Kelly Meding is visiting Dark Faerie Tales today with her twist on Hansel and Gretel set in her MetaWars series. Tempest is the third novel in the series. It is available today eBook only. Want to know our thoughts on the first novel in this series? Read my review for Trance here.
One lucky reader will win a $10 gift card to Amazon or Barnes & Noble (winner’s choice!) courtesy of Kelly Meding!
By Kelly Meding
I’m so excited to return to the Fantastic Fables event at Dark Faerie Tales. I had a lot of fun writing my post the last time I participated and giving my osprey shifter Phineas a little time in the spotlight. I had to wrack my brain cells for another good idea using my MetaWars universe, and what tumbled out is a short story from Ethan Swift’s point-of-view. Enjoy!
“Are you sure we’re going the right way?” I asked.
The rhetorical question earned me a surly look and soft growl from Marco, but no verbal response. He was pretty stingy with words lately, and I chalked that up to his recent body-sharing experience. Today, though, he didn’t verbalize because he was in the form of a big black jaguar.
As for what I was asking about, Marco and I were trekking through the Redwood National Park looking for a gingerbread house. Yes, I said gingerbread house. According to a park ranger, two hikers came screaming off the trails, babbling nonsensically about a gingerbread house and a tree attacking them.
Don’t worry, the hikers were drug tested before we were called in. And we were called in because why investigate something weird yourself when you can send in people who specialize in weird—super-powered Meta-humans. Those Metas being myself, Ethan Swift, and my partner-in-preventing-crime, Marco Mendoza. Marco’s ability to shift into a raven, a jaguar, or a black housecat gave us an advantage in tracking, and my wind control was second only to our boss’s power orbs when it came to packing a wallop.
We had left our headquarters with coordinates and a tablet equipped with GPS, and we’d flown to within a half-mile of our target. The plan was to sneak the rest of the way and get a look at this gingerbread house that satellite imaging couldn’t seem to find. That plan went to hell when the GPS fritzed out a quarter-mile into our hike. Marco, being a lot better with directional navigation via the sun than me, was leading the way now.
The redwoods were one of the country’s few natural beauties that weren’t somehow ruined by the Meta War that ended fifteen years ago. We were miles deep in them, surrounded by trees and brush and birds, so isolated from everything that hated us for being Meta. I could live in a place like this and be happy.
Until I got bored to death, or went crazy and started singing to the birds.
Speaking of birds…
I put a hand out to stop Marco, and his big cat form froze in place. “Have you heard any birds tweeting in the last few minutes?” I whispered.
He cocked his head, probably listening, then shook it like he was flinging water from his coat. No then.
“Must be getting close.”
The sunlight streaming down through the tops of the redwoods thinned, and the gloom of the forest floor thickened. It swallowed us up into a sudden, expected darkness, like we’d instantly gone from day to night. Marco almost disappeared completely. The back of my neck prickled with the sense of being watched.
Light returned in a blinding flash that left dots in my vision. I blinked them away, reaching defensively for the wind around me. It carried with it the strong scents of ginger, peppermint and sugar. Marco sneezed, his whiskers twitching. Something colorful to my right caught my attention, and I spun around, braced for an attack.
A gingerbread house stood less than twenty feet away, tucked into the space between two massive redwoods like it had every right to be there. Brown cookie walls, icing holding joints together, peppermint candies making tiles on the roof. It was like something I’d seen in a candy store once upon a time, when I was still a child who believed in silly things like fairy tale heroes.
Your mother being killed when you’re twelve really knocks reality into you.
Staring at a gingerbread house the size of a small bus kind of messes with that sense of reality. I’d like to say I’ve seen stranger things, but I’d be lying. This one won the grand prize in the WTF? category. I’d blame the whole thing on some sort of telepathic mind trick, but I could smell it.
I couldn’t stop myself from studying the trees nearby and wondering if one was about to reach down and grab me like the hikers said.
Marco shifted back to man shape. “This cannot be real,” he said.
“And yet there it is.”
“Should we knock?”
“Be my guest.”
We weren’t Hansel and Gretel traipsing through the woods, so I had no reason to fear whatever was behind the gingerbread door, but that didn’t mean I was going to walk up to it and invite myself into trouble. I attracted injuries like a human lodestone.
“I could huff and puff and blow the house down,” I said.
“And what purpose would that serve?” Sometimes Marco had no sense of humor.
The front door of the gingerbread house swung open. Licorice scented air wafted toward us. A gingerbread man with icing-drawn eyes and gumdrop buttons tottered out on stiff, unbending legs. I admit it: I rubbed my eyes, but the little gingerbread apparition remained. Still lurching toward us, too.
“Um, stop right there,” I said. It was hard to sound commanding when talking to a cookie.
The cookie stopped, its dead icing eyes staring at…something. Then they blinked, and that was weird. “Who are you?” the cookie asked in a surprisingly feminine voice.
“My name’s Tempest, and this is Onyx.”
“Why was Onyx a cat before?”
The gingerbread house didn’t have any transparent windows, so how had she seen that? “We’re both Meta. He’s a shapeshifter. I can control the wind.”
The icing eyes blinked again. “You aren’t afraid of me?”
“More like confused. I’m not used to conversing with snack foods.”
“I’m not really a gingerbread man.”
“I didn’t think so. Are you creating this illusion? Are you Meta, too?”
“Maybe. I don’t know. Probably.” She sounded so uncertain, her voice so broken, that I wanted to go over and comfort her. Only not, because, you know, cookie. “It’s easier to hide like this than to face people. I can’t always control my illusions and what people see.”
“How old are you?”
The perfect age to be Meta and not know it. When we lost our powers fifteen years ago, Marco and I were old enough have already discovered our Meta natures. This girl would have been four—years too young. And she wasn’t the only young, undiscovered Meta we’d found in the last few months and helped with their strange new powers.
“Do you have a name?” Marco asked, finally injecting his laconic self into the bizarre conversation.
“Greta,” she replied.
Of course she was. “Greta, we can help you,” I said. “We can take you someplace safe, where you’ll be with other Metas. We can help you control your powers so you don’t have to hide anymore.”
She didn’t reply right away. The light dimmed, like it had before, until the forest was cast in blackness. A moment later, the world snapped back into place. The gingerbread house was gone, and in place of the cookie man was a teenage girl with auburn hair and a lot of freckles. She looked as dangerous as the cookie she’d just hidden behind.
“Okay,” she said, then glanced around. “But we’re miles from the nearest ranger station. How do we get out of here?”
I grinned. “Have you ever been wrapped up inside a cyclone of air and flown over the treetops?”
Born and raised in Southern Delaware, Kelly Meding survived five years in the hustle and bustle of Northern Virginia, only to retreat back to the peace and sanity of the Eastern Shore. An avid reader and film buff, she discovered Freddy Krueger at a very young age, and has since had a lifelong obsession with horror, science fiction, and fantasy, on which she blames her interest in vampires, psychic powers, superheroes, and all things paranormal.
Three Days to Dead is the first book in her Dreg City urban fantasy series that follows Evy Stone, a paranormal hunter who is resurrected into the body of a stranger and has only three days to solve her own murder and stop a war between the city’s goblins and vampires. The next three books in the series, As Lie the Dead, Another Kind of Dead, and Wrong Side of Dead, are also available from Bantam.
Kelly’s MetaWars series from Pocket Books tells the story of the grown-up children of the world’s slaughtered superheroes who receive their superpowers back after a mysterious fifteen-year absence, and who now face not only a fearful public, but also a vengeful villain who wants all of them dead. Trance and Changeling are now available. Books three and four will be available digitally in 2013.
Want to read more from Kelly Meding?
This giveaway is provided by Kelly Meding!
One lucky reader will win a $10 gift card to Amazon or Barnes & Noble (winner’s choice!)
Available April 22, 2013 from Pocket Star
About this Book:
The public doesn’t trust them. The government wants to control them. Being a superhero has never been this hard, especially for Tempest.
Two months after the discovery of the powerful, non-Meta Recombinants, the former Rangers—Meta-powered humans dedicated to preserving the peace—have made no progress in uncovering the newcomers’ origins, or convincing the public to trust them. Newly powered Metas are popping up and causing trouble, while the former Banes—Metas who harm humans and create chaos—show no inclination that they even want to leave the island prison of Manhattan. With a presidential election looming, the hot political debate is all about Meta rights—and whether they deserve to have any.
Still haunted by the murder of so many in the Meta War fifteen years earlier, Ethan “Tempest” Swift accepts an assignment in Manhattan, working with a team that’s interviewing Banes to determine which are still threats and which have reformed. But Ethan has a personal reason for going to the island as well. Armed with questions for the Bane who just might be his father, Ethan’s quest for answers is interrupted by an unexpected assault on the island. Forced to side with old enemies to uncover who’s responsible for the devastating attack, Ethan begins to question more than just his past—he questions his place in defending a world that sees him as its enemy.
Click HERE to read an excerpt
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