As you know, I’m currently in the middle of publishing a new serialised, young adult fantasy story! “Sapphire Smyth & The Shadow Five” is being released in six instalments, and the first TWO PARTS are OUT NOW! The books are available on Kindle, Kobo, Nook and Apple Books. Likewise, the paperbacks can be bought through Amazon.
Recently, I’ve been sharing the first “Sapphire Smyth” instalment a chapter at a time – right here on my blog! If you’ve missed the story so far, you can catch up by starting here…
However, if you are up to date, then you can read Chapter Four below. I do hope you are enjoying the story, and I’d love it if we could chat more in the comments.
‘Wait! Saff. Wait!’
Sapphire could hear Ben wailing after her as she trudged down the street. The rain had stopped, but everything Sapphire was wearing was still damp. She could hear her pumps making a squelching sound beneath her. Worse still, she had no idea where she was going. All she did know was that she wasn’t going back to Greyflower Gardens.
When Sapphire veered into the next street, the sound of Ben’s voice died out. Sapphire was pleased. She had been deceived by him. Ben was one of the few people she trusted in the world. In fact, he was probably the only person she trusted. But, while encouraging Sapphire to talk to him, he had known all along that someone else was in his house with them. For Sapphire, that was unforgivable.
Still spooked by her ordeal in the park, Sapphire checked over her shoulders as she walked. The street was brightly lit with lamps, and there were shadows everywhere. Even though Sapphire wasn’t sure if she’d imagined the park incident, she didn’t want to take any chances. Every time a breeze caught the nearby hedgerows, it made her jump.
After a short walk, Sapphire discovered a narrow alley hidden between two houses. The winding path was the perfect place to rest. Besides, she had nowhere else to go. Sapphire zipped her jacket closed and slid into the dark, before slumping onto the concrete footpath. She could only hope that Ben wouldn’t find her there. As she let herself relax, Sapphire sensed that something else was in the alley with her. She wasn’t alone.
‘Seriously?’ Sapphire pressed her back against the stone wall behind her.
Cloudy, grey shadows had emerged in the alley the moment Sapphire sat down. To begin with, they crawled over the opposite wall. As the shadows took shape, they drifted closer, but the spectacle didn’t bother Sapphire at all. Instead, it made her more composed.
‘You’re back!’ said Sapphire as she raised her arm to check her bangle. The orange glow was oozing around her wrist again. Eager to learn more, Sapphire scrutinised the shadows.
As the hazy formations circled on the wall facing her, Sapphire felt the urge to touch them. It was impossible to resist. On impulse, Sapphire reached out and placed her palm against the crumbling bricks. Yellow lights shimmered and danced around her hand in an instant. Sapphire smiled before pulling back. Like earlier, as Sapphire moved her hand, her fingers appeared to rip the shadows from the wall. Beneath her fingertips, a familiar creature began to emerge.
‘Hey,’ Sapphire squeaked. ‘You’re back. Where did you go?’
As the shadow-fox materialised, it gained its bronze colouring. This time, it strutted around Sapphire’s legs with much more energy than before. The fox was somewhat playful, and its bushy tail fanned air across Sapphire’s face. Regardless of which way it moved, the fox always kept its eyes on Sapphire—like a pet dog, it seemed devoted to her.
‘What are you?’ Sapphire asked, exploring the mysterious animal with her fingers. ‘Where do you come from?’
The fox let out a short howling noise and arched its back against Sapphire’s hand.
‘Nope!’ giggled Sapphire. ‘Still not sure I understand fox.’
With one of its front feet, the fox scraped at the ground and continued making its noises.
‘Not helping,’ said Sapphire. ‘Anyway, you need a name. Don’t you think? Seems like you’re my only friend right now. You should at least have a name.’
As Sapphire ran her hand down the fox’s back, she gazed one way then the other to check that no one was around. Now that the fox had returned, she wanted to discover more about it. What she didn’t want was to be disturbed like when she was in Greyflower Gardens. The alley was clear, and Sapphire scanned her wrist. Her bangle had kept its bright orange colour, and it still had a lot of answers to give. Except Sapphire wasn’t sure how to get them.
‘Shadow! I could call you Shadow.’
In response, the fox made a sharp ‘ack-ack’ noise.
‘Not sure? Too obvious? Okay. What about Sid? Sid… the shadow-fox!’
The fox swished its lush tail.
‘You like that one? Okay. That’s your name then. Sid… the shadow-fox. Now all I need to do is work out where you came from. Need your help with that one.’
Again, Sid clawed at the ground with his front feet. Sapphire wasn’t certain what he was doing—or trying to do. When she turned her attention to the path, she could see more shadows gathering together. Sid was pawing at them as though he was trying to bring them to life. Sapphire bent forwards and placed her hand over some of the spirited silhouettes, but nothing happened. There were no yellow lights, and Sapphire wasn’t attracted to them like she’d been before. When she sat back, the shadows didn’t follow Sapphire either. Even so, Sid wanted to tell her something.
‘What is it? What are you trying to say?’
All of a sudden, Sapphire caught sight of something. The shadows around Sid’s feet had created a picture of sorts on the concrete. When she tilted her head, Sapphire could see the image more clearly. A shudder raced through her and she sat upright.
‘Wait! Is that—? How did you do that?’
The outline of a dragon’s head spread across the path. Well, it looked like the head of a dragon. What’s more, Sapphire recognised the image. If she wasn’t mistaken, she’d seen it before—at Ben’s uncle’s house. But before Sapphire could give it more thought, the picture evaporated.
Sapphire’s face crumpled in disbelief. ‘How did you do that? I don’t under—’
Another image formed on the ground and interrupted her. This one was a fairy. Nevertheless, as fast as the picture formed, it disappeared again. Baffled, Sapphire watched as more designs took shape in the alley. After the fairy came something that resembled a monster. When that dissolved, the dragon’s head returned. Sapphire knew every one of the images. She had seen them all before, countless times.
‘What is that? What does it mean?’ When the display ended, Sapphire faced Sid.
Sid, meanwhile, was distracted. Once he had stopped scratching at the concrete, he prowled a little further up the path. For a few seconds, there was silence, and Sid sat on his hind legs as though keeping guard. When an icy wind gushed through the alleyway, he then began to howl. The noise he was making was different from before, and it stabbed at Sapphire’s ears. Sid was issuing a warning.
‘Sid. What is it, boy?’ Sapphire stood, ready to run.
When Sid’s howling turned to a rumbling growl, Sapphire knew that something was wrong. Her hands were quivering, and she stepped forwards with care. Sid’s noise continued as Sapphire became conscious that he was starting to fade. Anxiously, she clenched her hands as Sid dissolved into his shadow form. In less than a second, Sid had gone, and Sapphire was alone again.
Then again, maybe she wasn’t.
At the end of the alley, an elderly-looking woman had shown up, as if from nowhere. She was staring straight at Sapphire and balancing on her crooked walking stick. Her short, wiry hair was a much more intense red colour than Sapphire’s, and her long coat ran to the floor. Whoever she was, she gave Sapphire the shivers.
‘Hello,’ Sapphire called out. ‘Hi!’
The woman stood there, glaring. Sapphire couldn’t help but wonder why she was out so late at night on her own.
‘Are you okay? Hello?’
Still no reply. After inspecting the alley, the woman simply turned and walked out of sight. Sapphire wondered whether the woman had somehow not seen her. But that wasn’t possible. Then again, Sapphire wasn’t sure what was possible anymore. Sapphire lowered her head and searched for her shadow friends, but they were nowhere to be seen. The mysterious woman had managed to scare them all away. Feeling uneasy, Sapphire decided it was time to leave.
After tugging her jacket’s hood over her head, Sapphire plodded to the end of the alley where the woman had been standing. There was so much that had happened, and Sapphire had no explanation for any of it. Perhaps Ben was right, she thought. Perhaps it is time to go home. As she reached the end of the path, Sapphire peeked over her shoulder. She wanted to check whether the shadows had returned. With no sign of them, she then stepped out into the street.
‘Well, well,’ a man’s voice boomed as someone seized Sapphire. ‘You again! What are the chances?’
Sapphire tried to run, but it was futile. ‘You! How?’
The man who’d attacked Sapphire in Greyflower Gardens had a firm hold on her jacket. To make things worse, he had several friends with him this time too.
That’s it for now, but I will be back soon with Chapter Five. I hope you’re enjoying the story so far. Please feel free to get in touch below.
Also, if you do 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…