I know it’s an issue to post excerpts of future books and this one won’t be getting published until December since it’s book 6. Still, I’m very proud of this scene even in its raw form.
The glassy hallways are silent as Fizzle crawls along the ceiling, keeping his invisible body low. He stretches his neck to check if his reflection is still appearing on the walls. A small scowl creases his features when he sees himself. The ornamental edging near the ceiling is the only space that is not made of glass, so he squishes against the cold surface again. The slow pace is frustrating to the drite, who is used to zipping along without fear of being noticed.
He hears the roar erupt from behind him and a blast of frigid wind cuts through the hallway. A gouge runs along the floor as if something is dragging a blade along the glossy stones. For a brief moment, Fizzle thinks he sees a misty form charging ahead and turning a distant corner. The sound of chattering voices and a bellowing growl roll from the distance, sending a chill down his spine. Locked by a sudden fear, the tiny dragon almost misses another voice amid the noise. It is a dainty cough that repeats itself from the opposite direction of the chaos of monstrous sounds.
Risking exposure, he drops from the ceiling and flies back to an intersection. He hears the cough again and goes to his left, tracking the noise to a dying garden. The glass dome above is cracked and the frame is rusty, melted snow dripping to the shriveled flowers below. A naked willow stands in the center with marble benches around it. Black ivy has grown around the seats and runs along the ground in a dense network of oozing leaves. Pulsating thorns are hidden within the invasive vines, so Fizzle stays in the air. He rises above the garden and sees a silver-haired woman standing near a dry, broken fountain.
“Who you?” he asks as he cautiously approaches. He stays out of reach of the woman and backs away when her body flickers. “You ghost?”
“In a way,” she says with wry smile. She leans over the fountain and touches her face as if she is peering into a pool of water. “I could be dead. It was a terrible punishment I received for helping your friend. I’m not even sure I can survive the strain of visiting you here. So many miles and barriers to get through.”
“Woman come to help?” the drite happily says, a wave of relief washing over him.
The woman runs her thumb along her lips and stares at Fizzle. She vanishes and reappears beneath the dying willow, her hand passing through the trunk. For a few minutes, she moves around the room as if seeing it for the first time. The woman breaks into a coughing fit and spectral blood splatters against the floor. Fizzle is surprised and scared when the black ivy bursts into white flames. All of the vines ignite and turn to ash while the woman wipes her mouth with a crimson handkerchief.
“I apologize,” she whispers, flickering out of sight. She reappears behind Fizzle and swiftly grabs him by the tail. “You see, little one, I made a mistake helping your friend. I’m not allowed to get involved right now. I was punished severely for my actions, so I must atone. If I don’t then I’ll be killed before you free me. Please forgive me when we meet.”
A surge of uncomfortable aura races through the drite’s body as he struggles to escape her tight grip. Screeching and growling, he can feel the energy searching for something within him. The woman’s strange magic wraps around the inside of his throat and constricts, nearly cutting off his air. With a sharp twist, Fizzle feels a pulling tether snap and a vision of Luke in agony flickers in his mind.
“Woman break bond,” the drite says in shock. “Luke will die.”
“Then get him to the throne room and protect him from the Meraphor,” she urgently insists. A look of fear crosses her face and she punches herself hard enough to knock a spectral tooth out. “I need to stop talking to you people. Sari wasn’t bad, but you and Luke are going to get me in trouble. Please leave me alone and find me.”
The woman vanishes as dark wind flows into the room and coats every surface. A strange figure walks through the black mist and stares at Fizzle. The creature is tall and seems to be made out of patches of solid, churning winds. Each section is a vicious storm that appears to battle the rest of the body. Fizzle finds it hard to focus on the ephemeral creature as if his senses keep forgetting that it is there. The sound of other monsters can be heard, but they stop when the ghostly figure bellows over its shoulder.
“Give me my prey,” the Meraphor hisses in a voice filled with suffering. Curved blades grow out of its forearms and it advances toward the terrified drite. “I need my prey to make me whole.”
“Fizzle stop you,” the drite declares.
He dives at the creature and passes through its body, feeling a shock of anguish punch him in the heart. The Meraphor whirls around and swings its arm in attempt to slice Fizzle with the blades. For a terrifying second, a strange pull on his aura makes it difficult to move. Forcing his body to move, he twists and narrowly avoids the attack. The drite darts out of reach and gasps for air while the Meraphor unleashes a shriek. Falling to its knees, the creature retracts the blades and feebly reaches for Fizzle.
“Bring me my prey,” it growls as red eyes briefly appear in its chest. With an unearthly howl, the Meraphor leans so far back that the back of its head touches the ground. “I need my prey!”
The dark wind swirls around the creature and plunges into its open mouth. The blades appear on its forearms again and jagged spikes grow from its body. With a bitter laugh, the monster rises to its feet and takes a step toward the drite. Fizzle soars out of the garden and veers into the hallway, the Meraphor charging after him.