If you’ve been following these Tuesday Teasers, you know I’ve pushed back Bound Beauty for 2018, and am adding a sizeable chunch to the end of Scarred Beauty instead. Pages are currently being refined and polished by the lovely R.J. Locksley, and then on the road to the new extended edition! So excited to share more of the story with y’all! If you already own an ebook copy, you should have no trouble either uploading the latest version or it will auto-update for you. But more on that when we get closer to re-release time! May you be enchanted today ❤
Vynasha waited until everyone was once more safely ensconced in the abandoned cabin before creeping up the hill. Sharing a small space with four people was a bit much for her. After all this time, she still wasn’t comfortable with so many people, especially when two of those people had a serious issue with her majik.
She waited until the sounds of slowed hearts and even breaths met her ears. The stench of majik and all she’d tried and failed waited at her back. Alone, she could finally admit she was a little afraid of Resha’s accusation and Baalor’s… whatever this friendship with the pack master was.
Only solitude could offer solace, a moment of silence.
So she climbed the hill crest overlooking the cabin and searched the gaps between broken clouds for answers in the stars. They winked at her, frozen fireflies in the cold blackness, and she wondered if the stories about them were true. She wanted desperately to believe they had the power to grant wishes. Looking at the stars and wishing for Wynyth to not die from her illness, wishing for Ceddrych to come home again… wishing had brought her nothing but pain.
“I could bring a dead child back to life,” she said with bated breath. She didn’t want to wake anyone by screaming or howling after the moon.
A gap between clouds expanded and seemed to hover directly overhead, giving her a clearer picture, and the wind dimmed to a soft hush.
“I could stop time to save the person I—care about, but I can’t heal a sick child. What is the point?” Her voice cracked with the full weight of her bitterness, the anger she was struggling and failing to repress. It was so much easier to be angry with herself, at Grendall and the skin-changers for directing her life, at majik for stealing her freedom to choose.
“If I’m supposed to save everyone, become this all-powerful curse breaker, how is it fair to keep me from saving the person I came here for?”
The stars did not answer, and she did not ask for any wishes to be granted. Truthfully, she didn’t believe they had the power to save her Wyll. “All this power is useless…” She turned east, where the castle loomed over the land and her heart darkened.
A deep voice called to her from the shadows, “Dangerous for a young girl to be out alone near the slopes of Mount Grimm.”
Vynasha crouched, claws out and teeth bared as she turned toward the hulking shadow waiting for her. “You may not find me so helpless,” she called back, unafraid.
The man stepped into a pocket of moonlight, arms buried in the folds of his fur cloak, with an uneven grin pulling at his bearded face. “I met a little girl who passed through this territory a season ago, who insisted I guide her to the lost city, in search of the Source.”
“Wolfsbane?” Vynasha straightened and lowered her claws. “Where have you been?” The wind stirred her hair, tugging at her eastwards, pulling toward the inevitable.
Wolfsbane followed her line of sight and pulled one of his long-bladed daggers from his cloak. “Hunting wolves and beasts and the forgotten things that lurk in this forest.” His dagger spun quick as light in his hand, then stilled to reflect the moon before he twisted its handle so her face appeared on the metal blade. “And watching over you, of course, little beasty! Now tell me, did you find what you were looking for?”
Death clung to him like a cloak, permeating her senses. He was still a powerful man, she noted, all corded, coiled muscle, with a mad glint to his blue eyes. She understood the reason behind that madness a bit better now, but there was much she didn’t. Like why he thought of her brother and the other Wolvs as animals, or why the villagers both feared and hated humans. Any other day, she might have asked him, had she not already pushed too hard, lost too much.
She stared at her reflection on the blade. “If you’ve been watching me so closely, you know we could have used your help recently.”
“Ah! Indeed, you might have, could have and very likely would have still learned your potential, had I interfered. However, I prefer to allow events to unfold as they will. And I confess, I was curious to see just how the lost city had altered you.” He appraised her with a soft chuckle that set her teeth on edge.
“And what do you see?”
Wolfsbane tilted his head as the winds joined the howling of Wolvs. “I warned you, did I not, Vynasha, about the evil you would waken there.” He looked to the abandoned dwellings on Mount Grimm and sheathed his dagger. “My people fled this place because they were tired of watching their daughters compelled to walk to the lost city. A fate worse than death, wouldn’t you agree, little beasty?”
“I thought they left because of your feud with the Wolv pack.”
Wolfsbane hunched his shoulders and surveyed the land with a grunt. “My hunt is another matter.” With this said, he turned fully to face her, blue eyes bright. “You have set things in motion which cannot be undone. Had I known what you truly were from the beginning, I would have told Resha to leave you in the Silver River to die.”
Vynasha recoiled. “You hate anyone but your own kind, don’t you? I truly pitied you both when I met you, for being the last humans in these mountains, but maybe that’s a good thing.”
His smile altered, eyes narrowed as he stroked his beard with a gloved hand. “I am not as barbaric as you think, little girl. Our world is not governed by right and wrong like the one you came from. Here it is a matter of survival, and the measure of a man is made by what he is willing to do, rather than what he should do. I see much darkness in you, but there is also light, and that is why I do not count you my enemy, Vynasha.”
“So why now? You said you’ve been watching to see what I was capable of.” She held her incandescent claws up to him.
Wolfsbane pulled a piece of wet leather from his belt and she covered her mouth as the overwhelming stench hit her. “While you were busy culling your rogue beast in the wolves’ den, I put down this stray closer to the border. More will come before the end.”
Vynasha nodded but couldn’t look away from Wolfsbane’s trophy, wondered what the beast had looked like before the curse and if it had been a human girl from this mountain. Now they would never know. A wild, mad idea took hold of her then as she looked to Wolfsbane’s trophy, then thought of the silver-eyed creature she’d destroyed.
“I’ve been such a fool, thinking they would let me leave…” She lifted her chin, tore her gaze from the wrapped beast claw and focused on the hunter. “My brother and Resha will keep Wyll safe here, but I’m going back to the village. You’re right, more are coming and we can’t do this alone. We need your help guarding the borders.”
“You are proposing an alliance with me, little beasty?” Wolfsbane’s mouth quirked in an uncanny grin.
“I am telling you if the feuding doesn’t stop now, there will be no one to face the threat at our borders. I can’t take on the majik and creatures guarding the castle borders, not alone.”
“I shall not hunt with the wolves, but if they are agreeable my daughter and I will hunt the cursed ones only.” He held out his other hand, spat on the palm and offered it to her.
Vynasha did the same, hesitated only a moment before closing her clawed hand over his.
He laughed, and she was reminded of why she’d liked him so easily in the first place. “I will help you, curse breaker. Let them send the most vile, fearsome monsters they may, we shall meet them together!”
Wolvs on the prowl continued to howl in the distance and the clouds parted further to blanket the earth with wishful stars.
Vynasha laughed with the grizzled hunter as he lifted their joined hands in the air and cried, “I am Wolfsbane, dreaded through the wylderland. I will not draw my last breath until the hunt is done. So send your best. Even hunters have claws!”
I will learn control after this, Mother, she thought as Wolfsbane continued his mad rambling.
He turned to her and urged her, “Go on, then, let them see your teeth!”
Vynasha shook her head and laughed as she lifted her head to the bright silvery moon and released a wyldcat’s shriek into the night.
“Come on, you can do better than that! You are a witch with claws and it is time you learn how to use them, beasty. Let them hear you all the way in their blasted towers!”
No more the half-starved coward who walked into a demon’s lair.
She didn’t care anymore that her brother and Resha and Baalor had likely been shaken from slumber by their crowing. Her inner light grew brighter as Wolfsbane’s madness infected her with eagerness.
I am a witch with claws, she thought with a grin as she let go of the last of her fear. Too long she’d led her life in fear of what the dead might say or think. No longer was she a creature of both bloodlines, infected with Grendall’s majik or Soraya’s curse. In her heart Wolfsbane’s words beat strongly as her own power rose with a fierce roar that made beasts cower and mountains quake.
The power behind her cry was greater than she had been prepared for, bellowing and guttural as a banshee and evidence of her deeper transformation.
Wolfsbane urged her on, madness in his eyes as he thrust his fist at the sky and spat his own slew of words. “Wake, oh mighty Queen of Wylderland! Here is one daughter you could not steal from us!”
Vynasha laughed and covered her lips with trembling fingers. She could hear it, the way the land fell utterly silent following her howl. What’s more, she could feel the power uncurling through her limbs as they waited and listened from the mountain cleft. A definite hush, a pause of bated breath seemed to build upon the air, thick as the snow beneath their feet.
The tension built to a dull roar in her ears, until with a pop and rush of noise, distant howls of wolves and strange baying and hissing of other beasts erupted as one throughout the forest. Vynasha clenched her teeth as a primal urge to cull them to her will arose, fierce as a queen to her pride.
Hear me and know me, she longed to cry, without words but with raw and scattered thought.
Wolfsbane whispered to her, breaking her focus and pointing with one of his long-bladed knives to the eastern northerly high peaks. “Do you hear, curse breaker? Do you hear how the forgotten creatures quake in the wake of your call? They know you could command them to rise against the old queen’s dark majik.”
Vynasha shivered and some of her exhilaration died at the hunter’s words. She, too whispered in turn, afraid to break the veil of silence. “I wasn’t trying to call them to war.” Her voice was hoarse and strange after using such deeper animal tones.
Wolfsbane brought the tip of his blade in a swift arcing slice through the air to his lips. “Perhaps not, but they know you are here, now. You called and they will remember when the time comes.”
More questions on the tip of her tongue fell aside when she caught a glimpse of white fur in her periphery.
She twisted to search the bordering trees more fully but found only shadow and snow.
to be continued…
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