For the first time in years, I’ve actually had some time to kick back and enjoy the coming of Christmas. Usually, I’m running around like crazy, and the season comes and goes before I even notice it’s here. I was afraid this year was going to be the same, but things worked themselves out a few days ago. It was weird going to the grocery store this morning and realizing that I could take as much time as I wanted to because I had nothing needing my attention. Not presents to wrap. No food that needed to be done ‘right now’. Off from work, projects completed. I’m grateful in a way I can’t put into words.
That being said, it’s been a crazy year this year. A lot of good things have happened, but they’ve come so quickly that I haven’t had time to process them yet. I think I’ll save that for the new year. For now, I’ve finished the first draft of The Spirits of Yule, and I’ve started on the next book in The Trials of the Young Shadow Walkers. This one focuses on Kayne Soulton rather than Ethan Grimley. I’m not sure yet where Kayne will lead, with all his hot-headedness, but I’m anxious to follow. I’m hoping 2019 will give me a little more time to write now that some things have been resolved and put to rest.
My plan at this point is to have The Spirits of Yule out for next year’s holiday season. Below is a continuation of the last two weeks, just a bit of a sneak peek, unedited.
Thank you all for your support, and have a blessed holiday.
Flight Through the Forest
Eleanor groaned and rolled over. She pulled the blanket up around herself and shivered. Her hip dug into hard stone, and the smell of smoke assailed her nose. Smoke? Stone? Blanket? Hadn’t she been lying in the snow? Memory flooded back, and Eleanor jumped to her feet before she realized what she was doing. The ogress had wanted her to join her, in what Eleanor had no idea.
“Glad to see you awake.”
Eleanor froze, heart lodged in her throat, and looked around. She stood in a ruined building under a partial roof. A woman with long, black hair spotted with gray sat on the other side of a small fire. A pot sat warming in the flames.
The woman laughed, a musical sound that spoke of mystery and magic. She was human as far as Eleanor could tell, but there was something off about her, some scent Eleanor couldn’t place. “My name is Ravyn Grimsbane. I come from Crowrest.” The woman smiled, and the room, if it could be called that, lit up. “You’re safe, for now.” Ravyn waved her hand at a spot opposite herself. “Sit down. Get warm.”
Eleanor eased herself to the floor, keeping the blanket wrapped around herself to cover her nakedness. “I don’t understand. What happened?”
Ravyn sighed and stirred the pot. “We’re nearing midwinter. It isn’t a healthy time to be out and about, for others thrive at this time.”
“What do you mean?”
Ravyn cocked her head to the side, a look of confusion on her face. “Surely, you’ve been in E’ma Thalas long enough to know that creatures walk the night, that the wilds of the forest are closer to people than they are in other places.”
Eleanor chewed on her bottom lip and nodded. Her mouth watered as the aroma of whatever was cooking reached her nose, and her stomach grumbled in response. “I’ve heard some tales, sure, but I don’t go out much.”
“Mother, the ogress has moved on. We should be fine tonight.”
Eleanor swung her head around fast enough to make herself dizzy. A woman about her own age stood just within in the light of the fire. Auburn hair hung in ringlets past her shoulders, and spectacles reflected the firelight.
“This is my daughter, Gwennyth.”
Eleanor nodded. “I’m sorry. I’m Eleanor Hestenfield.”
“You aren’t from E’ma Thalas,” Gwennyth replied. It wasn’t a question.
Eleanor shook her head and fought back tears. “No. I’m from the Xaggarene Empire.”
“And you’re a Shadow Walker. That’s what they call themselves, isn’t it?”
Again, Eleanor nodded. “How did you know that?”
Gwennyth plopped down between Eleanor and Ravyn and stared at Eleanor without blinking. “There’s magic around you. Lots of it. But you aren’t a wizard.”
A single tear escaped Eleanor’s eye as she turned away from the women. “I’m a Lycan,” she said with trembling voice. “I had to leave the Empire.” From the corner of her eye, she saw the two women exchange a look.
“That makes sense,” Gwennyth said. “It explains the magic aura around you.”
Eleanor turned back to the two women. “What do you mean?”
Ravyn shifted position and poked at the fire. “Gwennyth sees magic.” She gave her daughter a loving look. “Most of us don’t.” She shrugged. “But she can. We don’t know how.”
Eleanor pulled her blanket more tightly around herself and wished she had thought enough to drag the clothes with her. She knew other Lycans had stashes around the forest and in the mountains, and she’d always meant to do that. But she always returned home to transform, so it had never mattered.
“I have extra clothes,” Gwennyth said after a silent moment. “I’m pretty sure they would fit you.”
“Thank you,” Eleanor replied.
“That’s the down side to changing form,” Ravyn chuckled. “Non-essentials like clothing tend to remain as they are.”
Eleanor gave her an embarrassed grin and followed Gwennyth out of the fire light. Cold bit through the blanket, and Eleanor’s teeth chattered. She considered returning to ly’kita form just to be covered with fur, but Gwennyth’s voice cut through her thoughts.
“Here. Change quickly. It’s too cold to dawdle.”
Eleanor looked over to see Gwennyth holding trousers, a shirt, and a cloak. Boots sat at her feet, and a faint smile brightened her face.
“Thank you,” Eleanor replied as she took the clothing. She dropped the blanket and quickly donned the clothes. “Why are you and your mother out here in the cold?” she asked as she pulled on the boots.
“We’re headed to Letallatos for Oberon’s celebration.”
Eleanor’s heart dropped into her gut. “Oh. Sounds like fun.”
“You could join us.”
Eleanor pulled the cloak around her and stared out at the swirling snow. “No. Abilene, my pack leader, sort of, has said we were invited, but it’s really not my thing.”
“It’s not mine, either,” Gwennyth admitted with a glance back at her mother. “There are plenty of other wizards joining us, too.” Gwennyth sighed. “Most of them just blip themselves there, but Mother prefers to travel without magic. She says connecting to the forest is important.” She shivered. “Maybe she’s right, but I’d much rather connect in spring and summer.”
Eleanor chuckled. “So would I. I usually spend most of winter in a cave in the Borderland Mountains. I should never have come this far without preparations.”
Gwennyth turned away and took a step toward the fire. “Sometimes our emotions get the best of us.” She shrugged. “It happens. There’s food if you’re hungry. We’ll leave out as soon as the light shines, but you’re welcome to share the fire tonight.”