Spirit Binder – An Excerpt
Pieces splintered, seemingly irretrievable.
An overwhelmingly dreadful, insanely painful energy crushed her together. Again. Then pulled her apart.
She was undone.
It was too much. She wasn’t going to make it through. How she had ever thought she was tough enough, focused enough, to even be here, she didn’t know. In fact, now that she thought about it, she couldn’t remember why she was here, how she got here, or why this twisting, burning energy was searing through her every sense.
She felt the resolve drain from her like dirty bath water; it left the filmy residue and everything. So many people had died. She was fairly sure everyone but her was dead. The only possible reason that she was still alive had to be sheer willpower; the same willpower that had just gone down the drain.
She fell — collapsing like a rag doll hitting a stone floor — not even remotely aware that she’d previously been suspended in mid-air. She wasn’t too sure all her stuffing was still inside her seams. She was dimly aware that something had snapped in the fall. It might have been her ankle, but she felt like it had been her mind.
Blackness engulfed her, and she welcomed the relief from the relentless, spirit-rending pain.
Time lost meaning …
Something in front of her moved — a black, hulking something — a guardian, perhaps? She was vaguely aware that there had been others to fight previously, but what or why she’d been fighting was lost to her. The hulking thing filled the entire space. Though perhaps that was just her perspective from the floor. She was lying on dreadfully hard stone. She’d thought she was still on her feet — no … now she remembered the fall.
Though how she could see anything in this darkness she didn’t know. Perhaps it was all in her mind. She did have the talent to see things that others couldn’t see. Didn’t she?
Maybe she was dead. Though, since her ankle was a screaming red-hot pulse of pain, maybe she wasn’t so lucky.
The hulking thing, which looked as if it might actually be part of the granite cave walls, moved toward her again. A creepy slurping noise emanated from it.
Slllllurrrrpppp … Slurrruppp …
Was it sucking something off the ground, and the walls, and the ceiling?
Dead or not, she was going to have to move. She wasn’t being sucked up by an unknown guardian demon, if that was what it was. It certainly wasn’t something she’d ever aspired to, though according to others she didn’t aspire to do enough. Though … who those ‘others’ were was unclear to her right now, just like everything else was jumbled and confused.
She was very sure she’d never even seen a demon before, and that moving had to be the hardest thing she’d ever tried.
She tried to call back the amazing willpower that had helped her through the darkness that was life after … After what? She had a sense that life had been difficult and dreary, but not of the why or how. How was it she knew that about herself, but not much else? It must be the pain overloading her senses. Maybe her brain was spell-burnt. Had she been hit by some sort of powerful knockback spell? A spell that she hadn’t sensed, even though she was extremely sensitive to any sort of magic?
That wasn’t something they could block. She retained some smugness over that at least, but then immediately worried who ‘they’ were and what else they actually managed to ‘block’ her from previously.
The slurping was putting her on edge. She could feel it reverberating through the stone floor into her right ear. Which, upon reflection, seemed to be stuck to the stone. That was seriously uncomfortable, and rather nasty.
She turned her head. It worked, but it hurt. Her ear and her hair ripped up with the turn, and must have made a sound because the hulking Slurper paused its slurping.
She waited, now staring up into the darkness. Unless her eyes weren’t open, then she was just staring at the back of her dark eyelids. She tried to feel her feet, then decided they were too far away, so she refocused on her shoulders. They seemed to branch off from her neck, which was good because that’s where they were supposed to be.
The Slurper started slurping again and she put two and two together.
She was lying in blood. A large pool of blood — if the smell was any way to judge. It was drying, hence the stickiness.
The Slurper was the clean-up crew.
She’d been left for dead.
Which was really foul. Especially since, given the prophecy, the world went to ruin without her alive. Well … more than it already was, at least. That was how it went — depending on interpretation — wasn’t it? She had been born under a prophecy, right?
It must have been bad for them to leave her here. And, now that she thought about it, she wasn’t exactly sure where ‘here’ was. Had she been coming or going? Was this an exit or an entrance? Had she been fighting or running away?
And who were ‘they’ anyway? The ‘they’ that she was fairly sure had left her here? Or the ‘they’ who’d attacked her?
She had been attacked. Right?
Something nudged her feet, so they did exist and were still currently attached to her body. Pain shot up her leg from her ankle and settled in her hip. She was obviously still alive; a fact she kept forgetting.
The Slurper had reached her.
She momentarily thought about just letting it have her. She wondered if it had some enzyme in its saliva that would liquefy her remains. Then she thought that would probably hurt. Hurt even more than she was currently hurting.
So she reached out; not with her hands, they didn’t seem to be responding, but with her mind. She reached out with her mind, and found the Slurper’s on/off switch. Now, granted, she could just flip this switch to off. That would be the shortcut, but she didn’t go around simply switching things off. This creature hadn’t ever done her harm that she knew of. Besides, the backlash would most likely be agony itself, not that she knew firsthand.
So no easy route for her. She opted for a gentle nudge of the metaphorical switch; a nudge away from her.
The Slurper paused.
She felt its heart beating a double rhythm; either that or it had two. It was cold where it touched her leg, as if it had frozen her. Which, on the bright side, actually eased the pain in her ankle.
It was confused. It seemed to operate on easily directed instincts, but it didn’t normally take its orders from her. She hadn’t even bothered to cloak her presence in its mind. Honestly, she’d all but forgotten she could do such a thing. She’d just reached out and —
She might not be strong enough to turn it.
It snuffled, like a hulking rock cat holding back a sneeze.
Then it turned.
She stifled a scream when it stepped on her numb leg. That would have attracted too much attention.
It slurped off in a parallel direction, and eventually worked its way around her. She lost track of it in her effort to pull herself together. She still wasn’t totally sure she had all her pieces.
She really should get up off the ground. It wasn’t a very nice place to be lying.
The numbness in her ankle and leg — the limb the Slurper had frozen and then stepped on — wore off in a blaring, blazing blast of fiery pain. The agony threatened to overload her already exceedingly fragile mind. Fortunately, the pain motivated her to move.
She made it to her knees. Well … she was fairly certain they belonged to her, because the pain of kneeling on a jagged rock registered within the already overstimulated pain center of her brain.
Her hands weren’t so much painful as limp. They didn’t like the weight she was foisting on them, but they held.
She suddenly realized she was surrounded by a light glow, which was probably why she’d been able to see the Slurper at all. It was as if the blood that painted the walls and ground was glowing dimly, except where the Slurper had slurped it up. Glowing blood. That was new. Wasn’t it?
She headed into the darkness in the opposite direction of the Slurper, which might or might not be the way out. Depending on whether or not the Slurper had been assigned to clean from the inside out or not. She was hoping the creature was some sort of a hired clean-up crew, not a resident of the cave — or wherever she was — and therefore it had started cleaning from the outside in. But honestly, she was really just trying to move forward. So, having gained hands and knees, she’d started moving in the direction she’d been facing.
Later on — it might have been weeks for all she knew — she made it to her feet. This was accomplished due to her knees hurting too badly to carry her any longer, rather than any great achievement on her part.
She still couldn’t see in the dark. She found handholds, smoother edges in the rock walls, and dragged her upper body forward until one of her legs was forced to kick in to prevent a possible fall.
The tunnel started slanting upwards, which didn’t make going forward any easier, but led her to believe she was close to something; an exit hopefully.
Just a sliver, but it hurt her eyes.
She reached for it, with her hands this time. She wasn’t stupid enough to reach for unknown light with her mind. Many types of magic masqueraded as light. Plus, her hands were vaguely working again.
Her hand smothered the sliver of light. She spread her fingers and realized she was feeling a crack in the stone wall.
The light was filtering in through some sort of an opening.
She continued to trace the edge. And after eons, her brain informed her that she might have found a door, though not a handle.
Even with this discovery before her, she didn’t feel like moving forward anymore. The effort to get this far had just been too much. Leaning next to the sliver of light seemed appropriately calming, so she did just that.
Except the sliver didn’t stay in place. The weight of her body widened it. Without anymore warning than that, she stumbled through the hidden door into a large room.
A room filled hundreds of books.
She appeared to have arrived through a bookcase, which was a little strange and obvious all at the same time.
“Oh, darling!” a woman gasped. “We’ve … I’ve been searching … you’ve come home!”
A woman stood behind a grand desk. Everything about her was perfectly poised, from her smooth, bobbed hair to her fine, but simply cut, silk dress. She removed a pair of reading glasses to reveal eyes that were almost too green. Despite her words, the woman didn’t actually look all that surprised to see her ‘darling’ coming through the bookcase.
“I have?” She couldn’t remember if she’d been missing at all, except that she was certain she should’ve been fairly easy to find in the secret tunnel behind the bookcase. Wouldn’t that be the first place to look?
“I shall call the healer. You’re bleeding on my carpet. Yes, I know it’s annoying that it insists on covering that section of the library floor. It seems to revel in being a tripping hazard. But, none the less, your blood is too valuable to feed such common beings.”
The woman skirted the desk and moved toward her. Every cell in her body suddenly screamed at her to move, to run, or at least to attack, but she was incapable of doing so.
Something was wrong here. Or, something was supposed to be wrong here. Something about this woman? Well, other than the obviously dyed red hair. No one had hair that dark red naturally, did they? It actually matched the ruby necklace nestled at the woman’s throat.
The woman stopped a few feet away. She might have been in her late forties, but could have been younger. The power emanating from the woman was painful, and she actually convulsed when it brushed against her. The woman looked aghast at the discomfort she caused, and somehow pulled all that power, power that seemed too vast to contain, back inside of her. The convulsions stopped.
“Sorry, darling. I forgot how sensitive you are.” The woman reached a tentative hand out to her, but didn’t move forward to complete the touch.
“My head hurts.”
“I know. But it will get better. It will all be better now that you’re home.”
That was it.
This was home.
She hadn’t recognized it until her mother had pointed out that fact, but now she understood. This was where she’d grown up. She had friends and teachers here, and her mother …
“Yes, darling. Someone took you away, but I’ve got you back now. Everything will be right once more.”
She slumped to her knees, as her legs gave out before her mind did. The carpet rose to break her fall.
Her mother called out for help, yet she wasn’t distressed. Even through the haze that coated her eyes, she could see her mother’s satisfied smile. Which was odd, wasn’t it?
Other people soon arrived. Her mother never touched her, though her hand lingered over her forehead a few times. Huddled on the hovering carpet, she gave in to the ministrations of hands and magic that felt familiar, yet distant. As if she was tasting something in memory.
“Theodora, spirit-predestined, daughter of my blood, is home,” her mother formally announced. There were murmured answers, but she couldn’t distinguish the words.
That was her name.
Funny, it didn’t sound right. As if it didn’t belong to her.
Only later did she remember she’d been wrong about the Slurper creature. It had been cleaning from the inside out.
She also remembered she wasn’t to address her mother as ‘mother’ or ‘mom’, but as Your Majesty. Or, in private, as Rhea. Though her mother hadn’t seemed to mind being addressed incorrectly.
She succumbed to the welcoming darkness.
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*Disclaimer: Spirit Binder is a stand alone fantasy novel originally published in 2012. It is NOT connected to the Dowser or Oracle Series.