Tag Archives: Magic

Harvest Lick

Welcome to the second taste of A Harvest of Dreams & Embersin celebration of its full release this week! 

Remember, Licks are NSFW excerpts, so read carefully – and look forward to another erotic excerpt from my next new release, Wolf Bite, on Valentine’s Day!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“This someone who is calling for you, you really must listen?” Kas’ words flowed warm across his shoulders. Myrddin turned and found himself caught in his lover’s arms.

“Yes. This time it’s my turn to go.” He paused, confused by the humor he found in the moment even now. “My turn to be summoned away.”

“I hear it. Did I not say? But I am surprised to find you giving such power to a mortal.”

“No lesser man than the High King of Britain.” He grinned as he said it, but the smile faded quickly as Kas stroked his hair.

“Why?”

“For the sake of peace, and my own conscience, and maybe…”

Kas gave a little tug to the strands still in his grasp. “You cannot stop what is coming. Not even you.”

Myrddin scowled and pressed his face against his lover’s chest. “Don’t pull my hair.”

“No? But that is not what you say when I take you.” And he stopped, ran his hands over the curve of Myrddin’s buttocks. “You have time before you leave me, do you not?”

“Always time for you.” He slipped out of Kas’ grasp and dropped onto his hands and knees. “Do what you want with me.”

Kas took Myrddin’s hips in his hands, bent over him and kissed the ridges of his spine. “What I want? That could take a while. This mortal king, he will have to wait his turn.”

Wait his—? Myrddin made a face. “No, thank you. I’ll have only you.”

“What a fool, to think that was what I meant. Even in jest, you would say that? As if I would let you, as if I would share you ever again.” The words were scalding, almost angry, but Kas’ hands were gentle, easy and eager both as he slipped them down to open him up.

Kas. I don’t deserve—oh!” his fingers inside, stroked just the right spot, and Myrddin gasped out the rest of his words. “I don’t deserve you. I don’t—deserve—ohhh.”

Kas slid one hand up Myrddin’s spine and into his hair again, tugged his head back and bent by his ear. “No. You probably do not. No more than I deserve you.”

There was a hint of subtle humor in his voice, the suggestion that he meant his words both ways that they could be taken. Myrddin opened his mouth to protest, but Kas kissed him and suddenly he was groaning instead. “It does not mean anything, Merlin. Deserve. You should know that better than I.”

“Ka-a-ahhh-ahh—” Slow, deep penetration. Cock, not fingers. Then slower. Deeper. Each thrust dragged out almost past bearing. But the sensation was intertwined irresistibly with Myrddin’s memories of every other time Kas had touched him, and with the fear of the future that went on compelling him.

 

Want more? Pick up your copy of A Harvest of Dreams & Embers here!

 

 

Advertisements

Harvest Bite

To celebrate its full release,  today I’m sharing an excerpt from chapter one of A Harvest of Dreams & Embers, Eight Kingdoms book five! The second half of the saga begins with Merlin…and mayhem.

 

Chapter One

Sleep had come to Spring, though it did not belong there.

Myrddin advanced alone through the stillness of the Wyrdwood and found even the birds sunk into slumber. Drowsiness had descended, and with it a sacred silence that brought disharmony, reducing the promise of the branches to the ghost of leaves. There had never been such lethargy in immortal Spring before, but the season had traded away its show of splendor for somnolence.

King though he was, even Myrddin was tangled in threads of torpor and his own sudden awareness of the presence that incited them. Why here, why now? Father?

Yes.

With the feeling of acknowledgment came a summons Myrddin could not deny, though he wanted to. No other being was so perilous to him, had ever cost him so much, as his own father. And now, now that he finally had Kas for his own…

Neither the time nor the place of the visit pleased him, but Myrddin could no more deny the summons of the one who had sired him than the buds could refuse the spring.

His heart clenched. Had he regained what he’d lost only to have it taken away? Kas. All his desires were bound up in the single syllable of that name. He would not give his lover up again, no matter what demand the god of the wild had for him.

Myrddin found his father at the heart of the forest, wrapped around its most ancient oak. He knew it was his father, but Myrddin had never seen him like this. As the Stag of the wood, yes, carrying the moon in the spaces between his antlers. As a mist, or in a man’s shape, but like this?

The god of the wood had come to him as a dragon. His father was a moss-backed beast with leafed and feathered wings whose span stretched beyond Myrddin’s sight. He was the wildest and most beautiful of his kind Myrddin had ever seen, but he was a dragon all the same.

Did that mean…he was no longer a god?

There was a shiver in the branching pinions, a sibilant trembling of feathers. A sound like silk being stretched too tight and too quickly snapped through the air as the great wings beat once then settled.

“Father…” The dragon opened his mouth and breathed out the scent of somnolent blossoms, but not a single word in answer. “Father?”

He resisted the urge to go to one knee as he resisted the drowsy pressure of the air, a sudden urge to yawn. Silence greeted him. More than before, stronger the closer he came to the unsteady orb of his father’s eye. He recognized the source of the unnatural sleep with a familiarity that reminded him of his own long-vanished past.

‘My little shoot.’

Not his father’s voice, but the memory of his mother’s, brushed Myrddin with a faint prickling of dread. This sleep was akin to his own lost winter slumber. The sleep that had taken him at Samhain each year, before Spring had had a rite, or a kingdom… When winter had come to him as to the blossoms and dropped him down the well of the sleeping season.

His father blinked one enormous eye, and the flickering facets drew Myrddin in. The eye became a world, a universe in the shape of an ochre orb. “I forget who I was before the birth of this moment.

 

Want more? A Harvest of Dreams & Embers is currently available at Pride Publishing, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other retailers. Grab your copy today!

Twelfth Entry: Akhlut

 

akhlut_by_kyoht-d57tn0n

The tracks lead from the snow to the water. The pads of wolf-paws leave their familiar marks right up to the edge of the ice, but neither the pack nor a solitary hunter is waiting by the frozen entrance of the ocean tonight. The boundary of the ice is the transition point, one flesh to another, one hunter to another, teeth of the land becoming the teeth of the deep. 

No one has ever seen them go there. There is no proof; we have come seeking it, out of the warmth of the igloo, into the dark of the night. The stars guide our guide; the tracks are the hidden signal of our quest, but not enough, and there at the water’s edge, I approach the danger myself. This is the sea beyond whale song. Here, nothing lives but hours of silence, even in the blood-red death, even in the movement of the tide, the breaking ice.

Here the arrival of the glacial freeze and the shifting of the spring ice is still quiet, still only natural noises, disturbing nothing, and in the lassitude of the black chill, beneath stars too white to touch the snow with brightness, I stare into the gleaming waves, beyond the frosted facets of their caps. The deep is alive with hunters. I taste their air, the salty exhalation of their steamy breaths. I see the black-and-white shadow of their shapes caressing shallow currents, just below the surface, predatory eyes looking up at me – 

One at a time. Always one at a time. Rising, turning, riding the promise of the swell, they turn away from me then. I will not witness the transition, but the shapes they bear are not truly orca. Fur, in the shifting sleekness, disrupting outlines that should be smooth. An elongated muzzle, tapering in the shape of a wolf, though much, much larger.

And the paw-prints, their elegant remains telling a deeper story. I cannot dare the water. This is as far as we go. The mystery keeps itself a mystery, and I return to the expedition. We go back through heavy snow.

~~~~

Akhlut References
Akhlut Wiki
An Akhlut Legend

Have a suggestion for a creature that belongs in the Bestiary? Leave it in the comments!

The Garden

Well! It’s been a while, hasn’t it? But this week, there’s a tiny bite to feed your soul…from The Garden, an upcoming Beauty and the Beast story, set in a strange, new world.

Enjoy!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Chapter One

Excerpt

 “He did not know she was a fairy – so the story goes. The young prince saw an old woman, and he liked to surround himself only with beautiful things. He was aware that not all were created equal – like the rose beside the dandelion. Yes, one a lovely blossom, the other considered no more than a weed. Both were flowers, but a rose…

“A single petal, a breath of fragrance, could put a garden full of other blossoms to shame.

“So it was that it exceptionally pained him to be made ugly; to be made into a beast. So it was that it was agony to sustain this new, cursed life, an agony of existence for which there was no relief.

“‘Devour the roses’, she had said to him. ‘Devour the most beautiful rose, again and again, since you care for what is beautiful more than for human life!’

“Because he did not know she was a fairy, only thought her an old woman – and he had turned her away, and it was a cold and rainy night.”

Want more? The Garden is coming soon!  

Eleventh Entry: Rakushinpu

 

joro

The sound of the water rushes overhead. Beside us, the great fall is a roar and in its shadow the gleam of spray and the shadow of leaves overtake the world, together with drowsy promises. 

The spirits of the mountain speak in murmuring voices, a whisper to calm the senses, a low, red sound. Of love, it speaks, with the sound of a lute  and the eager harmony of all night’s darkest passions.

Come to me.

The voice does not belong to the water.

Stay with me.

The words are a plea from which an answer will summon only regret.

Is it not quiet here? Are you not tired now? Stay a while and sleep with me…

The lady of the falls trades on her whispers, and when the sun dips past the high of noon toward the horizon, when the laziness of the afternoon is full upon us – then, at the edge of the water, climbing in silken coils, the threads come one at a time.

Each one attaches to a man. An ankle. A toe. A calf. But we are prepared, as not many before us have been. The threads are not broken, but hooked to trees, to stumps – one rooted life in exchange for each marked man. 

As the sun begins to go down, the threads are pulled, one by one, and one by one pieces of the forest crash over the cliff-side, down the mountain, into the rage of the river and the waterfall’s roar.

A woman cries with it, and the longing has not left her voice. 

Stay with me, won’t you?

There is no laughter, no speech, as we make our way down the night blackened sides of the autumn mountain. We return to our camp – to the nearest village. It is there that we count our number and find that twenty-four has been reduced to twenty-three. 

Stay with me…

~~~~

Read more in the erotic horror novella Rakushinpu, free on Amazon KDP!

~~~~

Rakushinpu/Jorogumo References
Jorōgumo Wiki
Jorōgumo Legends

Have a suggestion for a creature that belongs in the Bestiary? Leave it in the comments!

Interview, Excerpt, and Giveaway: Wolf of the West at Prism Book Alliance

Something new has arrived, glorious beings – an interview at Prism Book Alliance, including an exclusive excerpt of Wolf of the West and a special giveaway!

wolfofthewest_800 (2)

Enter until July 2nd to win a free  copy of your own through Rafflecopter!

Good luck!

Deathless Lick

This  Lick comes  from Deathless, the second of the Tales of the Eight Kingdom to be released! This excerpt is a site exclusive,  celebrating Deathless‘ full release this week – check at the bottom for links! 

Remember, Licks are NSFW excerpts, so read carefully – and look forward to another erotic excerpt from my next new release!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Myrddin closed his eyes, let out a breath then lifted his lashes and met Kas’ gaze.

“Are you going to kiss me, Kas? Is this our rite?” His voice was…changed. Warmer. Husky. “Are you going to be my lover?”

Kas stared down at him, suddenly breathing hard for no reason he could explain. The heat within him was divided, and thus multiplied, but he understood what he’d been asked— or thought he did.

“Yes, kiss you.” He lifted Myrddin’s lips against his mouth, parted them with his tongue. “Yes. Our rite.” He kissed him again, softer this time, tender, and Myrddin sighed, a low, moaning breath, when Kas pulled away. “Yes. Love you.”

He had no more words for what he wanted to do, what he needed—but that no longer mattered. Myrddin under him was naked and willing, cock hard for him and wet with desire, seeking friction with the rocking of his hips. There would be no more escaping, no shift of shape, no running away. Kas pulled Myrddin’s legs apart, settled himself between them and entered him with one finger.

Myrddin groaned, spread his legs wider, and Kas tried another and watched Myrddin open for him, stretching—watched him arch his back and grab twin fistfuls of grass, moaning, cock twitching.

He wanted another response like that, so Kas did it again, added a third finger alongside the first two, slow penetration, deep and curling inward. He got what he wanted—the wide eyes startling wider, pale thighs twitching apart, cock harder and his mouth open to beg for more. More. That was the word on Myrddin’s lips, and a broken moan that went on, and on, ooh-oh-oh-mmm-ohh.

And…his name. Again, and again.

My name.

“Kas, Kas don’t tease me. Kas…”

He wanted to laugh, but he bent forward instead and braced himself on one hand, kissed Myrddin quiet. “No words.” He kissed him again, kept his fingers moving—in, out—slow penetration that was nothing but a tease for both of them, satisfying only in its promise. Myrddin wormed one of his hands between them, took Kas’ cock in his fist and stroked just as slowly.

It felt good, the same tingling touch as that blood on his lips. It made Kas wonder what it would feel like when his cock was inside Myrddin instead of his fingers. Without another thought, he leaned back and pulled his hand away, tried to jerk Myrddin’s thighs wider apart. Myrddin stopped him before he could do what he wanted.

Kas. Wait, wait.”

Purely aggressive, Kas pulled on his leg. “Again? Wait? No.”

“Yes. Please?”

He paused, crawled forward over Myrddin’s body and licked his last word off his lips. “Please… That word. I like it. It is mine.”

Breathless amusement warmed Kas’ lips. “I’ll say it again, just for you. Please?” Myrddin leaned up, his mouth an offering that Kas was more than willing to take. This time Myrddin slipped his lips away, kissed Kas’ cheek, his throat, his collarbone, his shoulder. When he pushed at Kas’ chest, Kas allowed it, until he sat back on his knees, and Myrddin was braced on his thighs, looking up with lust and mischief in his gaze.

His mouth moved down, down, down, traced trembling patterns of heat and tongue over Kas’ chest, his abdomen, lower and lower until Myrddin was lying on the ground. He used one hand to hold himself up and kept the other at the base of Kas’ cock while his tongue played at the tip, made circles, whorls, spirals, until he leaned forward, took the whole head in his mouth and groaned.

Kas’ breath shallowed, sped. He reached down one hand and tangled his fingers in Myrddin’s hair, stared at his wet lips as they moved down, then up again. He pulled back, and there was tongue again, lapping, sucking, wrapped around his cock. All the while those eyes stared up at him, bright with a spark of mischief and more than a hint of Myrddin’s own pleasure.

Kas’ gaze was fixed on the sight, the most gorgeous submission he’d yet gained. He liked it better when he could see what Myrddin was doing to him, hear it—the lash of his tongue, wet sounds…moaning.

He liked the moaning most of all, wanted more of it and knew how best to get it, but it was hard to make himself move, give up the pleasure. He jerked his gaze away from that mouth, down Myrddin’s back, over the curve of his buttocks.

Wait?

No. No more of wait. Kas dragged Myrddin back off his cock, clutched him close and brought him down under him, back against the grass. A startled sound escaped Myrddin’s mouth, but this time when Kas pushed his legs open, held his thighs apart, Myrddin reached for his hips and pulled him against his skin. “Please.” That word…

Kas leaned down, licked it off his lips again, tasted himself on Myrddin’s mouth and pressed his cock against the tight entrance he’d teased. Myrddin’s eyes opened wider, wider. A dark flush spread across his chest, up to his throat, and he held tight to Kas’ shoulders with both hands. “Kas, it’s too much. I—I—can’t—Kas.”

Kas liked the name even better now he’d heard it in that voice, guttural, stripped of everything but feeling. It was the voice of nerves drawn taut and abused. He knew they were a lie—those words. Myrddin squeezed both legs tight around his back, pulled him closer and urged him deeper into heat and tightness.

 

Want more? Pick up a copy of Deathless here!

 

 

Hunter, Prey

Because context is key to the marvel that is #1lineWed, and because I haven’t shared anything in particular from this monstrosity I know you’re all waiting for…a piece of the upcoming book five of the Eight Kingdoms series! (With which I am currently arguing about its title.)

Saoirse watched the Red King stride up the curve of the snow, down over the crest of frosted dunes and into the darkness that reflected off the surface of the water.

Without ripples, without waves, it still lapped at the motionless shore, and gave away thus that it was water and not frozen. The deep was black and still, but as the Red King approached, the surface of the water was broken by a small, black head – and then by more, and more.

Selkies.

She had playmates and companions among their number. She had been warned in the days just past that this time was coming, but she hadn’t believed. Her own trust in Macsen Cadoc was absolute, and that there was enough worry in any being who owed allegiance to him to bring them here, to the edge of everything, to the last of all shores, hoping to escape some unknown catastrophe…

She hadn’t believed.

Quiet, stepless, without a splash, her special friend among the selkies was out of the water and by her side, and Saoirse watched her lean closer without allowing any expression on her face.

“Hello, Líadan.”

“Saoirse, didn’t I say we were going? You shouldn’t have come. Shouldn’t have come!”

“You did intend to leave without goodbye, then? I thought you were my friend!”

The edges of Líadan’s soft, black body went stiff and salty, licked by the waves, but she was still. “Your friend. Yes, I am that. But this is my family, and all of my kin, and I will not be the one who is left behind. There are stories enough of last stands and hopeless cases, and not for you or our friendship will I become one of them.”

“I didn’t ask for that, did I? Only for goodbye. Which is nothing but polite, if you cared.” Saoirse squinted and peered through one eye, but her friend didn’t seem bothered in the least about her frustrated tone. “The Red King -”

“Will let us go. He’ll see right through excuses, promises, platitudes…and he’ll talk of fear, and how little it should matter to those such as us. But though we are Hunters, we remember. We were of dark Summer first. Midsummer’s midnight moon is our provenance and our place.  Not in this dark, this winter land of blood and violence. Not for a people of mothers, daughters – not though he sheltered us when our place in the world was taken away.”

Saoirse stared back at Líadan, understanding and confused both. She remembered fear from her time in the human world…and from those first hours, alone here, wondering if she would be kept. If she could stay. Not now. The sting of the emotion, the feel of it, was all but lost to her.

“Líadan I don’t understand. You’re Hunters. How could you not belong here? What does anything else matter? How could you have belonged to Summer? This is the Hunter’s kingdom, this is…”

Líadan shook her head, had only black laughter to offer, a sound as dark and deep as the matte shine of her eyes. “You do not understand. But then, you aren’t one thing or another, are you?” Her smile showed pointed teeth. “Not yet.”

“It’s not fair. I learn so many things, but they’re never enough. Not enough to understand even my friends, and the Red King -” She made a despairing sound and shook her head at the selkie’s continued laughter.

“Girl creature. Something will call you, one thing or another, meaning or madness…and you will find your way. I have that faith in you.”

“Hmm… But I’m tired of waiting. Time is different here and still I’m tired of it.”

“The mortal in you is murmuring now. You are so young – so young! I’m still a child in the water, among my people, but I barely remember being young like you. Before I could slip the sea, leave this shape behind… Saoirse, haven’t you felt it? Your soul is slipping away. A little longer, and a little longer…and then the empty space will have to be filled in by something else. What have you chosen?”

Saoirse blinked into Líadan’s eyes, blinked at her own reflection there, and then smiled.

“Blood of course. The Hunt, and its power.”

“Have you.” Líadan blinked, and the smile on her face stretched wide, then wider. Saoirse frowned as her reflection in the black eyes distorted, changing shape, size…something.

“Saoirse, I think you will surprise yourself with how much emptiness will be left behind when you lose your human self for the last time. I think you will surprise yourself with how little blood will fill the space inside you. You are not the Red King. Macsen Cadoc is of his own kind, and it is not yours. You may walk in the shadow, but I do not think it will be this shadow…or his.”

Saoirse crouched, reached forward and pet the flat, smooth space between Líadan’s ears. “What, then? Whose? I’ve been hunting, hunting without knowing – do you know my prey? Tell me!”

The selkie closed her eyes to night-dark slits. “I see a pale shadow behind you. Yes. Not red, but stripped of all color. A pale shadow…in a pale land. White flowers beneath a black moon.”

Saoirse contemplated this, but she had never heard of a place like that. She knew of eight hidden kingdoms outside the mortal world, and none of them sounded like the place Líadan was describing to her.

“When I find it, will I know what I’ve been looking for? What I’ve been missing since – forever?”

Even before I came here. The thought left Saoirse agitated, but without an outlet, just like many other such thoughts. They were becoming more and more frequent as time passed…and didn’t. As it washed over her, and left her unchanged, as the freezing ocean water moved over Líadan’s smooth, seal-black back.

“Saoirse, it is nearly time.”

“Time -”

“For us to go.”

“You…will be safe, won’t you?”

“Perhaps. Perhaps not. These are dangerous times, and there may be no safety for anyone, anywhere. But we will make the attempt. If things change, and what is broken is fixed, perhaps we will even return…and I will find you then, and see what you have become, and be, even as I will be far from you, your friend.”

“As I’ll be yours! I promise, Líadan. Friends, always.”

The wide grin Líadan wore as she slipped into the sea sealed the promise, and Saoirse stepped back from the water. She slipped into a shadow, then over the crackling, frosted dunes, closer to where the Red King was. She could hear his voice, and some other, and she wanted to know if Líadan had been right.

Would he be angry? Or would he let them go? Or both, maybe. She was curious, but not afraid. There was no violence, not even the anticipation of it, in the wind tonight.

Anyway, it was fun. Hunting Macsen, Red King that he was. She would tell Bran about it later, and he would laugh with her. He understood better than the rest, and regardless, she had to stay close to him.

There was an oath that she’d made, and it remained unfulfilled, but she understood oaths better now.

Saoirse took another step, then another, until she could hear clearly. Yes, she would tell Bran…even though Macsen was Bran’s, and therefore not her prey. Again, she faced the frustration of not knowing who, or what, it was that she was meant to be hunting.

Líadan had not answered her, but now, watching, listening, she wondered if the Red King would.

 

Want more? Book five is coming soon, but you can grab the first four books here

Deathless Bite

Today is a deathless day…or should I say, the day of Deathless? Now on early release at Pride Publishing, this second Tale of the Eight Kingdoms starts in the ancient woods of Britain, ten thousand years before the events of book one, and takes us to the meeting of Kas and Myrddin, and the first Spring Rite.

Enjoy this exclusive excerpt from the very beginning of Deathless!

 

Chapter One

The nights were growing chill, but the change of the autumn foliage had turned the river valley into a sea of flames. Leaves fell like sparks, browned the underbrush and bared the branches of the wood, but not only the canopy was failing. On a bier in the open, breathing slowly and quietly, Myrddin’s mother, the old chief’s daughter, lay dying.

“Mother, you can’t go!”

“Oh, it’s time. It’s past time, Myrddin. Look at you, my little shoot. You don’t change any more, but you’ve grown, and your mother is old and only a woman. Now is my time.”

Myrddin gripped her fingers tightly. The lines of her face were smooth, but worn, and her hand was limp in his grasp. The only brightness left in her was in the green shimmer of her gaze. Already he could feel her slipping away.

He supposed he should be grateful it was happening now, at the end of autumn, and not when he’d already begun his winter sleep. But how could he be? Grateful. He could have hated it—her dying—if she didn’t look so much like she was letting go of something heavy that she’d carried for far too long.

It was still agonizing to watch.

Why did death have to come so gently? Like a fall of rain—like falling asleep after making love. Myrddin could have hated it, except that she welcomed its coming.

“You’re going where I can’t follow, Mother. I won’t have anyone if you…when you die.”

She laughed, or at least she made a sound that was something like it, and he winced. “You have to learn to let go. Let it be. We’re all mortal, aren’t we? Yes, all of us but you. And you…my son, if you can’t learn to let us go, you’ll have no companion but pain, and that’s…not…what I wanted for you.”

“Mother…”

Red leaves fell onto the furs that covered her, then mingled with her hair as she tried to lift her head. One descended lightly into the spread-open fingers of her unclasped hand, and she smiled. You’ll have to learn. You will, won’t you? Promise me you will.

“I—promise.”

Good boy. Now, let them bring me where I want to go.”

Myrddin lifted his gaze. Her bearers were already waiting around them, their eyes averted from the final parting of mother and son. “Mother. You don’t have to do this. What good is it to just—

I want to die where it began. That’s all. For you, and for me. Won’t you come with me? I won’t make a journey in this world again.

He stared at her, almost shook his head, then squeezed her fingers and let go. “I’ll be watching. I can’t… I’ll just…be watching.”

She sighed, reached up and patted his cheek with her free hand, and the bearers came forward and took up her bier with careful hands. His mother’s fingers slipped out of Myrddin’s grip, and he stepped back, and back, watched her go into the forest then turned and fled up the side of the valley. The sun was setting, and the evening came full of swallowing shadows that he followed along the ridge above the crest of the valley.

He couldn’t stand it, couldn’t bear it, but he was equally incapable of avoiding it, of denying her or leaving her behind. Even at a distance, even in darkness, he could see the cortege accompanying his mother’s body, heard the wails of the tribe’s women as they fell in line behind. He wanted to go to her, stand with her, wait until the end, but he couldn’t do it. Not this.

As he thought it, the wind moved, a sudden hush of gusts that nearly blew him over. It was only then, forced out of his grief, that Myrddin felt the oncoming tide. Power was flowing around him, the green whispering. The wildlife was growing awake, aware, and the blood of his father inside him, the immortal link that connected Myrddin to the growing and greening of the world, pulsed alive.

The whisper rose through the wood until it was a roar among the leaves, a howl in the throats of wolves. The sudden baying of stags mingled with a thousand fluted melodies as the birds scattered from the trees, and the trees bowed, bent, rolled their shoulders and tossed their heads with no need for the wind.

Still, the wind was rising, carrying whispers and roars, howls and birds. Awake! Wild spirits of the spring sped past Myrddin, not focused on him, not paying him any attention, and he closed his eyes but couldn’t close his mind to the message. Awake! He comes, He comes.

Myrddin didn’t need to wonder who. There was only one reason for this much excitement in the wild. My father is coming and why? Now? When it’s too late for him to do anything. A flush of rage replaced his grief, but it was rage tempered by truth and sense. His mother had been an offering since before he was born. That had been the reason why he was born. She had belonged to his father from the moment she had chosen to give herself as a gift to the God.

I was just the result, not the fulfillment. My mother, but she belongs to Father as she has always done.

There had never been any doubt about his father. His mother had been taken, and given a child, and returned…and he was that child, bound to the spring as much as to the mortal world—or more, maybe.

Immortal powers were stronger. Immortal purposes were more demanding than anything but death, and Myrddin remembered his birth—remembered his first year as well as yesterday.

By the end of his first summer, dressed in a loincloth of leather and painted with the brown mud of the forest, he had toddled behind the hunting men. By the end of his first autumn, he’d been strong and straight enough of limb to walk with them. He’d had the look of a boy of ten years, though he couldn’t yet count even one, but he had carried no weapon and only clung to the edges of their sight.

It hadn’t been their prey that he was after, only the wilderness that ran before their footsteps…until autumn had ended, and the first snow had begun to fall.

Snow. Timeless and endless and white, it had fascinated him, then made him irresistibly drowsy. He’d gone to his mother and spoken his first words.

“Mother, I’m tired.”

“Then sleep, dear one. Sleep…”

And then, and every year since, her lullaby had gentled him into the dark. He had slept through the winter and its whiteness, the long, cold months. Only his mother had never been surprised. Like the spring shoots, he had grown and blossomed with the passing of the seasons. She had thought it only natural that winter was time for him to sleep.

“But there won’t be anyone to sing me to sleep this year.”

The flush of anger at his father gave way to grief again, and Myrddin looked up and saw that his mother and the villagers who followed her had almost passed out of sight. He caught up quickly, with the feeling he was stepping in his father’s footsteps as he crossed the ridge line back down toward the floor of the valley.

The procession wound through the trees, bringing his mother one final time through the wood she loved. Myrddin stopped when it stopped, and stood still, arrested in place for no reason he could explain. It felt wrong to move forward, though he could sense his mother’s death coming for her, walking toward her. It was here, in the wood! On the path—in the clearing—right in front of him…

A silence the likes of which Myrddin had never experienced came crashing down.

He tried to take another step forward, but the air was heavy, liquid and too thick to move through. In the same instant, Myrddin saw a shadow dart from the forest with the speed of a fleeing beast, the speed of a predator following. He saw a moment in which darkness lay itself like a shroud of shadow over his mother, a shadow the shade of the forest canopy at night.

Then, color flowed into the dark. His father. The God was green, green and growing as the vivid earth, green as the forest leaves, and He was brown, as the eyes of the stag and the pelt of the stag, and His eyes were black as the rich, turned earth of spring.

“Father… What…are you doing?”

The words fell heavy as stones from Myrddin’s mouth and disturbed the silence, but not the frozen moment. He took a breath and held it as his father bent and lifted his mother in his arms.

And now it is time for you to come with me.” His father’s voice did not disturb anything, nor his mother’s, as it came just after.

“Is this what dying is?”

Myrddin heard his father laughing.

Yes. No.”

The world snapped open and shut.

Want more? Grab Deathless here, on early release at Pride Publishing, before it’s out anywhere else!

Shadow Bite

To celebrate today’s early release at Pride Publishing,  today I’m sharing an exclusive excerpt from chapter one of The Shadow Road, Eight Kingdoms book four! 

Enjoy this crunchy little bite, and of course, if you want more, grab a copy here!

Through the barrow, across the ice, over the bridge and the river’s black water, Macsen ran quickly, following the promise of heat. Summer fire was making its presence known in the middle of Winter, fire and coiling smoke and the scent of golden power.

A smile crawled across his face, eager with anticipation. He knew where Bran was now, and he stalked around the palace, through the green of the orchard. Yes. Yes. He could see through the open spaces of the entryway that Bran was at his forge, muttering to himself, shaping the precious metals Macsen had left for him with practiced movements.

Bits of work were scattered here and there on tables. The beginnings of what might be a silver bridle, golden baubles filled with fire and a dozen gossamer lengths of chain were coiled and piled on each other.

Macsen’s attention was drawn to Bran’s hands, the smoothness of their movements, the easy way his fingers shaped the softness of the gold. There was something sensual in the motions, in his perfect focus, the way his eyes didn’t wander at all and a tiny wrinkle deepened between his brows. The intensity of his attention to his work was such that he still hadn’t noticed Macsen’s presence.

He almost took a step forward, arm outstretched, but caught sight of his own fingers, dark with bloodstains, and grimaced. Quietly, still unnoticed, he slipped away, up to their room and the bath. Macsen stripped out of silk as bloody as his body, and the water went red as he stepped into it. It grew redder still as he bathed, scrubbed gore from his face, his hands, even his hair.

When it flowed clear, he lingered for only a moment before he grabbed a towel and wandered back into the bedroom, considering. Talaith was gone. He would have to do everything himself, or find some other servant, and even the thought made him scowl. When Macsen opened the wardrobe, it was empty, nothing hung. His clothes, where were they? But then she did that too, didn’t she? He’d have to go down into the storage closets and find everything there.

He wrapped his towel around his waist, pushed wet hair back out of his eyes and contemplated a secondary irritation. His comb, where was that? He scowled, then turned to face the door as it opened.  It wasn’t Bran, he knew that instantly, and who else would dare? But he saw first not the one who had come, but what they had brought with them—his clothes, and things glinting silver. Momentarily, a familiar face emerged from behind the pile.

“Saoirse! What are you doing?”

“I… Since Talaith… I thought you…” And she stopped dead, but still peered up at him, curious and perhaps confused. “Should I leave? I didn’t mean to be trouble, but I helped Talaith sometimes and I never once saw you come down where everything is, so I thought you would need…” Again she stopped. “Red King?”

He had too many thoughts for words, and only shook his head and turned away. Whatever she thought of that, he didn’t know. Her stillness dissipated and she came into the room, began to lay things out on the bed. Tunics and trousers in red and silver, blue and gold, more choices than he needed and some that weren’t even his clothes.

“Girl—”

“There’s things for Bran, too. He likes new clothes after he’s been working. And I brought combs and brushes, but not jewelry. Bran doesn’t need it, not with your gift, and I haven’t seen you wear anything but your crown. Do you, Red King? If you do I’ll bring it next time but—”

Next time. Have you appointed yourself my keeper, Saoirse?” But he was already laughing before she could answer, laughing and shaking his head. “Do what you please, I won’t complain. You’ve done well. I don’t know where anything is, not after so long. But how did you know? How did you know I needed you?”

“I told you, I helped Talaith—and I was watching for you. Bran asked me to. He said he gets distracted when he’s working. He said he wouldn’t notice when you’d come back. I don’t know why he wanted to know, it’s not like you wouldn’t go to him first. You always go to him first. But you looked like you wanted to surprise him and you were very bloody, so I haven’t said anything, not anything. I went downstairs instead.” She wrinkled her nose. “Red King, tell him please that I did notice, and it’s only your fault that I didn’t say.”

He raised an eyebrow. “You think he’ll be angry?”

“Not Bran. It’s not easy to make him angry—you know that.”

Macsen studied her more closely when she smiled. Subtle changes that he had missed were making themselves known to him now, and he was…confused. Were her features sharper, her teeth more pointed?

She is not the same as she was.

“Girl, you’re changing.”

“I am. I am!”

“And you like it.”

“Yes.”

“Good.” And as if he had never said anything else, he returned to the previous subject. “Since you’ve done so well, this will be your responsibility. You’ll be our handmaid, mine and Bran’s.” He met her gaze. “You don’t mind? You were a princess once.”

She dimpled, grinning, and he saw that, yes, her teeth were sharper. “This is more fun, Red King.”