Preview Excerpt: Scorch

Lena, of House Calder

When Draoch opened his eyes, he found that they were in a human outpost, most likely the one at the southernmost coast. He could hear the sea birds calling and smell the saltiness of the air. Humans surrounded them. “Can they see us?” he whispered.

“No, not until I allow it.” Sephine watched the humans walking the streets of the outpost, moving from building to building, as though she had never seen them before. “Fascinating creatures,” Sephine whispered. “Their lives are so short, and yet they do not despair.”

“They do not despair,” a lilting female voice responded from across the street, “because they have me. What are you doing so far south, Sephine?” Draoch scanned the area for the source of the voice, and finally followed Sephine’s gaze over to a human woman who was looking at them with amusement. She was no mere human though – that was clear. Taller than the rest of them by quite a bit, she had the same marble-looking skin as Sephine, but she was curvier than the All-Mother, who was willowy and lithe. Her ginger curls framed her face from which bright sapphire eyes stared back at Draoch. “Who is this little one that clings to you like a child?”

“Isona,” Sephine said, smiling. Draoch was certain that the smile was nowhere near genuine. “This is the Nature Walker, Draoch of the Trees.”

“Ah, your pet druid. He looks afraid.”

“He can hear you, you know,” Draoch retorted, and then fell silent. His nerves were raw, but that was still no excuse for speaking to this deity, the Goddess of Love, with such an impertinent tone. To his great relief, Isona burst into laughter that reminded him of the tinkling sound of bells. He could not help but smile in response.

“He has had a long and tiring journey to reach you today, Isona, as have I.” Draoch thought that he detected a hint of jealousy in Sephine’s voice as she glanced at him. He shook off the grin he wore along with the notion as ridiculous. “We are here because I understand there is support for the elves here in the outpost. We have come to seek out that support.”

“Aye, there is a small group of Sisters from my Temple that want to aid the cause of the elves. I have tried to talk them out of it, but they will not listen to me,” Isona responded as she twirled a lock of her flaming hair around her fingers. “I have been absent from them of late and I think they have been left to their own devices to find something to do.”

“Why have you been absent?” Sephine asked. “Off on another mission of mercy, I would imagine?”

“Sephine, if you want the help of my Sisters, I would suggest that you remember yourself in my presence,” Isona warned, her countenance darkening. The entire conversation was fascinating to Draoch. He knew that there were other gods besides just Sephine and Kildir and that they could communicate with each other – but he had not expected that they would be so similar to his own kind in how they interacted. They were like siblings, quarreling over their toys. He swallowed hard. He and his fellows were their toys.

“How may I serve, Mother?” he asked, hoping to bring their attention back to the pressing matter of the war. Sephine’s hand closed around his arm and he could feel her presence slip into his mind.

Do as Isona asks. Regardless of how it sounds or what it is, Draoch, I am trusting you to keep her occupied while I seek out the human that is leading the group that wants to help our side. Draoch nodded and then looked up at his goddess. She was staring intently at Isona, and the other goddess seemed to be holding Sephine’s gaze. 

“Come with me, little druid,” Isona said finally, holding out a hand to Draoch. “Your Mother wishes you to see my temple, most likely because she wants you to build her one of her own.” With a glance over his shoulder and a nod from Sephine, Draoch took Isona’s hand and she led him through the streets. 

Be strong, my Draoch, do as she commands. I will not leave you here, I swear it. Draoch squared his shoulders and followed Isona, who was already rattling off a long list of her own accomplishments. He thought about how Sephine owed him one for this – and felt her amusement warm his heart. it was going to be a long day.