QSFer Nicolette DeSada has a new fantasy book out:
A young man living alone in the woods sees a set of cloven-hooved prints in the snow leading up to his barn. Thinking it’s food, he prepares his rifle, but doesn’t know what awaits him within the shadows of the barn.
Worry carved its way into his mind with a razor-sharp edge.
The night brought the first snowfall of the year, and with it, Fawn knew food would be getting even scarcer. Already, he’d risked the punishment of a hanging by poaching rabbits and squirrels on the king’s land, but he hadn’t even managed to bag himself a buck. Instead, he’d risked his life for the measly, skinny carcass of a malnourished rabbit.
What a pitiful death it would be. Hanging because he’d poached a rabbit. Still, he supposed hanging was better than starving to death as he would surely do if food continued to be difficult to obtain. He hadn’t yet thought about killing his one milk cow or selling his mule. He needed them both and he hadn’t gotten that hungry or desperate just yet.
Though, he’d come very close a couple of times last winter. Sadly, this early cold promised an even harsher few months of endless snow and desolation.
Fawn had lived alone in the woods since the deaths of his parents nearly three years ago when the sickness spread through the land and left hundreds upon thousands of people dead. He’d been one of the “fortunate” ones, having been immune to the fever so many others had succumbed to.
There were times he wondered if succumbing to the disease himself would have been a kinder fate. Now was one of those times.
Pulling out a chair, he sat at his crude wooden table with an oil lamp casting its dim light and opened a book to read. The book was one of only three he owned. He enjoyed reading, but could not afford to purchase books, so he read and re-read the ones sitting on the top shelf of his unskillfully, but lovingly crafted bookshelf.
Suddenly, a loud noise from outside jolted him out of the magnificent world within the pages of his beloved book. He set the hardcover tome on the table and then listened for the sound again in an effort to ascertain from whence the noise had come. He heard another thud and then the bellow of his milk cow and the braying of his mule.
Fearing the disturbance meant his livestock was in danger, he put on his coat and scarf, and then grabbed his lantern off of the peg near the doorway. He struck a match and watched as it flared to life. Lighting the wick, he blew out the flame before it could singe his fingers and covered the dancing glow with the glass chimney.
Rifle in hand, he swung open the door to the unpleasant sensation of cold snow and wind blowing directly in his face. With his scarf pulled snugly over his mouth and nose, he reluctantly left the warm security of his cabin to immediately find himself nearly knee-deep in snow. His trudge to the barn was a slow one. The chilled wind howled and battered against his not-so-terribly large frame as if it were physically attempting to put a halt to his progress.
Which, it very well might be. As a child, he’d heard the stories about the beings that ruled the land. Winter, like the other changes of the seasons, was a living entity to the people residing on the edges of the Dark Forest. Each fall, Winter awoke from his slumber. During spring and summer, the flowers and other greenery kept him rooted beneath the ground in an ancient tomb. With the coming of the cold, the frostbitten denizen of the Otherworld arose from his hibernation to reign over the land, bringing with him a horde of icy mischief-makers.
As Fawn trudged his way through the snow, he caught sight of a set of cloven-hooved prints leading up to the door of his barn. He felt an intense excitement overtake him. He’d been dreading his livestock was being accosted by a wolf or something, but the possibility of a deer…
He’d not had a decent meal of venison in over six months.
Lately, he’d been subsisting off of salted pork and rabbit. Several weeks ago, the pork had run out and he hadn’t the funds to buy more. Readying his rifle, he stepped into the barn, but found it strangely quiet inside. He lowered his rifle and closed the barn’s door, shutting out the roaring wind and the cold and snow. Hanging the lantern on a peg near the entrance, he stepped further inside the barn’s strangely quiet interior. He listened as the livestock stamped anxiously in their stalls, snorting restlessly as he approached.
Fawn’s shoulders drooped in disappointment when he realized the barn was empty, save for his livestock. Though he was glad there was no sign of a wolf or other predator, he’d welcomed the idea of finding a deer or some other game. He kept his attention focused on his mule. The creature shuffled restlessly in his stall as if aware of something Fawn himself could not see.
As if the very thought conjured it into substantial form, Fawn caught sight of a shadow in the overhang of his barn’s roof. He spun toward the shadowed figure, his rifle again at the ready. The dim interior of the barn hindered his ability to discern the shape of the intruder as he took aim. The shadows in the roof of the barn were deep, but over the barrel of the rifle, he got the impression of horns and a humanoid body perched in the loft where he kept the dry baled hay and a half-empty barrel of oats. His movements halted as terror struck him straight through.
His breath caught in his throat. The creature moved minutely and Fawn scrambled to aim his rifle, but his shaking hands compromised his ability to do so. The creature chose that moment to pounce on him.
Fawn’s finger pulled the trigger even as the creature barreled into him. The rifle exploded in Fawn’s ears, but the bullet flew harmlessly toward the roof of the barn. A hard, muscular body slammed into his own, completely knocking him off his feet. The hit took the breath out of him as they both landed on the barn’s floor in a tangle of limbs.
Fireborn Publishing: Click Here
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Nicolette deSada majored in Psychology and minored in Sociology during her undergraduate career and was a member of her university’s Gay-Straight Alliance. She is currently pursuing a BFA in Illustration because she aspires to illustrate her own work. Nicolette loves to read manga (especially yaoi manga) and always keeps a sharp eye out for LGBT themes in classic literature and film.