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Authors: Danielle Hylton,April Fifer

Flesh and Feathers

BOOK: Flesh and Feathers
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Flesh and Feathers

By

April Fifer and Danielle Hylton

www.fiferhylton.com

Copyright

© April Fifer and Danielle Hylton

May 2011

In memory of Charlene,

who can now see from the angel’s

point of view.

Contents

Prologue

Chapter 1 –
Mirrors

Chapter 2 –
Seduction

Chapter 3 –
Not Forever

Chapter 4 –
Stalker

Chapter 5 –
Broken

Chapter 6 –
Replacement

Chapter 7 –
Remember

Chapter 8 –
Changes

Chapter 9 –
Statues

Chapter 10 –
Needs

Chapter 11 –
Impostor

Chapter 12 –
Arch

Chapter 13 –
Payback

Chapter 14 –
Strife

Chapter 15 –
Signs

Chapter 16 –
Lifeless

Epilogue

Prologue

A
cloaked woman stood in front of a tiny wooden doorway made of cheap rotting planks. The massive block-stone buildings went on for miles on either side of the Roman street, and boundless archways connected them at the top, creating an enormous canopy that shaded the cobblestone thoroughfare.

Although this area was poverty stricken with many people lying on the streets covered in blankets, it was one of the most architecturally beautiful places on earth. Regardless, she was not here to admire Rome’s beauty or observe its ambiance.

She knocked three times on the door and waited patiently. The white hood of her cloak covered her eyes, and she kept her head bowed as she heard footsteps approaching the door.

A small slat in the door opened, and a cold pair of eyes peered out. They stared at her intensely for a moment, and then were gone as the notch closed with a loud thud.

The door opened slightly, making the man standing behind it partially visible. “You don’t look to be one of the vagrants who clutter these streets.” It was obvious that this relieved him, but his voice still held distaste.

“I have come for the bounty hunter,” she replied, still not lifting her head so that only her mouth
was viewable.

“Then you must be mistaken.” His words were harsh, and he was clearly frustrated by her intrusion. He closed the door abruptly without giving her any time to respond.

The cloaked woman knocked more firmly this time. “I have come to call on Kano. I seek his services.”

The slat in the door opened partially again as the man stared out at her.

She lifted her head and slowly removed the hood, revealing her white eyes and platinum hair that was elegantly wound in curls and braids. Her face was pale and looked like porcelain. When she made eye contact with him, a small grin pulled at the corners of her mouth. “Hello, Kano. It’s been a long time.”

Opening the door wide this time, the man stood there fully observable. He wore black pants and a wool pullover. Kano’s eyes were the color of the night, and his dark brown hair was cropped close to his head. “Scarlet,” he said cynically, “I cannot say that it is a pleasure to find you here.” His high cheekbones made it look as though he was about to smile.

Scarlet grinned at his statement. “May I enter?”

Kano moved from the doorway, allowing Scarlet admittance. Once she was inside, he closed the door and turned to her. “Why are you here?”

“Tobias sent me.”

“You’re still trailing after him…, after all this time? Tell me Scarlet…, have you not grown tired of walking in his shadow?”

Ignoring the question, Scarlet walked around the dilapidated old room. There was a cheaply made wooden table that sat on the floor with a single chair. A small bed lay in the corner, covered with a thin gray blanket. The room smelled musty and damp.

“I would have expected better living quarters for someone of your stature,” she said while continuing to walk the room in circles.

“You are not here to take up residence so what is it that you want, Scarlet?”

“Tobias has a proposition for you. We have located the Arch. We need her captured and brought to us. Our powers are limited, but you possess abilities that, well…, are unique. Tobias would like to employ you.”

“I have no interest in serving your kind.” He smirked.

“We are aware of your preferred payments. We have something that we believe will interest you.” Scarlet had a way to manipulate most every situation.

Kano chuckled. “And what could that possibly be?”

“We have the bow of the White Horseman.”

He stood silent for a moment. This
was
quite intriguing; however, Kano was an extremely cautious person. It was a common practice for him not to trust anyone as he had a lifetime of experience in these matters.

“The Horsemen are a myth,” Kano said at last.

“Ah…, some would say. Had I not held the bow for myself, I may not have believed it either. However, they are real, and without their weapon, they are unable to call upon their stallion. We believe this leaves them powerless. Nonetheless, the bow itself is a powerful source.”
 

Kano arched his brow. “And how did you come to acquire it?”

“Her name was Mland, a so-called Egyptian Sorceress–or at least that’s what she liked to call herself. She was really a witch with quite a few extraordinary talents. I will go so far as to say her talents enabled her to elude even me. By a chance encounter, our paths crossed when I had been requested to seek out one of her former covenant members. There was poor Mland, petrified at the very sight of me, knowing that I was one of the few her magic had no effect on. She was defenseless and began to beg for her life. I found this rather amusing.
 

“Mland offered the bow in trade for her release. I was skeptical at first because I found it hard to believe she was strong enough to overpower a Horseman. I asked her how it came to being in her possession. In detail, she began to explain to me of the hex she had placed on the pale rider, causing him to fall into a hypnotic state. She had bewitched him, and he was rendered powerless, with no knowledge of the spell. Only in her death would his memory be restored, making him aware of what she had done. And with her recent unfortunate accident, I am sure there is a fairly angry Horseman out there who is desperately seeking vengeance.” Scarlet ran her fingers over the plank used as a makeshift mantle that hung over the fire pit. She inspected the dirt on the tips of her fingers and then rubbed them together, removing it.
 

She went on.
“If you are not interested, I am sure there are others willing to accept this offer.”

Kano knew this was a bluff. Nonetheless, the bow was a rare and sacred item. It was the only one of its kind, and it would bring him great power. He had to have it. However, he didn’t want Scarlet to know just how much.

His face was smooth as he looked at Scarlet with no expression. “You can expect me in three days. I will come to you.” He opened the door, letting Scarlet know that it was time for her to depart. She nodded her head and pulled her hood up as she passed him.

***

Ten days earlier…

Night had fallen on the forest earlier than expected. Scarlet appeared in front of a small cottage near the edge of the woods. Without hesitance, she grasped the handle to the bungalow door and pushed it open bullishly. Mland backed away as Scarlet entered and moved towards her.

“How did you find me?” Mland asked with a shaken voice. Her long jet-black hair hung to the side of her face, covering one of her eyes. Her russet colored skin had a sun kissed glow. Her dark brown eyes focused steadily on Scarlet.

Walking over to the wall, Scarlet stood by the smoldering fireplace. The smell of chard beech wood filled the room. She picked up the poker and began to move the logs around with it. Mland was still cornered from where she stood and knew she wouldn’t be fast enough to slip by Scarlet.

“Mland…, you look shaken. Do I make you nervous? It seems you have been a busy witch. I had finally given up on tracking you… and now look… we meet by fate. What an uncanny coincidence.” Scarlet laid the poker down so that the end was lying in the flames. She merely stood there, knowing that her presence alone terrified Mland. “You have your Coven leader to thank for our reunion.”

“They are not my Coven! They are amateurs with no respect for the true art of Sorcery.” Mland ground her teeth at the thought of being compared to her former associates.
 

Scarlet chuckled to herself. “I don’t believe you’ve given them enough credit, my friend. Your leader…, I apologize…, your former leader was in possession of Qeres. It seems their skills are a little more advanced than you would believe. Or should I say ‘were’?” Scarlet held up a burlap bag that was stained with blood. “I promised Tobias I would bring back a souvenir for him.”

Mland tried to pretend that she wasn’t sickened by the thought of what Scarlet carried in the bag, but her radiant dark skin began to take on a yellowish tinge, giving away her fear. “Qeres you say? Plan to bring back the dead?” Mland asked, knowing there was no escaping Scarlet. However, maybe if she could make herself useful, Scarlet would have no choice but to keep her alive. “You need the Arch to do that. I can locate her for you.”

This amused Scarlet even more so. “I have already done that.”

“I have never told anyone of your secret. Shouldn’t that be considered loyalty?” Mland continued to bargain.

“Actually, I consider that a loose end.”

“Wait! I have something of great value. Tobias would be pleased.” Mland’s words spilled out, all running together. “Besides, what will Tobias say when he hears of my death? There is no doubt, he would be enraged.”

Mland pointed out a bow that lay against the wall as Scarlet raised a brow in question. Mland went on to tell Scarlet of how she had placed a spell on the Horsemen and stole it from him. Scarlet listened to the story with enthusiasm. At the end, there was a long pause from both women.

Finally, Scarlet spoke. “Well, you have proven to be valuable after all.” Mland breathed a sigh of relief, but just then Scarlet lifted the poker from the fireplace and drove it into Mland’s chest.
 

Mland gasped, and the smell of burning flesh overpowered the scent of the beech wood. Her eyes widened while Scarlet watched her.

“You were right. Tobias will most certainly be upset. But then again…, accidents do happen.” Scarlet let Mland’s body fall to the ground and then kicked a log from the fireplace, causing it to fall on the cottage floor.

She picked up the bow before exiting the room, only pausing long enough to look back at Mland, slowly dying.

Fire consumed the tiny home in a matter of minutes.

Chapter 1

Mirrors

P
resent day…

The dream is always the same. I am floating…. A warm breeze touches my face. It works its way down my body as it envelops me. I inhale a fine mist that fills my lungs. My hair is flying around me like flames from a fire. I see the city from above…, and then I start to plummet to earth. I am not afraid of the fall–I know that falling is only the beginning. My fear is what awaits me below. My speed increases, and the city gets closer and more defined. The windows on the large buildings are beautiful and glisten from the sun. They send shards of light in every direction, blinding me as I fall. I see white fragments flying behind me in the reflection of the windowpanes. I can’t tell what they are–only that they appear to be separating themselves from my body. The fragments expel upward, bouncing off the windows of the buildings. With each touch, they shatter the glass, breaking it into millions of tiny pieces that remain suspended in the air. The ground is coming at me quickly, causing me to inhale deeply, and I hold my breath.

BOOK: Flesh and Feathers
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