Sunday, November 6, 2011

Excerpt 3 from Winter’s Requiem, Historical/fantasy, PG


Available in Print and Ebook

Winter’s Requiem, Book 3, Dark Goddess Trilogy, Celtic historical/fantasy


Three different women, one ancient curse…

An ancient curse is revealed, leading Domelch, Brigit and Cailleach into certain danger amid a web of deceit. Can they break the curse and put the shattered pieces of their lives back together?


“Ungild, I am retiring to my room for the night. I will not need your services.” Cailleach concentrated on concealing her thoughts, hoping the old woman would not detect her deceit. Wrapping herself in shadows, she pretended to walk toward the hall to the royal quarters, but instead slipped silently into the woods.

She’d been careful not to use magic around the mortals, but tonight she had no choice if she was to test Aethelfrith’s heart. Concealing herself among thick bushes, she stepped out of her clothes. Her naked skin prickled in the cold autumn night, but the feeling of being naked filled her with a sense of freedom—freedom from the binding fabric, freedom from the laws of mortals.

Calling on her powers, she used all of her concentration and strength, aware of her weakness in this foreign land. Her body tingled with the transformation, her flesh twisted and shifted, sprouting black feathers.

The raven let out a harsh cry, ruffling her feathers and taking flight. Happiness filled her at the freedom this shape gave her to slip undetected through the night, soaring on wings across the treetops. The cold air bounced off her insulated body, her wings slicing with ease through a night illuminated by a full moon. The sounds of pounding hooves and jangling bridles reached her ears and she changed course, flying toward the river. Below outstretched branches, she spotted Aethelfrith and his band of warriors. They emerged from the woodlands into a clearing in pursuit of a stag.

Cailleach flapped her wings faster to increase her speed so she could keep up with the swift hunters. She recalled the thrill of hunting, her heart fluttering with excitement. The riders spread out around the fleeing stag in a skillful formation, cutting off its escape. The majestic beast fell under the might of the roaring spears.

Alighting on a nearby branch, Cailleach waited for the warriors to gather their prize stag, knowing they would probably stop to rest now.

A small fire sparked below. The warriors gathered around for warmth. Drinking horns gleamed in the moonlight, laughter carried up into the night.

It was time. Cailleach shrugged off the nervous jitters surging through her body, uncertain of what she wanted to happen. Spreading her wings, she landed on the ground, calling on more magic. Her body shifted, her flesh pulling and shaping into the sagging flesh of an old, ugly woman. In this tormented body, she did not have the same joyful feelings as she embraced in the raven’s body. The gnarled, painful joints twisted in a hideous angle, the naked flesh wrinkled and sagging. A sudden terrifying thought filled her that her senses about Aethelfrith were wrong. If he failed her test, she might not have the strength to change her shape back and she would be stuck in the hideous body.

It has to be this way. It has always been this way.

Naked and limping through the trees, she emerged before the warriors who sat in a circle around the fire. All heads turned toward her.

“Who here will give warmth to a lost, cold old woman?” Her voice sounded like a raven’s harsh croak. She parted her lips in a smile, revealing blackened and chipped teeth.

Theodbald looked at her with disgust. “Old woman, you will find no warmth here. Be off with you,” he barked, waving her away.

“Wait.” Aethelfrith stood, peering at her. “Take this to cover yourself.” He took off his cloak and approached her, draping it across her naked shoulders.

She looked at him, hoping he would see through the guise. Her chest tightened in apprehension. “Would you warm an old woman’s frozen lips?”

He gazed at her as if looking right through her. Cailleach’s heart quickened. He pressed a kiss to her lips, awakening the magic.

Her body changed, the bent, swollen joints straightening, the sagging skin tightening into the shape of a young, beautiful woman.

“What is this?” He stared wide-eyed at her.

“King of the land of Bernicia, I am Sovereignty and your seed shall be sown over every kin,” she said, hardly able to keep from revealing herself to him.

He peered at her, recognition glimmering in his eyes. “Frige?”

She gave him an enigmatic smile and called on the magic to change her shape into a raven. The cloak landed in a heap on the ground at Aethelfrith’s feet. Her transformation used the last of her powers until she could rest and gain more strength. The raven stared up at him and let out a parting croak. Flapping wings carried Cailleach away into the moonlit night, her thoughts troubled. She should be happy that he had the heart of a king, but something didn’t feel right.

A blanket of mist sparkled and shimmered beneath the ghostly splash of moonlight over the river dividing Bernicia from Gododdin. The fog emitted an unearthly radiance, parting as if opening a doorway. She tried to turn to avoid entering the strange mist, realizing it was a trap, but the fog surrounded her. In her weakened state, Cailleach’s magic was nothing more than a harmless ember that faded into a cold ash. She experienced a sense of confusion, the cold, wet mist capturing her.

Cailleach struggled to escape the trap. She sensed that Badb had tricked her, luring her here with magic. Badb knew Cailleach was unable to resist the temptation to test the prince for kingship and would be too weak after working such strong magic to be able to escape the trap. The fog encircled Cailleach with a memory, one she wanted to close her mind against. She tried to fight the powerful, magical pull.

I cannot escape from my past.


'Ms. Heckart draws the reader into the pages and enchants them with her words.'

Karen McGill, Coffee Time Romance


Kelley Heckart

'Timeless tales of romance, conflict & magic' Check out my long hair hotties!

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Debby said...

Another great excerpt. Thanks so much for sharing with us today.
debby236 at gmail dot com

Maria D. said...

Great excerpt! Thanks for sharing all of the excerpts today