Authors: Elissa Daye
By Elissa Daye
World Castle Publishing
a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the
author’s imagination or are used fictitiously and are not to be construed as
real. Any resemblance to actual events, locations, organizations, or person,
living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
World Castle Publishing
© Elissa Daye 2012
Edition World Castle Publishing December 1, 2012
rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner
whatsoever without written permission, except in the case of brief quotations
embodied in articles and reviews.
the heat of battle, it was hard to tell where one beast ended and the other
began. Grant dodged the claws that swiped menacingly at his head. The fight was
fierce as Madigan’s Army of miscreants attacked the werewolves of the Lair.
could shift into any animal that was required of him because of the anamorphic
magic of Serenas that ran through his veins. He was currently assuming the
shape of a black wolf. He fought alongside man and beast alike, as the men who
followed Marshal Madigan were both everyday men and various types of shifters.
No one was turned away from Madigan’s Army, for they fought to protect their
countryside from the terrifying rampage of the cold hearted werewolves of
Narcissa, who were hell bent on destroying any living being in their wake. This
pack of werewolves had extended their reach when they had started to recruit
other werewolves who were hungry for power.
snarling beast threw its body toward Grant, but his lithe limbs pushed him into
the air fast enough to jump over the hurtling body. He faced the gnashing teeth
of the rabid wolf before he saw Marshal Madigan’s sword cleave the beast’s head
from its body. Grant shook the spray of blood from his coat and looked around
him. Five wolves had beaten a hasty retreat, while six more lay limp and
lifeless on the ground, moments before turning into their human forms. His eyes
searched for the one that would bring him peace in the void that surrounded
him, the one man who made him hunger for revenge, but Seamus Finnigan was
nowhere to be found.
Finnigan, second in command in the Lair, was the one who had taken from Grant the
only thing he had ever cared about. It had just been a few years ago when his
wife Maria had been abducted from their home. Maria had recently given birth to
their beautiful daughter, Sophia, and had gone out to take a walk in the brisk
morning air. She had wandered farther than she should have and was attacked by
Seamus and his wolf pack. She had fought them off as best as she could, but
they had made sure that she would not return as the same person. They had taken
their time, torturing her before sending her back to Grant battered and broken,
bearing the bite that had turned her into a monster.
wounds had healed quickly, but her heart had turned dark and bitter and the
woman before him became much colder than the one Grant had known. It took years
for the melancholy to finally rise to a feverous pitch. Grant had done his best
to keep her locked up during each full moon, for those were the times that the
darkness swallowed her whole and she shifted into the beast that had taken over
her body. However, the moment she turned on their young toddling child his
disgust and outrage forced him to give in to her demands to be released into
waited for his wife to return, hoping above all else that the evil lurking in
her heart could be washed away with the moon’s rays, but when the sun hit the
morning sky, she did not return. Two days later her body was brought back to
him by Marshal Madigan, who had regretted to inform him that she had been
killed by the Lair. The light had seemed to fade from Grant’s eyes and he
became lost in the darkness. It was clear to the people around him that he had
finally snapped. He had become enraged, revenge had eaten at his soul, and the
only recourse he had was to avenge the death of his wife.
evil that plagued their lands had taken away any chance he had at bringing back
the woman he had loved, and had left his daughter without a mother to raise
her. In a heartbeat Grant’s life had changed. He had gone from being Lord
Timberlin of Wickford Manor to being the right hand man of Marshal Madigan, as
they traveled the country trying to put an end to the Lair that reveled in the
destruction it left in its wake.
had been two years ago. His beautiful Sophia was now four years old and she resembled
her mother so much that, most days, he dared not look at her. Truth be told, he
spent very little time at Wickford, and only knew what his steward forwarded to
sorry, Grant.” Marshal Madigan’s green eyes sympathized with the beast in front
of him. Marshal’s grey hair and rough beard did nothing to age him, for his
body was in perfect fighting condition. He was a rock of a man, with well-defined
shoulders that held the world safely in place.
yellow lights flickered around him as Grant’s body changed back to his human
form. Unlike his werewolf counterparts, Grant did not experience change slowly,
his coarse hair did not retract into his pores, and his bones did not contort
back into his human shape. The magic that ran through his body allowed him to
manipulate his shape within moments, and while it was a powerful magic, he had
only demonstrated his abilities to the men he fought alongside of. Magic of all
kinds was still feared in their world. However, their fight against the Lair
had begun to create a slight tolerance for their kind, for the Lair did not
distinguish between those of their own kind and those that did not have a
single drop of magic in their blood.
turned to Marshal and grimaced. “Never fear, Marshal. One day he will be mine.
These men here, they deserved to die as much as he does.”
be leaving us for a while?”
conscience nibbled to the forefront of his mind. Marshal had always had a way
with the thoughts of others around him. He took a slow breath inward and faced
his leader. “My heart is heavy, my friend. It is time for me to return to
Sophia. I’ve ignored her for far too long.”
are your plans?” Marshal’s eyes sought his from beneath the silver helmet that
covered his gray hair.
find her a mother.” The thought put a bitter taste in his mouth. He really did
not want to replace Maria, but Sophia needed a mother. Her maid was threatening
to quit yet again, for reasons that Grant could never understand. How hard was
it to take care of a small child? From what he had seen, Sophia was a quiet
little mite. What trouble could she cause? He would go home and placate the
woman and hope she would stay at least long enough for him to find Sophia a
mother to oversee her care. He needed to find a permanent woman for her life,
someone to give her the love he was incapable of giving.
know a man who can find you a match quite easily for the right amount of money.”
not be purchasing any slaves any time soon, Marshal.” Grant shook his head in
clapped a hand on Grant’s shoulder. “Not that kind of man, Grant. He makes
matches. Some call him ‘Mr. Destiny’.”
don’t care what they call him, if he can bring me a suitable mother for Sophia.
Send a messenger to this man and tell him to meet me at Wickford Manor.” While
many men would want to spend more time looking for a proper wife, Grant did not
have that luxury. Grant bid Marshal farewell and started his journey back to
returned home and awaited the merchant that would find him a wife and suitable
mother for Sophia. It took longer than he desired for the man to arrive, and by
the time he did Grant was itching to return to the battle. He had heard that
the Lair was attacking the countryside to the north, and his fingers itched to
draw his sword, as many fought in their human forms long before they chose to
abandon them for their beastly counterparts.
the merry bald man arrived at Wickford Manor, Grant was not convinced that he
could find a woman so quickly, but he trusted Marshal Madigan with his life, so
he ignored the doubt that invaded his mind. “I am in need of a wife. Marshal
said you were the best at making such matches.”
Marcus looked up at Grant as if sizing him up. “I’ve been known to make a match
or two. Tell me, Lord Timberlin, what qualities are you searching for?”
has gone too long without the gentle care of a mother. I need a woman who can
take my child under her wing, a woman who can accept her as her own.” Grant
thought about the comfort his child had been denied these past two years and
his heart felt heavy in his chest. He should have done many things differently
for his child and he hoped he was not too late to make amends for his mistakes.
see. Anything else?’
would prefer her to be willing. I am not interested in any chit who is forced
into this union…no woman pushed into it by the demands of her overreaching
parents. I do not want a wife that is too young, either, but do not want one
who has been around.”
young enough to still hold her virtue high, but not too scared to live with a
man who is hardened by the world?”
grimaced under the man’s scrutiny. He could not fault him for his honesty. “She
will need to run Wickford in my absence, raise my child, and fulfill all the
natural responsibilities of a wife, including the marital bed, so please make
sure she is at least pleasing to the eye.”
bald man chuckled. “Of course, Lord Timberlin, the woman I have in mind would
be pleasing to your eye, trust in that.”
handed over several gold coins to assist this mysterious man. “I will be away
for a small period of time, as the battle takes me north. If the lady is
willing, please stand in as my proxy, then bring her home to Wickford Manor.”
you wish.” The man’s eyes twinkled when he left, which Grant had thought quite
odd, but after Marcus disappeared from his sight Grant did not think any
further on it.
dream had come again…the same faceless man, the same room. The same exact
feelings still consumed Malinda’s every waking moment. It was as if her soul
was reaching out to him every night. She felt the trail of fire from his lips
still burning into her flesh. Flashes of their intertwined bodies ran through
her mind, each one rising and falling in syncopation as desire echoed between
awoke flushed and almost out of breath, as the vivid dream felt much more like
reality to her each time. She felt a deep throbbing down to her very core, so
fierce it reminded her of the time she had dropped a rock on her toe. The blood
had pulsed into the tip and beat a painful rhythm into her flesh. Oh how she
ached for the unknown man in her dreams, and there was no cure for it,
certainly none that she had any experience with. She looked over at the burning
coals in the fireplace and stretched her sore limbs.
sat up and cursed the hard floor beneath her. She had fallen asleep near the
fire, as she had many nights since her grandmother had become ill. This room
was closer to her grandmother, so that if she called out for her Malinda would
hear her and be able to answer her quickly. She would have slept on the floor
in her grandmother’s room, but she did not want to interrupt the healing sleep
that her grandmother needed. It was good that she did not, for if she could see
Malinda’s face right now she would think her a harlot. All the desires that
were hidden beneath the surface were unseemly for a young lady. It was not
natural to be so in tune with mortal desires.
rose from the floor, walked across the small house, and gathered up a bucket to
bring in water from the well. She walked outside, pleasantly surprised with the
beauty of the morning. The wind carried a soft sigh of contentment along its
gentle breeze. Malinda let it pass over her with a small smile on her face.
Strands of her long black hair swayed when the wind tickled the air around her.
She struggled to confine the dark strands, but even the green ribbon she had
used to clasp it behind her head could not contain the rebellious locks. She
had attempted everything to straighten the curls to a simpler style, but they
would not cooperate. Her green eyes flashed in amusement as the wind caught up
underneath her skirt and tickled her ankles. It was a good day to be alive.
she brought in the water, she separated it into different containers. The water
was used for several purposes each day: cooking, cleaning, and bathing. When
she had finished this, she put more wood on the burning coals and started a
fire to cook their breakfast. She boiled water and threw in some oats to make
their mash for the morning. She then set about making the bread for the week.
the flour and water together was therapeutic, and she finally put the remainder
of her inner turmoil to rest as she focused on the task at hand for a change.
She put the dough into pans so that it could rise before she set it in the
small stone oven. Her grandfather had built the oven in the back of the tiny
wooded hut with his own hands, the very same hut that he had first brought his
wife to many years ago.
smiled thoughtfully. Her grandfather had been a good man. When Malinda’s
mother, Andraya, had returned home, pregnant and heartbroken, he had been the
first to suggest that Andraya stay with them in their small home in Tinley
Faire. It was tiny, but it was encompassed with love and, even though they did
not own the land it sat upon, they owned every nail, every inch of wood,
everything within the four walls. No one could have known that her mother would
die of a broken heart moments after giving birth to her beautiful daughter. Her
grandparents had done the best they could to provide for Malinda, and she had
never really needed anything, for her life was brimming with love.
her grandfather had passed last year, it had been hard on both Malinda and her
grandmother. He had been fit most of his life and had worked for the blacksmith
of the Tinley Faire. His wage had gone to the Lord of Tinley Faire to pay the
taxes on the land they leased. When he had passed, Malinda had used the rest of
the money he had saved sparingly to see that the taxes were paid. She had also
been using her skills as a seamstress to help earn more money, as well as
helping with the animals in the area. She had been managing fine until her
grandmother had taken ill. Malinda now had all the duties of the household to
perform, as well as any projects that she had been commissioned for. It was
getting harder each day to keep up with it all, and her keen senses told her
that the lord’s steward would be hounding them for the property taxes very
soon. If her dream yesterday was correct, he would be coming today.
left a bowl of oats near her grandmother’s bed, knowing that she would awaken
when she felt like it. Rushing the sick to awaken in the morning light was
never a good idea. She quickly ate a bowl and then went about some of her daily
chores. She had taken on tending to some of the master’s sheep from Malcome
Little. His son had passed away last spring, so he was short handed. He was not
able to give her money for her efforts, but he had been able to share some of
their food and supplies. When the sheep were sheared, she was given a small
amount of the wool to spin for her own supply. She had used that to create
warmer blankets and wraps for her grandmother.
she was glad that Malcome was nowhere to be found. She liked to spend the quiet
time among the hills, just her, the breeze, and the small bleats of the woolly
sheep. She sat and opened her mind to the moment, letting the earth swallow her
feet and the winds envelop her like a cocoon. When she entered into a state of
complete tranquility, the whisper of a voice ran through her head. It was a
child’s voice, so soft she would have missed it had she not been listening
closely. “He needs you.” Malinda struggled to let her mind travel to where the
sound started, but a warm tongue on her face shook her from her reverie. She
opened her eyes to find one of the ewes looking at her with eyes that seemed to
know more than her voice would ever be able to tell.
right Bess. I get it. Time to bring you all in.” The ears that perked up, along
with the small bobbing tail that answered her, told Malinda that the sheep
understood her perfectly. It was quite strange how easy it was to communicate with
the animals. Her grandmother had told her it was due to the magic of Lena that
flowed through her veins: Adrianic magic, older than life itself. When she had
been younger her grandmother had taught her everything there was to know about
the Adrianic magic, a magic that every woman who was descended from Lena passed
down to their daughters, a heritage that came with many powers and even greater
responsibility. It was to be used solely to protect others who could not
protect themselves, and was never to be used to get ahead in the world around
them, for personal gain, or for profit. The women of Lena had many varied
skills, from controlling the elements to telling the future. Malinda was a mix
of all these things. She could harness the elements if she concentrated hard,
but it took a lot of effort for her, for the elements were not what drew her
closer. She was skilled in natural healing, could read a person’s aura easily,
and could sometimes get an imprint from the past based on the aura a person
left behind. She also could read animals well enough to help them, and often
times could be found with many different animals following her around. She felt
that her ability to understand the animals was her greatest power.
grandmother had been a master healer, and had taught Malinda everything that
she knew. Malinda absorbed everything she had been taught—every herbal remedy,
spell, and prayer—but one thing had become clear to her: there was no cure for
old age and a broken heart. Her grandmother’s health had plummeted since her
grandfather had passed away, and Malinda felt helpless as she watched her
grandmother get progressively worse with the passing of each day.
Malinda returned home from the pastures she was not surprised that the steward
was heading to their little hut from the long road that stretched from Tinley
Faire to the outskirts of the property. When the steward finally dismounted in
front of their hut Malinda was prepared for the pomp and circumstance.
wore a royal purple doublet that was so puffed up around the neck and sleeves
that he looked like a strutting peacock. Apparently no one had thought to tell
him how his blotchy red skin stood out more with bright colors. The red plume
on top of his black hat reminded her of a rooster’s tail. His large bottom was
squeezed into white breeches that were at least three sizes too small. She knew
she would never forget the sight of the large hips ballooned out so far around
him, making him so rotund that he was quite comical in appearance. All in all,
it was easy to assume that he was quite harmless, but that perhaps was her
never could understand how a person’s worth was ascertained from the amount of
clothing they wore, but then again she had never had clothing that she or her grandmother
had not made. She was due for new clothes soon, for her dresses were starting
to wear thin, and she was sure that the cold winter chills would not be kept at
bay this year. She clutched her skirt in her hand and ran a finger over the
delicate lace they had bartered for. She looked up at the steward of Tinley
Faire, his desires written clearly on his face. With a rustle of the wind in
the leaves she knew that whatever happened next was going to have deep
consequences. She petted the head of the large dog near her side when a low
growl rumbled in his chest.
Grier.” He put a hand to his hat, but did not bother to remove it, a sign that
he knew very well of her parentage.
Halfscomb.” Malinda dropped her head down as low as she dared, knowing if she
curtsied too low before him that his eyes would linger even longer on her
Tinley has asked me to do my rounds for tax collecting. It has been several
months, and the Lord Tinley has been as understanding as is required in your
situation, but I’m afraid your taxes are long past due. Have you any money for
eyed him speculatively. She knew that Lord Tinley was half off his rocker. He
had no clue who owed taxes or who had paid in full. He had never so much as cared
about when her grandfather had paid him before, but now that there was no man
in their little hut the steward had taken to assuming more of a role in his
collections from them. She saw the way his tongue swept quickly over his bottom
lip and the way his hand patted his side in slow rhythms. “I am working on
gathering up the sums required, my lord.”
perhaps we can work out an arrangement, my dear.” His hand made to sweep across
her arm and Mule, her large mastiff, latched onto his doublet with a growl that
would have shaken any man to his core.
Malinda snapped her fingers and the dog immediately lay down at her side. “I’m
so sorry, Sir Halfscomb. He must have thought you were going to try something
inappropriate with me. You know how these beasts can be sometimes. He doesn’t
know Lord Tinley’s rules about improper engagement on his property. I know I am
quite safe in your presence, for Lord Tinley requires complete decorum from his
. He wouldn’t think twice about firing anyone in his employ for
abusing his tenants.” Malinda looked up at Halfscomb with an innocent
serene stare, and he quickly withdrew his hand away from her.
be it.” Lord Halfscomb clenched his teeth and sneered angrily at her. “Then I
give you two days to rectify this situation before you are cast out from your
home and it is burned to the ground. That is well within the laws of Tinley
Faire, as well as any tenant contract within these parts. Fair warning. Good
day, Ms. Grier.”
strutted off much like he had come, but the fast paced waddle was almost too
much for her. She made great effort to still the giggles that threatened to
break free at the spectacle his wide behind made, and was successful in
quelling the tide of emotions until he was far enough away that he could not
hear her. She entered her home, loud giggles breaking free from her mouth. Even
though the severity of the situation tickled the surface of her mind, it was
the sight that met her in the doorway that took her breath away.
Her grandmother was sitting in the chair by the fire. She had not climbed from
the bed in days, and yet there she sat. It should have made her happy to see
that her grandmother had risen from bed, but from the way her shoulders hunched
over and her head hung loosely to her chest, Malinda feared the worst. When she
crossed the room to her side, she lifted a hand to touch her grandmother’s head
and found it cold to the touch. The cries that shook the little house could be
heard for miles around as Malinda mourned the last connection she had in her
life. Mule howled at her side, mourning with her. Soon other animals gathered
outside, their sounds multiplying the agony of her passing. When tears were no
longer able to fall from her eyes, a storm cloud engorged the sky above and the
rains took over in a torrential downpour that the lands had not seen since her
grandfather had passed.