Fantasy, Sci-Fi, and a Taste of Exquisite Darkness


“Rahlizje had sworn to herself that day that she would always be faster than those from whom she stole; even at eight, she made a fine pickpocket.

And she’d kept that promise in every regard. She just hadn’t anticipated a one-eyed merchant’s crossbow in the middle of the night.”

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Excerpt of The Summoner Thief

She almost had it now—her freedom. With both hands, Rahlizje gathered up the nearly severed rope and gave each side a little tug. The ripping twine sounded incredibly loud to her own attentive ears, so she pressed the rope into the back of her cloak and pulled again. The rope snapped, and the end of it leading to the iron ring in the back of the driver’s bench slithered silently onto the wooden slats beside her.

Taltaz snorted and turned in his sleep, puffing out a huge sigh. Rahlizje froze and waited longer until his rhythmic snoring rose once more over the lightly crackling fire. Then she slowly, achingly rose to her feet inside the cart and stared at the man’s lumpy form beneath his cloak and his own blanket. Nothing and no one moved.

Before her twitching lips could fully bloom into a smirk, the escaping thief stepped cautiously over the sideboard. Her boot settled firmly into the crook of a spoke and the wheel’s hub, and when she was sure the thing could take her weight, she leaned forward and swung her other leg out of the cart. It was a lot harder than she’d imagined to be silent and swift like this with her hands still bound behind her, but she finally managed to get both feet off the wheel and into the soft trampled grass beside the cart.

She couldn’t help but take a final glance back at the man who’d thought himself so clever in capturing her. The urge to laugh bubbled up inside her, but she quelled it instantly; that same defiant urge had gotten her into this mess in the first place, and Rahlizje liked to think herself the type of person who did not knowingly make the same mistake twice.

With careful footsteps, she slinked past the cart, heading for the thickening forest on the other side of the glowing fire. The merchant merely kept snoring and rolled over again in his sleep. So she ran.

Just a few quick steps, and she’d be at the tree line. Something thick and heavy rustled behind her, followed by a swift metallic thunk. The next second, Rahlizje’s calf exploded with searing pain, and she screamed.

Taltaz’s horse snorted quickly and lifted her head before the thief went skidding across the soft grass of the clearing, her scream cut short by the ground coming up swiftly to meet her face again. The pain was so intense that, for those first few moments, she couldn’t hear, see, or feel anything else. Then she managed to peel herself off the ground just enough to glance back at her leg.

An arrow, much thicker than it had a right to be, had punched clean through her calf—and the new breeches Nina had given her. Grunting against the pain and cursing herself for that scream, Rahlizje dug the heel of her other boot into the earth in an attempt to somehow push herself back to her feet.

“Don’t move.”

She was in too much shock or agony or both to have noticed Taltaz approaching her. But now she looked up to see him standing there in front of her, his grizzled scar of a missing eye shimmering in the firelight. The shadows darkened on the man’s face—or perhaps it was merely Rahlizje’s vision. Then she saw the massive crossbow hanging at his side. Not an arrow, then.

“You… shot me,” she growled.

“It’s your own doing.” He lowered into a squat beside her, and Rahlizje’s immediate reaction was to squirm away from him. His massive hand clamped around her ankle just below the bolt he’d put there, and she nearly screamed again. “I said don’t move. If you want to keep the use of this leg as you’ve known it, I suggest you also stop making any decisions at all.”