As some of you may remember, I started slowly revising the first in my Wylder Tales Series earlier this year. As my publishing schedule was pushed back to 2021, (and I can’t share more Blackbriar without spoilers) I’ve decided to continue sharing my revisions-in-progress for Craving Beauty for fun. I hope y’all enjoy! Keep reading for magic, monsters and more.
Want to read in order? BEGIN HERE.
Wylder Tales Rewrites
Vynasha gripped the side of the cart as she watched her brother give his farewells to the rest of their family. It had been repainted to show “Whistleande Wares” and a fine tarp now covered the crates within. The road would be long and dangerous, and Vynasha couldn’t shake the feeling that this journey was a mistake.
Father gave Tamyra instructions from his perch atop the wagon seat. “Cousin Stye will come round now and again to help with repairs should you need him. Your sisters can do the cooking and cleaning at the house and the tavern, as you need aid.”
“Yes, Father,” Tamyra replied.
Vynasha wanted to scream at him, both of them, for leaving her behind again. Adriaa and Iona would not help with any chores. They would spend more time in town than on the farm. How could she do this alone, now that Tamyra was living above the tavern?
“Ash.” Ceddrych lifted her chin until she was forced to meet his hazel eyes. “It’s only for a season. Remember, we’ll be rich as kings soon. We’ll start over again, together.”
“Together,” Vynasha whispered.
The moments after passed a blur behind her tears. Tamyra’s arm was suddenly about her shoulders, pulling her back onto the boardwalk as she drew Wyll aside with her other hand. “Come, I’ve got you, little wolf.”
Vynasha watched the wagon pull down the main street until it was no longer in sight, long after Adriaa and Iona chose to begin the long walk home.
“Can we go with Aunty Ash to the big house, now?” Little Wyll piped up, startling them both.
Tamyra glanced up from beneath her long lashes. “I don’t know if we should, dear. Although Cousin Stye could manage for one night, I suppose…”
Vynasha surprised herself by smiling. Her eldest sister had married the village blacksmith just before the war broke out, barely long enough to make little Wyll. Soon after Tamyra had learned Wyll was never going to meet his father, she’d moved into the tavern with Grandmother Mayve.
Vynasha squeezed her older sister’s smaller hand and looked down into her blue eyes. “Thank you. I don’t think I could bear a night alone with Adriaa and Iona just now.”
“Indeed not.” Tamyra laughed and shook her head so her short curls were freed from her white, ruffled cap. “Come along, then. I’ll help you make supper.”
Vynasha wrapped her arms about her sister’s neck as they began the journey home.
Dinner within the cottage near the forest passed in near-blessed peace. Until Tamyra and Wyll retreated upstairs to the attic. That was when the battle began anew.
“Vynasha, have you finished boiling that water yet? I simply must bathe tonight, before Roshem comes calling on the morrow,” Iona insisted.
Vynasha froze before the fireplace she’d been stoking afresh and spoke as calmly as she could manage. “This hot water is for Tam and Wyll, not you.”
Iona turned puce beneath her dusky cheeks. “Why are you serving them, Beauty?”
Vynasha’s grip froze over the iron kettle she’d settled over the hearth at Ceddrych’s special nickname for her. No matter how often she’d protested she was anything but a beauty. “Don’t call me that,” she nearly growled back.
Iona stood and casually stalked nearer, a cruel smile tugging at her lovely face. “Not so brave now that Cedd’s not here to defend you.”
Ceddrych hated that nickname. It’s what everyone in the village called their father, and son or not, he wanted little to do with his namesake.
It was the final straw.
Vynasha left the kettle on its hook and rose to her feet. She was taller than Iona now, at least. “Don’t be cruel just because Roshem would rather marry Adriaa instead of you.”
Her head snapped to the side and her face stung where Iona had slapped her. Vynasha clenched her fists and refused to fight back.
It wouldn’t be fair, she reminded herself. Not when the same buzzing tingling flushed hot in her veins, the way it often did as she tended Mother’s roses. “It wouldn’t be fair,” she muttered under her breath.
“What’s the witch saying now?” Adriaa’s voice drawled lazily from where she sat before Wynyth’s old dresser.
Iona didn’t take her cat-like gaze from Vynasha as she sneered. “She’s clearly mad, and would do better to keep her mouth shut before her betters.”
Adriaa arched one brow and continued to brush through her long, blonde tresses. “You are only jealous, Iona. Jealous as you always have been. Do not think I haven’t known about all your little plans, the lies you convinced others to spread. Perhaps if you and Vynasha could both be silent long enough, I would find a place for you in my household when I am named queen.”
“You evil cow!” Iona grabbed the nearest object she could, a wooden vase filled with Vynasha’s roses, and threw them across the room.
“No!” Vynasha’s knees smarted as she fell to the floor beside Wynyth’s delicately carved vase. There were not many of her mother’s possessions left after Father auctioned so much of their remaining wealth.
Iona held her belly as she laughed at Vynasha’s pain. “Oh, good God, you actually care about your mother’s trash?”
Vynasha clutched the broken pieces to her chest. Her skin buzzed hotter then, and something deeply dark and twisted struggled to claw its way up her throat. Hot tears spilled over her cheeks. “Do you honestly think the king would marry either of you?” Vynasha snapped. “Our house was stripped of land and titles and now we have nothing to our name. Father has ruined us, and he stole what silver my mother carried. You have no right, no right to touch my mother’s things!”
Iona’s wicked sneer faded as Vynasha stumbled to her feet. She took a step back as Vynasha advanced on her with fire in her eyes. “Your mother was a no one from nothing, and it’s her fault Father lost his head. She bewitched him, just as you have bewitched Ceddrych!”
Adriaa didn’t bother to get up, only press her shoe to the open blood-red rose at her feet. With the awful crunch, Vynasha flinched. “If only you had gone to the nunnery when you had the chance, witch.”
Vynasha pushed out a trembling breath. The dark thing inside her longed to slash and bite and maim.
“It wouldn’t be fair,” her mother’s voice whispered in her head.
“Where are you going, witch?” Adriaa called.
Vynasha ignored the way the snow soaked through her house slippers. She’d forgotten her boots and her coat. But the darkness still clawed at her skin, begging to be set free. She didn’t dare turn back.
Not until she was safe within their special place. She and Ceddrych had hidden away so often over the years, they kept sleeping furs, some rations and supplies to make a fire for nights they didn’t feel like going home. While Ceddrych was away at war, Vynasha practically lived in this cave during the warmer seasons.
With the onset of winter, the cave was bitter cold.
She barely felt it with her blood still running hot, as she wrapped in the furs that still smelled like the only person who loved her unconditionally.
Vynasha cradled the broken pieces of her mother’s wooden vase to her heart, over the necklace Ceddrych had made her three years before and cried herself to sleep.
to be continued…
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