Tuesday, 22 April 2014

The Audacious Adventuress - 3 for FREE

Following on from the 3 FREE stories from Apocalypse, as an attempt to whet your appetite, I thought I would let you see the first 3 stories from the Lucy Burkhampton collection: The Audacious Adventuress. After you read these, I defy you not wanting to 'read on...'

The Audacious Adventuress is available from:

Amazon UK – Kindle version
Amazon USA – Kindle version

Amazon UK – Print version
Amazon USA – Print version

(For other territories, please alter the web address to suit.)

Part 1
The Call to Adventure

Lucy Burkhampton, socialite and mountain climber, is heir to the Burkhampton fortune and stands to inherit the whole Burkhampton estate upon her father’s death. In the meantime she spends her time in the same way as any young lady, attending balls, doing good works, and scaling the world’s highest peaks. As we enter the story she is resting on a ledge before attempting the next stage of her climb up Mount Kilimanjaro. Now, read on...

Lucy lifted her flask from where it hung at her side. The air was cool, but the climbing was hot. She forearmed sweat from her forehead and studied the rocks ahead. She was roped, as any good climber should be, and Emily Garbert-Smithe had found a good place to rest and secure the rope, so there was little chance she would fall, but Lucy prided herself on making every climb utterly flawlessly.

Her eyes traced over the cracks and gaps in the rock, picturing the climb in her mind, seeing and almost feeling the way her hands would slot here and here, while her toes could hold there and there.

She was just readying herself to commence the climb when she heard a scuffling from above. She looked up and saw Emily grappling with a man in black. He seemed intent on throwing her from the cliff.

And that was just what he did!

With a shrill scream, Lucy’s best friend since childbirth, her sister in all but name, teetered on the brink and then, with one last shove from her mysterious assailant, was ejected into space.

She plummeted past our plucky heroine, trailing the rope behind her. Lucy braced herself for the jerk, and it came. Emily reached the end of the line and slammed to a halt, still screaming and now swinging in towards the sheer cliff face.

Lucy held on with trembling fingers, but the weight of her friend was too much, she, herself, was being pulled towards the edge!

She reached down and grabbed her ice axe. She hadn’t needed it before, they hadn’t been high enough up, but now she did. She pulled it free and slammed the point into the ledge with all her might. It bit deep and held true, and she clung on.

Looking down, she could see that Emily had been knocked unconscious by her impact against the cliff. Looking up, she saw the man in black looking down.

“Who are you?” she shouted. “What on earth did you do that for?”

The man laughed before he responded and the sound of it chilled Lucy to the very heart.

“Who am I?” he called in a mocking tone. “Why, my dear girl, I am nothing less than your nemesis!”

He paused to laugh again, then continued.

“I will be the end of you and of all things Burkhampton. I have already disposed of your father, after getting him to make over his Last Will and Testament to me. In a moment, I will be free of you, the only challenge to my success. And then I shall track down the Red Eye of the Green God from the Yellow Isle of the Blue Kingdom and all of your riches and lands will be mine!”

This time the laugh was definitively maniacal. And it went on for a long time.

Meanwhile, Lucy was struggling to hold on. Emily’s dead weight was pulling at her, and she was powerless to resist. She slid, inexorably, towards the edge of the cliff while the madman in black laughed.

He did nothing more than watch as first one foot and then the other were pulled out into space. And then she was hanging by her fingers from the cliff, her unconscious friend unconsciously dragging them both to a jagged death.

What will happen next? How long can this ‘cliff-hanging’ moment last? Will our heroine and her friend survive? Who is the man in black? What is the Red Eye of the Green God from the Yellow Isle of the Blue Kingdom? To find out all the answers to this, and more, tune in next time...

Part 3
Taking the Plunge

Last time: Having left Emily’s body with three strange Sherpas and reached base camp, our intrepid heroine, Lucy Burkhampton, swindled heiress and mountain climber, has caught her leg in a bear trap left behind by her evil nemesis, Lord Diehardt. The tents are in flames and there is no help within a hundred miles. How will our plucky girl escape? Read on…

Lucy stared frantically around the inside of the burning tent, tugging at her foot, trying to pull herself free. Then, with a moment of desperate inspiration, she grabbed the kerosene lamp from the table next to her, smashed the glass chimney from it, then poured the kerosene down the side of her leg and into her sturdy boot.

She knew it was insane, in an inferno, to cover herself in flammable liquid, but it was her only chance and she needed the lubrication.

With a heave, she pulled at her leg and it slipped up and out of her boot.

“Yes!” She exclaimed then knelt and prised open the trap, releasing her item of precious, bespoke leather footwear and pulling it back on, her fingers slipping repeatedly from the kerosene.

She finally pulled it on and grabbed the trusty knapsack which was the reason why she had come back to camp in the first place. It contained everything important to her, and if Lord Diehardt was right, it was all that she had left in the world.

With her life in her hands, she spun to where the exit had been only to be greeted by a wall of flame. She didn’t pause, but with her lustrous hair tied securely back in a ponytail and bouncing against the nape of her neck, she plunged through the flames and out into the open air.

She took three steps before she realised that her boot and both of her hands were on fire. She dropped and rolled, quenching her hands and trousers, then leapt for the fortuitously nearby stream and doused her boot in the cold water.

Lucy pulled her foot back out. The leather was slightly blackened, but essentially unharmed, and she gave a sigh of relief.

That was when the first bullet hit the ground just by her.

She looked up and on the ridge above her she could see head after head, each with the pinprick of a rifle barrel piercing the skyline. A second shot exploded in the dirt on the other side.

She jumped backwards and rolled again, and then she came up running. She zigged and zagged through the camp, putting the burning tents between her and her new assailants. The bullets were still coming, thicker and faster now, but their aim was getting worse as the rising heat from the flames skewed their view of her.

She ran on, beyond the camp, wondering just how much was ranked against her, as the shots grew fainter. Just how many people did this Lord Diehardt have working for him? How many assailants would she be forced to battle against if she was to get to the Red Eye of the Green God from the Yellow Isle of the Blue Kingdom before her nemesis? And then, if she did find the Eye, would she be able to get it to her father’s old school friend, the Sultan, and claim the proof of her inheritance that she would need to regain her life?

She had no answers to any of these questions, so she simply ran, but she knew, in her soul, that she was going to try her very hardest. And that would have to be enough to prevail. It would have to!

The firing seemed to have stopped – or maybe she had just moved out of range – but she continued to run.

She slowed, however, as she realised that there was no longer anywhere to run to. The plain came to an abrupt end at a low cliff. Beyond it was a rushing river – the flood which the stream through their camp had fed – all green water and white foam.

She paused at the edge, standing between large rocks, looking down at the water and trying to work out her next move, when a pair of hands pushed her in the back and she flew from the cliff.

“Get in, the water’s lovely!” shouted Lord Diehardt as she plunged into the rapids and was pulled towards the rocks.

Our plucky heroine has been swept away, but is this the end, or just a baptism at the start of her journey? How does Lord Diehardt manage to always be ahead of her? Will Lucy be able to get away long enough to regain her life? Will she hold onto her trusty knapsack? Tune in, next week, to find out…

Part 8
The Sting in the Tale

Last time: Our beloved heroine, Lucy Burkhampton, swindled heiress and mountain climber, having escaped from the Pygmies and finally having boarded a ship for the Indies, finds herself locked below decks, in a ship which is plainly heading South rather than East, and with a barrel of scorpions smashed open at her feet! Will she escape from this ship of evil or will she feel the sting of death? Read on…

As the scorpions crawled closer, their claws scratching on the deck, Lucy kicked out. The creatures flew and hit the far wall, but landed unhurt and scuttled back towards her. She nodded to herself, her hair moving in a graceful rise and fall, and she changed her tactics for the next wave. These she stamped on, crushing the life from them, apologising in her mind but assuring their souls that her need was greater, and at the same time thanking providence for her sturdy leather boots.

In next to no time she found herself surrounded by a fresh carpet of dead scorpions and could finally turn her attention to the locked door which barred her way.

With barely a pause she reached to the bunk and grabbed her trusty knapsack. A single loose scorpion was sitting on top of it, but without any pause at all she swept it to the floor and stamped on it, even as she reached in to the bag for her small pouch of wotnots.

A bobby pin was to be her saviour. She bent the ends together and fed the whole thing into the door lock. With one twist she was free.

Or free of the cabin, at least, for beyond the door were two swarthy seamen, each clutching a short sword, and obviously waiting for her.

She gave them one of her best smiles and tossed her lustrous hair. They followed it with their eyes, as she had known they would – as she always knew that men always would – and so they didn’t see one of her sturdy boots again coming into action as she hefted it up between the legs of the man on her right.

He let out a gust of air in an “Ooof!” sound, and clutched at himself. As the sword fell from his hand, Lucy dropped into a squat and caught it, effortlessly shifting her knapsack to her left shoulder as she did so, and so was prepared to meet the sweep of the sword from the other sailor as it plummeted towards her.

The ring of steel on steel filled the gangway as they fought back and forth. The first sailor was forgotten, groaning on the floor, as Lucy fought the other man backwards towards the ladder and the companionway above it. That was her route to the freedom of the deck, and nothing was going to stop her.

“Do you know what I think?” she eventually asked the man as they traded blow after blow, neither gaining or yielding the advantage.

“No, what?” asked the sailor, his voice deep and dark, like his hair.

“I think you’ve forgotten the first rule about boats.”

He wrinkled his brow, thinking obviously more difficult for him than fighting. “What’s that then?”

“That there’s always plenty of water!” she crowed and with her next blow she braced herself and pushed.

The sailor took a step backwards and his foot entered the puddle which Lucy had spotted on the floor behind him. He slipped, his feet rising up high in the air, and his head landing with a resounding crack.

He didn’t move, but when Lucy bent down she could see he was still breathing. That was good. Killing the scorpions had been bad enough, she didn’t want to add homicide to her list of crimes, even if these seamen were working for her nemesis, Lord Diehardt.

She leapt over the man and mounted the steps with alacrity. She burst through the hatch and onto the deck, ready to engage more of the blackguards, but the deck was deserted; at least for the moment.

She seized her chance and ran to the side, tucking the short sword into her trusty knapsack as she did. There, she climbed into the waiting lifeboat and hit the emergency release lever.

The boat splashed into the water and the relative motion of the large ship quickly dropped her back into its wake and away.

That was when she noticed that her comment to the fighting sailor had been correct. Her trusty boots were now sitting in an inch of water, and the level was rising.

And then she noticed the second thing: a note.

There was a feeling of fatalism as she unfolded it.

“Happy Sailing!” it said, and she did not need to read the elegant signature to know who had written it, nor who had drilled the holes in the bottom of the lifeboat.

Adrift on the Arabian Sea in a boat which seems destined for the ocean bottom, miles from home, even more miles from where she needs to be, and with no hope of rescue, how will our heroine survive, and find her way to the hiding place of that precious Red Eye? Tune in next month to find out…

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