hosted by Annie Wells and her blogger buddies, Emma from Little Gothic Horrors, and Ked from Something Wicked this Way Comes...
I have received a few emails asking about the culture and social structure of the evolved raptors called Soyoko.
Much can be learned about a species from the games they play ...
There are tales told by the vagrants of the French Quarter as they try to stay awake to evade the encroaching shadows. One such tale is the legend of Victor Standish --
doubly cursed by being Death's son
by being the obsession of a ghoul whose hunger for his heart is only slightly stronger than the hunger for his flesh.
Her name is Alice Wentworth ...
And Alice has been trapped by the Soyoko who have placed a whimpering baby in her hunger-trembling hands. They watch to see how long she can hold out against her hunger for the infant's flesh before she breaks.
Victor takes this sort of thing seriously, very seriously ...
The ruins seemed to breathe a diseased air as if the very stones were cursed. Perhaps they were the only survivors of some fabled land destroyed by the great flood. A land so old that there remained no legend, no myth, to whisper its name.
The rock I stepped upon had been cut and shaped before the first stones of Memphis had been placed beside the Nile. But somehow I knew the Soyoko knew the name for that cursed land, for their racial memory spanned ice ages according to Elu.
The smell in the darkness was terrible. Heavy musk. Nose-wrinkling tang of ammonia. Stomach-turning stench of rotting flesh. Good thing I was used to eating from dumpsters that only smelled a little better.
Amazing how much you can see in just a few heartbeats. Alice holding a whimpering baby in her arms. Her hands shaking with hunger, yet neon eyes frantic with the need to protect the baby from the Soyoko. Towering over her, the enormous, glowing gem of deepest night called by the Soyoko, the Black Stone.
What the Black Stone truly is no Soyoko will tell. Only that they, who are cold and rigid in their spirits, hold it sacred ... and in fear so intense it more truthfully could be called terror.
Elu only knows that they have polished it for thousands of summers with the finely ground dust of the crushed skulls of their human prey, have lovingly, yet fearfully, bathed it in the blood of their most prized victims. They have done so for so many centuries that now it shines with a glow that seems to burn from its depths. And the light pulses. Pulses with the beat of the closest heart to it.
With so many hearts in this cavern where Mother had transported me, it cast a strange hellish strobe-light effect on all who were here.
The madly pounding Soyoko on their high drums made of bone and human flesh.
More scurrying Soyoko than I could count or see because of the constantly shifting shadows. Evolved raptors Sam called them.
They had lost the tails but gained length and muscle in their arms. They sure hadn’t lost any teeth. Gained a few hundred it seemed to me.
Mother, in a fit of anger, casting me here in the middle of the nest had rattled them. Like Apaches, they loved to ambush. And like Apaches, they hated to be on the receiving end.
Hissing and barking oddly, they scurried all around me. Using their long, sharp claws, they scaled up the walls and …. Crap. They were running along the stone ceiling above me. How did they do that?
The drummers, who had stopped at my arrival, now were picking up the weird pounding. Their slit eyes reflected the pulsating glow of the Black Stone they both worshipped and feared.
On a high stone shelf above them sat a slowly swaying female. Double crap. She was swaying to the beat of my heart. She flicked sneering eyes from the shivering Alice to me.
She studied me, her head first cocking to one side then to the other. I matched her head cocking move for move. She hissed her displeasure. I smiled my skull-smile that said I already knew I was dead meat so expect me to spit in your eye, thank you very much.
I both heard and saw the Sokoyo begin to circle me. They formed groups of three’s. I smiled wider. For once, Hollywood had gotten it right.
The female saw me smile and fast held up her right claw. “Hold!”
The word had not been spoken in English, but I still understood it. I smiled wide and bitter. I was Death’s son. And I should have remembered that Death spoke every language.
“Why?” hissed the lead drummer.
The female husked, “Know you not that smile? It is the smile of the Last Wolf. This one must be his cub.”
I smiled even more bitter. They called Captain Sam “the Last Wolf?” Why not?
“So, R’lyth?” grunted the drummer.
R’lyth gave me a flesh-eating smile. “Things have grown more ... interesting.”
The next chapter is called
WITH HELL AT MY HELLS.