Read Flickers of the Heart Prologue + Chapter 1!
The prologue and Chapter 1 of Flickers of the Heart have been edited into what is (hopefully) the final draft and are avliable for you to read on the website!
Abernach glanced at the people lining the walls, barely managing to catch herself when she tripped on someone’s bag. ‘What— Lauren? What’s co-ed mean?’
‘See those stinky boys?’ Lauren put a hand on Abernach’s shoulder, and pointed to the tail-hopper who’s bag she’d tripped on. ‘Co-ed means we have to share with them.’
‘Stinky?’ the man gasped, though he was obviously as humoured as the vijak beside him that started cackling. ‘I’m not stinky!’
Abernach sniffed the air, and had to disagree. ‘Yes, you are. You smell like mud and sweat— And curry.’
A chorus of laughs echoed through the halls as the tail-hopper lifted an arm and sniffed himself.
‘Oh, yeah, you’re right,’ he chuckled. ‘I guess I’m just used to it. Maybe I should shower.’
‘Maybe you should,’ Abernach replied. Then he held out a hand. ‘I’m Abernach.’
‘Patience,’ the tail-hopper responded, then kicked his friend. ‘And this is Josef. Abernach is a weird name for a tail-hopper. What oracle gave you that one?’
‘You don’t know the oracles?’
‘Oh,’ Patience rubbed the back of his neck and glanced Josef, before looking back to Abernach. ‘Well, that’s unusual.’
691 word excerpt of Chapter 1 from Sylas and the Selkie
The big boats came from Copper Swamp City to deliver their ores to the refinery, and the bustle disturbed the reef so much that you’d be lucky to catch one fish, let alone enough to stock an entire market stall for the weekend.
Sylas let out a heavy sigh and looked to the lights in the distance. He was glad he’d decided to come away from the docks to under the cliffside; there were more boats than usual today, and the tide didn’t seem to be coming in as fast as usual… Though, he couldn’t stay much longer without risking being caught in the nightly flooding of the rocky beach.
One more fish, he thought. Then he’d head home.
Sylas let out a cry as he felt his boat rock, and one of his hooks fell from the side and into the water.
Dammit, he thought, peering over the side and cursing. That was a new hook! Damn the tide. Should’ve gone home hours ago…
‘May I have a fish?’ asked a voice from behind him.
‘If you give me enough pay,’ he replied, hurriedly scooping the rest of his lures to the safety of his tackle box.
‘What’s a “pay”?’ came the voice again. ‘Is that a sort of… Rock? Like those little gold ones?’
Sylas frowned. How could someone not know what pay was! Who the hell— ‘BY ALL THE GODS! WHAT IN DEEPLAND—‘
He fell over in his hurry to turn to the voice and nearly toppled into the ocean. The only thing that stopped him was the webbed hand of the stranger grabbing the collar of his shirt and holding on to him tightly.
He panted as they gripped him, and stared wide-eyed at the freckled, naked woman who held him in place.
‘Hi!’ she chirped, lifting him off his feet with surprising strength and setting him back into his seat.
‘Fucking Father,’ he breathed as he was effortlessly placed down. ‘A damn— On my boat! A fucking—’
The woman brushed a lock of wet curls from her freckled face before pointing to the bucket at Sylas’ feet. ‘Can I have a fish?’
‘Take the damn bucket!’ Sylas responded, thrusting the wooden tub into her hands and edging backwards as the boat rocked dangerously. ‘Just— Don’t eat me!’
‘Eat you?’ she asked, looking from him to the fish before burying her face into the bucket and messily biting into the pile. ‘Why would I eat you?’
‘You’re a— A— A siren! Oh Father, don’t eat me!’
She looked at him for a long moment before a giving him a toothy grin, her chubby cheeks smeared with blood. ‘Oh, I see. I’m a big, scary siren?’
Sylas nodded and swallowed the building bile in his throat.
‘Well, of course I’m going to eat you,’ she rolled her eyes and put the fish down. ‘I was just having an APPETISER!’
Sylas let out a shriek as she lunged for him, before he toppled out of the boat and into the ocean. He rose to the surface gasping for air, and heard the woman giggling. When he looked at her, she was hanging over the side of the boat with one clawed hand lazily skimming the surface of the waves.
‘I’m not a siren,’ she said simply. ‘Sirens are scaly and gangly and smell like rot. I’m spotty, and cute, and I smell like fresh kelp. Much better than one of those ugly bitches.’
‘Bit— Bitches?’ Sylas stammered.
‘Yes. My mother says anyone who eats other sapients are bitches,’ she replied, stretching her hand towards Sylas as if to shake it. ‘I can assume you’re sapient, right? A boy?’
‘I… I prefer to be called a man?’ Sylas managed, daring to take her hand. He felt immediate pressure in his shoulder as he was painfully yanked out of the water and back into the boat. He almost screamed again, but held back as the women plopped back onto the floor and continued munching on the bucket of fish. ‘What… What are you?’
‘Selkie,’ she replied. ‘I’ve never seen a boy before.’
484 word excerpt of the first draft of chapter 6 of Flickers of the Heart!
‘Five finger discount?’ Abernach asked, staring at her own paw. ‘That seems like a very discriminatory sort of discount to give. What about Gramfryr? Neovi only have four fingers— Or, what about people who are missing fingers? It seems like a terrible way to conduct a business—’
‘—Five-finger discount means stealing,’ Lauren interrupted.
‘No!’ Abernach gasped.
‘But that’s stealing! That’s illegal!’
‘I know. That’s kinda the point,’ Lauren rolled her eyes.
Cavaran shifted uncomfortably in his seat and looked away from Lauren. ‘Seems like a skeevy thing to do when you live off donations.’
‘Hey, look,’ Lauren sat up straighter. ‘The less that’s spent on me, the more that’s spent on people who need it. I didn’t choose to join the abbey, and I didn’t ask for others to look out for me. I don’t want to be treated like some sort of saint or be forced to act like one, just because of who my uncle is, so don’t make me feel bad for looking for a little bit of freedom!’
Cavaran didn’t reply, and kept his eyes firmly on the floor. Abernach could see the blush creeping into his cheeks as the cart fell into uncomfortable silence, and wished she had something to say to make everyone smile again.
‘I killed a man once,’ Gramfryr broke the silence. ‘An innocent man, too. That’s gotta be a hundred times worse then stealing.’
Abernach’s eyes widened in shock and her jaw fell open. ‘You what?!’
‘I was a different man then,’ Gramfryr added.
‘I had no idea!’ Abernach cried. ‘How could you even think of doing that?!’
‘I was desperate, and I had no choice. It was me, or him. And the man I worked for was nasty. If one of us had to go, at least it was quick, hey?’
‘Why would you even bring that up!’ Abernach lay back in her seat, deflating.
‘I dunno,’ Gramfryr shrugged. ‘Everyone was judging Lauren and I don’t like seeing her so sad. If we’re going to sit in silence and judge someone, why not let it be me, who’s actually done something terrible?’
Abernach let out a sigh. ‘Gramfryr… Wow.’
Gramfryr gave another shrug, and didn’t reply, letting the group fall back into silence— Though it didn’t last long as Cavaran shifted closer to Gramfryr.
‘So, like… You still kill people now or?’
‘No,’ he replied firmly.
‘Damn. No chance of you dropping in on my parents, then?’ Cavaran joked.
‘You can always ask Tomas,’ Gramfryr smirked, and turned to face the boy. ‘Even I don’t know what that idiot gets up to.’
‘I’ll keep that in mind,’ Cavaran nodded before falling back to silence.
‘I didn’t like that conversation,’ Abernach said, not meeting anyone’s eye.
‘Ditto,’ said Lauren.
A bit of a fight between Abernach and Lauren from the beginning of chapter 6 of Flickers of the Heart.
‘You gave Marceline alcohol,’ Abernach retorted, crossing her arms.
‘Nuh-uh,’ Lauren stood straight now and turned to face Abernach. ‘She got me the alcohol. There’s a difference’
‘How did she get it? She’s only sixteen!’
Lauren looked away. ‘I’m not saying.’
‘Did she steal it?’
‘I said I’m not saying,’
‘That means she did, Lauren!’
Lauren shook her head and returned her focus to her folding. ‘Mhmm.’
‘Abernach!’ Lauren teased, opening the old suitcase Alden had given her. She started moving her clothes from the bed to the case, and jumped when Abernach slammed it shut. ‘You almost got my fingers!’
‘You can’t just let the children steal things without consequence!’ Abernach growled. ‘What kind of example are you setting?’
‘I don’t know,’ Lauren pulled a shirt out from under her bed and sniffed it. Then she shrugged and put it with the rest of her clothes. ‘A bad one?’
Abernach slapped Lauren, who stumbled back a step before bursting into laughter.
‘I deserved that one.’
‘Yes, you did,’ Abernach pouted.
‘Aw, what?’ Lauren pulled a teasing face at the tail-hopper and winked before taking the opportunity to return to packing. She slipped past her friend and threw the suitcase back open. ‘You mad at me, Bunny?’
‘Yes, I am,’ Abernach grumbled. She crossed her arms and glared as Lauren managed to squeeze all of her clothes into the case. Then she let out an obvious snort, making sure Lauren heard her.
‘Oh, you are mad!’ Lauren giggled. ‘Do you not love me anymore or something?’
Lauren’s expression fell into that of concern. ‘Wait— No as in, no you don’t love me anymore, or no as in, no you still love me?’
‘I’m not saying,’ Abernach replied, turning away to hide the hint of a grin she could feel on her face.
‘Wait— Abbey— Abbey—‘ Lauren danced around Abernach for a moment, changing direction every time the tail-hopper spun around away from her, before she grabbed her friend by the shoulders and held her in place.
Abernach knew she was very obviously biting her lip. Especially when Lauren did the same to hide her own humoured expression.
‘Oh no, you hate me,’ the joke would have been successfully monotonous if Lauren hadn’t broken and laughed the last two words.
Lauren’s outburst only caused Abernach to let out her own loud snort and double over.
480 word excerpt from Flickers of the Heart Chapter 4!
Please let us know what you think! <3
‘Hm?’ Lauren’s curt hum echoed Abernach’s own feelings at being disturbed.
‘You two have a visitor.’
‘Oh?’ Abernach sat up, and felt flowers falling from her hair. When had Lauren braided it?
‘Who in Deepland would want to see us?’ Lauren snorted, staying in place. ‘Tell them they have the wrong address!’
‘No, I don’t have the wrong address you cunt.’
Alden let out a choked squawk as Lauren gave a start and rolled over to see who’d insulted her. It was a ver, Abernach realised. Tall and beautiful and with horns that brushed the tree branches and sent petals flying into the air as she shook her head and glowered at the two priests.
‘Excuse me?’ Lauren managed, squinting at the woman. ‘Have we met? You’re not one of Tomas’ friends, are you?’
‘I don’t know, nor care, who Tomas is,’ the ver spoke. ‘But whatever. My name is Atticus Iravi, and I’m here on behalf of the University of Magical Arts.’
Abernach saw Lauren perk up.
‘Is this about the application?’ Lauren asked excitedly. ‘Did we get in?’
‘If you didn’t I wouldn’t even be here,’ Iravi said dismissively. ‘And if I had it my way, I wouldn’t have come anyway. But no, I have to be a good girl for grandma.’
The priests exchanged a glance as Iravi sighed.
'I think I'll leave you three to it,' Alden said as he gave a curt nod before turning to leave.
'What's up his ass?' Iravi asked.
'A lot,’ Lauren replied. ‘So, about the applications?’
‘What applications?’ Abernach twitched her ears and frown. She didn’t remember applying for anything, especially not to someone so rude!
‘Are you shitting with me?’ Iravi snorted. ‘Because if you’re actually this stupid I don’t know how you got accepted into the University.’
Abernach let out a gasp of shock as her eyes began to water.
‘Hey!’ Lauren growled as she brought Abernach into a hug. ‘You don’t need to be mean to her!’
Iravi sniffed and rolled her eyes. ‘Yeah, I suppose I don’t. But I also don’t care. I’m just here to deliver your letters of acceptance.’
‘Why should we take them after how you’ve treated us so far?’ Lauren glared at the ver.
‘You’d seriously give up this offer over such a petty thing? Don’t forget you are the ones who applied for this course. Besides, it’s not my job to convince you,’ She crossed her arms and gave a huff. ‘Now if you’ll excuse me I’ve got more letters I need to deliver.’
Iravi tossed two envelopes to the ground in front of the priests and turned to leave. As she did, Abernach heard her mutter curses beneath her breath.
‘What a bitch,’ Lauren muttered.
‘She was a very unpleasant person,’ Abernach agreed, wiping a tear from her eye.
Chapter 4 First 100 words excerpt
The gardens were as peaceful as Abernach remembered. The sound bees buzzing in the flowers made Abernach’s fur tingle, and she grinned up at Lauren as one was shooed away from her face.
‘Get away!’ Lauren said as she waved her hands at the insects.
‘I don’t mind them,’ Abernach smiled as she sat in the grass. ‘I like bees.’
‘Yeah, but I don’t want you getting stung,’ Lauren replied as she sat down beside her friend. ‘Remember last time? You swelled up.’
‘I don’t remember. Am I allergic?’
‘Yeah, so please be careful this time,’ Lauren giggled.
A 461 word excerpt of Chapter 3 of Flickers of the Heart!
Enjoy, let us know what you think!
CW: swearing, sex mention
‘Shh,’ a familiar chubby hand reached past Abernach, placing a finger on Alden’s lips as it’s owner leant onto Abernach’s back and groaned. ‘Morning bad. Food good.’
‘Are you hung over?’ Alden asked.
‘Not when you’re the one asking,’ the hand replied.
‘You shouldn’t be in this state,’ Alden scolded. ‘You’re a priest. Priests don’t get drunk— Especially not at parties that they had to sneak out to.’
Lauren responded with a long sniff. ‘I didn’t sneak out. I walked out the front door. Because I’m not a coward like Brother Tomas.’
‘Tomas doesn’t sneak out,’ Gramfryr said, his lights brightening the same way they had when he’d lied about Tomas before.
‘You’re not as good a liar as you think you are, Grammy,’ Lauren smirked, poking the neovi in the shoulder.
‘Don’t call me Grammy,’ Gramfryr huffed. ‘You make me sound like an old lady.’
‘I mean, we all know you take dick like one—’
‘LAUREN!’ Alden shouted.
‘Hangover!’ Lauren replied, covering her ears.
Abernach just frowned. ‘What’s a dick?’
Silence fell over the kitchen as the older men stiffened, eyeing Abernach as if they had forgotten about her.
‘I’ll tell you later,’ Lauren offered.
‘You will not,’ Alden retorted.
‘It’s a guy thing,’ Gramfryr offered.
‘What? She’s an adult, Alden!’ Gramfryr defended, his gills flaring a little. ‘Don’t be ableist.’
‘—You are,’ Gramfryr interrupted. ‘Anyway, Lauren? I heard you managed to pick up the gift yesterday.’
‘Don’t change the subject!’
‘I did,’ Laure replied. ‘It’s in my room, I think.’
‘You think?’ Gramfryr clamped his teeth, sucking in a hiss of air as he turned his back to the protesting Alden.
‘Well, it was there last time I checked.’
‘Gramfryr! I’m not done with you!’ Alden huffed. ‘Don’t ignore me!’
‘I’m not ignoring you, Brother Alden,’ Abernach offered.
Alden sighed, and put a hand on Abernach’s shoulder. ‘I know, sweetheart.’
Abernach offered the old man a smile. ‘What were we talking about, again?’
‘—Dicks,’ Lauren called over Gramfryr’s shoulder.
‘What?’ Abernach cocked her head. ‘What’s a—‘
‘—Nothing you’re going to need to worry about for a long time,’ Alden told her, quickly putting an arm around the tail-hopper and leading her away from the two cackling degenerates. As they pushed through the door into the dining hall, she heard him mutter under his breath, ‘Hopefully.’
‘YOU CAN’T KEEP HER HOLY FOREVER!’ Lauren called after the pair.
‘I CAN FUCKING WELL TRY!’ Alden snapped, before turning to the hall full of people and falling silent. He stared at the faces of priests and children before putting a hand over his face and muttering another curse, which Abernach barely made out.