Chapter 1: (start reading below)
Chapter 1: Running
Jayde sprinted across the wet rooftops of Haynis, three men in black pursued her through the darkness. An arrow smashed into the stone, causing sparks of light in the rainy night. The flat-topped buildings were separated by only a few feet. One slip and she would fall three stories to the street. Her mind raced as fast as her feet.
She glanced back and saw three silhouettes against the horizon fifty paces behind her. They had fallen back, less reckless in their jumps from rooftop to rooftop. She needed a plan. Over the sound of rain Jayde heard a clank of metal as another arrow whizzed past her head and collided into the stone building. She had a small lead. Only three buildings were left till the end of the street.
Jade saw some buildings with escape ladders, but there were none on the buildings she had passed. She looked down and saw no awnings, either. Only the hard-packed ground below would break her fall. She heard the thoomp of another arrow disappear past her into the darkness, and she sprinted on.
Jayde jumped to the second to last building on the block. She glanced back at the ground. Nothing. Not even a hay pile to break her fall. She sprinted onwards toward the last building, much farther away, but Jayde had no intention of stopping. She leaped. As soon as she left the edge of the roof, she realized the distance was too great. She flailed between buildings, reaching as far as she could. Her palms collided with the roof’s hanging edge at full speed, but her desperation allowed her to maintain her grasp on the slippery, wet roof. She thought about crying out for help, but there was no one on the street. It was the middle of night in Haynis.
She tried to pull herself over the edge, but her arms were not strong enough. With her arms extended, Jayde slowly slid herself along the edge of the roof.
Hands aching, Jayde focused on survival as she worked her way along the edge. The corner seemed impossibly far away, but she gritted her teeth and kept sliding. She looked up. The men had not caught up to her yet. They had to be close. Hanging in midair, with her back to her pursuers, she forced her hands to move.
Jayde felt a rush of wind pass right above her. She looked and saw nothing. Jayde expected the men to appear any minute.
With aching arms, Jayde made it to the corner and was able to look along the edge of the building.
Jayde looked down. Still nothing below but bone breaking ground. She tried again to pull herself up, but her arms were rubber. Jayde closed her eyes willing a ladder to simply appear.
A growl of conversation came from above, followed by the metallic clash of weapons. Could they not know where she was?
A horrible scream erupted, followed by more sounds of weapons colliding. Jayde strained for a glimpse of the building behind her. She saw a figure in a billowing black long coat standing on the edge of the other building. One of the pursuers had finally caught up.
Jayde braced herself for an arrow in the back, but it did not come.
“C’mon Jayde, think!” she muttered, hoping she could conjure a miracle. Somehow the man in black had not seen her. Yet.
She closed her eyes tightly, a pop came from the edge of the roof, away from the action occurring above. Jayde opened her eyes and saw a glint of metal through the rain. A ladder had appeared where before there was nothing. She could not will her arms to move one more inch, much less the entire distance of the roof.
“Need a hand?” a voice said from above.
Jayde dared a look upward. Her arms were burning. She glared at the man.
“I’ll take that as a yes.”
Jayde felt her body being pulled upward. Relief flooded into her. She allowed herself to be laid down on the roof as she tried to catch her breath.
The figure hidden in the shadows. He blended into the darkness and sat on a squat bench, oblivious of the rain. His hair was jet black and pulled into a small ponytail. His pale, angular face was outlined in the occasional lightning strike. He drank from a wineskin, a small amount dribbling from the corner of his mouth. In the wet blackness it looked like he was drinking blood.
“You’re fine,” said the figure, more of a statement than a question.
Jayde did not answer. He had just saved her life, but she was not sure if she liked what she saw. He appeared relaxed, but he had moved like a wraith. He watched her. She stared back.
Jayde glanced again at the ladder she had somehow missed. She turned back to look at the man and yelped. He was right in front of her, gliding next to her though she had not even realized he had moved. He sat next to her for a full minute, apparently comfortable in the awkward silence. His long black hair was pulled into a tight pony-tail, and his smooth, angular face made his age difficult to guess, possibly late thirties.
“What’s your name?”
“I’m Lisa,” said Jayde, the lie already prepared.
“Lisa is my name,” said Jayde. Few people knew her in town, since she spent most of her life in the shadows. She had learned long ago to have aliases at the tip of her tongue with a different backup story for each. Rarely did she give her real name.
“Fine,” the figure said. His tone made it clear he knew she was lying.
Jayde stared at him.
“I figured we could drop the act considering you were about to give the street a three-story hug. My nurse is coming up, and I have to go back to work.”
“What about the bounty hunters?” Jayde asked.
“You won’t have to worry about them anymore.”
“Right, I’m sure they’ll just go home and forget everything. I might have been better off on the ledge.”
“That could still be arranged. For what it’s worth, they weren’t bounty hunters. Why were they after you?”
Jayde frowned. “I don’t know.”
They sat in silence, the rain had resolved and lightning flickered on the horizon.
“So what did you steal?”
“Who said I stole anything?” Jayde answered.
“Men chasing you, and you assumed they were bounty hunters. What else? I suppose you could have killed someone, but you’re not the type.”
“No. I’ve snitched a few things. I once made amulets out of clay and sold them to travelers claiming they had protective magic. I don’t think that someone would hire bounty hunters over that though.”
“Either way, you’re safe for now.”
“How can you be sure?” Jayde asked.
He stood up and nodded at a heap on the ground, three shapes created a motionless mound. Jayde yelped in surprise.
“You killed them!”
“I merely did what they planned to do to you.”
He stood up and walked to the middle of the roof. A hatch appeared directly in front of him. A middle aged female popped her head out from the trapdoor. She wore a simple gray robe, but Jayde could see muscular arms hiding in the sleeves. The trapdoor appeared heavy to Jayde, yet this woman lifted it effortlessly.
“Hey Cam, there’s an idiot here whining about his foot. He looks like a nobleman of some kind, so I figured,” she stopped mid-sentence when she noticed Jayde. Immediately her voice and demeanor changed.
“Oh my! Who is this? What are you doing on the rooftop in this weather? And how did you even get here? You’re soaked! Cam, why didn’t you get her inside! No matter, I’m Marie. Come on over here right now, and let’s get you warmed up.”
The man had already started down the hatch.
“I hope he didn’t scare you, or even worse, start talking philosophy or some other drivel. Once you get him started, I tell you, he can be impossible to stop.”
Jayde then looked at the man in black. “Wait, what’s your name?”
“Cameron. Cameron Sangre.”
Jayde made her way to the trapdoor on the roof of the building. She normally would be hesitant to follow someone unknown anywhere, but unless she wanted to try to jump across rooftops again, she had no other choice. She looked over the city before heading down. In the distance she saw a door open, the light from inside the house illuminating the man about to start his day. He kissed his wife goodbye, and Jayde saw a small child behind the woman wave as he headed out. The man smiled and waved back. They were just a normal family starting another normal day. Jayde sighed and headed down the ladder.
The full novel will come out in 2015