Sunday, October 14, 2012

Fall Into Fantasy Hop #Giveaway! Win Dust, Frost Arch, and Flamethroat ebooks.

Announcing the Fall Into Fantasy Hop
October 16th to 21st
Hosted by I Am A Reader, Not A Writer & The Write Path.
In case it isn't totally obvious this hop is all about Fantasy.

First book that we have for this great Fantasy Giveaway is Dust, by Devon Ashley. Thanks for Devon for donating an ebook of this great book about the Fae. epub and mobie formats.
Summary In scrollbox below

4. The number of times my delicate wings have been broken and clamped behind my back.
68. The number inked upon my skin, marking me the sixty-eighth pixie to be stolen.
87. The number of days I’ve been wrongfully imprisoned.
88. The first day the faeries will regret stealing me.

Healthy. Cheery. Vivacious. All traits Rosalie has before becoming enslaved by the faeries to make an endless supply of pixie dust. Now that Rosalie has been traumatized by slave labor, extreme desolate conditions and multiple deaths, this hardened pixie is anything but. When this rebellious teenager attempts an escape, she’s isolated in cramped quarters until she learns her place. Just as she begins to let go of all that hope, she finds an unlikely friend in Jack, the faerie assigned to guard her. Interspecies dating is forbidden in the fae world, so their growing attraction is unacceptable. And even if Jack can find a way to free her, they know the prison is the only place they can truly be together.

Clean YA Fantasy.
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Expert Below In Scrollbox
Day 0
I smile as my eyes adjust to the morning light, squinting as a beautiful blur of yellow and white squeezes between my eyelids. Sunbeams stream in through the thatched roof made of wood and twisted vine, one directly onto my face. My eyelids twitch as they fight their way open. Specks of dust float aimlessly through the air, twinkling as bright as the stars in the night sky. A thickleburn pushes through one of the cracks in the thatch and flits about my tiny tree house, finally landing on the uneaten blueberry I left on the floor last night. It looks at me thoughtfully with those black, metallic, oval-shaped eyes that are way too big for its head.

“It’s alright. You’re welcome to help yourself.” The thickleburn releases a tiny squeak, then eagerly punctures the flesh of the blueberry with the point of its oversized beak. A gentle, repetitive sucking noise barely makes its way to my ears. The little bug reminds me of a hummingbird, yet no larger than a fly. The green sheen of its silky coat shimmers now that it’s settled down within a sunbeam.

I stretch my limbs as far as they go, feeling the sigh of my muscles as they extend farther and farther. The fresh, soft leaves I picked last night to make my bed have dried and now crunch beneath me, a few broken twigs poking my skin in random spots. My skirt wrinkled during the night, and I try to rub the creases out of the silky fabric that drapes over my thighs. No go. My best bet is to dip into the river and fly to air-dry it quickly. And I can’t see them, but I’m sure the tails from my matching bikini top that wrap and tie behind my back are wrinkled too.

I roll over and notice that a vine flower has pushed through one of the floor cracks and bloomed. The white flower petals are wilting, its stem weakened and curved over, exhausted from trying to touch the warmth of a sunbeam just out of reach. “Aww,” I sing with compassion. I pull a pinch of pixie dust from the weathered satchel around my waist, the fine particles prickly against my thumb and forefinger. Concentrating my desire, I will the dust to grow the vine as I sprinkle the glittery particles over it. A shimmer forms around the structure and an iridescent glow pulsates, first slowly, then so fast it’s constant. Like a still heart suddenly brought back to life, the vine strengthens and the neck of the flower rolls upward. The stem lengthens and the flower reaches the sunbeam, its petals thickening with magical strength as the wilted, curvy tips suddenly stiffen and hold strong. Satisfied, I roll myself up and lean back on my hands.

Morning is my favorite time of day. The air seems fresher, like every living organism releases a sigh and fills the forest with a delicious combination of sweet and floral scents. The thickleburn has its fill of blueberry juice and buzzes my nose in appreciation before squeezing back through the thatch above me. I reach for the purplish fruit and savor the semi-sweet flavor for myself.

There’s a terse knock at the makeshift door and I rush to pull the rickety wood inward, imagining the aged structure crying in pain, begging me to prevent the knuckles from rapping harshly once more. My roommate Poppy glares at me. Her arms are crossed over her chest and her opalescent wings flutter madly in the light, splattering the walls of my small tree house with dancing rainbow-colored specks.

“Seriously? You slept here again?” Her lips curl in a way that makes me think I smell, but really it’s because she’s disappointed in me.

“As if you’ve never slept up here before,” I accuse.

Poppy’s arms drop and wave dramatically as she cries, “We were pixlings then! We’re teens now, Rosalie! Do you really think hotties like Tin and Mustard will want to court a pixie that prefers a pile of leaves to fine silks?”

I want to be mad at her for being so shallow, but I know how important the idea of courtship is to her. I just don’t feel the same way. Sure, I’d like to find a mate, but it won’t ruin my life if I don’t. Lots of pixies go through life solo. And secretly, I fancy the idea of living life within nature’s warm grasp.

“Poppy, I love nature. I love to touch it, breathe it, taste it. And I love my tree house. I’m sure if the right pixie is out there, he’s going to feel the same way.”

Her mouth drops and her face scrunches in such a way that screams an overdramatic oh, the horror, but she quickly answers with, “Whatever. Come on. The others are already gathering at the river.” She doesn’t wait for me to reply – probably afraid I would say no.

I step out of my tree house and onto one of the thick Lauralyn stems supporting my favored home. I built the structure way up high in the canopy. Partially because I love to watch the sky, but mostly because it offers me a sense of privacy I just don’t get down in the village. I give my wings a little shake and catch out of the corner of my eye the yellowish magical shimmer that courses through the veins and crossveins. I dive into the air and allow myself to fall head first with my eyes shut tight. I know exactly how long I can fall before my wings need to activate and curve my descent ninety degrees. When they do, I feel a hefty amount of air rage against my form, angry that I defied gravity once more. My eyes open and I shoot forward above the dirt paths lined with gorgeous green ferns that zigzag through the forest. Poppy dips from above and cuts me off, shaking her head at me for performing my nosedive. She finds my actions pretty reckless most of the time. I consider it enjoying life. I see her dive into a bush of miniature strawberries and exit the other side with a reddish blur secured under each arm. I follow suit and pluck two of the succulent ruby-red fruits from the stems for myself, the green leaves gently brushing against my skin.

I follow Poppy as she leads us into the heart of our Hollow.

Pixies of all ages are already up and about doing their morning chores. The older females are cleaning up around the homes we’ve burrowed into the tall Lauralyn trees. They use a cluster of pine needles to sweep the dirt and leaves that have blown into their homes during the night, the sap snatching everything within its sticky grasp. The younger males have already piled fresh twigs in bundles at each of the fire pits around the village. The older males are working on various jobs that keeps our little village functioning. Three are shaving wood into usable pieces of furniture. One is going around knocking down spider webs that went up overnight. Teenage females like Poppy and I gather fruits and nuts every morning. We deposit our strawberries to the pile already started on the large, flat river rock in the middle of the Hollow. I snag one of the wildflower seeds amongst the fruits and nuts, and devour the morsel as we continue on our way.

Poppy doesn’t take us out of the village though. Instead, she pulls her body upright and stops at the base of the home we share. When Poppy and I turned sixteen last year, we were allowed to move outside the pixling home and we chose each other as roommates. We’ll stick together until the end, unless one of us decides to bond with a mate, which surely Poppy will. I pull to a stop beside her. “I thought we were meeting the others.”

“We are. But seriously, you’ve got to change,” she complains, her eyes scanning my body with disapproval.

I shake my head in amusement, but push through the front door anyway. The width of our Lauralyn tree is smaller than most in the Hollow, but I don’t mind, seeing how I prefer the simplicity of my tree house anyway. Poppy complains about it all the time though. She’s still petitioning our elders to carve out a larger tree for us. But seriously, how much room does a six-inch pixie need?

The main cubby on the ground floor is the largest room we have. The tree is hollow, but leaves five inches all around to maintain the structural integrity of the tree. The walls are about a foot high and have a chiseled look to them. Most pixies sand down their walls and make them smooth, but we like that our walls look rough and raw. Well, I like it. Poppy just didn’t want to bother with that kind of labor. One would think hollowing out the base of a tree would be detrimental, and it would be, but once a month we fertilize our tree with a mixture of pixie dust and nutrients that help the tree sustain its life. Trees like the one we live in won’t really be able to grow anymore, but our presence will by no means harm it.

Neither Poppy nor I spend much time in our home, so we really haven’t done much with our common room. A large area rug has an abstract patchwork effect in shades of creams, tans and blacks. Each piece is made up of the velvety fur that wraps around the thorax of moths, which we have plenty of since their life cycle is only about a week. Our two chairs are dried, hollowed-out upside-down mushroom caps that rock gently back and forth, and are filled with dirt and topped with fresh live moss that we water once a week, to keep it fluffy and a vibrant shade of kelly green. A large flat stone sits between the chairs and is slick with silver flecks that sparkle, and indirect light shines in through the two circular windows cut out on each side of the tree.

On opposite sides of the ceiling are two tunnels leading upward. I fly up the one on the right that leads to my personal space. The other tunnel leads to Poppy’s, whose room is squeezed between mine and the common room. I reach my room after I ascend three feet. At times I almost feel like our home is similar to an ant mound, made up of rooms within the housing material connected by a network of tunnels.

I walk across the room, passing the bed made of Lauralyn wood cut from this very tree, garnished with a midnight blue coverlet made from silk, spun by the worms that live in a cave just outside our village. Dried flowers are pinned on the wall behind it, contrasting the bed’s dark colors with soft mauves, creams and greens. Their structures vary from curvy and wavy petals, drastic pointed spikes, some thin and wispy, some fuzzy or feathery, some even in grape-like clusters, all collaged in soothing tones with a pop of color here and there, releasing a mild scent of dried earth. I pull aside the shade hanging across my square-shaped window. It’s made of jasmine vine, twisted and looped in an abstract design, and occasionally tied in places with strings of moss. One end of the vine wraps around the base of our tree and nestles into the ground beside it. At night the jasmine flowers open and the breeze carries the delicious floral scent throughout our tree. I reach through the window and swing a wooden basin into my room. The morning dew has collected in the bowl, and I splash my face a few times.

Beside me is a small chest of drawers, also made of smoothed Lauralyn wood. I pull out a fresh top and skirt and trade it out for the one I’m wearing, tossing the dirty set into a basket made of dried, twisted vine. I like the way the deep shade of red in the fabric looks against my skin. My tone is a subtle reddish-orange, similar to the salmon that swims upstream in our river during spawning, but a few hues lighter. I lean over the water basin and assess my appearance in the now calm water. I sweep a mixture of fine red dirt with sparkles across my eyelids to bring out my soft brown eyes, and run my fingers through my chestnut colored hair, deciding to hang the loose waves from the crown of my head. I swing my ponytail side to side and the curls tickle the top of my back. If I were in the sun, the natural red sheen in each strand would glisten to life the moment it caught the light. When done checking myself in the water, I dump the excess and swing it back outside to collect fresh dew again this evening.

My effort pleases Poppy, and she actually rewards me with a smile. She then leads me outside the village and deep into the forest, but still within Hollow territory. No one ever goes beyond the Hollow. Well, a few pixies have, but they have yet to return. It’s speculated that the so-called dreamers that left met Father Time shortly thereafter, and just the thought of death puts enough fear in pixies to keep them grounded.

I see a peppermint patch and dive through it, snatching a few leaves that taste cool and crisp on my tongue. Essence of peppermint coats my silky skin and slightly burns my nostrils. We slow and drop our feet as we approach the river, my body jerking more as the movement of my wings lessen. I extend and deepen each flap, fighting to keep me airborne as I descend, until finally the soft blades of grass tickle the soles of my feet. About a dozen pixies of all teen ages have gathered here, each with colors shimmering off their wings, various blends that range from white to cream to pale yellow. I’ve never been told the difference, but it’s speculated that the more yellow your shade, the more in tune with nature you are – completely possible since mine seem the yellowest of the bunch.

I immediately notice that the males are painting the tips of their spiked hair with a greenish color. However, one pixie, Cumin, is quite upset as he dunks his head in the river, frantically trying to wash out his pink-shaded tips. A group of pixies hover over him laughing in hysterics. I’m guessing Cumin didn’t agree to the rosy color.

Pixies love to prank. However, a general consensus in the Hollow is that you can’t prank your fellow pixie. Of course that doesn’t keep a few from pulling a few lighter pranks, like painting a male’s hair pink. But the real pranks are reserved for the other creatures living in the forest: splinters and crushed pine cone shards on the forest floor, feces in the popular watering holes, skin-infecting fungus smeared on the rocks that animals love to scratch their backs on. Not surprisingly, most animals have learned to give our village a wide berth. It’s mostly just birds and bugs that share the immediate habitat with us, and probably only do so because they’re equals when it comes to flying ability. So with a lack of creatures to pull pranks on, we become victims of our own kind.

Predictably, Poppy lands a few feet shy of Tin and Mustard, who were still recovering from their fits of laughter at Cumin’s expense. Most of the males in our population are seven inches and the females six inches, but with the way Poppy braided her brown hair in some fancy updo, she practically levels out at their height. I scan the crowd to see who’s here – Tin, Mustard and Cumin, obviously; Petal, Ginger, Tracker, Patch, Pumpernickel, Seed, and standing at the end of the line with a pink streak through her almond-shaded hair, is Meg.

Her name is really Nutmeg. When we were just pixlings playing in the patch, some of her crazy antics earned her the name Nutty Nutmeg. She was proud of that name for awhile. Then we became teen pixies and suddenly she realized having a crazy nickname might keep pixies like Tin and Mustard from wanting to court her. So from there on out she was just Meg. A few pixies didn’t want to let go of that nickname though. Patch dared to continue calling her Nutty Nutmeg. When he napped on a Magnolia flower later that afternoon, Meg floated above and dropped a mushroom puff on him. She used a stinkhorn mushroom, and when the puff exploded upon impact, he was enveloped with tiny particles that absorbed into his skin. For a week he smelled like he was decaying before us. Needless to say, Patch was the last pixie to ever use that nickname – at least to her face.

Currently, Meg is glaring at Poppy. For the life of me I can’t figure out why. They both like Tin and Mustard and have yet to realize they could each be courted by one of them. I, for one, have no interest in those two. Or any of these pixies, to be honest. Though I will admit I’ve never taken the time to truly get to know anyone that well. Courting is overrated. I don’t need a companion to find enjoyment in life.

A few striped sunflower seeds and single red raspberry lay out on a green maple leaf. I tear a drupelet from the aggregate fruit and grab one of my absolute favorite seeds. I sort of skip towards a purple coneflower by the river, allowing my wings to flutter just enough to lift me off the ground for a second at a time, kicking my legs in a scissor-like motion. I love the coneflowers. They offer a soft seat with horizontal petals that arc downward, perfect for laying my legs over comfortably. I jump and flutter just enough to reach the amber-colored cone, and yelp the moment my bum makes contact with the anther, losing my treats to the dusty dirt below. Laughter erupts, and I don’t have to turn around to know it’s coming from Meg. A few more pixies join in as I rub the spot that got pricked. I examine the flower and find a bee stinger sticking up, hidden well amongst the many stamens the coneflower has to offer.

Nutty Nutmeg.

I turn to glare at her because I know she did it. Stingers are her specialty. She even wears several around her neck, threaded on a string of moss so she’ll always have one available. I actually consider myself lucky. Had I been any other type of creature, I’d surely be itching madly by now. Meg loves to tip her stingers with poisons and venoms that make the victim either swell, puff out, burn, or break out in hives for a week. I’m particularly thankful she didn’t waste the scorpion stinger in the center of her necklace on me. I pity the poor creature she uses that on. At the moment, her eyes are crazy with excitement, and I shudder to think about the hysteric frenzy she must go into when she really gets to pull a prank.

I pluck the stinger free from the flower and flick it into the river rippling just a few feet away. That’s one stinger she’ll never get back. I retrieve my seed from the ground, dusting it clean, but I leave the moist berry for the ants. I return to the anther and successfully sit down atop the flower. The others stop laughing but Meg still wears a smug grin. Flippin’ pranksters. Yeah, I enjoy a good laugh, but I don’t go around setting up booby-traps just to get them.

My molars crunch down on the corner of the sunflower seed, cracking the shell, and I dehull the exterior for the edible kernel within. As I nibble on my prize, I grimace as Meg slowly saunters her way toward me, hands on hips with a wicked half smile. “So how’s the rump, Rosie?”

“Just fine, Meggy.” She scowls at the cutesy use of her name, but she can hardly say anything since she did it first. To bug her just a little more, I add, “Mustard sure is having fun with Poppy today, huh?” Her smile drops, her head whipping so fast you’d think it would snap off, just in time to see Mustard collecting a white flower that landed atop Poppy’s head. Poppy smiles as he gently tucks it behind her ear, his arm lingering longer than necessary. “I know you like both of them, but don’t you favor Mustard over Tin?”

Annoyed, Meg returns her attention to me, eyes pinched hard enough for skin to crease across her forehead in several waves. She swoops in fast and rams me, scooting my body sideways involuntarily. Taken aback, she squeezes beside me atop the anther before my defensive maneuvers can kick in. Now she’s sitting comfortably and I’m only half way on.

“You really shouldn’t be eating that, you know?” She says it with an annoyingly sweet voice, but her tone is smothered with snobbery. Meg crosses her legs and lays her hands on her knee, one atop the other, kicking out the upper leg rhythmically. “Two of us should easily be able to fit on this flower. And out of the two of us, you’re definitely winning in the hip department.”

Ugh! She doesn’t even see my evil glare because she’s so wrapped up in watching Poppy, but I know she feels my scowl when the corners of her lips slowly creep upward.

I need air. And not the air every living thing around me has choked on the past few minutes. Real air – fresh, from Mother Wind herself. I leap off the coneflower so abruptly it bounces Meg up and down, and a few of the purple petals break free. My wings take flight and I shoot through the air, dodging trees and swaying branches until the evil laughter coming off Meg fades away. Only then do I slow my flight and head for my place of comfort.

I burst through the treetops and my jaw drops in awe at the beautiful sight before me, immediately calming my irate manner. The coming storm creeps along the horizon, painting the sky with shades of grays and blues, the clouds tumbling toward me over a neverending floor of luscious greenery that dance and twirl with Mother Wind. Bright streaks of white light skip sporadically across the sky and I see a flock of birds in the distance take flight, spooked by the thunderous roar above them.

As I hover over the forest canopy, I inhale several deep, cool breaths. The rain coats the land before me, saturating the soil, leaves and flowers. The earthy smell hitches a ride with the wind and makes its way toward me. It fills my nostrils and lungs, and quiets my mind. I slowly descend atop a leaf on one of the emergent trees that poke above the canopy, leaning back on my elbows and crossing my legs. The leaf sways back and forth, and jerks me occasionally when a gale passes, but I don’t mind. The movement is almost hypnotic.

I sigh with content. This is why I love my tree house near the canopy. The air’s more alive up here, continuously circulating around you, prickling your skin with goose bumps, swaying you gently back and forth, as if Mother Wind herself is rocking you softly in her arms. The others just don’t seem to get that, happy enough with the musty air expelled by the life at the bottom of the forest strata, where fungus and decaying matter pad the forest floor. But not me. The higher up the better.

Between cool breezes, I hear a rustling in the tree beneath me, but the massive number of leaves protect the sound’s maker. I startle when a figure punches through the canopy, but calm when I realize it’s just Tracker. His skin the same hue as mine, his muscles curve subtlety along his arms and legs, his body lean for quickness but not built for strength. His eyes are tan, similar to the color of dried moss that hangs off this very tree, and his hair a light shade of brown too. He pauses momentarily to take in the skyline, as enthralled by the sight as I am. “Wow. I rarely come up this high. And never when it’s about to storm.”

I softly murmur mmm-hmm as I return my attention to the clouds swirling in the sky.

“You mustn’t let Meg upset you,” he says softly. I turn to see his kind, tan eyes gazing down at me.

I huff. “I promise you she didn’t. I couldn’t care less about her little antics. I just felt suffocated down there.”

“You seem suffocated with this place in general. I rarely see you in or around the Hollow anymore.” Tracker circles me a few times, inhaling a few deep breaths himself. “But I can see why you prefer the air up here. Less…saturated.”

“How did you find me?” I ask, because only Poppy knows I come here, and because I had dipped and swayed so much through the forest I should’ve been impossible to follow.

His eyebrows lift with amusement. “They don’t call me Tracker for nothing.”

Impressed, I reply, “I had heard that you were good but I didn’t realize you were that good.”

He chuckles and nestles atop the leaf beside me, swaying in rhythm with me. “I’m not really. You were easy to follow. You left the scent of peppermint behind.”

I smile. I had completely forgotten about diving through the peppermint patch this morning. I certainly don’t smell it when I inhale anymore. I lift my arm to my nose, and sure enough, a whiff of peppermint cools my nose again.

“To be honest, I’m a little surprised you’re still here.”

My forehead scrunches. “What do you mean? I don’t care that pixies like Meg play stupid games. I’m not going to hide from them or anything.”

“I wasn’t referring to Meg. I meant the Hollow. I’m surprised you haven’t left like those before us. You seem just like them.”

The wind suddenly whips our leaves, so I doubt he notices my body snap in reaction to his words. “How so?”

“They were all loners that preferred to get lost in the forest. Pixies in general are in tune with Mother Nature, but you particular pixies are more so.” I didn’t like the way he said you particular pixies – my nose actually wrinkles – like I was similar to those that abandoned our village and never came back. “I’ve seen the way you look at our surroundings, Rosalie. It’s like you see something the rest of us don’t, and your wings glow yellow like those before you. Like you know there’s more to life out there than what rests within our Hollow.”

On the contrary. I am completely content with my surroundings. With my little tree house all to myself, the small watering hole at the edge of the Hollow that only I seem to know about, with all the types of bugs sharing the resources around me. I’m happy here. I like simplicity.

But I certainly never knew the pixies that left before me had wings that developed a yellowish glow like mine.

“Do you think the reason none of those pixies have ever returned is ‘cause they’re dead?” I ask, the whistling wind competing for Tracker’s attention.

“Some of them, yeah. But not all of them. No, I think they just found something this place lacked for them. What that something is though, I don’t know.”

“And you think I may know what that something is?”

He turns and scans my body with his eyes, like he’s trying to analyze me, like I’m some weird creature he’s never seen before. “I don’t know. No one really knows you that well. Not even Poppy. We sometimes wonder if you’re the next to take flight.”

My neck snaps faster than one of those snapping turtles I came across in the river bed last week. “Just ‘cause I like to keep to myself and stay in a different stratosphere of the forest doesn’t mean I’m itching to get out of the Hollow anytime soon.”

“See? Right there!” he bursts.

Surprised, I stammer, “See what?”

“You just said anytime soon. No other pixie in the Hollow would have said that.”

Flabbergasted, I’m left speechless and just stare at him in disbelief. Not that he notices…it seems his attention is more interested in the impending storm. I had no idea I came off that way to the others. I have no desire to the leave the Hollow. I’m happy here and I know what I really want, so I’m not going to start doubting myself over two little words now.

I sit up and curl my arms tightly around my legs, resting my chin on my knees. We sit in silence for a few moments, rocking back and forth with the breeze, listening to the harmonic hums of the hissing winds, before Poppy pops up beside Tracker. She’s as surprised as I am that he made his way up to my special little place in the canopy.

“Oh, I’m sorry you guys. Did you want to be alone?” she asks with a suggestive, hopeful, smile.

To her utter disappointment, I quickly shake my head. Tracker has the same thought and tries to stand the moment a rough breeze whips through. He and Poppy avoid being swept away by snatching nearby stems, most likely receiving a few painful stings for their effort as the tree’s tendrils lash about. “No, it’s alright,” he replies, once grounded. “It’s a little windy up here for my taste.” He looks to me and softly says, “Bye, Rosalie.” I force a smile as his body descends from my view.

Poppy’s expression is the opposite of mine. She flops down on the leaf Tracker abandoned and looks at me all wild-eyed and giddy. “So…” she says, cocking her eyebrows suggestively, “Tracker, huh? Is that who you meet every time you disappear into the forest?”

Her eyes, the shade of darkened bark, are greedy with the idea of me having a secret lover. “No. I have no idea why he followed me up here.”

She waves me off and puffs a burst of air through her thick, sunset red lips. “You don’t give yourself enough credit, Rosalie. If you’d just spare some time from your nature flights and get to know some of your fellow pixies, you’d find that several may be interested in courting you.”

I look to her curiously. Not likely. Not if there’s any truth to what Tracker just said. I always figured my loner ways made me a bit of an outcast, but I never realized the others thought that too.

“Oh, don’t look so surprised. You’re cute and you know it. You seem to be good at all the tasks our elders ask us to do. You connect with the creatures on a level beyond any pixie in the Hollow. And you’re smart. But I won’t lie, Rosalie. You’re a little standoffish, so it’ll be hard finding someone willing to break down these barriers you’ve constructed. You’ve got to learn to let a few pixies in.”

I release a long, deep sigh but the wind howls over it. I choose not to ask Poppy about her opinion on the subject, as I’m already a little depressed that my fellow pixies may think I’d up and bail on the village. If Poppy thought that way about me too, I’d really be depressed. Maybe this is why she gets annoyed when I don’t come home to sleep sometimes. Maybe she’s afraid she’ll awake one morning, come to look for me and I won’t be there anymore. We’re closer than most pixies think. She’s always been kind to me, even though I do seem to be a little different than the rest. But I have no interest in changing who I am or how I live. I always thought she got that about me, even when the others didn’t, but now Tracker has me wondering.

“Assignments for this month went up,” she says, breaking the lull between us.

Grateful for the change in thought, I say, “Oh yeah? What did we get?”

“You got seeding. I got cross-pollination, thank Mother Nature. Four weeks of fertilizing has totally singed my nose hairs, but the stench did keep me from eating so I dropped a quarter of an ounce.” That last part makes her scrunch her nose playfully and smile brightly.

I’m happy I got seeding. I enjoy plucking seeds from plentiful areas and replanting them in the more desolate areas of the forest. Not only do I get the satisfaction of knowing a seedling that wouldn’t have had room to grow in one area will grow abundantly in an area that really needs life, I also get to spend time in areas that are pixie-free. There’s nothing but bugs and small creatures to observe and learn from. I find the solitude peaceful.

Hmm… Maybe Tracker and Poppy are right about me being standoffish towards my fellow pixies. Truth is, I’m happiest when I’m out on my own, getting lost in nature.

Poppy shivers as the wind blows a fine mist our way, and little bumps speckle across her pale reddish-orange glow. The storm is approaching fast and her eyes fill with concern. She stands and shakes the miniscule drops of moisture from her wings. “I’m going back to the forest floor. Will you come with me?” There’s doubt in her voice because she already knows my answer.

“Nah. Think I’ll stay up here a little longer.”

The wind blows harder, bringing more mist this time. Poppy doesn’t wait. She drops beneath the canopy and the sound of her wings is lost instantaneously in competition with the howling wind. I inhale deeply and savor the smells of wet earth. Tiny specks of rain fall diagonally in the air and splash against my skin. Most pixies hate being caught in the rain because of the way it clings to our wings. Taking a bath and shaking the water out is one thing, but constant rainfall makes it nearly impossible to dry our wings. Just a single drop landing on a wing is enough to throw off our sense of balance. Saturated wings can weigh us down and make it nearly impossible to keep flight, stranding us where we land until the weather clears.

Me? I love the rain. And I don’t mind if my wings get a little wet. It’s not too hard to navigate once you learn how to compensate the weight of an unexpected raindrop. But for some reason, most pixies refuse to allow themselves to be put in that position to begin with. I know I’m not the only pixie in the Hollow that can fly in the rain, but I’m pretty sure I’m the only one that intentionally gets caught in it. Practice makes perfect, and I can fly with quite a bit of water on my wings, if needs be.

The wind picks up and swirls around me dramatically, whipping my hair loose from the strands of braided moss securing it back in a ponytail. The rain is heavier now, and stings when it strikes my delicately thin wings. Now is the time to go, before the storm escalates into something even I don’t want to get caught in. I stand upright, fighting the force of the wind smacking against me, trying to throw me around involuntarily. I startle as a group of birds take sudden flight just three trees away. Curiously, they head directly towards the storm instead of my way, towards safety. I watch in wonderment for a moment, then analyze their tree, seeking the reason of their quick abandonment. The storm makes it impossible to hear anything, and the erratic swishing and swaying of the tree limbs make it just as difficult to spot any anomalies within the trees.

I decide the reason isn’t worth getting caught in the storm for. I redirect my gaze to the sky and bend my knees, preparing to bail on the canopy myself. I feel a sharp prick against the back of my neck and instinctively smack it, thinking it’s a mosquito. They’re the only bug in the forest I have no scruples over killing. All they do is take and never give back (unless you count disease). But what I feel against my hand isn’t the squashed, broken body of a mosquito. It’s a splinter, or a stinger, and it’s embedded deep inside my skin. So far in I dare not pull it out without help.

A move I instantly regret.

My eyes begin to blur and my body collapses as it’s flooded with extreme exhaustion. All my facial muscles slacken, and now I can’t speak. All my mouth can do is separate my lips slightly and release a moan. I lose complete control as the numbness spreads over my limbs and now lay lifeless, leaving me completely at the mercy of the storm. I’m powerless when a large raindrop splashes on my face, invading my throat and choking my lungs. I lay there, spasms thrusting my chest in a desperate effort to expel the water. Fighting the drowsiness with all my might, I force my aching eyelids open. Everything blurs, but I see a dark shadow nearing, my terrified heart beating in painful bursts against its cage, more so as my vision slowly fades to black.

I wake up on my stomach gasping. I can’t breathe, my inhalation so rough and deep and painful. It takes me a split second to realize the pain I’m feeling isn’t because of the water that was in my lungs. It’s my wings! It feels as if they’ve been cruelly ripped from my body. And there’s something heavy digging into my back. I reach around and feel something cold: steel. I feel to assess its size and a sharp pain shoots through my spine. I scream with all my might but only a mere whisper makes it past the constricting muscles in my throat. It’s not until I finally manage to gasp a deep breath does sound come out and echo through the cold, eerie darkness.

“Oh-my-Mother! Oh-my-Mother! OH-MY-MOTHER-NATURE!” I scream. And gasp. And scream. And gasp. “Please Mother! My wings!” My breaths quicken as I panic, and my heart pounds against my chest, desperate to break free from its prison of ribs.

It’s pitch black and I can’t see a thing, and there’s something heavy weighing down on my wings, which almost feel broken. It’s cold. And dark. “Somebody? Anybody?” I call out. My echo repeats the words back at me, almost mocking me as they fade away and escape this place without me.

I reach for my pixie dust but feel nothing. I frantically pat myself down, inflicting more unnecessary pain, but my satchel of pixie dust is nowhere to be found. I panic and crawl across the cold floor, searching for my lost satchel. Stone? It feels natural, like a cave. I think I’m deep within a cave. The jagged rock cuts into my flesh with each step I make on my hands and knees. My wings burn, my chest burns, and a spot on the outside of my left wrist burns, but I feel nothing except grit and grime upon my skin. My heart speeds up with each second that passes, because with each of those seconds, I grow more aware that something very bad has happened. Very, very bad.

I scream again – part for pain, part for terror. The next crawling step runs me into a wall, which unfortunately my forehead finds first. Something warm drips down my nose and then falls lost to the floor. It’s at this moment I realize my face is dewy, saturated with tears that probably ran while I was still unconscious. My knees and legs shake as I use the wall to pull myself into a standing position. I reach as high as my arms will allow but feel nothing overhead, and the stretch activates the unbearable pain in my spine once more. I hunch over and follow the wall in the darkness, crying all the way, trying to stifle the screams within. I’m so cautious with my steps, edging my feet around the protrusions, that it takes me forever. It feels like the wall curves slightly to the left…and keeps on curving. My will to continue begins to diminish. I’m tired, my back is killing me and I have this horrible feeling that I may have come full circle, which means I’m most likely trapped in a hole.

My head feels woozy, and a sudden wave of nausea overcomes me. I fall to my knees, cutting them once more, surely bruising them, and my chest dry heaves a few times, my stomach too empty to oblige. It’s painful, and exhausting. My body crumbles to the rocky floor. I’m so tired. And my wings hurt.

But I have to get out. Where ever I am, I have to get out. I extend my arms and try to push myself up but the dizziness triumphs over me once more. I collapse again, this time smacking my head on a jagged protuberance from the rocky ground. I moan weakly as sharp, piercing pains radiate from the side of my head.

My body aches and releases a long groan as I rise off my stomach. It’s still black. And cold. My wings still hurt but not as bad as last time…whenever that was. My face isn’t wet so I guess the pain wasn’t as excruciating while I was passed out this time. My stomach really hurts though. Like really hurts. It’s roaring and ripping me a new one for forgetting about it. I didn’t eat much the day I was taken and nothing since.

I shuffle my body backwards inch by inch until I’m leaning against the wall. As rocky as it is, I’ve found a niche that doesn’t dig into my aching spine. As my head lay sideways along the wall, my ears pick up a slight humming noise. It’s constant and almost soothing, but it’s not enough to deter my thoughts. A few tears descend because I’m not sure what to do. I suspect I’ve been dumped in a hole somewhere with damaged wings. No, not just damaged. I fear they’ve been broken. Or maybe the metal strapped to their base adds enough weight to make them feel broken. Either way, the slightest movement is painful. I never found my satchel so I have no pixie dust to help me. I suppose I could keep calling out, but I have serious doubts I’ll find a friendly creature within earshot. And I suppose I could try to climb, but without the tiniest smidgen of light, I have no idea how to scale the wall, or how far up I’ll have to go. And if I fall…

I shake my head of the thought and instead, I try to assess my injuries in the dark. Injured wings, obviously. There’s a tender spot near my left temple that definitely has a nasty bruise. So much of my skin is burning from an infinite number of scratches, but none feel too serious. Except this one spot on my neck where I think that stinger pierced me, or most likely, a dart.

A dart. Someone actually did this to me. Was it a pixie? A faery? A sprite? I just don’t understand who. Or why. What did I do to deserve this? I’ve never hurt or angered anyone. I may be a little more free-spirited than my fellow pixies, but I always obey the elders and do what is expected of me. So what I have done wrong that karma put me here?

I sit alone in the darkness shivering, arms wrapped tightly around my waist, with tears burning behind my eyes as they fight to escape my tense, aching body.

Everything hurts. Just the slightest touch on my skin makes me wince. My mouth is dry and sticky, and my lips are crusting over. I try to lick them with my tongue, but the effect is like rubbing sandpaper on rock. I’m nauseous but I’m not sure if it’s because I haven’t eaten in a few days, or if it’s from the fecal matter I had to leave unburied in this rock prison.

I had hopes that my eyes would adjust to the darkness, but even after the days I know I’ve spent here, I still see nothing. Absolutely nothing. I’ve been staring upwards for about an hour now – and I’ve got the kink in my neck to prove it – hoping that the tiniest sliver of light would give me an indication of how high these walls are. I’ve decided to climb. I know it’s stupid, what with my weakened state of mind and body. I’ll probably fall and damage myself beyond repair, or worse, to my death. But I fear I’ve been left here to rot until I’m ashes and bones, so I’m starting to think I’ve got nothing to lose and everything to gain. Even if it means suffering from a fall.

It’s a slow climb to my feet. Slow and steady wins the race, Rosalie. I stumble along the wall feeling for peaks large enough to support my feet and hands. There aren’t many to choose from. Whoever chose this hole did so for a reason. It’s practically inescapable. My head is pounding and I feel my eyes go in and out of focus even though there’s nothing to focus on. I decide on a spot and inhale a deep breath to calm my nerves, because I’m pretty sure this won’t end positively. But I can’t leave this world thinking I did nothing to save myself. I can’t be the pixie that just waits in a hole to die.

I reach up and pull on a rocky protuberance. I’m quick to find support for my foot because I know I don’t have the strength to hold my body up with my arms alone. Quite frankly, I don’t even trust my legs at this point. I hold my body flush against the wall as best I can and slowly extend my right arm up, feeling for the next rock to grasp. There isn’t one. I sigh and rest my forehead against the wall as my right arm comes down and my left goes up. It’s not until my arm is extended above me that I find one. I don’t like the idea of pulling with my weak arm at such a great distance, but I have no choice. I reach down and pat the wall for something to step on that’s within reach of my feet. I only find one spot that may work, so I propel my body upwards and step on the rock before I can talk myself out of going. My movement is shaky at best, and there’s only room for my left foot on the bump, so my right is left dangling lifelessly along the wall. I manage to climb about three feet up the wall before I get stuck. There’s nothing within reach for my hands and the only step available for my feet is quite a stretch. I’ll have to go back a step and try to climb sideways.

I sigh my disappointment. My support leg is really shaking. I’m not sure how much longer it can hold. My right leg is scanning the wall for a place to stand when a huge muscle spasm attacks my left calf. I scream and try to switch my left out for my right, but there isn’t enough room on the rock. My right foot slips trying to find ground and I can’t stop gravity from taking me.

As hard as I try, I can’t get my body to turn in the air. The steel attached to my back is determined to beat me to the ground, and the weight of my body lands heavily upon my wings, which crunch upon impact. The pain is instantaneous and radiates throughout my body in quick waves, but I’m so stunned my lungs have yet to expand and allow me to scream in agony. My entire body shakes violently, then spasms. I scream, but my throat is so dry the only audible sound I make is a dire whisper. I’m so exhausted and damaged all I can really produce is a pathetic whimper for this massive amount of pain. But even in this painful state, I’m still able to cry. Of course nothing comes out anymore, but I cry nonetheless, because I know I’m going to die here. In a dark hole. All alone.

My body lay askew on the ground sideways, my wings a broken twisted mess. I’m not sure if they’ll ever fully heal, but I doubt they’ll be given the chance anyway.

“Until then, just swing on the willowy tree.” I’ve been singing this over and over again for the past few hours. I use the term singing pretty loosely, as it’s more of a hum since my throat is so parched. I can’t seem to remember the rest of the song, or what it’s even about. But I keep singing.

My singing has finally stopped, but that doesn’t keep the humming from continuing on inside my head. My body has gone numb and refuses to move at this point. My stomach has long since given up on me so it doesn’t bother me with hunger requests anymore. My ear is flush with the ground so all I hear is that strange humming noise inside the cave, which incidentally, now seems to hum along with the tune repeating in my head. It soothes me in a strange way, and I know it’ll probably be the last sound I ever hear. As if that realization isn’t dreadful enough, my eyes begin playing tricks on me. It’s a cruel hallucination to show me a faint yellowish glow now that I’m knocking on Father Time’s door. My head won’t budge, and looking out the corner of my eye gives me an intense headache. To add insult to injury, the glow grows larger and larger as it descends into my prison, blinding me, finally its metal canister clinking on the rock beside me. Like a moth to a flame, it’s all I can focus on, and I fear the end has come. “Father Time?” I try to ask, but it comes out as a garbled whisper. Has the last grain of sand in my personal hour glass finally fallen?

I feel a rough, pointed nudge in my side and hear the words, “We may have left this one too long. Maybe we should just leave it.”

I know I should care what the voices above me are saying, but I can’t stop admiring the flame before me, tumbling around in its glass lantern, as much a prisoner as I am. I desperately want to reach out and touch it, to free it, and my fingers begin to twitch with anticipation.

A second voice huffs heavily and grunts, “I’m not going back for another. Let’s see if it survives first.”


Two pairs of hands grab me and lift me off the ground, their mitts so large they practically wrap completely around my arms. Sadly, all I seem to care about is that they’re moving me farther away from the flame. I never appreciated the ability of making fire before I got thrown into this hellhole. I groan with disappointment because I’m too weak to protest any other way. My head hangs low as I feel our ascent up the prison. When I feel my body shift sideways, my heart jumps with excitement. I’m free! Oh, Mother Nature, I’m free!

With the flame’s light I’m now able to see the rocky floor just inches below us. It’s black with a hint of silvery sparkle twinkling at me as we fly over. I find solace in knowing my captors don’t intend on killing me, but I’m still left with zero sense of what’s going on and who they are, and more importantly, where I fit into this equation.

My skin shivers as a refreshing rush of wind tumbles past us through the tunnel, invigorating my sense of touch. I’m able to lift my aching neck for just a moment and spot the entrance to the cave that imprisoned me these past few days: foreboding with rocky peaks dropping down like canines in a wolf’s mouth. I certainly feel like I’ve been in the belly of the beast, but what an odd feeling to be going the opposite way in the maw, like I’m disgusting to taste, and the monster’s spiting me back out. Water showers down the other side and explains the constant hum I heard during my involuntary stay. My captors pause before the entrance and I wonder if they’re inexperienced flyers when it comes to wet wings. Had I the strength to escape their grasps and fly away, I’m sure I could have burst through the water with no problem. But then I remember the condition of my wings and I hang my head in reluctant defeat.

My captor with the gruff voice bellows, “Open up ya’ friggin’ sprig!”

A spriggan? Is that what holds me up? It makes sense. Spriggans are the largest of the faeries, coming in around fourteen inches tall, whereas faeries max out about nine and pixies seven. Barbarians at best, if you find a group of spriggans, they’re typically acting as mercenaries or bodyguards for someone. So this can’t be good.

I also am giving away a ebook copy of desired format of Frost Arch, a Fantasy book that I really enjoyed You can read my review HERE | Goodreads 

Summary Below

In a future where ignorance has destroyed the world that we know, humans are slaves and Mages - advanced beings with abilities beyond everyday reach - rule the land.

Avalon is one such Mage. Barely eighteen years of age, she wields the gift of fire yet she is unable to control it. She leaves her family in
the dead of night and heads to the city of Frost Arch, her future seemingly grim.

Will Avalon be able to overcome the trials that befall her? Will she be able to save the ones she loves and stay strong within herself?
Time will tell.

I also am giving away a ebook copy of desired format of Flamethroat, book 2 in the Fire Mage Trilogy, (this one after Frost Arch)

Summary Below \ Goodreads
Avalon Redding has returned to Mortlock to find her home destroyed, and her family missing. They have been taken by 'The Realm' for harboring an illegal human, Avalon's sister.
Desperate to find her family, Avalon travels across the country to the Headquarters of the Realm, with Healer Jack Greenwood, and animal companion Hawthorne.
Their friendship is tested when Jack is reunited with his estranged father, and falls under a strange beauty's spell.
Will Jack abandon Avalon during her quest?
And is Hawthorne really one-of-a-kind?

Be sure to visit the other blogs on this hop, all with their own giveaways, linky is below. If for some reason the rafflecopter does not load, you can click here, but give it time to load, so you wont have to leave this page. Rafflecopter Backup link

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