Welcome to Medieval Monday! We’re celebrating nature and I have the wonderful Ruth A. Casie here with me today. She’s sharing an intense excerpt from her book, The Guardian’s Witch. (Psst…I love this cover!) Enjoy!
The berries Lisbeth had gathered tumbled forgotten from her hands. A tremor touched her lips while the vision slammed behind her eyes. She didn’t doubt the vision’s truth. Sometimes a bright light, warm and comforting, accompanied the vision; other times the wind howled, cold and disturbing. Today, panic clearly filled the air.
She spun around trying to pinpoint a direction and abruptly stopped. Facing south, she licked her lips nervously and tasted the sweetness of fresh water. A rushing sound burst in her ears. The river. Her head snapped east toward the river path and she ran. As she careened down the narrow trail, the outstretched branches tugged at her dress, pulled off her shawl and clawed at her face and arms. She took no notice. The cadence of her footfalls beat out a mantra, not him, not him, not him. She rushed on faster, mumbling enchanted words under her breath.
She exploded out of the forest and stood on the riverbank as the bridge gave way, sending the horse and rider plunging into the angry current. Swiftly the horse surfaced and headed for shore with an empty saddle. She stood on the bank, still mumbling as she scanned the river until she glimpsed a clear red aura shining deep in its middle. Her relief was momentary when the blackness began to creep in. There wasn’t much time.
Quickly she pulled off her heavy dress and, wearing only her chemise, dove into the river. Save him was her only thought. Down she plunged kicking hard against the current. The usually clear water, now choked with mud, churned with debris. She screamed the words in her head and made her demands. In response, the current slowed and as the mud began to settle, a lifeless hand beckoned to her from below.
Desperate to reach him, she kicked hard toward the deep river bottom. She was a strong swimmer and reached him quickly. She pulled on his arm but he didn’t budge. Something pinned him in place. She dropped his hand and pulled herself around him. The murky water made it difficult for her to see what held him. She resorted to running her hand over every inch of his body to locate what kept him captive. Her lungs burned. She needed to surface but she pressed on.
Frantically her hands felt their way along his leg until she found his foot caught in the debris. She shoved the timber away. The exertion cost her precious time and air. With one hand she grabbed his shirt collar and kicked off the bottom. With her free arm she reached for the surface. She didn’t take her eyes off him.
The higher she got, the more the water cleared. The wild current fought to get free of her restraint. She didn’t think. She focused on getting Alex out of the water.
The hand holding Alex’s collar cramped, sending spasms of pain up her arm. She did not let go. The last of her breath spent, her lungs screamed for fresh air. She forced herself not to breathe. She was certain she would break free of the water soon. Alex’s weight pulled at her. She wasn’t making any progress. If she didn’t do something quickly they would be back on the bottom. She glanced up. The light was brighter. She was close now. She held her legs together and undulated like a graceful giant fish. Once again her free arm reached hard and pulled the water out of her way. One last hard kick and she exploded into the air as if propelled from underneath. Alex floated face down next to her.
She gulped for air, exhausted. There was no time to waste. She held on to him as the current pulled them toward the rapids and the steep falls beyond. She turned him onto his back and swam for shore. She dragged the large knight onto the bank where his warhorse stood snorting and stomping. Worn out but thankful, she collapsed next to Alex gasping for air. Her hand was on his chest.
He didn’t stir. She fixed her eyes on his chest but she didn’t see any movement. She scanned his face. A small trickle of water escaped his mouth.
She rolled him on his side and pounded on his back. Nothing. She pounded again. More water trickled out of his mouth. She reached inside his wet shirt. No heartbeat.
She kept the building panic at bay. Think. Calmness overcame her. She rolled him onto his back and knelt above him. She placed her mouth over his and gave him her breath. She’d given her breath before, when the blacksmith’s wife gave birth and the baby didn’t breathe. That day she had tried everything but nothing worked. She wanted to move the baby’s chest, just one breath. In desperation she breathed for the child. It worked then. It had to work now.
She felt the tingle at her lips and a dizzying current raced through her. She closed her eyes and gave him another breath. Her hand pressed hard against this chest. She searched for a heartbeat, the rise and fall of his chest, anything to indicate he lived.
He shuddered with a shallow breath. Reassured, she felt a faint but steady beat and sank back on her heels. She observed the deadly gray pallor on his face retreat. His arms twitched as they came to life. His face contorted in a spasm as he choked to clear his lungs. He pushed himself up coughing out the last of the river sludge and sucked in large quantities of air.
Relief surged through her. She rose, retrieved her dress lying in a pool of sunlight, and quickly slipped it on. She calmed the restless warhorse with her gentle touch and whispered words. When she ventured a glance at the knight, she found herself staring into his compelling gray eyes. His gaze was riveted on her face. A fresh spasm of coughing took him, and she turned to leave.
“Wait.” He struggled to get the word out.
She stopped and took a deep breath.
He shook his head. His eyelids slid closed and he fell onto his back. He was asleep before his head touched the ground.
Lord Alex Stelton can’t resist a challenge, especially one with a prize like this: protect a castle on the Scottish border for a year, and it’s his. Desperate for land of his own, he’ll do anything to win the estate—even enter a proxy marriage to Lady Lisbeth Reynolds, the rumored witch who lives there.
Feared and scorned for her second sight, Lisbeth swore she’d never marry, but she is drawn to the handsome, confident Alex. She sees great love with him but fears what he would think of her gift and her visions of a traitor in their midst.
Despite his vow never to fall in love, Alex can’t get the alluring Lisbeth out of his mind and is driven to protect her when attacks begin on the border. But as her visions of danger intensify, Lisbeth knows it is she who must protect him. Realizing they’ll secure their future only by facing the threat together, she must choose between keeping her magic a secret and losing the man she loves.
My guest next week on Medieval Monday is Bambi Lynn!