Hey guys! Here’s your Friday Snippet of LIONHEART. I promised I would post snippets of the draft through August, and today is the last Friday. Now I’m wondering if I should continue posting or if I should stop.
Please comment here on the blog if you would like for me to continue. I don’t have time to check Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, or Instagram for comments, so I’ll only be paying attention to what is posted HERE on the blog. If enough people want me to continue, I’m willing to do so.
This section starts Chapter Four. As always, this is draft material and things are subject to editing (and possibly deletion), so please don’t share.
Hope you enjoy!
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Traveling the passageway at the manor house was certainly the most idiosyncratic crossover Kathryn had ever experienced.
A very long time ago, Morgan le Fae— she must remember to call him Garanhir and not something that was so offensive to him—had broken the crossover passageway in an ancient battle between Isabeau’s Light Court and the Daoine Sidhe. Then Kathryn’s idiotic ancestor had the perfect lack of good sense to build the manor house on top of the broken land magic.
Sophie had been the one to figure out the correct path through the broken pieces that would still lead to Lyonesse. It had involved digging a tunnel through an oubliette, which had since been widened and supported with timber beams.
As Kathryn emerged from the tunnel behind Gawain intense cold slapped her face. Pausing just outside the entrance, she took a deep breath and looked around. It was night in Lyonesse, with lowering clouds and bitter winds. Wilderness slashed across an uneven horizon broken with rock. The only illumination came from flickering torch lights and campfires from the troops stationed on the spot.
No halogen lighting. No electricity. No cars, no planes, no asphalt. In response, her Wyr side, the most wild part of her, surged up in fierce joy.
She looked over the tents and the raw frames of what would soon be structures. Sophie had kept Kathryn updated on various details of her new life regularly by email. According to her they had started building the shelters months ago.
But since a fortnight in Lyonesse would take six months or more of Earth time to pass, here they had just begun to build the housing that would be necessary to keep the troops and their mounts in safety.
She followed Annwyn to the largest campfire, content to study the scene with a certain reined-in glee while the general conferred with the soldiers huddling close to the warmth.
Rowan touched her arm. “Would you like to step inside one of the tents? We could get a hot drink for you.”
She hadn’t even resorted to putting up her hood yet and shook her head. “I’m good, thanks.”
“Okay, but don’t hesitate to say if you get too cold.”
Annwyn turned back to them, frowning. “Robin has refused to stay in the camp, but he must be close by. Rowan and Gawain, circle the clearing and call out for him.” Her frustrated gaze met Kathryn’s briefly. “He’ll show up when he’s ready to, I guess.”
She nodded as she continued her interested perusal of the area.
Annwyn switched to telepathy. About Robin. Just so you know, he is wilder than most.
She noted the other woman made no mention of old resentments or tensions. Was Annwyn unaware of them, or was she simply giving the kind of warning she thought was suitable for a visitor to hear?
Over the years, Kathryn had talked to countless families of patients and had heard and seen it all—justifications, arguments, enablers, outright hostility, love, hate, hope, lies, despair. Who knew what the truth was in Annwyn’s case—and who cared? Kathryn had one job: healing Oberon. Anything else was superfluous.
I appreciate you telling me, she replied, filing Annwyn’s words away in case they somehow became useful to her mission.
The troops had started to widen a natural clearing, and raw tree trunks studded the ground along the treeline. Also, she noted, shelter for their cattle had come first. They had already erected one wall of what would be a proper stable, and a rough roof of sorts comprised of pine tree boughs had been piled on top of the building frame. Campfires were positioned at both ends of the partial shelter. In the reflected light she could see the animals standing close together for warmth, draped in heavy blankets.
Horses and cows could tolerate pretty cold temperatures— as low as 20°F or lower, if they had to—so the fact that the Daoine Sidhe were emphasizing their safety indicated how bitter the temperatures must get at night.
As if Annwyn had read her mind, the other woman said, “Lyle tells me the bad weather has been coming in waves. I don’t know what that means about Oberon’s condition, if anything. We’re in a lull right now.”
Kathryn nodded again. “Hopefully they’ll get the barn finished before the next wave hits. Then if worse comes to worse, they can shelter with the animals.”
The other woman’s expression filled with approval. “That was their thinking. The cattle throw off a lot of heat. It’s a bit smelly to bunk with the animals, but overall it’s a good survival tactic.”
As they chatted, Kathryn’s gaze fell on the area designated as the wood pile. Several cords had already been cut and stacked neatly, and still more lay in haphazard piles around the trunks being used to split wood.
In the darkest shadow behind the cord farthest from the fire, a pair of eyes watched her.
The eyes themselves were so deep in shadow they were almost as dark as the rest of the night. Someone with lesser eyesight wouldn’t have seen it, but Kathryn’s eyesight was unusual even among the Wyr. Because of her animal form, she could pick out small prey from very long distances, and a rabbit from up to two miles away.
She said nothing about the presence behind the woodpile. Instead, she positioned herself to face it and looked back at the eyes steadily.
I see you. She didn’t say it, either aloud or telepathically. She didn’t have to. She merely waited.
Her patience was soon rewarded.
There was a flicker of barely seen movement. Then a figure in the shape of a tall, thin teenage boy detached from the shadows and walked toward the campfire.
Any potential resemblance to youth ended as the creature grew closer. Kathryn inspected him with interest. He had spiky, nut brown hair, a thin wild face, and ageless, feral eyes.
While everyone else was bundled against the cold, he wore pants, boots, and a woolen coat left carelessly open. He also wore a rather odd scarf, royal blue with gold buttons, but he wore no gloves on hands that had too many fingers and when he smiled he had too many teeth as well, and they were sharp and white.
Whatever form he might choose to wear, those teeth revealed something useful about his real nature. Those were a predator’s teeth.
“You must be Robin,” she said as he drew near. “I’m Kathryn Shaw.”
“I am indeed,” Robin said. “And I am a host of other names besides. I’ll be betting you have other names and titles too. But which is the truest?”
As the only heir to an English title, it so happened Kathryn did have other names and titles, but the only relevant title she cared about was the one she had earned through her own sweat equity.
His question was probably nothing more than playfulness, but still it caught at her. Which one was the truest— falcon or doctor? She didn’t know.
“Thankfully,” she replied, “we can be more than one thing simultaneously.”
Annwyn had turned away to talk to Lyle again. She spun back around. “Robin! There you are. The troops are already mustering. We will be ready to ride in just a few moments.”
The puck ignored her, his attention focused on Kathryn. “My Sophie knows a Dr. Kathryn Shaw and loves her.”
My Sophie—both affectionate and possessive. She smiled. “Yes, that’s me. And my Sophie knows and loves a puck named Robin.”
Flinging one narrow hand out, he bowed. “‘Tis I, although I was not in this form when we met, nor was I capable of any speech.” As he straightened to his full height again, his smile had disappeared. “She saved my life, at much risk to hers.”
“She’s very brave,” she said. “And generous. I just finished having tea, sandwiches, and scones with her. I know she would love to see you again, whenever that becomes possible.”
The strange creature’s expression shadowed, eyelids lowering. “Perhaps there will be time enough again for that one day.” When he looked up again, his gaze pierced her. He said, “I will carry you.”
It was an assent to a question that Kathryn had not realized had been asked. She wasn’t quite sure how to respond, so she kept it simple. “Okay. Thank you.”
At that he shapeshifted into a huge black stallion, with feathery hooves and fiery eyes. The transition was so abrupt, the stallion’s presence so Powerful, Kathryn fell back a step before she could catch herself.
According to the others she had talked to, Robin was a great many things, but at the moment he was simply magnificent.
“I have two bags,” she told him apologetically. It didn’t seem right for this wonderful creature to be used as a beast of burden, but he had offered.
He shook his head impatiently. “They mean nothing. Put them on my back.”
“All right.” She already had straps she could use to connect her packs, and while the twenty troops who would travel with them gathered with their mounts, she knelt and buckled the packs together, then slung them over the stallion’s neck.
He stamped one great hoof and, as if they had been arguing, snapped, “I will not tolerate a saddle or bridle.”
She looked into his ferocious eyes. “I would never dream of suggesting it.”
“Then climb on.”
When she started to, a hand on her arm stopped her. Annwyn said, “Robin can’t teleport like the Djinn can, but when he chooses to he can move very fast. Falling from such a speed would probably be fatal.” She said to the puck, “Robin, please rethink the saddle and bridle just this once.”
“No,” Kathryn said. When they both turned to stare at her, she told them, “I won’t fall. It will be okay.”
“I don’t want to take the time to argue with you,” Annwyn said impatiently. “You know how much is at stake here.”
Kathryn regarded her and said again, “I won’t fall.”
The other woman pulled a sour expression. “Prove me wrong, and if the fall doesn’t kill you, I might.”
Then one of her men called to her, and she pivoted on one foot to stalk away. Kathryn looked at the puck. “Did I refrain from rolling my eyes at that?” The stallion tilted his head, as if he wasn’t quite sure what he had heard. She added, “I couldn’t tell. I was too busy trying to control myself.”
Stamping one hoof again, he snorted. It sounded quite like horsy laughter. He told her again, “Climb on.”
Not all the other troops had mustered, so it seemed a bit too soon to subject him to her weight. Still, she was beginning to feel the cold and sitting on his back would be warmer than letting her feet turn to blocks of ice, so she turned and strode away, then whirled and raced toward him. With a leap, she landed on his wide back.
From somewhere nearby, someone let out a low whistle and slow clap. Suppressing a smile, she edged closer to the stallion’s shoulders and arranged the weight of her two packs so that they fell on her knees on either side.
The stallion shook his head and arched his neck. “You may hold onto my mane.”
“That would be helpful,” she said gravely. Wanting to experiment with how much of a handhold would be comfortable, she gathered together a decent amount of the coarse raven hair and gripped it in one fist.
Without warning, the stallion leaped forward.
“Whoa!” she said sharply, more from surprise than anything else, and clamped down with her knees to maintain her seat. She caught a brief glimpse of Annwyn and other soldiers turning to stare, their faces filled with shock and dismay.
Annwyn roared, “ROBI—”
The wind snatched away the last of his name.
Powerful muscles surged underneath Kathryn, and the wind bit into her skin. The land plunged by so quickly, by the time she looked over her shoulder, the encampment by the crossover passageway had already disappeared.
What. The. Hell.
Copyright: 2018 Teddy Harrison LLC
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