Here is the beginning of my first supernatural fantasy novel, Botanical Malice. It is the first book in a trilogy (as epic fantasies tend to be) and features a rather unconventional heroine, Rue Macabre, a bi-sexual, rum swigging, demon slugging bar tender who finds herself hunted by botanical golem assassins and only has an ex-priest, a fragile shaman and two violent Cornish piskies to help her. It’s about to get very dark.
I’d love to know what you all think.
Rue Macabre woke on the Second Day of the Seventh Month with worst sodding hangover in her drinking history. Her first mistake had been opening her eyes a wee crack and experiencing the vicious, yellow sun blasting her vision and her second mistake was opening them further.
‘Hey, Lover’, Frankie’s sticky, treacle love bug voice flowed over Rue’s banging head. ‘Mph’, Rue managed before sprinting to the bathroom where she heaved half a bottle of ingested rum into the sink.
‘Better out than in’, Rue managed as she pulled herself upright using the sink housing as leverage. After glancing in the mirror and then groaning in disgust, Rue dry heaved again a few times, the sour mash of semi-digested rum flooding her mouth before moving back to the doorway of the bedroom.
Frankie lay pale, lithe and inviting across the mess of sheets and blankets. She was made for sex the way profiteroles are made for cream. Everything about her oozed voluptuous ripeness, from her natural smell of honey and sunshine to her creamy curves. Every surface of Frankie seemed to scream ‘lick me, bite me, love me’. And Rue had obliged happily on several rigorous occasions. Frankie had the black-Irish look, ice-blue eyes, hair the colour of tourmaline and a mind as inventive as Messalina but a lovely girl, really. It was just that Rue didn’t want baggage of any kind and her lover was getting hungry for something more, something Rue didn’t have to give and it was with a little regret that Rue had decided to cool things off.
‘Come back to bed, lover, Come back to bed, Rue Macabre, eater of my soul and commander of my lust’, Frankie invited, licking her raspberry lips, sweet and sharp like elderflower.
‘Ach, you do have a way with words, honeybee, you really do’, Rue sighed.
Frankie smiled and stretched herself in that way the makes a girl speechless. ‘Aye, I have a way with lots of things’, she countered, piling on the Clare brogue. Frankie came from a tiny village near the coast of County Clare where the ocean had smashed the rocks for millennia carving its own beauty into the cliffs of Moher that rose up fearless from the sea.
Her parents, Eileen and Gerrard Darcy, were God-fearing, ‘sin is fire’ Catholic farmers and Frankie was the only daughter in a family of six strapping brothers who worked the land, gave no trouble and married strapping girls who gave them dozens of red-cheeked bawlers. Nothing had changed for centuries in the Darcy family until their daughter Frankie managed to stutter one Sunday lunchtime that she wasn’t the marrying kind. Her hateful brother Seamus had added that was because she liked to kiss girls and it was sinful beyond measure. Then had sat back and watched as the Darcy family imploded.
Frankie had told Rue that she had ridden horses bare back under the full moon, holding her arms up to the Goddess and inviting her for a ‘ride’ when she was growing up but Rue dismissed that as that particular type of Irish fantasy that probably comes from the memory of being Fae centuries ago.
The sun was still working its wicked magic through the gaps in the shutters. Rue observed that she always preferred to stay over at her current lover’s house rather than invite them to stay at hers. She enjoyed the freedom of leaving when she wanted, sometimes at 3.00 am if the demons were too loud or the magic flared to brightly and she needed to walk Edinburgh until the sun came up and the inevitable hangover had beaten a wee retreat.
Rue Macabre was full of magic and it flared from her hands many times a day, particularly if she was upset or felt threatened. These waves of light and colour had started after her younger sister, Lily, was abducted, but by the time Rue realised she was different from the rest of the children she lived with, her mother was already dead and she had no one reliable or safe to ask.
So the magic kept flaring in vivid colours and it seemed to change with either her mood or her adrenaline response, Rue wasn’t at all sure and as she got older she tried to box it up and forget about it. Wearing gloves helped and during her cyber Goth stage this worked well but summers were a blistering grind and she felt powerless and freakish. Rue felt suddenly irritable.
‘I’ve got to go, I’ve a shift at the soul stealer’. Rue willed her magic back into her hands and stepped into the bedroom to face Frankie’s disappointment. And there it was painted into the plump of her mouth and the temporary wrinkles on her forehead. And suddenly, Rue felt tired of everything. The lies, the penance, Frankie’s pouting and her awful sodding job and was at the door dressed in minutes.
‘Will I see you tonight’, Frankie asked quietly. There was a long pause of the excruciating kind that implies the direct opposite of the question asked. Standing with her hand on the polished bronze doorknob and her back to Frankie, Rue studied the serpentine cracks in the wood door before replying quietly, ‘I don’t know, I might be late. I’ll ring you.’ And then she left leaving Frankie to fling a cushion at the closing door and a stream of very un-catholic invective at her lover’s back.
Rue carried on down the stirs, colour and light flaring from her hands before being quenched by the hefty CAT work gloves that she pulled from her bag. Pulling open the robust front door, Rue was struck yet again how peaceful New Town was. The sky, a dull over-washed grey, the cobbles attempting to copy it like a faithful pair of shoes and Edinburgh’s beautiful and plain, shopping and drinking and fucking in a regular, by your watch way that made Rue grateful and thirsty.
Ignoring the heat surging from her hands she pulled her blue velveteen collar tight up around her neck and walked up the road to the bus stop, pretending to be a normal girl, on a normal street going to her dead-end job on a Thursday afternoon.