Granted, I have already published all of those books in the Proud Racer and Clobberpaws series about my dogs, but this little baby here is the product of a decade worth of writing, editing, revising, crying, hair-pulling, and re-writing. This is the thing that has kept me up at night. This is what I simultaneously feared and longed for most.
The Nature Walker Trilogy is the first part of what I hope will become a series of novels set in the world of Orana. Imagine Tolkien turned on his finely pointed ear. Imagine elves and dwarves and gnomes fighting side by side with giant humanoid cats. Imagine shapeshifters and magic and dragons. That only scratches the surface of what Orana has to offer, and what I am so pleased to be able to bring to my readers.
Wanderer is currently available here on Kindle, here on Amazon in paperback, and here on B&N Nook. If you have purchased a copy I would love to hear what you think, both in the comments here and in the reviews on whatever platform you prefer. I also have a Facebook page (as an author, y’all, can you believe it?) here, and you can leave me a review there as well.
And just for you, my faithful Lettuce-Heads (told you I was keeping it…now I’m hyphenating it!), here is an excerpt from Wanderer, the first in the trilogy. We have one wood elf that is basically afraid of her own shadow (Gin), another who hasn’t the good sense to have ANY fear (Elysiam), a dwarf who is the warrior everyone needs (Teeand), a gnome who is the warrior no one expects (Hackort, who hopefully has you on his list of people NOT to kill), and one of those humanoid felines I mentioned who has more than enough secrets to keep (Sathlir). What could POSSIBLY go wrong?
[Excerpt from Wanderer: Origin of the Nature Walker]
After what seemed like forever in the dripping, dark cave, the light at the exit that led to the Outlands finally came into view. Bellesea Keep, where they were headed, was the ruin of an ancient dragon stronghold, said to be inhabited by ghosts. It teetered on the edge, between the Outlands and the mountain home of the dwarves. Gin had kept up her silence as they walked; only making a sound when she tripped over one of the giant roots that surrounded the walls and floor of the cave. She blinked into the near blinding light that reflected off the alabaster snowcaps just past the Outlands. Suddenly Elysiam’s hand appeared in front of her face and Gin nearly fell over onto her sister-druid. “A bit of magical camouflage might be in order, don’t you think?” Elysiam said with a grin. Gin nodded.
“That and maybe some levitation and a bit of speed?” Gin asked. She began the chant in Elvish and soon each of them felt their feet lighten, ready to zip across the desert plain. Elysiam joined in just as Gin was finishing and soon the five of them faded from view. “Well done, my sister,” Gin whispered to Elysiam, who smiled. The group moved out into the boiling sun of the Outlands and made their way toward the imposing stone building just before the gentle slope of the mountains.
“That’s the entrance, there,” Sath pointed just before he realized that no one could see him. “The two stone structures with the statues in front of them. They are guarded by wyverns, but most of them cannot see as well as they can smell. If our invisibility drops, then…”
“If it drops? BAH! My spells don’t drop, Cat,” Elysiam snapped back at him.
“All I was going to say was that if it drops, run toward the entrance and don’t stop. Tee and I will take care of those minor dragonkind if needed,” Sath whispered back, making Gin jump. If he was imposing when she could see him, Sath was much scarier when she could not. She took a deep breath. “They walk upright though, and are bigger than I am. Don’t worry. Those things are nothing new to me and Teeand.” The dwarf chuckled.
“I can take them too!” Hackort wailed from the back of the pack. “You always forget me because I’m shorter than you two! Oof!” A giggle from Elysiam told the rest of the group that she had managed to kick the gnome even though she could not see him. “I’ll get you for that one, Elys, once I can see you.”
“How do we know if they can see us?” Gin said as they stopped directly opposite from the entrance to the ruin that had once been a magnificent castle. Wyverns stalked back and forth in front of the entrance, still adorned with carvings depicting the once powerful human empire that had dominated most of Orana. Giant statues of the conquerors, names long lost to history, stood like sentinels, ready to spring into battle against their enemies. Gin shuddered as she gazed up at the stone figures, and remembered seeing Dorlagar for the first time in Aynamaede.
“We don’t, until they do,” Teeand replied in a whisper. He sounded like he was right in her ear due to her inability to see him, and she backed up a step involuntarily.
“Oof, careful,” Sath whispered. Gin could feel his fur up against the back of her neck and she shuddered before moving away from him.
“Sorry,” she mumbled. She studied the guards at the door for a moment. “No sense in all of us having to waste energy on those wyverns is there?” she asked suddenly. “I mean there are two of us druids, so…” She broke into a run, straight up to the front door, only stopping when she nearly ran headlong into one of the wyverns, a large bluish-skinned one. Back at the group, the other four made various gasps and noises of disbelief and irritation at her apparent dash to the front door. Gin scampered back to where she thought the group was and skidded to a stop. “They can’t see us, I ran right up to them and nothing happened,” she said, grinning from ear to pointed ear.
“What in the Mother’s name was THAT, Gin?” Elysiam hissed as Gin hung her head. “Well, clearly they didn’t see you, so let’s head inside. This air is starting to make my hair frizz.” The five of them headed toward the entrance and slipped past the guards and through the massive stone doors. Once inside, they took a collective sigh of relief and as if on cue, their invisibility faded. “See, I told you, Cat, my invisibility spell doesn’t fade until it’s time,” Elysiam sneered. Chuckling, Sath took a swipe at her, missing her by a mile.
“Right, so where is this Gaelin?” he asked, looking over Teeand’s shoulder as the dwarf rolled out the map.
“Here, in the cells on the top floor,” Teeand answered. “Or at least that’s where Ailreden believes him to be, from…past experience.”
“Aye,” Sath said, his countenance grim. “We know right where those cells are, don’t we?”
“You’ve been a prisoner here before?” Gin asked, wide eyed.
“Aye, Gin,” Sath said. “It was during a darker time, wasn’t it Tee? That was before Elys here found us and dragged our sorry hides back to the Fabled Ones.”
“Not that long ago,” Elysiam said. “I came to get Tee out and got this fur ball in the deal.”
“You…brought Sath…?” Gin stared at Elysiam. It was too much to wrap her mind around.
“Ginny, you are so wonderfully naïve,” Elysiam said, a look of genuine affection on her face. “When I was exiled from Aynamaede, I broke all my ties to our home and its people…well, save you of course because you were kind to me. But then some time in another prison made me…shall we say more understanding of the flaws of others?” She looked each of them in the eye in turn. “And if you ever dare repeat what I’ve just said I will not only deny it; I will probably kill you.”
“Probably?” Hackort said with a chuckle, and then dodged the business end of the staff that Elysiam was carrying. “Right, lead on, Tee! We’ve got wyverns to kill and wizards to save!” His axe swung up into his tiny hand as a wide grin split his features. With a nod, Teeand led the way into the dark ruin of a castle.
At the end of the shadowy entryway, they turned a corner and found the entrance to the castle proper, the actual Bellesea Keep, bounded on all sides by a moat. Two larger wyverns, both red-scaled with golden eyes, stood on either side of the drawbridge. “Do we sneak past them too?” Gin whispered.
“No,” Sath replied, grinning as he noticed that she did not jump when he spoke. “We could but there are undead past them that pay no mind to our magic.”
“What about the moat?” Gin said. “Can we just swim around to a better entrance?”
“Well, even if our feline friend here liked the water, that moat doesn’t go all the way around,” Teeand said. “It is very slight, but we are actually moving downhill the further we move into the castle. It’s built into the ground and the moat just leads around to a wall.” He swung his own giant axe into his hand and gripped the handle, cracking his knuckles as he did so. “Unless anyone here speaks Elder Dragon, I think we have to fight our way in, flower.”
Gin found herself shrinking back to the rear of the group. All of the bravado she had before when she had charged at the wyverns guarding the door was gone now that she knew they could see her. She glanced over at Elysiam who had already unsheathed her scimitar and was clearly itching for the fight to come. Why hadn’t she been born like that? “I guess I’ll hang back and be the healer, then?”
“You’ll have to, Pet,” Teeand said. “We don’t have a proper cleric with us, but I trust you and your magic to keep us alive.” He leaned in close to her, indicating Sath with a nod of his head. “All of us.”
“Of course,” Gin stammered, flustered. He was part of the team and he was just as responsible for her safety as she was for his. Just then, Sath glanced around at her, the smile that parted his feline features spreading up and into his teal eyes. Gin looked away, speaking magical words that summoned Beau, her preternatural pony, and was soon sitting in the saddle, her hands fiddling with the horn as she always did when she was nervous.
“Right! Elys, if you will, use your magic to slow these things down so that Hack and I can have at them at our own pace?” Teeand said, returning his gaze to the target. “Then once we’ve engaged, Sath, your pet can join us and you can work your own magic to deter their attack.” Sath nodded and Elysiam moved to the front of the group. She looked back over her shoulder at her sister-druid, mouthing the words You got this, Gin, in Elvish, and then charged ahead of them.
“HEY!” Elysiam cried out as she ran toward the drawbridge. The guards sniffed the air and then looked down at her, snarling. “Come and get me if you’re not all talk!” She spoke ancient Elvish words as the two pounded across the drawbridge with heavy feet, turning to run only when her spell was complete. Though slowed down by magical tangling roots, one of the guards was quicker than she had expected and it managed to get a good swipe in on her before she could get clear. The hit sent her sprawling into the dirt in front of the advancing wyverns and sent Hackort surging out ahead of Teeand, his axe swinging madly over his head.