Chapter 1: An Unexpected Task

13 0 0

The early morning heat bears down on me. I stare at the soiled hay scattered across the cracked paddock. I imagine I'm a princess living on a remote island. I'm free to do as I please. In my mind, I govern everything and everyone that surrounds me. The life I live is one of my own making.

Reality soon hits and I'm back in the present, however. Beads of perspiration drip down my forehead and cheeks. Several accumulate across my top lip.

A sigh of frustration slides past my lips. I wipe the sweat away and lean forward, grabbing the discarded rake. With a flick of my hand, I toss another mound of soiled hay onto the growing pile. For the past hour and a half, I've been out here in the middle of the paddock, cleaning up the mess the horse's have made. This is technically Joren's job. With him down in Corvora, however, making sure it's cleaned and kept tidy has fallen onto my shoulders.

My arms hurt, but I do my best to ignore the pain. I need to finish this before I start cleaning the entire house. Momma tumbled down the stairs several days before Joren headed for the city. She's been indisposed since then and can't do much for herself.

Berenger, our ever faithful Bloodhound, appears as if out of thin air. He runs toward the large mound, his tongue lolling out of his mouth. Delight lurks deep within his dark brown eyes.

I shoo him away, refusing to let him scatter the hay. I've gone through too much trouble in gathering it already. I'm so not going to do it again.

The dog bounces back and forth. He comes to a complete stop and faces north. His ears flatten against his head. Seconds later, he drops to the ground and whines.

"Don't you have someone to help you with that?" a disembodied voice says.

I turn in the voice's direction, searching for the source. "Is someone there?"

A light mist shimmers to the left of where I'm standing. "There is, yes."

Curling my fingers around the rake's handle, I raise my arms and hold it aloft. "Show yourself!"

The mist sparkles and solidifies. A woman stands before me with a smile upon her face. She curtsies in front of me, her platinum-colored hair falling across her brow.

"It's good to finally meet you, Helena."

Startled, I let go of the rake and take a step back. My right ankle twists. I lose my balance and tumble to the ground, landing in the middle of the mound of hay and scattering it in every direction. The sudden impact forces the air out of my lungs.

My eyes widen. I recognize the Goddess of the Hearth.

"Y—You're . . ."

The woman smiles and nods. "I am Evalastra," she says.

I tilt my head at her in acknowledgment. "Yes, I—"

She waves her hand in the air. The yard and the rake disappear.

I soon find myself sitting in the middle of large green meadow with lilacs scattered all around me. The scent of the flowers invades my nostrils, causing me to sneeze.

"Where are we?" I ask, pushing myself to my feet.

Evalastra offers me a small smile. She snaps her fingers and manifests a medium-sized table and two tables in front of her.

"Please, have a seat," she says, and sits down on the chair to the right of the table. "I apologize for the secrecy, but it's imperative that no one, aside from those you select and make your confidant, know about what I'm about to tell you."

I frown and say, "Those I select?"

"Yes," she replies. "It's not a coincidence that I am here."

A Call To ActionRead this story for FREE!