Welcome to What to Read Wednesday! Please help me welcome YA author Melissa Eskue Ousley to the blog. Melissa wrote an interesting guest post that I really enjoyed and think you will too! She’s also sharing her latest release The Rabbit and the Raven, book two in the Solas Beir trilogy.
At the end of the post, please follow the link to enter Melissa’s giveaway :)
Take it away Melissa…
The Kruorumbrae of Cai Terenmare
As I was doing research to writeThe Solas Beir Trilogy, I found many legends about bogeymen, someof whichhave shape-shifting abilities. The phooka is a hobgoblin that often appears in Irish folklore as a trickster, and can appear in a number of forms: a shadow, smoke, or animals with black fur. In South America, there are similar myths about shape-shifting creatures that appear as jaguars. In Western history, the black cat was said to have the power to shape-shift, taking on human form as a spy for witches or demons. Another shape-shifter, Oude Rode Ogen, or Old Red Eyes, from Belgium, can change from human form to that of a black dog, and is thought to be cannibalistic. These stories have similar elements, and became the inspiration for the Kruorumbrae of Cai Terenmare, a magical parallel world. I imagined that some of these predators had found their way to Earth, inspiring our bogeyman myths.
Also known as Blood Shadows, these vicious monsters feed on the blood and life force of other living creatures. They are shape-shifters, changing their form to hide in plain sight as animals. The most powerful of the Kruorumbrae can even change into someone who looks and acts familiar to you, stealing that person’s body and using it as a disguise. These creatures serve Tynan Tierney, an evil lord aligned with the Darkness. Tierney calls himself the Kruor um Beir, or the King of Blood and Shadows. His goal is to seize the throne of the Solas Beir and rule Cai Terenmare.
In addition to feeding on the bodies of the living, the Kruorumbrae are parasites, feeding off psychic energy and fear. To prevent this, gifts can be presented to appease the appetites of the Blood Shadows, butnot any gift will do. Traditionally milk and honey are offered because these foods are more potent than others, having been obtained from creatures who expended great energy in producing them.
There are several other ways to keep the Kruorumbrae at bay. Sea salt or even common table salt can be helpful in creating circles of protection or blocking passage from windows and doors. For smaller Kruorumbrae, contact with salt can be deadly. For a larger Blood Shadow, crossing a line of salt will cause burns. The longer the creature maintains contact with the circle, the more likely it is to burst into flames. Fire or silver can also be used to slay Kruorumbrae. Silver is an effective weapon because the Blood Shadows are allergic to it. If they touch it, their skin burns, and they can be killed with a silver blade.
In The Rabbit and the Raven, David and Abby will need all these tricks and more as they journey throughout Cai Terenmare, seeking alliances with the Oracles against Tierney. They will find that their new world is more dangerous than they imagined, because it’s not just creatures of darkness they need to worry about. It’s the darkness within their own hearts.
Darkness is beguiling…and power always comes with a price.
Adopted by loving parents, David Corbin had no idea his life was a lie. Then he met a girl. Abby Brown freed David from the spell keeping him from the truth, that he was the lost heir to the throne in a magical realm.
Even though he got the girl and gained a kingdom, David had no clue about the unfathomable power he would inherit, nor did he realize how much he would have to sacrifice to keep the throne.
If there is any hope of winning the war against the deadly Kruorumbrae, David and Abby will have to journey to the outer edges of the realm to secure the loyalty of the four Oracles. Along the way, they will learn just how seductive darkness can be.
Out of the shadows of the labyrinth, a massive beast emerged. He was bigger than Calder had been, but while Calder had been a hairless, muscled brute, this feline creature was lean, muscled in a way that was beautiful and terrible at the same time. He had the look of a sophisticated and efficient killer—covered in thick, shiny fur with black-on-black stripes. He approached Abby with a menacing deliberateness, bearing long, primeval fangs.
“Hello, Rabbit,” the creature said as he circled her slowly. “I’ve been waiting for you.”
Abby could feel the beast’s hot breath on her skin. Don’t show fear, she thought, planting her feet in a fighting stance and drawing herself up to look taller, brawnier. Look him straight in the eye. If you’re going to die, at least have a little dignity about it. She stared into his eyes and spoke his name: “Tierney.”
The creature stared back, eyeing Abby’s clenched jaw and defensive stance, and then he smiled apologetically. “Oh, I’m so sorry,” Tierney said. “I forget this face can be, shall we say, rather off-putting. Allow me to present a more pleasing visage.” His form changed, melting away like smoke, leaving black ashes lingering in the air. In the creature’s place stood a handsome young man with dark eyes—nothing like the beast he had just been.
Don’t be fooled by the illusion, Abby told herself. He’s the same monster he was before—it’s just a mask. She stood her ground, infusing her voice with authority. “On the contrary. You know that face is off-putting. That’s why you wore it.”
To her surprise, Tierney started laughing—not a mean, condescending laugh, but one of genuine, unguarded amusement. It wasn’t quite the response Abby had expected.
“Well, now,” he chuckled, “you are a surprisingly perceptive one. Do you know why I’m here?”
“I assume it’s to get to the Solas Beir by killing me,” Abby said.
“Oh, come now, Rabbit, I’m hurt. I have absolutely no such plans. None at all,” Tierney replied.
“I have trouble believing that—your reputation precedes you,” she said.
“Well, dear Rabbit, a reputation is really quite subjective, don’t you think? And you must concede that your sources may be a bit biased when it comes to me.” He began circling her again, looking her up and down. “Actually, I’m here because I heard a very interesting story about you. And I must say, I think there’s more to you than I was originally led to believe. I heard that an ordinary human girl rescued the Lightbearer by killing a Blood Shadow—and not just any Blood Shadow, mind you, but one of the strongest among us. And I wondered to myself, an ordinary human girl? How can that be?”
Abby noticed that Tierney used the term “Lightbearer” rather than David’s formal title of Solas Beir. She didn’t think it was an accident. In fact, she was certain that Tynan Tierney never said or did anything that wasn’t calculated. “What is it you want, exactly?” she demanded, putting her hands on her hips.
“Only to see if the story was true. I can see now that you’ve been underestimated. Clearly, you are no ordinary human girl. You are turning out to be much more interesting than I thought you would be, pretty little c’aislingaer,” he said.
Abby glared at him. “Thanks, but you can’t fool me into falling for flattery.”
Suddenly Tierney stepped close to Abby, his arms pulling her to him, his breath on her neck as he whispered in her ear. “No, indeed I cannot. For I have met many a fool, and you are not one.”
He was so warm, and his touch made her skin tingle, much to her chagrin. She fought to show no response, reminding herself to keep her guard up.
He continued, his lips almost grazing her skin as he talked. “What I want, Abigail, is to show you the truth—to help you see my side of the story so you can decide for yourself if my so-called reputation is deserved.” He pulled away suddenly, his head cocked to one side as if he had heard something.
Abby heard nothing.
Tierney turned back, his dark eyes on her. “Your boyfriend is coming. Better not let him catch you fraternizing with the enemy. Until we meet again, little Rabbit.” Taking her hand, he held it to his lips, kissing it with a disarming tenderness. Then he was gone—not in some magic puff of smoke, but simply not there anymore.
Abby heard the crack of a twig breaking as someone approached. Rather than feeling a sense of relief, she felt oddly guilty, like she had been caught in the act of doing something wrong. She had just survived what should have been a lethal encounter with a monster, but instead of being frightened of Tierney, she found herself attracted to him. And that terrified her.
Melissa Eskue Ousley lives in the Pacific Northwest of the United States with her family and their Kelpie, Gryphon. When she’s not writing, Melissa can be found hiking, swimming, scuba diving, kayaking, or walking along the beach, poking dead things with a stick.
Before she became a writer, she had a number of educational jobs, ranging from a summer spent scraping road kill off a molten desert highway, to years spent conducting research with an amazing team of educators at the University of Arizona. Her interests in psychology, culture, and mythology have influenced her writing of The Solas Beir Trilogy.
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