Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Strix Excerpt.

This summer is going too fast! It's been another busy week and I'm nearly finished with my half of the first draft of "Claimed By Dragons".  Amber and our editor have both been very patient with me while this book grew and grew. Thank you ladies it will be done this week.

Today I want to share a excerpt from "The Strix" book one in "The Bag Of Tricks" book series.

In this scene Arcona has inadvertently returned to the same occult shop she was in earlier in the day. Dame Bishop is a witch in authority who enlightens her about exactly what a Strix is.

(Dame Bishop) “Are you familiar with the legend of the Strix?”

“No.” Arcona shook her head, noting that the amulet was warming almost too quickly in her cool palm.

“You won’t find this myth in many books; few know or speak of the Strix. The Strix was a compilation of all ancient Rome’s guilty fears about the so-called barbarians they enslaved, punished, and brought under their own roofs as domestics, lovers, and lethal entertainment. The Strix combined fearful barbarian lore and Roman superstitions in a single horrific creature that traveled the night as a grotesque bird of prey, sucking the blood from innocent people and turning them against Rome.

“The Strix might start life as a worshipper of Hecate, the goddess of witchcraft and necromancy. She could be born Roman or Celtic and work as a healer, witch, or midwife, but somewhere along the way, hatred and the need for revenge against the oppressor corrupted the witch’s capacity for doing good. Rage and destruction took the place of healing acts. Stray witches made bargains with dark forces in exchange for the power to grant invincibility in battle to others, who in turn would walk the earth in violent wrath.”

Arcona grimaced. “The Strix sounds absolutely repulsive.”

“She isn’t, and by the way the Strix is always a she. The essence of Venus imbued the Strix with the power to seduce and sexually torment any young man she approached. She sought out strong, battle-worthy men. Her victims were powerless to refuse. At the climax of the sexual act, she’d drink their blood and send them into a violent rage. During these unnatural couplings, rarely but sometimes a male, Upir Likhyi, was created.”

Arcona was almost afraid to ask. “What’s an Upir Likhyi?” She struggled to pronounce the unwieldy words.

“It’s an old pagan Baltic term for wicked or foul vampire. It is a revenant, or undead soul, that seeks the thrill of blood sport and warfare. In ancient times many were recruited to secretly serve Mars.”

A shiver trembled up her spine. “We certainly don’t need any more of those violent, bloodsucking sorts hanging around, that’s for sure.” She laughed with nervous self-consciousness until she noticed Dame Bishop’s serious face. It was apparent she did not share the dismissive attitude.

Arcona struggled to compose herself. “I don’t mean to sound so disrespectful, because I love mythology too. It’s had a huge influence over human history, but myths are just a way to explain human desires and behavior. I’m a bit puzzled that you’re talking about the Strix as if it’s a real entity.”

Dame Bishop blanched. “It is a real entity. Make no mistake; every myth carries a grain of truth within. There are realms loosely tethered to this one far stranger than anything you can imagine. To say these realms are less real than ours is to profess the Earth is flat. It is a statement only the ignorant can speak freely.”

“I’m sorry.” Damn, she really put her foot in it. Arcona gently lowered the amulet back into its box. “Thank you for sharing this with me. It’s fascinating.”

She gazed at the skeletal bronze birds and strange craftsmanship one last time. “How exactly did you come across this? A rare artifact of this age seems like it should be safely stashed in a museum.”

“I agree.” Dame Bishop’s expression brightened. “Some associates of mine at the Universita di Roma know my interest in such things and were kind enough to allow me to examine the amulet.”

“I’m familiar with the University of Rome! My ex-husband once taught there. Who are your contacts; perhaps I know them?”

“I highly doubt it.” Dame Bishop’s mouth drew tense. “My colleagues are very private people.” Her gaze dropped toward the amulet. “Tomorrow it’s headed to the Smithsonian in an armored car. I just wanted to share it with one last soul before it continued on its journey to lie locked away in some sterile vault until the curators can figure out what to do with it.”

A heightened gleam shone in Dame Bishop’s eyes as she lifted the amulet from the box and held it toward Arcona. “Why don’t you try it on? Just to see what it feels like.” A sly smile crossed her lips. “This is a bit of living history. You may never get an opportunity like this again.”

Something about the amber riveted Arcona’s attention. The center of the amulet was translucent and glowed like a fiery ember. Against her better judgment about carelessly handling antiquities and possibly ill-gotten property, she reached for the leather thong and looped it around her neck.

The amulet hung heavy and prominent atop her breasts. Arcona glanced downward. This was a big, bold piece of ornamentation obviously meant to immediately identify its wearer as a witch who had wandered over to the dark side.

A loud knock pounded on the front door of the shop.

Arcona started.

“Excuse me.” Dame Bishop pulled the curtain to the back room aside. “Let me see who’s at the door.”

Arcona was left alone in the back room to gaze down at the amulet and decided that in spite of the somewhat disturbing bronze motifs it was actually very beautiful and must have made a strong impression in its day.

The warm, subtle scent of amber resin reached her nose. She sniffed again in disbelief, knowing there was no way this ancient piece of fossilized amber could possibly be emitting a scent.

She inhaled the mystery fragrance, and sure enough, the rich scent of earthy amber was filling the air. She glanced around curious to know if there was anything near that could possibly be the source of the aroma and saw nothing she could hold to account.

She glanced toward the curtain. What was Dame Bishop up to? She didn’t hear anything going on in the front of the shop. All was silent.

She turned to leave the back room, and her knees buckled. A moment of extreme dizziness knocked her off balance and sent her flailing toward the dusty countertop in a scrambling attempt to keep from falling to the floor.

She blinked in shock as she doubled over the countertop. God, it was getting warm in here. Her skin felt burning hot. She gasped and tugged her coat away from her body, but it didn’t help.

A terrifying sensation of thousands of vicious needle jabs prickled the tender soles of her feet and spread upward. She struggled to kick her tall leather boots free of her feet but couldn’t. The burning sensations licked higher up her legs. She gulped air, fighting rising panic. Her skin felt crispy as if it were being cooked. The pain escalated until it was unendurable. “Help!”

The curtain of the back room was thrown open, and Dame Bishop appeared. “What’s wrong, dear?”

Arcona pulled herself upright. Suddenly nothing was wrong, except the sleeves of her trench coat were covered in dust up to the elbows from writhing against the countertop. The horrid burning sensation left as swiftly as it had arrived. “Dear God, that was weird. For a moment it felt like I was on fire.”

“Really?” Dame Bishop didn’t look the least bit surprised.

“Really. I think this amulet is cursed. Wearing it feels awful.”

“Cursed?” Dame Bishop balked. “I thought you were a skeptic?”

“I’m still a skeptic, but I’m telling you there is something unwholesome about this piece of jewelry. Perhaps it should be kept in a sterile museum vault.”

“Hold on a minute. Don’t be so quick to judge.” Dame Bishop wagged an admonishing finger in the air. “You were the one who was burning. Maybe we should concentrate on that.”

“Are you implying that what just happened to me was my fault? I put the amulet on and immediately felt like I was on fire. That never happens to me. Does that sort of thing happen to you? It’s kind of weird. I think I’m entitled to blame the amulet.” She half listened to herself, cringing at the childish tone of her argument.

Arcona took told of the leather thong and tried to yank the amulet over her head, but it tangled in her long auburn hair. She grasped the bronze setting and tried to untangle the thong. The setting hooked onto her sweater and clung like a bur. “Look at this thing!” She tugged at the amulet in exasperation. “It’s like an octopus grapping me.”

“Leave it alone,” Dame Bishop said tersely. “Don’t provoke it.”

“What?” Arcona frowned. “I want it off.”

“It’s not coming off, at least not until it’s ready.”

“No way.” Arcona grabbed the thong and gave it a sharp upward yank. A hellish burning sensation reminiscent of having cooked skin peeled from her bones racked her. “Oh my God!” she wailed.

She let go of the amulet, and the pain stopped in an instant.

Dame Bishop’s brow creased with serious concern.

“You didn’t know this would happen, did you?” Arcona fought a rising sense of panic. “Please take it off me. I don’t want it near me, and I’m afraid to touch it.”

“I wouldn’t dare.” Dame Bishop took a cautious step backward. “I can’t take it off you. You’re the only one who can free yourself.”

“There must be something we can do? It hurts too much if I try to remove it, and I can’t walk around wearing something the Smithsonian is waiting to receive. I’m supposed to be at the airport bright and early tomorrow morning! What can I do?”

“You’re not leaving Salem with the amulet. That is unacceptable and cannot happen.”

Arcona huffed. “I don’t want your amulet. I’d love to take it off and hand it back to you; please just tell me how to do it.”

“It’s not my amulet. I’m just a caretaker.” Dame Bishop’s gaze was piercing as she spoke calmly. “You’re the only one who knows how to break the curse. I’m not the Strix--you are.”

“Whoa, wait a minute, this is nonsense. Is this a Halloween joke?” Arcona glanced around. “Is this being filmed? Are you having fun jerking a tourist around? Because I’m not enjoying it. Whatever you’ve rigged up to this amulet is causing real pain. If this is a prank, it’s getting abusive.”

Dame Bishop gently shook her head. “I’m not doing anything to exploit or harm you; I swear it. It hurts because you’re in the process of remembering your most regretful deeds. Take note that you came to me. I saw you were in need, but I let you go, and you quickly returned to the shop of your own volition.”

“I was lost.”

“Yes, you were, but a clear path has opened to you, and I heartily encourage you to use this brief opportunity on the eve of All Souls’ Day to walk the path and set your wrong deeds right.”

Arcona’s temper and deepest fears flared. “I don’t know what you’re talking about. What is it exactly that you think I’ve done? I know I’m not perfect, but honestly my misdeeds in this life have been petty. I have no idea how you would know any of this, but if you’re talking about the potato I shoved in Principal Ross’s tailpipe in middle school, I apologized profusely for that. I had no idea a potato could do that kind of damage to a car, a plank fence, or a plate-glass window.”

Dame Bishop closed her eyes and clasped her hands in front of her face, almost as if she were absorbed in prayer. “I’m not talking about projectile potatoes, and I’m not referring to this life. I’m talking about the deeds of the past that have come full circle.”

A sickening and sad feeling gripped her. “I just want to leave. Please tell me how to safely get this amulet back in the box so I can go back to my hotel,” she pleaded.

“I can’t tell you how to free yourself from the amulet because I don’t know the secrets of the Strix.”

Hearing Dame Bishop pronounce her a Strix caused a wave of melancholy to wash over her. At that moment Arcona wanted to go home so badly, though her little bungalow near the beach was practically empty and there was nothing waiting for her there, not even a pet. “How do I know if any of this is true? I’m not sure I believe in reincarnation, let alone any of the rest of this wild tale.”

“Everything in the universe recycles itself. You can see it with your own eyes. A human being is a single soul with many facets that returns to life again and again to polish itself. Would you like a chance to look back at one of those facets?”

“Can you do that?” Arcona’s mood lifted. “Will it help?”

Dame Bishop motioned for Arcona to follow her into the front of the shop. “It might help to know what you’re dealing with.”

They returned to the cozy, firelit shop. Dame Bishop walked toward the front window and tugged the velvet curtain aside. A blaring red sunset glowed in the west. “It’s already nightfall.” She bent forward and retrieved a Romanesque bronze dagger from the front window display and turned with the polished blade clutched in her hand.

Arcona gazed warily at the elegant but dangerous-looking blade pointed at her. “What are you going to do with that?”

“We are going to do some scrying, my dear.” Dame Bishop closed the curtains and invited Arcona to sit at a small table.

The Strix is available now:
Loose Id LLC
All Romance eBooks



  1. Thank you for stopping by today!
    XXOO Kat

  2. Summer is definitely going way too fast!

  3. Christmas is five months from today!

    Love the excerpt, Kat!

  4. Christmas? Dear god woman are you trying to give me the vapors? : ) I'm not prepared!
    Does anyone know why our blog is displaying white edges around the type?
    XXOO Kat


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