“What remains consistent with D. Wallace Peach’s writing is her skill in story development and plot, as well as her wonderful gift for metaphor. Her characters become allies or villains as the plot develops, creating an emotional connection for all players in the unfolding drama. It is this connection with the full array of characters that pulls the reader through the story effortlessly, always wanting to know more, know the fates of lovers, warriors and rulers, whose paths, and very lives are inextricably altered.” – Brother Coyote Publications
Four generations ago, the realms fell to fire. The Burn, the only means of destroying a lush land so manipulated by man that while its crops sated hunger, it poisoned the flesh. Now the wilderness slowly reseeds itself unassisted, the hard lessons learned through starvation, displacement, and poverty. What remains for nature’s tinkerers? The human body.
Pathway, the coveted distillation that enables the grafting of skin across species. The warriors of the Sea Barrows meld spiral horns to their skulls, reptilian scale to their chests. They embed the razor teeth of sea beasts in the bones of their forearms and replace the flesh on their backs with the fur of wolves. Women of wealth adorn their bodies with serpent skin as elegant as black lace, long tails, plumed feathers and silken fur, their own skin cast off, no longer desirable.
Then they bear children … creatures like Aeris.
A man who longs to be human.
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Lasandra’s new lips curved like a bow, rose red, and as plump and luscious as a bruise. Barely clad, she posed before her looking glass, glimpsing in her reflection the potential for perfection. Her transfiguration was almost complete, the last scars barely visible–faint red seams that would fade in a matter of weeks. She wanted new eyes, green ones, the bright emerald of spring grass and fresh limes, and a cascade of long curls as black and thick as a moonless night. She had spotted the ones she desired in the market place. The woman sold yellow onions from a crudely woven basket. Poor and barefoot, she would sell hers, surely. Lasandra could afford whatever she asked. And she’d pay for replacements. She wasn’t merciless; she wouldn’t leave the woman bald and blind!
Her fingers traced the tiny jewels arching over her eyebrows, four on each side. She’d decided on fire rubies with simple gold settings, nothing too ostentatious. Bone-studding was nothing new, but with the other modifications… well, they looked dazzling. And it hadn’t hurt at all when Syr Sorelis drilled the little screws into her forehead. Thank the alchemists for that little miracle.
She turned in front of the mirror, admiring her skin. The designers had worked with her for over a year, visualizing something asymmetrical but precisely balanced. And the bestiary had grown the species exactly to her specifications, no easy task. The serpent skin looked like scalloped black lace over new snow, sheer, delicate and soft to the touch. It curled across her skin, starting behind her ears and swirling across her breasts and belly, down the inside of her thighs where it tapered to slender points near the knees. It covered her hands and forearms like fingerless gloves.
The fur alone had taken years to cultivate because she wanted fine black and white stripes and the feel of velvet. The first animals had been unacceptable, their pelts far too coarse, the fur too long and thick. When finally a creature was acceptable, the transfiguration melded its skin to her shoulders like epaulets, formed a curved V on her back and covered every inch of her legs where she hadn’t already melded the snake skin. Stripes ringed her long tail.
She was undeniably stunning, a human art form… almost.
As she studied her composition in the mirror, it was all too evident that her brown hair and brown eyes simply wouldn’t do.