Friday, 30 September 2016
Blitz: Petrified City by SC Green & Lindsey R Loucks
Welcome to Petrified City, where the dead don’t stay in the ground.
Ten years ago, an accident at the city chemical plant leaked toxins into the soil of the historic Brookwood Hill Cemetery. From the poisoned ground emerged the wraith – ghosts of the long dead who gorge on the energy sucked from the city’s dwindling population. Desperate to contain the threat, the government enclosed the city in a giant dome, trapping the wraith and the residents inside.
Now, there’s almost nothing left.
Sydney Cale – a thief with a strange and secret power – attempts to escape from the city’s jailers, only to find herself facing off against the wraith. She teams up with Alain, a raven shapeshifter who is a member of the Order of the Reapers, a powerful force who work to banish the wraith back to the underworld. Alain agrees to protect Sydney and her friend Diana in exchange for her help. She must enter the Citadel – the wraith compound in the center of the city – and steal back his kidnapped daughter.
But what Sydney finds inside the Citadel will change everything. The wraith are evolving, drawing energy from the decaying city itself. Soon, they will be powerful enough to break free of the dome. Sydney and Alain must stop the wraith before they escape and infect the world, even if that means dooming themselves, and everyone they love, to petrifying inside the dying city.
S. C. Green lives in an off-grid home in rural New Zealand with her husband, a menagerie of animals, and their medieval sword collection. She's the author of the Engine Ward series, and she also writes paranormal romance under the name Steffanie Holmes. Find out more about her work on her website: www.steffmetal.com or join her newsletter: http://www.steffmetal.com/subscribe/
Lindsey R. Loucks is a former school librarian from rural Kansas. When she's not discussing books with anyone who will listen, she's dreaming up her own stories. Eventually her brain gives out, and she'll play hide and seek with her cat, put herself in a chocolate induced coma, or watch scary movies alone in the dark to reenergize.
Join Lindsey's Insider Newsletter: http://bit.ly/lrlinsider
I raced across the street and down another alley, then turned right and vaulted over a stack of overflowing trash cans. I landed hard, my left foot rolling on the heel. Pain surged up my leg. Ignoring it, I sprinted between the two high rise apartment blocks, their glass windows smashed, the once pristine whitewashed walls cracked and crumbling to dust—becoming petrified, just like the rest of the city.
Outside the safety of the high rise buildings, I darted into Cromwell Park. This was an overgrown patch of brown grass, disused flower beds, and graffiti-strewn park benches that lined the shores of the river that wound its way through this part of the city. Here, on open ground, the wardens would have ample opportunity to shoot me down. But if I could make it through, I could lose them by the river.
On cue, a bullet zinged and ricocheted off the edging of a garden bed to my left, spraying me with concrete dust. I cried out and bolted for the bridge, sliding down the edge of the riverbed, my boots clattering over loose rubble.
Keep going. You’re nearly there.
The warden behind me blew his whistle, calling for more backup. He probably thought he had me cornered, but he didn’t know that beneath the bridge was a tunnel that led under the streets back toward the Rim. It was part of an old network from the prohibition where shopkeepers would secretly transport their illicit goods down to the water to be transported on to the next city where they would fetch a high price in the speakeasies. The riverbed had long since dried up, the flow diverted around Petrified City by those outside. But as of three months ago, before I was sent to prison, the tunnel was still intact.
The entrance to the tunnel was disguised beneath an overhang of rock and obscured by thick weeds. I pushed them aside and slipped down into the gloom, pulling the weeds back over to hide the hole. I left just enough of a gap that I could watch the path leading under the bridge.
I crouched down and listened. Footsteps crunched by outside, growing louder, and then fading again. Faintly, I could hear the wardens barking orders to spread out and search along the bank.
“She can’t have gone far,” one of them growled.
The footsteps were joined by at least two others, but those, too, faded as they searched for me further up the riverbed.
Safe for now. I let out my breath and sucked in the damp air of the tunnel, waiting for my heartrate to return to normal. That was close. Now, to get back to Diana before they decide to search my place—
I turned and came face to face with a wraith.
Fuck. Not safe. Not at all.
The wraith hissed from the shadows, the faint outline of its translucent skin and the glow of its eyes my only clue to its exact form and location. Its mouth hung open, revealing a deep abyss of nothing but shadow and terror.
I lurched forward, and the tunnel exploded.
Orange flames leapt along the walls, surrounding me with fierce heat. The force knocked me to the ground, driving the wind from my chest and sending pain through my limbs. The wraith screamed, this time with terror, as the flames danced over them, tearing at whatever ethereal substance made up their bodies. Their mouths gaped as flames consumed them, turning their emaciated limbs to piles of dust.
From the shadows, a raven flew down and landed on the ground at my feet. It watched the flames as they consumed the wraiths, standing silent until every last speck had been turned to grey dust. It lifted a wing, and the flames flared up, reaching right to the tunnel roof. I stepped back, holding up my hands to shield my face from the heat.
When the heat began to fade and the flames died away, a man stood in the centre of the tunnel. He was dressed in black from head to toe—black jeans, black t-shirt, and a long black trenchcoat that swung around his ankles. In the gloom of the tunnel, his hair appeared black also, falling around his face in long waves and spilling down over his broad, muscular shoulders. A line of stubble defined his strong jaw, and he stared at me with piercing, ice-blue eyes and a thin-lipped smirk.
He was absolutely gorgeous, and if I weren’t at that moment still recovering from a near-death experience, I might have considered throwing myself into his arms and showing him just how grateful I was for his timely intervention.
Thankfully, I had some self-control. Well, that and the fact this man was a Reaper—one of the race of ancient raven shapeshifters who ferried the souls of the dead from this world to the next. The Reapers had always worked quietly in the background, their Order and work unknown to most people. But here in Petrified City, not even they were safe from the wraith. They were the only people who had weapons that could slow the wraith down, and they could do what this Reaper had just done and reap the wraith back to the underworld … although the ghouls never stayed dead long. The Reapers were our last line of defense, the only thing standing in the way of the wraiths completely taking over Petrified City. They were also judge, jury, and executioner in the city, and they didn’t much tolerate petty thieves like me flouting the few laws they bothered to police. With my luck, this Reaper would put me on a one-way ride back on the prison bus.
If it wasn’t my lucky day, well … I was wraith food.
“Love the flames. Very dramatic. I had it all under control, though.” Great. I always got sarcastic when I felt threatened. And this Reaper was definitely a threat, maybe a bigger threat than the wraith he’d just killed.
“You were lucky,” he replied, his deep, throaty voice resonating in the long tunnel. “These wraiths were seconds from turning you into a husk. They must be desperate to be hunting during the daylight like this. You okay?”
“I can manage.” I got to my feet, my body screaming in pain. I dusted off my prison overalls, realizing too late that I’d just drawn attention to them. Not only was I sarcastic, but sometimes I was a real idiot.