Lethal Inheritance is a YA/adult mystical fantasy novel, the first in the Diamond Peak Series by Tahlia Newland, author of the acclaimed You Can't Shatter Me. The story has action, adventure, romance, mystery, flashes of humour and a mix of fantasy and reality
Synopsis If last night was real, Ariel should be dead. She’s not, but her mother has disappeared, there are bruises on her neck and the hideous beast in the photo looks frighteningly familiar.
You can’t send police into a tunnel that doesn’t exist after a villain they can’t see, so when shadow demons kidnap her mother, Ariel has to mount the rescue mission herself. Hot on the trail, she enters a hidden layer of reality only to find that the demons are hunting her, and they feed on fear. Ariel must defeat them before they kill her and enslave her mother. But how do you kill terrifying demons when your fear makes them stronger?
A quirky old guide teaches her how to locate and unleash her inner power, and while battling hallucinogenic mist, treacherous terrain, murderous earth spirits and self-doubt, she falls in love with Nick, a Warrior whose power is more than either of them can handle. Ariel’s journey challenges her perception, tests her awareness and takes her deep into her heart and mind to confront, and ultimately transcend, her fear and anger.
What readers are saying
‘Newland weaves another fantastic tale of supernatural amazement and peril. This story was filled with symbolism and allegory. Dealing with the very real problem of evil, this is no light-hearted, meaningless read . . . Lethal Inheritance was a fantastic and fun read with lots of action and truly spectacular imagery. The emotional lives of the main characters were honest and tumultuous, drawing the reader in.’ Kate Policani, author.
‘In this exciting allegorical YA urban fantasy/magical realism novel, author Tahlia Newland weaves philosophical questions about perception, fear, compassion and love into a fast-paced fantasy adventure that is a highly entertaining and metaphysically fascinating tale for readers of all ages.’ Krisi Keley, author.
‘Fast paced and full of adventure, this story has a wide appeal. Tahlia offers strong characters in a well constructed world. A theme she continues throughout her writing focuses on self respect, self reliance and mental strength. This book was a delight to read.’ Annie Evett ‘Lethal Inheritance was engrossing from the earliest pages with original characters, plots and settings. The pace doesn’t slow throughout the novel, which made me continually want more and hungry for the next book. I loved the Gimps, in fact I loved the whole concept of the book and especially the little challenges throughout, such as the Lures, Reeds and Shifting Stones.’ Racheal Gillespie.
‘Lethal Inheritance has a unique blend of spirituality, philosophy and magical realism (or realistic magic) . . . a fun read, seamlessly layered with philosophical themes adding depth to the adventure, with engaging characters and evil antagonists, a bit of humour and romance and great action sequences’ Kevin Berry, author.
Purchase Links The prequel short story, including chapter one is FREE. Download links here. US Kindle Store UK Kindle Store Kobo Store Apple ibook store Barnes and Noble
Chapter 1—AbductionA strange black shape flittered past the window. It could have been someone in a hooded cloak silhouetted against the street light, except that it appeared to glide rather than walk, and no one could possibly be on the side path of Ariel’s house in fancy dress.
Despite the balmy evening, a flash of cold shivered down Ariel’s spine. She raced to the window, stuck her head outside and looked down the path. Whatever it was had disappeared into the darkness—if it had been there at all. Ariel suspected it was merely the result of tired eyes and an overworked brain.
She slid the window closed, turned her back on the mystery and glared at the books strewn across the dining room table. Tension squeezed her skull. Its cause, her Maths book, lay open, its jumbled symbols exposed by the stark circle of light cast by the reading lamp. She slumped into the chair and switched off the too-revealing beam. It only illuminated her never-ending work load.
The street light cast an eerie glow into the old dining room. The wooden sideboard, almost invisible in the dark, hugged the wall, and the chairs clung to the table like shipwrecked sailors to the remains of their battered ship. They floated, but she sunk. Darkness closed in around her and dragged her down with the weight of final exams only two weeks away. It wasn’t fair. She deserved a life. Something, anything, other than exams.
‘What are you doing in the dark?’ Ariel’s mother’s voice cut through the gloom as light cut the darkness and exposed the room in all its tatty glory.
Ariel blinked and spun to face her mother. ‘Nothing. Absolutely nothing,’ she replied with satisfaction.
Her mother, Nadima, leaned through the doorway, one hand resting on the light switch. Her straight fair hair swung around her shoulders and framed a worn but pretty face. Her eyes were a little red, but it was the first of September, she’d probably been crying, and Ariel knew better than to mention the unmentionable.
‘Are you all right?’ Nadima asked.
‘Fine.’ If you don’t include imagining things. ‘I’m over it. That’s all. Sick to death of all of this.’ Ariel swept her hand across the table and knocked the books to the floor with a clatter.
The corners of Nadima’s mouth curled slightly but never made it into a smile. ‘You’re just tired. You need a break and some apple crumble.’
The thought of dessert made Ariel’s smile large enough for both of them.
‘Come and get it while it’s hot,’ Nadima called as she left the room.
Ariel heaved herself out of her chair and followed her mother down the gloomy hall into the kitchen/living room at the back of the old Federation style house. The white walls and copious light in the renovation lifted her spirits the moment she crossed the threshold, and the smell of hot apples and cinnamon drew an appreciative rumble from her stomach.
She caught sight of herself mirrored in the wall of sliding doors that opened onto the veranda and leafy garden. Her ghostly auburn-haired reflection, clad in lumpy sweater and jeans, echoed the sense she had of herself as an insubstantial form floating through an illusion called life. Jaded at seventeen, she thought dryly.
Nadima lifted a bundle of old towels from a box on the floor and deposited it on her photo-strewn desk on the other side of the room.
‘Not another one,’ Ariel said with a hint of a whine.
‘How could I say no?’ Nadima replied as she unwrapped the bundle and revealed a bright-eyed baby wombat. ‘He’s so cute. Aren’t you Spud?’
Ariel screwed up her nose. ‘Ew.’ Cute sure, but the smell . . . at least this one had hair already. ‘I refuse to do night duty.’
‘Oh, darling. I wouldn’t expect you to,’ Nadima replied.
Famous last words, Ariel thought. As soon as her mother got too tired from getting up every two hours to feed him, Ariel would have to step in, or suffer a horribly grumpy mother. The last orphaned wombat they’d taken in had ended up in one of Nadima’s photo-shoots. Ariel’s favourite was a Photoshopped image of a woman in an evening gown lounging on a giant wombat as if he were a sofa.
She spooned dessert onto a plate, added some ice cream, stuffed a glorious spoonful in her mouth and watched her mother change the wombat’s makeshift pouch. Ariel liked his name. Spud. It suited his potato shape. He wriggled and waved his paws, his soft belly and innocent face a stark contrast to the lethal claws, a little like the unease that raked beneath the calm exterior of Ariel’s life.
Nadima gathered the re-swaddled wombat in her arms, picked up a doll-sized baby bottle, stuck it in Spud’s mouth and began pacing. While Spud tugged on the teat, Ariel sat at the breakfast bar and munched on the stewed apple and its scrumptious crunchy topping. A strange feeling rustled up her spine, a sense that someone watched her. She peered warily through the glass sliders and scanned the garden.
At first, nothing. Then two red spots, like fiery eyes, penetrated the darkness and raised goose-bumps. A very large dog? More likely that stupid kid from down the street with laser pens. But the red spots disappeared too fast for Ariel to be sure she’d even seen them. She leapt up and pulled the curtains. The creepy feeling disappeared, but she’d have words with that kid at the bus stop tomorrow. He had no right skulking about in their garden.
The wombat sucked on in a steady rhythm but Nadima stopped pacing, her knuckles white where she gripped the bottle. Had she sensed something too? ‘I think we should leave early,’ she said.
‘What?’ Ariel’s spoon stopped an inch from her mouth.
‘The camping trip. Let’s leave tomorrow morning.’ Nadima plonked the now empty bottle on the bench.
Ariel lowered her spoon. ‘No way, I’ve got training after school tomorrow. There’s a race coming up, remember? I’m planning to beat Molly Gainsbrough in the eight hundred metres.’
Nadima pursed her lips, hugged the wombat tighter and patted his back. ‘You’d win the fencing medal if you went back to it.’
Ariel grimaced. ‘Give it up, Mum, I’d rather run than stick a blade in someone.’
Nadima sighed. ‘Fine, we’ll go Friday.’
‘We’ll make it a long weekend. We could both do with the extra day.’
Ariel frowned. What was going on? Her mother never let her skip school. But why complain? ‘Fine. Where are we going?’
Nadima stared into space and began rocking the wombat like a baby. ‘Somewhere new. It’s a surprise.’
‘New? What’s new within a two hundred kilometre radius?’
‘You’ll see.’ Her clipped tone signalled the end of the conversation. Ariel let it go. She figured she’d find out soon enough and, although she loved immersing herself in nature for a whole weekend, right now, even talking about walking for miles with a pack on her back was just plain exhausting.
She licked her bowl while Nadima stowed the wombat back in the cardboard box on the floor. ‘Sleep well, Spud.’ She turned to Ariel and opened her arms. ‘Goodnight, sweetheart.’
Ariel’s heart ached at the sadness in her mother’s eyes. Even the comforting embrace they shared couldn’t make up for the absence that plagued their lives.
Ariel’s mobile rang. She broke the embrace and grabbed her phone from the coffee table. ‘Hi, Tamara.’
‘Love you,’ Nadima mouthed.
Ariel waved her mother goodnight and turned towards the door.
‘Hey, guess what?’ Tamara sounded pretty hyped up.
‘A walrus is sitting on your cat.’ Ariel flicked on the hall light and wandered towards her room.
‘What? Oh, shut up. Mitch’s asked me to go to the formal.’ Ariel smiled.
‘I told you he would.’
‘Yeah, well, he might not have. What about you and Mathew and the movies?’
Ariel shrugged. ‘I don’t think so. He wants to see some blood-thirsty thriller. Yuk.’
‘Hey, he’s hot. You’ve got to make a few concessions.’
‘He’s also a surfer, Tamara, and I’m not cut out to be a surfie chick. Freckles, remember.’ She walked into the saffron walled sanctuary of her bedroom and turned on the light.
‘He’s also a really hot runner.’
‘Duh! That’s how I met him.’
‘Oh yeah. Hey, you could go jogging together.’
‘Red-faced and sweaty is not my best look, Tamara.’
‘You might have a point there. But, look, he really likes you and I thought you liked him.’
Ariel shrugged. ‘Not that much.’ She kicked the pile of clothes on the floor, salvaged her pyjamas, shook them out and threw them on the bed as she talked.
‘You’re not scared, are you? About his reputation, I mean.’
‘No, I’m not scared. I just don’t want to be his girlfriend.’
‘Yeah, well, I suppose it’s not surprising that you’re a bit slow with guys. I mean, no brothers and all.’
Ariel opened her mouth but Tamara cut in. ‘Whoops, Mum’s yelling. I gotta go. See ya tomorrow.’
‘Okay, bye.’ Ariel switched off her phone, walked to the window and stared into the night.
Slow with guys, huh? Sure, she was cautious. With good reason. She’d seen girls fall head over heels in love and land on their faces with their brains turned to mush. Mind you, Tamara was right about the lack of males in her life. She and her mother never had a man in their house unless he’d come to fix something. She couldn’t even remember her father, and her mother never dated. Fifteen years after the event, her mother still wouldn’t tell her exactly how her father had died.
Agitation simmered in her cells and fuelled a growing urge to rock whatever boat she was in, even to dive in and see what was underneath. But Ariel didn’t know where to dive, what into, or how. She felt disconnected, unreal, as if she only floated on the surface of life and beneath her fathoms of dark water remained unexplored.
The last thing she remembered before falling asleep was thinking that nothing major would change in a hurry. Two hours later, she discovered she was wrong.
‘Ariel. Run!’ Her mother’s scream sliced through the fog in Ariel’s brain.
Her eyes flew open. She catapulted out of bed and stumbled towards the door in confusion. A series of thuds came up the hallway, getting closer, as if someone was kicking all the doors open. Ariel grabbed her fleecy Ugg boots, opened the window and jumped out just before her bedroom door crashed open.
She flung herself under a leafy shrub and pushed back against the fence. Bright street light spilled onto the side of her red brick house, but none penetrated her hiding place in the fence’s shadow. Even so, her heart pounded and every muscle in her body tensed in fear. She peered through a gap in the leaves and shivered.
Something black and vaguely human-shaped struggled out the window, cursing in a voice as spiky as ice shards. Its skin, hanging in folds like the fabric of a long hooded cloak, rippled as it turned. White flames flicked, like snake tongues, from two slits in its hideous face, and a thin-lipped mouth curled into a sneer. The claws on its long loose arms flexed and unflexed as if warming up for a fight, and it stunk like rotten potatoes.
Ariel froze, eyes wide, struggling to comprehend the creature before her. Nothing like this existed in her world. It had to be a dream. But it felt horribly real.
A chilling voice from down the path raised the hairs on the back of Ariel’s neck and the creature swung towards the sound. ‘The spawn’s run off. I say we take this one and come back for the other.’
The owner of the voice, another creature, came into view, eyes blazing red. Ariel gasped and slapped her hands over her mouth to muffle the sound. But the beast’s attention fixed on Ariel’s mother who hung limply in the red-eyed creature’s arms, her hands tied behind her back. Something black and shiny gagged her.
Ariel’s world began to unravel. This could not be happening, and yet, it was. She stared at the impossible creature and one word only penetrated the numbness of her mind. It rose as if from a long forgotten memory—demon.
‘Stand and walk,’ the red-eyed demon growled as he set her on her feet, ‘or I’ll stick you with this.’ It raised a clawed index finger in front of Nadima’s face and the claw grew into a silvery talon the length of Ariel’s forearm. The fiery line of the creature’s mouth curled with sadistic pleasure.
Nadima jerked into life and ran, but the white-eyed demon threw a noose over her head. It jolted her to a stop and turned her scream into a choked gurgle.
Ariel pressed her lips together, stifling the urge to cry out.
The red-eyed demon held its gleaming talon to Nadima’s throat just above where her white-knuckled hands gripped the noose, her eyes wide and glassy. ‘Try that again and we’ll forget our meal and send you to hell instead.’
‘Feed us,’ the white-eyed demon hissed and placed its talon on the side of her neck.
Nadima froze. Her face reddened and tears seeped from her eyes. The tip of Red-Eye’s talon caressed her throat and came to rest on the other side of her neck. A rumbling sound emerged from the demons’ throats, a kind of demonic purr. Their bodies grew, their eyes flickered more brightly and their satisfied smirks bore a perverse resemblance to bliss.
Ariel’s stomach churned. Fear numbed her mind and froze her in place.
The larger, red-eyed demon eventually removed its talon from Nadima’s neck and jabbed her in the back. She flinched. ‘Walk,’ he growled. The other demon yanked on the rope and pulled her towards the road like an unwilling dog on a leash. Ariel’s mother stumbled after them as if in a daze.
As soon as they’d gone, Ariel pulled on her Ugg boots, her fingers trembling, and crawled out from under the bush. What now? Police? By the time they got here, her mother would have disappeared. She had to find out where the demons were taking her and, if possible, free her. But how? She didn’t even have a weapon. Or did she?
Ariel raced down the path, through the shattered door and into the kitchen where she grabbed the largest, sharpest knife before running onto the street after the demons. She saw them several houses away, heading towards the hill at the end of the street. You can do this, she told herself, then dashed after them. Past the unseeing eyes of curtained windows and the silent mouths of closed doors, she followed them, being careful to stay out of sight. Her neighbours were probably all asleep. No one to see, no one to speak of it, no one to help, even if they could.
The only sound came from a party in the Thompson’s backyard. There, voices laughed and talked loudly over the pounding music that streamed from the garden. She wondered if she should go in and ask for help, but figured that, no doubt tipsy by now, they would just laugh at her, and before she got anyone to take her seriously, Nadima could have disappeared, or worse.
At the cul-de-sac at the end of the road, the demons took the dimly lit path between the houses, then the footbridge over the stream. Ariel hurried after them and crouched out of sight behind the bridge railings. The weight of impending doom settled on Ariel as the threesome left the path, and Nadima stumbled over the rough ground lit only by the silver light of the waning moon. The three stopped at the base of the hill before a dense shadow so dark that it seemed to suck all light into its blackness. All light and all hope.
Despite the warm night, Ariel’s skin turned cold. But if she didn’t do something, who would? She dashed to a large rock and hid behind it, her heart thumping.
Suddenly, Nadima came to life. She ducked to the side, yanked the rope out of the white-eyed demon’s hands and fled. But Red-Eyes spun and tackled her, then locked his long arms around her and pulled her to her feet. She jabbed her elbows backwards and kicked hard, but the gruesome creature didn’t flinch. Nadima struggled uselessly as he dragged her into what Ariel could now see was a jagged hole in the hillside.
Panic hit, hot and blinding. Ariel raced towards them, knife at the ready, but White-Eyes leapt from the shadows and grabbed her wrist with one clawed hand.
‘Got ya,’ he growled, eyes flaring.
Giveaway: a Rafflecopter giveaway