White Fire…

30 Apr

A GSP release from Author of the Week: Cody Stanford.

White Fire by Cody Stanford

By’yalt’r the faun is the new kid in town, but he picked a bad day to arrive. Gryphons attack the city and kill hundreds of people, but the gryphon who targets By’yalt’r can’t go through with the act. Now By’yalt’r scans the skies in fear of the gryphon’s return, and along the way finds friendship and acceptance before he finally learns what secret the gryphon has in store for him.

Excerpt:

 It was one more misfortune for young By’yalt’r that he arrived in Port Cedryssene scant minutes before gryphons attacked the magnificent city.
    By’yalt’r’s train chugged into the vast iron and glass terminal of Cedryssene Central Station. The faun peeked out of his hiding place in the luggage car, and breathed in fresh air mingled with coal smoke. By’yalt’r had stowed aboard the train in Potomac City. He was nearly discovered when the train stopped in New York City. A street rat his own age came up to the car to retrieve baggage for a passenger and started down the passageway. By’yalt’r barely had time to leap behind a steamer trunk.
    Gawking like a tourist as the train pulled in, By’yalt’r gazed up through the glass and steel ceiling of Cedryssene Station. Port Cedryssene was a glittering city, the world’s center of finance and trade. Her buildings gleamed, some of which were over twenty stories tall. It was a place where humans ventured to fulfill their dreams, and on this night they were joined by a very daring—or maybe just desperate—faun.
    The summer sun settled over distant purple storm clouds in the west. Overhead, zeppelins clung to the giant zeppelin needle like ripe silver fruit as their passengers disembarked and descended through docking ports. The train finally chuffed to a halt, and twelve-year-old By’yalt’r exited the luggage car on the side opposite the station platform. He knelt in the dirt beside the tracks and used handfuls of the ash to re-darken his abundant long hair and the fur below his waist, to smudge his horns and the red and gold sash, his only article of clothing.
    Then By’yalt’r stood up, grabbed hold of his meager canvas bag, and skirted around the back of the train. He leaped from the rail bed up to the platform, forgetting his hooves would clomp on the wooden platform when he landed. By’yalt’r blushed at the loud noise, and tried to blend in with the Port Cedryssene street rats. Kids milled around, hoping to earn a quarter-crown or two carrying bags for the arriving passengers, but By’yalt’r was the only faun. The street-begrimed kids were faster porters than the hissing steam auto-carts which chugged along like clumsy donkeys, like as not rolling over a passenger’s foot.
    By’yalt’r spied a woman in plentiful lavender skirts, carrying a parasol that sported roses in the same lavender hue. A petite and pretty girl, younger than By’yalt’r, walked beside the woman, smartly dressed for travel in muted lime green and pink. First-class passengers off my train, he thought and I bet they’re generous tippers.
    The young faun approached slowly, bowing before the lady. “Gather your bags for you, ma’am?”
Surprised, the little girl recoiled behind the woman’s skirts, and the lady sniffed disapprovingly at him.
    “A filthy little faun.” The lady folded her parasol with a snap and pointed it at By’yalt’r, denying him the chance to come any closer. “I’d sooner trust my bags to an infamous mountebank. And stay away from my daughter, louse. Certainly that soiled fur of yours carries disease.”
    The lady walked in a wide arc around By’yalt’r and strode over to the far side of the platform to hire an auto-cart. The little girl followed her mother, and, emboldened by her mother’s words, stuck out her tongue as she passed.
    Prejudice and hate again; the same in Port Cedryssene as in New York City and Potomac City, and even in my old home, Loch Chicago. His thoughts reeled, I am a homeless orphan faun in a strange city; hungry and tired and terribly alone. He sighed, and figured things couldn’t possibly get any worse. 


****


    They did.
    By the time he climbed the towering, wide marble staircase from the train platforms to the station’s Grand Concourse, the sky above the glass ceiling overhead had begun to darken. With no place to go, By’yalt’r decided to spend the night inside the station. He looked around the multi-level concourse. The air echoed with the tapping of travelers’ hurried footsteps and shreds of conversation, music and announcements. A busy place like this, far larger than the puny Grand Central Depot in New York City, offered many hiding places. By’yalt’r tried to look like he had someplace to go so the handful of constables would pay him no notice. On the main floor he saw the lady in the lavender skirts cursing her recalcitrant auto-cart, while her little girl in green giggled.
The faun spied a café across the concourse. He descended one flight of stairs and crossed the vast marble floor. By’yalt’r sighed at the lonesome blue glow of the alchemical lights, a color that had once meant warmth and bedtime. He ascended another flight of stairs and stood just a few feet away from the café.
    Hiding behind a row of potted palms, he eyed a tasty-looking roast beef sandwich on a plate before a young dandy. The girl who waited on him smiled at the silly jokes the young fellow uttered. She was cute, with reddish-blonde hair and freckles, but By’yalt’r saw through her smile to the blotchy skin of the underfed poor. While his mouth watered, he wondered if she put up with the kidding, hoping for a larger gratuity from the dandy of the forgotten sandwich, or perhaps some bigger fee for services rendered to him after her shift at the café ended.
    A zeppelin rumbled low above the station, its silver skin reflecting alchemical light back down into the Grand Concourse. By’yalt’r overheard concerned murmurs about the low-flying zeppelin, and someone commented about gryphons, but the faun paid the awed whispers no mind. He tiptoed toward the end of the row of palms, thinking if he but crouched down and crab-walked toward the table, he might be able to grab hold of—
    People in the streets outside the station began screaming.
    At first By’yalt’r heard only isolated shrieks and cries of shock. Then the screams grew panicked, and he saw people running past the station outside the tall, wrought-iron framed windows. The faun heard a high-pitched roar from the skies above; from some kind of creature, maybe. Then huge, winged shadows dropped fast from the sky and snatched up pedestrians who struggled uselessly as they were hoisted aloft.
    A man stumbled breathless through the heavy main doors of the station and cried, “Everyone take cover! The gryphons have come out of the Lairs and they’re killing—”
    Then the ceiling came down.
    At least a score of gryphons crashed through the skylights above. Glass fell in jagged chunks and shattered on the marble floors. By’yalt’r ran forward and ducked under the dandy’s table. The sandwich was covered in crumbs of glass. The faun saw the sandwich man hop to his feet and run away without a glance at the terrified girl who served him. She looked up toward the shadows zooming overhead, and screamed as one with the other cries echoing through the Grand Concourse. By’yalt’r heard the ripping of flesh and the cracking of bone. He offered his hand to the girl.
    “Miss,” By’yalt’r cried, “duck under here with me before you get hurt!”
    The girl looked down at By’yalt’r, stepped back, and said, “I’m not taking refuge next to a mangy little eratomane like—”
    A gryphon lunged down in a blur of gold and chocolate, grabbed the girl, and swept her up into the air. By’yalt’r watched her ascend until fresh blood rained down, and the gryphon dropped the torn pieces of the girl’s body to the marble floor.
    By’yalt’r’s breath came in short, panicked bursts. He hated gryphons; they were creatures without honor, and they were once again breaking their word. The ancient enmities generated at the end of the medieval Gryphonwind era had been papered over with treaties filled with mutual suspicion. In Port Cedryssene, where the largest concentration of gryphons on the Northern Amer continent lived in the mountainous and secluded Gryphon Lairs north of the city, humans counted on those treaties to keep them safe from the gryphons.
    Crouching under the table, the faun rubbed the fur on his legs and wondered if the gryphons would let him live. He truly believed fauns were equal to humans, but tonight he feared that gryphons might think the very same thing.
    Another body thudded hard next to the table and splattered blood on By’yalt’r’s face. It was the sandwich man. By’yalt’r was wondering where the man’s head was when he heard the solid thump as the missing head smashed onto the tabletop above, flattening the forgotten sandwich.
    Bands of steel fear gripped By’yalt’r’s heart. He scrambled out from under the table and ran.
The veined white marble floors and staircases of the Grand Concourse were red with blood. Gryphons circled over the concourse and dived in to make their kills. By’yalt’r had no idea where he was going, but he knew the clomping of his hooves on marble revealed his escape to the attacking gryphons. The faun looked up at flashes of dragonfire above the shattered ceiling. The city’s dragons had flown from their Trees to fight off the gryphons. By’yalt’r slipped and fell in a pool of blood, and dropped his bag. He grabbed the bag and stood. His skin, sash, and fur were matted with hot blood. He ran again.
    Then By’yalt’r heard wings behind him.    

Links:

http://www.gypsyshadow.com/CodyStanford.html#WhiteFire

Amazon:

http://www.amazon.com/White-Fire-Cody-L-Stanford-ebook/dp/B00440DP9A/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1398878928&sr=8-1&keywords=white+fire+cody+stanford

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