THE TRANSMIGRATION OF CORA RILEY
Forgotten Relics #1
Average family. Average job. Average existential crisis.
After thirty boring years, nothing about Cora Riley’s life has measured up to her childhood dreams of being truly extraordinary. It’s too bad that the night she decides to seek out her specialness she crashes on a rural highway.
Cora wakes in the clutches of the Mistress of the underworld who sets her a seemingly impossible quest. If she wants a second chance at life, Cora must find her way through the dozen heavens and return to the castle in three days.
With the help of an unusual guardian angel named Jack and a little boy named Xavier, Cora navigates the afterlife doorfield and quickly learns that gods and monsters are very real indeed.
Terrifying and tempting obstacles litter her path; only the power of belief – in the Otherworld, in her companions, and in herself – will return her to the land of the living.
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Cora Riley is an action-packed urban fantasy, evocative of some of the best moments of Harry Dresden.
Eddy Webb, author of Watson is not an Idiot
Excerpt: Cora Meets the Mistress
The Mistress smirks appreciatively at the show of will, but the smile slides from her face when Cora says, “How do I get back?”
“Back? There is no going back. Once you are here, you must stay.” The Mistress raises her head haughtily and peers down her aquiline nose at Cora. “Surely even the dimmest mortals know that to be true.”
Years of memorization leap to Cora’s rescue to strengthen her resolve with a litany of human heroes who visited the underworld and returned to tell the tale.
“What about Lazarus? And Orpheus? And Pwyll? And – ”
The slap rings out sharply in the hall, followed by the muffled sound of Cora’s body hitting the ground. She catches herself on both hands, jamming her wrists against the solid stone and sending fresh waves of pain up to meet the four brilliant finger marks across her right cheek. She wills herself not to show weakness by crying, but she can’t help the panicked tears slipping out when the Mistress presses one long, metal-heeled shoe into the center of her chest. The air around the Mistress crackles, and Cora lets herself be pushed flat to the floor.
“How dare you.” It’s a condemnation, not a question. “How dare you challenge my authority in my own domain? You have no right to make demands of me. That you throw silly folk tales in my face is laughable proof of your ignorance.”
She presses the spike of her heel further into Cora’s ribs. They creak alarmingly, and Cora tries to hold her breath for support, her mind racing.
The Mistress leans closer, tilting her head to one side like a bird of prey. “Do you know what happens if you are killed in the underworld, child? Do you know what eternal torments wait for you?”
She turns her black eyes directly to Cora’s grey ones, and the remaining breath drains from Cora’s lungs. She braces herself to receive images of horrendous deaths and torture, but none come. Instead, warm tendrils of alien thoughts touch her mind, and she can feel the Mistress carefully searching her dark, private spaces, soaking up her essence. Cora’s panic rises as ugly memories and shameful desires are churned to the surface, things she’s never told another soul, feelings buried out of fear. She’s violated, stripped of her defenses.
After a long moment, the Mistress raises one delicate eyebrow and murmurs something under Cora’s hearing. Then she laughs without humor. “You are a petty, selfish little girl, Cora Leigh Riley,” she says.
The Mistress yanks her foot from Cora’s chest and stalks her way back up the dais to perch on the throne, skirts pooling around her feet in a river of gold.
Cora gulps air as the world comes back into focus. She doesn’t want to die here – she didn’t want to die in the first place – and she knows it must be possible to go back. There are too many stories for them not to be true. Her hand gently prods her ribs to make sure nothing’s broken, then she gets to her feet. Face hot with anger, she takes a shaky step forward, looking anywhere but at the eyes that see through her. The orc guards, previously slouching and entertained by the spectacle of her humiliation, become suddenly alert and close rank in front of the dais. The Mistress smirks from behind them, almost daring her to come closer.
“You know I’m right, my lady,” Cora says, taking another, more determined step. “The legends are all the same. The ruler of the underworld makes a bargain with the hero, sets him some monumental task in exchange for a second chance, and then has to keep their promise when the hero succeeds.” She takes another step forward. The guards cross their weapons into a barrier between her and the Mistress. Cora smiles; it widens the split inside her cheek, but she doesn’t care. She holds out her arms and gestures grandly around the throne room. “And since I don’t see anyone else here asking for a ticket back to civilization, I guess that makes me the hero. And you owe me a quest.”