The Rose Shield – Goddess in the fog

goddess-image2

The Rose Shield is my 4-book fantasy series. The first book, Catling’s Bane, will be released in March. Yikes!

I’ve been introducing the main characters for the past few months. You’ve met:

Raker, the man who hears voices in the fog
Catling, a six-year-old with a rose birthmark around her eye
Whitt, the boy battling crajeks in the swamp
Gannon, captive in the belly of the Wandering Swan
Vianne, an influencer who tortures poor Gannon
Kadan, a boy who contemplates death when faced with his future

Meet the Goddess
(Raker’s voice in the fog is no longer simply a voice)

Raker poled the raft through the narrow channels, wandering his way toward the floating village deeper in the swamp. Morning mists hovered as a forbidding sky scudded eastward, promising sheets of rain. The goddess caressed him, twirled in languid circles, veils of dew flowing from her arms like wings.

She stroked his back with a fingertip. “Your indifference is as disputable as your madness.”

“Am I mad?” he asked.

“No more than you’re indifferent.” She laughed and spiraled behind him, arms encircling his chest.

“I care nothing for Ellegeans, for their tiers or their power.”

“Yet you care for her,” the goddess whispered. “Your destinies are entwined.”

Raker didn’t reply. Catling sat cross-legged at the raft’s lip. Her fishing line trailed in the glowing wake. Scraps of her previous catch baited her hook, luring in yellow-scaled pippets and the blue suckers that trawled the bottom. Jafe mended the holes in the planking and named the fish as she pulled them in, teaching her which to keep and which to toss.

The goddess interrupted his deepening silence, “Gannon’s departure stung, not his reasoning, which she understands, but his failure to bid her farewell. Another rent in a tattered life. Don’t you see? Those private tears blurring her vision are for more than this one man. He’s unearthed old bones, marked another passing, another etching on her burial stone of betrayals. Her allies are strangers, her masters concerned only with employing her skill.”

“What’s her skill?” He put his back into poling them toward the channel’s center. Jafe glanced up at him with a quizzical grin. The rafters believed him mad, and he never felt a need to explain.

“She will tell you her secrets if you ask.” The woman’s lips touched his earlobe, striking a flint to his desire.

Something tugged on the girl’s line, and she tugged back, hooking it. With a yelp, she flew off the raft into the channel. Her head disappeared. Then she broke the surface, sputtering and splashing, the luminescence marbled by stirred up mud.

Raker’s pole dropped to the raft. Three steps and he leapt into the channel beside her. His feet pushed into the ooze, and he stood, water licking his throat.

Still in her hand, the line strained. A snouted head reared from the water, blowing a breath of spray into the humid air. “A crajek!” she cried.

“Waterdragon,” Jafe shouted over the excitement. An opalescent fin sliced through the air. “A yearling.”

“Don’t release it.” Raker caught the back of her underdress as the creature pulled her farther from the raft. He grabbed the line that slid through her fingers.

She clutched Raker’s shoulder, kicking to stay afloat. “A waterdragon?” The creature’s rayed wings fluttered frantically at the surface, its wide fluke slapping the water.

“We need to free it.” Raker gently pulled the yearling in. Catling swam for the raft as Jafe poled it closer.

Something brushed Raker’s leg. A razorgill if he was lucky. Birds cawed overhead, the banks stirred and water rippled. “Crajek!” Jafe yelled.

“Get her out,” Raker barked. His hands wheeled faster. The waterdragon flailed, its scaled neck craning sideways, long tail coiling and churning the mud. Despite its small size, it matched his strength. Spined fins slashed the air, flinging water in his face.

“Raker!” Jafe grabbed Catling by her garment’s shoulders and plucked her from the water.

Raker hauled on the line. He glanced toward the banks, on the lookout for predators. Gods drifted toward the spectacle. The goddess hovered above the waterdragon, delighting in his heroics. “Your blood spills,” she warned.

“Give me time,” he growled.

“Raker!” Jafe pointed down the channel “Crajeks sinking.”

“Do you trust me?” the goddess asked, kneeling on the water’s surface, her gown of mist spreading like spilled milk, hair spiraling above her head. Jafe held the pole ready to strike.

“Do I have a choice?” Raker grabbed the wing and worked the hook. The waterdragon reeled, squealing. Its spiked head bashed him in the jaw, cutting his cheek on his teeth.

Nearer the bank, another pair of knobby eyes blinked and a head the hue of wet bark sank beneath the surface. Jafe shouted, “Crajek, Raker!”

“Goddess?” Raker murmured, ready to let go and scramble for the raft.

“Do you trust me, my love?” she persisted.

His gaze snapped to her face, the daring smile, the eagerness flickering in her eyes. “Yes.”

She flew through him into the luminescence. He gasped at the sensation. The waterdragon ceased its thrashing. Raker exhaled and worked the hook, ignoring the whorls of movement purling around him. The crajeks failed to attack though they surely tasted his blood.

The hook’s barb tore a gash in the fin and slipped free. Raker let the wing go and the waterdragon dove. In one smooth movement, he spun to the raft and leapt. Jafe snagged the back of his trousers and hauled him up.

“The crajeks.” Catling pointed to the water swarming with greedy beasts.

Jafe shook his head and slumped down, the pole across his knees. “I’ll never understand your kind.”

Falling Moon

falling-moon

In my fantasy world, the Falling Moon welcomes a world of pattering rains and burnished leaves fluttering in brisk winds. The wilderness twirls and tumbles and the forest floor blazes in a coverlet of color. The land softens and patchworks of umber and gold quilt the hillsides. It’s a time of frosted breath and morning ice, of warm fires and falling light.

The Falling Moon shines over the world on October 16th

Pieter Bruegel

Pieter Bruegel

Excerpt from Eye of Fire,  Dragon Soul Quartet (Book II)

That night the travelers celebrated their safe arrival with the village. Lamb sizzled on spits over two cookfires in Phelan’s trampled gardens, and the women of Taran Leigh served the season’s last greens, seeded bread, and tart pies sweetened with clover honey. The men uncorked jugs of dark ale and passed them around the gathering, making for a jovial evening.

Taran Leigh’s cooper carted in a drum fashioned from an old cask and settled his bulk near the cookfire’s light. He thumped a rhythm as steady as a heartbeat as Torin brandished his wooden flute. The pair of them played a tune for the village, for the food and ale, for the fire’s embrace, for the freedom and Belonging spilling from the sky like starlight. Ceridwen sang, and the villagers joined in as if their songs too would break free of their bodies and soar. Conall hugged Treasa to his side and pointed up. Earlin raised her eyes to the night. The moon hovered, as round and shimmering and close to a golden coin as any of them would ever need.

Reaper’s Moon

reaper's moon

In my fantasy world, the Reaper’s Moon signals the arrival of autumn. The heat of summer blows west with curling seawinds, and morning fog rolls on the inland sea like living smoke. On shore, milkweed bursts with silken wings and thistles shed their white beards. The land is softened by fields of grain in hues of copper and carnelian, apples bow the branches, and winter’s wood is stacked.

The Reaper’s Moon is a time of harvest, ripening roots, and gardens of green bolting with seeds. It’s the promise of neighbors and picnics, percussion and strings, the close of summer visible in calloused hands and sun-browned shoulders, wool evenings and fresh baked pie.

The full Reaper’s Moon glides across the night sky on September 16.

reaper's moon 3

Excerpt from Eye of Fire, the Dragon Soul Quartet

The noise of revelers faded as the sounds of the sea sang in the night. His head thick with drink, Morgen excused himself for a stroll back to the cove in the dark. “I’ll ride the longboat out to the Eadwynn and find a comfortable berth in the captain’s cabin.”

Neve winked at him, sharing the man’s preference for a ship’s gentle rock over the stillness of her floor where Captain Cradog snored. “I told you he’s a fool,” she’d said, observing the sleeping man. “But he’s a fine seaman with a good heart.”

After Morgen left, she lay a blanket over Cradog. Sitting on the edge of her bed, she watched him sleep, his mouth hanging open, face serene. She reached down and held his nose, only enough to silence his snoring. At times, she felt like his mother, not his lover, as if he were a lad in a man’s body, still growing into himself, unaware of his potential, the possibilities she saw and loved. She didn’t try to guide him or change him. His choices were his own and his life his to haul.

In truth, Neve simply remained true to herself and didn’t tolerate any foul from him or anyone else for that matter. She didn’t give a piss about what others thought or did with their lives and didn’t care if they liked her choices either. Cradog could take it or leave it, and he tried awfully hard to take it.

Oh, but, she was fond of watching him grow. The man was like her garden, full of gifts, things coming up she never expected, little seeds sprouting that she’d planted long ago and forgotten. He grew fresh and wild and weedy and delicious and abundant when she tended him and made sure he got plenty of sunlight.

Slipping from her clothes, Neve slid under her blankets. She peered over the edge of the bed and almost woke him up.

Thirsty Moon

Thirsty Moon

In my fantasy world, the Thirsty Moon ushers in the last of the summer’s heat. Rain is scarce and rivulets run dry in sandy streambeds. Late season gardens thirst for a long steady shower after weeks of waterless weather.

It’s a time for pickling and  stacking wood, blackberries and swimming holes. And now and then, a morning chill slides down with the stars, promising warm pies from cider-scented orchards and hinting of autumn.

The full face of the Thirsty Moon shines tonight, August 18th.

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Excerpt from Thirsty Moon, Eye of Fire

The days ambled by, and Mirah’s garden transformed, weeds pulled in an ever-widening circle, beds edged, produce picked and preserved. She lugged water from the well, determined that her life would flourish, no longer choked by fear and loss. Her modest bounty she shared at the forge, delivering a basket now and then of just-picked greens. Brend smiled when he found her silhouetted in his doorway, her invitation hanging in the air between them.

At day’s end, she left him leaning on the doorjamb, arms crossed, watching her walk into the dusty lane. She strolled past her home, admiring her neighbor’s gardens, the round-bellied pumpkins and hard-shelled squash, bee balm and buttercup crowding each other for space in the sun.

Not long ago, Wyn told her that the myth of a person’s life entailed more than a compilation of facts, the particulars of one’s history. More importantly, one’s myth rose from the way a person was perceived by others and by what one believed about oneself. Myths were amorphous, changeable, imbued with feeling, rich with dreams and reflections. They could be altered by a change in perception or a change of heart.

Not ready for home, she climbed a narrow path to the meadow above Taran Leigh, a path she knew well, like the myth of her life. The air carried a hint of coolness, signaling the coming of fall. Pulling herself up over a stone stile at the top of a small rise, she paused, drawn from her reverie. The meadow unfolded before her, awash with blue dannies fluttering endlessly, delicate petals raised to the sun. The flowers filled her with memories as if they lingered there only for her to find.

When she stepped into the meadow, the petals closed around her, bearing her as if on a wave. Floating through them, she touched them with her fingertips, felt their soft kisses. In the center of the meadow, she surrendered her burdens, lay them down with her fear to be carried away with the flowers when the wind came. The graceful alder bent its branches, alone in the waterless sea. She gazed up at a sky as blue as the dannies and saw a glint of copper wings, a dragon coming for her.

Coming Next Week!

The Rose Shield – Gannon

Rose Shield Gannon

You’ve met a few characters from my WIP, The Rose Shield, which I’m delighted to say is back in play after 6 solid months of editing other books. Here are some links to previous excerpts:

Catling, my six-yr-old protagonist on Hanging Day.
Whitt, her adopted brother, battling crajeks in the swamp.
Raker, the half-mad rafter who kicks off the series.

This is an intro to Gannon. He’s having a bad day.

Excerpt: The Rose Shield

Gannon woke in a cargo hold, his ankle manacled to an eyebolt in the rocking floor, his body weak as a feathered hatchling. He lay on his back, deep in a ship’s bowels, the vessel a seafaring hulk by the creaking and groaning as it smashed through the waves. Distant voices teased his ears along with a chorus of clanking metal and squabbling seawings.

The hold was dark, but not lightless. Crates and rough sacks crammed timber berths, strapped down with camgras ropes. Oily barrels perched in wooden frames to keep them from rolling. He needed food and water, and he stank to the stars.

He’d been captive in a ship’s hold before. Memories of his torture after the ambush in Mur-Vallis flooded his head. Panic broke out on his skin in a lurid sweat, and his heart leapt into a gallop. “Gah! Help! Ah. Get me out of here! Help! Let me go!” He thrashed the chain, kicked at a convenient crate, and shouted until a hatch cracked open and a spear of sunlight nearly blinded him.

A sturdy woman with chopped hair and a pickaxe nose climbed down the ladder. A scar wrinkled her upper lip, and her eyes shone in the dim light like chips of flint. She wore a black bodice and leggings, snugly fit and bordering on transparent. For ease of movement, a slit parted the front of her calf-length skirt, and her wide belt sported an assortment of bone-handled blades, none of them friendly. Though older than he and far from beautiful, she exuded an alluring confidence.

She was also Cull Tarr; he was shackled in a Cull Tarr ship.

Her hand dropped to her hip and she held up a key. “I won the wager.”

“Unchain me,” he demanded and shook his leg, clanking the chain. “Get this thing off me.”

“You might be dangerous.” Her eyes narrowed, lips turned up in a mocking smile.

“You’re delusional if you think I can slay you all and seize the ship?”

“Probably so. Still, why risk it?”

His heartbeat slowed its pace, and he stopped rattling his irons. “I give you my oath.”

“Ellegeans break oaths. They broke faith with the Founders.” She considered the key. “However, I’ll accept your word. If you break it, I’ll slice you up and feed you to the sea.”

He didn’t doubt she would. She knelt by his ankle and unbolted the lock.

“What wager did you win?” he asked, rubbing his ankle.

“I gambled on your life.” She hung the key on a nail “We found a sack of poisons on your boat. The others figured you for dead. If you didn’t wake up today, we planned to toss you overboard.”

“I’m glad you won.” He sat up and almost fell over. “I need food and a bath.”

“I’ll feed and water you, and give you a bucket.” She stood up and offered him a hand. “Maybe a fresh pair of trousers. You stink like a grounder’s shithole.”

He grabbed her hand, grateful for the help and unsteady on his feet. The ship’s roll did nothing to pacify the queasy swill in his stomach. “My respects.” He held onto the corner of a crate and managed a crooked bow. “I’m Gannon.”

“No fancy little surname?”

He shook his head. “Just Gannon.”

“A pity.” She shrugged and swung toward the ladder. “I’d hoped to ransom you. We’ll talk when you smell better.”

“Who are you?” He staggered after her.

“Emer Tilkon of the Wandering Swan. Shipmaster to the likes of you.”

The Verdant Moon

Claude Monet

Claude Monet

In my fantasy worlds, the Verdant Moon heralds the high heat of summer. On the sea, winter’s iron clouds have long blown west and the island’s white bluffs are alive with nesting fishers and heckling gulls. The village shores idle, embraced by calmer waters, and small single-masted fishing boats rest on the beach, keels cutting long grooves in the sand.

No one lingers inside their narrow harbor homes when the markets brim with crabs’ legs and smoked redfish, squid with coiling tentacles, and the slimy innards of crusty shells. Summer brings more familiar fare from the dark-loamed farms: honeyed cakes and salty bread, ripe fruits, and bouquets of greens. Few go hungry during the Verdant Moon.

The Verdant Moon shines on the world tomorrow night, July 19th.

Vernal Moon

Excerpt from the Vernal Moon, Eye of Sun
The Dragon Soul Quartet

Treasach made the decision to sail the Seabourne onto the rocky shore of Anghard, and Morgen didn’t question the choice. The Rogue would impale her or drive her into the Narrows. The beautiful Seabourne would be lost regardless, so Treasach saved her crew.

He roared his orders with such force even Percy shut his gaping mouth and listened. In mere seconds, the men lashed themselves to the ship. Morgen swung a line around himself and the captain, tying them loosely to the helm. Arful stood at the bow, barking inanely at the gulls, and Morgen was helpless to save him.

Treasach spun the wheel and Morgen held on. The Seabourne plunged through the waves, her sails taut with wind when she slammed into the rocks that littered the shallows. The deafening impact ripped Morgen from the wheel and flung him under the line against the gunwales. Wood splintered and shrieked as the ship broke free and spun, the maw of the Narrows yawning open.

“Make for shore!” Treasach bellowed over the crush of fracturing wood, wind, and waves. The crew scrambled out of their bindings, and Morgen attempted to stand. The Seabourne smashed into the underwater shelf that would mark its grave, and the ship lurched, sending him sliding across the deck toward the sea. He caught a standing line and held on. Arful yelped and slipped over the edge as the ship groaned, cracked, and began to list.

“To shore,” Treasach yelled. For a heartbeat, the Seabourne stuttered, wedged on the rocks, but their chance of escape narrowed as she started to spin back into the current. Men scuttled down the slanted deck and dropped into the sea.

“Watch for rocks,” Morgen shouted. The water between the ship and Anghard’s shore wasn’t deep but treacherous, and the Seabourne offered small protection from the tide’s pull. He caught sight of Arful sweeping toward the Narrows and paddling for shore.

As men scrambled to safety Morgen counted them, and when satisfied, he slid from the ship into waist deep water. “Now, Captain!” he yelled for Treasach. The captain climbed over the gunwale, and before Morgen could shout a warning, he let go, falling onto a slick black rock. Treasach nearly drowned before Morgen grabbed him and hauled him ashore.

(Coming in August)

**Images from pixabay.

Crofter’s Moon

original images - pixabay

original images – pixabay

In my fantasy world spring truly arrives with the Crofter’s Moon. The soil warms and the old jenny plods before a hand-held plow. Seeds drop in tidy rows, and sprouts peek from the rich loam, tender promises of harvests to come. Neighbors emerge from their dark hearths, shuttered eyes thrown wide in their hunger for light. Hearts venture in celebration, seeking communion, another lean winter survived. The sun blesses faces and beats on backs as the endless cycles of all life wax and wane. There are chores to be done, but the world feels hopeful and alive.

The Crofter’s Moon shines its full face tonight. Enjoy the coming Crofter’s Moon. May your garden grow a bounty and of your heart flourish with love.

pixabay

pixabay

Excerpt from the Crofter’s Moon, Dragon Soul Trilogy

Brend’s shoulders rose in a shrug, and he stretched his legs out in front of him, his ankles crossed. “Do you remember what Conall said when he spoke to the lair’s riders? He said, in essence, that the choice to do nothing in the face of cruelty is no different than choosing cruelty itself. I’ve mused over those words since. Every time we look away from ruthlessness, poverty, corruption, and suffering, we’re allowing those things to flourish and grow. Are we saying it doesn’t matter to us? We don’t care enough? We stood by as a people and did nothing when the governors murdered your father. We saw dragons captured and tortured, Morfael exiled, skyriders banned. Then cruelty crouches on our own doorsteps, and we are suddenly outraged. If a child is beaten and we neglect to interfere, who are we to rail when the child grows into a violent man? If we fail to feed the hungry are we choosing to starve them to death?”

Earlin rested her elbows on the table. “You have too much time on your hands.”

“Maybe so.” Brend chuckled. “But reflection is good for me.” He shook her gently by the back of her neck. “I’m trying to choose the Belonging over fear, Earlin, and discover what that means for me. Do the same and you’ll find your way.”