November 29th: Keegan's Chronicles Trilogy by Julia Crane                 November 26th: Wisteria by Bisi Leyton

Indie Month Sneak Peak: Felinian by M. Clifford


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The sequel to my paranormal YA book, FELINIAN is coming out very soon - probably the beginning of March. It's called FERTILE CRESCENT! The series is about a modern, teenage girl who discovers that she is a Felinian -- an ancient breed of Egyptian cat woman who has nine lives and can control the minds of men. Although the series is mostly set in current day Sleepy Hollow, there are some flashback scenes that give glimpses into Felinian women from the past. This excerpt is the prologue to FERTILE CRESCENT and takes place 2,000 years ago in Egypt. It shows just how powerful -- and evil -- these women can become.

Prologue: BLOOD AND SLUMBER

Flames flickered sporadically against the honed limestone of the sunken chamber. The men who were ordinarily very secure in their standing with the lioness were frightened with a cold and unsettling fever, legs twitching beneath their tunics. They gripped their spears with sweaty, trembling fingers. Even their tanned knees were tapping against one another as they stood as sturdy as possible before her and her throne.

The dark haired lioness, who was as lavishly dressed as always, glided down the steps toward the smoky hall before her, buttressed by large feline beasts with fur as black as a moonless night. Their claws clicked the stone floor as if applauding the capture of the eight girls that were standing by the wading pool, while reminding their leader that, at any moment, they were prepared to tear the flesh of her enemies free from the bone. But all of them were aware that the lioness had little need for an animal to devour her prey. The task was hers. And she would do it with pleasure.

Each of the nine girls were fourteen years old. In appearance, that is. And each of them were Felinian.

“I will seek out the answer,” the lioness spoke like a song to the women, tilting her head and approaching them with her long-nailed fingers outstretched, with her shoulders slouching sensually and her thin arms bent in a cat-like pose. She wove through the line of them, smelling their sand-speckled hair and inspecting their draping garments. “It should be known that Felinian entering my territory are wise to carry with them a great deal of caution. Egypt is mine. Pleading to be released is a squandering of breath. Promising to never return is a lie. They always return. And die.”

A flicker of the torchlight on the angled wall reflected in her amber eyes as she glared at each of the girls, waiting to see which of them was the violator. The one who was threatening her perfect existence. “Just as this country is my own, so are its men. You foolish girls. You, who believe you have power enough to do what you want without consequence, will now grasp the full measure of my wrath!”

Without pause, she spun powerfully on her heel and stared hollowly at the half-dressed man covered in gold who was standing to the right of her thrown. He was gripping a golden staff, crowned with a quarter-moon axe that was coated in crystal blue, lapis lazuli. She squinted her skillfully painted eyes at him as she pronounced, “Drown yourself.”

A deep breath left his lips and he took a step toward the wading pool at the center of the chamber before shooting his gaze to one of the girls beside the lioness, realizing a fraction of a second later what a terrible mistake he had made. His master craned her neck to seek out the girl who had ruined everything. She was the shortest of the group. The youngest girl. The plain one.

“So, that is her.” The lioness grinned in a flurry of madness as she worked the young Felinian over with her eyes. The girl’s looks were minimal and she had a body that was nothing in comparison to her own. “This…wretched temptress is why you no longer obey? HE IS MY MATE!” she screamed into the face of the Felinian. The girl trembled in place. “HE LISTENS ONLY TO ME!” The lioness swirled back to her throne to redirect her rage. “YOU DEFY ME? COME AND DROWN YOURSELF! NOW!”

The man dressed with priceless gold ornaments regrouped, wavered in place and then, finally, he resisted. The first ever to do so. The lioness extended the lower half of her jaw to exhale a heated breath of newfound frustration.

The young one, the only Felinian of the nine that was actually fourteen, shivered in fear at what was happening. She didn’t know her power. She didn’t know what the consequences would be for allowing one of those men to come to her. She didn’t even know what it meant to die. And die again, and again, as a Felinian. All she knew was the sudden, searing pain that twisted in her stomach and the warmth of the blood that seeped into the cloth of her long, russet robe.

The girl staggered in place as a grin appeared on the tinted lips of the lioness. The jeweled hilt of a triangular dagger retracted gently from her abdomen and the girl threw her hands to the burning gash, as if she had any control over saving her own life. In the few and swift seconds that followed, the lioness altered her grip on the knife, glanced back at the man that was supposed to be hers, and slashed firmly through the neck of the girl beside her. As the victim’s knees gave out, the lioness grabbed the girl’s hair and yanked firmly to the sky before slashing again and again at her neck, twisting the blade through the bone of her spine until the Felinian’s head came free and the useless remains of her body tumbled flimsily to the stone floor at her feet.

Each of the remaining girls shrieked in their own unique language. Fear took over and they began to run, tripping over one another and splashing through the wading pool in their haste to get as far away from the hall as possible.

The lioness stared gleefully at the head of the decapitated girl whose silken gold hair was still knotted around her bangled wrist, and admired the alterations that took place as the face instantly aged eight years. She flung the gruesome remains to the feet of the men posted around her who suddenly appeared far more calm and obedient. Even the one who had disobeyed, the one who had stopped loving her, was back under her control with the other Felinian in pieces.

“What did I tell you?” she asserted with an eerie tranquility. “Get your head in the water and drown yourself.”

This time there was no trepidation. No twinge on his face. No wilting shoulders. No disagreement in his steps. With gold necklaces dangling against his dark and chiseled chest, the man set down his staff, walked instantly to the edge of the pool, got to his knees and dipped his head peacefully into the rough and shallow water. Hardly regarding the forced suicide, the lioness blinked and looked down the line of men and feline beasts that were waiting for instruction.

“The rest of you. Put that Felinian’s head with the others and fetch the ones that are getting away. I will speak through you. Do not be tame.”

As they left the hall, their feet scuffing the sandy floor, the lioness turned to the body that was slumped halfway into the shallow pool beside her. She got to her knees and turned him over. Within the roar of her feline children and the screams of her adversaries there came a soothing hum. It echoed through the empty chamber. The lioness was singing to her mate as she brushed the wet hair from his forehead. The atonal song was both gentle and strange. At the end of the ghostly tune, she bent low and pressed her soft lips against his. A final, powerless kiss.

“You were the most prized of my loves. My one.” She closed his open eyes with a brush of her palm. “This will never happen again,” the lioness whispered. “I cannot suffer it.” As she lowered his body back into the water and stood to stare out at the corridors beyond, she inhaled a deep breath through her nose and spoke a final declaration before closing her painted eyelids and widening her arms. “For the rest of time, my men shall love only me.”

Corridors away, the young group of women scrambled to find an escape. Many times during their flight, they would discover a panther running beside them and watch as one of their own was caught in the grip of its paws. Others were snatched by the strong hands of their captor’s mates or sliced through by a long, sickle sword. Soon only one of them remained. She stood in the dark hall, allowing her clammy hands to navigate the way. A chirp of fear squeaked out of her when she saw a torch light glinting down the nearest corridor. Behind her came a brighter glow. And there was no reason to fight. She let it happen. The Felinian stood prostrate before the might of the men that had almost been persuaded to rise up against their master.

They came before her and, with a voice that was not their own, spoke deeply, “I hope, for your sake, that you enjoyed youth. For the rest of eternity, you will live as a weak and elderly woman wishing you had never crossed me.”

The scream that escaped the girl was cut short as the man closest to her stepped aside to allow one of the larger beasts to rear up from the shadows and pounce against her chest. On the ground, she bled and healed and aged and bled again, while those who were loyal to the lioness watched in disregard as the lives were beaten out of her. When the massive cat was finished, all remnants of the girl - her power, her youth, her beauty and strength - were stripped away. All that was left behind was a frail and elderly woman lying in the pulp of her own death. Her eyes were drained of color. Her crying voice was stunted and scratchy. From one of the men standing over her came four whispered words that fluttered through the flame of the torch in his hand. The voice was not his own.
“No one defies me.”

Year of our Lord, Fifty Seven.

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