The following is an excerpt from Obsidian Waith, a fantasy novel slated for publication in 2017-2018.
The sun breathed harshly on their backs as the sellswords carved their way through the forest. A rare breeze trailed kisses across Safeera’s face, providing momentary comfort. Every time she passed a dark patch of the wilds, her paranoia got the best of her. She inevitably looked over her shoulder and rested her hand on the cheap sword she won in a gamble.
She’d been stalked too many times to overlook the feeling of being someone’s prey. She knew she was being followed.
She cursed as she stumbled over a dead horse on the road. Heaving with disgust, she swatted at the carrion flies circling her face.
“Eyes to the south,” said the Gorm, the leader of this mercenary wolf pack. Gorm was a beast of a man who could stand shoulder to shoulder with the heroes so avidly extolled in bards’ tales. A greatsword was cradled over his shoulder that could lop down an oak, given the perfect wielder. Judging from the scars etched into his face, he faced off against many vicious opponents—and obviously survived.
At least if my pursuers come after me, he’ll slow them down, Safeera thought. As if the gods themselves heard her worst fears, a ripple of discontent swept through the caravan.
“What the hell,” a man said, bringing his crossbow to bear. The mercenaries hollered and massed to the front like hunting dogs riled up by the sweet smell of blood.
For all of Safeera’s jitters, she didn’t shy away from a threat. She pushed through the seasoned fighters to see who or what was blocking their path. She was a force to be reckoned with as she laughed, shoved, and emerged from the fray of arms and armor.
“What has you boys shaking in your boots?” she laughed.
Her throat clamped like a vice at the sight of Nazair. The abandoned village was sprawled behind him like a nightmare dredged up from the darkness. The dilapidated huts and ramshackle homes echoed the pain and destruction that always followed Safeera from one village to the next. Perverse were the nights when soldiers descended on small towns under the suspicion of harboring witches. Women and children were torn from their homes while the men fought like cornered beasts at the end of a witch hunter’s pike. This ghost town had been no exception to their cruelty. The stench of fire pits and cinders permeated Safeera’s skin, filling her with guilt.
She combed the wreckage for signs of life but there was only the cloaked man on the enflamed horizon. She was wary of him but not entirely afraid. There was something about him only she could see, only she could feel. Gorm suddenly stood beside her, staring down the stranger. Safeera bristled as a rush of wind kicked up on the road.
“Any idea what we should do?”
“Let’s greet our new travel companion,” Gorm murmured.