The next-to-last snippet! I have been hard at work on the manuscript implementing my editor’s suggestions. I set it up for print, and am waiting to hear if any more changes need to be made there. But I am very happy with the progress, I will be so happy when release day is finally here!
Enjoy the snippet! I had a lot of fun with this scene, as you will see.
Bella slipped past the unmoving Dean, who appeared deep in thought, and went for the stack of boxes. Her cousins were making appreciative noises that meant they were hungry.
The sprites, who had somehow found a football game on television- she would have said soccer, but they hooted in laughter when Tex said that, so she didn’t – didn’t join in the dinner. She did see a flask make the rounds, and hoped she could trust Dean on them not being able to get drunk.
“All righty no’!” Ewan hopped up and stomped on the remote, switching the game off over his brother’s protests. “Tis time.”
Fred stood up and looked expectantly at Bella. She looked at Dean. “If I bubble us, what are the chances of being seen?”
Ewan answered. “We’ll go along. Tis out in t’ woods pret’ fur.”
Dean nodded. “If it’s away from people then you should be fine. Yes, they are visible from the outside and that’s why you’re not supposed to use them above.” He shrugged, “But we’re not exactly following the rules.”
Bella gestured and threw a bubble around herself, the sprites, and a startled Fred. Ewan landed on her shoulder and added his own spell gestures to give a destination, and she could feel the gentle jar as the bubble landed. Dropping the bubble, she looked around, and when the motion in the corner of her eye got her attention, she jumped back and pulled the .380 she was carrying concealed.
“Stop!” she ordered, not expecting the monster who was shambling toward them to listen. To her surprise, it threw its long arms in the air and cried out.
“Whoa, lady, don’t shoot!”
She lowered the gun slowly, aware that Iver, or Callum, had flown to sit on the hairy shoulder of… She let the gun fall to her side. Reholstering it would wait, as it wasn’t a discreet process.
“Ewan, is this… your friend?”
The big, hairy, stooped frame supported an oddly-shaped head that now swiveled toward the sprite hovering in midair between them. “You didn’t warn her? Man, that’s cold. I mean, you bastards… pardon the language, lady… have a wicked sense of humor, but still.”
He shuffled a few steps closer to her and offered a hand. “You must be Princess Belladona. Ah’m Gary.”
Bella switched the pistol to her other hand and shook, her hand engulfed in that of what she would swear was a Sasquatch. He looked at Fred, and she introduced them.
“This is Fred Northway, he’s…”
“You’re a shaman, aren’t you?” Gary sounded inquisitive, although Bella couldn’t see much emotion under all the matted fur. He didn’t smell like anything other than moss and earth, unlike some of the stories she’d heard.
Fred held out his hand. “And you are one of the Old Ones.”
Gary ducked his head a bit in a gesture Bella presumed was shy. “Aw, don’t marsh my mellow, man. I’m just a kid, really. Now, M’gramps…”
The malapropism making her lips twitch in a suppressed smile, Bella turned away slightly and holstered her pistol. She doubted this calibre would have done anything but pissed this behemoth off, but it was good to have.
“Gary, the sprites say you know about the ogres?”
He scowled deeply, his face twisting into monstrosity. “I do. I can take you right to them, or at least their nest. The hunters… are harder to predict. They are foul, horrible…” He shuddered.
Bella relaxed. Whatever he looked like, they had an aligning cause. “We want to root them out entirely. Right now the plan is to use fire, trap them in their cave and suffocate them. But I need to make sure they are all inside when we do that. If you can track them, and keep watch…”
She wasn’t sure how much of the action he would want in on. He wasn’t human, and she guessed that if his kind had eluded certain detection for this long, they weren’t the cocky types. But there was a lot about this bigfoot she didn’t know, starting with his excellent English and obvious education.
Gary scratched his head, a process involving copious amounts of flying fur. “Well, we’ve been keeping an eye on them, but the decision was made by the elders to not fight them.”
“You wouldn’t be. Just letting my team know where and when.” Bella assured him. The sprites were uncharacteristically silent.
Fred broke in. “Would it help if I spoke to the Elders?”
Gary shifted from foot to foot. Bella stayed silent, looking around the woods. They were on the edge of an irregular clearing, which she realized slowly was made by the fall of a forest giant. The tree was almost gone now, a rounded hump covered with mosses. The light was from the full moon that had risen high enough for illumination while they were talking. She caught a flicker of movement just inside the shadowy woods and stiffened, reaching for her weapon.
“Gary, who is out there?”
Another Sasquatch, his coat grizzled with age, stepped out of the shadows. He was holding both his hands out, palm upward, in what Bella thought was a peaceful gesture.
“GÃistgaay gÃºust uu dÃ¡ng k’wÃ¡alaagang?” He spoke in a guttural language she didn’t immediately recognize.
“Um…” Bella half-turned toward Fred and Gary.
“He wants to know what tribe you are with.” Fred offered. “He’s speaking Haida.”
“Oh. Tell him I am Summer Court, of the Fae, Underhill. I have no idea how much they know about us, if anything. Don’t translate that part.”
Gary chuckled softly, a noise like a running brook. “He might know more than you would guess. This is our eldest Elder.”
Fred spoke to the senior Sasquatch, who did not come any closer. Bella stood where she was, afraid to spook the creature. If they had contact with the local tribes like the Haida, who were almost vanished, that would explain a lot about Gary. Even if only their elders communicated with the Sasquatch community, almost none of the Haida even spoke Haida anymore. It would only be natural to teach the Sasquatch English. She stifled her nervous giggle. It was a surreal scene, even for her, standing in the moonlit woods with two huge, furry people. They were people, she told herself. Fred turned to look at her.
“We have their blessing, if not full support, in taking out the ogres. Gary is allowed to help with the watching, but is forbidden to be seen by any humans, that is their law.”
“Dan and Tex?”
He shook his head firmly. “Even I am only tolerated because of my connection to Ya’ahl, their name for Raven.”
“That complicates things. Still…” she turned to Gary. “I am glad to have your help.”
She could hear Fred speaking to the Elder, then he fell silent. When she looked, the old Sasquatch was gone again. How something that big moved that quietly was beyond her. Moose and grizzlies made more noise in the woods.
She took a deep breath. “In the morning, can you meet us near the ogre cave? We will use the sprites for communication, and you can stay out of sight, yes?”
He nodded happily, a big grin on his ugly face. “Works for me.”
Bella gave in to her curiosity. “How on earth did you learn to speak English so well?”
He put a finger alongside his flattened nose and winked. “Old Haida tradition, teach the beasts and they teach you. That, and mail-order curriculum.”
Bella laughed. Gary turned and walked away, as silent as his elder, and she pulled the bubble around Fred and herself. A moment later, they were in the hotel suite. Fred was looking thoughtful.
“We have eyes in the woods.” Bella told her cousins. “You won’t see him, but remember. Ugly and green, foe. Ugly and hairy, friend. Got that?”
They nodded, eyes wide. She chuckled. “Now, I’m going to sleep. Shopping in the morning.”