I know I’ve been pretty quiet about Goblinwraith (Heidel’s Story) but there is a reason. When I was writing Silverwitch, I came to a point where Heidel set off on her own quest for a section of the book, but including it in Silverwitch didn’t make sense. It was too long of a scene, and Silverwitch was already my longest book I’ve written so far.
When my publisher, Clean Teen, announced that they were doing a travel romance anthology, I thought maybe I could include Heidel’s story in it. So, when my family and I took a vacation to Colorado last spring, I stared writing it.
I wrote the whole novella in a whirlwind of writing frenzy, and I did very little outlining, which is rare for me. It also meant I had a LOT of rewriting to do after I’d finished. But I did finish it and I liked the story, however, I had a hard time selling it as a travel romance, so we decided to make it a companion novella instead. I think it was a good decision, but I’ll let you all be the judge when it comes out next Friday.
Goblinwraith reveals some important aspects of Heidel’s character that we’ve never really seen before. I also introduce a new love interest, which was a chore, as finding anyone Heidel tolerates wasn’t easy.
I would also like to remind readers to keep an eye out for certain Easter eggs I planted throughout Heidel’s story, which may reveal a thing or two pertaining to the rest of the series. I will say no more than that, except perhaps that’s why I haven’t said a whole lot about it.
My publisher originally wanted to release Heidel’s Story before Silverwitch, but after considering the plot aspects revealed in the novella, I decided it would be best to wait until after Silverwitch’s release.
Needless to say, I am pretty freaking excited about the release of both of these books, as I feel they really move the story forward in the Faythander universe. While writing these books, I learned a lot about myself as well as my characters, and I think everyone, including me, has grown quite a bit.
To pre-order your eBook of Goblinwraith, releasing December 23…
And now, what you’ve all been waiting for, that excerpt I promised!
From Goblinwraith: Heidel’s Story:
Being tortured, starved, beaten, burned, and left for dead should have broken me. Instead, I became stronger. I no longer fear those things. Not anymore.
I only fear one thing.
The mountaintop’s icy wind chapped my skin as I stabbed my knife through the wraith’s hide. Blood spattered on my breastplate. Again? Did this creature have any idea how long it took to polish silver? The monster spun around with my blade embedded in its back and snapped at my face, making me jump back, slip on the frozen pond, and land on my backside.
This was not my best day.
I grabbed my blade’s hilt as the wraith whipped around once more, but my blood-slicked fingers slipped, and I lost my grasp. The wraith, covered in flaking, reptilian skin, laughed—a rattling sound that made my skin crawl.
Its face was a meld of reptile and human; its lower jaw was elongated with protruding fangs, which reminded me more of a goblin. The creature fought like a demon, using a magical knife that burned when it touched my skin.
It lunged for me and I darted back, this time managing to stay upright. I pulled the small knife from my boot and hurled it at the creature’s neck. The knife flew with swift accuracy and embedded itself deep in the wraith’s flesh. The beast’s scream ripped through the air, yet the wraith still rushed toward me.
Stupid beast. Why wouldn’t it just die already?
With one knife in its back and another in its neck, I was losing weapons fast.
“Maveryck,” I yelled at the man fighting alongside me. “I need a weapon.”
Maveryck fought two beasts at once. He was a professional thief, not a fighter, which made me wonder how he’d managed not to die yet. It helped that he wielded a magical staff with ridiculous amounts of power. Gripping the staff tight, he knocked both of the monsters back, but one of the beasts grabbed him and pulled him to the ground.
Wrestling the beast away from the staff, he darted a glance at me. “Can’t you see I’m busy? What happened to all your weapons?”
“They’re stuck in the monster’s hide.”
“Then pull them out!”
I growled under my breath. He was useless. Had I been fighting alongside my brother, we’d have killed the monsters hours ago and been drinking mead by the fire.
The beast, still pierced with my knives, loped toward me with an unsteady gait.
I was done with this dance.
Spinning around, I kicked the monster flat on its back, jumped on top of the beast, and planted my knee in its solar plexus. Its filmy yellow eyes bulged as I ripped my knife from its throat, and then I made quick work of cutting through skin and tissue and severing its life’s vein.
Its death came quickly.
“Heidel,” Maveryck screamed. The only remaining creature pinned Maveryck to the ground, the staff between them as the monster tried prying it from the thief’s grasp. The runes etched into the wood glowed a faint bluish color as I approached. Was it normal for the staff to react in such a way?
“Heidel, get back,” Maveryck yelled.
“Get back? I thought you needed my help.”
“No! Get back!”
I clenched my fists, the knife’s hilt warm in my hands. The wraith moved its hands from the staff and gripped Maveryck around the neck, choking him.
Although I was tempted do as Maveryck said and back away, I also knew he would die if I didn’t come to his aid, so I ignored him and rushed forward.
“What are you doing? Get… into the forest!” Maveryck choked.
The staff glowed brighter. Its light pierced through the dark evening, making me shield my eyes. The sound of cracking ice echoed through the forest as a fissure opened in the frozen pond beneath us. I fell, but I managed to crawl to my knees.
Maveryck lost his grip on the staff as he pried the monster’s hands away from his neck. Ice broke apart, spraying freezing water into the air. The staff rolled over the ice toward me, its magical glow reflecting against the surface.
I crawled away from the staff, but its magic made a loud roaring wind fill the air. The world became a blur of swirling colors as the feel of the freezing ice beneath my hands disappeared.
“Maveryck,” I called, but I barely heard my own voice over the wind. My stomach lurched. I felt as if my body were flying. I knew this sensation—I’d experienced it before. The staff had opened a portal, and we’d been caught in it.
The screaming wind drowned out any other sounds. I wanted to clamp my hands over my ears but had no control over my body. I floated, weightless in an immense void, as my body was transported from one world to another.
Panicking, I felt the magic surrounding me. I’d never liked magic. It was too uncontrollable, too powerful. Slowly, the swirling void faded and the howling wind died as I landed in a heap on a stone floor. I sat up and opened my eyes, but dizziness made me close them again. My head throbbed, so I took several deep breaths as I waited for the lightheadedness to go away. When I opened my eyes again, I was at least able to focus without feeling as if I would faint.
Sounds of scuffling came from behind me.
I turned to find Maveryck passed out on the floor, blood smeared on his face and chest. A creature resembling the wraith crouched over the thief. Crossing from one world to another must have changed the monster’s appearance. Without its snout and reptilian scales, it now looked more human than animal, though its skin and hair were still dingy white, and its eyes still shone a pale shade of yellow. As the creature stood straight, I got the impression that the crossing had changed more than just its appearance. Intelligence glinted in its eyes as it clutched Maveryck’s staff to its chest. I could no longer think of this being as merely a monster. Although still an abomination, now, it—he—seemed human.
“Give the staff to me,” I demanded.
“It belongs to the silverwitch,” he hissed. “I shall take this back to her, and then she will kill you both!”
“Give it to me!” I rushed at him, knife raised, intent on slaying him the same way I’d killed his companion, but as soon as I reached him, the staff reignited with blinding light, making me falter.
I stumbled back, tripped over Maveryck’s body, and then for the third time in one day, fell unceremoniously on my backside.
Enveloped in the swirling magic, the wraith disappeared along with the staff.
I cursed, my voice echoing off the walls, and then I threw my knife across the room. It landed with a clatter that could’ve woken the dead. As I stared around the chamber, chills crept up my spine. Dim light shone from bulbs in the ceiling, illuminating the walls, which were composed of human skeletal remains—neatly stacked—as if they were bricks. While some rows were made of leg bones, the middle and topmost rows were built with skulls.
What sort of forsaken country had I come to?
Maveryck stirred, placing a hand on his forehead where blood matted his long brown hair. Anger sparked inside me as he rose onto his elbows. He’d gotten me into this mess. If he’d done his job and stolen the staff like a proper thief, we wouldn’t be in this situation. As it was, we were stuck in this awful dungeon, and the staff was gone.
It took a great deal of self-control not to slap him as he focused on me.
“Where… is the staff?” he asked, his voice a hoarse whisper.
“Gone,” I answered as I crossed my arms, hoping he saw my displeasure. “The beast took it and disappeared. Our quest to retrieve the staff has failed.”
He exhaled a long sigh as he rubbed his forehead. “Where are we?”
“I have no idea.”
He glanced around the room, his face revealing no emotion as he stared at the human remains stacked in neat rows along the walls, and then he looked at the strange bulbs glowing overhead. “We are in Earth Kingdom, most likely,” he said. “Where is Grace?”
“Your wolf? She was on land when I last saw her. I doubt she made it through the portal.”
He sighed. “I’m sure she is fine,” he mumbled to himself.
“Are you well enough to walk?” I asked. “We’ll have to escape this place and then somehow find the staff, if that’s at all possible.”
He looked at me, his eyes dark and brooding. Maveryck was a man I did not understand. He had too many secrets and he wielded magic—in my experience, those two traits created a deadly combination. Despite being handpicked by the sky king to retrieve the lost staff, he’d proven himself to be a poor thief. He was also far too pretty to be a practical fighter—his eyes were a deep silver with flecks of amethyst, and his full, seductive lips seemed to hold back a secret. While his appearance was almost pretty, he was also entirely male, and I had no doubt he could fight if he put in the effort, which he didn’t.
Although his ears looked human, he had the appearance of elven royalty with his squared jaw and high cheekbones. His refined clothing with jewels on his cuffs and collar, coupled with his long locks of dark hair and flawless, bronzed skin, made his pretty appearance borderline gorgeous.
“I blame this on you, thief.” I thrust my finger in his chest. “If you’d performed as the professional you claim to be, we wouldn’t be in this situation.”
“Might I remind you that I stole the staff without a single mishap? It wasn’t until we escaped the silverwitch’s castle that we were attacked. Truthfully, we’re lucky to be alive. Most who encounter a transformed goblin wraith don’t escape with their lives.”
“I fail to see how we’re lucky. We’re trapped in an unfamiliar world with no way of returning home. The staff is gone, and I have a suspicion that if we find it, we will not live long enough to return it to the sky king.”
He gave me a condescending smile. “Perhaps you will not live long enough,” he said as he stood, and without further explanation, he limped away from me and down a narrow hallway. I hesitated before following him. Navigating alone through a tomb like this would be suicide, so I reluctantly trailed him, barely keeping my temper in check.
“Where are you going?” I demanded.
“To find a way out of here.”
“What then?” I asked. “Where will we go? How will we find the staff? How will we return home? Have you the magic to create portals?”
He rounded on me, his jaw clenched. “First, and listen very clearly, I’m not in the habit of answering questions—not from you or anyone else. Second, I’m not your friend, nor am I trying to help you. For the time being, we share the same goal, so I will work with you in order to bring the staff back. After that, our partnership will be dissolved. I’ve never lost an object before, and it won’t happen now. If you impede me in any way, I will aid you no more.”
“Have you forgotten who my brother is? Should you return to Faythander without me, what do you think the king will do to you?”
“I don’t care.”
“You might care when you’re rotting in the Wult dungeons.”
“I doubt he would throw me in the dungeons for leaving you. In all honesty, I believe he would reward me.”
Now he’d pushed too far. I’d had an ill feeling about this man from the moment I’d met him, and I would tolerate his superior attitude no more. I shoved him against the wall, pressing the weight of my body against him, making the stacks of skeletal remains rattle behind us.
“Enough,” I hissed. “I will not tolerate being spoken to in such a manner.”
Instead of shying away as I expected, he clamped my wrists in his hands. He used no magic, but the calculated look he gave me sent shivers down my spine. “And I,” he said, “will also not tolerate being spoken to in such a manner.”
Fear made my heart beat wildly. Who is this man? It was at that moment I realized how very little I knew about him. Where did he come from? Where did he live? Who were his kin? His gaze locked with mine, and sparks of purple danced in the gray of his irises. I knew he possessed magic, but he’d led me to believe his powers were limited. Had he lied?
“Who are you?” I asked.
“No one important.”
“You’re sure about that?”
I wished my brother Kull were here. He had an uncanny ability to see through lies, a talent that would have been extremely useful.
“Arguing will get us nowhere,” Maveryck said, finally breaking away from my gaze. “Now, will you please release me so we can find a way out of this place?”
“Do you know how to get out?”
“I might… if I had the ability to walk.”
I kept him pinned to the wall a moment longer, not trusting him but unsure what to do about it. Finally, I backed away.
“Thank you,” he said, straightening his tunic as he walked away.
“Don’t get comfortable.” I retrieved my knife from its spot on the floor before following him through the narrow tunnels.
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Live long and dream on!