Eustis Wilfrock once said, “Just because things don’t turn out the way you expect doesn’t make it a failure.” Well, things have not been going as I expected this time last year. I fully intended, once upon a time, to have Recast Light out in time for preorders, which obviously didn’t happen, and now it’s looking like it won’t be available by June 30th either. I have only a chapter and a half left to edit, but those chapters are the trickiest. Then comes formatting, which can either be very easy or drenched in technological problems which should not be possible (have I told the story about how Word added an invisible page to my Outcast Shadows document, thus swapping the following even and odd page numbers to the wrong side? Well it did…). Once formatted, I have to send the final cover template to my sister/illustrator (this depends on the final page count for the spine width), then I’ll upload it and order a sample copy to make sure the colors and formatting all look like they’re supposed to, and only then will I okay it for purchase. Thus, Recast Light will be out in July, hopefully sooner rather than later.
In the meantime, here is a sneak peek of things to come. The prologue and first chapter are much too spoilery for people who haven’t read Outcast Shadows, so I took a part of Chapter 3: Black and White and Dead All Over instead. Enjoy!
“For the record,” Heidi said, as she and Misha scoured Chiaroscuro’s lower levels for any sign of his sister, “I still think you’re crazy.”
“I hope I am,” Misha said.
“I’m only helping you find Danika so she can have you committed.”
“We probably should be.”
“Speak for yourself,” she said with a sniff. “I’m not the one dumping all my memories or going on about conspiracy theories. I mean, you do realize that if this Alcea person had Danika set a bomb for her—which I’m not saying Danika wouldn’t do, but still—and then you did all that stuff like giving the Queen of Styx your memories and smuggling humans in and out of the city, wouldn’t it have blown up a long time ago?”
“Danika said they were waiting to set it. And now that Alcea’s contract with Sebastian has actually gone into effect, and he can’t get out of it anymore, the ideal time to set off the bomb would be now.”
They had come to a particularly shady part of town—in all senses of the word—and walked past greasy eateries and walls encrusted with decades-worth of grime that had dripped down from the upper levels. It was here that one could acquire illegally-fashioned hats for personal travel, as well as other ill-gotten goods. Given Danika’s proclivity for creating contraband concoctions, she was well known in the area. A few goblins pointed Misha and Heidi towards a food stall frequented by “that loony chemical merchant”, and sure enough, they saw a slender shadow goblin with pince-nez glasses and disheveled hair leaning over a bowl of soup.
“Danika!” Misha cried, “we need to talk!”
“Hmm?” She turned, slurping a wad of noodles into her mouth. “Oh, Misha! The police have been looking all over for you. Are you in some kind of trouble?”
“We all are,” he said, lowering his voice. “Listen, remember a few months back how you sold Alcea those chemicals?”
“Funny you should mention that.”
“Funny how?” Heidi narrowed her eyes, finally ready to believe Misha’s story.
“Well, earlier today Alcea showed up and said it would be a great time to finally set it off, since that way everyone will get to see it.”
“Set it? Well, of course I did! What’s the point of having a bomb if you don’t get to see it blow up?”
Heidi flexed her fingers, fighting the urge to get them around Danika’s neck, but settled on raking them through her own hair.
“Why am I friends with you idiots!”
“Where is it, Danika?” Misha asked. “How long ago did you set it? How much time do you we have?”
“Calm down! It’s in a cave by the ocean somewhere. Alcea said we’ll definitely be able to see it from here, though.”
“Oh, that’s encouraging,” Heidi muttered.
“And I’d estimate the blast will be around twilight. For a bomb like the one Alcea had, Gremlins build in a timer to give them time to run away on foot if their hypothetical flying machine crashes, and you know how small Gremlin feet are.”
“Then that gives us some time,” Misha said. “Listen, I’ve got to get back to Sebastian, but you two, try and figure out how close to the city it is, and see if you can defuse it.”
“I don’t see why you two are making a big deal out of this,” Danika said, finishing her meal as Misha left. “It’s not like Alcea would be careless enough to have me set a bomb anywhere near to the city.”
“Careless has nothing to do with it. Misha thinks she did it on purpose, to get rid of us and entrap the king.”
“You both are, but for the moment, I’m going to side with Misha. Let’s assume Alcea has ulterior motives—No, actually, let’s assume she has the motives a normal person would have for blowing something up, i.e. killing lots of people, the most people she could. How would she do that?”
“Since we’re being hypothetical,” Danika said with a shrug, “she’d put the bomb in the very center of the city, since the blast radius would just about encapsulate everyone. But, like I said, it’s out of town.”
“Yeah, yeah. So the city center… that would be this way, right?”
They headed up to a region of Chiaroscuro colloquially known as “The Park”, a large public area spanning several of the city's larger rooftops. It was devoid of any vegetation, which could not have survived centuries inside a shadow, and was instead comprised of winding paths, hanging mobiles, and sculptures made of metal and stone. Pools of rainwater had formed in some spots and the sun beat down all around. The Chiaroscurans had never built any shaded areas because they had never needed any, though several women walked under parasols which they had once carried merely for aesthetic reasons.
“Ok, this is roughly the middle of town, so… Huh? What’s wrong?”
Danika stood, gaped mouth, pointing to a crowd gathered around a four-foot-around sphere with a patchwork of screwed together seams covering its metal surface.
“What?” Heidi continued. “I mean, it’s not to my taste either, but there’s no need to be rude.”
“It’s not a sculpture,” she whispered through gritted teeth.
“You mean… That? There? That thing right there? I thought it would be like the size of an egg? How did Alcea bring something that big through a hat?”
“Maybe it’s… a different bomb?”
Heidi uttered an incredulous “ugh” then approached one of the goblins inspecting the sphere.
“Um, so, when did this, uh, sculpture get here?”
“A few minutes ago,” he said. “I think a dog brought it.”
“A… a dog? Like one of those animals humans use for hunting?”
“Well, I’ve seen a drawing of a dog, and I’m pretty sure it was a dog.”
“Dogs don’t wear clothes, though,” said another goblin. “And anyway, I think it was summoned.”
“No, this ball. The dog-looking-thing reached over its shoulder and sort… brought the ball into being, like some sort of… dog-faced magician.”
Heidi walked back to Danika, who hadn’t moved.
“There, you see?” Danika said with a twitch. “It was a Gremlin that summoned it. Alcea doesn’t know any Gremlins. I think.”
“Who cares how it got here! Can you defuse it?”
“Oh, no. I-I couldn’t possibly.”
“And why is that?” Heidi asked, finally losing it. She grabbed Danika by the collar and yanked her head down so they were eye to eye.
“I’m a total novice. Once a bomb is set, a series of locks—built in by the original Gremlin technician who designed the bomb—make it almost impossible to undo. They design them that way so once an assault is called, it can’t be called off, no matter what. And if we tried to cut it up with our shadow, that could set it off, too. We’re… we’re all gonna die!”
“Hey! Shh,” Heidi said, eyeing the crowd who thankfully hadn’t heard.
“And it’s all my fault. I just wanted to see an explosion, but now it’s gonna go off and it’ll hit everyone in the city and we’ll be black and white and dead all ov—”
“Shut up!” Heidi said, slapping her. “We’re not done for yet. Misha said help should already be on its way.”
“Help? From who? Sebastian, or…”
“Even better. He said that he personally met with the Queen of Styx and her two magicians. If they can’t figure out how to get rid of this bomb, no one can.”
She held a determined fist up in front of her face, then shook it and smacked herself on the forehead.
“That is… if Misha actually met them, and hasn’t completely lost it!”