This year as a Christmas gift I have a free read to offer you. Christmas is a time for magic and the telling of tales to lift the heart. I hope this little story will please.
Below is the first chapter. If you’d like to read the rest simply leave your email address in a comment and I’ll be happy to send the story to you.
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Not a mushroom in sight!
Cora tutted at the lack of fungi and continued her search. She couldn’t return to her aunt’s cottage with nothing but a few herbs. This autumn season seemed all wrong, too dry for mushrooms even here in the usually damp forest. Some of the leaves clinging to the boughs had already turned to shades of gold and bronze and rattled crisply. All of it seemed too soon.
The ground quivered. Judders shook her, and the basket tipped, spilling its contents. She dropped onto her knees, scrambling to pick up the herbs, but fell forward as the turf rippled and shifted.
She closed her eyes. “Don’t let me die today.” A thunderous growl rumbled beneath her.
She tried to stand but stooped again, for around her, like blades of grass in the wind, tall trees wavered. Several fell onto their neighbors with terrible groans. One lush evergreen missed those about it and thudded to the floor with a mighty crash.
Cora huddled into a small ball with her hands over her ears and prayed.
* * * *
Prince Randolph of Merin grasped the nearest boulder at the edge of the subterranean pool and hauled himself out of the warm water. A deep moan came from the roof above. Part of the cavern’s ceiling gave way and spewed rocks into the far side of the iridescent blue pool.
The light from the glimmering water dimmed as ripples raced over the surface. He strode across the stones to reach the bundle of his clothes. His foot slipped on a mossy patch on the rock and his back foot sank to his knee into the gap between two boulders. After three painful attempts to pull free, he paused at another low rumble near where he stood.
The small gravelly patch of sand and his pile of clothes slowly descended into a sink hole. Twirling like dancers, his boots disappeared last.
Each time he tried to move, a merciless weight ground hard against his flesh.
His stomach lurched as the rock beneath his front foot tilted and his precarious position grew more uncomfortable. He balanced with his leg stretched farther to keep his place on the unsteady boulder. If either of the rocks tipped much more, the impact on future generations of the royal house of Merin would be serious, for he’d be split in two.
The cold air chilled his skin.
A gentle tinkle of pebbles replaced the crashes from earlier. He breathed a sigh. The earth movement seemed over. Shivers raced down his back as he stared around in the wavering light from the water.
None of his attendants knew where he’d ridden this morning. Why had he been so determined to come here alone? They might take days to discover his horse tethered outside the entrance to the tunnel. That was if Starlight, poor beast, hadn’t fled or been killed by the earthquake. The palace and all those in it might well have been swallowed whole in the tremor.
He grinned. The thought of his Uncle Owen, presently guardian and protector of the kingdom, devoured by the might of the earth was enough to bring about a sense of deep pleasure. However, if Owen were still alive, he’d probably not make much effort to discover what had happened to the one person who would end his rule in four months and three days’ time.
I’ve played right into his hands. Given half a chance, Owen will make sure I’m never found.
The need to get out rose in a volcanic wave and he yelled at the top of his voice. “Help!”
The sound echoed. More pebbles fell into the pool. He shouted again.
* * * *
Cora rose to her knees. Trees, tipsy as guardsmen after a vat of ale, lay across the tops of others on each side of the glade. Creaks and groans from tortured wood hurt her ears. The birds had fled. She wished she could fly too. Her journey home would take much of what was left of the day and be far more perilous than the walk here.
She grabbed her basket, scooped up all the spilled herbs and rose. Her knees still shook, but the ground remained steady. She edged away from the forest path and moved toward the trail leading back along the Ridgeway toward her village.
She rarely used the hillside pathway for fear of robbers. However, with the other littered by fallen trees and this one looking much clearer, she’d no choice.
The raw squeals of a horse sent a shiver through her. The concern for the screeching animal drew her back toward a glade in the trees. Wild-eyed, the creature stamped and struggled against reins tethering it to a branch.
Poor thing. Who might have left it here? Only a nobleman or a robber would have such a mount. There seemed to be no one around though. She set her basket down and made comforting low sing-song noises to calm the horse as she approached. Beyond anything but fear, the animal reared screeching, and threatened her with metal shod feet.
A different sound reached her as she backed away from the horse. A cry? A word?
Yes. Someone called for help. She listened harder and tried to guess the direction. Parting the dark shrubs, she discovered the mouth of a tunnel into the spine of the Ridgeway. Another cry came again from the depths. This had to be the magic place whispered about by the villagers. A forbidden place of wonder and terror, but she must go inside.
Tomorrow is Paranormal Romance Thursday and my guest will be MS Kaye do call back.
Thanks for reading.
Image ID : 15981442
Image Type : Stock Photo
Model Released : Yes
Copyright : zoomteam
Cover Art by Authored Ink