Because nothing says “Christmas” like people flogging merchandise, amIright?
So here’s a free sample of one of the stories in my new fantasy short story collection, SHIFTY. The stories are based on the world of my SAGE fantasy trilogy, but they’re independent of it.
In this story, Frayce is a young woman was taken from her home overseas when she was a child and sold as a child’s pet, then abandoned in the wilderness when her mistress died.
“At the Turning of the Year”
excerpt, by Marian Allen
The sky — so much sky, perforated by trees, not shielded by high, unbroken walls — turned from pale lemon to brushed silver.
She wrapped the old cloth more tightly around herself, leaving her legs exposed. Without a path, she had to pick her way through undergrowth, and she was tired of low briars catching her wrap and holding her in place. She would have to rely on movement to keep warm.
Stubble crackled as it broke underfoot. Small, furry animals skittered as she approached them. Their running made her wonder if they were good to eat, how they could be caught, how Cook would prepare them. She hoped for another nearby kill she could share, but knew that was unlikely.
The leafless trees gave way to others whose branches were prickly with green needles. They made it harder to see, but it didn’t matter where she went, anyway, and she liked the smell, as sharp as their dark green prickles. Some of the prickles had fallen and turned orange, making a soft covering for the stony earth, cushioning her tender feet in their thin, shredded coverings.
She shuffled over the orange carpet and found her way blocked by a hedge of brambles higher than her head. Among those brambles hung familiar scarlet berries: whenever Sharina’s mother had found some at the winter market, Sharina had squealed with delight; she had fed one to Frayce once and had been punished for the waste. It had been a delicious morsel.
Frayce plucked a berry now and ate it. It was just as she remembered: tart and sweet, creamy and juicy, with a seed at the center that popped between her teeth and added a delightful heat. She stuffed herself, shifting from one frost-blued foot to the other, the berries staining her fingers redder than her hair.
A twig snapped to her left. She froze in place, mid-chew, eyes nearly closed so she could surreptitiously shift them to peek out of their corners, a trick she’d used often in her life as a pet.
A woman stood there, wrapped head to toe in animal skins except for the ocher fingers sticking out of the holes in her work mitts. Her hair was raven-wing black and coarsely curled, like that of all the natives of Nishi, and her eyes were a deep, shining brown. She held a woven basket on one cocked hip.
“Those berries are mine,” she said, her voice calm and smooth, even as she cast accusations: “Trespasser. Thief.”
Uh-oh. She’s in trubble now.
SHIFTY is available through Amazon in print or for Kindle and Kindle apps. Or you can order it through your friendly neighborhood independent bookseller. The ISBNs are: ISBN-10: 1942166206 or ISBN-13: 978-1942166207.
A WRITING PROMPT FOR YOU: A character gets caught stealing, using, borrowing, or consuming something belonging to somebody else.