Secrets of the Lore Keepers. Tales of the Enchanted Wildwood Book 5. Each tale can be read as a stand-alone.
About the Book:
Only a Lore Keeper can prevent the rise of the goddess. . .
In ancient days, Lore Keepers were known for their power to keep evil at bay.
But Rae and her sister, the Lore Keepers of present day, have never faced a challenge.
Blessed with wealth and abundance, Rae has no enemies, no worries, and no concerns. Her utmost worry is balancing the upkeep of her family’s land with her creative work.
Until the night of the storm. . .
When an elven prince appears, Rae is fascinated and allured by his tales. Until he admits he comes with a dire warning: An evil force is coming to attack the Lore Keepers.
Rae and her sister must ward off the attack and use their magic to prevent the rise of the goddess. Only they don’t know how. . .
Faced with her greatest challenge, Rae must find the magic within herself to save her sister and the elven prince from a fate worst than death.
Chapter One Preview
The crack of thunder shattered the peaceful melody of birdsong. I dropped the basket of green herbs on the wooden table and dashed to the open window. Flinging back the white curtains, I stuck my head out and sniffed, inhaling a faint whiff of water and the vague, bitter spice of electricity. A jagged streak of lightning pierced the evening sky and my eyes went wide as saucers. I drew my head back inside and whirled, skirts flying.
“Maraini! Hurry! Get the lanterns, there’s a storm tonight!” I hollered at my sister.
Twisting my curls in a messy bun on top of my head, I lunged for the jars, almost tripping over the chicken that fluttered in the kitchen. Curses. I’d brought her inside to mend her torn wing. She’d escaped the henhouse and run into the paws of a fox. I’d meant to take her back to the henhouse, but I had forgotten. Now stray feathers dotted the floor, along with dust and dirt tracked in during my trips to and from the barn and garden. The table was covered with baskets of herbs, clothes that needed mending, and a pile of books. I sighed and tapped my foot with impatience. The house needed a proper cleaning, but I had no time, and Maraini was too deep in her ink and paper to bother with it. Stories and numbers were all that were in her head, and had always been, even before we took over the family business.
“Maraini!” I shouted again, tossing a blanket over one shoulder and placing the basket of jars by the door.
“Calm down, Rae, I’m coming,” she said in her smooth tone, as slow and deep as molasses. She appeared in the doorway, the picture of perfection while I hopped up and down, tugging on first one boot and then the other.
“Let’s go!” I wrenched open the front door and snatched up the jars. “You have the lanterns?”
Maraini laughed and shook her head, black braids flying. “I have everything, except the rain slickers. We’ll catch cold out there if we don’t cover up.”
“Ugh,” I groaned, halfway out the door and in the dried mud. Dust kicked up under my feet, for the ground was almost barren from lack of water. “Who cares, it’s the first rain this month and we can catch lightning! Lightning! Our luck as turned, you hear!”
I danced away, basket tucked under one arm as I twirled outside of our front step.
“Are you daft?” Maraini scolded as she pulled the door shut tight and hooked her arm through mine. She’d tossed a scarf over her head and hitched her skirts up with one hand. The lantern and two long poles were slung over her back. “Our luck has never turned bad, just because you don’t have all the unique items to sell at market doesn’t mean we have bad luck.”
“Oh posh.” I waved my finger in her face as best I could, since we walked side by side. “Just because you look at numbers all day doesn’t mean you know what luck is.”
Lightning lit up the sky enough for me to see the frown on my sister’s brown face. “We have plenty of money, if that’s what you mean.”
I gave an exasperated sigh. “Life isn’t all about money, what’s the fun in counting coin? Experience is what it’s all about, now come on. We don’t know how long the storm will last. I’ll race you to the meadow.”
I tugged my arm free and took off running while Maraini laughed. But I heard her pounding footsteps behind me and knew she enjoyed our risky gallivants as much as I did.
Five years, Maraini and I had run the family business. I was only a year younger than her, but full of vibrant life and energy, for pouring myself into the work helped me forget what happened. When I was only twenty, and Maraini, twenty-one, our parents left to travel and take a break from the busy life they’d led. They set us up young, and while we had wealth stored away—sacks of gold hidden in a secret hole near the garden—I still recalled their parting with remorse. They left the land, and had been killed. Whether by outlaws or the dangerous creatures that dwelled in the wildwood, we did not know.
We continued to run the family business without their guidance. For we had a reputation to keep in the nearby village, Capern, which bordered the enchanted wildwood. The wildwood was a place full of secrets, a place Maraini and I had been warned to stay away from all our lives. I was curious about it, but after what happened our parents, the spark of curiosity and the yearning for adventure died.
Besides, we had our hands full with the farm animals, the garden, plus the wondrous remedies and potions we could create out of herbs and roots.
Once we reached the middle of the meadow, a flat area with no trees about, we stopped, pulses thumping, to push the poles into the ground. No small feat since I’d forgotten the shovel, and the ground hadn’t been watered in weeks. I cursed, Maraini laughed and scolded, but finally we were ready, with the jars hooked on the end.
Maraini grabbed my hand, like we were five years old again, catching lightning with Papa for the first time. “Now stand back,” she whispered, fingers squeezing tight.
I couldn’t help but bounce on my toes as I watched the sky.
Maraini shook her head. “You never stand still, do you?”
“I can’t!” I squeaked. “It’s too exciting. We haven’t had lightning in forever!”
“Three months,” Maraini grumbled at my exaggeration.
“Whatever.” I bumped her shoulder. “What a treat for market day, they always sell the highest. What do you think people use them for?”
Maraini went still, too still. “Lightning is dangerous, and those who buy it often carry weapons. I assume they are dangerous people who use it for dangerous things.”
“Lighten up.” I giggled. “And don’t say dangerous again, you’ve used it three times in one sentence.”
Maraini frowned for half a second before breaking into a smile. She could never stay peeved with me for long.
A rumble of thunder shook the ground, and Maraini yanked me back. “The next one,” she whispered, her voice shaking with excitement.
Sure enough, lightning lit up the sky and sizzled up the poles, diving into our jars.
“Now!” I shouted as soon as it dissipated.
We leaped forward as one, spots of lightning still danced in my eyes as we capped lids on the jars and replaced them. I held mine up, a smile splitting my face, as always, awed at being able to capture lightning in a jar.
Maraini shielded her face and pointed across the meadow. “Rae?” her voice was low with concern. “What’s that?”
I followed her finger. In the shadows a shape lay on the ground, a shape I was sure hadn’t been there before.
Without waiting for a response, I took off running toward it, for there was something odd about the way it sprawled in a helpless heap.
“Careful!” Maraini shouted.
“It’s okay,” I tossed back over my shoulder, holding up the jar of lightning. “If it’s a wild beast, I have this and if it’s something else. . .”
Maraini caught up with me. “Don’t be foolish,” she cautioned. “You know that trouble comes with the storm.”
It was an old superstition, but that was not why I slowed my pace. My stomach clenched and my thoughts flew back to the woman, Sasha, who’d appeared in the market months ago. She’d touched my arm, her words shadowed with an omen: A storm is coming. And with the storm will come a change. Make sure your heart is open to it. . .
A shiver went down my spine at the memory, although there had been many storms since there. Still, it was an admonition to let go of my impulsiveness, slow down, use my head more and my mouth less. My fingers itched to return to the lightning rods as another boom of thunder rocked the meadow. The black storm clouds did nothing to further display the hump that lay in the grass, but when another burst of lightning broke across the sky, eerily lighting it up for mere seconds, I saw the hump clearly.
My hand flew to my throat, and I gasped. It was a man, or at least what looked like a man. He lay headlong on his stomach, as though he’d been crawling and his strength finally gave out. In the quick blink of an instance I saw one of his hands was curled around grass, and the other was under him, pressed against his stomach where a patch of darkness spread. Blood? I swallowed hard.
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