Today’s Featured Author – Susan Leigh Noble

Today, I am featuring myself as my featured author. I have done this in the past when I have had an author flake out and not turn in their author interview or book excerpt. This time that isn’t the case. I just failed to fill this spot, but don’t worry, I have the rest of July filled up. August isn’t so lucky so if you are an author (self published or traditionally published, any genre) and would like to be featured on my blog in August or beyond, I urge you to contact me.

Typically when I have been the Featured Author, I have done book excerpts but today I have decided to answer some of my author interview questions. If you would like to take a look at my books, click here to find links to book excerpts from all four of my full-length novels and my short story.

Interview

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I wear many hats. I am a blogger on this website where I post four times a week. I am a fantasy author with four full-length novel and a short story published. I am currently working on another fantasy full-length novel due out in 2018.

I am a mother to two children – Lexie and Jase. I am an officer on the Parent-Teacher Associations for both their schools. I am also a wife and animal wrangler (we have 3 cats and 2 dogs). My husband and I have been married for twenty-two years. I do the bookkeeping for his small law firm. I am sure I am forgetting something else that I do but as you can see, I am one busy lady!

Where were you born and where do you call home?

I was born in Maine. My dad was in the Air Force so we moved around quite a bit until I was twelve when we settled in Albuquerque, New Mexico. I attended high school and college in New Mexico before marrying my husband and moving to Texas. We have lived in Lubbock, Brownsville and finally now San Antonio where we have lived for the past fifteen years. I feel pretty confident that we will be calling San Antonio home for many, many more years.

Do you write full-time? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?

As you can see from above, I certainly am not a full-time author. I am busy so I have to squeeze in writing when I can. That might mean I spend an hour (or just a few minutes) here or there. It means sometimes I am writing at home and sometimes I am using my iPad while I am taking the kids to their activities.

Do you outline your books or just start writing?

I typically do what is called headlight outlining. That is where you plan out a few moves ahead at a time. This allows for greater flexibility than outlining the whole novel but doesn’t leave me directionless. It saves me from staring at a blank page and also cuts down on rewriting in subsequent drafts which can happen if you write without planning.

Why did you choose to write fantasy novels?

I love magic and dragons so it just seemed natural to pick a genre that incorporates those two elements.

Have you started your next project? If so, can you share a little bit about your next book?

Yes, I have just completed the first draft of my next book Blood Bond. It is a story about a man (Soren) whose life changes drastically when he meets a dragon (Dex) and becomes “linked” to him. I came up with the idea for the book because I like dragons. In fact, all of my books so far have contained a dragon. The dragons were really a big part of The Elemental trilogy, and I wanted to write another book where dragons played a crucial part of the story. In this one, man and dragon have broken off all communication until an approaching army threatens both which forces them to work together again.

Please tell us about your current release.

My last release, The Heir to Alexandria, begins with Alista, a young woman searching for her parents who abandoned her at birth. She is a bit naive and trusting but also harbors magic that she has kept secret. It is this magic that leads her to be chosen to be tested as the possible heir to the powerful Alexandria family who was murdered many years ago. There is a rumor that the youngest daughter survived and it is her descendants that the Kings are searching for. While the Kings believe the heir will restore peace to their troubled kingdoms, there are others who will do anything to stop the testing and possible return of the heir to Alexandria.

Is there a specific place in the house (or out of the house) that you like to write?

I do most of my writing in my office. Sometime if I want a change of pace, I bring out my laptop and write either on my bed or the couch. With my busy life, I can write anywhere.

Tell us a random fact about you that we never would have guessed.

I have a black belt in Aikido.

Book Blurb

Believed the descendants of the Gods themselves,
The Alexandria line ensured peace,
Until they were brutally murdered.
But rumor spread a maid escaped with the youngest daughter.

Now as the world rushes toward a period of unrest, the nations’ Kings continue their 200-year-long-search for the Heir to Alexandria – the one person who can bring peace and stability through divine power.

Alista has her own search – for the parents who abandoned her as a baby years ago. When her only lead proves to be a dead end, she heads to the capital with a reluctant escort. Grayson is just following his aunt’s order, but he would rather be on one of his solitary scouting missions for the Landra Guard. However, when Alista unintentionally curses a guard in front of the King’s court, everything changes for both of them.

Now forced to travel to Covington for testing, danger lurks at every turn as a secret society strives to prevent the return of the Alexandria line. Are Alista’s visions of the future enough to save herself and those traveling with her?

About the Author 

Susan  Leigh Noble has always loved dragons and magic so it is no wonder that she became an author of fantasy novels. As a cat lover, she also had to throw in a telepathic cat to the mix in her The Elemental trilogy as her short story, The Search, which features Tosh, one of the main characters from the trilogy. She published a stand-alone novel, The Heir to Alexandria, 2015, and just finished the first draft of her latest book, Blood Bond.

In addition to writing, Susan spends her days taking care of her two children, three cats, two dogs and husband in San Antonio, Texas.

You can purchase her books on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords and anywhere e-books are sold.

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Today’s Featured Author – Susan Leigh Noble

Yes – today I am the featured author on my own blog. So welcome to me! Actually I had an author flake out on me so instead of scrambling to find a replacement I decided to share an excerpt from The Heir to Alexandria. (You can read the first chapter here or check out another exciting excerpt here.)

Excerpt

Alista gasped, her eyes flying open. She pressed her hand to her chest as if to slow her pounding heart. The room was dark. The high window allowed in a sliver of light. As her eyes adjusted to the dim light, she began to recognize the room she was assigned in Aberdeen. The sound of Raynor’s heavy breathing comforted her.

It had only been a nightmare, she reassured herself. But it felt so real. It had been a cool evening. She had rushed forward as someone screamed. The scream was that of a woman. In the woods, she saw someone stabbed in the back. The woman perhaps? She didn’t know as she was grabbed from behind and dragged away. The last thing she remembered was the dragon, its pale body diving toward the ground, toward her.

Alista closed her eyes. She couldn’t shake the uneasy feeling that had settled over her. Sighing, she rolled over, trying to push the dream from her mind. Her eyes popped open as she heard a faint creak. Red tinted her vision as she saw a dark figure beside her bed. The figure raised a knife high above her. Someone nearby began chanting softly.

Alista screamed. She rolled off the bed. The knife swished down, missing her by inches. As she fell to the floor, she struck the man’s legs. He stumbled backward.

Raynor leapt out of his bed. She saw his dark frame quickly cross the small room. He grabbed the man’s shoulder, whirling him around. Alista sat up. The dark figure pulled back his arm to ram the knife into Raynor’s gut. Alista rolled across the floor, crashing into the man’s legs. He tumbled onto the floor, dropping the knife. She scrambled back onto the bed, reaching for the lantern on the table beside the cot.

Footsteps pounded in the hall. The door slammed open. Alista lit the candle as Grayson burst into the room. Her attacker scrambled to his feet and ran straight at Grayson, slamming him into the wall before disappearing down the hall. She heard someone shout at the man and more retreating footsteps.

Now that the room was lit, she saw the other man who had been chanting at the edge of her bed. He still stood there, a surprised expression on his face. He looked at her. Their eyes locked for a second before he dashed for the door. Grayson grabbed his shoulder. He spun him, slamming him into the wall. The man struggled as Grayson pressed his arm against the man’s chest.

“Who are you? What are you doing here?” he demanded.

The man jerked his head away, avoiding Grayson’s gaze. A bead of sweat trickled down his face.

“We cannot let this monstrosity happen. By the name of the all-knowing Hoc, the redhead must die,” he muttered as he pulled something from his pouch.

“Stop him,” Raynor yelled, leaping forward.

The man plunged the knife into his side. He gasped, his eyes bulging. A strangled sound escaped his lips before his body went limp. With a look of disgust on his face, Grayson released him. The man slid down the wall, landing in a heap on the floor. Grayson pulled the knife from his side. He lifted the blood-drenched blade to his nose and sniffed.

“Poisoned?” Raynor asked.

Grayson nodded. “Dragon’s bane.”

Footsteps sounded in the hall. Suddenly, Sanders appeared in the doorway. Winded, he leaned against the doorframe. His face was already beginning to bruise.

“The other one?” Grayson asked.

Sanders shook his head. “I didn’t expect him. He got a good hit in before taking off down the hall. Asher went after him.”

“Guard Alista,” he ordered as he ran out the door.

Raynor crossed the room to her. “Are you all right?” he murmured as he pulled her into his arms.

Alista nodded, afraid to speak. Her heart raced from the scare, but as she closed her eyes, it wasn’t the knife coming toward her that she saw. It was the look of contempt on the face of the man who had been chanting. The coldness of his eyes would stay with her for a long while.

Book Blurb

HeirAlexandria_ebookcoverBelieved the descendants of the Gods themselves,

The Alexandria line ensured peace,

Until they were brutally murdered.

But rumor spread a maid escaped with the youngest daughter.

Now as the world rushes toward a period of unrest, the nations’ Kings continue their 200-year-long-search for the Heir to Alexandria – the one person who can bring peace and stability through divine power.

Alista has her own search – for the parents who abandoned her as a baby years ago. When her only lead proves to be a dead end, she heads to the capital with a reluctant escort. Grayson is just following his aunt’s order, but he would rather be on one of his solitary scouting missions for the Landra Guard. However, when Alista unintentionally curses a guard in front of the King’s court, everything changes for both of them.

Now forced to travel to Covington for testing, danger lurks at every turn as a secret society strives to prevent the return of the Alexandria line. Are Alista’s visions of the future enough to save herself and those traveling with her?

You can purchase The Heir to Alexandria on Amazon, Smashwords or Barnes and Noble.

Book Sale to celebrate my 3 year blog anniversary

Happy Anniversary!

Three years ago to the day, I began this blog to discuss a few things that are important to me – parenting, writing and publishing.

To read my very first post and why I choose the name “Into Another World,” click here.

I have covered so many topics and easily could spend this time rehashing what I write about or how this blog has changed, but I figure you don’t want to hear about that. If you are new to my blog, I encourage you to click on the topics on the left and scroll through some of my posts. I hope that you find something of interest.

All I can say on this anniversary is that I love writing on this blog and plan to continue for hopefully many more years.

If any of you have suggestions for topics related to writing fiction, publishing or marketing a novel, please suggest away in the comments below.

And if you are an author and want to be featured on my blog – I have had over 175 authors on my blog either in my Featured Author spot or as part of a blog tour or new book release promo – then please contact me.

Now on to the book sale….

SummonedFINALSummoned

Regular price – $2.99

Until August 7th  – 99 cents!

You can purchase it on Smashwords (all e-book formats – use Coupon Code MQ54A) or Amazon.

box setThe Elemental Box Set

Regular Price – $5.99

Until August 7th – $2.99

You can purchase it on Smashwords (all e-book formats – use Coupon Code SU26X) or Amazon.

HeirAlexandria_ebookcoverThe Heir to Alexandria

Regular Price – $2.99

Until August 7th – 99 cents!

You can purchase it on Smashwords (all e-book formats – use Coupon Code ML49Y ) or Amazon.

 

The Heir to Alexandria now available at all e-book retailers

In January, I released my novel, The Heir to Alexandria, on Amazon as part of their KDP Select program. That meant through the end of April, it was only available on Amazon. (See the results of my 3 month trial of KDP Select here.)

But now, you can buy The Heir to Alexandria for $2.99 at most e-book retailers.

Barnes & Noble         Kobo Store            Smashwords (all e-reader formats)            Amazon 

The Heir to Alexandria

HeirAlexandria_ebookcover Believed the descendants of the Gods themselves,

The Alexandria line ensured peace,

Until they were brutally murdered.

But rumor spread a maid escaped with the youngest daughter.

Now as the world rushes toward a period of unrest, the nations’ Kings continue their 200-year-long-search for the Heir to Alexandria – the one person who can bring peace and stability through divine power.

Alista has her own search – for the parents who abandoned her as a baby years ago. When her only lead proves to be a dead end, she heads to the capital with a reluctant escort. Grayson is just following his aunt’s order, but he would rather be on one of his solitary scouting missions for the Landra Guard. However, when Alista unintentionally curses a guard in front of the King’s court, everything changes for both of them.

Now forced to travel to Covington for testing, danger lurks at every turn as a secret society strives to prevent the return of the Alexandria line. Are Alista’s visions of the future enough to save herself and those traveling with her?

Excerpt – Chapter One

The rough hand pressed down over her mouth. Alista’s eyes flew open. With the moonlight behind the large figure, she couldn’t make out any details of the man hunched above her. But his foul breath washed over her making her stomach flop. He rolled her onto her back, pinning one arm to the ground.

The vision hit as Alista struggled to reach her knife hidden under her bedroll. She saw the man’s sinister smile as he attacked a woman. The images of his past came fast. She felt the fear of his victims, the pain he bestowed on them and his pleasure at his actions. Her stomach turned. A wave of nausea swept over her as the vision ended.

The man climbed on top of her, pinning her to the ground. He moved his hand away from her mouth, caressing her jaw with his coarse fingers. Alista heard movement in the camp, but the man didn’t turn. The sound of someone rifling through her bag reached her as her fingers found the cool handle of her dagger.

A scream pierced the cool night air.

The man on top of her twisted around to look behind him. Alista took the moment of distraction to pull out the knife. She jabbed it forward, sinking it into the man’s belly. He turned to face her, a gasp escaping his lips. Shaking, Alista wiggled out from under him. The man clutched at the blood gushing from his stomach. Her own stomach lurched at what she had done. She scooted away as the man staggered to his feet.

She tore her eyes from him to the large wolf standing on the other side of the dying fire. Its jaws were still clenched on the throat of a second intruder. The wolf’s yellow eyes briefly met hers and then flickered to the man beside her. The wolf released its hold on the dead man’s neck. It leapt toward the wounded man, knocking him to the ground.

Crack!

Alista gasped as she heard the wood break. The man pushed at the wolf as the beast sunk its teeth into his neck. She barely heard the gurgling sound as she reached forward and pulled the broken basket from beneath him. She cradled it in her arms. Tears streamed down her face. What once had been a beautiful, handcrafted basket was now nothing but a heap of wood fragments.

She looked up to see the wolf watching her. In the moonlight, she could see the two lifeless bodies. An image from her vision flashed before her eyes, and she knew she was lucky to be alive. The men had no intention of only robbing her camp. She shuddered. The wolf had saved her again.

“Thank you,” she murmured as the wolf disappeared into the forest.

She sat the basket down and reached for her bedroll. She began to roll it. There was no way she could stay here tonight. Quickly, she put away her supplies that had been dumped on the ground. She glanced at the body lying next to them. She couldn’t bring herself to look at his torn throat. She kicked dirt onto the dying fire until the flames disappeared. In the moonlight, she surveyed the camp one more time before hefting the pack onto her back. With one last glance at the bodies, she began walking.

In the back of her mind, she could hear Raynor warning her that traveling at night was never a good idea. It wasn’t because she couldn’t see the roots and rocks on the trail. It was the Night Stalkers. Alista shuddered. She was fortunate to never have seen one. But she couldn’t forget Raynor’s brush with the huge bug-like creatures. He told the story many times.

Raynor had been foolish enough to be traveling at night, believing the extraordinary clear evening with its bright moonlight would keep the Night Stalkers away. He had not seen the two black creatures until they were almost upon him. Their heads would have come up to the middle of his chest if he had stopped to allow one near him. As it was, he ran as soon as he saw them but with their long, thin legs, the Night Stalkers covered the ground quickly. He swore he felt one of them touch his back as he ran into the meadow. At the top of the hill, he had thought he had lost them but one of them sprang through the air. He barely escaped.

Fire was the only thing the Night Stalkers feared. Alista recalled hanging on Raynor’s every word as he described running toward the forest. He fumbled for his fire rod in his waist pouch. When he entered the woods, he paused to throw down the special mix of fire starter he carried. Scraping his knife across the fire rod, he ignited a branch. He used his torch to drive the Night Stalkers back. Even now, she felt the knot in the pit of her stomach at his narrow escape.

Her mind was so preoccupied by the thought of Night Stalkers that she was to the middle of the meadow before she saw the tiny winged figures. She stopped, her mouth dropping open. She hadn’t believed fairies existed.

Daintily, the small-winged men and women danced around in a circle. The women wore flower petals as dresses and swung little lanterns as their wings beat softly. Some men played pipes or harps while others clapped in time to the music. Then one of the fairies saw her and motioned her forward.

Without a thought, Alista obeyed. The fairies surrounded her. She knelt in the soft grass as the fairies began their dance again. They circled around her. In turn, they bowed or curtsied. She nodded to each. Her eyes grew heavy. She wiggled the pack off her back. Using it for a pillow, she laid down. The fairies continued to dance around her, their music lulling her to sleep.

#Free Book Alert – THE HEIR TO ALEXANDRIA is free 4/21 to 4/23

This Tuesday through Thursday, you can download my fantasy novel, The Heir to Alexandria, for FREE!

Available only at Amazon.

Don’t have a Kindle? No problem. Download the Kindle App for free here.

The Heir to Alexandria: Book Description

HeirAlexandria_ebookcoverBelieved the descendants of the Gods themselves,
The Alexandria line ensured peace,
Until they were brutally murdered.
But rumor spread a maid escaped with the youngest daughter.

Now as the world rushes toward a period of unrest, the nations’ Kings continue their 200-year-long-search for the Heir to Alexandria – the one person who can bring peace and stability through divine power.

Alista has her own search – for the parents who abandoned her as a baby years ago. When her only lead proves to be a dead end, she heads to the capital with a reluctant escort. Grayson is just following his aunt’s order, but he would rather be on one of his solitary scouting missions for the Landra Guard. However, when Alista unintentionally curses a guard in front of the King’s court, everything changes for both of them.

Now forced to travel to Covington for testing, danger lurks at every turn as a secret society strives to prevent the return of the Alexandria line. Are Alista’s visions of the future enough to save herself and those traveling with her?

Today’s Featured Author: Susan Leigh Noble

Yes – today I am the featured author on my own blog. So welcome to me! Actually I had an author reschedule at the last moment so I thought it was a good time to put another excerpt out from my new release The Heir to Alexandria.

Excerpt

Grayson returned to the cabin, circling it until he came to the open window. He peered in. A tall thin man stood before a woman lying on a cot. Her red hair was spread out over the grey blanket. It took him a moment to realize the woman was Alista. The man bent over her. Grayson couldn’t see what he was doing. He didn’t wait to find out. He ran to the front door as he drew his sword. The door wouldn’t budge. He kicked it, causing it to fly open.

The man swung around. “Who are you?”

“Step away from her.”

Grayson entered. He noted the bottles lining the tables and assumed he had found Thorin. The man stepped away from the bed with his eyes on Grayson’s sword. They circled each other. When he got close to the cot, Grayson glanced down. Relief washed over him when he saw Alista breathing.

“What did you do to her?”

“I don’t understand. Who are you?” Thorin stepped back, bumping against the table.

“She came for the Astraglan extract. Where is it?”

The man reached into his pocket and pulled out a red vial. He thrust it toward Grayson. “Take it.”

As he reached for the bottle, Thorin swung a knife at Grayson. He barely had time to twist away. As he did so, he ripped the bottle from the man’s hand. He kicked out, sending Thorin tumbling backward.

“Get out! Take it and get out,” Thorin shouted as he got up. “The girl stays here.”

Thorin rushed toward him, jumping away as Grayson swung his sword. He grabbed a box, flinging its powder at Grayson. The yellow dust burned his eyes. He rubbed them with one hand as he swung his sword blindly. He could hear Thorin moving. Then he saw a blurred image coming toward him an instant before the man rammed into him. He fell backwards, hitting the ground hard. His sword fell, sliding across the floor. Thorin punched him in the face.

“You will not take her!”

Grayson blinked, trying to clear his vision. Thorin grabbed his shirt and pulled Grayson toward the door. Grayson grabbed one of the table legs as he gripped Thorin’s hand that held his shirt. He twisted it. Thorin yelled, releasing his hold on Grayson. From the floor, he kicked upward, striking the man in the stomach. Thorin fell to the ground as Grayson scrambled to his feet. He snatched a cup from the table, flinging the contents onto the still form of Alista. She moved, muttering as she struggled to open her eyes.

“What did you give her?” he asked as he advanced on Thorin.

The man scrambled backwards. Grayson grabbed his shirt and pulled him to his feet. He rammed him into the wall beside the door, pressing his forearm into Thorin’s chest.

“Answer me!”

Thorin stared at him. Grayson smashed him into the wall again.

“It…it is something to relax her.” Thorin glanced at the cot. “The first dose always knocks them out.” He smirked. “But if taken often, it makes them compliant.”

Grayson slammed him into the wall again. Thorin’s head cracked loudly against it. The man drooped and Grayson let go, allowing him to slide to the floor. He swung around. Alista was sitting at the edge of the cot, swaying slightly. He grabbed her arm and pulled her into a standing position. She looked at him with a bemused expression on her face.

“Come on.”

He led her to the door, pausing only to pick up his sword. Alista stumbled slightly. He thought for an instant he would have to carry her. But then she righted herself and began walking with more confidence. They hurried toward the trees.

“Wait! No! Bring her back!”

“Keep going,” he said to Alista.

He didn’t wait for a response. He turned to face Thorin. The man stumbled forward, a knife in his hand.

“Grayson!”

He glanced back. Alista was on her hands and knees. She struggled to rise, clearly still dazed by the drug Thorin had given her. Grayson dashed to her side. He turned back as he heard a rustling from the nearby bushes. A large wolf entered the clearing. The creature didn’t look at him. Its eyes were on Thorin. The wolf bared its teeth, growling. Slowly, the beast advanced until it blocked Thorin’s access to them.

Grayson helped her to her feet. He ushered her into the forest. A scream broke through the air. He paused. For a moment, he was tempted to go back and see what had happened. The next scream cut off abruptly, and Grayson led Alista away.

Book Blurb

HeirAlexandria_ebookcoverBelieved the descendants of the Gods themselves,

The Alexandria line ensured peace,

Until they were brutally murdered.

But rumor spread a maid escaped with the youngest daughter.

Now as the world rushes toward a period of unrest, the nations’ Kings continue their 200-year-long-search for the Heir to Alexandria – the one person who can bring peace and stability through divine power.

Alista has her own search – for the parents who abandoned her as a baby years ago. When her only lead proves to be a dead end, she heads to the capital with a reluctant escort. Grayson is just following his aunt’s order, but he would rather be on one of his solitary scouting missions for the Landra Guard. However, when Alista unintentionally curses a guard in front of the King’s court, everything changes for both of them.

Now forced to travel to Covington for testing, danger lurks at every turn as a secret society strives to prevent the return of the Alexandria line. Are Alista’s visions of the future enough to save herself and those traveling with her?

You can purchase The Heir to Alexandria on Amazon.

 

#NewRelease – THE HEIR TO ALEXANDRIA by Susan Leigh Noble

Release day is finally here! Now available only on Amazon for just $2.99 is my latest novel The Heir to Alexandria.

Book Blurb

HeirAlexandria_ebookcoverBelieved the descendants of the Gods themselves,

The Alexandria line ensured peace,

Until they were brutally murdered.

But rumor spread a maid escaped with the youngest daughter.

Now as the world rushes toward a period of unrest, the nations’ Kings continue their 200-year-long-search for the Heir to Alexandria – the one person who can bring peace and stability through divine power.

Alista has her own search – for the parents who abandoned her as a baby years ago. When her only lead proves to be a dead end, she heads to the capital with a reluctant escort. Grayson is just following his aunt’s order, but he would rather be on one of his solitary scouting missions for the Landra Guard. However, when Alista unintentionally curses a guard in front of the King’s court, everything changes for both of them.

Now forced to travel to Covington for testing, danger lurks at every turn as a secret society strives to prevent the return of the Alexandria line. Are Alista’s visions of the future enough to save herself and those traveling with her?

Excerpt – Chapter One

The rough hand pressed down over her mouth. Alista’s eyes flew open. With the moonlight behind the large figure, she couldn’t make out any details of the man hunched above her. But his foul breath washed over her making her stomach flop. He rolled her onto her back, pinning one arm to the ground.

The vision hit as Alista struggled to reach her knife hidden under her bedroll. She saw the man’s sinister smile as he attacked a woman. The images of his past came fast. She felt the fear of his victims, the pain he bestowed on them and his pleasure at his actions. Her stomach turned. A wave of nausea swept over her as the vision ended.

The man climbed on top of her, pinning her to the ground. He moved his hand away from her mouth, caressing her jaw with his coarse fingers. Alista heard movement in the camp, but the man didn’t turn. The sound of someone rifling through her bag reached her as her fingers found the cool handle of her dagger.

A scream pierced the cool night air.

The man on top of her twisted around to look behind him. Alista took the moment of distraction to pull out the knife. She jabbed it forward, sinking it into the man’s belly. He turned to face her, a gasp escaping his lips. Shaking, Alista wiggled out from under him. The man clutched at the blood gushing from his stomach. Her own stomach lurched at what she had done. She scooted away as the man staggered to his feet.

She tore her eyes from him to the large wolf standing on the other side of the dying fire. Its jaws were still clenched on the throat of a second intruder. The wolf’s yellow eyes briefly met hers and then flickered to the man beside her. The wolf released its hold on the dead man’s neck. It leapt toward the wounded man, knocking him to the ground.

Crack!

Alista gasped as she heard the wood break. The man pushed at the wolf as the beast sunk its teeth into his neck. She barely heard the gurgling sound as she reached forward and pulled the broken basket from beneath him. She cradled it in her arms. Tears streamed down her face. What once had been a beautiful, handcrafted basket was now nothing but a heap of wood fragments.

She looked up to see the wolf watching her. In the moonlight, she could see the two lifeless bodies. An image from her vision flashed before her eyes, and she knew she was lucky to be alive. The men had no intention of only robbing her camp. She shuddered. The wolf had saved her again.

“Thank you,” she murmured as the wolf disappeared into the forest.

She sat the basket down and reached for her bedroll. She began to roll it. There was no way she could stay here tonight. Quickly, she put away her supplies that had been dumped on the ground. She glanced at the body lying next to them. She couldn’t bring herself to look at his torn throat. She kicked dirt onto the dying fire until the flames disappeared. In the moonlight, she surveyed the camp one more time before hefting the pack onto her back. With one last glance at the bodies, she began walking.

In the back of her mind, she could hear Raynor warning her that traveling at night was never a good idea. It wasn’t because she couldn’t see the roots and rocks on the trail. It was the Night Stalkers. Alista shuddered. She was fortunate to never have seen one. But she couldn’t forget Raynor’s brush with the huge bug-like creatures. He told the story many times.

Raynor had been foolish enough to be traveling at night, believing the extraordinary clear evening with its bright moonlight would keep the Night Stalkers away. He had not seen the two black creatures until they were almost upon him. Their heads would have come up to the middle of his chest if he had stopped to allow one near him. As it was, he ran as soon as he saw them but with their long, thin legs, the Night Stalkers covered the ground quickly. He swore he felt one of them touch his back as he ran into the meadow. At the top of the hill, he had thought he had lost them but one of them sprang through the air. He barely escaped.

Fire was the only thing the Night Stalkers feared. Alista recalled hanging on Raynor’s every word as he described running toward the forest. He fumbled for his fire rod in his waist pouch. When he entered the woods, he paused to throw down the special mix of fire starter he carried. Scraping his knife across the fire rod, he ignited a branch. He used his torch to drive the Night Stalkers back. Even now, she felt the knot in the pit of her stomach at his narrow escape.

Her mind was so preoccupied by the thought of Night Stalkers that she was to the middle of the meadow before she saw the tiny winged figures. She stopped, her mouth dropping open. She hadn’t believed fairies existed.

Daintily, the small-winged men and women danced around in a circle. The women wore flower petals as dresses and swung little lanterns as their wings beat softly. Some men played pipes or harps while others clapped in time to the music. Then one of the fairies saw her and motioned her forward.

Without a thought, Alista obeyed. The fairies surrounded her. She knelt in the soft grass as the fairies began their dance again. They circled around her. In turn, they bowed or curtsied. She nodded to each. Her eyes grew heavy. She wiggled the pack off her back. Using it for a pillow, she laid down. The fairies continued to dance around her, their music lulling her to sleep.

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