Excerpts from The Defiance, by A.G. Henley
Excerpt (#1) from The Defiance by A.G. Henley:
Only the odd snore rumbles from the other shelters as I crack the door open and slide out. The forest isn’t so quiet. Crickets hum hypnotically, leaves shift and sigh in the breeze, and frogs and bats keep the time with their cries. If the greenheart trees offer the forest its scent and flavor, then its animal inhabitants provide the tune.
I slink like prey from dark spot to dark spot, minding the sound of my steps. There’s probably a Groundling guard somewhere. The moon illuminates the path, so I walk under the shade of the tree branches. There’s a luster ahead.
For a long time I thought the water hole glowed. Calli finally told me the moon—which I’ve heard can be as slim as a curled-up leaf or as spherical as a stone—reflects in the water hole below. It seems unfair, somehow. The sighted see not only the fickle moon, they see two.
The water sweeps softly onto the shore, then recedes, dancing with itself, careless who hears it. I hold under the cover of the forest, soaking in the sounds and scents of the night.
After a few minutes, I hear more deliberate movements in the treetops: the low thump of quiet footsteps along the walkway overhead. They stop above my head. A soft birdcall greets me. I wave, letting them know it’s safe.
The rope ladder dives toward me, bumping against the tree trunk as it falls, and I steady it as Peree descends. My heart pulses in my chest as he draws near. I feel like I’ve stolen these moments with him, moments we’ll have to eventually give back. I don’t want to steal time with him. I want it to be ours to keep.
Excerpt (#2) from The Defiance, by A.G. Henley:
The morning passes quickly. There was more wood to move into the storeroom in the caves this morning, new stores of salt meat and dried beans to deliver, and our herbalist, Marjoram, told me she has some poultices and teas she wants me to bring in. Marj was underprepared for the accidents and illnesses resulting from such a long confinement last time. She won’t make the same mistake again.
There’s plenty of space in the storeroom—it was almost empty by the time we left the caves after the Reckoning. It’s an easy job to stow the supplies neatly along the natural stone shelves. My stomach rumbles, anticipating a midday meal, as I cross the cavern to the storeroom carrying the second-to-last load of wood. Even the lingering stench of crampberries doesn’t deter my appetite.
“Fennel.” The word whispers across the cave.
I freeze. “Who’s there?”
“Stay away from the Lofty. Groundlings and Lofties aren’t meant to be together. You’ve been warned.”
I can’t tell anything about the speaker—man, woman, their age. But quiet as the person’s words are, it’s hard to miss the implied threat. I drop most of the wood, keeping one thick log as a potential weapon. The person is between the passage out and me.
I hold the log firmly in front of me, trying to tame my wild breathing so I can hear. Fear strangles my thoughts. An indefinable amount of time passes. Finally wrestling the courage to move, I step forward, keeping the log at the ready.
And I cough.
The air is wrong, and not simply human-waste wrong. Something else. There’s light where there shouldn’t be, and . . . smoke. That’s what I’m tasting and smelling.
There’s a fire in the passageway, and it’s blocking my way out. Terror doesn’t steal through me. It rips my head off.
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A.G. Henley is the author of the BRILLIANT DARKNESS series. The first novel in the series, THE SCOURGE, was a finalist for the 2013 Next Generation Indie Book Award.
A.G. is also a clinical psychologist, which means people either tell her their life stories on airplanes, or avoid her at parties when they’ve had too much to drink. Neither of which she minds. When she’s not writing fiction or shrinking heads, she can be found herding her children and their scruffy dog, Guapo, to various activities while trying to remember whatever she’s inevitably forgotten to tell her husband. She lives in Denver, Colorado.
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