Title: The Monster of Selkirk Book 1: The Duality of Nature
Author: C.E. Clayton
Monsters come in many forms, and not everyone knows a monster when they see one. After three hundred years of monstrous, feral elves plaguing the island nation of Selkirk, everyone believes they know what a monster is. Humans have learned to live with their savage neighbors, enacting a Clearing every four years to push the elves back from their borders. The system has worked for centuries, until after one such purge, a babe was found in the forest.
As Tallis grows, she discovers she isn’t like everyone else. There is something a little different that makes people leery in her presence, and she only ever makes a handful of friends. But when the elves gather their forces and emerge from the forests literally hissing Tallis’s name like a battle mantra, making friends is the least of her troubles. Tallis and her companions find themselves on an unwilling journey to not only clear her name, but to stop the elves from ravaging her homeland.
Tallis should have been more attentive to watch for birds or deer, but she could not help but brood and be distracted by her own thoughts and worries. Thankfully, Donovan could not sleep, either.
Joining his cousin, he gently bumped her shoulder as a way of greeting.
Tallis glanced at him. “It’s not fair, cousin.”
Donovan nodded. “No, it’s not.”
“I thought that coming out here … I thought I’d finally have answers and figure out who I was. But now I don’t think I want to know. I don’t think I’m going to like what we find. I just want to go home and pretend like none of this happened. I’d even marry Henrik if it meant we could all just go back to the way it was.”
“Oh, come now, you’d be bored stiff if you married Henrik and stayed in Kincardine.”
“Maybe, but I didn’t want this.”
“I know, Tally. But the world is not obligated to care about what you or I want. I’m sorry it happened to you, but, well, if it helps, I think you’ll be able to handle it. Whatever it is.”
“But I don’t want to handle it. I just want to be normal.”
“Aye, but being normal is so dull.”
“So what? I’d rather be boring than hated and feared and treated as an outcast.”
“But this way, we’ll get to be a hero, Tallis. People would kill for the opportunity to save their country.”
“I don’t want to be their hero. I don’t want to be anyone’s hero. I just wanted the chance to be like everyone else. I wanted someone to protect me just this once. I don’t need someone to shelter me, but it’d be nice to be protected all the same. Don’t I deserve it? Strong or not, I want someone to hold me and tell me it will be all right.”
Donovan draped his arm around his cousin’s shoulder and gave her a gentle hug. “I know, Tally. And maybe one day you’ll find someone who will be able to hold you and make you feel safe and secure no matter what. But for now we have to keep going. We have to keep fighting.”
Tallis gritted her teeth. “Aye, you’re right. Thank you, Donovan. What would I do without you?”
Donovan chuckled. “Curl in a ball and try and hide, most likely.”
Tallis rolled her eyes. “Oh, right, I forgot all about running and hiding. Is that still an option?” They laughed together and passed the rest of the night in silence.
Tallis realized almost too late that she had completely outrun Donovan, as her top speed was much faster than that of any normal person. She found herself standing alone at the end of the street as it opened up to show the monastery under siege.
Tallis saw herself reflected in the bright, evil eyes of the elves as they turned to regard her: outlined by the burning homes behind her, with her matching trident-shaped daggers in her hands. Her white blonde hair, flowing lightly in the hot breeze, appeared as if it were made of liquid fire itself. Her eyes like gems that held the ocean within their depths. In that still heartbeat, Tallis shuddered. She looked like a beautiful terror, and only Rosslyn and Tomas would be able to tell that she was their salvation and not the cause of their worst nightmares come to life.
As the elves broke from their momentary stupor, they ceased their attempts to enter the monastery. Hissing in unison they said, “Tallissssss,” as they pointed their sharp talons in her direction.
She could hear the faint gasp of the survivors in the monastery tower as understanding dawned upon them that this was the girl that was making history: the girl who caused the entire elven race to rise up and riot across all of Selkirk.
E. Clayton was born and raised in the greater Los Angeles area, where she attended the University of Southern California (Fight On!) for both her Bachelors and Masters, and then worked in the advertising industry for several years on accounts ranging from fast food, to cars, and video games (her personal favorite). After going the traditional career route and becoming restless, she went back to her first love—writing—and hasn’t stopped. She is now the author of “The Monster of Selkirk” series and her horror short stories have appeared in anthologies across the country. When she’s not writing you can find her treating her fur-babies like humans, constantly drinking tea, and trying to convince her husband to go to more concerts. And reading. She does read quite a bit. More about C.E. Clayton, including her blog, book reviews, social media presence, and newsletter, can be found on her website.