Her past is postage due and centaurs are ready to collect.
Through Rain and Missing Mantaurs is a dark fantasy most daring and eccentric. A tale not for the faint of heart. Pony is a bipedal half-breed centaur with no desire to waste tears on a past she can’t remember. She’s busy enough with her mail routes and package deliveries, and of course, floundering through hot-cold love affairs with the high class courtesans Mardyth and Lullaby.
The mundane drudgery of her life shatters when Konstantine Bywater takes over as Lightfoot Delivery’s new boss. He asks questions she can’t possibly answer, and stirs up a tragic past better left dead and buried.
But running away is no longer an option. Not when Kon and his minions accuse Mardyth of an unspeakable crime. With her lover’s life at stake, Pony won’t stop until she uncovers not only the truth of Mardyth’s innocence, but the truth of the past as well.
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Saddle-sweating, horse-humping, gods-cursed bastards! The rumors were true. Shit! Bad luck must be in love with me or something. Maybe it could give Mardyth lessons.
Arms pumping high and heart hammering in her parched throat, Pony pushed to reach her top speed. The rumble of centaur hooves behind her vibrated both earth and air. She absorbed those rumbling shock waves into her svelte, bipedal runner’s body. And knew her two human legs—versus their four equine ones—would not be enough.
Still, she would try.
The sweltering heat weighed heavy. Her ratty brown and tan courier’s tunic clung like a starving tick. Rocks and pebbles further split the threadbare soles of her worn-out boots as she pounded down the rutted road. She grimaced at the sweaty slap of calloused arches sliding around in rotted footwear that could fall apart any day now.
Pony squinted at the onslaught of bright blue sky. Her brain cooked in its own juices as the summer sun withered the forest corridor. Her brown hair slipped from its limp topknot; stray strands plastered her sunburned cheeks. It was almost too hot to breathe. Too dry to live. And the damn fools giving chase wanted to die of heatstroke right alongside her.
As it always did in situations like these, Callum’s unfavorable input surfaced to harass her. Stupid, gods-damned centaurs—worthless scraps of horsemeat to toss to the dogs. Her former guardian’s mantra, though crude and offensive, might hold slivers of truth. It was most certainly stupid to be running full-out in this blistering heat. At any other time, she might’ve been curious about this, her first ever centaur encounter.
Just to say she’d finally met one.
Give a lecture about overexertion in extreme weather.
Maybe engage in some harmless flirting.
To finally decide, once and for all, that Callum was right about them.
But not when this chase proved that they were hunting for courier blood.
Any courier’s blood.
Keep running. Don’t look back.
She looked back.
Six tall shapes, the merging of man and equine. Hooves kicking up clouds of rising dust. The whip of long, flashing manes. The distance between them shrank with each passing second.
Her mail satchel, empty except for the meager bait of Escape Plan Number Two, bounced against her spine. Slung across her chest and anchored into the strap of her mailbag, a dozen small throwing blades awaited use. The large knife hanging at her hip, anchored at her thigh, allowed slight consolation.
Escape Plan Number One took the form of the few coins she couldn’t spare; the bits of metal jingled in her trouser pocket, muffled by a scrap of cloth.
Your job is to run, but hold strength in reserve. Callum’s voice echoed in the back of her mind. If cornered, kill without hesitation or remorse.
Okay. Good advice. She was good at running. That was all she ever did.
Pony crushed dry cracked lips between her teeth. Escape Plan Number One never failed. But would this tactic work on centaurs?
Wait. She had to revise that. Would Escape Plan Number One work on murderous, marauding centaurs who’d probably noticed she was a half-breed suffering through the last few days of her estrus?
If Callum were alive, he would’ve wagered against her.
Might as well give the plan a go, Horsemeat.
She sensed the distance closing between them. Imagined their hot breath blowing down the back of her neck. Their tall, bizarre forms hovering over her. Their hands tearing at her tunic to confirm the hidden tail braided and wrapped around her waist like a belt…
Pony shook off the terror. No time to panic.
Dipping into her trouser pocket, she pulled out several bronze skull coins and flung them over her shoulder. It was back to rummaging through garbage cans when she got home. The currency thudded along the highway and pinged off rocks. On her old southern routes, tossing money always worked with the undesirables skulking around looking for a mark.
The thundering sound of hooves sped up and deepened. Pony ground her teeth. All right, so they weren’t after money. Not typical highwaymen then. Why couldn’t they be greedy bastards like everyone else?
Escape Plan Number Two.
Reaching into the mailbag, Pony pulled out the four carrots she’d pilfered from the company stables. She glanced at the vegetables, shrugged, and took a bite out of one. Then she proceeded to fling the orange darlings over her shoulder in two-second intervals.
High-pitched squeals of disgust and indignation answered.
Oh well. It’d been worth the try. Maybe they weren’t all animal after all. Or maybe centaurs were fussy eaters. Maybe she should’ve grabbed a salt brick instead. Then she could’ve brained them with it.
Escape Plan Number Three then.
The road continued to bend, the thick forest jutting into her direct line of sight. She darted for the ferns and scrub brush. Towering pines blotted out some of the sun’s glare—for a few seconds she was running blind.
Two centaurs armed with longbows jumped out in front of her. The younger one took aim at her heart.
Horseshit! She was speedy, but not quick enough to outrun a flying projectile. Gulping, she dropped into a slide, feet first. Gravel tore open her calloused palms and ripped holes into the back of her trousers.
Great. Bleeding in several places, and now she had clothes to repair. “Arggh!” She slammed slick fists to the ground. “What’s wrong with you swag-bellied tail-waggers? You’d shoot one of your own?
Author Guest Post:
The Journey to Finding Just the Right Planner by Jeanne Marcella
At the start of 2020 I had great plans. Everyone did. In January, I’d started off running. My mind was full of words and worlds and fun characters that were just flying from my fingertips to the keyboard. I was proceeding along very well with one of my lighter works—an urban fantasy set in the year 1900. For the first time in YEARS, I thought I was finally getting it together and picking up the pace to get books out.
Then we all know what happened.
It’s taken me nearly the entire year, but now that I’ve picked myself up mentally, I’m turning back to consider what I can get done in 2021. And see if somehow, I can make up for lost time.
Now, I know that’s nearly impossible, so I won’t be completely stressing myself out. I’m going to at least try to see how much focus I can regain.
Recently, I found that some writer friends are big supporters of the planner systems. It sounded like a marvelous thing to try, so I jumped right in. And I easily got hooked by all the colorful stickers. I fell headlong into a new obsession with Washi tapes!
Calming down and composing myself from all the sparkly stuff (I’m like a damned crow.) I opted to try one of the more popular calendar planner brands. I picked a short, three month option where you write in your own calendar dates.
I tried several times over those three months to make it work, but it didn’t. There was too much distraction. Too many detailed pages that needed three ribbon dividers attached to keep your place in each section. Too many questions listed that weren’t relevant to my writing. Questions that often made me just sit there and try to fill out, and couldn’t. Meaning lots of time wasted.
Another planner I tried was specifically geared toward writers. While it worked somewhat, I still felt too scattered with all the side options and questions.
What annoyed me about the writer’s planner was the weekly calendar work space section was too narrow and restrictive to be of much use to me.
So I went back on the hunt to uncover what else was available. I found a nice, thin paperback that was a five year calendar planner off of Amazon. It was one of those print on demand ones. While I wouldn’t mind having a few more blank pages for notes, this one was nearly The Three Bears perfect. All it is, is calendar pages for each year, for five years. There’s a column for notes in each month.
It seems this is all I need for now—just a broad overall view of information and a bit of space for self-tracking my progress. Maybe once I get the hang of these planners, I can start expanding back into more detailed options.
A big lesson re-learned here is what works for someone else doesn’t necessarily work for you. That’s why there are so many wonderful planners out there. There’s something suitable for everyone.
Crossing my fingers now that the plans I had in 2020 will cascade down into 2021 without any more world-altering events. I do so look forward to diving back into both my dark, and light fantasy worlds and adding even more of a twist to them. So getting set and getting ready, here’s to a new year!
Jeanne Marcella writes dramatic, and often character driven fantasy fiction not for the faint of heart. Quests, adventure, danger, and the grit of living are foremost, but relationships and mild romance might also share the pages.
Granted unlimited access to books at a very early age via the library, she quickly acquired a fondness for creating her own stories through word and drawing. She was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area.
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