The Chronicles of Alburnium.
In Silver and Light, we find Kardia leaving the safety of her home village for the great unknown. She is determined to find the legendary path that leads to the White City of Aloblase, that she's only seen in her dreams, and read about in King Shaydon's Book Of Letters.
Kardia doesn't make it far before she must stop for a rest and there she meets a most unexpected traveler...
Kardia nestled deeper under her woolen blanket, breathing in the scent of damp earth and moss. She’d made camp beside a stream after venturing off the road she followed in her search for the King’s Highway. Hopefully, she’d find the road to Aloblase soon. She was running out of the few supplies she’d packed before leaving Goia, her childhood home.
Her eyes, heavy from exhaustion, slowly closed. She’d almost drifted off when the sound of wagon wheels rolling over the dirt road caused her to sit up. A chill of fear raced down Kardia’s back. Hopefully, she was far enough off the road to not be spotted. Holding her breath, she waited for the traveler to pass. Her heart pounded like a drum in her ears. She curled her arms tighter around her chest and tried not to move.
The clomping of hooves stopped.
Something made a sniffing sound.
Kardia tried to peer through the fern and brush toward the road, but the growing darkness of night made it too difficult to see more than gray shadows.
“Hello in the woods,” a deep voice called out.
Oh no! They knew she was there. But how?
Kardia held perfectly still, not daring to breathe lest she make her position known. Silently willing them to leave, she tensed up, wondering if she’d get very far if she ran for it. Why hadn’t she left her boots on? If only her tired feet hadn’t hurt so badly when she stopped earlier. She’d not wanted to lose her toes like she’d lost her fingers. Despite the pain, she’d wriggled out of them. They were so hard to get on and off with her damaged hands.
“I can smell you. Human, for sure. Are you hurt? I smell the scent of blood hanging about you. I can help…” the man moved off the edge of the road. It wasn’t footfalls she heard, but rather the clomping of…what exactly was she hearing? How did he… smell…her?
Granted, she’d not tried to bathe yet. She’d hoped to find safe shelter before attempting that. The blood scent most likely came from her blistered feet.
“I won’t hurt you, little human.” It sniffed again.
Kardia reasoned that if it was calling her human, then it wasn’t.
“Ah, there you are,” the stranger declared, his tone softening.
Her heart threatened to pound right out of her chest.
“If you’re hiding a weapon, you should know I’m a master fighter. I’m also much larger and stronger than you could ever dream of being.” Then he added, “Even if you were a grown human male. But rest assured, I intend no harm, so be a good little human friend and sit up slowly so we can talk.”
She bolted to her tender bare feet. Stepping on the edge of a jagged rocked, she cried out from the sharp pain. Her foot misstepped and she started to tilt toward the stream.
The creature-man darted forward and caught her by the arm. To her shock, he wasn’t dressed! His bare chest glistened in the dim light of the rising moon. His bearded face and wild hair came into focus. He towered over her by nearly two feet. Thick hair covered his lower arms. As she dared to lower her gaze, she found thick hair, or rather dark brown fur, covered the lower half of his body down to his hooves.
Kardia blinked. She’d heard of the half human half goat men before. They were called…what? The part human and part horsemen were centaurs, she was sure.
“Faun!” she exclaimed as the name slammed into her memory. “You’re a faun!”
(From Silver and Light, chapter 1)
Jackie Castle is an author, artist and dreamer. She lives in Texas with her husband, two grown children and her dog, Banjo. She looks for the extraordinary in the ordinary in everything she experiences.
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