About the Book
Title: Blood Rain
Author: Nancy Gray
Genre: YA Fantasy
The night the blood rains from the sky, Mind of Mercy’s world changes. The savage Blood Wings, bestial creatures that feed on the blood of Mercy’s people, attack her treetop village in frenzy.
Mercy’s father, the chieftain, tasks her to leave during the fight and find the source of the storm. The journey takes Mercy across the continent of Lacern where she must make allies, even from some of the enemies of her people, to survive. The search forces her to get help from the least likely of sources, one of the very Blood Wings that attacked her.
During her journey, Mercy and her companions discover lies that are widely accepted as truths, secrets hidden by the beast men, and a power buried deep inside of Mercy herself. Magic is resurfacing in the world and the blood rain is only the beginning. A hidden power is pulling the strings to cause a continent wide war that could result in the destruction of humans and beast men alike.
Mercy’s Task and the Blood Rain
(This scene starts when Mercy is told by her father to leave the village and search for the cause of the blood rain. The phenomenon has been predicted by their shaman, and when the blood rains, the enemies of their people, the Blood Wings, will attack the village in frenzy.)
“Ask around. Follow rumors. Most of the people in Concord speak either the common language or Ashen. Mender of Spirits taught you the language of the Ashen Folk, so you should be able to listen in on their conversations. Don’t trust them and don’t let them convince you to go anywhere near the capital. Above all, don’t let them know that you can understand their tongue. It would make you useful as a slave.”
“The rumors say they don’t take people from our forest, only the islands.”
Catches the Eye scoffed and said, “Do you think they really care where their slaves come from, or that their people would know the difference? You need to stay sharp or you won’t make it back alive.”
Her back stiffened as she said, “Yes, Chieftain.”
He smiled warmly. “Under the circumstances, I think you should try to start calling me father.”
Mercy felt a lump in her throat but quickly swallowed it down and said, “Yes, father.”
He continued, “The city is divided into sections. The section you should try to get to is called ‘The Park.’ That’s where most of our people reside. You should be able to barter some of the raw materials for a place to sleep. That should be your first step.”
“The Park, okay.”
He said in a softer tone, “I want you to come back. And, I know you’re smart enough to do this. You’re the best rider in the village and you’re one of the few gifted that we have. Don’t disappoint me.”
Mercy felt a droplet of water sliding down her cheek. She reached up and wiped it away, only to see a long scarlet smear on her hand. Her hand began to tremble, as the clouds above them suddenly burst with a sheet of pounding red rain. Instantly, a terrible keening noise echoed through the forest. It sounded piercing, like a woman’s scream, but there was something more raw and terrifying behind it.
Other screeches began to answer it from all around them. It was a cacophony of howls coming from what sounded like the entire tribe of Blood Wings, and they were already in the canopy. She had never heard so many bestial shrieks. Just one frenzied Blood Wing could make a sound that could practically paralyze a victim in fear, but this was a chorus that rang above the sound of thunder and swept through the village like the howling of a gale wind.
Catches the Eye said in a terrified whisper that Mercy barely could hear, “We’re out of time. Go, now!”
Pyron and Beryl’s Contact
(Mercy is rescued after fleeing her village in her search for the cause of the blood rain. The two men that find her are on the same mission and have a contact who might know more. Their contact is one of the enemies of Mercy’s people, one of the shape-shifting Blood Wings.)
Carmine waved a dismissive hand. “Well, you’re here now. I guess that means you want information, as usual. Do you mind if I change into something more comfortable?”
“Not at all.”
“Thank the gods for small favors. I was starting to get a cramp.”
Mercy stared in horrified fascination as Carmine slowly began to change before her eyes. His skin stretched awkwardly, like putty being pulled too thin, until it was almost transparent. The suit turned into thin black and gray fur that covered his torso. The only part of the clothing on his upper body that wasn’t an illusion was a solid silver medallion with marbled red and black stone in a ring around its center. She realized the image on the medallion was an eye with a perfectly round halo of red around it.
Leathery skin ballooned out from his thin, elongated arms, which she could now see were wings. The pants were real, but his dress shoes were now forming into clawed feet with dark footpads. With a long yawn, his fangs stretched out across his lips. When he opened his eyes again they were a deep purple that produced a halo of reddish light around them, and his ears were huge and conical.
Mercy stammered. “You’re the contact? But you seemed so human.”
Carmine smiled cynically. “Sorry to disappoint you, Love.”
Mercy said through gritted teeth, “Mercy.”
“Where did you pick her up, Pyron? She’s absolutely charming. Not for sale is she? I could use another pretty serving wench.”
Mercy grabbed the collar and snapped it off. “I’m not a slave.”
Carmine raised an eyebrow and looked at Pyron.
“She isn’t a slave. I found her collapsed in front of the lighthouse. Apparently, your people got a little crazy due to the unusual weather we’ve been having.”
“Ah, I see. And, who is your other friend?”
“Unusual to see one of your kind on the surface unless the rumors are true. So a Merman prince really did go missing. That’s a useful bit of information, don’t you think?”
Beryl asked flatly, “What are you talking about?”
Carmine rolled his eyes. “I can recognize another shape-shifter. I’m not grotesquely stupid. Did you think you could just not say anything and I wouldn’t notice?”
Pryon snapped, “You are grotesquely stupid if you don’t close your mouth. Shut up, Carmine.”
Pyron cast a significant glance at Mercy, but that just made Carmine’s grin wider.
“Oh, she didn’t know. This is going to be an amusing evening. I can tell.”
Blood Addicts in the Blood Wing Caverns
(While waiting on Erebus, one of the Blood Wings that has allied himself to Mercy to search for those responsible for the blood rain, Mercy and her friend Mirilee are attacked by a group of blood addicts. When things are looking desperate, Erebus returns and uses magic, a force that hasn’t been seen in the world in over a hundred years, to protect her.)
Black tendrils of shadow reached up and grabbed Marrow’s arms and legs. They yanked him down, knocking Mercy over, but his hands and face were thankfully wrenched away from her skin. She could hear the horrible ripping and snapping sounds and knew what the shadows were doing to her captor. They were quartering him. She tried to look away, but saw the outline of his limbs parting from his body and felt the warm spray of blood wash over her.
Mercy turned and looked at Erebus in revulsion. A look of hurt understanding ran across his face. He began to say something, but before he could speak he began to scream in physical pain, holding his head and stumbling around. Blood was pouring from his ears, eyes, nose, and mouth. His body and face began to change.
His violet glowing eyes changed into the color of a clear sky blue. His fur receded along with his leathery wings, and his fangs and muzzle shrank down until they were a human mouth and nose. The features fit Erebus just as much as those in his beast form, if not more. His body shuttered one last time, as though shaking off every last semblance of his bestial nature. He looked at his hands with a shocked expression and then fell unconscious.
Cruor caught Erebus before he could hit the floor and snapped, “You just had to use your abilities in front of them. In some ways, Marrow might’ve been right.”
Mercy didn’t waste the distraction of her enemies. She drew her bow and readied an arrow just in time. Grimes was limping towards her, clearly taking advantage of the fact Erebus was incapacitated. She released the arrow and it hit Grimes squarely in the chest. He clutched at the wound and fell down, rasping for breath. His brother Dread rushed forward. Mercy knew she wouldn’t have time to nock the second arrow, so she braced herself for the impact of his body – only to find he abruptly stopped with a stunned look on his face and then fell forward. Mirilee had hit him squarely in the back with one of her throwing daggers. He toppled over, dead.
Mercy saw Brine’s eyes began to roll back in her head. Blood was everywhere in the room, and it seemed that the Blood Wing’s own blood made them frenzy as easily as that of the tribal people. She howled and rushed at the closest person in the room, which happened to be Mirilee. Before Mercy could shoot Brine with an arrow, Cruor threw a long ornate spear which hit Brine directly in the neck. She died instantly.
Cruor said sternly, “You need to go, now. Go back out the way you came in and take Erebus with you. The guards should still be asleep. I’ll meet you where Erebus left the mounts.”
The Glass Dunes
(While Erebus is recovering from his injuries sustained in the Blood Wing caverns, they camp on the fringes of the desert. Mirilee tells them a story about her people and how the glass dunes came to exist. It shows that when magic was prevalent in the world it left its mark in many disturbing ways, charging places with destructive energy.)
Mercy put a hand just a little above her eyes and nearly screamed at the sight. The three people by the campfire looked exactly like each one of them, mimicking their movements from earlier perfectly. Mercy even saw herself spooning broth into Erebus’ mouth. The group was backwards from the way they were sitting, as though she was looking at an image of them in a reflection.
Mercy stammered. “How? I don’t understand.”
Mirilee said, “Because, that’s what this place does. I don’t know how it happens, but it copies what it sees. It lures people in by using images of others.”
“You’re talking as if this area is a living thing.”
“Of all people, I would think that you could believe that a place is a living thing. Your people worship the forest and believe every plant and tree has some sort of living essence to it. Why not the desert? It might seem barren, but I assure you it isn’t. My people believe only in the God of the Stars, but I have to admit that this place does have some sort of presence that I can’t explain.”
Mercy frowned. She had never thought of it that way before, but the desert sands did consist of eroded rocks and earth, and hundreds of small animals made it their home. Several types of unique plants lived there as well. Why not the desert?
Erebus asked in a frightened whisper, “How does it lure them in?”
“If someone lost in the desert sees this image, they’ll want to come and warm themselves by the fire or travel with a larger group. They’ll go in and as soon as they get close, they’ll see it wasn’t real and the illusion will literally melt away. Then the Glass Dunes have them.”
Mercy felt sick with fear. “What happens then?”
“I don’t know. All I do know is that most of the people that go in usually don’t come back out, and if they do, they’re never the same. There are places where the glass is brittle and will break around them, and heaven knows where they would fall. Also, there are some predators that have adapted to living in the dunes that prey on those that wander in, but there are worse things than that out there.”
She shivered and pulled her blanket around her shoulders.
“I felt despair and anger coming from this place, but I didn’t understand why. What happened here, Mirilee?”
“I don’t know how much is legend and how much is truth, but my grandfather told me that during the calamity, my people fought against the Ashen capital. They weren’t always nomadic. During that time, the glass dunes were an oasis within the desert. My people lived there and it was our capital city.”
Erebus peered at the glass dunes. “It’s hard to imagine this as an oasis.”
Mirilee nodded. “According to the legend, one day it rained fire and a dust devil of white fire as wide as the city itself swept through.
In the Cemetery of the Condemned
(Mirilee, her friend Kylas, and Mercy, are trying to escape from the desert beast men, the Stealer Wings. Kylas was imprisoned for spying on them. When they escape the jail cells, they decide to risk cutting through a run-down cemetery that the Stealer Wings are afraid to enter. They realize something dangerous and evil is watching them from the stone cold eyes of one of the statues.)
The only figures around them were weathered, stone statues. One of them in particular made Mercy nervous. She couldn’t tell what the statue was supposed to depict, but she guessed it was death himself. The figure was shrouded in a robe and its face was covered by a cowl. Long, gnarled fingers with long sharp nails poked out of the sleeves of its robes ominously. Both of its claws gripped sharp looking sickles that were made of metal instead of stone.
Mercy tried to keep her voice from shaking, but she failed miserably as she asked, “Mirilee, what is that figure?”
“It’s the Fallen One. The God of the Stars cast him out, because he became corrupted by darkness. He harvests the souls of evil men like wheat with his sickles.”
Mercy glanced behind her and her mouth became entirely dry as she realized the sickles were no longer hanging idly at the statue’s side. They were lifted up and crossed above its torso. The statue was frozen that way, making her wonder if it was her imagination playing tricks on her, but she had a horrible feeling that it wasn’t. She stared at the statue, as though daring it to move, but it simply stood there in silence.
Mercy said in a terrified whisper, “That statue moved.”
Mirilee said, “It couldn’t have. It’s just a statue.”
Kylas frowned. There was clearly something on his mind that he didn’t want to share.
“You’re awful quiet, Kylas, and I’ve seen that look on your face before,” Mirilee whispered.
“It’s just when I went to trade at Concord, the Northerners told me a story. They said statues can be possessed by creatures called goyles, and then they move.”
Mirilee rolled her eyes. “They probably told you that story just to scare you.”
He shook his head. “They seemed pretty scared talking about it. They said goyles are normally invisible, and they feed on negative feelings. They torture people to death so that they get as many emotions from them as they can before they die.”
Mercy glanced back at the statue – only to see that it wasn’t there. She fought back the urge to scream and continued to walk forward at a faster pace, realizing that there were plenty of trees and tall tombstones around them for it to hide behind for an ambush. She tried not to call anyone’s attention to the fact it was gone.
Mirilee laughed. “You aren’t scary, Kylas.”
“Look, that’s just what I heard. I’m not saying they’re real. You’re probably right. They’re probably just a story to scare kids into behaving themselves. Mercy, where did that statue go?”
Mirilee turned and her face became pale.
Mercy asked, “If such a creature did exist, how would a person fight it?”
Nancy Gray lives in West Columbia, SC, with her husband, two daughters, and two crazy cats. She attended college at the University of South Carolina and attained a BA in Media Arts with a cognate in English. Her original career was as a graphic designer but writing is her calling. Her favorite genres to write are horror, fantasy (particularly young adult), steampunk, cyberpunk, urban fantasy, and occasionally light science fiction (space opera). Many of her short stories and novels also blur the lines of genre fiction. Nancy is an avid reader and also enjoys drawing, video games, and table top role playing games. She also enjoys anime and manga.