Today's the last Friday Excerpt featuring the Women of Foxwick. The excerpt is from the story "Magic Seeker."
You can find the excerpts from "Lady Bard" here, "Dragon Seer" here, "Lady Death" here, and "Mage Game" here.
Something—or someone—had spooked the horses. Their frantic pawing and whinnying sent a stab of worry through Zenia’s heart. When her mother had told her to meet her at the stables after supper, she knew something was wrong. Had Foxwick fallen to the Lochhollowans? Did they have to flee the castle? She attempted to hum a soothing tune to calm the horses, but her mouth was too dry.
“Shh,” Zenia said instead as she touched each horse’s muzzle. They slowly calmed at her voice, but her heart sped up. Where was her mother?
The stable doors creaked and Zenia froze in place. Her gaze flicked to the pitchfork against the far wall. If only she was closer, she could use it for protection. Should she risk it?
“Zenia?” Her mother’s gentle voice called to her.
Queen Amelia, Zenia’s mother, opened the stall door and led Zenia’s favorite and fastest horse, White Lightning, to her. The horse was already saddled and ready for a ride, but what was her mother doing with the horse so late at night?
“What’s going on?” When her mother’s face came in full view, Zenia gasped at the concern sharpening her features. “What happened? Did Foxwick fall?”
“Let’s pray Foxwick never falls.” Amelia clutched Zenia’s chin. “Listen to me, child. The war in Lochhollow is coming to a head. The tide can turn either for or against us, so we must be ready. I need you to travel to Valdale. Within a monastery upon the hill, there lives a well-renowned sorceress. You must persuade her to help us.”
“Me?” If Zenia wasn’t worried before, she was now. The fate of Foxwick had settled on her shoulders like an iron shawl. “But, Mother, I’ve barely traveled outside of Foxwick. Why can’t we take my roc or even ride a dragon or gryphon there? Surely journeying by flight would be quicker than by horse.”
“It’s too dangerous.” Amelia glanced toward the opened stable doors. Her hand fell from Zenia’s face, and she pressed White Lightning’s rein into her daughter’s hands. “You won’t travel alone. Please, do enter, Umbria.”
A woman cloaked in darkness entered the stables followed by a unicorn, but not just any unicorn, a black one. Her hood fell away, revealing her face. Eyes like onyx gemstones focused upon Zenia, and the princess took a step back. Umbria laughed, a melodious tune. “Don’t be frightened. I am to be your guide into Valdale and nothing more.”
“Lady Death, yes, but I am also your Great-Aunt Umbria.” She smiled, but it didn’t put Zenia at ease.
“Umbria has business in Valdale, so she agreed to accompany you.” Amelia stroked Zenia’s hair. “She’ll keep you safe, my love. Please, we must do this. I wish I could travel with you, but I have to remain here for news and to oversee the kingdom.”
Zenia knew her mother couldn’t travel to Valdale, even if she could leave Foxwick at a time like this. If her Uncle Karden and Aunt Adetta hadn’t left with father and her brother Ivander to Lochhollow, then they could’ve journeyed with her. She hadn’t met her great-aunt before. Of course, most people hoped not to see Lady Death until it was their time.
“So are you coming, Zenia?” Umbria leapt upon the unicorn’s back. Her sword gleamed behind her in the warm lantern light.
“There’s no other way, is there, Mother?” Zenia wrapped White Lightning’s rein around her hand.
“I fear not.” Amelia kissed her cheek.
Zenia normally skirted away from such endearments, but she wished for a thousand more moments with her family. Those turns of the hourglass would disappear if she didn’t go. She climbed upon White Lightning. “Please take care of my many animals. Merryl, the butcher, typically brings fresh meat every other day for them. We should have enough fruits and vegetables for the others.”
“Your menagerie is safe with me. Be swift and careful. Come back.” Amelia stepped aside. “Be sure to come back.”
Umbria lifted her head in a curt nod before turning her unicorn around.
Zenia prepared to follow, and the two women with their mounts raced from the stables to Valdale.