Help me…Do whatever it takes…Keep the gates of Alammuo sealed.
Darkness tugged at him and threatened to pull him into its murky depths. With a jerk, Ebube sat up on his pallet. The creaking wood and thumping of his heart echoed in his acutely responsive ears.
Danger seeped from the nightmare he couldn’t remember into the air, leaden and oppressive. His breath heaved as he choked, his throat clogged with the fetid stench of death.
On reflex, he extended his right arm, grabbing the scabbard he always kept within reach, the pitch shadow no hindrance for his sharp eyesight. As a leopard-shifter, his vision was excellent, night and day. He didn’t need to look at his hands to see the extended claws. Sharp tips dug into his palm. He ignored the sting and his awkward grip on the carved wooden hilt of the single edge sword.
His beast came to the fore, clawing to take over, an instinctive response to potential threats. Muscles tensed, Ebube fought the shift. Sweat streaked down his body in rivulets. He swiped his face with his left palm, stopping the liquid from dripping into his eyes.
Sweeping his gaze across the large, airy chamber of his sparsely-decorated home, he sought the source of danger setting off his internal alarm.
Apart from the raised bamboo sleeping platform covered in padded deer hide and the wooden trunk that stored his personal belongings, the only other items were his tools of warfare – his spears, shields, machetes and scabbards. They hung on the single-rung mantel against the burnt-umber rock wall, gleaming with polish and sharpness, ready for use. Undisturbed.
A tingle ran up his spinal column, the way it always did when he sensed something out of place. Something terribly wrong. He swung his legs around. Cool unglazed stone flooring met his bare feet. The muscles on his back tensed, primed for action. Slowly, he stood to his full height and walked through the room.
His home consisted of two chambers, one for sleeping and the other for entertaining guests. Though as a guardian, a special warrior of the gods, he could live as luxuriously as the gods did, they had agreed communally to live as simply as humans of the era so as not to draw attention to themselves as supernatural beings.
Nothing was out of place in his rooms, no stray, malevolent being in the vicinity. Yet the tingling in his bones didn’t dissipate. When he found nothing inside, he grabbed the wooden knob, opened the door and walked onto the corridor linking his residence to the rest of his family’s. Their homes were hewn out of Amauwa rocks, a hill range in the middle of the rain forest.
He stopped in front of the last house, the tension on his shoulders increasing. Nothing lurked inside it, living or inanimate. Yet the memory of the previous occupant flooded his mind, hitting him low in the abdomen, spreading pain through his body. Gritting his teeth, he shook his head and turned his back to the building and its unwelcome memories.
A lover of books, as a teenager Kiru Taye used to read novels under the blanket during lights-outs in boarding school. These days, with a young family to take care of, she’s still sacrificing sleep for the pleasures of a good book.
During the day though, she transforms her wildly vivid imagination into sensual, atmospheric romance stories with passionate characters.
When she’s not writing or reading, she’d hanging out with family and friends or travelling. Born in Nigeria, she currently lives in the UK with husband and children.