October 29, 2019

Parting Worlds - Second Chapter Reveal!

🌟Happy #teasertuesday 🌟

It's time for another Parting Worlds chapter reveal! Woohoo!

If you missed the first chapter reveal last week, just click here to go read it now :) Otherwise, keep scrolling to read the entire second chapter!

Aerewyn's free spirit tends to get her into trouble, and this scene is no different! She's dragging Nymia through the forest chasing after a phoenix when a group of humans interrupts their faerie fun. But only one of the humans catches Aerewyn's attention--a human boy with kind eyes and a mischievous smile...

As a little reminder, Parting Worlds goes on sale on November 18th and it's available to pre-order!

               

Without further ado...

The second chapter!!

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"Come on, Nymia," I shout over my shoulder, not bothering to glance behind. "We're almost there."
"Where?"
I roll my eyes. "Just come on."
"Mother, help me," she grumbles, but keep following.
In truth, I have no idea where we are or how much farther there is to go. We ran beyond the boundary of the faerie lands a long time ago, but I swear I saw a phoenix flying in this direction last night, its flaming tail arching like a comet across the moonless sky. The priestesses told us about the healing power of phoenix tears and their immortal magic. It was hours away from a molt and I've always wanted to see one in person.
A spot of crimson catches my eye and I skid to a halt.
Nymia slams into me from behind. "What—"
"Shh!" I pluck the feather from where it sits nestled in a mulberry bush and hold it up with a grin. "We're close."
"You said when we found the last feather, ten minutes ago." Nymia arches a brow.
I wrinkle my nose at her. "Well, now, I mean it."
She snorts softly and tosses a berry between her lips. "Just admit you're lost."
"We're not lost," I counter, scanning the branches overhead for even the dullest ember. "We're on an adventure. There's a difference."
"It feels a lot like being lost."
"You didn't have to come."
"And leave you to your own devices? You'd be halfway to the winter realms by now."
My eyes widen. We're both summer faeries, so I don't know how long I'd last in the frigid cold, but… "I have always wanted to see real snow."
"That wasn't—" Nymia breaks off with a frown. "I never should've put that idea in your head."
"Too late." I grin and toss her a look. She's smiling too. "You know we're never lost when we're together."
"I know." Then she blinks and stands straighter as a bit of wonder leaks into her features, making her eyes go wide. "And you're right. We're almost there."
Nymia points to a spot over my shoulder. I spin on my heels, fighting a gasp as a gust of wind pushes the branches aside to reveal a bird encased in smoldering flames. Its wings are spread wide, leaving a trail of ash in the breeze. It lifts its head to caw once toward the sky before the blue feathers on its crown catch fire, blazing magenta as the magic swells.
"Let's get closer," I whisper.
"This is close enough."
But I'm already making for the nearest tree, and I know Nymia will come too. She always does. Secretly, I think she likes that I push her buttons, just how I secretly like that she reins me in. We balance each other.
I kneel and reach for the magic within my skin, a gift from the Mother, the goddess of all things life and light. She's nature and sun, water and wind, and everything in between. Faeries are her children, born as flowers, bred in a budding womb, and given human form through her power alone. We're supposed to use the magic to guard her world and to protect her creatures, but I think she'd approve of a little bit of fun, too. Why else would she build a world full of so much wonder?
I push my magic into the ground, feeling dirt and roots, sensing the Mother in every bit of living land. Reaching for long dead vines, I urge them to grow. Green stalks emerge from the soil and I coax them into being, willing them to thicken as they wrap around a tree trunk. With my power as a guide, they circle higher and higher, until they reach the first branch twenty feet overhead.
"You know those vines will eventually kill that tree, right?" Nymia comments from behind, tone wry.
Shoot. I'd forgotten about that.
"Of course," I mutter as I bite my lip and press my palm to the bark. I'm sorry. I send the words deep into the wood, hoping the soul inside can hear. I'll fix it before I go, I promise.
Then I glance at the phoenix again.
The flames have shifted from sunflower yellow to a dazzling marigold. When they change to glowing sapphire, the molt will be over.
I grip the vines and climb, loving the way my muscles burn. The Mother gave us these bodies, we might as well use them. Back home, it's always lessons, and lessons, and more lessons. We're only supposed to use our magic under supervision. We're definitely not supposed to leave the sacred grounds. We're supposed to sit, and listen, and learn.
Boring.
I want to see. I want to do.
I want to use my gift—I don't want to waste it.
When I reach the branch, I don't stop. I keep climbing, smiling as my arms heat. I'm on fire just like the phoenix, ready to be born anew. Nymia grumbles below me. With a soft laugh, I continue on until I'm even with the phoenix. Then I crawl out a few feet to make room on the branch for my sister, who eventually takes the spot by my side. The outer edges of the flame shift to bright aqua, nearing the final stage. The bird holds its pose. From up here, the wings look gargantuan, nearly as wide as I am tall. Dark pupils watch us through the flames, wary at first, until it recognizes the magic in our skin, labeling us as kin. The hours after a molt are when a phoenix is at its most vulnerable, but we're only here to watch and marvel. We'd never dream of hurting one of the Mother's children.
The fire burns blue.
I inhale sharply as the magic deep in my soul responds to the power sparking in those flames—the gift of the Father. Where Mother is life, he is death, the god of eternal sleep, safeguarding our souls from one life to the next. His magic gives us immortality, same as the phoenix, but the boys are the ones who become his priests. They live in the sacred grounds across the river. Sometimes, I make Nymia walk to the edge of the water, just to see her blush if she meets one of their gazes across the divide.
I'm terrible, I know.
But it's so much fun.
"I'm glad you forced me to come," she leans over and whispers into my ear. "I would've been mad if I missed this."
I take her hand, interlacing our fingers as we watch the edges of the feathers blacken and burn. "Just wait until we tell the other girls. They're going to be so jealous."
"Do you—"
A bark echoes through the forest and she stops cold, squeezing my fingers. I hold hers tighter too.
"What was that?" Nymia whispers.
I scan the ground. "Nothing. A wild dog."
"Are you sure?"
Another bark rings, bouncing from tree to tree. The phoenix stiffens. Within the blazing flames, fear ignites like a new fire in its eyes.
"Could it be…?" Nymia trails off, afraid that if she speaks it, it might be true.
"We're not that far from home."
"Are you sure?"
No, but I nod anyway, trying to be brave for us both. Before I can speak, the dull hum of voices reaches our ears.
Human voices.
"Aerewyn!" Nymia squeals.
"It's okay," I urge, trying to calm her.
"We shouldn't have come all the way out here. We shouldn't have traveled so far from home. We should've told one of the priestesses where we were going. We should've—"
"Nymia," I interrupt and yank on her arm, forcing her to face me. "It's okay. I promise it'll be okay."
She doesn't respond, but deep in her eyes I see the memory of the last time we came face to face with humans. It was a few years ago, on another adventure, this time to chase a unicorn through the forests at night. Its pearlescent horn was a beacon in the dark, one that held my attention so acutely I never realized how far we traveled until it was too late. When the unicorn stopped to take a drink by the river, we were exposed—our glowing faerie skin beamed with just as much magic, an easily identifiable target. I didn't hear the humans coming. I didn't realize they were there until an arrow planted in the unicorn's side. Another grazed Nymia's calf before we thought to run. She still has the scar to prove it, and she touches it now, a gentle brush of her fingers on the phantom wound as she pulls her lips between her teeth.
I saved us then.
I'll save us now. 
"Wrap us in your shadows," I hastily whisper as the voices grow louder.
"But it's daylight."
"We'll be still."
Nymia wraps her arms around my shoulders and pulls me close, making us as small as possible. The ancient words spill from her lips as she weaves the spell, using magic to block out the Mother sun, hiding us in Father's realm. It’s difficult magic, far more advanced than we're supposed to know. The priestesses would have a fit if they caught one of us whispering the sacred language without supervision, especially so close to humans. In fact, Nymia almost had a fit the first time I begged her to give it a go. We swam across the river one night to spy on the priests and caught wind of this magic. I immediately committed the words to memory—what could possibly be more useful than an invisibility spell? Much to my chagrin, no matter how hard I tried, I couldn't get the magic to work. But Nymia could, and I've made her use the spell a bunch of times since then. As she wraps the shadows around us like a cloak, I'm positive that as long as we don't move, the humans will never see us. Even if we move a little, the spell should adjust.
This will work.
This has to work.
Movement on the ground catches my eye just as Nymia finishes weaving the spell. Her body goes rigid as soon as the dog emerges from a thick patch of leaves. It's a bloodhound. I can't help but think he's sort of cute with those floppy brown ears that look a little too big for his body and a face full of wrinkly folds. At least until he lifts his nose to sniff the air and stares straight toward us.
We both freeze.
I've been told humans use dogs to find prey on their hunts, but a rare few have been trained to trace magic.
I fear he's one of the latter. 
The hound releases a loud howl. He dashes the last few paces toward our tree and jumps on his hind legs, scraping at the bark with his claws. With his teeth catching the sunlight, he doesn’t look so friendly anymore. Behind me, Nymia trembles.
"What'd you find, boy?"
A human on a horse emerges from the tree line. He's young like us, with a mop of black hair and a smile that seems kind. When he slides down from his horse, the hound runs into his open arms, licking the human's face as his tail wags enthusiastically. I almost start to relax, until two more men follow from behind. One is old with sharp eyes, and the other is young with a pompous air.
"Well?" The old man drawls.
"I think he found something," the first boy murmurs. Under their scrutiny, he appears to shrink, no longer at ease but tense in a way I don't quite understand. With a sigh, he pushes the hound away. "Go on, show us."
The dog runs back to our tree, barking toward the branches high overhead. All three humans narrow their gazes, scanning the leaves. Nymia and I don't even breathe.
Finally, the second boy sneers. "I told you the hound was broken. There's nothing there."
"He's not broken," the first boy retorts, but soft enough I'm not sure the other humans hear him. "You're not broken. Are you, boy?"
The hound runs back, burying his face in the boy's chest and wiggling his backside with glee. It's only then that I notice one of his hind legs is made of wood, not of the Mother, but some sort of contraption with metal hinges and a leather strap. The sight brings a smile to my lips. Before I can figure out exactly how it works, the hound turns and barks again.
"I thought the beast was trained, Erick."
"He is, Father," the first boy says, wincing as he stands. "Maybe there's magic we can’t see."
"Well, what good will it do us, if we can't see it?"
"We should've brought the other hounds, Father," the second boy snaps. "I told you his beast was nothing more than a pet, and not even a whole one at that."
The first boy, Erick, folds his fingers into fists, but his hound licks them, as though whispering the fight isn’t worth it. The boy rubs the dog's head instead, and with each pat, the tension in his frame lessens. The two other humans dismount, using the break to stretch their weary muscles. They've lost interest in the dog and the tree completely. But not Erick. He kneels, scratching the spots behind those two floppy ears, and looks up.
"What do you see, boy?"
I inhale sharply as his bright blue eyes roam over our hiding spot. Heat flares in the center of my chest, different than anything I've felt before. It’s like he can see me—or maybe like I want him to see me. Though he has the dull, lifeless skin of a human, unlit with magic, I'm still mesmerized by the way the light plays over his features, highlighting the edge of his square jaw, the height of his cheekbones, the subtle curve of his lips. I've never seen anyone so handsome.
A gust of wind blows, catching my hair so the scarlet tendrils swirl around my face, framing it. I don't know if it was sent by the Mother, or maybe by my own rebellious magic, but the boy stiffens. He narrows his eyes and leans up, as though trying to see.
Nymia gasps.
But I'm not afraid.
If anything, I'm intrigued.
The breeze dies and the shadows wrap securely around me once more. What did he see? A flash of red? Could he tell it was hair? Did he see an outline of a face hidden in shadows?
He doesn't yell or shout. He doesn't call for the other humans.
He just stares, eyes wide, as mesmerized as I am.
"A phoenix!"
Whatever spell we were caught in shatters. Erick stands and spins, looking to where the other boy points.
"Your idiot beast barked at the wrong tree."
No, he didn't. You fool, I want to snap at the other human. He's a lot smarter than you'll ever be, you ignorant man.
But I know it'd be no use. Humans have no sense of magic, no connection to the power. It's our greatest defense against them—they can't see it even if they're staring it in the face. That's why they covet it so much.
Heart in my throat, I turn toward the phoenix, which is hardly more than charred bones engulfed in blue flame. It's at its weakest, so vulnerable. In a few moments, it'll be nothing more than a baby chick sitting in a pile of ash, unable to fly, unable to flee. And the humans know it too. The old one turns toward his horse, reaching into his bag for a net. The other boy helps. That bulbous black eye watches them with a look of resignation before it melts away. The phoenix collapses to dust and the fire disappears.
Why didn't it find a safer place? Why didn't it go home?
Fly! I want to shout. Fly!
But it can’t.
Magic burns beneath my skin, aching to be released, aching to fight, but there's nothing I can do either. Not so far from home. Not without the priestesses close by to help. Not when I told Nymia I'd keep her safe.
I grip her hand tighter.
She squeezes back.
Together, we watch as the humans fling a net into the sky. It whips through the trees and snatches the pile of ash, which disperses like a dark cloud, then plummets to the ground. A rope catches tight before the mesh slams against dirt. Trapped within its folds lies a pink phoenix, hardly more than skin with a few patches of crimson fluff.
The two humans cheer.
My gaze drops, catching the way Erick's shoulders fall with a deep sigh. I wonder why he doesn't seem more thrilled. After all, the bloodhound was his. What did he think would happen once the dog caught a scent? Nymia and I are lucky we're not the ones dangling from a branch with nowhere to run.
I lean into my sister, remembering who I am—a faerie.
He's a human.
Whatever moment we shared, it's passed.
Still, I can't help the way my heart hammers in my chest when he glances toward our hiding spot again, a gleam in his eyes whispering at awareness. He knows we're here, yet he keeps our secret.
That has to count for something, right?
When he stands to go help the others, I notice that he's left something behind—a circle of woven gold, not quite completed, with a sharp spoke decorated by a gleaming ruby gem. What is it? What's it used for? He doesn't seem to notice it's even missing as he walks away with the hound following at his heels.
Before I realize what I'm doing, my magic is already surging through the air, down to the ground, and into the vines. Nymia hisses into my ear, but I ignore the warning and use a little bit of power to wrap a green cord through the opening and tug the trinket back toward the tree, hiding it beneath a fat leaf.
The hound spins, growling softly.
Erick glances over his shoulder, gaze dropping to the empty spot, then lifting toward me. It's only then that I realize what the item was all along. A test. One I'm pretty sure I passed as a dazzling light fills his eyes and the left edge of his lip pulls into a grin.
"Come on, boy," he whispers. "Let's leave her be."

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Thanks for reading!

If you want to keep going, click here to read the third chapter :)

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