Author: D.M. Cain
“The new book in DM Cain’s epic Light and Shadow fantasy series certainly plunges us in at the deep end. The heart of this book—its true essence—is prejudice and love, persistence, and stubbornness.” Stewart Bint, author of In Shadows Waiting and Timeshaft. A brutal war has raged for centuries. The Brotherhood of Shadow and The Children of Light each yearn to rule the planet and will stop at nothing to defeat the other. Now, from the deepest bowels of Hell, the Brotherhood has summoned demons to fight for them. The demons could end the war once and for all, if only the Brotherhood can keep them under control. Prophecy, destiny, honour, and glory: Chaos, a soldier in The Children of Light, fights in the name of all these things and could achieve them if he wasn’t so arrogant. He believes he is the best warrior in the land, until a fateful coincidence puts him at the mercy of the demon, Anathema. The two warriors, demon and human, strike up an intense rivalry, but their obsession to destroy one another only leads them closer together. When the forces of Heaven and Hell collide, where will their loyalties lie?
D.M. Cain is also a member of the International Thriller Writers and is one of the creators and administrators of the online author group #Awethors. Her short story ‘The End’ was published in Awethology Dark – an anthology by the #Awethors.
Cain lives in Leicestershire, UK, with her husband and young son, and spends her time reading, writing and reviewing books, playing RPGs and listening to symphonic metal.
The smaller figure, Vincent Wilder, trailed at the back with his arms crossed over his uniform, a pristine grey tunic with a black symbol of a phoenix nestled inside a flame. His eyes were dark and shaded, and a frown creased his forehead. He kicked aside twigs and stones, trying to keep his nerves under control and maintain the composure that had earned him his role as the leader of his people.
The large, imposing figure that walked beside him made no sound at all, its feet silently padding across the crisp forest floor. It wore no clothes except for a long black cloak with a deep hood that obscured the area where its face should have been.
The forest was cool, even for a late autumn evening, and the frosted air planted sharp kisses on Vincent’s face. His companion, the Bavelize, didn’t feel the cold; it had no skin to pucker in the freezing air and no bloodstream to pump colour into wind-kissed cheeks. The creature’s hands were not made of skin or bone but thick, turbulent smoke, swirling and rippling, roughly gathered in the shape of fingers.
Vincent had left the city behind him over an hour ago, winding through the dense, uninhabited forest. When he was far enough away from their civilization to be sure they wouldn’t pass another soul, he had called to the Bavelize. It had appeared from the ether, as it always did—materializing from nothing to stand beside him. They had continued their journey together in silence, with Vincent praying that what he was about to do wasn’t a catastrophic mistake. The Bavelize stopped suddenly in the middle of the leafy trail.
“Here,” it said in a quiet, ethereal voice that reverberated around the woods, coming from all directions at once.
“Here? Are you sure this is the place?” Vincent looked around for distinguishing features, but this patch of forest looked the same as every patch they’d walked by for the last hour.
The Bavelize didn’t respond. It turned slowly to face him with the swirling, undulating mass of smoke that made up its face. Vincent quickly looked to the ground. Despite its lack of eyes, the Bavelize stared directly at him.
“What will you do now?” Vincent asked, his voice wavering.
By way of response, the Bavelize began to move its smoky hands back and forth, fingers working away, plucking the strings of an invisible guitar. It raised its arms, reaching up high into the air and back down again, then sweeping over to one side and starting again. After five minutes of no success and no explanation, Vincent grew impatient.
“Clearly this can’t be the right place.”
“It’s here,” the disembodied voice echoed. “This is where the barrier is weak.”
“Barrier?” Vincent questioned, but the Bavelize had returned to rhythmically waving its hands in the air. If it had been anybody else, any human, it would have looked ridiculous, but somehow the Bavelize’s ethereal digits working so frantically was eerie and intimidating.
The Bavelize froze, the billowing fingers of its right hand held aloft. It brought its left hand up to meet it and gently pried at something in the air. Scratching, delicate little finger movements, prying apart something stuck closely together. Its fingers worked faster and faster, into a grey, swirling blur, pulling at the unseen stitching. Vincent frowned and moved in to look more closely.
A line appeared, a thin crack which hung mid-air. Vincent gaped as the Bavelize stretched and tugged at the widening slit. Vincent caught a glimpse of something through the crack. Another forest. The trees were in exactly the same place as the trees on Vincent’s side of the barrier, but they were twisted and charred, burned to a crisp long ago by the scorching heat. Now they were merely skeletal trunks, the remains of a forest, a woodland graveyard.
Vincent stared, amazed, as the Bavelize forced the stitching between the dimensions open with a rip three metres high, the tattered edges flitting between their dimension and the one that lay beyond. A gust of stifling hot air swept out from the frayed gateway, and Vincent turned away to prevent his skin being singed. The breath caught in his throat as a surge of sulphuric gas billowed from the gap. He took a step backwards and covered his mouth with both hands, trying not to gag on the foul stench.
The Bavelize faced him with its featureless visage unreadable. “I shall return with the soldiers you need to win this war.”
“Wait! What is that?” Vincent’s eyes were wide with shock and fear. He had known the Bavelize was fetching him some soldiers, but he hadn’t asked where from. His stomach churned as he risked another glance in the direction of the gateway. Scorching heat flared up at him and he had to look away again. It was freezing cold in the forest. This tear in reality was impossible. He could already guess the terrifying answer, but he asked the question anyway, with his heart pounding,
“What is that place?”
“You know it as Hell,” the Bavelize replied. Then it stepped through the gateway and into the other world.