The Healer’s Pact: Demons of Sedona 1
18-year-old Tobin North is used to traveling a hard road. As the son of the only farmer brave enough risk encounters with undead demons for the sake of trade and supplies, Tobin is accustomed to grueling days and dangerous nights. But this time is different, because this time Tobin’s girlfriend Vera is traveling with them, and now the last stop in a months-long journey is instead an exhilarating chance for the lovers to spend time alone.
But Tobin’s plans go astray when he and Vera stumble across a blood-soaked home that has been torn apart by the dead. And when they learn that the victim was one of the same men charged with protecting others from the demons, Tobin, Vera and his father find themselves in the midst of something almost unheard of: a murder.
Now, aided by the village chief and the local healer, Tobin and Vera will have to get to the bottom of several gruesome deaths before the killer sets his sights—and the undead—on them.
Tobin North couldn’t help but smile as he led Vera Corliss through the busy streets of Miner’s Quarry, past an endless parade of horse-drawn brown carts with surly faced drivers, haggling merchants and haggard traders. His smile grew larger as they made their way past the densely packed square, beyond the worn but stately looking Elder Hall, and through the first few rows of wooden and brick homes that made up the village’s outskirts.
Vera kept pace behind him, and a glint appeared in her blue eyes as Tobin tugged her forward. He could hear the curiosity in her voice.
“Where are we going?”
Vera didn’t respond, instead she returned her eyes to the ground ahead. Out past the village outskirts the grey stones that lined the streets of the square gave way to dirt and grass. Tobin spotted the worn path ahead and tugged her forward.
Heavens, this is going to be a good morning.
They continued farther along the path, and the last row of homes gave way to the first trees of the forest. The ground sloped upward at a slow incline, and Tobin heard a slight pant behind him. Vera wasn’t used to this hill, he could see it in the way strands of her dark auburn hair began falling out of her trademark braid-and-tuck hairstyle. But if she was tired, she didn’t show it. Instead she began taking soft, shallow breaths, and she reached up and tucked her hair back in place.
Ever competitive, that Vera.
“How long is it going to take us to get…wherever it is you’re taking me?” she asked. “Your father didn’t give us the entire day off.”
Tobin chuckled, thankful that Atkin excused them at all. His father wanted them at his side all throughout their two-month trade run. “We’re almost there, I promise.”
The trees gave way at the top of the hill, and Vera was panting fully by the time they reached the summit. “What are we looking for?”
Tobin pointed behind her. “That.”
Vera followed his hand and gasped. Miner’s Quarry, the kingdom’s primary source of coal, gold and encircling crystals, sat at the base of the northern edge of the Camian mountain range, and their spot on the hill offered a clear view of the mountains, complete with snow caps that sat high above the village. The forest stretched ahead to the north, with the slightest hint of the ocean beyond.
Farmer’s Crescent lacked such high points, and Tobin imagined this marked the first time Vera had ever seen a view of such magnitude. “I come up here whenever we get to the Quarry. I’ve always wanted to show you.”
Vera’s pale cheeks turned a deep red, which framed her eyes, and she smiled. She cast a quick glance around, and then she leaned forward and kissed Tobin deeply. He pressed forward in response, taking her in his arms and lowering her down to the ground as his hands groped at her eagerly.
This was going to be a good morning.
He was completely at bliss as his hands searched Vera’s body. Tobin loved Vera Corliss with every fiber of his being. They had been together since they were fourteen, and he knew they would one day marry. She complemented him in every way: she could keep up with him in the forest, hunt, and she could even patch him up when he and Quinby Randall horsed their way into injuries.
More immediately, she felt right, especially in those moments when their bodies pressed against each other’s. This was one such moment, and the fact that they could be together without getting caught by the gossipy old women of Farmer’s Crescent made it even better.
He kissed Vera’s neck, and pushed all thoughts of his home from his mind. Don’t worry about the Crescent. You’ll be back there soon enough. Just enjoy the moment.
His exuberance, however, was cut short by a blood-curling scream that made both of them jump.
“What the hell?”
Vera shrugged her shoulders and another scream sounded, this one coming from not too far beyond the base of the hill. Tobin and Vera locked eyes for half a second, Vera nodded, and they raced back down.
Demonspawn, Tobin thought as they made their way to the bottom. Someone better be dying.
He didn’t mean the threat, of course. Vera was a healer; if someone needed care she would spend the rest of the day working to save them without a second thought to herself or their desired alone time.
They continued following the screams, and Tobin found himself growing tense. There was only one cause of screams this early in the morning: someone had fallen prey to the demons.
The sounds led them to a single-story, grey-brick home. A small crowd had gathered in front of the building, where a brown-skinned woman stood screaming and wailing.
Tobin caught sight of two shattered glass windows in the front of the house and turned his eyes upward to the roof, immediately regretting his earlier thought. “Please be there,” he begged quietly as he searched for the home’s encircling crystal.
His hopes fell as he located a long pole that shot out from the rooftop. A hook sprouted from the pole’s base, but nothing hung from it.
“Dammit,” he huffed and pointed. “Their crystal’s gone.” Vera’s face turned a shade paler and she quickened her steps to keep up.
If a crystal had broken during the night, the family inside the home would have nothing to protect them from the demons. A sick feeling settled into Tobin’s stomach as he realized what he would soon witness.
Vera identified herself as a healer as they reached the crowd, which parted and allowed them a path to the entrance. Tobin’s nerves jumped even further upon seeing the front door. It had been broken, and a small sliver of jagged brown wood was all that remained hanging from a hinge at the base. Black blood covered the splinters.