I’m pleased to welcome Philippa Ballantine here today to Dark Faerie Tales as we roll into week two of the Spooky Legends event. Philippa’s upcoming release is Geist, which is the first book in the Book of the Order series.
You can read Chapter 1 from Geist here and Chapter 2 here. Philippa is here to tell us all about the Loch Ness Monster urban legend and giveaway an autographed copy of GEIST. As always, details are listed below.
**Visit All Things Urban Fantasy today for her Spooky Legends Guest blog with Allyson James and a chance to win FIREWALKER**
Philippa Ballantine is a fantasy writer hailing from Wellington, New Zealand. In the coming year she will have three books hitting the real and virtual shelves. The first of which a supernatural fantasy, Geist from Ace Books will available in late October 2010—just in time for Halloween. It may contain a relative or two of Nessie.
Dark Water and Monsters
by Philippa Ballantine
“Jo, do we really have to do this?” My cousin must have asked this question ten times already, but in the darkness by the loch it somehow made me jump.
Once I had jammed my heart back into my chest I glanced back up the hill to where the visitor center clung like an ugly barnacle. I hated that thing—even if it was the only pool of light in the inky darkness beside the loch. Still they hadn’t noticed us slip away from the tour group and hide among the ruins of Urquhart castle. We’d also successfully avoided two security guards.
“You mean me?” I hissed to her. “Yes—otherwise what was the point of coming to Scotland?”
“I don’t know, haggis and men in kilts?”
I was not going to reply, Molly had already had far too many of both in my opinion, and she had skated perilously close to enjoying the Nessie experience. I had even caught her in the little gift shop eyeing a stuffed version.
Darkness was, I had to remind myself, at least honest. Real. Unlike what the locals touted. Everything from Nessie burgers to Nessie jewellery watered down the reality of the situation.
There was a monster in the deep water. I knew it—even past the ridiculous tourism. That was the reason I’d come here. Though Molly and I had backpacked through Europe together, she was much happier staring at cathedrals than hunting monsters in the chill of a Scottish Spring. I’d let her have that, but had insisted on this one outing for myself.
I’d tried bungy jumping, white water rafting, and everything dangerous thing in between. My family already thought I had a death wish—so telling them about my newest enterprise was out of the question. Molly would be able to inform them later.
Cautiously I led the way, with my cousin trailing in my wake down towards the water. With the chatter of the crowds gone, there were only the depths of the loch, a moon that kept darting under clouds, and the low slap of the waves. This was what St Columba must have seen. The thought chilled and excited me.
Humans have always been fascinated by what lies beneath the waves. We are creatures of the land, so the creatures that exist below can be terrifying—unseen and masters of a domain we can only ever be visitors to. From the nightmare inducing great white shark to the kraken of the deepest ocean they hold us enthralled.
However none of these have the lure to me of the Loch Ness Monster. I absolutely refuse to call it Nessie. He or she was going to be my greatest challenge, and together we were going to make history. We would be the greatest internet sensation.
The moment was perfect—at least until Molly interrupted it. “Do you see anything?”
“Not yet—but if you were a monster out for a peaceful swim wouldn’t this be a perfect night for it?”
The breeze coming off the loch made us both shiver, but I went on, trying to get Molly to see how truly special this place was. “So many people have tried to find the monster. They’ve used sonar on the bottom and everything.”
Molly wrapped her arms around herself. “So it’s just a myth then.”
She was so small-minded. “Come on Molly! There have been reports of the monster here since the middle ages. St Columba tamed the beast right here.”
Her sigh was tiny, but I heard it. Putting her aside as best I could, I tried to concentrate on the experience I had come so far to find. Quickly I stripped off my jeans, and then dropped my thick jacket to the ground.
Molly just stared at me in my swimsuit I’d hidden underneath—that was until I scampered down to the water. She finally realised what I was going to do. “Jo!” her shout echoed off the hills and water, and I turned about.
“Get the camera running!” I glared at her until she reluctantly produced the little device from her coat pocket.
The last thing I needed now was to worry about her. She was here for another reason. When I stepped into the water for a moment nothing mattered but the pain. I had always thought of water as my element—but now it turned against me. The coldness would take all conscious thought sooner than later, so rather than die by inches I dove into the deeper part.
I knew the loch dropped away quickly, with no forgiving shallows. Still it was a shock when for a second it swallowed me. The moon dipped behind clouds, and everywhere was darkness.
Even breathing was hard work, and I panted though tight lips as I swam out. Like Columba I went out to find the monster. I would just have to hope that the saint had done his work and the beast was no longer deadly.
Once I was a good distance out into the lake, I trod water. My limbs ached, and every part of me screamed to go back. Only willpower kept me there.
My jaw was clenched tight and I knew it wouldn’t be long until hypothermia took me. Molly was on the shore, yelling and jumping up and down—but she did have the camera pointed at me. At least she had one thing right.
Then something moved, turning against the tide, and coming towards me. My teeth chattered, but I kept moving. This was the moment when the monster of my dreams was made real. This was the moment my bravery would be tested.
A great head broke the water, smelling of rotting plant matter. It blocked out the moon, but its eyes gleamed. I realised that the awe this animal inspired was truly deserved. The length of him was mostly hidden by the water, but I saw the curves and undulations of his body disappearing behind him. He didn’t look like any plesiosaur I’d ever seen—but something far more magical.
I was in his environment. He could do with me as he pleased.
Like St Columba I was meeting him face to face. Unlike the saint, I had no faith to call on—but that was not why I was here.
I had challenged him in his own domain. As a bear in his cave or a stallion on the range would, he had to reply. The monster dived down, pushing his weight down on me, and I had just a moment to take a breath I hoped would last. The dark water closed over my head, and then all my world was the water and the sinuous length of his body wrapped around mine. I couldn’t tell if he was playing with me, or murdering me.
I noticed that thankfully the moon has come out again. Molly would be getting some excellent footage. After this there would be no cute Nessie industry. There would be no sonar pings. There would only be a girl that had been taken.
I just hoped I might be around to see the headlines. That was the danger and joy of the moment. Like every other extreme sport, monster hunting never guaranteed safety, but this was the path I had chosen.
Synopsis (Product Description):
Between the living and the dead is the Order of the Deacons, protectors of the Empire, guardians against possession, sentinels enlisted to ward off the malevolent haunting of the geists…
Among the most powerful of the Order is Sorcha, now thrust into partnership with the novice Deacon, Merrick Chambers. They have been dispatched to the isolated village of Ulrich to aide the Priory with a surge of violent geist activity. With them is Raed Rossin, Pretender to the throne that Sorcha is sworn to protect, and bearer of a terrible curse.
But what greets them in the strange settlement is something far more predatory and more horrifying than any mere haunting. And as she uncovers a tradition of twisted rituals passed down through the dark reaches of history, Sorcha will be forced to reconsider everything she thinks she knows.
And if she makes it out of Ulrich alive, what in Hell is she returning to?
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