Below is an excerpt from the new edition of SOUL BORN. I have given you all the first two chapters (prologue and first chapter).
I hope you enjoy!
SOUL BORN - KEVIN JAMES BREAUX
The snap of a stick echoed in the ears of the young elven woman as she fled through the murky midnight forest, her pale violet eyes like those of a predatory bird, searching and scanning her surroundings. In this chase, however, she was the prey.
Two days ago, by sheer misfortune, Tala had crossed paths with a hunting party of her people’s greatest rivals— reptilian beast men. The alligator-headed deinosuchians were on the brink of extinction after many summers of bloody conflict with the elves, making them even more dangerous when encountered.
After having run for two straight days, Tala had exhausted all of her people’s tricks to escape pursuit. The deinosuchians were closing in on her.
Tala ran through the forest, no longer making any attempt to cover her tracks. She was so tired her mind convinced her that there was danger in very shadow and behind every tree.
She had lost everything: her belongings, her friends, and her family. It seemed fitting that, on this night, she would lose her life too. Dry-mouthed and thirsty, she ran in the direction of a lake, having spotted the glitter of moonlight reflecting off its surface between the trees.
She knew the deinosuchians were close; she could smell them—the scent of decaying flora coated their scales. Nevertheless, she stopped, kneeling by the lake to drink. After gulping a few mouthfuls of the earthy-tasting water, Tala froze and spilled a handful down her chin. She remained motionless, afraid that even a breath would alert her hunters.
Through the willow trees that encircled the small lake, she heard several crunches echo from the opposite shore. Tala had never overheard a deinosuchian speak, but her tribal elders recounted their language as a collection of hissing sounds not unlike a snake, with tongue–clicks added for emphasis.
The young elven woman stood bit by bit and backed away from the water, one foot at a time. Suddenly, the bushes in front of her spread open and out lumbered one of the hunters, his back hunched, and his dorsal spikes flared as he moved; he was about to attack.
Tala whirled around to sprint away from her assailant but came face-to-face with two more deinosuchians who had crept up behind her in silence.
Her shriek of terror was cut short when something small and round hit the back of her head. She pawed through her yellow-green hair until she found a wet spot and her vision began to blur the moment she saw the crimson on her fingertips.
Unable to control her legs, she fell to the soft ground near the edge of the lake. Able to roll over, she stared blearily into the black sky as the deinosuchians approached her. She heard them hiss and click at each other in a rhythm that she imagined was filled with joy. Why wouldn’t they celebrate? They caught their dinner.
Out of the corner of her watering eye, Tala saw the three-clawed toes and dewclaw of one of the deinosuchians settle into the earth beside her head. In desperation, she wrapped her arm around the reptilian beast-man’s scaly leg. While the strength drained from her, she attempted to knock the hunter backward, but her efforts only earned her a jarring blow to the side of the head. The impact of the deinosuchian’s wooden staff left a metallic taste in her mouth and made the world spin.
Few lived to tell the tale of the deinosuchian’s feeding ritual, but one elf in her tribe had: a man named Arol. The elder had spun a tale not unlike the one she was living now. Chased, wounded, and caught: the hunters bit off his right arm before he was rescued.
No one will save me. These beasts… They are going to eat me alive, piece by piece.
Tala squeezed her eyes shut, aware that even if she had kept them open, she would not have seen much more than a blur. She may have been powerless before her attackers, and too damaged to fight, but that did not mean she was willing to watch herself be consumed.
When the edge of a stone blade cut into her hip, her body tensed up. The end was coming—the deinosuchians were stripping her of her clothes just as Arol had described in his horrifying tale. Her sense of defenselessness became crushing when her skirt was torn from her body. The thought of one of the deinosuchians sinking his teeth into the meat of her thigh sent a wave of terror through her body, and it escaped in a scratchy scream.
A cold, clawed hand brushed against her face and shoved something dry into her mouth to silence her. She gagged, familiar with the taste of leather—no doubt a scrap from her own skirt. I don’t want to die.
Claws pierced her blouse and dug ever so slight into her skin before they scratched themselves across each of her breasts and tore away the last bits of her attire. She tensed, but her body vibrated with panic.
The same fear that sealed her eyes now opened them. Her surroundings were blurred and dark. The moonlight, what little pierced the canopy of trees, reflected off the deinosuchian’s chest scales; he was inches above her.
Something warm and sticky struck her leg, but before she could look, she felt something else smack against her chest and move across her collar bone. Tala gazed down her nose and was met with the sight of a long, thin, pink tongue attached to her nude body, trailing saliva.
She tried again to struggle but two great weights pinned her arms down. Her eyelids fluttered as she fell into a swoon, but then an ominous, stern voice cut through the darkness and awakened her dulled senses.
“Leave the girl alone, deinosuchians of the Gar-hut-tu tribe. The elf will not be your meal this evening.”
Am I rescued? One of my former tribesmen come to save me?
“Leave now and seek your sustenance elsewhere. This is your final warning.” The female voice spoke loud and clear.
Free of the weight on her arms, Tala sat up and blinked her eyes slowly. For a moment, all she saw was the darkness of night painted over the trees and bushes near the path; but then, all shapes and colors washed away in the most brilliant flash of pure white light she had ever seen. When her eyes adjusted, she watched one of the deinosuchians stumble into view. Then, slowly, the creature moved and hissed in agony as his body crumbled like arid soil and blew away in the wind.
“Tala Silver Wolf.”
The young elf turned her head against a formidable spike of pain in her neck and laid eyes on the owner of the powerful voice. “Y-yes?”
“My name is Drae’Qu and I have been waiting for you.”
Karn was heavier than he looked, even without his weapons and heavy armor, but then again unconscious bodies always were misleading.
Opal may have been young, but she was not naive; she learned as she went, and this was a lesson her aching muscles would remind her of for days to come.
She rubbed her dainty hands down the side of her old patchwork leather pants. Made from pieces of clothing that belonged to her father, she had altered them several times to fit. However, Opal wasn’t worried about ruining them; they were already stained with many layers of dirt…and blood.
After a deep breath, Opal brushed her long, wavy red hair to the side, out of her eyes. She wrinkled her nose and pursed her crimson lips together to puff the final nagging strands away, so she could think.
She knew she would have to call upon her magic to carry Karn the rest of the way; she was just too weak to do it herself. Nevertheless, she did not want to waste any magical energy she did not have to; a powerful spell would be required to put her plan into motion, and she wanted to be sure she could cast it.
She sighed as she took one last long look at her project lying in the mossy forest grass. He was dressed, not unlike her, in casual farmer’s garb, nothing that would make him stand out in a crowd. No one would know how special he was. No one but her.
Karn was the man of her dreams; tall, strong, handsome, and she could not wait to love him and to be loved by him. This will work, she told herself for the thousandth time. This will work.
Wispy light, like thin, pink mist, formed around both of their heads. She was the key that unlocked the jumbled mess inside his mind. Without her, he would be useless to the others. I made sure of it, my love. I had to or risk my… our well-being.
Opal knew the magical energy that filled her body had its limits, but she had not yet reached them. At times, she felt so powerful, she thought she could move the world—this was not one of those times. She had taxed her body over the past two days, with little sleep and nourishment to replenish it. It was not the magic that ebbed; it was her body. She needed rest desperately.
A sour sensation in her stomach made her want to retch, as the spell she cast ended. With a look to the sky, Opal calculated. Karn will wake up when the sun is straight above the treetops; there’s just enough time for a quick meal and a short slumber.
She was only several steps away when fatigued breathing emerged from behind her.
“Mage, you’ve cast your last spell!”
Like the howl of a hungry animal, the man’s shout tore the peaceful silence from the forest around her and startled her so badly she nearly fell when she turned to face him.
She sized him up. Pointed ears… angular brow…
The man continued to scream as he charged with his weathered sword held high.
Where the elf had come from, Opal had no idea. Her thoughts were dominated by one thing: Could all my work be cut short by the rusty blade of this dirt-covered stranger’s longsword?
Opal ducked under his initial swing and called for a defensive spell, a magical shield, but no sooner had the spell begun to form than it vanished.
Her body heated, and her skin grew moist and sticky. If I can’t concentrate… my power is worthless.
“Your kind has set ruin to our world. Today I will cleanse this forest with your blood!”
With her hands and feet in the grass, Opal scrambled for cover like a panicked animal. As her head spun, she could hear the words of the High Council echo inside her mind. She would not allow them the satisfaction of being right. Not now, not ever.
At risk of succumbing to unconsciousness, Opal turned and stood her ground against her wild-eyed assailant. She did what her trainers always said. She relied on her senses and her training.
First, she took in her circumstances.
This old man, he smells as if he’s not bathed in months. He… She gagged. He reeks like something dead. He’s exhausted, as exhausted as I am… but in his eyes there’s a passion like I have never seen before. This elf… he desires one thing: to kill me… Kill me or die trying.
He lunged forward with an attack that should have run her through, but Opal had created a small portal in front of her body, one large enough to protect her from chest to groin. When his sword, and arm that wielded it, entered the crackling violet vortex, she snapped the portal shut, and transported the old metal and older flesh to a location in the southern sea.
Injured, he fell into her, the stump of his bleeding arm ramming her belly. The jarring impact knocked her backward; everything went dark.
When she opened her eyes, she did not know how much time had passed. What happened? Where is he?
She remembered a fight, but its conclusion was foggy. When she looked down at herself, she saw that her beige sash-tied vest was covered in blood, but there were no wounds. I’m fine. I think I’m fine. Oh no… Karn…
She held her breath as she searched about. Where’s Karn…? When her eyes found him, she sighed with relief. He was still asleep.
My plan remains unspoiled.
When she stood up she did so slowly, her eyes on the elven man lying motionless behind her. His wound–his missing arm–should’ve killed him but had not. Somehow, the old elven man still drew breath although shallow and haggard.
She examined him for other weapons but found none. In fact, the old man had nothing apart from the rags he wore for clothes. Who is he? she wondered. Why would he come here? Now?
Her curiosity came to a quick end when she saw his eyes flutter in effort to open.
Opal snatched up a rock and squeezed it so tight in her hand that she felt its corners dig into her flesh. She raised her fist high over her head, drew a deep breath, and then smashed the man’s nose and bashed in his teeth.
Over and over, she slammed the rock into the man’s face, until her arm was coated to the elbow in gore. When there was nothing left but grass and mud, she stopped and inhaled her first breath in what seemed to her like ages.
It’s over, she told herself. No. It’s all set to begin.
She shook her head in disgust; there was more work to be completed now. After she tossed the rock to the side, she grabbed the man by his ankles. Lifeless bodies are so much heavier than they look.
Kevin James Breaux