Hey guys, I thought I would put the prologue of Hunt up here so that you could have a read, since I’ve started a prequel over on Wattpad which is mostly an extension of it. The first chapter (and maybe the second, I can’t remember) is also available to preview on the Look Inside function on Amazon.
Lily had never held a gun before in her life. The weight felt wrong in her hand and she was sure that she wouldn’t be able to hit the broadside of a truck with it.
She soon found out as two more guards rounded the corner. Memories flooded into her mind, as they had so often taken to doing since she had awoken on Earth. Two different sets of memories existed within her, covering the five years she had spent away and still, even after so many months, they clawed at her mind, each fighting for dominance.
It was a fight the Rebel Queen usually won but the memories which flooded forth this time were from her Dark counterpart. Memories of gentle hands instructing her on how to aim and fire a crossbow, not this heavy firearm. She pushed away the memories as her heart began to ache at the loss of the owner of the gentle hands. The loss would give way to anger over his death. Anger at the Rebel Queen which would do no good.
The memories were enough so that her shots landed at least, taking down the two guards. However, she wasn’t expecting the ringing in her ears or the kickback which caused her to stumble backwards, barely managing to stay on her feet. The new-born, held to her chest by a makeshift sling and her left arm, stirred at the noise of the pistol and the sudden movement of her mother stumbling back.
“Hey, shh, shh, you’re okay,” Lily murmured as she started moving once more, trying to calm her daughter so that she wouldn’t start crying and give away their position. Lily wanted to throw the gun to one side and switch to her magic, but all that she could muster in her weakened state was directed to shielding her daughter.
“I can’t believe this was the best distraction I could come up with,” Lily muttered, putting a considerable amount of effort into keeping her voice light and sarcastic, instead of wavering.
“You knew this plan was ill-conceived at the outset,” her ghostly companion responded, her black gown having shifted into a much more practical tunic over pants. Not that practicality should matter to the dead. Amber had nothing to fear here.
“I knew that I couldn’t let these monsters have my child,” Lily countered before letting out a frustrated sigh. “What’s the time on the spell?”
“Sixty seconds,” Amber replied before regarding Lily carefully. “Are you sure about this?” The undercurrent of sadness beneath Amber’s calm tone told her that she already knew the answer.
“I want my daughter to have her best shot at a normal life. With the War, that’s no longer possible for any of our kind. Reversing it is the only way.”
Amber gave her a measured look. “Even at the cost of your life?”
Lily nodded. The argument was an old one. This plan had been in motion for months now. The only thing Lily had been waiting on was her daughter. “I know. But it’s the only way out.”
“If you change the timeline… without the War, I doubt your parents would have met.”
“What does it matter? I have to sacrifice myself for the spell anyway.”
“And what of your child?”
“She’s more powerful than I am,” Lily told her without a moment’s hesitation. “She’ll survive the change.” Before Amber could respond, they heard guards approaching. “I think the time for debate has passed.”
“Agreed,” Amber told her. “The charms will finish charging in three, two, one…”
Lily closed her eyes, remembering the incantation and trying not to stumble over the Ancient words in her head as she went. Her energy drained away as she silently recited the words, fuelling the power behind them with her very soul. She dropped the gun and brought her other arm up to help hold her daughter close as she fell to her knees, her strength fading quickly.
By the time she had finished, she barely had enough strength to open her eyes. The world had shifted around her so that she was now outside the hospital. It had never been repurposed by the human military and was still used for treating civilians, though it was slightly smaller. That was why she was now outside, despite not having moved.
“Amber,” she managed, her voice weak.
“I’m here,” her guardian assured her.
“You have to promise me… Promise me you’ll take care of her.”
Amber looked uneasy for a moment but nodded.
“You know, if I knew who her father was, I could make sure she gets to him.”
Lily shook her head. “No. I think he’s dead but… Even if he isn’t, keep her from him.”
The Dark Queen argued with more memories of gentle hands and a loving gaze. Her Rebel counterpart simply reminded Lily that all she knew of him was seen through the lens of fear and a want for freedom from responsibility. She had an inkling of who he was in this world and that possibility frightened her more than a little. But even if she was wrong, outside of the Shadow Realm he was essentially a stranger, and not one she could trust her daughter with.
“Will you at least tell me who he is so that I can properly protect her?”
Lily shook her head, the last of her strength failing her.
“No… That’s a secret I shall take to the grave, I think…”
Finally, as the weakness overcame her, someone ran over, possibly a nurse.
“Are you alright?” he asked.
She responded by thrusting the baby forward into his arms so that she wouldn’t have to worry about causing her daughter harm as she passed.
“Make sure she’s alright,” she managed to tell him, her words coming through her throat like a death rattle.
The world faded from her and, when it returned, she found that she was standing over her body, now a ghostly form much like Amber.
“Why do you two insist on making my job ten times harder?” she heard from behind her, recognising Death’s familiar, tired voice.
She turned to see a man with bright white skin and jet black hair and eyes. In fact, his eyes showed no white at all. She might be disconcerted by that if she wasn’t so used to it. He was shorter than her and wearing a black suit with a white tie. He approached Lily, shaking his head as she realised that Amber was now gone.
“She said that she would only stay long enough to see the child born. Now this promise has her beyond my grasp.”
“Just for now,” Lily suggested.
“It’s an imbalance,” he countered.
“I couldn’t leave my daughter unprotected,” she said simply. “You couldn’t honestly expect me to, could you, Grandfather?”
He sighed. “No, I suppose not. I’m proud of you, Lily. For making this sacrifice. I know how difficult this decision must have been for you.”
Lily responded by looking around. The world seemed… calm. There were no sounds of fighting, and there were no ruins within her line of sight. Even the ever-present smell of burning was gone.
“No, it wasn’t. This is the world I want my daughter to live in. Even if it has to be without me.”
“Just because we’re no longer fighting humans doesn’t mean you’ve created a world without conflict.”
“I know. Trust me, I’m not that optimistic…” She paused, frowning a little as she folded her arms. “Grandfather… What about Edric?”
“He’s still alive.”
“How? I saw him die in the Shadow Realm. I killed him.”
“He will eventually die on this side too. But not yet. Right now he’s wondering what has become of his family.”
“Amber will keep her safe,” Lily reasoned, clearly trying to assure herself more than Death.
“Come on,” he said, deciding not to address it. “Your mother’s waiting for you…”
Again, the next chapter can be read for free on Amazon.