Hello all! Hope you’re having a lovely season. Cozy sweaters, hot cocoa by the fire, maybe even some snow? I do like winter, or at least I like looking at winter, if my job was something more outdoorsy then I’m sure I wouldn’t be so infatuated.
The Kindle release of The Brightest Star is about two months away and I can’t wait for February! So….
I’m excited to present this special excerpt of The Brightest Star, enjoy!
The dim light of a few lamps flickered, making the way dark, obscuring his mother’s deeds. Something squirmed and fussed in the bundle of blankets Nox’s mother carried in her arms. He followed her down the stone-carved steps deep under Manor Glenghlas and into the vast catacomb.
Nox tried to see what she carried. Perhaps it was a present for him, a puppy mayhap, or one of the other exotic animals he’d read about from the Mortal realm. A gift to make up for her being so nasty lately, it wasn’t nice of her to yell at everyone. It was Father who was being a bad boy not him!
Nox trailed just a few steps behind her but when she looked, she could not see him. Even amongst the Fae his talent was special. He was the first Shadow or Tenebris born in a very long time. Nox could merge and melt into the dark; disappear from one dark place and reappear in another, change his form and become the thing you most feared his very presence sent cold chills dancing along your skin. There were many names for those like him, spooks, and specters, phantoms, but in the Mortal realm his kind were known as The Boogeyman.
When his mother reached the darkest room in the catacomb Nox slid into the chamber just as she shut the door. She put the bundle into an old crate then leaned over close talking to it.
“There, little beast, this will teach your kind to dally men who don’t belong to them!”
Nox melded with the darkest shadow in the corner of the room as he watched her. It seemed mother wasn’t done being angry at the Mortal lady for playing kissing games with father.
Nox had overheard the servants talking about it. Cook told the laundry maid that Father was banished. She’d said, “Mistress Elspeth ‘twould get her evens with that Mortal soon.” This must be what Cook meant; the beast in the crate must belong to the Mortal lady.
“And when she sees your tiny wasted body,” Elspeth continued, “Sarah Bright will regret she ever heard his name! So beast, your job is to stay here and starve and my revenge is easily done.” Taking a deep breath she stood looking very pleased, her beautiful face smoothing. She even smiled. Then she left the dank little room slamming the door shut.
The thing in the crate cried and cried and Nox stayed very still in his shadowy corner. Eventually the beastie calmed, and when it did it called out to him, it knew he was there.
“Where you?” it asked. “See you? Pees?”
Nox edged cautiously toward the crate ready to run if the beast turned out to be dangerous. Peeking in he gasped at what he discovered. The little beast was a little girl! Her white hair a soft halo of curls; her pale green eyes regarded him without fear.
She smiled and held her arms up to him. “Up,” she demanded.
Nox stared at her, his bright blue eyes wide. Slowly and carefully he reached into the crate and lifted her out. “What are you bright thing?”
She laughed and hugged him around his neck and pulled at the dark little horns that curled up from his hairline. “Baa Baa,”
“I’m not a sheep,” he laughed. “I’m Nox.”
“Are you a star? Stars are bright and shiny,” he said studying her. He nodded, his decision made. “Yes you must be a star.”
She clapped for him and nodded. “Tar wight, tar bite!”
“Well little Star,” Nox said, setting her on her feet, “want to play a game?”
They played with stones he found. He would stack them, one, two, three, four… then she would knock them down. Then they snuck out of her chamber and chased each other through the dark catacombs playing hide and seek. She found him every time. This was grand fun for a while, but little Star soon tired and Nox was reminded that it must be way past time for snacks.
“Are you hungry?” Nox asked her.
She nodded and whined and sucked her fingers.
“What do little stars eat, I wonder?”
“Bud an’ bed!” she told him.
He tilted his head quizzically. “Really?”
“All right then,” he said, seeming pleased with the answer. He took a small dagger from a sheath at his waist and sliced a cut in the tip of his finger then held it to her mouth.
“Owie, Nos,” Star said.
“Blood,” he instructed. “I’ll sneak some bread later.”
The taste was very sweet and also salty. Her hunger instantly abated. She suckled his finger while he held her and hummed a little lullaby, a sweet simple tune. He stroked Star’s moon bright hair and soon she was fast asleep.
A few days later Elspeth came to see how her plan was shaping up. “How can you not be dead, beast?”
Nox stood behind his mother in the shadow behind the open door; he winked at Star and held a finger to his mouth. Clapping, Star laughed and smiled. This vexed Elspeth so badly she kicked the crate and screamed then stomped out and slammed the door.
Day after day Nox and little Star would play, wonderful games, like guess the monster. He would slide into the shadows and change his form. Her favorite was the Hellhound. She would squeal in delight and chase him around the dark catacomb, and when she would get sleepy Nox would slice another finger and feed her and rock her to sleep humming her lullaby.
One evening they were both so tired from their playing they both curled up together in the crate and fell asleep, their little hands twined together. This is how his mother found them the next morning.
“Nox!” she hollered, startling them both awake. “So this is why the beast still lives!”
“But why do you want Star to die?”
It was then she saw her son’s fingertips. She grabbed his hands and held them in her own. “Nox! What have you done?”
“She’s so pretty and bright, Mother, why?”
“No, no!” Elspeth wailed. “I’ve made a horrible mistake!” She picked up Star and hurried from the catacomb.
“Mother? No! Don’t take her!”
He tried to follow her but Elspeth ordered her servants to hold him immobile with a mail blanket laced with iron.
“No! She’s mine!” he screamed, thrashing in his confinement, his little boy’s heart breaking. “MINE!”
Star wailed in Elspeth’s arms. “Mah Nos! Nooo! Wan Nos!”
Elspeth traveled The Path, a magical conduit between the Mortal and Faerie realms. Until Elspeth took Sarah’s daughter no Mortal had ever successfully traveled The Path. The few mortals who tried were never heard from again. Who knows how the child remained unharmed by the journey, perhaps Elspeth’s anger fueled the power necessary to accomplish the task; perhaps it was something else.
She reached the Mortal realm just before sunrise and pounded on Sarah Bright’s door.
“Take her!” Elspeth demanded.
“Stella! My baby!” Sarah cried. She grabbed her daughter then rounded on Elspeth. “Faerie witch! How dare you!”
“You took from me,” Elspeth retorted, “I took from you.”
“Get out! Stay away from us!”
“Yes, I’ll leave you,” she said. “But know that she will never have a happy day again. She is a creature of light but will forever seek the shadows and never be satisfied.”
Elspeth looked at Stella with pity before she departed.