Snowcase #2 • 13 August 2007 • The SnowBlog
Rachel Green has sent in "Dead Line", an urban fantasy novel. Rachel writes in the hills of Derbyshire with her two wyves, two children and two dogs. Her first book, "An Ungodly Child" won the regional prize in the "Undiscovered Authors" contest 2007 and will be published next year.
When the fate of the world rests on one mostly-innocent man and the elves are out to kill him, sometimes you wish you could kill him first. Then you're working to a Dead Line. On an autumn day more glorious than the inside of a cathedral, Harold Waterman wandered through Laverstone woods. His fingers, trailing across the rough bark of beeches, told of the easy summer that had tailed off with the arrival of the equinox. He breathed in the heady scent of ripened crab apples and rowan berries on the rim of the forest as the squabbles of hungry starlings echoed through the trees.
He reached the edge, the gloom fading as the trees thinned. The path that separated the forest from the rough brush and stone bluffs of the Cheviots ran south to the Royal Park and north into the hills, where it petered out into little more than a rabbit trail. His whistle brought a wolf pushing past his legs, its weight threatening to topple him into a copse of sloes. Thorns plucked at his jacket.
Felicia growled, her hackles rising as her body stiffened. Harold followed her gaze. 'What is it, Fliss?' he asked. 'What can you smell?' He couldn't see anything that would threaten them but raised his cane just in case.
The wolf took a step forward, the low growl in her throat making Harold's hair rise in sympathy. Her nose dipped to the ground and she whined, prompting him to examine her find. He took off his gloves and dipped the end of a finger into the drips that lay among leaves of sycamore and birch. Rubbing it against his thumb, he took a cautionary sniff. 'Blood,' he said aloud.
The wolf stretched, her bones popping and cracking as they dislocated and reformed. 'Of course it's blood,' she said, rising to two feet. 'Do you think I'd be so spooked if it was someone's leftover watercolour?'
Harold took a step back, trying not to stare at the bare breasts of his partner's girlfriend. 'Sorry,' he said. 'It seemed the dramatic thing to say.'
'Dramatic?' Felicia snorted and stared up the path. 'We're not being filmed for television.' She shivered and allowed fur to grow over her naked flesh. 'Where there's blood there's mess.'
Harold moved his gaze up to her face. 'Not necessarily,' he said. 'We're at the edge of a forest. It could be anything. A rabbit caught by a fox or one of Mr. Morris' chickens.'
Felicia looked at him sideways. 'Do you think I can't tell the difference?' she said. 'I know the smell of rabbit. This is human. Male, early sixties, long white hair.'
'I'm impressed.' Harold looked back at the blood, already seeping into the loam. 'You can tell all that from just smelling this one patch of blood?'
'No.' Felicia looked the other way down the path and, confident that they were alone, stepped out of the shadow of the trees onto the path. She turned to her left and pointed. 'The rest of him is over there.'
Author: Rachel Green