Halloween Promotion – Short Story Strands Halloween 2012 Edition

Today’s promotion is for Short Story Strands Halloween 2012 Edition, a great group of scary stories by some awesome story tellers.  This book is FREE so download and enjoy.

 

short-story-strands

 

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Come celebrate Halloween in ways both spooky and fun in this collection of sixteen short stories spun by talented new voices in science fiction and fantasy.

Insecurity Complex, by Jade Kerrion
Empty Glass, by P.L. Blair
The Red Card, by Sheenah Freitas
Chanceus, by L’Poni Baldwin
My Soul To Take, by L.M. Boelz
The Nest, by Linell Jeppsen
The Medusa Touch, by Sam Kates
Skinshade, by T. Jackson King
Little Girls Squealing in the Yard, by Lalo LaFleur
Tender Moments, by Massimo Marino
Blood Relation, by Patrick Ottuso
Grandma to the Rescue, by Sharon L Reddy
The Power of Spirit, by Ch’Kara SilverWolf
Dominique, by Edwin Stark
In Space No One Can Hear You Scream, by Lisa Williamson
Spoils of Earth, by Michael Youngblood

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Halloween Promotion – Heart of Ice by Linell Jeppsen

Today’s scary story is Heart of Ice from my friend Linell Jeppsen, another story in the Deadman series with the adventures of Matthew Wilcox.

linell-heartoficeweb

 

Description1

In this, the sixth installation of the Deadman series, Matthew and Chance run into something deeply evil and terrifying. Supernatural monsters have found their way to the North Idaho woods!

Torn between disbelief and a fierce will to save his family from the beasts’ clutches, Chance mounts a rescue party, armed with special bullets, love and sheer determination.

For silver is the only thing that can stop a Wendigo and its cold, icy heart.


Case File #6

May 18th, 1909

Since I first opened the doors to The Wilcox and Son Detective Agency, I have made a habit of documenting each and every one of our case files. This has served two purposes. First, it is a good way to protect my son Chance and myself against reprisal from an unhappy client. Secondly, good testimony pertaining to the acts performed by this investigation agency stands up well in a court of law, especially signed affidavits when the injured party in a lawsuit – usually the crook involved – tries to claim wrongdoing on our part.

There is another reason. Although I have been a lawman most of my adult life and am even now a licensed attorney, there are good lessons to be learned in the pursuit of justice. As my dear, deceased wife Iris once told me, “People are not always black and white, Matthew. People come in all shades of gray. Some, so-called Good People do heinous things and some Bad Folk are heroes. To be a good marshal, I think you must look into the gray of things…”

On our first case, I put my own son’s life in mortal danger; by the grace of God, Chance survived that encounter. I now know a hundred different and safer things we could have done to bring a dirty boxer and his trainers down. Our second big case was won by luck alone and only with a lot of help from the people involved. Again, I now know that Chance and I ran blindly into a situation that could have gotten everyone I hold dear killed.

That case was resolved more or less satisfactorily but I have learned a few things since starting my detective agency: No. 1 – Get as many facts as humanly possible before rushing into danger; No. 2 – Take copious notes; and No. 3 – Be prepared for anything. This philosophy has served us well so far. But there are some things no man or woman can even dream of, much less anticipate.

What happened to my son on a frigid, moonlit night in October of 1908 is one of those things no human being can reckon or prepare for.

He survived the experience, thank God, but at great risk to both body and soul. My son is not the same happy, carefree young man he was before that night and, I dare say, he will be forever changed…both for the worse and the better. For sure, he is looking into the “gray of things” now.

So, that’s what I am doing…trying to document Case File #6. But I admit to being stumped. This is, by far, the strangest case my son and I have ever taken on, the most hazardous. And now that we have survived to tell the tale, it is a case that remains unsolved and one that will always be kept hidden from prying eyes.

I will share this report with Chance, his wife Hannah and my wife, Annie. After we have studied what happened, separated fact from fantasy, and tried to the best of our ability to report the truth as it unfolded, I will seal this case file away.

Forever.

Matthew Wilcox

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Excerpt Promotion – FAR WEST – The Diary of Eleanor Higgins by Linell Jeppsen

Today I have an Excerpt for you from the soon to be released book FAR WEST – The Diary of Eleanor Higgins by my friend Linell Jeppsen, so look out for this one.  I will post again with links when it is released.

Far West 02

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FAR WEST- The Diary of Eleanor Higgins

Nel Higgins is the sixteen-year-old daughter of Frank Higgins, a deranged Lutheran pastor. After Nel’s mother passes away, she finds herself and her sister, Annie, at the mercy of her father in Yankton, Dakota Territory, 1876.

Bereft and frightened, Nel knows, deep in her heart, that neither she nor Annie will survive unless they can escape his evil clutches. Then, when unforeseen circumstances lead to Frank’s sudden death, the two girls soon board the famous riverboat, the Far West.

Once onboard, Nel finds herself following the path of American destiny toward Fort Abraham Lincoln, Custer’s Last Stand and the Battle of the Little Bighorn!

Readers and early reviewers are comparing this Historical Romance novel to FOREVER AMBER and THE UNSINKABLE MOLLY BROWN. It is filled with action, adventure, sorrow and joy and showcases the strength, fortitude and danger of the American frontier.

 

Excerpt2

 

To my beautiful wife, Nel.

I am in Montana now, due to the mind-bending speed with which Captain Marsh applied his boat and crew.

We are moored at the mouth of the Yellowstone River, awaiting Custer’s return and that of his two, separate wings of command- Captain Benteen’s regiment and Major Reno’s troops. When they return I will, most likely, accompany Custer to Sitting Bull’s encampment.

General Terry is due to arrive any day now and I hear he is quite put out with Custer’s behavior. It is rumored that the brevet general is treating this campaign as some sort of holiday and he is stoutly refusing Terry any authority over him or his beloved 7th.

I honestly don’t know how any proper Army can operate under these circumstances~

Meanwhile, as snowy puffs of Cottonwood seed fill the air, and the smell of primrose prickles our nostrils with the first blush of summer, I can’t help but think of my lovely, young bride and the paper roses she held under her nose one day as she sat for a portrait with my father.

I know, now, I fell in love with you that day, and I also know that I will continue to love you until the end of my days… and beyond.

I hope that you and Annie are well in my absence and that our child is still safe and sound in your belly.

I am here to do a job and to secure our future together as a photographer of some good repute, but rest assured that my heart yearns for you- your smile, your touch, your body.

Sincerely; from your loving husband,

Martin

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New Release – Heart of Ice by Linell Jeppsen

I have a New Release for you, Heart of Ice, book six in the Deadman’s Series.  This one is a horror novella and you won’t be disappointed.   I am reading it, and as always I am loving the writings of my friend Linell Jeppsen.

LINELL HeartofIceWEB

Description

In this, the sixth installation of the Deadman series, Matthew and Chance run into something deeply evil and terrifying. Supernatural monsters have found their way to the North Idaho woods!

Torn between disbelief and a fierce will to save his family from the beasts’ clutches, Chance mounts a rescue party, armed with special bullets, love and sheer determination.

For silver is the only thing that can stop a Wendigo and its cold, icy heart.

 

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Halloween Promotion – Ode to Autumn

Today’s Halloween offering is Ode to Autumn ~ A Season of Change, wonderful dark stories and poems by a talented group of authors.   I will put up my story to give you a taste.

Ode to Autumn

Introducing~ An Ode to Autumn~ A Season of Change… An anthology of dark and deadly poems and short stories from over eighteen acclaimed, award-winning Indie authors, hosted by Linell Jeppsen!

Through The Porthole

Ch’kara SilverWolf © Copyright

 

Rhea had recovered from the passing of David; he had been her best friend as well as her lover. Although she had settled down into the daily routine of living, there was a part of her that was lost.

Her friend Kat had offered her some time out at her house in the mountains. She was looking forward to the solitude, time to think, to sort out what she wanted from life. To recharge and get herself ready to start life anew, instead of the mindless existence she had been drifting through.

She arrived at the cottage on a sunny November day, it was looked beautiful as she came up the drive, which was filled with gorgeous flowers, and the cottage looked warm and friendly.

She opened the door, and stood for a moment looking around; she had been here before with her friend and loved the peace and tranquility of the place. Walking into the kitchen with its oak furniture and pots hanging above the workbench, she discovered that the neighbor had been over and turned on the power and water, also she had left a basket of fruit and the essentials in the fridge such as milk, bread, butter, and eggs. They were such nice people, also in the fact that they would not come around uninvited.

The note with the food told Rhea if she needed anything, to call, otherwise she would not be bothered by anyone. They had been told she wanted quiet time and they understood. Over the next few days, Rhea slept late and took long walks, enjoying the fresh air and peace. She began to feel alive again, she could almost perceive of a new life.

One morning, she woke to the sound of rain on the roof, as she lay there listening, feeling in a sense, cleansed by the rain, she realized she could hear a window banging, so pulling on her slippers and bathrobe, she went upstairs to see where it was coming from.

At the top of the landing was Kat’s room, the sound was definitely coming from there and although she had not been in there before, she did not want anything to be damaged by the water. She went in and closed the window, checked there was no water damage, and as she scanned the room she thought how lovely it was. A big brass four-poster bed with a canopy draped in antique lace. Pillows of all sizes gave the bed a soft inviting look.

Rhea then turned back to the window; it seemed odd to be there. It was round like the window in a ship, a porthole, she stared at it for a while trying to decide why she was drawn to it, then noticed that the frame surrounding it was carved with intricate symbols. She had never seen anything like it, as she stood there; she reached out and traced her fingers over it. It was almost like a compulsion to do this, all of a sudden she pulled her hand away and stepped back, she thought she had seen somebody reflected in the glass. She spun around thinking there was someone in the house, but the room was empty.

Her heart was pounding; her mind was racing with all the possibilities of what it could have been. She was reluctant to focus on what she was really thinking could have happened. Could someone be looking through the glass at her? This seemed impossible as she was on the second floor, her analytical mind did not want to accept this. She knew her friend Kat was open to unusual phenomena, but not her. If you didn’t have a solid explanation for something, then it didn’t exist.

With her heart still pounding, she stepped in front of the window again; she was determined to discover the ‘logical’ explanation for it. So far, everything was normal, and then she put her hand up and once again traced the symbols.

There was a flickering, so steeling herself, she kept tracing them, suddenly the flickering stopped and she could see another room through the glass. There was a man standing there, he turned as though he sensed somebody, Rhea was stunned, standing there transfixed. Then he smiled, he had dark hair and deep brown eyes, which came alive when he smiled.

“Hello, don’t be frightened, my name is Jean-Claude, you must have traced the symbols, that could be the only way we are here like this.”

Where are you? How did you get here? I don’t understand this, it can’t be real, oh god, I must be having a breakdown.”

Jean-Claude saw how agitated Rhea was. He was afraid she would leave. “Please don’t go. Tell me your name, I won’t hurt you. I promise to answer any of your questions. I am as real as you are, you must know Kat, or I think you wouldn’t be here.”

“You can’t be real, this is not logical.” She lowered her head into her hands thinking that when she looked again it would all have been an illusion. However, when she looked up there he was looking out at her only this time she could see his hand on her side of the porthole.

“Please don’t be afraid, what is your name? I promise I am real, see you can touch me.”

Rhea stepped back in fear, no this cannot be true. She ran from the room and slammed the door. What should she do? If she phoned Kat, she would probably think she was going mad. All her friends were so worried about her and had wanted her to see a doctor, a shrink, but there was no need for that, she was perfectly sane. Or was she? She went to the kitchen to make coffee, maybe if she cleared her head it would all make sense to her. She sat with the steaming coffee in her hands thinking how much she wished that it was a glass of wine instead. She had been drinking far too much since David had passed and therefore one of her reasons for being here was to be away from that temptation.

She dressed and walked in the beautiful gardens. This was normal and how it should be. She spent most of the day outside and as the sun began to set she returned to the house. She turned on all the lights and prepared something to eat. She laughed nervously, this was so silly, and it had all been such a stressful time for her she must have been imagining it.

After her meal, she went upstairs and hesitated outside Kat’s room. Maybe she should just go look, and prove to herself it had been her imagination. She went up to the porthole and there were the symbols. They looked perfectly harmless, just a beautifully carved decoration. She couldn’t stop herself, she felt compelled as she stepped closer and once again trace her finger around the symbols. The same shimmering occurred and she could see the other side, although there seemed to be nobody there. She tentatively put her hand up to the glass, and her hand went straight through, as though it didn’t exist. Just as she was about to bring her hand back something grabbed her. She screamed and struggled to pull her hand out of the porthole, but something was pulling her in. Oh god, how was this happing to her? She fought harder, but the more she struggled the more she was pulled in, she thought her arm would be pulled from its socket. Then one last pull and she felt as though she was falling. She hit solid ground with a bang and quickly jumped up. Standing in front of her was Jean-Claude.

“How did I get here? I want to go back, you can’t keep me here.”

He laughed, and suddenly it sounded so sinister. “Oh but I can my dear. You are mine now; Kat promised she would send me a new toy to play with. We are going to have so much fun together you and I.”

Rhea threw back her head and screamed and screamed but no one came. Everyone was told to leave her in peace. A peace she would never know now.

Jean-Claude took her hand and she shivered in fear. “I think my dear, the moral of the story should be. Never put your hand where you think it should not go.” With that, he laughed loudly as she ran to the porthole and banged her hands on the glass; for once again it was solid. There was no escape.

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Halloween Promotion – Heart of Ice by Linell Jeppsen

Today’s Halloween Promotion is for Heart of Ice from my good friend Linell Jeppsen.   It will be released the week before Halloween and to give you a hint of what it’s like, Linell has given us a chapter to read, so enjoy.  I will post the buy links when it is available.

LINELL HeartofIceWEB

In this, the sixth installation of the Deadman series, Matthew and Chance run into something deeply evil and terrifying. Supernatural monsters have found their way to the North Idaho woods!

Torn between disbelief and a fierce will to save his family from the beasts’ clutches, Chance mounts a rescue party, armed with special bullets, love and sheer determination.

For silver is the only thing that can stop a Wendigo and its cold, icy heart.

Case File #6

May 18th, 1909

Since I first opened the doors to The Wilcox and Son Detective Agency, I have made a habit of documenting each and every one of our case files. This has served two purposes. First, it is a good way to protect my son Chance and myself against reprisal from an unhappy client. Secondly, good testimony pertaining to the acts performed by this investigation agency stands up well in a court of law, especially signed affidavits when the injured party in a lawsuit – usually the crook involved – tries to claim wrongdoing on our part.

There is another reason. Although I have been a lawman most of my adult life and am even now a licensed attorney, there are good lessons to be learned in the pursuit of justice. As my dear, deceased wife Iris once told me, “People are not always black and white, Matthew. People come in all shades of gray. Some, so-called Good People do heinous things and some Bad Folk are heroes. To be a good marshal, I think you must look into the gray of things…”

On our first case, I put my own son’s life in mortal danger; by the grace of God, Chance survived that encounter. I now know a hundred different and safer things we could have done to bring a dirty boxer and his trainers down. Our second big case was won by luck alone and only with a lot of help from the people involved. Again, I now know that Chance and I ran blindly into a situation that could have gotten everyone I hold dear killed.

That case was resolved more or less satisfactorily but I have learned a few things since starting my detective agency: No. 1 – Get as many facts as humanly possible before rushing into danger; No. 2 – Take copious notes; and No. 3 – Be prepared for anything. This philosophy has served us well so far. But there are some things no man or woman can even dream of, much less anticipate.

What happened to my son on a frigid, moonlit night in October of 1908 is one of those things no human being can reckon or prepare for.

He survived the experience, thank God, but at great risk to both body and soul. My son is not the same happy, carefree young man he was before that night and, I dare say, he will be forever changed…both for the worse and the better. For sure, he is looking into the “gray of things” now.

So, that’s what I am doing…trying to document Case File #6. But I admit to being stumped. This is, by far, the strangest case my son and I have ever taken on, the most hazardous. And now that we have survived to tell the tale, it is a case that remains unsolved and one that will always be kept hidden from prying eyes.

I will share this report with Chance, his wife Hannah and my wife, Annie. After we have studied what happened, separated fact from fantasy, and tried to the best of our ability to report the truth as it unfolded, I will seal this case file away.

Forever.

Matthew Wilcox

Part 1

Lenny

Heart of Ice

 

His huge round eyes

bulge out of his head, lidless eyes

rolling in red blood of pain,

always rolling, blood sockets

behind them.

~George Bowering

chapter

 

Winter 1847

 

Lenny “The Spoon” – named for his habit of pinning two tin spoons to the front of his coat – Turnbull sat on a high branch of an ice-encrusted pine tree, chewing a finger joint and watching thoughtfully as young Miles Manning buried what was left of his cousin’s body in a 12-foot-high snowdrift.

The lad was sawing Samuel Tarley’s limbs off, one by one, starting and staring about in alarm at the slightest sound… the high chitter of a chipmunk, the whispery sound of frail branches giving way under the ever-shifting weight of the heavy wet snow, the sharp crack of larger tree limbs succumbing to the ravages of the latest winter storm.

Lenny knew almost to the minute when the Donner/Reed party had finally resorted to cannibalism. He couldn’t really blame them. One mishap after another had haunted the pilgrims’ passage ever since they had abandoned the famous Oregon Trail and followed the ill-advised Hastings Cutoff trail into the Wasatch Range of the Sierra-Nevada Mountains.

Between losing most of their oxen and horseflesh to Indians while crossing the Great Salt Lake Desert and getting snowed in here along the Humboldt River, the sixty people left to rot away in these high hills were literally starving to death.

Again and again, Lenny wished he could have followed the last wagon train heading over the Oregon Trail into Montana rather than these sorry critters but the teamsters for that outfit were a tough bunch and had chased him off when he approached.

He knew why, although he didn’t think it was either fair or smart on their part. Lenny was a dwarf; at least that was what that doc in Kansas City had said after offering Lenny two-bits a day to be a test study. Lenny had declined the doctor’s offer and ran away but now he had a name for his peculiar condition.

He stood only 4’8” tall and, although his body was as bent and crooked as a gnarled branch, it was lean and strong. His face, however, was a fright and he knew it. His brow protruded over tiny, close-set brown eyes and his jaw was as underslung as that of an old, toothless mule. His mud-brown and gray hair, beard and eyebrows grew as wild as a patch of thistles as he had neither the desire nor the money to visit a barber.

His teeth – or, at least, what was left of them – were rotten and Lenny suspected the reek of them flew away in front of him in a foul cloud. He had often seen members of the party rear away in disgust whenever he came close. Although, he smirked, what made them think they smelled any sweeter, he couldn’t fathom; he could, even now, smell the stench of their meager encampment from a half mile away which was one good reason most of the edible wildlife in the region had fled.

Yet despite the lack of easy game, Lenny was a good hunter… unlike many of the beleaguered people he had trailed after on this doomed trek out west. Over the last few months, he had left many a rabbit, skunk, gopher, and fish close to the main camp to help out though he had never received an acknowledgment or thanks.

Lenny had been born and raised in the Ozark Mountains and, although his pa treated him worse than he did his pack of bloodhounds, Evan Turnbull knew an extra set of hands when he saw one. He had trained his young, twisted son to hunt, fish and scavenge all manner of foodstuffs for the rest of the family members, of whom there were many.

In fact, all of Evan’s children either gathered food together for the communal cook pot, suffered a beating, or – in one case – were kicked out for good and made to fend for themselves. So Lenny had found comfort in heading out on his own to fetch the family meal for, if his father treated him badly, his brothers and sisters treated him worse.

Lenny’s ma, Mary Turnbull, had died from birthing-fever when he was thirteen years old. When she was alive, she protected her youngest son from his sibling’s hatred but now they tormented him with regular beatings, teased him mercilessly and called him names. Often, as he made his way home at night after a successful day of hunting or fishing, his older brothers would set upon him and steal his bounty.

Many a time he did not darken the doorway of his family home at all. He would rather go to sleep hungry than suffer his sibling’s scorn or his old man’s wrath when he showed up empty-handed.

When he was seventeen, his two sisters headed into the nearby township to attend church and, hopefully, catch the eyes of some eligible young men. They were accompanied by Lenny’s oldest brother whose job was to bring grain, flour, lard and horse oats back home after the service.

The day went well enough, although no new gentlemen came to call. Three days later, Maryanne – Lenny’s oldest sister – came down with typhoid; soon after, the whole family lay dying inside the rough-hewn walls of the cabin they called home.

Lenny was not there…he had received such a harsh beating the week before after, once again, having his bounty forcibly removed, he had decided to spend the next week or so in a hidden cave close by a stream. He ate well, slept peacefully, and caught enough pink and green trout to share.

Cheerful, he whistled his way back to the house, only stopping long enough to gaze about and wonder where his older brothers and sisters were. Cautiously, he stepped out from the tree line into the weed-infested front yard.

He stared about the empty yard and felt a chill of foreboding. It was quiet… too quiet. Their old plow-horse nosed his empty grain bucket and their sow, Gertie – seeing him approach – squealed mournfully and was shrilly echoed by her many piglets. Gazing into Gertie’s empty water trough, Lenny wondered why his family members had allowed the pig, one of their best means of stocking up on winter stores, and her brood to run dry.

Walking over to the well, he put enough water in the animals’ troughs to keep them from bellowing and then made his way slowly toward the house. Once or twice, while fetching the water he had smelled a foul odor wafting on the afternoon breeze. He knew that smell and he knew the sound of fat and lazy bottleneck flies as well…something in that house was dead.

Lenny paused outside the front door and then he heard a faint voice say, “Lenny, is that you?” Pushing open the door, he saw his father lying on the floor of the house by a cold stove.

Staring about in shock, Lenny saw that – except for his pa and his little sister, Hester – almost all of his family members were dead. The smell was overwhelming and, even as he watched, a cloud of blue bellies fell over Hester’s face like a black lace veil. The little girl had stopped breathing and, although Lenny brought fresh water and tried to slap the life back into her body, he knew she would not be coming back to breathe air again.

He tried as best as he knew how to keep his pa alive but Evan died later that night. The next day, Lenny tried to bury his family members but the ground was as hard as rock; he broke two spades and their one good shovel before giving up on the notion.

He put blankets over the dead bodies and mumbled a little prayer over each of them, although he doubted whether they would have done much but dance over him had their positions been reversed. Then he prowled about the place and finally found his pa’s meager stash of gold and a few paper dollars.

Lenny packed up as much as his puny shoulders could carry and packed a cloth bag full of food. He tried as hard as he could to keep from fingering things knowing, instinctively, the sickness was anything but gone.

Staring around at the oft-hated but intimately familiar house he had grown up in, he shrugged and poured kerosene on the floors and walls of the cabin, then lit a wooden match. Dropping it, Lenny stepped outside and pulled the pigpen’s gate to the side so Gertie and her little ones could escape before he went to search for the horse’s ancient saddle in the barn.

It took some time and a vast amount of patience to saddle the horse; the old gelding had not been ridden for years. It objected to having the creaky old leather on its back and it didn’t help matters that flames were starting to shoot out the front door and windows of the house. Finally, Lenny was able to climb aboard just as the house went up in a roar and a whoosh of heat.

The horse reared up in terror as sparks and burning ash fell like fireworks on the ground around them and Lenny dug his heels into the animal’s flanks. With a squeal, the old horse took off at a full gallop with Lenny clinging to his back like a burr.

And so, with eight dollars and twenty-two cents to his name, Lenny Turnbull took the first road in a series of highways and byways leading, ultimately, to the fiery gates of Hell.

 

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First Chapters – The War of Odds by Linell Jeppsen

Another great First Chapter from my friend Linell Jeppsen from her book The War of Odds.

The War of Odds final frontDESCRIPTION

Sixteen-year-old Sara Giddings is a lost and lonely girl after the death of her mother, and like many young people forced to deal with life’s tragedies, Sara begins to dabble in drugs and alcohol.

All of that changes when her father takes her to the tiny community of Ashbrook, which overlaps the land of the fae. Here, a young sprite named Pollo discovers that Sara is not a typical teenager, but a witch with immense, untapped power- the power to heal.

Pollo, a cat named Hissaphat, and the wood nymph, Muriel convince Sara that her powers may be the only key to healing what ails the fae, and Timaron, king of the Unseelie court.
Soon, Sara and her two friends, Nate and Chloe, are thrust into a dark and deadly world as they endeavor to free Timaron, whose mind has been possessed by demons and who, in his madness, has declared war on humankind.

With only her two friends and a band of magical misfits, Sara must travel across a dying world. Hunted and haunted by forces even the faeries fear, Sara must reach Unseelie and face the prince of darkness himself, wielding a power she barely understands, to save the faerie king and the fate of two worlds.

Chapter

Sara Giddings stared in the mirror and wondered what her new school would be like. Would she be able to make friends this time, or would she be alone with only her father for company? She sighed, and ran a brush through her hair. She knew that she needed to try…to do better than she had in the past, for her father’s sake, if not her own. Since her mother, Lynette, was killed two years ago in a drunk driving accident in Denver, Colorado, Sara had been on a path of self-destruction. She and her father, both.

Cast adrift in a fugue of sorrow and loss, Sara and her dad floundered in an ocean of sorrow. Thomas, who had given up drinking alcohol when Sara was born, started drinking again after his wife’s funeral. Sara, confused and angry at the forces that took her beloved mother away and turned her father into a drunk, started hanging out with the druggies in her freshman class and soon after, started skipping class altogether.

Looking back now, Sara understood that she basically skipped being fifteen years old and only regained awareness and the will to live again about a year ago, when her dad told her to pack her bags, because they were moving to North Dakota. Thomas was an engineer and followed ore-drilling operations around the country. North Dakota was home to highly productive silver mine and he had been hired to oversee exploratory tunnel drilling.

Sara fought, ranted and raved but her father was adamant. He was no fool. Although the amber glow of bourbon warmed the empty place left in his heart after the death of his wife, Thomas was sober enough each morning to see the hollow stare in his daughter’s eyes, and the after-effects of too much wine and pot on her pale skin and in her shaking fingers.

Father and daughter, both of them grieving and slightly hung-over from their individual going-away parties, left Denver one morning in late February and drove north, into the frozen wastelands of North Dakota. Sara was enrolled in the local high school for approximately eight weeks when her father informed her they were moving again, this time to a tiny town in the northeast mountains of Washington State.

Sara didn’t mind. She had not even begun to make new friends. With her long blonde hair teased into a rat’s nest around a pale thin face, and the heavy black eye-liner that encircled eyes that were as aquamarine as a tropical ocean, Sara found herself surrounded with hostility at her new high school. Most of the girls clung to their boyfriends in a jealous rage, and the boys followed her with their eyes and were dumbfounded with admiration at the exotic creature that had landed in their drab surroundings like a tropical bird.

Sara hadn’t even unpacked when Thomas said it was time to leave again. She shrugged, took her heavy sweaters down from the top shelf of her bedroom closet, rolled her long skirts into tubes and stuck her leggings and underwear into an old satin purse of her mothers’. She was ready to go. It took one day for the two of them to load their personal belongings into a U-Haul trailer, three more to travel the snowy highways and mountain passes into Washington State, and one more day to unpack into their new home. It was May 9th.

The house that was provided to them by the mine was actually excellent, as far as Sara was concerned. It was on mine property and was once a vacation dwelling that belonged to a wealthy landowner before the mine moved in and scooped up all the property rights. The log cabin had old, but well-maintained wooden floors and large windows that framed the mountains and valleys below it like a painting come to life.

It smelled like a mixture of rotten wood and mice when they first walked in the door, however. Sara saw her father’s face fall, but she picked up a broom from the kitchen’s pantry, found a mice nest, and a few fat spider webs and swept them out the door. She watched, out of the corner of her eye as her dad took a bottle of bourbon out of a paper bag. Then she saw him hesitate and set the bottle in a cupboard over the refrigerator before stepping outside.

As she took Windex and paper towels to the picture window, Sara saw Thomas walk into an open-ended woodshed, grab a maul and start chopping wood for a fire. Shivering, Sara buttoned her mother’s old sweater and opened the woodstove to see if it needed cleaning. She sat back on her heels with a gasp as a flurry of feathers stirred a poof of ash into her face and out onto the floorboards. She saw a brilliant flash of red and heard the intruder’s squawk of fear as it made its way up the stovepipe and out into the sky above.

Sara peered into the stove and saw a nest in amongst the ashes. Three tiny beaks opened and closed in an appeal for food. The babies looked so helpless and filthy with soot that she knew she had to do something, so she ran her hands through the ashes to disguise her human smell and picked the whole nest up in her hands. Moving slowly, she carried the baby birds outside and walked toward the tall pine and fir trees that bordered the pretty but frozen and over-grown yard. Looking up, Sara saw a shadow pass overhead and heard a croak of fear from the mother bird.

Not wanting to worry the poor thing more than it already was, Sara found the stump of an old tree and placed the nest beside it on the ground. All three of the little beaks were pointing toward her now as if she was their mother, and it was her duty to feed them. She backed away, hoping that the creature’s real mom would know what to do.

Her father was standing still, watching and he called out, “What have you got there?”

Sara shook her head and answered, “A bird’s nest, Dad, with three baby birds in it. I was trying to get the stove ready for a fire and found them there.”

Thomas shook his head. “Nice try, honey. I don’t know if the mother will claim them now, but you can hope.” He stopped talking, and stared off into the distance for a moment. “Sara, can you ever forgive me?”

Sara’s heart skipped a beat. Her father was a good person, she knew. His heart had been ripped in two when Lynette died, but that was no excuse to leave his daughter behind to cope with the loss on her own, was it? Sara suddenly realized that she had been angry ever since her mom was killed… angry and filled with grief over the loss of her father, as well as the death of her mother. It was rage, fear and sorrow that colored her soul and sent her in to a downward spiral of drugs and alcohol when her mom died and her dad retreated into a bottle for comfort.

Tears filled her eyes as Thomas walked up to her, putting a tentative hand on her right shoulder. “Honey, I am so, so sorry.” Sara heard the anguish in his voice and she turned into his arms, sobbing.

“It will be alright now, honey. I really think so,” Thomas murmured as his beautiful daughter wept in his arms. Something about this place…this fresh start, gave him hope and the courage to carry on. He had loved Lynette with all his heart and soul, but he knew that he had a duty to love his daughter as well. His heart ached with grief at how selfish he had been. Was it any wonder that Sara ran astray after her mother was killed? No, he acknowledged… it was a miracle that his daughter talked to him at all now, after he left her for the solace only liquid oblivion could provide.

“I’ll do better, honey, I promise,” he whispered.

Father and daughter held each other, weeping, as the female bird watched her hatchlings from a low branch and another creature observed the interesting spectacle from behind a large boulder.

Pollo was a wood-sprite. Like his sire and grandsire, his hair was as red as a poppy, his skin was as brown as a nut and his large, slanted eyes were as green as summer grass. He had been sitting and thinking about the great honor bestowed upon his family by the invitation from the fairy high court to attend the Spring Equinox Meeting and Market Fair. He was also trying to figure out a way to sneak along on the trip.

“It’s just not fair!” he fumed, tearing a slightly frozen buttercup out of the ground in a fit of frustration. He knew he was young, and that someone needed to keep the home fires burning and the house in order while his parents and two big brothers attended the fair. But, why does it have to be me?

Pollo was so angry he almost didn’t see the dark shadow that flew past, but he heard Ms. Rattle’s squawk of fear. He looked across the small meadow and saw a human girl make her way slowly out the door of the old abandoned cottage that sat at the heart of his family’s territory.

His heart started pounding hard, because Pollo’s sire had always warned his sons and daughters to avoid human beings. Well, there was one now, walking directly toward where he sat by his favorite rock!

He hunkered down and watched as the girl set Ms. Rattle’s children on the ground by a stump, and then started walking slowly toward the house. An older man joined her and Pollo watched as the two humans held each other, weeping.

He was glad, now, that he had hidden behind the boulder. Squinting at the golden glow that surrounded the girl, Pollo knew that she would have seen him if he stood out in the open. She was… something… either a fairy or perhaps, a witch. Regular humans could not see folk like him, or anything from his realm, but fairies certainly could and human witches could see the fey world as well.

The glow seemed to envelope the older man, sending tendrils of yellow and pink light into his darker, murky aura. Pollo could see peace and tranquility come over the man’s face and almost feel the energy and strength the young woman’s spirit gave him. A good witch, Pollo thought, and then he was falling over backwards as a large black wing caught him unaware. Picking himself up with as much dignity as he could muster, Pollo glared at Ms. Rattle.

“Did you see…did you?” The woodpecker jumped up and down, flapping her wings in agitation. “The witch saved my babies, she did! Help me sprite, please! Help Ms. Rattle move her babies!” In her joy and enthusiasm, the woodpecker rapped her large yellow beak against a rotten stump, sending wood chips and evergreen mulch into the air and all over Pollo’s new tunic.

“Ah, Ms. Rattle! Look at what you did! My ma is gonna kill me!” Pollo grumped, brushing the red dust off his clothes, as Ms. Rattle regarded him with one bright eye.

“Sorry, young sprite, sorry… but will you? Will you help Ms. Rattle move her chicks?” The bird shook herself in a delirium of joy and dismay, sending feathers and leaves in every direction. Birds were known to be quite rude sometimes, but Pollo’s father had explained that they meant no harm. They just did not understand the finer points of polite society.

“Okay, okay. Give me a second.” Pollo rolled his eyes and sighed as the bird cawed, saying, “But hurry, oh hurry, sprite. The foxes and the wolves, the chipmunks and the hawk…the cat, the dog… CAW!”

The sprite, however, was already picking the baby birds up off the ground while their anxious mother fluttered overhead. One by one, Pollo lifted the hatchlings up and flew through the air to a stout branch, close to the tree’s trunk. Ms. Rattle flew here and there with twigs and pinecones, trying to construct a nest where her babies sat.

They worked in companionable silence for a few minutes, and then settled down on the branch together to rest. The babies slept and so did their mother as Pollo sat and stared at the cabin across the field.

He watched an upstairs window and saw the young woman comb the tangles out of her wild blonde hair. He saw the look of sorrow on her face and wondered if she knew what she was.

Pollo also wondered if his family would allow him to go to the fair if he were to bring a good witch back home to the village. A good witch was hard to find these days, or so his father always said.

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