We're only 1 week and 4 days away from the release of PRISON MOON: DRAGON FIRE! I'm so freaking excited to share this book with y'all so I'm back with another teaser.
I shared Chapter One back last week so if you haven't read it yet, you can find it HERE, then come back over and keep reading!
Prison Moon: Dragon Fire
copyright ©2018 Lily Graison
The temperature dropped twenty degrees when Sara stepped it into the shelter of the trees. The thick canopy above her head blocked most of the sun, leaving the jungle a cool, crisp break from the oppressive heat of the Wastes.
The fear she felt when she first woke on the alien ship was nothing compared to now. Her heart hammered in her chest as if it would burst. Her eyes stung with tears she didn’t have time to shed and the urge to sit down and start screaming was so strong she had to force herself to not give in and do it.
A flash of movement to her right caught her attention. She glanced that way and saw Marcy. She shot her a look as they ran, jumping limbs and scrambling underbrush until her lungs screamed for air and her legs ached from exertion.
The noise behind them grew. She looked over her shoulder and saw a mass of bodies in varying shapes and sizes, the snarls and growls turning into horrified screams, some human, some not. The human screams went silent a few moments later. She lifted her knees up higher, the phrase, run for your life, whispering through her head. She didn’t know what was happening to the other women who were on that ship with her and she didn’t have time to stop and find out or mourn the fact she knew some of them weren’t going to make it. Neither would she if she didn’t keep going. Keeping Marcy in her peripheral, she ran until the pain in her legs and side were so intense tears filled her eyes, the noises behind her grew distant, and the trees in the jungle started to grow farther apart. Vines crawled stone walls and the smell of dirt and something that reminded her of wet moss filled the air.
A tree larger than any she’d ever seen in her life loomed in the distance. The trunk was as large as a building, gnarled roots stretching like bony fingers were half unburied and snaking across the ground. As they neared it, she stopped running.
The far side of the tree was sitting on a structure of some kind, the roots draping the top and running down the front to crawl back into the dirt. It was four stories tall, great columns standing sentry by the open doorway. Vines crawled up the face of the stone to partially hide it from view. The stone was crumbled in places and large pieces of the structure littered the ground. It was abandoned now, nothing more than half-fallen rubble and broken stone.
Marcy stopped beside her and leaned over, bracing her hands on her knees. Sara sucked in gasps of air and placed a hand on her side and tried to walk off the stitch of pain aching at her waist. She looked through the trees behind them. Whatever had been coming for them wasn’t any longer. The growls and shrieks were now silent.
“What do you think that was used for?”
Sara huffed out a breath and looked at the stone walls in front of them. “Hard to say.” She stopped pacing and faced the structure, looking up the length of it. It was massive, whatever it was. The entrance was big enough for six people to walk inside abreast. Strange writing covered a stone tablet over the door and ran down both sides. “A bigger question is why is it here? If this is a prison moon, why build something like this only to let it go to ruin?”
Marcy stumbled to the structure and sat down near one of the huge columns flanking the door, resting her back against the crumbling stone. “I don’t know. Maybe it wasn’t always a prison.”
“Maybe.” Sara turned in a slow circle, taking in the surrounding jungle. It was quiet here. Too quiet, actually. There wasn’t a rustle of leaves, not a chirp of insects or birds. The entire area was—tomblike. “Do you hear that, Marcy?”
Her new friend raised her head. “Hear what?”
Marcy raised an eyebrow.
Long minutes passed as Marcy looked left, then right, before looking back at her. “It’s too quiet.”
She nodded and joined her next to the stone structure. “Think we should be worried?”
“When I hear something coming through the trees growling, then I’ll be worried.”
She had a point. Her legs ached as she lowered herself to the ground. “I can’t remember the last time I ate.”
“Me either. I’m starving.”
She gave the too-quiet jungle a once over. “You don’t suppose there’s a Shop n’ Save hidden out there somewhere, do you? I’d kill for a candy bar.”
Marcy snorted a laugh. “If only.”
“I know. I could drink a gallon of water, too.” She sat until her breathing returned to normal, then stood. “Now what?”
Marcy shrugged. “I don’t suppose hailing a cab will do much good.”
“Probably not.” She studied the surrounding jungle. There was nothing but trees and vines as far as she could see. “Do you want to stay here or move on and look for food and water? As much as I’d like to hide and never come out, the rule of three will take us out if we do.”
Marcy’s raised eyebrows said she had no idea what she was talking about.
“The rule of three. We can only go three weeks without food, three days without water, and three minutes without air. I’m not worried about the last one but the first two will kill us even if we manage to stay out of sight and nothing finds us.”
“Well, when you put it that way, food and water is the main priority.” Marcy stood and pulled down her short skirt. “I wish they would have given us something less revealing to wear. I feel naked in this getup.”
Sara ran her gaze over Marcy’s short dress. She was practically naked. She could see enough through the shimmery material to know Marcy preferred a bikini wax and was a true redhead. “I think the less part was on purpose.”
“So you don’t think the locals are going to eat us?”
Sara raised an eyebrow at her. “Define eat.”
Marcy made a face and shuddered. “Never mind.”
She moved away from the stone structure and stared into the jungle. It was still silent. Not hearing any birds or insects buzzing was just—eerie. It was as if nothing wanted to be here. Maybe they shouldn’t be either. “Which way should we go?” she asked, turning back to look at Marcy.
“I don’t know. It all looks the same to me.”
It did to her, too. “All right, then. Eenie-meanie-miny-mo.” She nodded to the right. “Let’s go this way.” They’d taken several dozen steps when Marcy grabbed her arm.
Sara stared at her. Marcy’s eyes were comically wide, her mouth forming a perfect, “O”. She heard what Marcy did a few moments later. The sound of feet against the ground, the steady thump of things running, the creak and crash of limbs breaking and falling. They were coming. “Oh, shit. What do you want to do?”
Marcy looked out into the surrounding jungle, fear shining in her eyes. “I don’t know.” When she turned and looked back at the stone structure, she did too. Sara had no idea what lay beyond that columned doorway but it couldn’t be any worse than what waited for them out here. She hoped.
The light streaming through the doorway only shined a short distance inside the darkened interior. Five steps in and she was plunged into darkness. Sara felt her way around, one hand on the wall to her right, each step cautious as the stone corridor gushed cold, stale air. She paused and looked behind her. “You still back there?”
“Yes, I’m here.”
She nodded, not that Marcy could see her, and turned back to the darkness and continued walking. A few broken pieces of stone litter the floor. The sound they made when her foot connected with them was loud in the stillness, along with her hissed curses. Like the sorry excuse for a dress, the aliens hadn’t bothered giving them decent shoes as most of her foot was exposed.
She took careful steps and when her hand reached the end of the wall, she stopped. “The wall ends here.” Should she continue forward? The light was so faint she couldn’t even see her hand in front of her. Feeling along the stone, she felt the gentle curve that indicated another passageway veering off to the right. “I think there’s another hallway here.” She took a small step, tracing the wall with her hand and paused when Marcy grabbed the back of her dress.
“Lead the way,” she said. “I’m right behind you.”
They turned the corner and Sara stared into total darkness. Three steps in and she stopped. “I can’t see a thing, Marcy. I could lead us straight off into a bottomless pit for all I know.”
“Then we’ll go back.” A gentle tug on her dress and she turned, following Marcy around the corner. “Now what?”
“I don’t know.” They both look back to the sunny entrance. “I think I’d rather stay here in the dark than try to outrun whatever that is out there chasing us. Did you get a look at them?”
“No,” Marcy said. “I was too busy trying to outrun them to worry about what they looked like. If they are even half as ugly as those aliens on the ship, then I don’t want to meet any of them face to face. Let’s go back around the corner. I’d rather not be in plain sight of the entrance in case one of them looks inside. Unlike us, they may be able to see perfectly fine in the dark.”
They move back into the darkness and waited. The noise from outside grew louder as they stood there. Grunts and snarls like they’d heard when they were told to run filled the air and the sound of feet hitting the ground, the crash of vegetation being uprooted, and the occasional scream caused the hair on the back of her neck to stand on end.
The light from the entrance didn’t shine far up the corridor they came through leaving everything in total darkness but once Sara’s eyes adjusted to the low light, she saw a flickering, pale glow. “Do you see that, Marcy?”
She pointed to her left then lowered her arm knowing Marcy couldn’t see it. “Over there to the left. That blue light.”
Marcy was silent for long moments then whispered, “I see it. What do you suppose it is?”
She had no clue. It could be a pool of crisp, clean water, a sanctuary filled with mounds of edible fruits, or the glow of some creatures eyes. Stooping down she felt for a stone and stood when she had one, then tossed it toward the glow.
The light flickered, then more lit the area until she could see what appeared to be some sort of doorway. She peeked around the corner. Seeing no trace of the things looking for them, she hurried as fast as she darted across the dark corridor to the other side, stepping into the fissure she saw in the stone wall.
“Sara, where are you going?”
She shushed her and took a cautious step and peeked around the corner, then gasped. “Holy shit, Marcy. Come look at this.”
“What is it?”
“I’m not sure but you’ll want to see it.”
Shuffling noises filled the silence long moments before Marcy leaned against her back. Careful of where she stepped, she moved forward and stared at the cavern below. It was enormous, the air cool, and she could hear what she thought was the faint sound of running water. The chamber smelled musty with the scent of dirt and mold but something like a sweet perfume mingled with it. She closed her eyes and inhaled, a small tingle rushing through her veins as the scent seemed to fill every ounce of her being and she wanted to roll in it, pull it in close, and bury her face in whatever it was and live there forever.
“What is that stench?”
“Don’t you smell that?”
“I don’t smell anything bad. What’s it smell like?” A set of stone stairs led down into the cavern below and she turned her head to look at Marcy. “How stupid is it to go down there?”
Marcy studied the corridor behind them, the stone steps, then the twinkling lights high up on the ceiling. “No more than going back out into the jungle and waiting for the locals to find us.”
She had a point. “Shall we?”
With one last glance at the sun-lit entrance, she nodded her head. “Might as well. Lead the way.”
They headed down. Those blue twinkling lights lit the stairs and enough of the wall to see it was wet in places. A few drops of moisture dripped onto her shoulders as they made their way carefully down the stone steps. Halfway down, her first hunch was proven correct. There was water here. The sound of it grew louder with every step they took. When they reach the bottom of the stairs, the cavern opened up into a massive cave and neither spoke.
The entire ceiling and most of the walls glittered with those soft blue flickering lights. There were so many it lit the cavern enough to see from one end to the next. She turned in a circle to take in the whole room. It was massive, the walls made of stone, the ceiling several stories high.
Marcy took a step closer to her and put a hand to her nose. “Something feels off about this place and the stench is making my eyes water.”
Sara inhaled but still smelled nothing offensive. “I don’t smell anything, Marcy.”
Her new friend’s eyes widened. “Are you kidding me?”
“No. Dirt, mold and something—“ She inhaled deeply again. “Decadently sweet.”
Marcy gaped at her. “If you don’t smell that, then something is wrong with you.”
She laughed. “I swear, I smell something sweet …” She inhaled again. “And a hint of some exotic spice.”
“Do you have a brain tumor you didn’t tell me about?”
“A brain tumor?”
“Don’t people smell weird things when they have one?”
“I don’t know but it would be just my luck. As if being abducted by aliens wasn’t enough to worry about.”
As pretty and inviting as those soft blue lights were, Marcy’s earlier assessment about this place was right. It was a bit on the creepy side. The crumbling stone structure with its climbing vines and weathered facade gave it a haunting vibe, even more so now that they were inside. The building was nothing but ruins and from the looks of it, hadn’t been used in years, but it felt as if they were trespassing. The place felt—tomblike.
She took three steps further into the massive space and her foot hit a stone that skittered across the floor. The noise was loud and echoed in the silence. The pale blue light above their heads flickered and as she watched, started to move. “Do you see that, Marcy?”
“Yes, they’re moving,”
Half of the lights suddenly fell away from the others and as they did, Sara saw them for what they were. They resembled a small moth or butterfly, their tiny wings glowing blue in the darkness. They danced in patterns around the chamber. Their light illuminated the cavern enough to see so she moved further away from the stairs. When she reached the center of the room, she stared at a mass of curving stone the length of the cavern and nearly as tall. “What do you suppose that is?” She tilted her head back, studying it. It took several long minutes to realize the rounded shape took on an actual form.
Marcy walked around the side of it and started taking a few steps backward until she was halfway across the chamber. “I think it’s a dragon.”
Sara joined her in the middle of the chamber, then smiled. “I think so, too.”
The size of the room made sense now that she saw the dragon statue. He was laying down, his wings curled close to his body. Marcy crossed to the wall near the head of the dragon statue, looking at it with her head cocked to one side. “What do you see?”
“Come take a look.”
The glowing butterflies were attached to the wall Marcy was staring at so it wasn’t hard to see the chiseled carvings and colored drawings. Dragons by the hundreds filled the wall, some in flight, others standing by what looked like humans. “Is it just me, or does that strike you as odd? They look like—”
“—Us.” Marcy reached out and traced one of the human-looking figures with the tip of her finger. “I would have thought drawings of people on an alien planet would look like—well, an alien. Not human.”
“Me too.” Sara studied the drawings. They ran the length of the wall, some easier to see than others. Time had leeched the color from them and whatever this place was, it was old. “The human-looking aliens are about as odd as the dragons.”
“Well, we have stories and legends of dragons on earth. What are the odds of us seeing depictions of them here, on an alien planet?”
“Yeah, I see your point.” Marcy chewed her thumbnail as she stared at the drawings. “Well, we know aliens exist now, so maybe our myths about dragons were started by someone from here visiting earth.”
“Possible. As much weird shit that’s happened to me over the past however long those Big Head’s snatched me, I’ll not be surprised by anything much anymore.”
They separated and searched the chamber but found nothing but dirt and mounds of cloth so rotten it fell apart the moment they touched it. The sound of water running was still present, though. It was a faint hum in the background.
She walked around the other side of the dragon statue, its head laying on the ground as if it were sleeping. She trailed a hand across one large horn, winding her way behind it and stopped when she saw a dim light. It was another opening. “Marcy, I think I found another passage.” She walked to the opening, staring down the length of it. The light grew brighter the further down the passageway. When Marcy stepped up beside her, Sara asked, “Door number two or stay where we are?”
“Keep going. I hear water and where there’s water, there might be food.”
Sara nodded her head and stepped into the passageway and started walking toward the light. Unlike the entrance they came in, this hall was lit enough to see. Other doorways led to places so dark they made her uncomfortable and they hurried past them. Irrational fear caused her heart to race as she imagined something coming out of those dark voids and grabbing her.
The light grew brighter with every step and unlike the dim bug-lit cavern they’d left behind, the next wide cavern they stepped into flared with light so bright, she had to close her eyes. She shielded them with one hand and blinked several times, giving her eyes time to adjust, and smiled when she could open them without the glare.
Marcy stopped beside her and lifted her hand to pinch her nose. “Ugh, it stinks worse here.”
Sara still didn’t smell anything bad and wondered if Marcy wasn’t the one with the brain tumor instead of her.
The cavern they now stood in wasn’t as large as the other but the water she heard running was here, a small trickle coming down what looked like a fountain attached to the wall to splash into a small pool beneath it. She ran to it and held her hands under the stream, catching a palm full before smelling it. There wasn’t any sort of oder to it and it looked clear. The water drained through her fingers and she held her hands back under the stream to catch more—then tasted it, and smiled. “It’s good.” She and Marcy drank their fill before splashing their faces, arms, and necks. The water was cool and if the small pool it splashed into were bigger, she would have been tempted to sit right down in it and have a proper bath.
Sara stepped away after her body was cooled and she felt less sticky and looked around the cavern. Sun shined from a hole in the ceiling and the far left wall was missing. The jungle was visible, allowing anything out there, inside. She watched the trees and underbrush for movement but saw nothing and assumed they were safe for now.
Marcy was still splashing water on her body as she wandered away from the pool. The wall behind it was smooth and unlike the rest of the structure, made of slick, smooth stone. She walked to the center of the cavern and noticed that sweet scent she’d smelled earlier was heavier here. She turned in a slow circle, wondering where it was coming from.
Further down from the fountain of water was another small opening. She crossed the space and peered inside. More steps led further down and she’d found the source of the sweet scent she kept smelling. It was here, whatever it was. “I found something. There’s another set of stairs over here.” She looked over her shoulder at Marcy. “Should we go see what’s down here?”
Marcy eyed the doorway, then the sunlit chamber. “You can go. I didn’t lose anything down there and I’m not a fan of dark places.”
Sara took a small step inside the doorway, feeling her way along the wall. She saw the stairs cut into the rock wall and moved toward them. Her foot hit something and it skittered across the floor and down the stairs, clanking over the side before it fell. And fell. It took some time before she heard it hit something again. This room was deep and pitch black near the bottom and even though her eyes adjusted to the dim interior, she still couldn’t see but halfway down. “It’s too dark anyway,” she said over her shoulder. “I can’t see a thing past the first couple dozen stairs.”
“Then don’t go messing around in there. If you fall down those steps, I’m not coming after you.”
She turned to leave but stopped when she heard what sounded like a deep sigh. She peered into the darkness, a chill running up her spine. Was something down there? She backed toward the doorway. Was this where the imagined boogyman she’d envisioned grabbing her in the corridor they’d walked through lived? She didn’t wait to find out.
Once she was bathed in sunlight again, she distanced herself from the doorway and looked toward the jungle. Just like in the front where they entered the ruins, nothing moved here either. She turned her head to look back at the dark room she’d just been in and remembered the sound she’d thought was a sigh. Maybe there was something down there and that was the reason nothing moved here.
She took a deep breath then shook her head. She was getting herself worked up over nothing, scaring herself needlessly. She walked back to the pool of water and dismissed the entire idea. There was nothing down there. She’d heard nothing more than wind whistling through another corridor somewhere below in the darkness. Probably. She hoped so. If the noise she’d heard really had been a sigh, the creature that made it would have had to be huge.
End of Excerpt
DRAGON FIRE releases April 24th!
DRAGON FIRE releases April 24th!
To see more of Lily's books, head over to HER WEBSITE.