November 18, 2019

Parting Worlds is on sale!! Woohoo!

I'm so thrilled to announce that Parting Worlds is officially on sale!!!

💚💙👏🙌👏💙💚

WOOHOO!!

It's always a little bittersweet when the final book in a series goes on sale. I started Once Upon a Curse back in 2015 and it's been such an incredible journey. I've seen my writing grow with each new release, and I think this last installment is no different! Aerewyn and Erick's story brings a whole new layer to the entire series, and I hope you fall in love with them the way I did! 

The blog tour started this morning, and the first review is in, so I have to share a little snippet:

"Loved it! A fantastic addition to this magic world of fae, magic, love, loss and so much more. I enjoyed the characters and their forbidden romance was my favorite from the series."

Thank you, Ashley!

All the links are pasted below if you want to grab your copy :)

PS: While Parting Worlds closes the loop on these characters and their intertwined tales, I haven't completely written of the world of this series yet... My writing motto is never say never, lol!

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**A USA Today Recommended Series!**

She'll risk it all to be with the man she loves... Don't miss PARTING WORLDS, a fantasy romance from bestselling author Kaitlyn Davis that reimagines the classic fairy tale of The Little Mermaid.

"I know humans like to start these sorts of stories with 'once upon a time,' but I'm worried that's setting the stage for false hopes. Because we don't all live, and we aren't all happy. Not every curse can be broken, after all."

Humans are dangerous. That's the lesson faeries are taught as soon as their flower petals unfurl, welcoming them into the world. It's the first thing Aerewyn remembers the priestesses telling her as a young girl. Humans are dangerous--don't show them your magic and never cross into their lands.

Why then, when she stumbles upon a human boy in the woods, does she find him so intriguing?

His blue eyes don't shine with malice. His smile doesn't menace. His laughter is as warm as the sun against her cheeks. And when she later discovers he's been knocked unconscious in a storm, injured and alone in the forest, the only thing he seems in danger of is dying.

So she saves his life--a single act that will change the fate of both their worlds...

               

A paperback edition is available here:


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Don't miss the first three books in the series :) 

They can be read before or after Parting Worlds!

      

More info can be found on my Once Upon a Curse page here :)

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The Parting Worlds Blog Tour

November 18

I Love Books and Stuff

November 19

Colleen’s Conclusions

November 20

The Avid Reader

November 21

A Backwards Story

November 22

Bookwyrming Thoughts

Hope you follow along :)


Blogger Tricks

November 12, 2019

Parting Worlds - Fourth Chapter Reveal!

🌟Happy #teasertuesday 🌟

It's time for the fourth and final Parting Worlds chapter reveal!! Less than ONE week until on sale! I can't wait for everyone to read this last installment in the Once Upon a Curse series!

If you missed the first chapter reveal, the second chapter reveal, or the third chapter reveal, just click to go read them now :) Otherwise, scroll down to read the entire fourth chapter!

In this chapter, the stakes rise exponentially! Aerewyn goes from spying on her human prince to suddenly becoming the only person who can save his life. Want to know how? Keep reading...

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

               

Without further ado...

The fourth chapter!!

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If Priestess Sytrene hoped to muffle my curiosity, her plan backfired.
Lessons pass slower than ever, leaving me with too much time to think. While the other girls practice their magic—using it to clean ash from the air after a wildfire, to help regrow trees burned to black stubs, to set flames upon the underbrush to prevent another outbreak—Nymia and I walk uselessly behind. The priestesses want us to learn about the careful balance of Mother's world, how to maintain it, how to decide what to help live and what to let die. Yet without my magic, I'm unbalanced. I can’t focus. Lectures go in one ear and out the other, words lost to the wind. Without the physical power to ground me, my mind wanders to the phoenix on an almost constant basis. But just the phoenix. Nothing else.
Except, maybe Erick a little too…
When Priestess Ondyne leads us into the forest to teach us the power of naturally grown medicinal herbs, all I can think about is the healing power of phoenix tears.
When Priestess Meri leads us down the river on a boat, all the way to where it opens to the sea so we can learn about the creatures lurking underneath, all I see are blue eyes staring back at me from the waves.
When an injured centaur gallops into the sacred meadow, pleading for our aid, I—well, okay. That part was actually pretty cool. But after, when he agreed to teach us how to read the stars, I accidently fell asleep on the grass. Nymia nudged me awake. I didn’t tell her that she'd interrupted the most marvelous dream—one where the two of us used our magic to set the phoenix free.
Maybe it's guilt.
Maybe it's intrigue.
Maybe it's just my mind, which always meanders in directions it's not supposed to, at least according to the priestesses.
But I can't stop wondering what happened to that beautiful crimson bird made of magic. Did they lock it up? Is it in a cage? Did it manage to fly free? Is it in pain? Is it wondering why Nymia and I did nothing but watch, when we're supposed to be guarding creatures like it? Isn't that what our magic is for?
So, naturally, the first thing I do the second my magic returns is flee to the cave and kneel over the still pond at the very back edge to whisper one of my favorite spells—another that's strictly forbidden without supervision, of course.
“Nachtinn eoscu ma mhoin.”
Water, reveal my wish.
The words tickle a little as they spill from my throat, drenched in static power. The air beneath my outstretched palms begins to glitter. I close my eyes, focusing on the phoenix, picturing its wings singeing beneath sapphire flames, the deep ebony of its knowing eyes, the chick born anew from the ashes. When I open my eyes, bright flashing colors flutter across the surface of the pond. As I focus my thoughts, they slowly morph into a clear picture—one of a tiny bird framed by iron bars. It's in a cage.
My heart sinks.
Using my mind's eye to see, I urge the picture to shift to a wider view, revealing the entire scene. The priestesses use the scrying water to teach us lessons about the outside world—about magical creatures from faraway lands, about deserts and mountains and icy landscapes so different from our home, and on very rare occasions, about the human world. We've seen dried farmlands and looming castles, horses tied up, dogs held in chains, trees cut to stubs, and people begging on the streets. Everything is always dark, always dreary, so unnatural it makes me wince even as I'm lured closer. But I've never seen anything quite like this—quite so cozy.
The room is heavy, with stone walls and thick fabrics, yet made light somehow by the sun filtering through windows made of pastel glass. Vibrant weaves and plush pillows cover the floor. They look softer even than the bed of moss on which I sleep, and part of me yearns to rest my head upon them. But I'm drawn most to the wooden shelves stretched across the entire length of the room, filled with an almost staggering volume of items—a turtle shell, fish bones, dried coral, various stones, and a bird that looks alive yet is perfectly still. The man-made items are harder to place, bound things I believe they call books, rolled-up papers I know are called scrolls, a large circle painted in shades of greens and blues, and so many metal trinkets I can't imagine what they all do. The largest is long and narrow, pointed out an open window toward the sky. I'm reminded of my cave, in a way. Perhaps that's why the sight makes me feel a little bit at home.
My gaze flicks back to the phoenix, dangling from the ceiling in a gilded cage so small in a few weeks it won't be able to spread its wings. Everything else in the collection is dead and cold—this vibrant bird doesn't belong here.
"Got it!" a voice calls from somewhere outside the frame.
I recognize it regardless and my heart lurches.
Erick.
The phoenix squawks, flapping its wings, which are little more than fluff. Erick strides across the room, coming into my view as he reaches for the cage, unlatches a little door, and offers the bird his hand. The phoenix jumps onto his palm, chirping in a demanding way as Erick laughs softly and pulls something else from his pocket—a wriggling worm. He sets both on the carpet, watching with a slight smile on his lips. The serenity implodes when the bloodhound runs into view, crashing into Erick and sending him to the ground. When the dog leans down to sniff the phoenix, the little chick screeches so adamantly a flame shoots through its beak, singeing his poor nose.
The hound howls.
Erick snorts.
I giggle.
"You deserved that," he mutters. "Come here, boy."
Erick pats the spot by his side and the hound jaunts over, then circles twice before lying down to rest his head on his owner's thigh. The phoenix bounces over on unsteady claws, then jumps onto Erick's other knee. He scratches one behind the ears and rubs the other along the spine.
"As soon as you can fly," he whispers, while his gaze slips to the side toward something unseen. A frown passes over his lips. "I'll get you out. I promise."
"Aerewyn!"
"What! What?" I jump about five feet in the air and release the spell, turning to face Nymia. "I wasn't doing anything."
"Oh, sure," she drawls, pointedly dropping her gaze to the pond before lifting it back to me. "Because that's exactly how someone who wasn't doing anything reacts."
I stick out my tongue.
"I left you alone for five minutes to ask Priestess Ondyne for help on a healing elixir, and by the time I turned around, you were gone. Please don't tell me you were doing what I think you were doing."
"What do you think I was doing?"
"Spying on that human in the scrying water."
"Well," I huff, crossing my arms. I hate it when she's right. She's always right. "I guess I won't tell you then."
"Aerewyn," she whines.
"Nymia," I whine right back.
She rubs her palms over her arms as though brushing goose bumps away and sighs. "At least tell me next time? Okay? I hate not knowing where you are, wondering if you're safe."
"I'm sorry. I will. I promise." I smile hesitantly.
Nymia grins back, rolling her eyes. "So, what'd you see?"
"The phoenix." I pause to take a deep breath, then the rest comes spilling out. "And maybe that human boy, but it wasn't my fault. I was watching the phoenix and he walked in. I didn't seek him out. I didn’t go looking. He was just, sort of, there…" I trail off as the image of his face infiltrates my thoughts, the way his black hair spilled over his forehead, the slight dimple in his cheek when his lips lifted in a soft smile, the loving glimmer in his eyes. "He seems kind."
"Kind?" Nymia's face twists at the suggestion. "He's human."
"So? Why can't a human be kind?"
"Maybe to each other, but not to us, Aerewyn. It's not their way."
I shrug, thinking of how he gently cupped the phoenix in his palm. Maybe it's his way—but I don't say that, of course. Nymia wouldn’t believe me anyway.
"Come on." She keeps talking over my silence. "I came running because Priestess Sytrene was asking where you’d gone. I didn’t want her to scry for you, in case you were here, so I told her I'd go find you. If we're not back soon, she might wonder."
"We'd better go."
I groan and take her hand, then start to walk, but Nymia stays still, rooted to the ground. Worry carves deep grooves into her forehead, and there's something distant in her eyes—a charged hollowness I usually only see in those few seconds before she's fully woken from a nightmare, when reality hasn't quite cut through the terror. She blinks and meets my gaze, my sister once more.
"You should forget him," she whispers.
"I know."
We don't say anything else. We just run out of the cave and under the waterfall, letting the water pelt us as though it might be able to hammer some sense back into our minds.
It doesn't.
I don't disappear on Nymia again, but I also don't stop my spying. I can't. At first, I only focus on the phoenix, telling myself it’s the bird I'm concerned with. I'm a faerie. I'm supposed to guard the Mother's creations. I'm just doing my job. But soon, it's Erick's face that fills my thoughts as I lean over the water with magic burning against my palms.
I watch him in that cozy room, lying on the pillows with a book propped against his legs, rolling around the floor with his hound, gently prodding the phoenix to learn to fly. They grow faster than normal birds, a product of being solitary, without a mother or father to feed them when they're chicks. It's not long before those red feathers lengthen and grow, not long before it leaves a trail of smoke across the air, not long before one second of flight becomes two then three then five. When Erick's father walks in to find the phoenix zipping around the room, I watch with my fingers curled into fists as he slaps his son across the face and throws the phoenix back inside its cage. When the boy I'm guessing is his brother pokes a stick through the bars, torturing the poor bird enough to elicit a few droplets of healing tears, I yearn to dive through the waters and strike him. Erick tries to make him stop, but two men in strange metal clothes hold him back, one grasping each arm. Eventually, the phoenix gets moved to a different room, a place so dark I can hardly make any details out in the scrying water, just the smoldering outline of a bird suffering through captivity.
Erick doesn’t go to visit it anymore.
I wonder if he's not allowed.
Sometimes, when I search the scrying waters, he's in different rooms—at a table with other humans eating food, in a cavernous stone room that seems cold despite the golden chairs looming near the front, outside on the grass with his hound, riding a horse through the city streets. One time when I look he's swimming in a lake. My cheeks go red the moment he stands, and I find myself admiring the way the water rolls down the rippled muscles of his stomach, the way it makes his skin glisten in the sun, almost as though he were a faerie. Thank the Mother Nymia walks in to shake me from the trance.
She knows what I'm doing, of course, but she doesn’t say anything. She helps me sneak through the forests, helps cover my tracks. I think she hopes I'll get him out of my system, but with each day, I yearn to know more. To speak with him. To ask him questions about human life. To maybe once hold his hand.
It’s crazy, I know.
That's what makes it fun.
I'm a good little faerie in all my lessons, listening to the priestesses, practicing my magic, following all the rules. I'm not sure Priestess Sytrene entirely trusts my sudden transformation, but she's been distracted of late—all the priestesses have. We're not old enough to know what's going on, though there are still whispers in the night, of attacks, of humans testing the protection boundary, of magical creatures being hunted and chased from their homes. It's nothing new, but it must be worse than usual to have everyone so concerned. I'm not overly worried. We have magic, and the humans don't. Against the power of the priests and priestesses, there's no contest.
I may as well enjoy the extra freedom while I can.
"Are you sneaking out again tonight?" Nymia whispers.
I roll onto my side, resting my cheek against the soft, mossy pillow of my bed. Some faeries prefer to sleep in grass huts or muddy dens, but I've always preferred the fresh air. I like to count the stars before I sleep, wondering how many burning faerie souls Father safeguards in his distant realm. I like to wake to the warm kiss of Mother's sun. Nymia and I usually lie in the outskirts of the sacred meadow, where it's easier to whisper without being overheard, easier to slip away too. "Why?"
"I feel a storm in the air," Nymia murmurs and flicks her gaze to the sky. By the time her attention returns to me, her eyes are bright with mischief.
I grin.
Stormy nights are my favorite, because they're Nymia's favorite. She loves to run in the whipping winds, catch raindrops on her tongue, and cast lightning across the sky. I love to watch. It's the only time I sometimes think she might be just as wild as me.
"How soon?"
Nymia closes her eyes. Her glittering faerie skin glows brighter, like a star dropped down to earth, as she reaches out with her power, trying to taste the static in the air. Storm magic has always been her greatest gift. I'm not terrible at it, but I usually feel the water, not the wind, so I can't sense them until they're close. Right now, all I see are clear skies still colored magenta by the setting sun.
"Another three hours," she says after she opens her eyes. "Maybe four."
Everyone should be asleep by then. "Perfect."
Three and a half hours later, the first droplet falls.
I meet Nymia's expectant gaze, and we roll silently to our feet. The pitter-patter covers our footsteps as we disappear into the forest. Within minutes, it's a torrential downpour. I grab Nymia's hand as we race around trees, laughing as our feet squelch in the mud. Our faerie clothes spun of petals and leaves have a waxy coating that protects them in the rain, but every other part of me is drenched. My hair sticks to me like a second skin.
There's something freeing, though, about dancing in a storm.
We stop by the riverbed, fling our arms wide, and spin, shooting our magic into the air so the winds rush all around us. I jump in puddles, splashing water high, then catching it with my power so it dips and dives and swirls around us. Nymia shoots lightning from the sky. A few feet away, sand explodes in a cloud of dust as the bolt strikes deep. I fall to my knees and dig hastily until I feel something hard. I pull it free. We discovered a long time ago that when the heat hits the beachy bank, it fuses the sand into strange hollow tubes. The insides are polished and smooth, and they shimmer in the sunlight. I already have a whole shelf full in the cave, but there's always room for one more little piece of marvel carved by my sister's hands.
I wonder if Erick's ever seen one.
"Aerewyn, come on." Nymia interrupts my wayward thought and grabs my hands to pull me to my feet. Her smile is wide. Her features are wet and wild. Sometimes I wish the other girls could see her like this, powerful and proud. Sometimes I'm glad I get to have her to myself.
I push my magic into her palms.
She pushes hers into mine.
Fingers laced tight, we spin, round and round and round, until the world is a blur of magic and rain, flashing lightning and roaring thunder, rushing water and swaying branches. I hold my sister's gaze, meeting her step for step and grin for grin. When the power builds so that we might burst, we let our heads fall back and holler into the wind, releasing the magic, letting the Mother swallow it into her storm, so that I feel a part of it, a part of her, a part of everything. Then we snap and tumble, smacking into the sand.
Nymia's laughter echoes across the air.
Mine joins hers, and I clutch my stomach from the pain of so much joy.
Then another unruly thought intrudes.
I wonder if Erick likes storms.
My smile falters and I stare up at the sky, searching for the moon, hidden somewhere behind the clouds. I've heard humans are afraid of storms—that they're terrified of the tremendous power of nature, of Mother. I revel in her might.
"What are you doing?" Nymia asks as I roll up from the ground. I can tell by her tone she already knows—she just wants to make sure I know she doesn't approve.
I ignore her and dig a shallow hole in the sand. Pressing my palms to the saturated grains, I draw the water in, until a wide puddle forms. Then I murmur the words I know my sister definitely doesn’t want to hear.
“Nachtinn eoscu ma mhoin.”
Water, reveal my wish.
I only want to see for a second, I tell myself. A quick peek and then I'm done. But as the colors dancing across the water sharpen to a clear image, a gasp escapes my lips and fear spikes deep into my heart.
Erick lies splayed across the dirt like a fallen tree, with a broken birdcage by his side. Blood leaks from a cut on his forehead, slipping down the side of his face with the rain, so his skin is stained red. The hound whimpers by his side, nudging his ribs. He doesn't move. He doesn't blink. He's far too still.
I'm on my feet before I even realize what I'm doing, not a thought in my mind but to save him.


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Thanks for reading!

Parting Worlds goes on sale next week!! So excited! I hope you fall in love with Aerewyn and the rest of her story 😊 I know I did! 💕

November 5, 2019

Parting Worlds - Third Chapter Reveal!

🌟Happy #teasertuesday 🌟

Are you ready for another Parting Worlds chapter reveal?! Only TWO weeks left until on sale! I'm SO excited 👏

If you missed the first chapter reveal or the second chapter reveal, just click to go read them now :) Otherwise, keep scrolling to read the entire third chapter!

When we left off, Nymia and Aerewyn had narrowly escaped a run-in with a group of human men. Nymia was terrified. Aerewyn was intrigued. Now the two sisters need to make it back to faerie lands before any of the priestesses realize they're gone--a feat that proves more difficult than it seems!

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

               

Without further ado...

The third chapter!!

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Her.
Let's leave her be.
Nymia goes rigid behind me, and I know a lecture is imminent. I'm surprised she manages to hold off for another twenty minutes—though the silence is hardly relaxing. We don't move as the humans disappear from sight. We hardly breathe until we're confident they're so far away they'll never hear us. I'm about to make a joke to ease the tension, when Nymia's voice slices through the quiet.
"Her! Did you hear that, Aerewyn? Her!"
I wince. "I'm sure he meant that in the generic sense."
"Oh, really?" Nymia retorts. I don't want to turn around to face her, but my body acts on its own, spinning with defiance. The bravado deflates the moment I meet her panicked eyes. "You don't think maybe he saw your hair in the breeze? That he saw us? That he saw you? And then you used your magic!"
"Humans can't see magic."
"They can see objects vanishing from plain sight!"
I chew my lower lip, not sure what to say.
Nymia arches a pointed brow. I hate when she does that.
I hate it more when she's right.
"Okay, okay. Yes, he saw us—maybe. But he didn’t say anything. And now they're gone. And we're perfectly safe. Humans know faeries exist. It's not like we're some great mystery. So what if he saw?"
For a moment, I think I've won.
Then her nostrils flare.
I sigh.
"So what? So what!"
"Nymia."
"His bloodhound has our scent."
"Nymia."
"You saw what they did to that phoenix. We could be next!"
"Nymia." I grip her shoulders and squeeze, forcing her to listen. "We're okay. We're fine. They're gone. And once we're home, they'll never be able to find us, not with the protection wards the priestesses weave." Her breathing slows. The fear in her eyes eases and the color returns to that of the midday sky. There's still an edge of fury, but I decide to press my luck. Because, well, I always press my luck. "We just need to make one quick stop first."
"Aerewyn!" She recoils.
"Come on. Let's go see what it is."
"Aerewyn—"
But I've already leapt from the branch to sail back toward the ground. Nymia's better with wind magic, but I'm better with water magic. As her breeze surges to try to soften my fall, I reach deep into the earth for an underground stream I sensed earlier, and call forth a geyser. The spray explodes through a crack in the dirt, rising up to meet me. By the time I land, there's a small pool waiting to catch me with a splash. Nymia lands elegantly by my side, descending like a bird from the sky as her blonde tresses flutter like wings in the breeze.
A spray of water mysteriously slams into her face.
"Aerewyn!"
"What? I lost control of the magic…" My smile gives me away.
Nymia flicks her fingers. Before I have a chance to move, a cyclone whirls, lifting the water from my shallow pond into the air along with the mud, whipping me from all sides. Within moments, I'm drenched and covered in muck.
She just shrugs.
I roll my eyes and jump to my feet, calling on the Mother's sun to warm my faerie clothes until the dirt is dry enough I can wipe it all away. For now, it'll do.
"What is it?" Nymia asks, staring toward the human trinket I hid within the vines.
"I don't know," I murmur and step closer to brush the leaves aside, then pluck the golden circlet from their folds. The metal is braided with such precision I almost wonder if a faerie crafted it with magic instead of a human using tools. There's an aura of refinement and elegance. I fold the sharp point with the ruby back, playing with the hinge, not quite sure how the mechanism works. "Is it a weapon?"
"But it's so small."
"A weapon for children?"
"But he was a young man."
"Maybe something for hunting?"
Nymia shivers. "I don't like it."
I do—but she already knows that. I like everything I'm not supposed to.
"We should leave it here. What if they spelled it? What if they can track it?"
It's possible.
Erick's face fills my thoughts—the warm twinkle in his eyes, the soft grin. I don't think he meant ill will, but with humans there's no way to be sure.
Still, I find my fingers clamping down on the metal, securing it safely within my palm. "I'm taking it."
Nymia groans, but she doesn't protest. And when I start running, she follows. We both know where I'm going.
To my cave.
Well, our cave, technically, though I don't think Nymia likes it there very much. It's where we store all the treasures from our adventures, safely within faerie land, yet close enough to the outskirts the priestesses haven’t found it. We spelled it a long time ago, so no matter how far we travel, we can always find it—as though there's a string tied to our hearts, leading us back, leading us together. It's our safe spot, if we get separated or lost and need to find our way back. I use that gentle magical tug as a guide and race across the forest.
The entrance is hidden behind a waterfall, only accessible with magic. I call upon the Mother as we near, and the liquid curtain parts down the middle, splitting into two to reveal the shadowed doorway behind. Blowing icy air through my lips, I freeze a narrow pathway across the surface of the pond. Together, Nymia and I dash across the ice and slide into our hideaway. My sister murmurs the words for faerie light. A golden globe of casted sunlight bursts to life, illuminating every corner of the cavern as it rises to hang near the apex of the dome. I skim the shelves I magicked out of stone, searching for the perfect spot for my newest acquisition.
Magical items go on the left—the dragon scales we found in a cave, a chunk of unicorn horn broken off during a territorial fight, griffin feathers, a giant's nail clippings, one razor-sharp siren tooth, and so much more.
Human items go on the right. I have far fewer of these, which I think makes me covet them more. There's a rusty knife blade with a twisted-iron handle. A square of silk cloth with frayed edges. A few broken straps of leather with metal buckles. A white jug with a crack down the side, interrupting colorful latticework. And my most prized possession, a smoothly polished animal horn, hollowed out and edged in gold. I'm not sure what any of it is for, really, but that's what makes it so intriguing.
I nestle Erick's trinket beside the horn.
I think it's my new favorite.
"Can we go now?" Nymia asks, a shiver in her voice.
I spin around to face her. "What's wrong?"
"I just have a bad feeling."
"Like your dreams?"
Nymia swallows and nods.
Sometimes, my sister wakes in the middle of the night in a cold sweat, screaming. Sometimes, she whimpers and thrashes, smacking me with her flailing limbs. Sometimes, she casts a storm in her sleep, waking to the crack of her lightning as it flashes across the sky. The priestesses say she's having premonitions—dreams sent from our gods. I believe them. I've always known Nymia is stronger than she gives herself credit for.
The other girls in our training year used to laugh at her. They said she was broken, like that boy said about that dog earlier today. They said she wasn't whole, that part of her was missing. Though they weren't afraid of Nymia, they soon learned not to cross me—a little mischief is, after all, the sort of thing I live for. The first time I heard them gossiping, I cut one of the girls' hair off in the middle of the night. The second time, I sent another floating down the river on a lily pad. The third time, I dropped a nest of fire ants on a few of their beds. There wasn't a fourth time.
Nymia told me not to—that I was making enemies.
I told her I didn’t want friends like that anyway.
That's when we became sisters. Technically, all the priestesses-in-training are kin. We're all children born of the Mother and the Father, connected by our magic, if not by blood. But Nymia is the only one I call sister, and same with her for me. We chose each other a long time ago, and nothing will break us apart.
I hold out my hand and she takes it.
That's enough exploring for one day.
"Home?" I ask.
"Home."
Before we leave, I cast another glance over my shoulder, eying the trinket for a moment longer, wondering why the sight of it brings a warm blush to my cheeks.
Then we're gone.
We run toward the river and kneel beside the bank, grasping a leaf between our palms. I use my magic to stretch it wide and long. Nymia uses hers to stiffen the veins. We set it on the water and climb in, then let the current carry us away. It’s a ten-minute trip before the sacred grounds slip into view, a bright patch of rainbow in otherwise green terrain. Flowers of every shape and size cover the expansive meadow, as brilliant as the most vibrant sunset, as welcome as the dawn. I urge a branch to stretch out across the water and grab the wood to reel us toward the shore. We climb out before anyone can see, and scurry through the trees, pretending we've been here the whole time.
It works.
Almost.
We're through the trees and into the outer edge of the sacred ground when a voice stops us, drawing everyone's attention.
"Aerewyn! Nymia!"
I wince. Drats.
"Yes, Priestess Sytrene?" I murmur in what I hope is a demure way as Nymia and I spin with our heads bowed.
Just as the year has four seasons, so do we as Mother's children—spring faeries, summer faeries, autumn faeries, and even winter faeries with skin as white as snow, twinkling like the surface of an icy field. Priestess Sytrene is the most powerful of us all, gifted dominion over the season in which Mother is at peak strength—the High Priestess of Summer. She's the oldest too, though you'd never know it by the warm bronze of her hair and the perfectly unblemished tan of her skin. Her flowing robes made of ivory magnolia petals match those of the other priestesses, in style if not always in color. But the golden circlet nestled above her brow, adorned with five glittering diamonds, the center of which shines yellow like the sun, names her our leader.
This can't be good.
"Where have you been?"
I blink and tilt my head to the side, one word racing through my thoughts—deny, deny, deny. "Whatever do you mean?"
"I mean, why did I feel the weight of two little faeries catapulting themselves through the protection ring and into human territory earlier today when they were supposed to be studying the forests?"
Nymia sucks in a breath, but I haven’t given up hope. "It couldn't have been us. We didn't travel that far."
"I saw you in the scrying water."
Double drats!
How much did she see? The humans? The dog? Our cave?
No.
Definitely not.
If she'd seen any of that, she would've never waited for us to come home on our own. She would've retrieved us immediately. There's still a chance we can get out of this…
"We went beyond the boundary?" I ask meekly, switching to ignorance, another favored tactic.
Priestess Sytrene isn't impressed. She watches me tiredly, a slight frown upon her lips. "If you couldn't sense your passage through the magic, we have a much bigger problem on our hands." Her gaze slides to Nymia, the easier target. "I want the truth."
"We, um…" my sister mumbles, unsure.
"It's my fault," I cut in. "It was my idea."
Those sharp amber eyes cut back to me. "I'm well aware of that, Aerewyn."
A few of the priestesses over her shoulder smile, amused probably, by a sight that takes them back to their own youths. That's not what bothers me—it’s the snickers of the other girls, laughing quietly to each other, sharing glances laced with innuendo.
"We were chasing a phoenix!" I blurt.
Beside me, Nymia sighs.
"A phoenix?"
"Yes! I saw it last night while everyone was asleep, so I begged Nymia to come with me. I know we're not supposed to go over the boundary, but it was right on the other side. We didn't go very far. And we got to see it molt!"
Take that, I think, wrinkling my nose toward the other girls.
Priestess Sytrene straightens. "You saw it molt?"
I nod enthusiastically.
"Where?"
"In a tree."
"Out in the open?"
"Yeah. I thought that was odd, too."
A worry line digs into her forehead, out of place on a woman I've only ever seen controlled and serene. As soon as it's there, it's gone. "Regardless, you know the rules, Aerewyn. You both do. No magic for a week."
"A week?!" I cry. "A whole week?"
Nymia groans, taking the punishment without protest.
"It's not safe to go beyond the reach of our protection. And it would do you both well to remember that, especially in times such as these. Now, come."
We follow her across the clearing. My cheeks burn with shame as the other girls watch and whisper, smug looks on their faces. The deeper into the meadow we walk, the more our home comes into sight. The outskirts are just open fields, but in the center of the sacred lands, the grasses weave into covered huts and the sloping hills hide secret homes. Gardens come and go, but the most important garden of all lies in the very center of our home—the garden of souls. Within that hallowed circle, ringed by a living wall of fire that burns day and night, are unborn faeries. Some have lived a hundred times, born and reborn as the gods see fit. Some have never once opened their eyes. All wait for their turn, protected by our magic, existing only as flowers until the day the Mother and Father deign to gift them life.
It's the most magical place in the world.
It's also my least favorite—a fact I'm reminded of as Priestess Sytrene dips her hand into the flames, channeled directly from the sun, and pulls a ringlet of smoldering metal free.
Our magic is a gift from Mother.
And only she can take it away.
I sigh as the band slides over my wrist, still hot, and gasp. It doesn't burn—pain isn't the goal. It's the emptiness I feel, the absence, that makes me draw in a sharp breath. The sensation of being cut off from Mother isn't something I'll ever get used to. No matter how many times I'm disciplined this way, the shock always stings, like a slap to the face.
Priestess Sytrene uses her magic to tighten the cuff until it's small enough I won't be able to slip it off. I give Nymia an apologetic look as another one is secured to her wrist.
A whole week without magic.
What in the world are we going to do?


***

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