An Excerpt from Mortal Restraints

Sneak peek time! This little bite-sized piece of Mortal Restraints is the beginning of Chapter One: A Lot of Blood. Consider this a teaser. Chapter one came in at a whopping 4.4k words, which is quite long for me. I’ve always written shorter, snappier chapters, but this book is lush and complicated (in a good way, I promise).

Before you dive in, here’s more about the world I’ve created for this book:

Mortal Restraints takes place in an Art Deco inspired time period in a made-up world. The newest, flashiest technology is infused with magic (numena) and relies on a metal called taerium, which captures the numenic energy of the sun (known as Ulnast, one of ten recognized celestial governances). Taerium technology powers most of the world, but all the mines are owned by a masked woman, an inventor and ruthless business owner known only as the Kodonast.

The Kodonast has a cult-like following of thaumaturgists (called the Kodos), who have the ability to channel numena because they traded their immortal soul for power. Unlike their leader, who has mastered numenic energy without such a trade, each thaumaturgist is limited to a particular numenic ability. For example, there is an engineer and artist who can only use numena to manipulate metal. To be fair, she does so beautifully and in such great detail that she is able to create stunning kinetic sculptures.

Unfortunately, the world’s use of numena does not come without cost, but up until this point, the Kodonast has paid off government officials and ruined the careers of many journalists in order to cover up the truth.

Ahem. Sound familiar?

I talk about it a bit more in this Instagram post. Now, let’s move on to the preview.

From Chapter One: A Lot of Blood

A deal with a swift comes at the cost of one’s eternal soul. There can be no other payment.

– Divisions of Thaumaturgia by the Theurgical Society

She died in a stairwell but only long enough for her killer to escape.

Plink. Plink. Plink.

If she had been sleeping, her eyes would have fluttered open. Instead, she simply came back into awareness. Her pupils remained dilated in the dark, and her slack jaw tightened. Damp metal grating pressed against her cheek. When she lifted her head, a throbbing hot pain consumed her. She gritted her teeth against the sting of death. The last thing she could remember was the ricochet of footsteps rushing after her. The flurried chase made the staircase shiver in protest. On the third-floor landing, she made a misstep. Her foot dropped farther than she expected, and she stumbled into the railing to catch herself.

The blow to her head came next.

Sudden. Hard. Final.

The explosion of dark that followed had felt like one, empty eternity without feeling or sound. To any creature in the living plane, only moments passed. For her, days and months and years did not exist. No matter how hard she grasped, the vast expanse swallowed who she had been and blotted out a lifetime of memories. In the end, she was only able to cling to one resolute desire: to live. Guided by an unshakeable knowing, she slipped her fingers into a black crease and pulled back a veil of immaterial quality. Then, that sound …

Plink. Plink. Plink.

She struggled to sit up, her broken body protesting every minute movement of bone and skin. Had she been beaten? By whom? Why? Memories darted just out of reach, shifting and swaying with the fluidity of forgotten dreams. The more she grasped after them, the farther they slipped. The more they faded. Until there was nothing but a terrible hollowness.

Mind spinning, she absently wiped the damp from her cheek. The viscid liquid stuck to her fingertips, but she could not make out what it was in the lightless stairwell.

Plink. Plink. Plink.

That sound—governances above! It ground in her burning ears. She craved silence. She needed to think. She needed to regain a sense of place. A sense of self.

A sour metallic scent filled her nose along with smoke. Strike? she wondered, recalling a coarse pewter-colored powder slipping through her fingers like sand. The memory shimmered and then vanished. She squeezed her eyes shut, trying to preserve the scent in her mind. It felt important. Vital.

“That’s a lot of blood,” came a deep, warm voice.

Fear zipped through her veins, and she jerked her head up, forgetting the strange scent. Spectral blotches of light burst in her vision. A dark-skinned man in a black morning coat crouched beside her. He held up a whale oil lantern in one hand, the flame of which turned his face into sharp shadows and distorted features. Around his neck was a messy, merlot-colored cravat—a severely outdated accessory, much like the lantern. In a lazy, subconscious movement, he adjusted the crumpled fabric, and then, with the tips of two fingers, he lifted her chin further.

Their gazes met, and she gasped.

Was it the light?

His eyes were red. Not bloodshot but red, the same color as his cravat.

Plink. Plink. Plink.

She managed to pull back, but the effort shot pain through her ribs. “Governances above,” she gasped and clutched at her side, as if complaining to death itself would relieve her of pain. Her eyes refocused on the pooling blood beneath her. It seeped through the metal grating to the landing below. A cold, terrifying realization struck her.

That sound, that infernal rhythm, was her blood.

“It’s been some time since I’ve seen anyone stumble back from the dead. You must have been angry. Or in love. Maybe both. From the looks of it, you should be angry.” The man helped her sit up, his hand firm but gentle on her arm. “So, tell me, why have you come back?”

Thank you for reading. I hope you enjoyed this excerpt from Mortal Restraints. Let me know what you think below!

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indie author. artist. wanderer.

About Sarah Day

Sarah Day is a native Arkansawyer and professional writer. She grew up in the Ozarks and has been carrying around piles of books for as long as she can remember. In 2014, she graduated from the University of Arkansas with a creative writing degree.

Writing: LGBTQ Sci-fi + Fantasy

Published: Ora and the Old God

Upcoming: The Valor Queen + Mortal Restraints

Sarah Day ©2021