Saturday, June 11, 2011

Her Warrior Heart Excerpt #2

Her Warrior Heart available now from Resplendence Publishing

The snow started up making her path difficult to see. Raina ignored the feeling of needles stabbing up her leg and carried on. She thought of the queen and how worried she must be, counting on a woman she’d only heard about to save her husband and the kingdom. They were bonded by love and the fear of losing it.

A sob caught in her throat. She couldn’t lose Torin now. If she did lose him, the blame rested on her shoulders. He wouldn’t be near death if she hadn’t chosen him to be with her. It was her foolish idea to stop and make camp. And it was her injury that sent Torin out alone and into the sorceress’ trap. Raina wished she’d taken the poison herself.

Her mind locked on the poison.

A memory about it filtered through, one more detailed than her mother telling her to never touch it. A memory outlining how slowly it affected a person, and that filled her with hope.

In all her healing travels, she’d never had to choose between two lives. Granted she’d never had feelings for someone she healed. Love had gone and changed all the rules. And she did love him. There’d be no more denying or talking herself out of the way she felt. She’d tell him the moment she saw him and not worry about the repercussions. If he left she’d understand over time. At least she’d have been honest. That had to be worth the risk.

A plump pheasant swooped down to the ground a short ways ahead. Her luck was changing. She started after it and dove on it before it got away. Raina plucked the feathers with hurried precision and cut it the way Torin had shown her. She did a quick check of the inside to make sure it looked healthy and built a small fire using scattered twigs found in the snow. Her stomach rumbled while she bound the bird to a stick and made it so she could turn it over the fire. The unexpected food would fuel her for the rest of the journey.

While the pheasant cooked, she checked her wound. Pleased with the healing, she added more salve and changed the dressing. At least something was going right. In the distance she heard a distinct scratching sound followed by a high pitched screech. Please no, she hissed to herself.

A harpie stepped into the clearing leading its enormous dragon. It walked with a limp and had a badly burned ear. Raina knew those small defects wouldn’t be enough to give her any kind of advantage. Out here in the open, she had nowhere to hide. Even if she managed to kill the harpie, she’d still have to battle the dragon. Alone she didn’t stand a chance. She was cold, tired, and famished, and she didn’t know if she’d make it in time to save the king. She’d failed everyone, especially herself.

She released the handle of her dagger and sat back. The creature stalked closer, its eyes shifting from her to the fire. Spittle dripped from its twisted mouth and formed tiny crystals on the snow. Gods, she didn’t want to die a harpie snack. The fire crackled beside her and Raina snuck a look at what would’ve been her meal. Skin charred in all the right places. Meat just tender enough to sink her teeth into.

Raina picked up the stick and waved the pheasant in the air. “You want this? You can have it. Here.”

She threw the stick in front of it and drew her knees up close to her body.

The harpie swiped the stick from the ground and tore the pheasant in two. It swung one half over to its dragon and swallowed the rest of it whole. Raina knew that wouldn’t be near enough to satisfy either one of their appetites. She wished the ground would open up so she could escape.

The creatures clawed at the snow and then returned their hungry gaze to her.

“What are you waiting for? Finish me. Go ahead.” The harpie took a step toward her, cocking its head in all directions. She flinched but refused to run. What good would it do?

“Here,” she said and thrust out her arms. “I’ll make it easier for you.”

The harpie blinked its bulging eyes and made a terrible screech. Breath held, Raina closed her eyes and waited. She didn’t want to think about the inevitable pain.

~Ann Cory

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