Published by The Zharmae Publishing Press on 3-27-2014
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Found at the intersection of life and the afterlife, the Between is a place where science and reason are replaced by magic and violence. It is a place where Typhon and his Huntsman of the Dark Waste spread like a plague and where Talents go to die.
The only thing standing in Typhon’s way is Morgan Quendalen and the people of the Shining Lands. They are sworn to protect the last remaining Talents, a precious few who teeter at the edge of extinction. Morgan valiantly fights, protecting these last remnants of magic in a war he's not sure he can actually win.
When Jamie Aster, a mortal Talent with undiscovered powers, is put under his charge, Morgan weighs his oath against a desire to save the Shining Lands. Could he kill a Talent if it meant saving his people?
Darkness stalked through the forest—a thick, inky blackness that flowed among the trees and drew the shadows inward. The darkness had shape and form—an animal’s shape, though one that was twisted, corrupted. It wrapped itself in those shadows, concealing itself within a cloak of blackness until all that could be seen was the pulsing throb of two brightly glowing blood-red eyes.
It was alive, that darkness. It breathed and writhed in swirling chaos as it slipped from tree to tree, leaving a noxious odor in its wake that was equal parts burnt hair, charred skin, and decomposing flesh. And it had purpose. It stalked stealthily through the forest, pursuing a running figure that moved steadily along a nearby trail.
The darkness had been following the man for quite some time now, watching him in secret, waiting patiently while two others crept through the forest to join in the hunt. It didn’t know why it hunted this man. There was nothing particularly noteworthy about him at first glance, nothing observable to set him apart from the millions of others of his kind. And it didn’t really care. Its master said hunt, so it hunted. And if its master said kill, then it would do that as well. But for now it watched and stalked, padding soft-footed through the forest, while the runner continued on, blissfully oblivious to the black thing that haunted his steps.
The minutes and miles ticked by, and one creature became two, then three, completing the deadly trio, all of them coursing through the woods on either side of the trail, dodging roots and rocks and the occasional deadfall without ever losing sight of their quarry. After weeks of searching they’d found their prize, and the beasts with their glowing eyes and their midnight hides hissed and growled, calling softly to one another as they pulled their net tight and closed in on the running figure they’d trapped between them.
But the creatures didn’t know that they were being watched as well. There was another man in the forest—a tall, lean, rangy man dressed in all black who concealed himself among the trees and shadows as easily as the dark creatures themselves. The runner had brought him here as well, though for entirely different reasons than those black-skinned beasts. The shadow creatures were trained to hunt—to stalk, trap, and ultimately kill whatever prey their master sent them after—but the black-clad man was trained and highly proficient in the arts of war. He wore a long, slim sword and bright knife at his belt and wielded both with deadly skill. But here, today, those weapons were meant to protect, and the focus of that protection was the somewhat unassuming man whom the shadow beasts were tailing.
The runner might not look like much, but he was special—important in a way that was difficult to describe and harder to believe. His name was Jamie Aster, and it was Morgan Quendalen’s job to look after him, to guard his body and his life from creatures like these or worse. Because there were worse things than those half-dead, creeping things. Jamie just didn’t know it.