What is "Crossing Tails"?
It is my debut self-published, young-adult, fantasy-adventure series in progress. Completely original with new heroes in a fantasy world of my own invention.
What makes Crossing Tails unique from other fantasy stories is that it is a "forked trilogy". This means that the first two books occur at roughly same time but with different protagonists. In the final installment, both protagonists will cross paths, creating a new story that neither of them expected.
The stars of Crossing Tails are Gimsh and Maranne. They explore the same magical world of Anthrody, which is threatened by a vicious terrorist group called the Feralines. One hero will travel from the East. One hero will travel from the West. Each will discover pieces of what the Feralines are scheming. Only together can our heroes unravel the greater plot that could ruin and destroy the lives of every Anthro.
As characters with the same goal, Gimsh and Maranne contrast on almost every level of their design: gender, size, abilities, personality, and even taste in art (or lack of). They may embark on similar adventures but it is their decisions that will challenge who they are in battle and what they're really fighting for.
For your reading pleasure, here is the first chapter of Maranne's story, Crossing Tails M!
CROSSING TAILS M
Chapter One: Her Home, Hardine
Above the winding dirt roads beside the seashore, Maranne continued to focus on her magic as she flew high, riding on her staff. She inhaled the chilly, salty winds, blowing across her face from the Merisian Ocean. Traveling at dusk gave Maranne wide view of a burning, orange sunset, shimmering on the pink horizon. It was an exclusive view, only to be found on the Western coast of the Anthrody.
As a young Feline Anthro woman of nineteen, Maranne resembled a human girl only she had the furry ears and tail of a cat. Her Anthro features matched the color of her reddish blonde hair, reaching only an inch below her neck. Feline Anthros along with Canine Anthros ranked as the most prominent ethnic groups of Anthrody. The other common kinds of Anthros included the Equines, those with horse features, the Ursine, those with bear features, and the Simians, those with monkey features. Many others lived in tribes across Northern Anthrody far from the most populated cities and regions. The most notable of the tribes were the Avians, the Anthros who had both the feathered head and tail of a bird. They dwelled in the high mountain peaks of Kuyon, where Maranne had spent two years training in Magical Combat and Long-Distance Flight.
While soaring at incredible heights, Maranne wore suitable clothes to keep her warm and comfortable. This included a pair of thick black pants, a lined dark purple coat, and a pair of black boots with a golden rim around the bottom.
She was near the end of flight to return to her home in Hardine, a humble town famous for its quiet beaches and elusive gardens. Many Anthros used to travel from Eastern and Central Anthrody to visit public garden parks and meet Hardine locals who used their magic to preserve the delicate beauty of the flowers and to harvest vegetables and fruits for sale.
Nowadays, Hardine was often ignored in favor of the more populated and clean capital city of the Lavaren region, referred as “Lavaren City,” located further southeast beyond Hardine.
The journey from Kuyon was more troubling than Maranne had wanted. She hoped for change but imagined her home would be the same as it was when she left two years ago. Regardless, she felt the need to confront her fears after spending two long years of training and growing.
Practicing magic had always been painful challenge, especially in school. All of the gossipy classmates knew how she could not cast the simplest of spells without releasing intense, magical power. Whether it was melting a doorknob or firing knife-like pens against the wall when she was only supposed to levitate them, Maranne was prone to the worst and most embarrassing accidents. Her most haunted memories were the days when she had to wear enchanted “safety-gloves”. They restrained her magical power to a level that was normal for an Anthro of her age. She had to wear them for classes to avoid destroying the school’s supply of cheap staff rentals. Maranne even kept them on her nightstand so she would not forget to wear them whenever she went to bed. She did what she had to if it meant avoiding any disastrous accidents in her sleep.
Maranne gripped her staff as she anticipated her arrival, cuing the teasing from her peers.
“Come on, tell me all the things you blew up. It's so cool!”
“Let me guess. They were finally fed up and sent you back home. Am I right?”
“How come you didn’t get me anything from Kuyon?”
Maranne swallowed her nightmarish thoughts with a mighty gulp. She reminded herself of how much more skilled she had become with using magic. She had befriended the Avian Anthros, studied their culture, and earned their respect. She glanced down, not on the villages of her home region but on her staff.
To possess a staff did not grant any magical power. It served as a tool to aid in concentrating and controlling one's ability to use advanced spells or enchantments. Unless one had the knowledge to forge a staff from crystals and stone, high quality staffs were expensive to own. During her final year of school, Maranne had read about the Avian craft of staffs in the Kuyon region. The staffs were made out of rare pieces of earth from the isolated mountain caves. It was this fantastic idea to create a custom staff, durable enough for her use without destroying it that motivated her to pursue a personal journey to Kuyon when she was only seventeen years old.
The bottom end of her staff was pointed forward for steering while the head of the staff, a smooth, blunted hook, was positioned behind her as to direct the flow of magic to accelerate her flight speed. It was Maranne's treasure that served as a constant reminder of her growth and skill. She breathed easily, knowing that she was a Feline Anthro girl who was strong enough to abandon her safety-gloves for good.
She continued to fly South above the rocky cliffs leading up to her hometown. Maranne squinted at the flashes of light, coming from what seemed to be the central shopping district of Hardine. She leaned forward and flew faster on her staff. It was an unusual concentration of dark blue light, flickering on and off. The closer she came to the source, the louder she could hear shrieking and screaming. Maranne grew worried and descended behind the houses near the outskirts. She figured flying directly above the crisis would give her away and leave her vulnerable to whatever danger was present. She stomped her laced boots into the ground to get a firm stance back on the ground after flying for over two hours from the last stop. Maranne held her staff right-side up, matching Maranne’s height of five feet and four inches. She twirled it between her fingers and restored the staff to half its extended height. It was also now twice as thick as she wanted it to be both easier to carry and handle as a weapon.
Maranne knew her way around town and traveled down familiar streets that would take her to where the lights came from. She peeked around the corner of an Anthro bank and spotted five Anthro men, three Canine and two Feline, patrolling around the houses and stores of the local residents. Even while wearing long dark green cloaks, their tails crept from underneath. They stalked the streets with murderous sneers. Another Canine Anthro man approached the group of five as if he had just returned from a bitter scolding.
“How many more are left?” asked the newly arrived Canine Anthro.
“Not many now. The people here were surprisingly weak. Hardine was much easier than I thought for a raiding. Kinda feel sorry for the other Feralines who have to deal with more resistant towns.”
“That’s their problem. Soon, we'll have another Feraline base. This will be perfect for the Western force."
Feralines? Maranne retreated behind the corner before any of the intruders spotted her. Whatever the reason for this invasion of Hardine, Maranne’s first goal was to locate the townsfolk who had been taken as hostages. She believed they would be held in the building with the most security. In order to determine which one it was, she needed to draw in the Feralines. Along the street where Maranne hid, she found a delivery box, a metal container used for Anthros to send letters and packages. Maranne tapped the delivery box with a twinkle from her staff. She continued to point her staff and performed the Levitation Spell. Both the top of her staff and the delivery box glowed in a matching aura of violet light. She lifted the box from its bolted hingers. She swung her staff, sending the mailbox to fly past the corner and crash in front of the intruders.
“Did you hear that? You three, go take a look over there,” As instructed, three of the Feralines left their posts while four stayed at their position near the entrance of the Hardine bakery. Maranne found sense in the location, given the incredible size of the building and the supply of bread to feed the hostages. She ran behind all the buildings until she reached the back door of the bakery. She was prepared to break through the locked doors until she noticed the blurry figures behind the curtains. She peered through tiny gaps in the window and saw two Feralines situated on the ground level. They stuffed their faces with stolen pastries and swiped their stash away from each other. Maranne looked above and spotted the bakery’s third floor balcony. Rather than fly and risk exposure, she carefully threw her staff through the wooden railing. She waited in case someone heard the rattling of her staff. Maranne slunk into the shadows and crouched. She reached out her hand and performed the Reverse Retrieval Spell.
FSSHZZZ! She vanished into a violet spark and reappeared on the balcony. She held her staff, right where it landed.
Maranne crept inside and came into a hallway with all the doors locked under prison spells, identified by glowing concentric circles surrounding the door knobs. If she had any skill in negatry, the art of breaking spells, Maranne could have easily removed the magic. Instead, she had to take a more direct approach.
Maranne whacked the wood surrounding the door knob and broke through the door frame. Inside the room, she was alarmed when she found a large group of the town’s hostages. They cowered to the far side of the wall.
“Don’t hurt us!” cried an elderly Feline Anthro woman.
“It’s okay. I’m here to help,” assured Maranne with a gentle voice. She reached her hand over to the children and smiled at them. Even the adults touched her hand, which helped to ease their fears.
“Maranne, is that you?!” hollered a young man. His broad shoulders and bony chin seemed unfamiliar at first until Maranne noticed his squinty eyes and stubby nose.
“Fradley?” Maranne felt nervous speaking to an old Canine classmate from school from two years ago. They had never been close companions. She needed to stay on track with the hostage situation.
“Yeah, What are you doing here? Did you come here with those Feraline freaks?”
“What? No…and who are those men?” Maranne hoped to finally get some answers on what happened to Hardine.
“They're terrorists who call themselves the ‘Feralines’. They’ve been attacking small towns all over Anthrody. How do you not know anything about this?”
“I just got back from Kuyon," answered Maranne. She knew the flow of national news did not often reach Kuyon because it was so secluded and distant. "Where's the police? Hasn't anyone tried calling them?"
“They took our telestones before locking us up,” explained Fradley, referring to the pocket-size stones that many Anthros used for communicating with each other over long distances, “There’s too many of the Feralines and we need to free the others as well.”
“Good idea. You go break down the doors and I’ll take care of the Feralines,” Maranne did not dwell on how outnumbered she was going to be. She was determined improvise however she could to save the Hardine locals from the terrorists.
“You're not serious, are you?" asked Fradley.
Maranne glared back at him. Fradley was shaken by her adamant eyes.
“Trust me, I can handle this.” Maranne left with a final nod and traveled down the stairs. She had faith in her powers and in the spirits to protect her. She just hoped they were stick to her side over the Feralines. When she reached the landing between the second and first floor, Fradley shouted at her.
“Wait! Even our strongest teachers were no match. You’re not even wearing your gloves. What if you hurt yourself or you-"
“Fradley! I’m not that helpless girl that everyone remembers! Now go help everyone else” Maranne stormed down the steps and unbuttoned her jacket, which she hung on the stair banister. Wearing a bright purple vest over a long-sleeved black shirt, her body was much more flexible. With a wide swing from her staff, she smashed the door to the ground level into pieces.
The feasting Feralines flinched at the sound of Maranne’s entrance.
“How did you get in here?” muffled, one of the Feralines as he swallowed his pastry bite. Maranne said nothing and gave a clever grin. He and his Feraline partner bolted up and ran towards her. A raging desire to fight fueled Maranne's magic. She pointed her staff and fired a violet beam of light, blasting the Feralines through the front windows.
FWWSHSHSH! Outside, the Feralines heard the sounds of magic and noticed the odd glow coming from the wreckage by the bakery's entrance. They were easily spooked by the sight of someone casting the Light Beam Spell. What frightened them even more was the violet color of the spell.
“Who's there?” demanded the tallest of Feralines as he looked down at his two unconscious comrades. He sneered at Maranne as she emerged from the dust cloud.
“Get out of Hardine now! This is your only warning,” commanded Maranne. “The Feralines are not welcome here!”
The Feraline leader snickered as did the rest of his henchmen.
“You don’t frighten us. We’re just about finished with our business with this stupid little garden town.”
Maranne clenched her staff and felt the thunderous beat of her heart.
The moment she raised her staff, the surrounding Feralines threw rapid blasts of blue light, centering around her. The collision flashed into an explosion of light, blocking sight of Maranne’s condition. After the Feralines ceased their attacks, they squinted through the fading light and gasped.
She was completely unharmed. The Feralines could see a curved, violet barrier, protecting her.
“No way...” muttered the Feraline leader.
She turned the barrier into a condensed orb shining at the tip of her staff and aimed it straight across, knocking out the two farthest of the Feralines.
Having freed all the hostages, Fradley raced out of the trashed bakery in time to watch Maranne fight head on against the nine dangerous fiends challenging her.
"She’s...actually using magic without her gloves,” whispered Fradley in awe.
“What are you all waiting for? Attack her!” The Feraline leader stood back as his henchmen lunged towards Maranne with a fury of magical attacks. She sprinted through the Feraline crowd and evaded every attack as they passed and hit each other. Her eyes set on the leader, Maranne fired another thick beam of violet light. He dodged with a high jump but Maranne reached under him and tapped his left foot. Right as he landed, Maranne levitated the leader and knocked him back into his group. Three of his henchmen arose, ready to strike. Maranne blasted the first, smacked the face of the second, and levitated the third, spiraling away, through the glass of a nearby shop.
Two more attempted to sneak up behind her but failed as she pivoted her stance and stepped far from their range of attack. She threw her staff into a fierce twirl, smacking the Feraline on her right. The one on her left, however, snatched her staff and waved it above her.
“Not so powerful now, are you?” mocked the Feraline, who was ultimately convinced Maranne was helpless and unarmed. She tightened her right hand into a fist and cast the Swiper Shock Spell, electrocuting the foolish Feraline, holding her staff. As he fell back, another Feraline came close to Maranne’s side and slugged her right shoulder. She grinded her teeth in agony over the surprise attack. Almost immediately, Maranne reared back and summoned her staff, teleporting back into her left hand. She slammed the Feraline’s jaw with an upward swing and jabbed his stomach with an explosive flash of violet magic.
As the final Feraline henchman stumbled and fell over, Maranne struggled to stand up straight and hold in the pain of her injured shoulder. She now realized the Feraline's fist was enhanced with spell that increased his physical strength. A careless twitch stung her shoulder joint. To her dismay, Maranne looked up and remembered she still had one more Feraline left to face.