Are you ready for Chapter Two?
Over the last few days, I’ve been sharing Part One of “Sapphire Smyth & The Shadow Five” right here on my blog. This is a serialised, young adult fantasy story that I have been publishing recently. So far, Part One and Part Two have been released on Kindle & Paperback (via Amazon). The story is also available as an eBook on Kobo, Nook and Apple Books. However, I thought it was time to share Part One, a chapter at a time, for FREE! This way, you get a good taste of the story.
When Sapphire reached the hollow, a little later, Ben had gone. There was a part of her that was relieved, but to her surprise, there was another part that wished he was still there. Nervously, Sapphire made her way into the murky passage and lifted her bag from her shoulders. Cold air drifted around her. What was I thinking? she thought. Believing that her legs might crumble, Sapphire crouched inside the hollow with her back against the rock wall.
Another gust of wind whistled through the passageway and Sapphire trembled. This time, the breeze lingered for a while. Sapphire squirmed as the draught crawled down her arms and wrapped itself around her fingers. In a way, it was as though something was examining her. To stay calm, Sapphire took a few deep breaths, then scraped her damp hair from her face with both hands. At least she had shelter from the rain for the night. She was determined to see this through. Alone. Even if it was colder than she’d ever imagined possible.
‘It’s fine, Sapphire,’ she muttered to herself. ‘Everything… is fine!’
Sapphire felt like she was living in a nightmare. To distract her thoughts, she unzipped her satchel and began searching her belongings. She had left home in such a hurry that she didn’t remember what she had packed. Apart from a few mismatched items of clothing, the only thing Sapphire could find in her bag was a tatty blanket. At least she’d had the sense to grab something that could give her more warmth. Besides, the breeze had started to disperse too. Perhaps she would be okay in the hollow for the night.
Before she could unfold the blanket, Sapphire noticed odd patterns materialising on the stone in front of her. Something was casting dull grey shadows through the passageway, yet everywhere was dark. The lamps that lit Greyflower Gardens had gone out for the night, and there was no way the moonlight could throw shadows that far into the hollow. As far as Sapphire could tell, there wasn’t anything that could explain the eerie silhouettes. But there they were. Their movement was plain to see. Sapphire narrowed her eyes and leaned forwards apprehensively.
With her fingers stretched, Sapphire reached for the rock wall. There was definitely something bizarre dancing across it. Sapphire’s hands quivered as they got closer and tried to make sense of the weird display she was seeing. She was convinced it was her imagination playing tricks on her. Then, as Sapphire’s fingertips touched the stone, she spotted an orangey glow around her wrist. Her bangle looked like it had set on fire, although it wasn’t at all hot. As if things weren’t peculiar enough, bright shards of light then began to glimmer around her hands. Sapphire yanked her fingers away from the wall and the lights dimmed in an instant.
‘What… the?’ Sapphire studied her bangle through one eye. The polished metal band had kept its orange tint.
Squinting harder, Sapphire scrutinised the wall of the passage. The shadow-like objects were still there, and they were still moving. Sapphire remained where she was and attempted to find a reason for what she was seeing, but nothing could explain the phenomenon. After a little contemplation, she reached out again. This time, when Sapphire touched the stone, the tiny yellowish flares started to weave between her fingers. To her surprise, when she swivelled one of her hands, the lights moved with her.
‘Woah,’ said Sapphire, in a hushed voice. ‘What… are you?’
As seconds passed, Sapphire jiggled her fingers and played with the strange sparks of light. She was inexplicably comforted by them, as though the lights were somehow keeping her safe. More at ease, Sapphire began to pull her hands away from the wall. As she did, she gawped in astonishment.
Sapphire fidgeted in disbelief when the shapes that had grown on the rocks began moving nearer. It was as though her hands were dragging the shadows out of the stone wall. To begin with, Sapphire couldn’t make sense of whatever was forming beneath her fingers. Then, she caught a clearer glimpse. Astonished, Sapphire sat upright when the shadows coiled together.
‘You… can’t be,’ she said, stealing her arms back. ‘That’s not possible!’
The greyish shadows turned a vivid orangey-brown colour as they moulded into the shape of an animal. A fox, to be specific. Somehow, the shadows had turned into a fox. It was a magnificent fox too, with a beautiful flowing tail and piercing eyes. As if Sapphire’s hands had breathed life into the creature, it stretched its slender legs and glared at her. Sapphire’s jaw dropped in fascination.
‘What? How? Where… did you… come from? I don’t…’
The fox didn’t reply, but Sapphire wouldn’t have been surprised if it had. Instead, it curled on the ground, next to her legs, and lifted its head towards her. Sapphire wasn’t sure, but it seemed like this creature that had been born from the shadows wanted to protect her. Curiously, Sapphire shifted one of her hands to the fox. She had decided that the only way to discover if she was hallucinating or not was through touch. When Sapphire had first seen the fox, it had given the impression that things could pass right through it. In that way, it had appeared more like a ghost from a movie.
But her hands didn’t move through the creature. Far from it. The enchanted fox was most certainly real, and it was enjoying the fuss it was getting from Sapphire. While her fingers stroked the animal’s silky coat, it rubbed against her with affection. She hadn’t expected how soft the fox’s fur would be.
‘Well,’ said Sapphire. ‘Never seen anything like you before. You going to tell me where you came from?’
The fox made an unusual ‘ack-ack’ sound.
‘Nope. Makes no sense to—’.
Before she could finish, Sapphire heard a loud scraping sound coming from outside the passageway. Someone else was nearby! When Sapphire began to stand, the fox by her feet snarled. Her new companion was uneasy, and that filled Sapphire with fear. Beyond the passage, the sounds continued.
Sapphire collected her bag from the floor, then inched towards the end of the passage that was closest to the noise. ‘Hello. Who’s there?’
‘H… hello?’ she tried again.
When Sapphire turned back, the mysterious fox had gone. Her bangle had lost its glow too and turned back to its silvery colour. Sapphire began to question whether she had imagined the fox all along. Either way, it wasn’t there, and there was something else she couldn’t explain lurking in the park. Sapphire’s lips dried and a lump grew in her throat.
‘Who’s there?’ she called, as she reached the end of the passageway. ‘Ben. Is that you? Not funny, if it is you! Whoever you are… you need to—’
Sapphire let out a dull scream when someone’s hand wrapped around her arm. She dropped her satchel and tried to pull back, but it was no use. There was no time for her to think, and she was brutally torn away from the passage then tossed to the ground. Her hands scuffed against the concrete when they broke her fall. Acting fast, Sapphire rolled onto her back to face her attacker. Someone was standing over her, dressed in black. The hood from their sweater concealed their face.
‘Who… the hell… are you?’ Sapphire was breathless, and she wriggled backwards when the stranger collected her bag from the ground. ‘Get away. Leave me alone.’
‘It’s you who should leave,’ the stranger replied, rummaging through Sapphire’s satchel.
When the stranger tugged the hood from their face, Sapphire could see that it was a young man. She didn’t recognise him, though. He had greasy, slicked-back hair, a pointy chin, and an expression on his face that filled Sapphire with dread. While he was busy tipping the contents out of her bag, Sapphire tried to scramble to her feet, but before she could, the man moved and kicked at one of her legs. Sapphire’s fingernails clawed at the concrete and her muscles all stiffened at once.
‘No!’ she screamed. ‘Leave me—’
‘You leave! Nobody is stopping you.’ The man’s boot struck Sapphire’s shin again.
‘Stop. I’m not leaving without my stuff!’
Sapphire winced in pain, but she refused to let the stranger see her fear. Thrusting her legs out, she shoved herself further back. Desperate to escape, Sapphire tried to stand again, but before she could, she caught a glimpse of something. The shadows of nearby tree branches were squirming across the soggy ground. Sapphire could tell that the tree branches themselves weren’t moving—but their shadows undoubtedly were. Dull grey patterns, the same as she had seen in the passageway, were racing across the grass towards the path. Sapphire remained on the ground and allowed the shadows to reach her.
‘What you waiting for?’ the man jeered. ‘Get up!’
‘No!’ yelled Sapphire.
‘Up!’ The stranger’s boot struck the path beside her.
‘Who are you? What do you want?’
There was no reply.
Through instinct, Sapphire swung her hands across the shadows when they circled around her. Like they had earlier, the shadows sprang to life. This time, however, Sapphire’s bangle didn’t glow. Instead, it squeezed at her wrist. Sapphire’s fingers throbbed as the enigmatic oddities flickered between them. Although these shadows were very different. There was an extraordinary strength in them. Through both hands, Sapphire could sense how powerful they were. Taking her chance, Sapphire got back on her feet. The moment she did, blustery winds surged around her.
The stranger gawked. ‘What’s that? How?’
Ignoring the questions, Sapphire stepped forwards. The force that was tugging at her fingers was unbelievable. When she looked down, Sapphire gasped. The shadows had started merging together. But this time, there was no fox. Not even close. Instead, there were two much larger entities appearing—one around each of Sapphire’s hands. Whatever the beasts were, they were terrifying.
‘Freak!’ yelped her attacker. ‘Stop that! What the…?’
Sapphire moved her eyes back to the stranger, but it was too late. He was stomping in her direction, fast. There was nothing Sapphire could do to stop him.
‘No!’ she warned. ‘No! Don’t come any closer! I don’t want them to hurt—’
That’s all for now, but I will be back very soon with Chapter Three. I hope you’re enjoying the story so far. Please feel free to get in touch below.
If you want to grab a copy of this book, it is available on Kindle & Paperback via Amazon. The eBook is also available on Kobo, Nook and Apple Books.
P.S. Here are the links to find the book on Amazon and KOBO…