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Caul Shroud and Veil
Kim McDougall
"How do you extinguish a sentient forest fire. And should you?"

Canaan, a broken god, and Maia, a young FireRaiser, face the horrors behind a sentient forest fire razing the continent of Gnoss. Gnoss' divine king, Alred, is too wrapped up in his own fears to believe that his kingdom is truly threatened by a power greater than his own. These three characters collide in a battle of wills. Each is dependent on the other. Each believes he is alone to battle the demons that come from inside as well as those hiding in the darkest forests.

Maia was raised a devout Gnossin but when she meets Alred, she learns that he is a man like any other. Still, she reveres him as a god until he steals her son. In her most desperate hour, she turns to Canaan and the old gods. With their help, she must find the inner power to become a true FireRaiser.

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Read an Excerpt

When I say in that moment, I loved her—at least as much as a creature several eons old can love—it was with that kind of love which could turn traitor or champion.
I had easily spied her in the crowd. Her red hair blazed like lava around her shoulders, a flame among the ashes of a civilization. As I grabbed her, I realized I had been aching to do so. My hand covered her mouth and I imagined I could feel her lips through my steel bands. When she struggled, her hair beat against me like the wings of a thousand fireflies. By the time I had secured her hands, her struggles had left me weak with desire, and loathing. My old, broken body felt young again. Young and hot, and I despised her for it.
When she agreed not to scream—and how I ached to hear her scream—I let her go.
“Would you believe me if I told you that I was older than Gnoss?” I asked.
Maia nodded slowly. Her gaze was wide and fixed on my own. She was afraid, but drawn to me like a moth to a candle. She would not run away.
“There is a prophecy,” I continued urgently, as if we might be interrupted before I could finish. “Your mother knew of it. It is her family’s legacy.
“There will come a time of war when the Son of Gnoss will make the wrong choices, and send his people into a spiral of starvation and poverty. The wind in the trees sings that only the love of a woman can sway his choices and lead him down the right path.”
I took her fine pink hands in my own ragged one. She flinched slightly, expecting my fingers to burn her, but I willed my touch to be a caress instead. The only heat she felt was that of my false sincerity.
“That time is now, Maia, and you are that woman.”
Had I been mortal, I would have held my breath. Would she believe? Would she see through my half truths and doubts? Was she still young and mutable enough to trust in the power of prophecies?
She tried to back away from me, but I held on tighter.
“You see fire, don’t you?” I asked. “You see flames around people’s heads. Those are veil flames, the breath of Ohd in each of us. You see them because you are a FireRaiser.”
Maia shook her head.
“No, no, no!” She denied her sight or the existence of the flames or even this whole conversation.
“Listen to that,” I said. We could hear the mob busy with their lynching in the distance. “Someone must stop that madness. All over the world people like yourself, who don’t believe in the mechanism of modern thought, are organizing to rise against the reigning governments. You can be part of that. You are part of that.”
“Against the government. You mean my father?” she asked.
“I mean all governors, even the Glory…”
“The Glory!”
Now she really did back away from me, pulling her hands out of my grasp. I spoke faster, hoping to sway her before learned convictions shut her mind from the truth.
“The Glory is just a man. Only Ohd holds the key to our future. Only Ohd can grant forgiveness.”
Her eyes blazed at me in anger.
“You speak in lies,” she said, “but it doesn’t matter. I have no part in it.”
“But you do, Maia.” I played my trump card. “Your mother would have wanted it so.”
“I don’t believe you!” She pushed past me. “My mother was not demonborn! You are the demon!”
“Maia, please listen.” I grabbed at her again, but our previous struggle had left me weak and she ran down the street away from my grasp and my influence, already forgetting my existence.
I watched her wind through the crowd, her red head bobbing like a candle flame in a drafty room. I would go to her again and again, each time breaking down her defenses until finally she accepted and remembered me. Only then could she come into the Circle of Five.

Fiction, Fantasy Length: 352 Pages

Release Date: April 16, 2009 ISBN: 978-1554046676

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About the Author

Kim McDougall is a writer and video producer with a BA in English literature from Concordia University, Montreal, Quebec. She was born in Montreal and has lived in Nice, France, Toronto, Long Island, New York and now beautiful Pennsylvania. She is also a fiber artist and photographer and writes fiction for children under her pen name, Kim Chatel. Though fantasy is her first literary love, Kim writes everything from children's picture books to horror fiction. Her stories often fall between the genre cracks--a little bit fantasy, a little bit literary. So she created her own genre: Between the Cracks Fiction.

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