Welcome back to our Falconer Fridays! We’ve already introduced our fabulous new heroine , shown you a bit of her divided world – the social and the dangerous – and now it’s time for Aileana to show you what she can do! Hold on to your hats, there’s a battle on the way . . .
I aim the pistol, but the faery is much faster than I expect, a blur of movement. It knocks the weapon from my hand before I can shoot and slams me into the wall. Wallpaper tears. A vase on the shelf next to us falls. Over the sound of shattering glass, I hear the pistol skid along the floor somewhere. Hell and blast.
The creature opens its mouth. Its saliva drips onto my silk bodice. The rancid stench of decay, with a hint of bare earth, invades my nostrils. I can’t help but gag.
Snarling, the faery pins me against the wall. My legs dangle. Claws scrape my middle and fabric shreds. I struggle.
I have to free myself before the revenant can take my en- ergy, but I’m caught between the wall and its massive chest. The faery’s muscles bulge as it tries to keep me still, slicing through my dress and undergarments into my skin, leaving small cuts that burn as though they’ve been cauterised. Then it sinks its claws into me.
The faery breathes in and rips energy from me. Pain blos- soms within my chest and fans outwards like needle pricks. Thousands upon thousands of tiny, agonising jabs all over my body.
‘Falconer,’ the revenant growls, and those dripping teeth widen into a hideous grin. ‘Falconer.’ The word is guttural; I only just understand it. Blood scorches under my skin. The pain is almost unbearable.
The faery’s eyes are shut, its body growing ever more still as my strength leaves me.
Stop struggling, I tell myself sternly. Focus.
I let myself slacken in the faery’s arms. It drags me closer until my forehead rests against its slick neck. I pretend to give myself over, to appear close to death as I desperately slither an arm from between us, a fraction at a time. It falls to my side, a dead weight. My body has become rock where it should be bones and flesh.
In that moment, my blood goes from hot to the most numb- ing kind of cold. My teeth chatter. In shock, I realise my breath is visible, as though the temperature in the room has dropped.
I clench my numb hands into fists. If I’m going to die, I’ll die fighting. Never at the mercy of any faery – not like my mother.
Strength resurging, I let out a fierce scream and slam a fist into the revenant’s soft spot, its abdomen.
The creature howls and staggers.
I drop to the floor and crawl to put some distance between us. I try to stand, but stars dot my vision. My dress – the blasted, impractical, smothering dress – catches under my toe and I stumble.
I look up just as the faery recovers. It launches itself at me again, and I manage to roll beneath its body.
My temples are pounding, but I ignore the headache. I shove my petticoats aside to grip the handle of the sgian dubh snug in its sheath along my other thigh just as the faery rears back on its haunches, then jumps. I spin low to the ground, and have but a moment to aim for its soft spot again.
I won’t have another chance to surprise it. I sink my blade into the front of its massive torso.
The faery screeches and flails, knocking over what must have been an exceedingly expensive mahogany chair.
The sgian dubh will only distract the revenant for seconds before its wound heals. Where in the blazes is that lightning pistol? My eyes dart around the room in search of it, ranging across carpet and furniture and—
There! I spot the steel glint of my pistol underneath the dresser.
Beside me, the faery rises and gropes for the knife thrust in its stomach. I dive for the pistol, grabbing it as I roll onto my back to take aim. The pistol’s generator hums as conductor spines rise along the top of the barrel. At the pistol’s mouth, bluntly pointed core rods open like flower petals.
The faery yanks the blade out of its flesh with a yelp. It drops the sgian dubh to the floor and pulls back its lips, baring sharp teeth. A low, reverberating snarl escapes its throat and it rushes me again.
I aim for its pectoral and pull the trigger.
The capsule of seilgflùr in the pistol releases first, a split sec- ond before a strong bolt of electricity is pushed through the core rod. Both hit the creature square in its muscular, oozing chest.
The revenant claws at the wound. A fernlike Lichtenberg figure forms rapidly at the point of entry. I watch it bloom as the seilgflùr is released into the creature’s body.
The massive faery crumples to the floor at my feet, gasping. Breathing hard, I wait for the moment I treasure most. For
the faery to take its last breath.
When it does, its power slides into me, smooth and hot and soft like silk across skin. I shiver as the ammonia and sulphur taste in my mouth ebbs, leaving the heat of power around me.
I feel. I feel. Strong and untouchable and capable. An exquisite glow of joy fills me up and extinguishes my anger. For this instant, I am whole again. I am not broken or empty. The shadow-self inside me that compels me to kill is silent. I am unburdened. I am complete.
All too soon the power fades and so does the relief And as always, I’m left with the familiar ache of rage.
The Falconer is out where all books are sold o the 26th September 2013.