Jackson Tandy lives in Incheon, South Korea. He is an author and the host of the “Head Trip” Podcast, as well as the co-host of “The Migooks” podcast.

From the Archives - Jamie Rhae Daemon Hunter

In episode #3 of the podcast, I talked about my third novel, “Jamie Rhae Daemon Hunter.” Here I have attached an excerpt of that novel. It was the 7th draft that I had written on my own. This was an excerpt that I sent to editors when I was querying editors in the fall of 2018. I ultimately decided not to hire a developmental editor and not to publish the novel. (For all the details, listen to podcast episode #3 of Head Trip). Without further Ado, here is an excerpt from “Jamie Rhae Daemon Hunter.”

CHAPTER 8

*****

When Daemon Mistarae pulled Nellie and James through the daemon fire, she didn’t do it nearly as kindly as Koella had pulled James through. She didn’t offer a guiding hand and wait for that hand to be accepted. Instead, she reached through with two hands, grabbed each of them by a shoulder, and yanked them into her world like an angry Rah might pull two mischievous toddlers out of the pantry.

Now they stood vulnerable before her, shivering and confused, trying to recover from the disorienting sensation of passing through an icy lake of nothingness on the way from one world to the next.

“Where in the name of Eler and Onur did you get that?” Daemon Mistarae demanded in a voice like a wind storm.

Where Daemon Koella had been green, reptilian, and well, not pretty by any stretch of James’ imagination, Daemon Mistarae stood tall, regal and slender, the stunning form of a handsome woman. She looked at them with mesmerizing purple irises framed by a shiny, blue face. Her skin reminded him of a dolphin’s, the way it glistened in the light like the thinnest sheen of water. She wore no clothes, but her sea-green hair flowed all about her, covering her torso and legs except for her blue feet and ankles. It shifted and moved like an underwater kelp forest, mesmerizing James with its fluid movements. Swirled was the best word, he realized, her hair swirled about her like a living, protective blanket.

While the two children stood in awe of the daemon, she reached down and snatched the golden necklace from where it hung loosely in Nellie’s hand. “This!” she boomed, “where did you get this?”

Nellie tried to answer, but just then she became aware of the ocean water swirling about her ankles. It looked a hundred different shades of green and blue, purple like vine berries and yellowish green like fresh pressed apple juice. All three of them stood in the shallows with the waves breaking gently on the shore. The sweet music of the living water filled their ears like a song made from honey and sunlight.

James shook his head to try and clear it. He might be disoriented, but Nellie looked to be in full shock. If anyone was going to respond to-

“Answer me, child!” She boomed again. This time the gale-force rush of her voice pushed them backward a full two steps. Nellie put her arms out for balance and looked around slowly as if searching for the source of the sudden wind.

“Daemon Mistarae,” James stammered, “let me explain.” She turned her purple eyes on him and he felt a shiver run down his spine. He gulped. The first Daemon he had met had been lying down, hurt and subdued, but this one was very much alive and in command of her full powers. She was already upset, and he needed to placate her as soon as possible. “Last night I was pulled into the Goejewal… um… spirit world. Daemon Koella pulled me through. She was in very bad shape. When I found her she was lying on her back. She could hardly even speak, but she gave me that necklace and told me to bring it to you.”

Mistarae looked down at the necklace and back to the boy. She seemed like she didn’t believe a word of his story, but the truth of the necklace in her hand frustrated her because it kept her from dismissing him outright.

“Daemon Koella said to tell you that she had made a terrible mistake,” James went on, “Something about an orange bow. She tried to tell me more but then we heard footsteps. Huge, stomping footsteps like earthquakes. She got spooked then. She said, ‘he’ was coming. I tried to ask her more but she pushed me out of her world. I ran here as fast as I could.”

Daemon Mistarae looked at Nellie, who was now leaning forward with her hands on her knees and taking one slow, deep breath after another. “And her?” she asked. 

“She’s my friend,” James put in quickly, “she drew the ocean shell in the ceremony. I found her this morning and she had already built a fire. She helped me and I showed her the necklace. Actually, she put it on-”

“She what?” Mistarae’s eyes went wide. “Eler and Onur…” 

“It was my fault,” James said quickly, “we didn’t know. She took it off as soon as she realized-”

“Enough,” Mistarae pronounced. “Tell me, child, what time did Daemon Koella summon you.

James thought about it. “This morning,” he answered, “maybe two hours or an hour before dawn.”

Mistarae’s eyes moved back and forth as if she were searching her memory. Then she asked, “Did you see anything else?  Any other Daemon fires? What about fallen trees or dead forest creatures? Did you see no one else in the forest? This creature you say was coming, did you not catch a glimpse of it?”

James wanted desperately to give her more information, but everything had happened so quickly. His time in Koella’s world couldn’t have been longer than a minute or two. “No,” he said, “I didn’t see anything else. I remember the trees… I remember looking for an injury on Koella’s body, but I couldn’t see what was wrong with her.” He looked up anxiously at Mistarae, feeling like a student getting grilled by a teacher for not remembering the points of the lesson. “I didn’t see the… the man, whatever it was. She pushed me away too soon.”

Mistarae turned 180 degrees in one swift and powerful movement. Her hair spun after her a second later, emphasizing the movement or her body the way that a voice echoes in a canyon. She began to stride up the shore with long, deliberate steps. 

James started to follow, but Nellie still stood perplexed in her place and he didn’t want to leave her alone. He called after the blue-skinned woman instead, “Wait! Daemon Mistarae! Please, can you tell us what’s going on? Do you know why Daemon Koella is in trouble?” But she did not look back.

James went to Nellie’s side and pulled her upright by the shoulders. “Nellie, come on, we have to go after her.” She wobbled unsteadily and her eyes still wandered with a dream-like gaze. “Nellie!” he yelled at her.  Slowly she focused on his face as if seeing him for the first time. Then she looked after the receding figure of Daemon Mistarae. “Where is she going?” she asked quietly. 

“I don’t know,” James muttered, “but remind me to be a better host if I’m ever a daemon. She grilled me with a bunch of questions and stormed off without a word.” As he spoke, they watched Mistarae move further into the water until she was knee-deep. She finally stopped and stood there, gazing out to see, her sea-green hair swirling all around her, seemingly independent of wind. 

“Maybe she’s just… thinking,” Nellie said.

“Well we can’t afford to lose her,” James said.

Nellie stooped and cupped her hands in the water, watching the vibrant colors pass over her palms and through her fingers. A small school of translucent minnows darted around her ankles and then sped off again, causing her to laugh with delight. She obviously didn’t feel nearly as agitated as he did. “This is unbelievable,” she said. “This is really…”

“The spirit world,” he finished. “It looks a lot like our world doesn’t it? The Long Shore, the hills, and the forest. You can even see the mountain in the distance.” He pointed, and Nellie followed his gaze toward the mist-covered peak of Hanagae Mountain. “The strange thing about it,” he thought out loud, “is that you can’t pinpoint the sun. It’s daytime, but where’s the light coming from? It was the same in Koella’s world.”

Nellie stood up and looked inland. “Look at the forest,” she said, “does it seem… dull to you?”

“Yes,” he said after a moment. Looking down at the water and out to sea, he saw vivid color and life, and the song of the waves played gently behind it all. But looking toward the forest, a cold and foreboding feeling crept into his chest. He shivered and looked back toward Daemon Mistarae, “how long is she going to stand there doing nothing?”

“Maybe processing what you told her,” Nellie said, “Maybe planning her next move.” Her voice dripped with reverence as she added, “Far be it from us to guess the thoughts of a Daemon.”

James frowned, “Well we wouldn’t have to guess if she’d just tell us.”

Nellie worked through her thoughts, ignoring James’ sarcastic comment, “Rah Soula says that the eight daemons support the island like the foundations of a wall or the anchor lines of a vast spider web,” she said, “Ever since you told me about Daemon Koella, I’ve been trying to understand the implications of one of the daemons dying, what would it mean, and has it ever happened before? Just look at her.” They both watched Mistarae, who now stood with her palms outstretched and her chin tilted up toward the sky. “How many thousands of years old is she? Just think about that, Jamie. Imagine what it’s like to be her. There are only eight beings like you in all the world - in all the worlds - and you’ve been alive for how long, and then one day you hear that one of your kind is dying?”

“You think she’s… mourning?”

“I don’t know what she’s doing. I just know that, even though we have good intentions, we brought her some very bad news. Maybe don’t take it personally that she’s not inviting us home for tea.”

James nodded. “Alright,” he said slowly, “well how can we convince her that we’re here to help?”

“Let’s go tell her,” Nellie said plainly.

“But-”

“You told her your story,” Nellie cut in, “I heard that much, but you didn’t tell her that you wanted to help. People can’t read your thoughts, Jamie, remember? I sure can’t. Maybe daemons can’t either.”

James frowned at his friend. “Where was all of this wisdom and confidence a few minutes ago, you know, while I was getting grilled by the tall, frightening, sea goddess?”

Nellie laughed and grabbed him above the elbow. “I’m sorry,” she said, “I’m not as experienced at traveling between worlds as you are. But I am good at people. Let’s go try and make a better impression.” She pulled him forward a few paces and then dropped his arm and took the lead. They plodded through the strangely colorful waves, James feeling naked without his satchel and spear. There hadn’t exactly been time to grab his things when Mistarae had jerked through the fire. Now he cursed himself for not keeping his things closer. For all the beauty of this strange world, he hated how vulnerable he felt, and how much his and Nellie’s well-being depended on this beautiful yet moody daemon. He hadn’t voiced it aloud to Nellie yet, but he had wondered what might happen to them if Mistarae simply left them or disappeared. How would they ever get back to their own world without her help?

They slowed as they grew closer to Mistarae. Nellie purposefully dragged her feet through the water, making more noise than was necessary. Knee deep in the waves for mistarae was thigh-deep for James and nearly waist-deep for Nellie. She cleared her throat and said, “Daemon Mistarae, I’m sorry we weren’t properly introduced…” When the daemon made no sudden movements, she continued, “My name is Nellie, and he’s James. And we just assume you are Daemon Mistarae, but you’ll have to forgive us our ignorance. We’ve never been… here, before.”

“You can call me Guardian,” Mistarae said with her back to them. All force and emotion had gone from her voice, now it traveled softly like a spring breeze, “‘daemon’ is an old word from other time.”

James and Nellie exchanged a curious look. “Guardian Mistarae,” Nellie said carefully, “I’m sorry about what happened, and the way that you found us. We meant no disrespect, and we came by the necklace honestly. All we want to do is help. Is there any way we can help Dae- Guardian Koella?”

Mistarae turned to both of them and seemed to really look at them for the first time. The ends of her long hair floated on the surface of the water, fanning out from her body like a billowing dress. As her deep purple eyes scanned over them, James tried to stand brave and tall without appearing confrontational. Nellie brushed her long braids behind her shoulders. Finally Mistarae said, “Children, it is ill fate indeed that has led you here. Before you arrived, I sensed a black cloud of tragedy forming over the island. And even when I found you, before you opened your mouths to speak, I knew that you carried a message of death.”

James gulped, “So it’s true, Daemon Koella is…”

Mistarae shook her head sadly, “You have already seen too much. I would rather send you back home to the middle world than involve you in these matters for even another minute.”

James opened his mouth to protest, but Daemon Mistarae held up a hand to silence him, “Wait, eager child,” she said. Then, with a long exhale, she closed her eyes and lowered her hands so that the tips of her fingers dipped into the waves. James watched wide-eyed as the water churned into a boil at her touch. Sharp waves shot across the surface of the water behind her, away from the kids, out into the open sea for as far as James could follow them with his eyes. Mistarae had closed her eyes, and she seemed to be muttering something just below their ability to hear it.

For a long, uncomfortable moment they waited. Finally, Mistarae snapped her eyes open once more and regarded them, “I wish that I could send you back to your tribe with a comforting message, befitting your challenge. At any other time, this is exactly what I would do. You say you want to help, and I’m afraid to admit that I might be in need of exactly that.”

James and Nellie exchanged another look. 

“So does that mean…” James began to say, but even mid-sentence his jaw fell open and stayed there. Behind Mistarae, three enormous shapes were pushing slowly out of the water like living mountains.

“I know you have questions for me,” Mistarae said, “there is too much to tell you and far too little time. You are now visitors in my world, and rather than explain it to you with words, I find it much more effective to simply show you.”

“Ooh…” Nellie gasped. The three massive turtles rose out of the ocean, sea water rushing from their backs like waterfalls through the deep rivulets of their dark shells. Massive fore fins scraped through sand and water as they drug themselves forward. Dark heads with yellow eyes and fierce beaks bobbed up and down in the waves.

“Don’t fear,” Mistarae said as the turtles flanked her on both sides, one on her left and two on her right, the peaks of their dark blue shells rising as high as her head. “These are my friends.”

*****

CHAPTER 9

*****

“This is Khaadhaam,” Mistarae said. “That one there is Rhuunedel, and the one next to you James, she is called Thaalin.”

Small, white spots flecked their head and limbs, standing out against their deep blue skin like stars against a midnight sky. Yellow eyes peered out from deep sockets with the rational light of wisdom. James walked forward to meet the one called Thaalin, holding his hands before him in what he hoped was a peaceful gesture. To his surprise, Thaalin’s shell felt smooth, even pliant, when he placed his hands upon it.

“They will be our guides and protectors for this excursion,” Mistarae said, motioning for Nellie to climb up onto Rhuunedel’s back. Nellie hesitantly accepted Mistarae’s hand and scrambled onto the turtle’s shell, using the deep grooves between the plates for hand and footholds.  “Just hang on to the turtle’s shell and let them do the rest,” Mistarae said, as if they were learning to paddle a canoe instead of mounting giant sea turtles, “they’ll take care of you.”

Once Nellie had been seated, Mistarae moved to help James mount the one called Thaalin, but he was already scrambling up the slippery shell. He crouched on top, marveling at the size and power of the creature beneath him. “Where are we going?” he asked Mistarae, but she didn’t hear him. She was busy grasping at the back of her neck, her hands concealed beneath the great mane of her sea-green hair. Her face tightened into a grimace as her hands worked, and soon she produced two necklaces that James didn’t know she had been wearing. “Here,” she said, handing one of the necklaces up to him. He leaned down to accept a snow-white cord with a blue spiral shell dangling from the end. It was barely noticeable, but he thought that Mistarae flinched with pain right at the moment when he took the cord. He watched her hesitantly, but she quickly turned her back and strode towards Nellie.

“These are not necklaces, as you call them,” he heard her say as she handed the second one to Nellie, “these are two of my amulets, just as the golden strand that you brought with you is one of Koella’s amulets. They represent a portion of my powers, as endowed to me by Eler-Roth when I first became a Guardian. Tie them securely around your neck, and by Eler and Onur, whatever you do, do NOT take them off.”

***

(Chapter 9 continues on, but I stopped here for the limit of the 3,000 word sample.)

From the Archives - Turtle Island (Chapter 1)