Secrets beget secrets. The curse that befell the Hollows clan has left them incapable of producing male offspring. To extend their bloodline, they have formed a covenant with the serpentine Ophidians, who give them children. In return, the Hollows must keep these monstrous creatures well fed, though the details of the procurement are so abominable that the truth is never revealed to the other clans. In their homeland of Matikki, they live like outcasts.
Through a series of chance discoveries, the secrets of the ancient curse unfold before a warrior named Writhren Hollow. Is her purely female clan the result of a lapse of divine providence, or are the Hollows themselves victims of an enslavement scheme?
If Writhren frees her clan from the covenant, she risks the wrath of the Ophidians and the future of her bloodline. If she keeps the truth of the curse to herself, she is a traitor to her own kind. Either way, she will suffer for what she must do.
This is not a story of redemption, but regret. This is Writhren’s story.
The Cunning One snatched the sapling-scythe from her and threw it away, the fire blade extinguishing as soon as it hit the ground. Pursuing her, he slithered up the tree trunk, Tithren scrambling from branch to branch until finally, she screamed. His fangs bit deep in her right calf. From the punctured wounds, streams of scalding cold spread to her thigh and the rest of her body. In spite of her efforts to wrap herself tightly around the branch, she was slipping backwards as the jaws of The Cunning One swallowed more of her leg. Her body grew numbingly cold, and her lips were white against her greying face. One by one, her writhing hair-snakes became limp.
“You are not The Cunning One. Admit it: you are The Hungry One, breaching the covenant for a meal,” she yelled. “You despicable beast, abomination ejected from the bowels of the earth. Go back to where you came from…”
His wet jaws loosened, freeing her limb. She faced the giant serpent, the branch against her back creaking. Her bitten calf was marbled black and felt piercingly cold. He slid up on top of her, his weight bearing down on her chest. His snout against her nose, his long green eyes, mesmerizing as they were frightening, schemed and narrowed.
He said, “First of all, your song was the worst I’ve heard, and I’ve heard a great number of songs. Even if you weren’t my progeny, I wouldn’t have danced with you to such crude expressions of desire. I eat you as a favour to prevent you from embarrassing yourself in front of my brothers. Second, your name is Wriven. I know it because I named you thus. I am The Cunning One. I gave you life, and I shall take it…” He opened his jaws.
“You are mistaken. My name is Tithren.”
He snapped his mouth shut, leaned back and touched her face with his tongue. Slowly, he evinced a knowing smirk. “You’re lucky to have met me tonight, or you might never know your true name. Let’s see… Your mother was a daughter of The Pale One, she has fang marks on her left hand, the marks she bore for having you. She was… wary of me, and you, being the fruit of our feisty encounter, were aptly named Wriven, meaning ‘fierce’. She has denied you your true nature and strength by naming you Tithren.”
“Meaning victory,” she retorted. The dark poison had spread to her torso and her other leg.
“How can victory be achieved without fierceness?” He lifted lazily a corner of his mouth. “Now you know why you’ve been an underachiever, why you have the ambition but never the confidence to succeed. To bear the wrong name means assuming a mistaken identity. You are never quite yourself, unable to manifest your true potential, which is why you are being crushed and killed by me. The world rewards the weak by allowing them to be food for the strong. Had you been Wriven, you might have figured out a way to save yourself…” The branch supporting them cracked.
“Liar. Wriven or not, no one can defeat an Ophidian. I did not lose this fight because of my name. Against you, I never had a chance.”
He tutted. “We all have our weakness, and you almost made me pity you. Not bad, for being one of my own. Goodbye, child. You know what happens when you meet your maker…”
Her current project is a fantasy series, the prequel of which is Children of Lightning.
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- Children of Lightning is the origin story of Writhen Hollow, the villain in an upcoming book series. In celebration of great villains in the sci-fi/fantasy genre, Annie K. Wong is offering for the tour giveaway gift, The Hyperion Cantos (ebook or print – winner’s choice).
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An award-winning series from Dan Simmons, The Hyperion Cantos features one of the greatest villains ever written and a storyline spanning hundreds of years across distant galaxies. In this epic space opera, humans are threatened by their own creations, including biologically engineered post-humans, artificial intelligence supercomputers, and their constant internal wars. Amidst the violence and chaos, the protagonists search for life’s meaning through religion, poetry, romance, not to mention strife and battle.
As of June 2015, Syfy Channel is developing the first book, Hyperion, into a TV series, with one of executive producers being Bradley Cooper.