Extract from Chapter 1 – The Eighteenth of November
He was running through a wood, moving faster than the ground allowed. His toe caught on a root, he fell heavily onto his shoulder and lay winded. He scrambled to his feet, cursing, and ran on until the trees began to thin out and he could see a vast field, stretching ahead of him. It sloped downwards in a gentle gradient before rising sharply to a small hill. His breath caught in his throat. From the summit of the hill a column of smoke rose dark against the sodden winter sky.
He threw himself forward, almost falling down the field in his desperation. As he reached the bottom, drifts of thick yellow smoke billowed towards him, searing his eyes and burning his nostrils. Firefly sparks settled on his clothes and in his hair He pulled his cloak across his face and charged upwards. As he mounted the last slope the smoke parted suddenly, like a curtain, revealing indistinct shapes darting and scurrying about like ants round a disturbed nest.
At the summit a mass of people formed an impenetrable hedge, the smoke so thick he could scarcely see their features. He fought to get through, clawing, gouging, kicking, using hands, feet and elbows. Suddenly the crowd surged forward, baying, dragging him with them. He burst out of the circle and found himself staring at the thing in the burning embers.
Fabriel woke screaming, lay still, trembling, the screams still ringing in his head. They could stay there for hours, days. There had been times when he dared not sleep for fear of them. He made himself take deep breaths and look methodically round the room, ticking off the familiar items now reduced by moonlight to shades of grey. The heavy carved chair with his linen shirt draped across it. Dark suit hanging on the wardrobe. Deep leather armchair. Tiled floor. Mosquito grilles. The door into the bathroom was half open; it creaked slightly in a sudden movement of air. He could feel it play over his face, a touch like a spiders web.
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