I finished One Ostara Sunrise, my original lesbian fairy tale, and the third in the Benevolence Tales series today, and I promised you lovely people that when I finished it, I would post an excerpt! I decided to go with showing you guys the first two and a half pages of the novella to sort of set the mood for the release (One Ostara Sunrise is coming out this Thursday!), and show you what Isabella and Emily have been up to…this time, Isabella is even more in over her head. And yes, that was a total pun, considering what comes next…
I can’t wait to show you One Ostara Sunrise! But until then, here’s the sneak peek:
Isabella Fox saw the crack in the ice beneath her feet before she heard it, the sound echoing off the surrounding trees like a miniature explosion. And then, because these things happen suddenly, far more suddenly than one can react to, Isabella plunged through the ice into the water below, broom—which might have supposedly prevented all of this–skittering uselessly away from her reach over the shattering ice.
Somewhere, distantly, the witch could hear yelling voices muted by the too-cold-to-understand water that instantly folded over her head, that seemed to get everywhere as she thrashed against its grip, invading her mouth and nose and eyes. It was so cold, and as Isabella struggled against her hampering cloak and hat and boots and gloves and layers of skirts, she stared up at the receding hole in the ice as the water gently dragged her down, and she had only a singular thought that rose within her like air:
There was a splash, and the light of the hole was covered by a shadow, and then somehow, as if summoned by her thought, there was Emily’s face before hers, but hard to see, really, in the dark of the water, and then there was a jerk and a pull and an arm about her waist and Isabella fell into blackness.
“Of all the stupid…”
“Alice, this isn’t helping.” Emily’s voice from far, far distant was calm but shook a little at the end. “Please try to make the fire hotter, all right?”
“I mean seriously, you haven’t been with her as long as I have! She’s concocted so many bad ideas, you wouldn’t even believe it, but I think this one really…”
A whoosh. Warmth.
Isabella’s eyelids fluttered against her cheeks, and then somehow, impossibly, she opened her eyes.
“Oh gods.” Emily breathed, and then Isabella realized that she was in the Changer’s arms, Emily’s cloaks of white deer hide covering her completely, her limbs tingling beneath them and beneath nothing else, her whole body bare. Isabella blinked slowly, breathing in and out. Her lungs burned raggedly as they gulped cold air.
“What…what happened?” she croaked, and then she felt a warmth and a weight over the hides seated on her lap. Isabella cracked her eyes again and groaned, because there was Alice, her tabby cat Familiar perched on her legs, fur puffed up to make the cat twice her usual size, whiskers pointing crazily in all directions as the cat opened and shut her mouth, speechless for a long moment.
But not for too long.
“Of all the stupid…”
“Alice, I’m sorry,” Isabella croaked again, trying to clear her throat as she leaned back against the warmth of the Changer, Emily rubbing her arms gently. The sound of her heartbeat was a comfort to Isabella who was still trying to manage the simple act of breathing. “Darling, I’m sorry,” she whispered up to Emily, who sighed for a long moment, then kissed the witch’s eyes with her soft mouth, lingering against them and breathing down, melting the ice that had formed over the witch’s lashes.
“I thought…” said Emily then, and her voice cracked. Isabella stared up with an open mouth as the Changer drew her closer, squeezing her tightly. And then Emily began to weep.
“Now see what you’ve done,” huffed Alice again, flicking her tail like a tiny tabby whip. “Poor Emily, who threw herself into that thrice damned lake to save you, I might add, without any worry for her own life or limbs or body…”
“Please don’t cry…” said Isabella nervously, reaching up and brushing away the Changer’s tears with cold fingers. She sat up then, wincing as she did so because her entire body ached like nothing she’d quite experienced in this lifetime yet, and turned, shivering beneath the hides as she wrapped her arms about Emily, burying her face in the gentle curve of the Changer’s neck and shoulder. “I love you. I’m so sorry,” she repeated, feeling Emily’s silent sobs beneath her, feeling her heart splinter into a thousand pieces.
“I almost lost you,” whispered Emily then, her breath hot against the witch’s ear, huffed out brokenly.
And Isabella realized she was right.
“I think that my ability to disagree with terrible decisions has been severely compromised,” continued Alice, inhaling a great deal before launching into another chapter of her scolding. “Because of all your terrible ideas, Isabella, this was one of the worst. ‘Let me go out onto the lake and see if the ice is close to breaking up!’ she says! ‘I have my broom and can fly!’ she says! ‘If it cracks, I’ll just mount quickly and fly up and be safe!’ she says! Hah! Hah! Haaaaah!” One might have been able to slice bread with the sharpness of the tabby cat’s scathing words as she lashed her tail again, but all of that anger dissolved in a heartbeat because Alice’s fur flattened, her whiskers went back to their catawampus disorder, and she stepped forward, butting her head against the witch’s elbow as her resolve to scold her witch melted as she realized, too, how close she’d come to losing her.
“I’m sorry, Alice,” said Isabella, drawing the cat into her arms as Emily embraced the both of them, holding them close. “I didn’t realize…” she breathed out. “Well. At least we know the ice is breaking up, now!”
Despite everything, Isabella was rewarded when Emily choked out a little laugh, wiping away her own tears, now, sighing as she shook her head.
“I thought witches were supposed to float,” said the Changer.
Isabella laughed at that, too, wheezing a little and then quite a lot, instantly regretting that chuckle. “We don’t float,” she said, waving her hand, “that’s an old magicmaker’s tale! Witches sink.”
“That explains everything,” said Emily, casting her gaze to the heavens and squeezing her witch again for good measure.
“So,” said Isabella, breathing out again in a big sigh, because she quite enjoyed the activity of breathing, and was simply reveling in the fact that she could still do it. “We’ll just…” Isabella glanced around them, biting her lip. “We’ll wrap ourselves up in these furs and fly back to the cottage on my broom,” said Isabella tiredly, glancing at the fire and her dress and undergarments and Emily’s blouse and pants and knickers hung up on the barren branches of the oak arching over them.
“I’m sorry, darling—we can’t,” said Emily quietly, glancing back toward the lake that was now as splintered looking as a spider web. “Your broom fell into the water. It’s lost.”
Isabella breathed out for a very long moment, eyes closed.
“If we were more careful,” said Alice, cocking her little cat head dryly, “we wouldn’t have this problem.”
She was right, of course.
But she didn’t have to be so drattedly smug about it.
Isabella Fox, mediocre witch for hire, and Emily Deer, the once outcast shapeshifter, fall deeper in love as winter keeps its tight grip on their charming little town of Benevolence. But winter should be vanquished soon, as the first day of spring–Ostara–drifts ever closer. Things are just never that simple in Benevolence.
As the festival of Ostara begins, Isabella and Emily hear a strange animal sound echoing from the top of Glimmer Mountain. Every year on Ostara all the townsfolk of Benevolence journey to nearby Mirror Lake, where they peer into the depths of the waters to see a moment of happiness from their coming year. But the lake itself is not enchanted–the creature that rises from its long winter sleep, that descends from the mountaintop and blesses the lake, is what gives it its magic. And this year, for the first time in millenia, the creature has not come.
The ritual of gazing into the lake is not essential to the Ostara festivities, but without the strange creature to enchant its waters, other things begin to go wrong, and as Isabella and Emily journey to the top of the mountain to find the creature, the existence of spring and the end of winter hangs in the balance.
The novella One Ostara Sunrise is a magical lesbian love story, and the third in THE BENEVOLENCE TALES series.
(Prepare for the continuing adventures of Isabella and Emily in One Ostara Sunrise, coming February 21, 2013! Please sign up to my newsletter to be the first to know when it’s released!)