Feral Magic, стр. 1
The Chronopoint Chronicles: Origins
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About the Author
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Copyright © 2020 J.E. REED
All rights reserved. Except as permitted under the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise without written permission of the publisher.
This book is a work of fiction. Any names, characters, places, events, or incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any similarities or resemblance to actual persons, living or dead; events; or places is entirely coincidental.
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To Mandy, for teaching me life is meant to be lived.
Three months before Kiuno…
Vixin prowled through the forest with feather-light steps, running her fingertips over the rough tree bark while scanning the area for any signs of life. She’d seen nothing but animals for hours. Animals that didn’t seem to be as frightened of a human’s presence as they should have been.
Her skin prickled as a chilly breeze ruffled her red hair and she resisted the shudder that ran down her spine. Her brows scrunched as she ran her hands over delicate budding leaves and lingered on a thorn. Whatever this place was, it certainly didn’t feel like a dream.
She scanned the forest again, running her eyes up and down trunks before double checking the foliage beneath. All wrong. Everything about this place was wrong. The bushes. The trees. None of it grew together. Not anywhere in the world she knew anyway. And she knew a lot. Geography was a subject she studied intensely, not only for school purposes, but for survival. One never knew where they could end up. Plane crashes. Train derailments. She’d read all the stories.
Vixin fingered the leaf again. Spring. Early, if she were to guess from the temperature. But that didn’t make sense. She’d looked at the calendar last night. January fifteenth. In two days, she was to undertake another test from her father. She’d been waiting for it, preparing for months.
Could he have planned a surprise test instead? Try to make her panic and falter under the pressure?
She crouched and glanced toward the bracelet encircling her wrist. A braided leather strap went through a single tan stone. ‘Vixin’ had been engraved on the surface.
It wasn’t her actual name, of course, but she’d used it enough times that it didn’t bother her to use it now.
Especially since she couldn’t recall her own.
Vixin huffed and stood, examining the treetops for what seemed to be the hundredth time. She’d already run her fingers through her hair, searching for a bump that might indicate she’d hit her head. Her father always stopped her tests if she injured herself. That was the only way he’d agree to them. And if she couldn’t recall her name, then there was a good chance she’d had some kind of mishap.
But her father wasn’t here.
And her father was always there. It didn’t matter how difficult the exercise proved. Nor the climate. He never left her unattended.
Which only meant one thing.
This wasn’t a training exercise.
Vixin stepped over a twig, careful of her footing. She didn’t want to be tracked, and though it was a hard-learned skill, she wasn’t about to risk it. If anyone was trying to follow her, they’d have a hard time of it.
She searched the ground, continuing her trek through the woods. Still nothing human, but at least there’d be enough food should she be stuck out here for a few days. Judging from the chill in the air, the nights would be cold, which meant a fire. And a fire could attract unwanted attention.
She’d have to be careful.
Shouting had her falling back, pressing herself against a tree. She waited, surveying her surroundings.
Vixin remained still and the shouting shifted to screams. Maybe someone had fallen and injured themselves. She didn’t particularly care, but at the very least she might get some answers.
Vixin crawled from behind the tree and stalked toward the voice. She kept her steps quiet, her breathing even.
Whimpering followed, and she pressed herself against another tree to examine the scene.
Six lanky men stood over two hunkering figures. Her gaze roamed toward those on the ground, and she noted their bound hands and the scraps over their body. One even sported a black eye.
“Please, stop.” The black-eyed boy bent his head to the ground. Vixin snorted. She’d die long before begging for anything. Her gaze shifted to his bound companion, but his blank stare told her enough. He’d given up, accepted defeat. At least he was willing to take his punishment in silence.
Vixin took to examining the captors, surprised to find them in relatively normal attire. Skinny jeans, poorly dyed hair, and T-shirts with logos she recognized from one band or another. Not men at all. Boys. Bullies.
One flipped a knife in his hand and Vixin turned away. She didn’t need to get involved. It wasn’t her business whether they were actually bullies or just dealing out punishment. She needed to focus on herself, figure out the situation at hand.
A twig snapped and Vixin cursed. She whirled, her hand reflexively reaching for her hunting knife, but it wrapped around empty air. She took a step back and dropped into a stance. Weapon or no, she could still fight off an attacker.
The young man before her was a bit thicker than his companions, and his hair was greased back with far too much product to label him as a threat.