Front legs raised, it seemed frozen, as though analysing its next action.
“Attract its attention,” Ascara urged.
She took a step to the side, and one closer. Now the spider focussed on her and started toward her in slow motion. She couldn’t see Ascara anymore, but with this thing trying to stalk her, she didn’t have time to look elsewhere.
She didn’t hear a thing, but Ascara burst into sight almost behind the spider and launched herself onto its back. The spider’s legs flattened beneath this unexpected weight. Ascara wrapped her hands around the head section and pulled back. A grunt of effort as she yanked backward was the only sign, she gave of the effort required to hold the mechanical spider. Magda surged forward, grabbed the jaws and pushed upward.
She heard a grinding sound as she forced jaws out of alignment. Gears whined and then the spider slumped to the ground. The red glowing eye spots flickered for a moment and went out.
“Oh dear,” Ascara said. “This is all clockwork.”
Ascara and Magda looked at each other. “Lucinda,” they said, almost at the same time.
They got up off the ground, and raced toward the tower entrance. In the darkness, the stones and rocks they had missed as they walked now became more hazardous. Yet they made it back. They had to, and their need gave them strength, speed, and agility.
“Lucinda!” Magda bellowed as the door opened up. “Lucinda! We’re under attack!”
Nita Round lives in the heart of England with her wife and their ruby Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Rosie. She has many interests and hobbies, including walking, D&D, cooking, and drinking wine. Not always in that order. Her damson gin and plum vodka have been a factor in several hangovers, but she says it has nothing to do with her. If you can’t manage your fruit, lay off the gin.
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