Sunday, July 13, 2008

Trial by Fire

My new book Trial by Fire/Anne Ireland is due out in September from Eternal Press. At the moment Too Hot to Handle is at number two in the EP list at fictiowise and at number four at Eternal Press. I don't have a pic for it yet but I am giving you an excerpt

It was almost time. Isolde could smell the fear on her own flesh. That was one of the worst things they had done to her so far, refusing her water for washing and clean linen. She hated the smell of her own body now, the stench of dried excrement, sweat and fear.
She had spent the night in prayer, beseeching God to rescue her from this foul prison cell and the cruel men who tormented her in His name. At first she had been bold, certain of her place in the world, and the rightness of her cause. She had laughed at the charge levied against her. She had believed in the justice of both God and man. Now, after days of torture, abuse and unbearable pain, she no longer believed in anything. Yet still she had prayed to her god. That he was not the god of these men who called upon her to repent of her sins lest her soul be damned for all eternity, she knew beyond doubting. Her god was a gentle god, the god of nature and all things beautiful, of goodness and light, and love.
Perhaps her god was the devil as these men claimed? Mayhap she was a disciple of Satan: a witch who used her powers to destroy life. They had questioned her over and over again, starving her, beating her, never letting her rest so she no longer knew what was truth or what was false.
Isolde lifted her tear-stained face towards the tiny grill in the roof of her cell, the only source of light or air in the filthy dungeon. Why not offer her soul to the Lord of Darkness? She had never sought to do other than good, and for that she had been condemned to torture and the fire. Through a tiny crack in the ceiling above her, she could see a chink of light. It would soon be morning, and then they would come for her.
"If I am the vile creature they have named me, take my soul," she muttered fiercely. For all their cruelty, they had not yet broken her spirit. "If God has deserted me then let Satan come to my aid. Where are you, Beelzebub? Oh, horned creature, demon of darkness, whatever be Thy name. Guardian of Hell, I call on thee to save me!"
The sound of a heavy key in the lock of her cell made her start. She looked round as the man came into her cell, the sour, unclean smell of him turning her stomach sick. She knew him for her enemy. He had been determined to drag her down, bringing all his power and influence to work against her. A terrible fear gripped her, causing her to pass water. She felt the hot sting of urine against her inner thighs and was shamed.
The priest carried an incense burner. He made the sign of the cross before her, wafting the pungent fumes into her face as though warding off evil. His harsh features were devoid of feeling or pity.
"Are you ready to confess your sins, witch?"
Isolde gathered the last shreds of her dignity. It was difficult to stand because they had placed hot irons to the soles of her feet in an attempt to force a confession of guilt from her.
"I am innocent of all the crimes of which I am accused," she replied. She had been beautiful when they brought her to this place. Even now, with her hair shorn and her lovely white skin blistered and festering with sores, her face retained enough of its former beauty to infuriate her tormentor. "I have always loved God and sought to do good to others," she said quietly. "Of this alone am I guilty. I am here because the jealousy of others has caused my downfall."
"So, still you dwell in vain pride." The priest stared at her with his dull, cold eyes. "You have broken the laws of God and man, witch. You shall pay the price for your wickedness in the fire."
Isolde raised her head, gazing into his eyes with proud defiance. Gathering all her strength, she spat into his face.
"Curse you!" she cried. "You are the evil one, not I. I curse you, priest, and your seed for all eternity! May you feel the pain I feel as I die. May your soul wither and die in the pit of Hell! May your soul never find peace."
The priest recoiled in horror as her spittle touched his skin, then hastily made the sign of the cross over his breast. Isolde laughed to see real terror in his eyes. He actually believed in her curse!
In a moment the fear was replaced by hatred. He lifted his arm, summoning the others who had waited at the door, giving her a chance to make her confessions in private.
"The witch does not repent," he said in a voice filled with loathing. "Take her! Take her to the fire!"

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