I’m super excited to announce that my newest fantasy story, along with the works of 19 other amazing authors, is now available on Amazon for 99¢ & Kindle Unlimited!
Hidden Magic released on March 10th and is already #1 in one of its Amazon categories and hit #1 in Hot New Releases.
** Read Chapter One from my novella below **
What makes this anthology special?
This is the start of a trilogy of fantasy anthologies unlike anything you’ve seen before. The project required each author to write 3 interconnected novellas, like installments in a TV show, that make a complete story by the end – That’s 20 complete stories!
These are set to rapid release (March, April, May), so you won’t have to wait long for the next installments.
As promised, below is all of Chapter One from my novella: A Veil Is Parted – available exclusively in Hidden Magic
Simith of Drifthorn is tired of war. After years of battle between the Thistle court and the troll kingdom, even a pixie knight known for his bloodlust longs for peace. Meeting with the troll king in secret is the only hope for a ceasefire. When the trolls ambush him instead, Simith flees through a doorway hidden by magic into another world. Wounded, he’ll need to defeat his pursuers and get home before anyone realizes he’s gone. If his commanders find out what he’s been up to, the trolls will be the least of his worries.
In Skylark, Michigan, Jessa leaves a party after some devastating news. Cutting through her neighbor’s sunflower farm, she runs into a fight between creatures straight out of a fantasy novel – only the blood is very real. When one of them falls to his attackers, Jessa decides to intervene. She’s known too much death to stand idly by, but what does a poet like her know about fighting? As their weapons turn against her, Jessa realizes how much she stands to lose, even for someone who’s already lost everything.
The arrow took Simith in the back.
It punched through his left wing and lodged itself below his shoulder blade. Flitting between the trees on his way to the meeting place, he almost lost his hold on the next branch as pain exploded across his body. He scrambled for cover amid the foliage, swallowing his pained gasps, but leaves were sparse at this spot in the Jaded Grove. He didn’t find it in time.
The second arrow drove through his right wing, ripping the aft membrane, but he was fortunate. The arrowhead only split the leathers by his ribs. He found a nest of twisted branches and crouched behind them, trying to quiet his ragged breath—trying to think. He’d made certain he wasn’t followed when he left camp. No one saw him depart and he hadn’t dared tell anyone his plans, not his fellow knights and certainly not the Helms. Who was attacking him?
The arrowhead burned in his back. With sinking dread, he noted the numbness in his left arm. Iron. It was made of iron, which meant his magic was inhibited and he couldn’t heal the wound. Simith pressed his brow to the black bark. Only one creature could wield iron without poisoning themselves. He clunked his head against the wood, cursing himself. Of course, the trolls would ambush him. They had no reason to believe his appeal for a truce was in earnest, not from a knight who’d butchered more of their kind than any other. What better way to kill him off than when he was alone, on a mission no one knew about?
Hollow disappointment blended with his fury. He wasn’t sure whether it came by their blatant betrayal, or that he’d failed to make Rim’s dream come true. What did it matter? He’d been a fool. He was a fighter, not a peacemaker, and the dead buried their dreams in the ground along with their broken flesh.
Maybe soon, he’d be buried along with them.
Simith’s keen ears picked up on the whisper of footfalls over the mossy earth below. He could no longer fly and he couldn’t outrun them. He had his knives though, and his crystal blade. If he could wield it. He folded his limbs closer, shielding as much of his body as possible behind the wood. The muted green of his leathers should’ve camouflaged him, though night had fallen hours ago. The shadows were more friend to trolls than pixies. Their arrows couldn’t pierce these enchanted trees at least. Simith might have been a fool to trust them, but he hadn’t chosen the Jaded Grove as the meeting place by happenstance.
“Little Moth,” a gravelly voice called from below. “Your flight is done.”
“You’re not that precise with your bow,” he called back. “A sprite has better aim than your kind.”
“The scent of your blood is as sweet as sugar, pixie,” came another’s eager chortle. “Come down and tarry with us a while.”
“Join me up here and I’ll tarry all you want.”
Silence followed. Only stone welcomed the touch of a troll. No tree would abide them. He’d witnessed it before, the way the bark groaned in warning and the branches trembled with outrage before the wood shook them off like a tick. The roots would draw themselves from the soil to squeeze throats and ribcages. The Fae of the former Seelie and Unseelie courts had made sentinels of the forests that ringed their respective domains. Even a century after the destruction of their race, the Fae’s powerful influence lingered in the green world.
It might’ve been the certainty of this power that slowed Simith’s reaction to the snapping of twigs and the scrape of boots against the tree trunk. They couldn’t be climbing up, he assured himself. He’d have felt the rising ire through the bark. A trick, then, to lure him from cover.
Simith risked a glance. Eyes glowed up from the lower branches, yellow witchlights in the gloom moving steadily closer. He gaped down at them in astonishment.
“Impossible,” he whispered.
The brush of air whizzed by his face before he felt the skin split high on his cheekbone. Simith reacted on instinct, hurling a silver blade at the encroaching eye shine. One winked out. A scream rent the quiet grove and a body crashed to the ground. He counted four more pairs of eyes, their stout forms a shadowed outline in the darkness. None of them watched their comrade’s demise, gazes fixed upward on him. They continued to climb.
Simith did the same. Magic, he decided, gritting his teeth as he clambered toward higher branches, the iron arrowhead scraping against his shoulder blade. They must have procured a conduit through which to funnel their magic in a way that the trees didn’t recognize them as trolls. He didn’t know that was possible. Every conduit had a particular signature that marked its user. Sprites typically used a crown of roan berries, the hobgoblins steel piercings they wore on their skin, the boggarts the bones of their first kill. A conduit could not simply be swapped for another. They became as near and familiar as a limb.
Could they be using power without a conduit? Simith dismissed the notion out of hand. To draw raw magic into oneself was as lethal as swallowing flames. Only the immortal Fae had been capable of wielding it, their very blood fabled to be made of the same elements. Even the fairies, their cousin race, had to use conduits.
Yet, he couldn’t refute the quick sounds of pursuit behind him. None of this made sense. For now, it didn’t have to. For now, he simply had to escape, get back to the Thistle Court and confess to his commanders his foolhardy attempt to forge an accord with the trolls—and hope the fairies wouldn’t see it as treason.
Escape first, he ordered himself, noting with some worry that his mind was growing unorganized. It had to be the iron still lodged in his body. He didn’t have time to stop and remove the arrows. He wasn’t moving fast enough either; they were closing in on him. If he could leap to another tree, it might impede their chase. They’d managed to climb this one, but the ground-loving trolls weren’t as experienced moving between tree tops as he.
Simith found his chance in a tangle of branches that led away from the trunk he climbed. He followed them, barely as wide as his calf, but sturdy enough to bear his weight. With any luck, it would snap under the much heavier trolls should they dare to follow.
Working his way across in a crouch, he was halfway to the neighboring tree when a third arrow struck him. It plunged through his sword arm, just above the elbow. Simith couldn’t silence the hoarse cry. His foot slipped, slamming him chest-first into the solid wood. He threw another knife, a mere guess at the direction the arrow had come, barely clinging on with his legs. He heard a troll curse, but knew he’d hit nothing vital. The distraction bought him enough time to struggle the rest of the distance and put the trunk between them.
“Where is your famed battle lust now, Sun Fury?” one of them mocked. “We thought there’d be a better fight than this.”
Hazy with pain, Simith hadn’t the breath to pretend at bravado, his hands shaking, his skin soaked in blood.
The branches he’d used to cross trembled with the weight of another crossing. His heart sank. How were they doing this?
Simith dragged himself up and climbed anew. Slower than before. They must’ve heard his graceless movements. Triumphant snickers filled the night air.
“Why do this?” he called down, grasping at the frail hope of parlay. “My intention to discuss peace was in earnest.”
“Safer to trust a boggart with a newborn babe than to allow you near our king.”
He gritted his teeth. “Your army is on the brink of collapse. The fairies will send their legions to rout what’s left of it and march toward your homes.”
“You’re making a mistake,” he shouted.
“It’s too late for peace.”
He said no more, cold despair settling on his feverish skin. Rim’s last words to him sounded in his head.
Don’t let the blade wield you, Sim. It’s your hand on the hilt. Your choice. Your will.
But she was wrong. Violence had wrung all choice from him. Even under a banner of peace, his enemies saw him as only a weapon.
Those same enemies crossed from the first tree to this one more expertly than he would’ve expected of a troll. The branches somehow held their substantial weight. Simith drew a steadying breath and prepared himself. Though he likely deserved it, he refused to be felled like an injured bird. He gripped his crystal blade, not yet drawing it. His magic would light the darkness like a blinding ray of dawn. They might know his position and scent his blood on the air, but he doubted they expected him to turn and fight, not after he’d already fled so far.
A tremor beneath his feet pulled his attention to the branch on which he knelt. He frowned at it, wondering if he’d imagined the wood had stirred. He bit back a sound of surprise when the bark under his palm did the same. It rippled, a vibration that travelled up his fingers and down the bones of his hand. As if it beckoned him. He put his cheek to its rough skin, and listened.
Climb, it murmured into his ear. Up. Now.
Simith released his sword, summoned what strength he had, and obeyed. The Fae had taught their trees to speak, though they rarely did. Until this moment which he’d thought his last, he’d never experienced it before. And he didn’t believe in serendipity. With clumsy arms and shaking legs, he pulled himself slowly and unsteadily upward, knowing all the while that he likely climbed toward a dead end. Toward death. The sentinels of the Jaded Grove were known to be tall enough their branches could block the midday sun in some areas, but once he arrived at the top, it was over.
Still, he continued without hesitation, the tree murmuring at him all the while; Higher. Higher. Go. Sounds of pursuit came from below, though blessedly, no more arrows. The branches grew dense here, weaving between each other in the complicated patterns of the green world. Perhaps they didn’t think they could aim for him clearly. Perhaps they needed to concentrate on their hand and footholds this high up. Or—the more likely reason—they saw no need to put in the extra effort when eventually they’d catch up to—
His head collided with something solid. Startled, he jerked down a pace, staring upward in confusion. He could see nothing. That, in itself seemed odd. No sky, no stars. Not even the shadowy outline of branches leading on. He lifted a hand, wincing with the movement, and his fingers brushed against a wide, smooth surface. Pressing the whole of his palm against it, he swept outward, trying to locate the edge. Could it be a knotty shelf grown out of the tree?
It didn’t feel like wood. It was soft, and gave when he pressed in, bits of it breaking off to scatter over his face in a gritty rainfall. Dirt? He rubbed it between his fingers. The texture held that of soil. How could that be?
Up, up, up, the tree chanted again.
Branches creaked somewhere farther down. His pursuers approached. Simith skimmed his hands across the silty surface, but he found nothing. No edge. No hole. Nothing to get him past this barrier.
Higher. Climb. Climb!
Not knowing what else to do, Simith burrowed his fingers into the cool surface and gouged out a palm-full of…yes, it was dirt. He tossed it away, delving back in again and again as a hole formed above him. His arm and shoulder became a thundering agony greying his vision, but he could’ve sworn light came through the thinning layers. If he could just get to the top of them—
His hands broke through. An avalanche of dirt fell with it and he turned his head to the side just before he caught a face full of it. Irritated grunts came from below. The trolls had come close enough to be hit by some of that. Hopefully, it gave them pause while Simith frantically dug along the sides to widen the hole enough for his lithe frame. A dim glow filtered its way to him, a breeze whispering past the opening with unfamiliar scents. It didn’t matter where this led. The priority was escape and this was the only one.
He reached for it. His hands found purchase on either side. With fresh blood pulsing from his wounds, he hoisted himself through.
And found himself on the ground.
He gawked at the grass under him, at the solid weight of the green floor. His thoughts couldn’t cobble any sort of logic together to explain it. Simith got his knees under him, trying to gain his bearings. Above him, he glimpsed the stars, a sliver of moon suspended in the sky like a ready scythe. He was no longer in the forest. What magic brought him here? Had he, in his desperation, unwittingly used his own? He touched his chest, his conduit hidden beneath the leathers he wore, but felt no tell-tale heat. If magic had done this, it hadn’t come from him.
He looked behind him and stared at the hole in the ground. A hole he’d carved with his own hands at the top of a tree in the Jaded Grove, a hole that led to…Where? Even the air smelled different.
He glanced around him, but what he saw only disoriented him further. Rows and rows of sunflowers, planted in organized lines like crops. A warm breeze moved between them, shifting them so their round heads waved in greeting. In the distance he heard something. Music. Drums, but unlike any he’d known before. A battle nearby? In a field of sunflowers?
“Where am I?” Simith whispered, just as a hand grabbed his leg.
What other stories will you find in the anthology?
No matter the world, life can be dangerous. Be they wizards and shamans, assassins, or everyday people, Hidden Magic tells their stories about escape, consequences, and most of all, magic. From Earth cities and fantastical new worlds comes a collection of stories where heroes grapple with the seen and unseen in order to save themselves, their families, and often the world. This collection features:
- Elderly antiques experts interacting with souls
- Shamans growing outlawed magic
- Baby chimeras battling for their lives
- Children sprouting fluffy tails
- A king’s boat thrown off-course
- A perfect life coming at a not-so-perfect cost
- Vikings defending a village against the unseen
- A lone shifter atoning for his past mistakes
- Trolls and pixies tumbling through the doorway to another world
- And more!