GUYS. COOL NEWS HERE.
This year I’m writing a Viking series with Pauline Creeden. I’m already working on the first book. It’s going to be a trilogy, though really, I’m visualizing more of a series. We’ll see what happens. We’ll probably have a May publication date for the first one, Lord willing!
Here’s a little bit of the first chapter….
Dyrfinna and Aesa were out in the field that morning to hoe—though, to be closer to the truth, Dyrfinna was tilling the fine soil with her hoe while Aesa chopped at it for a little while, trying to be like Dyrfinna, then would tire and pretend she was a puppy. She was just five years old and just a little goosy. She then romped around the broken clods of soil, yipping and barking, and then she’d come back and put her hands on Dyrfinna’s side, panting up at her and smiling.
“Are you my little puppy? Who’s my little puppy?” Dyrfinna asked, giving Aesa-puppy a one armed hug. “Look at these stones! We’re growing a big crop of stones. Can you help me dig them up?”
And indeed they had, because Dyrfinna’s hoe had struck sparks on a stone that the soil had heaved up. It was as if every winter, the soil shrugged up a new crop of stones, slowing down the spring tilling and planting. The soil seemed to also be hungry, for she kept laying chicken and duck manure on the soil, kept carting out hog and horse manure, kept mulching the growing crops with a heavy layer of grasses cut from the grasslands on the soil too rocky to grow crops, and the soil gobbled it right down, ready for the next load. But her field bore good crops because of it, so she was always diligent in gathering manure for the field, though it was often a smelly job.
Aesa-puppy barked and started digging away around the rock with her little hands, but then changed her mind and picked up her hoe and used that to dig. Dyrfinna joined her, scooping the soil out around the small boulder, a round, smooth stone that was the bones of the rugged land. She handled them with care, as she considered them sacred.
Suddenly Aesa drew in a long breath. “Sissy….”
Dyrfinna jerked her head up from the boulder she’d just dislodged. Her breath stopped in her throat.
From out of the tall winter grasses at field’s edge came a wolf, his yellow eyes full on them.
Aesa started to whimper. She was only five. When Dyrfinna was her age, she’d seen a pack of wolves take down one of their horses, her favorite horse, and Mama had snatched her up and run hard for the house while Papa had run backwards at our side – backwards – while slamming home arrow after arrow from his bow at the wolves. Afterward, three dead wolves littered the field with arrows sticking out of them. Her papa’s arrows. But her poor horse had been killed. She had nightmares about that for moons.
And here Dyrfinna was, alone in a field because she was too impatient to wait for anybody else, with no protection but a sword. But she’d have to wait for the wolf to come right up to her little sister in order to use that sword.
“Grab hold of my leg,” Dyrfinna commanded her. “Do it!”
Aesa’s little shaking arms went around Dyrfinna’s left leg.
“Sissy …” Aesa said again, and her little face crumpled. Her shaking arms loosened. She started to sob against Dyrfinna’s leg.
The wolf’s intense stare never wavered. It took one slow step toward them. Then two.
She’d have to move quickly. She had to pick up her sis, and she’d need to stoop to do it, and the wolf would likely rush them when she was on his level. At least he was alone, for a wolf with a pack would be calling to them. But a lone wolf would also be more desperate – more hungry.
With her foot Dyrfinna touched two of the stones she’d dug up, and pulled them close together so she could easily grab them when she picked up her sister.
“Aesa,” she said. “On the count of three, I’m going to stoop down and pick you up. If I have to fight this stupid wolf, I need you as close to me as you can get. Tight. Like a barnacle. Do you understand?”
She started crying out loud, but she nodded. Dyrfinna touched the sword in her scabbard, pulled it up a little so it would slide out in one smooth motion when she needed it.
Her heart was pounding so hard. This whole time, her eyes had been fixed on the wolf’s, except for a brief moment when they’d flickered to the stones, and when they’d flickered to Aesa. Her little sister. She loved her so much.
Well. Now Aesa was going to see how her big sister, who loved her more than anything else in the world – she could see how well Dyrfinna could fight.
“When I pick you up, I’m going to scream like nothing you’ve ever heard,” she told her sister. “Hold on tighter when I do.”
The wolf moved in a step. That bastard.
“Count to three with me,” Dyrfinna told her. “Then you scream when I scream. Okay?”
Her left hand was around her little shoulders. She felt Aesa nod.
Dyrfinna made her heart iron.
That wolf was not going to get her little sis.
That wolf was going to die right now.
“One.” She placed her feet into a solid stance, both for fighting and for picking up a three and a half stone girl.
“Two.” Aesa’s little trembling voice echoed hers. Dyrfinna breathed in deep, let it out, let power uncoil through her, just as she’d been taught for so many years.
Dyrfinna stooped, pulled Aesa tight against her body with her left arm, grabbed the two stones with her right hand, and pushed back to her feet with Aesa’s full weight against her left side. I’m going to have to compensate for that when I’m fighting.
Here the wolf came, loping toward them across the edge of the field,
And Dyrfinna shrilled the battle-cry, a scream like the eagles thrilling after their prey, and Aesa’s little voice joined hers, though her head was tucked tight against Dyrfinna’s shoulder and her little arms were tight around Dryfinna’s chest, and her little legs tight around Dryfinna’s belly. A rage Dryfinna’d never felt before rushed up through her feet and through her whole body, and she screamed again and launched that stone hard at the wolf.
It struck him in the side of his head but he still kept coming, shook it off, teeth showing.
She flung the second stone and struck him full in the face again, and as soon as the stone left her hand Dyrfinna drew her sword from under her sister’s bottom. Thank Freyja, Aesa’s feet were wound around Dyrfinna’s middle and out of the way of her scabbard. Her sword rang in her hands, the sword her papa had made for her, with the runic inscription NONE SHALL GET THROUGH ME written straight down the blade where she could see it.
And this giant wolf, all teeth and muscle like a stone wall was now running for them
and Dyrfinna shrilled again for all she was worth
and everything turned red, red, red,
and the terrible shock as her sword struck against the wolf’s neck
so much red.
And the wolf’s body struck Dyrfinna’s, and she staggered backwards and drew the sword up hard, as if pulling it out of a scabbard across the wolf’s chest.
The wolf’s breath puffed into her face.
Dyrfinna shoved it, she thought… not sure.
Her sword drove her hand where it needed to go.
A confused struggle, hard pain in her right arm.
The wolf danced around her feet, lunging. Her sword cut at it.
The fight became a blood fog as her mind blanked. She broke loose from herself.
Like a berserker.
Suddenly Dyrfinna realized Aesa was yelling “Stop, stop, stop, stop!” into her neck.
Dyrfinna returned to herself, though she still saw through a scrim of red.
The wolf had crawled a short distance away and was bleeding out its life on her field, the hungry soil drinking its blood.
Aesa still held tight to her neck.
And Dyrfinna realized she was still screaming.
She stopped, her sword and arm bright red with blood, as if she’d been slaughtering a hog.
She dropped her sword and put Aesa on the ground. Dyrfinna dropped to her knees and the sisters held each other tight. They cried hard for a minute, and the red rage left Dyrfinna’s body, leaving her shaken.
Then Dyrfinna let her sister go and took a deep, shaky breath, looking back at the carcass of her enemy. That enormous wolf’s body, lying crumpled on the earth, now looked as sad and forlorn as any dead dog.
“I’m sorry,” she told it, her voice hoarse from her screams. “You fought bravely, and I understand how hunger drives you. But one of us had to die, and it was not going to be my little sister.”
END OF SAMPLE
… but trust me, there’s more where that came from. 🙂
You can preorder THE FLAME OF BATTLE right now!
Dyrfinna is a born commander. She bests her peers in dragon riding, sword fighting, and battle strategy. So when the Queen calls the people of Skala to battle to revenge her murdered daughter, Dyrfinna outfits a ship and brings a crew.
Once in the field, Dyrfinna leads her troops to victory in a series of hard-fought battles against overwhelming odds. Yet a commander is raised over her, and because of his clumsy leadership, a great disaster results in the massacre of a quarter of the Queen’s army. Then the commander unfairly blames a second disaster on Dyrfinna. The wrong stroke of her sword could undo everything she’s ever worked for, earn her the fury of her friends … and exile to certain death.
But you can’t keep a true warrior down. When things are darkest, a flame rises out of the desolation.