What are you thankful for today?
This Thanksgiving, I have a new book to be thankful for. More than just a book, it’s the fifth and final book in my five book, young adult, epic fantasy series! Normally, I wouldn’t post about a fantasy book here, as this is Austen Authors, but as it’s the final book in the series, having it out is extra exciting, so I simply had to share!
Summer Hanford’s Thrice Born Series
Here’s an excerpt from book one, since the beginning of book five would be a bit of a spoiler.
As Ari walked down the aisle in front of the stalls, dust motes swirled around him in the light streaming through the stable doors. He checked the horses, making sure they had plenty of water and fodder for the evening. For almost five years, since he turned ten, taking care of the horses at his uncle’s inn was Ari’s job. Before that, when he was little, he helped his older cousin, Mactus.
Ari’s other cousin, Jare, was supposed to be helping him now, but Jare’s idea of helping was usually to threaten Ari with a beating and sneak off for a nap. Ari didn’t mind. Whenever Jare did help, Ari had to go behind him and redo everything. Ari worked hard to take good care of the guests’ horses because he hoped to be a stablehand for a great lord someday, or maybe even get to drive a coach. He wanted to see more of the world than his Uncle Jocep’s inn in Sallsburry.
“Good night,” Ari told the horses. They watched him with warm brown eyes as he swung shut the stable doors, the smell of cut hay wafting out. Across the inn yard, Ari could hear music and laughter spilling from the common room. The other doorway leading into the walled yard, the one from his aunt’s kitchen, was already shut for the night, as was the gate that closed off the yard from the street.
Ari looked between the gate and the common room. Another good thing about Jare not helping was that there was no one to tell on Ari when he snuck away. It was a perfect spring night and, although his uncle had told him many times not to do it, Ari couldn’t resist the forest beyond their small village. It would be alive with the sounds and smells of spring, and when the sun finally fell below the horizon, the full moon would be nearly as bright as day.
He crossed the hard packed earth of the inn yard to the gate. With a quick look around, he slid one side open and slipped through. He knew his uncle would come out later to latch it for the night, but there was an old apple tree leaning against the outside of the wall, its branches draped in blossoms, and Ari had long since discovered that he could climb it and use its strong limbs to get back into the yard.
He paused in the alley outside, listening for any sign his departure had been observed. When no voice was raised to call him back, he snuck onward, through the dirt streets of the small town and into the fields beyond. Ari kept to the edges of the fields, following the low walls made by years of stones pulled from the rich earth each spring.
The last flickering orange glow of the sun left the sky just as Ari entered the forest, making it doubly dark. He paused, the coldness of the spring evening and his sudden lack of vision running a shudder through him. For a brief moment, he considered going back, his uncle’s oft-repeated warnings about how dangerous wandering alone in the forest could be running through his mind.
Ari shook himself, shrugging off such childish fears. He would be fifteen that summer. He was practically a man. The woods were not scary.
Ari was usually obedient. His aunt and uncle were kind, and he worked hard at the inn for them. They’d taken him in when his parents died, when he was very small, and Ari was always grateful for that. He had a good life at the inn, even if his cousin Jare made Ari do both of their work, but he just couldn’t seem to stay out of the woods that spring. The mystery of it, always looming beyond the neat fields surrounding the village, the space under the trees looking so dark and impenetrable, called out for exploration. All that past winter, Ari had felt something growing in him, and when spring had arrived, the draw of the forest was more than he could resist.
He stood still for a long moment, breathing in the combined smells of last fall’s rotting leaves and spring’s new growth until his eyes adjusted. The moon had risen early, so it wanted only the fading of daylight for the world to be bathed in its silver glow. Once he could see well enough not to walk headlong into a tree, Ari started forward. Navigation under the trees wasn’t easy, but he knew his path, having a destination in mind. There was a clearing not far ahead where he would be able to sit and look up at the stars and listen to the cacophony of noises the forest made.
Ari was almost to the clearing when a strange light flickered at the corner of his vision. He stopped, turning. Even though the moonlight was bright and the leaves on the trees still bundled into tight little balls, waiting to open, he couldn’t see far. Trunks and branches seemed to bind together into impenetrable darkness. His heart stumbled in his chest, and he shook himself again, reminding himself there was nothing to be afraid of. Feeling foolish, he resumed walking.
He could see the clearing from farther away than he expected, the moonlight glowing unnaturally bright inside it, making the journey strangely tedious. As he neared, he realized the light before him was moving, coming bright from the left, then flickering off to the right. Fear spread skeletal claws through him once more, pulling his skin taut and shortening his breath. Glowing creatures flowed through the clearing, running one after the other.
Entranced, Ari crept to the edge of the trees, his fear fading as he took in the creatures’ beauty. He stared in wonder as one after another, luminous beings flittered across the clearing. They were manlike but bleached of color and radiating light fit to rival the moon. Ari crouched low among the still-dormant bramble, barely daring to breathe, lest he catch the attention of the beautiful creatures before him and startle them away. Here was surely something magical. Something far beyond the realm of Ari’s life at the inn.
One of the beings stumbled, falling to its knees. Ari half rose, nearly crying out, startled to see that fluid grace halted. The being looked around, and Ari saw fear and pain mar its glowing face. It turned to him, somehow sensing him, eyes picking Ari out among the brush. Its glow dimmed to reveal a seemingly normal man, clothed in loose-fitting white trousers and a long tunic slit up the sides for ease of movement. It clutched its side, as if wounded.
“Go back to the inn, boy,” it called in a musical voice. “Danger runs alongside the Aluiens in the forest tonight.”
Ari opened his mouth to answer, but his words were stolen by an undulating darkness that rose up behind the glowing being. Evil as palpable as the stench of decay radiated from that darkness. Terror shot through Ari and he fell backward, barely aware of the confusion on the glowing being’s face. From the darkness, a black-coated knife rose.
Ari cried out, pointing. The glowing being turned, springing away just in time to avoid the fast-descending knife. In a flicker it was gone, and Ari was alone with the darkness.
Eyes that burned with anger came to rest on him. Ari’s first instinct was to get up, to run away, but his body wouldn’t obey him. The darkness coalesced, revealing the form of a man. Ari tried to force himself to crawl backward, but he remained where he was, at the edge of the clearing, watching in terror as the dark came for him.
“You shouldn’t have done that, boy.” The man’s voice was slippery smooth, soothing. Ari felt the will to run melting from him. “I had plans for that Aluien, and now they’re ruined. Why would you ruin my plans?”
Ari’s body went limp on the cold damp earth. He could barely focus on the words. He blinked, feeling almost as if sleep would overtake him.
“Do you know what I was going to do to him?” He knelt on the ground beside Ari, leaning over him, a pale man with hard, dark eyes. “I will show you.”
Deep in Ari’s mind, fear cried out, screamed and thrashed, but none of it could latch onto his will. He lay there, transfixed and unmoving, as the man lifted his knife.
“I was going to do this,” he said, viciousness filling his tone. His arm slashed out, raking the knife across Ari’s throat. Hot blood welled out to spill down either side of his neck, pooling on the rain-saturated forest floor. Darkness and agony rolled through him, sweeping away thought and reason. In moments, there was nothing left of Ari but pain and a sinking feeling, sinking toward death.
In the last instant, the last moment before death overtook him, the man with the knife jerked away and a bright light replaced him. A beautiful light, shining fit to outdo the moon.
~ The Giveaway! ~
To celebrate the completion of my Thrice Born Series, I’m giving away two eBooks, one to each of two winners (one could be you!). Renata and I usually do kindle-only giveaways, as our books are enrolled in KDP and therefore available exclusively from Amazon. My Thrice Born Series, published by Martin Sisters Publishing, is available anywhere books are sold, so if you win, you may pick any book in the series, and pick your eBook format. (By which I mean, nook readers welcome!)
As this is a busy time of year, and a busy day, this giveaway goes until November 29th. Winners will be announced on December (yes, December already!) 2nd.
To enter, or just for fun, tell me something you’re thankful for this Thanksgiving (I do realize it’s not Thanksgiving everywhere in the world, so if you like, you can read that as, “Tell me something you’re thankful for this November”). I’ll start.
I’m thankful for Renata McMann and that she asked me to write with her. Working with Renata has changed my life and is allowing me to pursue my lifelong dream of being an author. I’m also thankful for AllWriters’ Online Writing Studio, as that’s where we met. Plus, I’m thankful for Austen Authors for inviting us to join, and for accommodating us as a team. I’m also really, really thankful for our readers. I love to write, but it is ten times more fun to write when people love to read your work. Thank you!
I hope you all have so much to be thankful for, you can’t choose just one thing.
Have a great day,
Find Summer Hanford’s Thrice Born Series: