Samantha entered Stella Cameron's 2009 Scarlet Boa Contest under Entry Number 110 (entitled Warrior Queen). Read her *winning* entry below. And then scoot on over there and vote! Below is the name of the first book in the series.
PALE HALLS OF THE REALM
Shadows twisted and stretched. Two forms materialized in the frigid air, sparked violet then burned hot orange. Malevolent tremors shook the bedroom ceiling, rattled floorboards.
"I ordered you to stay away."
The second form stood still, defiant. Dim lights flared, went black as an EMP burst knocked out electrical equipment and plunged the neighborhood of drug addicts, thugs and thieves into darkness.
Ronan Tiernay floated across moldy carpet, gazed down at the dying female. Her breathing pattern had slowed to fish-like gulps. The stolen gun used to end her existence twitched in a bruised hand.
Intrigued by her ravaged face, he inched closer, gliding silently above the stained floor. Despite the filth of abuse and neglect that marred her body, she’d once been beautiful. Stringy auburn hair, caked with grease and dried blood, spilled across the soiled mattress. Flaccid arms poked out beneath a lice-infested blanket.
Memories nudged Ronan. “Pass on, child. I will stand guard so that none dare steal your body.”
Ronan’s ectoplasm shimmered ivory. His eyes blazed before solidifying into solid black orbs. A lone sentinel, he watched long after her physical life ended.
“Be at peace,” he whispered.
He considered the word. Would fate ever grant him the same? With a shrug of glistening shoulders, Ronan flew from the decrepit building. Alley trash scattered in his wake.
* * * * *
It had been a good year to die—62AD. Several thousand Celts had passed over that day. The last stand. Ronan stared across the English countryside to the exact spot where an arrow had pierced his aorta nearly two millennia ago. A deep rush of despair washed over him. Most of the West Midlands had changed since his death, but not this lonely slip of land. The undulating field of bluebells remained untouched.
His perpetual haunting ensured it.
For a long time after the battle, Ronan often forgot he'd died. He would roam the sloped hillsides in search of Boudicca, his childhood sweetheart, Queen of the Celtic Iceni tribe. The only woman he’d ever loved.
Even after King Prasultagus forced Boudicca's hand in marriage, Ronan hungered for her touch, craved the scent of their mingled bodies in the aftermath of love.
As a tribal chieftain deprived of his estate after the King’s death, he had reason enough to march into battle, even if Boudicca hadn’t taken up arms against the Romans. The enemy had sacked his country, stolen everything he owned. They had flogged his beloved, raped her young daughters, yet they never shattered her spirit. On the contrary, their unjust treatment only served to heighten her desire for revenge.
Like Ronan, she was an idealist tempered by realism, as fierce on the battlefield as she was in bed. A warrior’s warrior. However fearless by day, her nights had belonged solely to him. And, oh gods, he held her tightly while she sobbed quietly in his arms.
The cold morning air vibrated, hummed softly. A familiar presence coalesced beside him. “I thought I’d find you here.”
“If you’ve come to berate me again, save the lecture, Beynon. I have no wish to hear your words.”
Beynon Kennalis’s shadowy figure loomed as large as Ronan’s and pulsed like a translucent jellyfish. “Your wishes have never prevented me from telling you what I think.”
“Sadly, that is true.”
Beynon made a clicking noise that scattered a small flock of sparrows. “Your endless moping makes little sense. Accept destiny, Ronan. Your mortal life served as a training ground for what is needed from you here.”
“That is your theory, old friend. Not mine.”
“Merely my attempt to school you in the tradition. As your elder, it’s my responsibility.”
“Elder by half a day hardly makes you my elder in the afterlife,” Ronan huffed. “And if you had kept your head up, you’d have seen the lance aimed at your neck. Then I would have become the elder.”
Beynon waved him off. “My knowledge of the kinetic ghosthood exceeds yours.”
“A fact you've never ceased to remind me of.”
Bluebells swayed nearby when Beynon laughed. “Luck had nothing to do with it. Estrada sought me out to mentor. I'm merely passing on his knowledge. And you, my friend, need solidity.”
“Keeping humans safe from inhabitation by our crazed young is not solid enough?”
“Admirable, yes. Also our duty.” Beynon shook his opaque head. “But that is not what I meant and you know it.”
“I don't wish to discuss this further.”
“I watched you scatter Marcus. A bit heavy on the EMP.”
“It was the third time this week I’ve caught him trying to inhabit the near-dead.
He’s a violent imbecile." Flowers wilted beneath Ronan’s anger. “If I catch him again, I’ll scatter him so far it will take decades for his molecules to rematerialize.”
“I don't think that will be necessary.” Benyon’s tone rustled the pines. “She’s gone, Ronan. You must give her up.”
“She doesn’t feel gone.”
“She took her life with slow-acting poison. She had time to adjust to the idea of being dead.”
Ronan crumpled to his knees on the fertile soil. “I know. I cannot accept.”
“Boudicca would have found you in the afterlife if it had been possible. Do us both a favor, Ronan. Take a break from your melancholy and join me in a small distraction.”
A deep growl filtered through the trees.
“Does small distraction include taking human form to have sex with one of your nymphomaniac girlfriends?”
“Ancients should enjoy a few perks, old taibhse. The touch of a beautiful fermion will clear your mind. Who knows what might come of it.”
The hillside fell quiet. Ronan sighed. “Perhaps there is a measure of validity in your words."
Beynon glowed crimson. Filaments of energy coiled outward to entangle Ronan in a web. “I’m known for being wise on occasion."
Despair lifted as though the sky had opened. The honeyed sound of Ronan's chuckling sent blades of grass reaching for the sky.
“Very well, lead on.”
~ ~ ~
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