Welcome to the 21st day of the Magic of Solstice Fantasy Writers' Tour 2015!
There is still time to sign up for the tour on Facebook and join in the fun. Tomorrows hosts are Joshua Robertson and Nichole Giles. I'll also be sharing an excerpt from Shadow Stalker: Broken (Episode 8) and a little about why I prefer to self-publish.(Something about Rebecca's feature here).
Rebecca Jaycox grew up in the tiny town of Berryman, which borders the Mark Twain National Forest and the Courtois River about 70 miles south of St. Louis. The beautiful landscape fed her imagination, and she began writing stories at age 10 and never stopped. Always seeking adventure, Rebecca moved to France after she graduated college with a journalism degree to teach English at a French high school. Bitten by the travel bug, she has recently visited Italy, Greece, Austria, Spain, and finally made it to her bucket-list destination of Istanbul last summer. Rebecca now lives in New York City with her husband, Gregory. She is the curator and program director of the YA Lit Series at the 92nd Street Y--one of New York's premier cultural centers. She enjoys reading and writing fantasy, urban fantasy, steampunk, and science fiction. The Other Inheritance is her first novel.
Seventeen-year-old Reggie has been having a tougher time than usual. As if dealing with her alcoholic mother and fighting school bullies isn't enough, this biker dude shows up in her dreams, babbling about magic and a world called the Other. Then, in biology class, her finger brushes a dead frog set out for dissection and it leaps off the table, scaring everyone, including her. Reggie's life is changing, and she has no idea why. Or whether she should believe the man in her dreams, who claims she's in danger and that someone is coming to take her to a safer reality. But if there's one thing she's learned, nowhere is safe.
Reggie slipped her hand into the crook of his arm, both grateful for his strength and resenting her dependence on him. Asher guided her into a forest remarkably similar to the one she’d just left. The scent of pine and perfume from budding flowers clogged her olfactory senses until she felt lightheaded. Pine and—and something feral. Something wild and dangerous coated her tongue. She shivered.
“Asher, do you smell that?” Reggie whispered.
“Blood or rotting meat and…and shit I think.”
“I don’t smell anything—” he began when a piercing howl punctured the air answered by a dozen other cries.
She stumbled, her muscles locking in place. “What was that?”
“Marsh wolves. But I’m not sure why they’re in the forest.”
“Shouldn’t we be running?”
Asher shook his head. “Running from predators isn’t a good idea. It just makes them give chase. We need to hide. What would cause the wolves to come into the woods?”
“Do we need to figure that out now?” Reggie replied. The ground shuddered under her feet, the feral smell growing stronger. The sound of thunder rumbled in the distance echoed by more eerie howls.
“Wild boar!” Asher hissed. “I smell it now, damn it! The wolves must have chased it from the Marshes.”
“Who cares about a pig? What about the wolves? Shouldn’t we be hiding?” Reggie whipped her head around searching for something they could crawl into. They were in a small clearing with large trees and sparse patches of weeds.
“A wild boar isn’t just a pig! We need to climb a tree. Pray to the Mother that if the boar escapes the wolves, it doesn’t come for us. On my back, hurry!” Asher swung her onto his back, and Reggie clung to him as he sprinted to a giant oak tree and began climbing.
The ground below shrank as Asher climbed higher. She could hear the snorting huffs of the wild boar, the impact of its hooves like hammers on the ground, and the wolves’ howls closing in. Asher stopped, and Reggie glanced from the ground to the tree, spotting a wide, sturdy limb.
“Are you strong enough to climb up there?”
It took all her strength not to fall off his back, but she gritted her teeth. “I’ll try.”
She reached for the tree branch, the rough bark cutting into her palm as she maneuvered from Asher’s back. They were about thirty feet off the ground, and her vision swayed as she looked down. Her hand slipped. Reggie screamed, but Asher gripped the waist of her jeans, hoisting her back on the branch. Wrapping her arms and legs around the tree limb, she only relaxed when he slid behind her, pulling her against his chest. The wild boar burst into the clearing, wolves baying at its heels. Instead of running past them, the boar skidded to a stop. Its enormous head swiveled toward the oak tree.
Reggie trembled as she took in the scene. Five wolves the size of Shetland ponies, their shaggy coats ranging in color from gray to brown, surrounded the boar. They growled low and rough, their fangs flashing. They were living nightmares. But they weren’t as impressive as the boar. Six feet at the shoulder, short wiry black fur covered a massive, muscular body that weighed at least a thousand pounds. Two huge, sharp tusks curved out from the long snout. Black beady eyes penetrated through the branches, focusing on her. To her shock, the wolves followed the boar’s gaze.
Reggie pressed into Asher, and his arms tightened around her. “Why are they looking at us?” She didn’t want them anywhere near her.
“They can smell your fear and your magic.”
Snarling, the wolves attacked, four lunging at the boar’s legs trying to trip it while the lead wolf went for the throat. For all its bulk, the boar was steel grace. Using its powerful legs, it held its ground, wielding its wicked tusks with deadly accuracy. Thud! Reggie held onto Asher as a three-hundred-pound wolf hit the tree. Rivulets of blood ran down the boar’s side. The fallen wolf below pushed itself off the ground, its shoulder sliced open. She choked on the acrid stench. All this fear and anger was too much. The tree shook again.
“Hold on, I won’t let us fall,” Asher said.
Reggie’s escalating terror affected the animals below. The attacks become more vicious.
“Reggie, listen to me. I know you’re frightened, but you need to calm down. They’re attracted to your magic and your fear is making it worse. I can feel it too. That’s why they’re not leaving, that’s why the boar isn’t running away.”
“Right, calm down. I can’t be killed by an overgrown pork chop and the Big Bad Wolf. I can’t go out like that,” she muttered to herself as she closed her eyes. “I can’t go out like—” Another wolf slammed into the tree. “That!”
“Dammit!” Asher held onto her. “Wait! The alpha wolf, he hasn’t taken a hit. He’s waiting. He’s different. Can you feel that?”
Reggie watched the alpha. There was something different. Too much intelligence shone from its frosty blue eyes, even for a top predator. “That’s not a normal wolf, is it?”
Asher’s eyes widened. “No, it’s not. It’s a Changeling Elf.”
“Changeling Elf. They’re almost as rare as you are. I need to climb down.”
“Are you out of your mind? No way, I’m not letting you get killed!”
“Trust me. I know you’re still feeling weak, but I need you to hold on. No matter what happens, don’t come down, okay?”