Madhuri Blaylock is an Indian girl everyone thinks is Black, or Spanish, or Black and Spanish. She’s from down South, has lived in the New York City area for more than twenty years, and is proof that your can take the girl out of the South, but you can’t take the South out of the girl.
She loves Old Scout bourbon, tattoos, french fries, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, my mom’s Indian food, all kinds of naughty, sexy things, Friday Night Lights, coffee, and Martha’s Vineyard. She can wiggle her ears, flare her nostrils, and curl her tongue.
She is an introvert who can fool people into thinking she’s an extrovert, all the while wishing she was home alone, not having to speak to a soul, lost in a fantastical world of her own creation.
She does other things to pay the bills. Read her interview here. Below you can read an excerpt from her novel, THE GIRL, book one of The Sanctum series . Courtesy: Madhuri Blaylock.
Summer finally arrived with all her fanfare and gusto, from people sunbathing on rooftops to the smell of barbecue wafting from those homes lucky enough to own a small patch of urban greenery. The city was alive; winter’s hibernation was quickly forgotten and everyone wanted to be outdoors. Thrown into the mix of throbbing humanity were, for all practical purposes, two boys, scouring Central Park, not for lost treasure or a missing pet as most would expect, but a demon.
A particularly deadly demon to be precise.
“I think you’re jealous of how I handled those girls last night,” Ryker’s laugh rang through the woods, “you probably keep asking yourself, how the hell does he do that?”
Wyatt grinned as he searched the perimeter of the ninth quadrant of the park.
“Your ability to read me like a book is uncanny.”
He retraced his steps to where he parted ways with Ryker and waited, watching his friend run through his inspection with a complete lack of care or concern.
Ryker turned and smirked.
“Stop watching me like that, man. You see me every day. You should be used to all of this by now,” he laughed.
Ryker Morrison was blindingly perfect, all six foot five inches of him. The saying “tall, dark and handsome” was probably coined with Ryker in mind. His coppery skin appeared perpetually sun-kissed, his hair was always perfectly cropped and lined up, despite Wyatt having never seen him enter a barber shop and Ryker’s body was a work of wonder, something akin to Michelangelo’s David. Which was such a cliché when describing the perfect male specimen, but in Ryker’s case it was fitting. It could be quite jarring standing next to the guy, and a lesser man would probably cringe at the task, but Wyatt wasn’t daunted.
“Shut up and let’s at least pretend to care about this inspection.” Wyatt moved onto the next quadrant and continued his work.
“You know why I don’t care.”
“Don’t start, Ryker,” Wyatt cut him off before Ryker could get going, “I’ve heard it a million times, and it makes no difference. We have to do this. At least until they catch this hybrid.”
“Newsflash Clayworth: there are no deadly, hybrid demons relaxing in the park in the middle of the day,” Ryker growled to himself, knowing full well Wyatt would ignore him and continue his sweep of the quadrant.
That was Wyatt Clayworth though, always doing what was expected of him, following the rules set forth by The Sanctum to a tee. If they said jump, Wyatt would jump. And then he would roll over just for good measure.
“Stop staring at my ass, Ryker, and finish the sweep,” Wyatt commanded with a laugh.
Wyatt knew Ryker was studying him right now. Despite being the closest of friends, practically brothers, the boys could not be more different when it came to handling authority, especially that of The Sanctum. For every rule and order Wyatt obeyed, Ryker either worked around it or just flat out broke it. Ryker could not accept that The Sanctum ruled their lives. Wyatt only knew The Sanctum.
“You are aware that you’re a Clayworth, right? A member of one of the founding families of The Sanctum, the bloodline that has consistently produced the most fearsome Class A Sanctum warriors and ablest leaders,” Ryker imitated the voice of the most powerful member of The Sanctum, Carter Breslin. “Did you forget your parents run our Academy? Which means we really don’t have to do this. Everyone knows this is a garbage assignment.”
Ryker finished walking the perimeter of his last quadrant, not paying attention to a thing, just walking it to appease Wyatt.
“Despite what you think, not every Sanctum decision revolves around driving Ryker Morrison to the brink of madness,” Wyatt finished his sweep and started throwing his equipment into his backpack, “and for the record, it wouldn’t make a difference who runs the Academy, I would still handle my assignments with the level of seriousness they deserve.”
Ryker rolled his eyes as he strapped his long-blades to his back then cleaned his knives on the leg of his jeans. “I know, man. Trust me, I know.”
Ryker and Wyatt had known each other since they were ten years old. It was around that time The Sanctum passed a new edict requiring every boy and girl of at least ten years of age to begin their training within the confines of their local Academy. That meant Ryker began training in the New York Academy, run by the Clayworth family since the creation of The Sanctum, currently led by Wyatt’s parents, Sam and Josiah Clayworth. Ryker’s parents pulled him out of his Brooklyn public school and shipped him off to Manhattan to fulfill his duty. He came from a long line of Sanctum warriors, the best in fact, Class A, and his parents were going to make sure Ryker continued the tradition, no matter how much he rebelled against it.
The boys were paired together from day one at The Academy and immediately fell into step with one another. Ryker was all bluster and brag while Wyatt quietly listened and observed. Both boys impressed their teachers and quickly rose through the ranks of the training Academy, becoming so close they could finish one another’s thoughts and more importantly, have each other’s backs in the thick of battle. When they fought, it was a thing of beauty. One boy could sense the other’s movements and counterattack without even a look, making it nearly impossible to defend their onslaught.
Their value to The Sanctum as warriors, coupled with their impeccable lineage, allowed many to overlook some of the duo’s less-appealing attributes: the girls, the fights, the drinking, the disobedience, the inability to stay away from the random, gorgeous Magical. All Ryker’s vices but Wyatt would never let him take the blame alone, he would never let Sanctum authority punish his friend. Wyatt always made certain the boys fulfilled their duties with a capability and professionalism any fellow warrior would kill to claim, everything else was just white noise.
That said, even great warriors must answer to their leaders. And right now those leaders felt the boys needed to be reined in and made to understand that for all their prowess and killer instinct, they still served at the pleasure of The Sanctum. They fought for The Sanctum. Their mission was that of The Sanctum’s. And right now, The Sanctum wanted them sweeping Central Park for a hybrid demon.
The road stretched as far as one could see, its lane dividers long faded, if they ever existed at all. The backwaters leading to Vembanad Kayal were on one side and miles of lush greenery on the other. The early morning air was thick, heavy enough to feel on one’s shoulders, in one’s hair. The only sounds at this hour were random birds calling to one another and Dev’s footsteps. She liked it this way–alone, quiet, still. Easier to think. And easier to hear anyone tracking her.
Dev’s solitary figure cut a striking path: tall, thin and powerful. Full of magic, that was how many, friends and strangers alike, described her. She loved and hated it. It made her feel incredibly strong and wildly out of control. They also talked of her exquisite beauty: the prominent cheekbones, large eyes and full mouth, legs that went on forever and a killer smile. Dev hated that. Her physical appearance was a most annoying hindrance and she used to go out of her way to make herself plain, but such efforts only seemed to make her more beautiful. After a while, she simply gave up. There were worse things one could suffer. And she had more important matters to focus on, such as her training.
Dev had spent her entire life exploring the limits of her powers and capabilities, training at the feet of her wizard parents, Philip and Maya, but for the last five months she had lived and trained with Qi, learning the ways of the Ramyan warrior under his roof. Going against the usual precepts of his people, a sect of Magicals renowned for their great feats of wizardry, unsurpassed healing powers and ferocious battle style, but unwilling to commingle with the living or the dead, Qi formed a bond with Philip and Maya centuries prior that he refused to break, despite much urging to do so by the Ramyan. Dev reaped the benefits of their generations-long friendship, becoming one of a few chosen to embark upon training as a Ramyan warrior. Rinshun Palace was an eye-opening experience, teaching Dev to harness the magic flowing through her veins and control it rather than allow it to control her. She left Qi and the palace a more powerful girl but still full of unanswered questions. She hoped her parents would finally fill in the gaps.
As she turned the bend in the road, her knives strapped to her back, and Daya, the sword gifted to her by her father, safely on her hip, a smile started to curve along her lips. Her home was in view.
Dev had walked all night to make it home this morning, the deeply disturbing dream telling her it was time to return to her family. Qi had not even raised an eyebrow when she knocked on his bedroom door late at night to explain herself. He simply told her to trust her instincts, follow the river road and watch her back for tracking demons. He walked her to the front gate of the palace, gently kissed her forehead and bid her safe travels with a sad look in his eye.
Dev spent much of her night trying to figure out the meaning of Qi’s sadness, but now, seeing her home after all this time, nothing mattered except her family. She jogged the last half mile to the house, stopping to catch her breath outside the compound gate. On any other day her father’s dogs would greet her, but this morning they must have been asleep, for there was not a single thing moving outside the house. While she stood at the gate contemplating her dilemma, knowing she shouldn’t use magic to open the doors, hearing her mother “tsk-tsk” at taking the easy way around a problem, Dev noticed all the windows of the house were open and the front door was ajar.
She walked to the far left side of the gate to get a better view of the kitchen, where there was always plenty of activity and noise, since someone was always hungry or folks were constantly stopping by to visit and all of them needed to be fed. Again, she came face-to-face with eerie silence. No one banged a pot or dropped a spoon. No one yelled orders or cursed in irritation. No one moved. It was as if no one existed.
The hairs on Dev’s neck stood on end and then, cutting through the dead quiet of the morning came the bloodcurdling scream of her mother.