Now Through July 18, 2016, Treva’s Children of the Knights of Aerioch series by David L. Burkhead will be available free.
From the story:
Talisa sat leaning back against a tree, her eyes closed. Despite the warmth, the strange, unnatural warmth, she felt chilled to her core. She could hear her people chatting as their fear of this unnatural spring in the midst of winter faded to be replaced with simple pleasure in the warmth, in the ripe pears and apples, and in the simple knowledge that the path behind them was now blocked, deferring for at time the Schahi threat. She could smell venison cooking over a fire.
The sound of voices faded, as if, one by one, the people stopped talking. The last voice faded, leaving only the sound of the brook and the popping of the fire.
Talisa opened her eyes. On the far side of the brook a woman stood. Tall, almost six feet, her straight brown hair falling alongside her neck to disappear behind her back. She wore a brown tunic and trousers. In her left hand she held a gnarled staff, fully eight feet long. A fierce scowl creased her face.
The woman pointed her staff at Talisa. “This valley is sacred to Treva. To defile it is death.”
Talisa’s mouth went dry. She approached the woman. “We meant no harm. Please, My Gracious Lady, allow us to rest until tomorrow and we will depart.”
The woman set the butt of her staff on the ground. “I am not your lady. Your lives were forfeit when they crossed into this land.”
Talisa saw no pity in the woman’s eyes. Treva, unlike the Threefold Twins, cared little for people. She gave her love to the wild things of the world, to the plants and animals, the rocks and streams. Still, Talisa tried once more to plead her case. “We did not come of our own free will. The Schahi…”
“I am aware of those abominations. The avalanche stopped them. And yet you came hither anyway.”
Talisa stepped forward and dropped to her knees. “Please, I beg you. If there must be a punishment, let it fall on me. I lead these people. It is my responsibility, not theirs.”
The woman stared at her for a long moment, then nodded. “Very well. These your people may stay until the morning. Your life I claim.” She turned. “Come with me.”