Sue Tingey spent 28 years with a major British bank before leaving the corporate life to work as Practice Manager for an Arboricultural Consultancy. She lives with her husband in East Grinstead, West Sussex. Marked, Book One of the Soulseer Chronicles, is her first novel. You can contact her on Twitter @SueTingey.
by Sue Tingey
When I originally started to write the story, which was to become Marked and the first novel in the Soulseer Chronicles Series, I had no idea I was going to be creating a new world filled with strange creatures. I had planned that it was going to be a kind of ghost story; then a few pages in I had a really scary nightmare and a character was born who was far too good, or should I say evil, to be a mere spook and everything changed.
Marked begins in the human world and is the story of Lucky de Salle, a young woman who sees and communicates with the dead. Even her best friend Kayla is a ghost – or so Lucky thinks. It soon transpires, when Lucky locks horns with a daemon assassin, that Kayla hasn’t been totally honest.
Gradually the figure of a man grew out of the blackness. At first I thought he was exceptionally tall, then I noticed the high grey hat perched at an angle on top of his head. His close-fitting coat and breeches were also grey and his waistcoat and cravat a pale primrose. He wore white stockings, black shoes and looked very much like an eighteenth-century gentleman caught out of time. He even had a beauty spot near his top lip. I was surprised; he didn’t look at all frightening – but then his mouth curled into a cruel, supercilious smile.
He moved a step closer. Three more and he would be within touching distance. I really didn’t want him that close. He smiled again, and this time he was near enough for me to see his very white, pointed teeth. I had been right to be afraid.
From then on Lucky’s life rapidly spirals out of control and that’s when she finds herself catapulted into the daemon world.
Poor Lucky, she wasn’t having much fun but guess what – I was having a whale of a time creating a whole new world full of daemon characters.
I wanted the Underlands to appear on the surface to be totally alien and almost as though an artist had taken our world and repainted it. For example I gave it two blue suns, a purple sky, burgundy pines and copper and rust fields. That Lucky first arrives at night when the landscape is bathed in the light of two red moons makes the place appear even more threatening.
I gave him what was probably a shaky smile, not trusting myself to talk, and he released me, although he did keep one arm draped across my shoulders. I looked around, curious and wanting to get my first glimpse of this strange, new world.
It was dark, but not as in pitch-black, under-the-ground, deep-in-the-depths-of-the-earth dark; it was dark like night, and when I looked upwards I could see two red orbs above us, one slightly overlapping the other, and dark clouds speeding across the sky.
‘They are our moons,’ he said, following my gaze.
‘You have two moons?’
‘And two suns.’
‘Are we under the earth?’
‘Not so much,’ he said with a chuckle.
‘No, just a fact: though we call it the Underlands, our world doesn’t exist beneath your world, but rather in tandem with it. Come, I’ll take you to Lord Baltheza’s court.’
He went to step away, but I hung back. I felt a bit like I was going mad, or dreaming, or having some crazy nightmare.
I also wanted to give it a medieval feel. The daemon world has no gas, oil or electricity so there are no cars or mechanical devices and the only modes of transport other than walking are by horse or cart or, if you’re lucky or royal enough to have one, by drakon. So, apart from the inhabitants, the Underlands isn’t very much different to our world of several centuries ago. Unfortunately this also means their justice is similarly barbaric. This raises another question – has anything really changed? When Lucky voices her disgust after seeing a daemon punished at court Jinx offers to take her to places within our world where torture and brutality are still commonplace and not just within small dictatorships.
The world building was fun but the best part for me was creating the characters. They could be as weird or normal as I wanted; they didn’t all have to have horns, tails and talons. And I could have dragons!
I looked at the creature with trepidation. Even though the dragon was lying flat on his stomach with his head between his outstretched claws, he still towered above me. If he opened his jaws he could swallow me in one gulp, which wasn’t exactly comforting. All I could do was hope that Jamie and the demons knew best.
Pyrites was, I suppose, a handsome dragon. His scales were a shimmering combination of reds, oranges and yellows, with the occasional fleck of gold. His eyes were an amazing emerald-amethyst-sapphire kaleidoscope glow, and that alone made it hard to imagine he could be dangerous.
Then something occurred to me. Instead of angels living in heaven and daemons in hell what if they all actually live in the same place?
‘So, Jamie, do you live in the Underworld?’
‘The Underlands, we call them, and yes, I do.’
‘Angels live in the same place as demons?’ The idea sounded preposterous.
‘I’m not an angel.’
‘You certainly look like one.’
‘Demons, angels – they’re just names given to us by humans.’
I thought about that for a moment. ‘So what do you call yourselves then?’
‘Daemon – that’s spelled a-e – but demons, angels, whatever, they’re as good as any names.’
And if this was the case is their world more like heaven or to our perspective of Hades? From Lucky’s point of view the Court of Lord Baltheza is as close to hell as she would want to be. Baltheza is cruel and violent and accordingly his court is too. But I didn’t want all daemons to be brutal and ruthless and once outside Baltheza’s debauched court she meets ordinary daemons like the innkeeper and his family who have shown immense kindness by taking in an abandoned daemon child without a second thought.
Lucky begins to understand daemons and humans aren’t a lot different; there are good and bad in both. However there is one significant difference between the worlds as far as Lucky is concerned. In our world she has no friends or family; in the Underlands she has both.
This brings me to the two most important characters in the book apart from Lucky; Jamie the Guardian and Jinx the Deathbringer.
Jamie stopped mid-stride. ‘You’re about to meet one seriously dangerous individual. He’s a bringer of death – literally. Where he walks, death and disaster follow.’ Mr Shenanigans looked at me and nodded as Jamie continued, ‘When he travelled across Europe the Black Death was not far behind him; when he passed through the streets of London the Great Fire kindled; when he left the city of Pompeii it was consumed by molten rock. He doesn’t often visit your world now as humankind is destroying itself quite nicely all on its own, but if the need arises it will be he who will proceed the next epidemic or cause the seas to rise up and consume whole populations.’
‘If you’re telling me I’m about to meet a dude wearing a long black robe and carrying a scythe I think I’ll give it a miss,’ I said.
Jamie laughed, though it wasn’t a happy sound. ‘No, he’s not the Grim Reaper. The Reaper is another creature altogether.’ He started walking again and I watched him for a moment, not at all sure I wanted to follow.
As the two male leads vying for Lucky’s attention I wanted them both to be as different from each other as they could possibly be and yet still equally desirable.
When Jamie reveals his true identity I needed Lucky to trust him despite his having lied to her, manipulated her and messed with her head and how could she not trust an angel?
Come on, Jamie, what’s going on? Who are you? You’re certainly not some traumatised veterinary student.’
‘It has to be said I haven’t been completely honest with you.’
‘Well then, it’s time to ’fess up. What the hell is going on – and what have you got to do with all this?’
He started to unbutton his shirt. ‘Prepared to be amazed,’ he said.
I was completely confused. ‘What are you doing?’
He shrugged off his shirt and turned away from me, then glanced back at me over his shoulder. I stared at him for a moment, not understanding, and then suddenly, in a flurry of feathers, it all became abundantly clear.
‘Oh shit,’ I said, as the room lurched and I grabbed for a chair.
As for Jinx I wanted him to be a devilish bad boy and ladies man with an irreverent sense of humour, but I also wanted it to be remembered that he has a dark side, hence the classic daemonic appearance.
Just as Jamie was everything you might imagine an angel to be, this demon was the epitome of the Devil. At first his skin looked coal-black, but as the light from the lamps caught him in their glow I could see his face and bare chest were actually a shining dark maroon.
Short, sharp horns protruded from either side of his brow, and hair a few shades darker than his skin was swept back against his head – it wasn’t until he turned slightly that I could see it was pulled into a tight braid that fell to just below his hips.
He was wearing black leather trousers tucked into black leather boots, and had a tail that was long and thin with an arrow-point at the end that curled around past his thigh and waved back and forth as though on a gentle breeze.
His smile was dazzlingly white and his eyes crinkled with suppressed humour, his gold and green pupils glowing brightly.
Another thing I thought might be interesting would be the daemons reaction to human religion. Jinx thinks it’s funny when Lucky says he looks like the Devil, but one of her bodyguards warns her that not all daemons would be so amused. As for the “G” word; Kayla tells Lucky never to say the word “God” particularly around Lord Baltheza, though not for the reasons one might expect.
‘Please don’t say that word here,’ Kayla said. ‘It doesn’t bother me, but Father always throws himself into a right royal rage at His mention.’
She laughed. ‘Why do you think? He’s jealous.’
She looked at me curiously. ‘Wouldn’t you be? Our father is one of the most powerful creatures in existence, and yet, does anyone in the Overlands worship Lord Baltheza? No. Has anyone on Earth even heard of Lord Baltheza? No. They have wars in the name of their gods – thousands upon thousands die every year in their names alone; the name of the so-called righteous – but not one of those names is Lord Baltheza. Ironic, don’t you think? All those people tortured and killed in the name of righteous human gods, and yet not one killed in the name of the Lord of all Daemonkind.’
Conversely when Lucky asks if there is anywhere she can claim sanctuary to be safe from daemons, for instance a church or a convent, after Jamie manages to stop laughing, he breaks the news to her that all because man builds a church or temple and calls it consecrated land it doesn’t mean it’s holy to his kind.
So, do daemons have any religious beliefs? It would appear not, though that could partly be to do with Baltheza’s paranoia about anyone being more important or more worshiped than him. To openly venerate another being would probably bring swift and dreadful retribution.
One thing is for certain they do believe in an afterlife. This becomes apparent when it’s realised that Lucky can also see the dead of the daemon world and the danger she was in before is multiplied tenfold. As Jinx explains to her; the daemon dead tell no tales and there are some who would prefer it stayed that way.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this very small taster of my daemon world; to read more Marked is now out in hardcover and e-book.