New “Soultainted” Excerpt: The Return of Bachi

Well, here we are, y’all–July already.

Which means the year is half over.

I think we should all just raise a glass to the fact that we made it this far. Given the way things have been for the last several years, I think that’s pretty impressive.

via GIPHY

 

I’ve been working pretty steadily on adding words to Soultainted, and while I don’t have any specific new updates for you, I will say that things are going fairly well.

So while I’m still actually enjoying this story and not yet ready to smash my hard drive with a rock, I thought I’d share a short excerpt from one of the early chapters. This scene is from Logan’s perspective, and it picks up in the middle of a conversation between Logan and Igraine.

Those of you who have read Ravenmarked may remember one of the characters in this excerpt. I always knew she’d come back into the story with this baby, but the way it happened was a little surprising to me. As you all know by now, me being surprised by the story is nothing new.

In any case, please enjoy this excerpt. Talk to you next week!


Igraine let out a long breath and let go of his arms. “I think there was someone in the forest yesterday.”

Logan startled. “What? Where? I saw no one.”

“I don’t know. I can’t explain it. It was right before it started to rain, right after Lord Mac Niall returned to Taura. It was just a shadow. I thought perhaps it was you, but then I thought perhaps it was just the wind bringing in the clouds.”

“And now you think it really was someone?”

She frowned. “I wish I could say for certain. I didn’t say anything yesterday, because I thought it was just my own imagination, but—” She paused and wet her lips. “I saw no one, just a shadow, and then the children came along. When I started to come into the house, there was a familiar smell.” She closed her eyes. “I can’t explain it, but it smelled like the castle at Torlach.”

“What do you mean?”

“The castle—it had a scent unique to itself. There was the sea, yes, but something else—perhaps just age, magic, I don’t know.”

“How is that different from the Citadel?”

Her frown deepened as she considered her childhood home. “I can’t say. I only know they are different.”

“I don’t know how you could have detected an odor of Torlach or Maghara Harbor from here. We’re just too far inland.”

“I know it doesn’t make sense, but with all of the things I’ve learned these last months, I have decided not to ignore anything, even the smallest worry.”

“And what worries you about this experience?”

She shuddered and rubbed her arms. “What if he followed us? Bachi?”

He wanted to say no, but he couldn’t lie. “I can’t say. If he found a new host body, he could have come here.”

“What would be the reason? These children are of no value to him now.”

“The amasidh are always valuable.” He paused. “The protections Rhiannon has around this place should keep us safe. And your power as well. He will be more hesitant to approach you now that you’ve quickened.”

“Logan, I—”

A knock on the cabin door interrupted her. Logan’s hand went immediately to his sword, and Igraine crouched and drew a dagger from her boot. “Who is it?” Logan called. It shouldn’t be anyone. There’s no one around for miles. Rhiannon doesn’t even know anyone. Is Igraine right about the danger? Bachi wouldn’t knock.

“My lord,” came the panicked cry of a woman. “My lord, please—I beg you—let us in.”

Logan went to the door and put his hand on the latch. “Who are you?”

“My name is Linna. My children and I are being pursued. Please, my lord, we were told we could find shelter here. I’m begging you—please let us in.”

Logan and Igraine exchanged a look, and Logan opened the door a small crack. Outside, a woman carried a small child on her hip and sheltered two girls inside a voluminous cloak. One of the girls, the taller one, carried another small child. “Who is pursuing you?”

“I don’t know,” she said. “I only know that he—” Her voice caught on a sob, and the panicked expression turned to grief. “He killed my husband in front of my eyes. We were traveling—he came upon us at night and tried to take our boy, and my husband—”

One of the girls started to cry, and Igraine pulled the door open to allow them in. “Of course, lass, come in, come in. Sit. You’re safe here.” She ushered the woman and children to the table and put a kettle over the fire, then cut bread to give the children something to eat.

“Auntie?” Quinn and Lyra stood near the larder. “What is it?”

“We have guests,” Igraine said. “Can you find some blankets?” The children ran to do as asked.

Logan offered the woman a kerchief. “Tell me what happened.”

The woman put down the hood of her cloak and took a deep breath. “We were traveling—returning home to Leiden—and we stopped for the night. All was well at first. Sean, my husband, he was holding our boy and telling him a story, and then there was a flash. I thought it was lightning, but then I saw that a man stood next to Sean and Owen. He tried to take Owen, but Sean wouldn’t let him go. They struggled, and then he—” Her arms tightened around the boy. “He touched Sean’s neck, and before I could even scream, Sean was dead.”

He’s back. Logan looked at the three girls and the woman, all of them with brown or auburn hair, freckles, and hazel eyes. The boy, Owen, stood out. Dark hair, dark skin. He’s Sidh. “The boy—he’s not yours?”

Linna’s face hardened. “I suckled him, raised him as a twin with my youngest. He’s as much mine as if I birthed him. We took him in when he was found with a dead mother. Connor—”

“Connor?” Igraine stopped fussing with tea and bread. “Connor who?”

“Connor Reid, lady,” she said. “A man I knew in my youth. He worked for my parents. He was traveling through Leiden and came upon this child, he and the girl he was with. They asked for someone to suckle the babe, and the innkeeper knew I’d just had a child, so they called me. They could find no other relatives for the boy, so we took him in.”

Igraine frowned. “How did you escape this man?”

Linna took a deep breath. “I can’t explain it—I can only tell the story. I fought the man for Owen, he threatened me, tried to take the boy, and then something pushed him back—a force, a shadow, something. When he got up and tried to attack again, the shadow prevented him from coming near us. He finally screamed and disappeared.”

“A shadow?” Logan asked.

She closed her eyes and nodded. “Aye, lad. A shadow. It was something of a man, I suppose, though it had no features, only a shape. When the other creature was gone, the shadow directed us to pack and follow it. It led us here.”

“How long ago was this?” Igraine asked.

“Three days,” Linna said. “For three days, this shadow has led us through forests and protected us while we slept.”

Silence fell in the room. Lyra and Quinn stood to one side with several blankets, both of them listening with wide eyes and pale cheeks. The girls huddled together next to their mother even as she clutched the small boy on her lap with one arm and pulled them close with her other. Igraine just stared at the family; Logan realized that she still held a knife covered in preserves from her ministrations to provide something for the children to eat. He finally cleared his throat. “This shadow,” he said. “Did it ever speak? Give you any instruction?”

“Just once,” Linna said. “This morning, I asked it where it was leading us since it was clearly not taking us back to Leiden. There was a breeze, and the shadow stirred the dirt on the ground. When it stopped, there was just one word in the dirt: guardian.” She looked between Igraine and Logan. “I don’t know which one of you it meant, but when it brought me to this door, it disappeared finally. I can only assume that one of you is the guardian.”

 

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