REALMS OF MAGIC,
A Spellcasters Story Collection
Available on Amazon and in KU
Excerpt from The Dark Season by Jaci Miller.
Bramble thorns snagged at her skirt as she sprinted toward the ancient yew. Frustrated she grabbed the rough fabric in her fist and pulled it upward. Her bare feet, bloody and torn, stung when they met the cold earth. Branches lashed her skin, but she ignored the pain and continued to run. Her only way home was the crocheted poppet clutched in her hand. It was the one item that could pull her from this dark and desolate place, from this nightmare.
A howling wind echoed inside the yew’s hollow trunk beckoning her toward it. Her chest constricted, which made it difficult to breathe as fear turned her skin cold. Anxious energy swirled around her. She turned her head and searched the darkened hedgerow behind her for its presence.
Trapped for years in this wretched place, it had waited patiently for the veil to open. It struggled to survive in a world of shadows and sorrow, known as the thin place. A plane of misery that exists beyond the natural world. Now its time had come for she’d unwittingly broken the seal between the two worlds, allowing it access to the thing it needed most—life.
Through the thick leaves of the hedgerow, she saw the dark smoke of the cottage’s chimney curling upward into the twilight. The familiar, comforting sight spurred her on, making her forget the pain in her feet.
Dread clung to her skin, wrapping her in a heavy chill of despair as whatever lurked in the forest closed in. A mix of ancient magic and centuries of torment swirled around it, an evil festering deep in its blackened soul.
Impulsively she glanced over her shoulder and saw the ancient witch weaving in and out of the shadows behind her. Green eyes pierced the darkness, devilish orbs mocking her as she gave chase. A tangled mass of gray hair surrounded the witch’s ashen face, the edges of which were sharp and pointed. Black remnants of a tattered dress billowed around her as she flew.
A shriek filled the night.
The yew tree loomed in front of her, and she jumped into the large hole at its base. Inky blackness rendered her temporarily blind, but she continued to run, hands fumbling in front of her. Uncontrollable dread made her heart pound when the witch’s screech filled the hollow.
The sparkling light of the veil appeared up ahead, and she quickened her pace. The crone was nearly upon her.
As she jumped the hedge back into the physical world, stale breath brushed the back of her neck and the old witch’s icy fingers wrapped around her throat. For a moment, the two worlds became one, a dimension comprised of life and death, good and evil, and the past and the present.
When her awareness returned, she was back on the physical side of the veil. A flutter rose in her chest, followed by a wave of nausea. Desperation seized her, and she searched the shrubbery for any sign of the witch, but the brambles lay silent. The hedgerow nothing more than a dark shadow marking the boundary between this world and the one beyond.
A tear slid down her cheek. What had she done?
Her ancestors created this monster and damned the hedgewitches who would come after. For centuries the door to this dark place remained sealed but now, because of her foolish actions, a crack formed in the veil allowing the malediction to seep into the physical world.
From this time forth the legend of the Haeg would be myth no more.
The dark season had begun.