This is the complete Steampunk Fantasy novel - all four parts of the serial in one volume!
Human life has value.
The poor living in the gutter is as valuable as the rich living in a manor.
The scoundrel is no less valuable than the saint.
Because of this, every life a reaper takes must be redeemed.
Raven has lived by this first tenet since she was trained by her father to become a reaper. But since his death, she’s been spending years redeeming the lives she’s taken. By her count, she’s even and it’s time for that life to end. If she settles down and becomes a wife, she might just feel human again. But on the way to the life she thinks she wants, the baron of New Haven asks her to complete a task which she cannot ignore… Just when Raven decides to give up on her life as an assassin, she’s pulled right back in.
Series: Chronicles of Steele
Genre: YA Steampunk Fantasy
Genre: YA Steampunk Fantasy
Publication Date: October 20, 2014
Raven jumped to the rail, moving out of the way of the crowd as they stampeded toward her. She gripped the lamppost and her reaper training kicked in. No fear. Breathe deeply. Think ahead. Make quick decisions.
The black lacquer carriage squeezed between the bridge railings, and the oak boards of the narrow footbridge splintered apart as though they were balsa wood. The railing to the left gave free another meter and the automated horse jerked in that direction.
In a quick, natural motion, Raven unsnapped her crossbow and felt through the quiver attached at her thigh for the right bolt. Pulling the wire from her belt’s winch, she hooked it to the arrow, pointed it at the wooden post of the gas lamp standing closest to the carriage, and pulled the trigger.
For a moment, the heavy metal horse hung over the edge with the carriage wedged between portions of broken railing. The horse’s brass legs still poured steam as they struggled in the air, creating the eerie sound of scraping metal. Gouges raked along the black side of the carriage as it inched its way toward the river. A small hand pressed against the window. The door surged past the railing and swung open. The body of a young boy tumbled out. He hung from the door handle with his fingertips. A gasp and a few screams filled the air behind her.
A female voice shrieked, “It’s the young baron!”
Adrenaline coursed through her veins, and Raven leapt toward the boy—toward the river. She fell in a controlled arc, the wind pulling her long hair as taut as the line from her belt. The carriage broke free from the bridge a moment before she reached it. She thumbed her winch to release more line and grabbed the boy in a full embrace. The cold water enveloped them.
The sudden change in temperature forced the air from her lungs, but she held it in as they darted below the surface. Her submerged body jerked to a stop as the line reached an end. The boy’s forehead struck her in the temple. Saltwater burned her eyes, and stars danced in her vision. Bubbles of air escaped her lips.
The boy went limp in her arms. She gripped him tightly in one arm and hit the rewind lever on the winch. She grabbed the line, and it wrenched her toward the light above. Streaks of her long, black hair stuck to her face as she emerged from the river. She released her breath and gripped the line. The winch pulled her toward the bridge, and the crowd above applauded. Gasping, Raven struggled with the sudden, heavier weight of the boy, struggling to hold him until they reached the top of the bridge. The line cut into her hand and her arm muscles ached.
Her tall black boots squished against the side of the bridge as they were pulled steadily up. She pushed off a tarred pylon to make it over the lip before the cable pulled them against the railing. The winch slowed when it neared the top. She reached up with her free hand and grabbed the crossbow bolt. With a flick of her thumb, she depressed the lever and the grappling hooks withdrew. After pulling the hook free of her line, she replaced the bolt in her quiver. A slow zipping sound continued as the winch on her belt drew in the cable. She allowed hands from the crowd pull the boy from her grasp. She blinked the saltwater from her eyes, her vision still blurred, her muscles quivering.
Four armed guards and one skinny man in a bowtie surrounded the boy she’d hauled to the surface, shooing away the people. Two other guards stepped forward to hold back the crowd.
With a sputter and a cough, the boy retched water from his lungs. The tension in Raven’s chest relaxed. She smiled and attempted to step toward him, but a vice-like grip took hold of her arm. Her fingertips twitched; she was ready to grab the knife on her hip and fight her way out, if necessary. The hard faces of two guards stared down at her. She could smack one in the jaw with the back of her head, and when he loosened his grip, throw a punch at the other. The taste of escape grew bitter on her tongue when she considered the surrounding crowd. She made a count of the collateral damage and clenched her jaw. The last thing she needed were more kills on her conscience, more lives to redeem herself for. With a deep sigh, she remained still.
The man in the bowtie held the wet boy to his chest. His cold blue eyes pierced hers. He pointed and said, “Arrest her.”
In simple language, Pauline Creeden creates worlds that are both familiar and strange, often pulling the veil between dimensions. She becomes the main character in each of her stories, and because she has ADD, she will get bored if she pretends to be one person for too long.
Pauline is a horse trainer from Virginia, but writing is her therapy.
Armored Hearts, her joint effort with author Melissa Turner Lee, has been a #1 Bestseller in Christian Fantasy and been awarded the Crowned Heart for Excellence by InDtale Magazine. Her debut novel, Sanctuary is scheduled for release September 30, 2013, and has already been nominated for two awards in YA Science Fiction.
One of Pauline's short stories has won the CCW Short Story contest. Other short stories have been published in Fear & Trembling Magazine, Obsidian River and Avenir Eclectia. An urban fantasy short will appear in The Book of Sylvari: An Anthology of Elves from Port Yonder Press, and a vampire short will appear in Monsters! from Diminished Media Group.