Who Is Mistral Dawn?

Mistral Dawn is a thirty-something gal who has lived on both coasts of the US but somehow never in the middle. She currently resides in the Southeast US with her kitty cats (please spay or neuter! :-)) where she works as a hospital drudge and attends graduate school. Taken By The Huntsman is her first effort at writing fiction and if it is well received she has ideas for several more novels and short-stories in this series. Please feel free to visit her on FaceBook or drop her a line at mistralkdawn@gmail.com

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Another Teasing Taste! ;-)

Hi Everyone!

Here's another teasing taste of my second book.  Enjoy! :-)

At first Uaine thought the room was moving, but he quickly realized what had happened.  The Siorghra, literally 'eternal love', bond hand formed between the female and him.  He breathed deeply, trying to steady himself in the sudden onslaught of feelings, and attempted to process this astonishing eventuality. As impossible as it might seem, this human was his Anamchara, his soul-mate, and so the next queen of the Summer Court of Fairie!

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

A Title Contest! ;-)

Hi Everyone!

As I mentioned in Sunday's blog post, I'd like to have a contest to pick the title of my second book. I won't tell you yet what the prize for the contest will be (it's a surprise! ;-) ), but there will be one on the condition that I actually choose one of the suggested titles as the title for my book.  Assuming I get more than one suggestion, there will be voting but I get the final vote. ;-)  I'm looking forward to this, and I hope you guys are too, and really hope it will be fun.  To make it easier to think of a title I'll be posting excerpts from the book, now and then, on this blog.  There won't be a set schedule, since I don't know when I'll get something written that could be used as an excerpt, so stay tuned! ;-)  Below I'll paste the links for what I've posted so far.  To submit a title suggestion please post it in the comments.  Thank you everyone!! :-)



Monday, December 29, 2014

Maggie Plummer Interviewed By Mistral Dawn

Hi Everyone!

We're here with Maggie Plummer today, a very funny lady who lives in western Montana. Tell us about yourself Maggie! :-)

Maggie:  Along the winding trail, I've wandered around the country and worked a dizzying array of seasonal and regular jobs. I’ve been a journalist, book publicist, book editor, census enumerator, school bus driver, field interviewer, waitress, post office clerk, fish processor, library clerk, retail salesperson, Good Humor girl, fishing boat first mate, race horse hot walker, apple picker, and bus girl. I have written three books, and am now working on another novel (and it’s not historical fiction this time!).

I’m the author of award-winning SPIRITED AWAY – A NOVEL OF THE STOLEN IRISH (2012, CreateSpace Independent Publishing) and a non-fiction book called PASSING IT ON: VOICES FROM THE FLATHEAD INDIAN RESERVATION (2008, Salish Kootenai College Press, Pablo, Montana). My new book, DARING PASSAGE, is my second published novel.

Me: Wow! Sounds like you've had an interesting life! :-) Can you tell us about your latest book and what inspired it?

Maggie:  DARING PASSAGE: BOOK TWO OF THE SPIRITED AWAY SAGA is the much-awaited sequel to SPIRITED AWAY. I was inspired by the many enthusiastic readers who loved my first novel and demanded a sequel.

Me:  Sounds like a real labor of love! What are you working on now?

Maggie:  I am revising a novel that has been gathering dust for a while. It includes a lot of Montana gold rush history, but the story is told within a modern framework. I guess it would be categorized as Contemporary Mainstream Fiction.

Me:  So diversifying your portfolio, huh? Awesome! Are there any authors, or books, that have influenced you?

Maggie:  I love Harper Lee, Anna Quindlen, Pat Conroy, Wally Lamb, Norman Maclean, Barbara Kingsolver, Toni Morrison, Anne Tyler…I could go on and on. I have been influenced by the books TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, A RIVER RUNS THROUGH IT, ANIMAL DREAMS, PRINCE OF TIDES, THE GREAT SANTINI, SHIPPING NEWS, and many others.

Me:  So the really deep reading moves you then, that's great! :-) What are you reading now?

Maggie:  I’m currently reading THE DEATH OF SANTINI by Pat Conroy. He is such an amazing writer!  

Me: Fun! ;-) For those who might consider reading your book, what would you tell them to expect?

Maggie:  I wrote DARING PASSAGE so that it can stand alone, even though it is a sequel. However, I think readers will enjoy it more if they read SPIRITED AWAY – A NOVEL OF THE STOLEN IRISH first. 

What can they expect? In the first novel, they can expect to experience an intimate, compelling story about 1650s Irish slavery in the Caribbean. In the sequel, they will discover the rest of slave Freddy O'Brennan's tale. It's still 1656, and Freddy is on the run. Determined to protect her young children and keep her family together, she is tested more than ever as she navigates a choking gauntlet of greed, corruption, duplicity, and bloody violence. Romantic sparks fly, smolder, and threaten to explode.

DARING PASSAGE is a 70,000-word historical romance novel that captures a rare glimpse of life in the New World colonies of the seventeenth century.  

Me:  Sounds like you put a lot of research into your work. What is your favorite part of being an author?

Maggie:  At this point, my favorite part of being an author is opening readers’ eyes about 1650s Irish slavery. Most people have never heard of it. Not only do they get to enjoy a good story, they learn about an important yet forgotten chapter in the history of human trafficking.  

Me: It is definitely important to make sure people don't forget the mistakes of the past, kudos! Do you have a day job as well?

Maggie:  No. I am semi-retired.  

Me:  Lucky you! Then writing is your job for now, what would you say is the hardest and easiest part about being a writer?

Maggie: The hardest parts are handling negative reviews and hanging in there when a manuscript seems terrible.

As I wrote DARING PASSAGE, I had a horrible feeling that no matter what I did, no matter how hard I tried, this sequel would not measure up to my first novel. However, my ‘first readers’ loved the book. One of them told me that I have gotten better. That made me feel elated, and excited to release the sequel.

As for negative reviews: it’s not easy to let the nastiness roll off one’s back – especially when it gets personal, like some of them do. I am fortunate, though, in having many more positive reviews than negative ones. I’m proud of the fact that I have never commented to any of the negative reviewers. That’s a real triumph for me!

The easiest part about being a writer is spending the royalty money. Ha!  

Me: Yeah, it can be really hard when someone is unkind towards something you've worked so hard on, it's good that you've been able to "take the high road" with the negative reviews, and congratulations on all of the positive ones! :-)  Just so readers have a better idea of what they are in for, what genre do you place your books in?

Maggie:  Historical Fiction. DARING PASSAGE may also fit into the Historical Romance genre.  

Me:  Gotta love those romance novels!! ;-)  Anything else you'd like to tell your readers?

Maggie:  I appreciate my readers’ support more than they will ever know. I am very, very grateful to them.  

Me:  And just so folks can find these wonderful stories, are there any links you'd like me to post? :-)

Maggie:  Yes, please!



Amazon Author page:  http://amzn.to/1p0gBDy

My fan page on Facebook:

Find me on Twitter:  https://twitter.com/maggiep1951

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Sunday Treat! :-)

Just the barest snippet from the second chapter of the book I'm working on.  I'd love to hear what you thought when you read it. :-)  At some point soon I'll probably have a contest to pick a title for this one.  Does anyone have any suggestions?  If you do, please leave them in the comments and that way we'll all have something to vote on! :-)

As he half-dragged her through the archway Roni finally saw what he meant by 'the dungeon.'  This was no police station; it was a full-out medieval torture chamber!  The flickering glow she had seen was a huge fireplace with a roaring fire.  Sticking out from a shelf inside of it were the handles of several branding irons.  There was a rack, an iron maiden, and many other implements of torture she couldn't name but whose purpose was clear.  

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Excerpts From Taken By The Huntsman

Hi Everyone!

If you haven't read Taken By The Huntsman yet and would like to get a better idea of what it's about, there are several excerpts posted on the Microcerpt page.  Please feel free to check them out! :-)



Friday, December 26, 2014

Awesome Five Star Review For Taken By The Huntsman By New Apple Literary Service!!

A magical romance - I was pleasantly surprised

'Taken By The Huntsman' follows the journey of Cassie, a lonely woman barely coping in the human world, and Cadeyrn, the Elking and leader of the Wild Hunt. Cassie is kidnapped and hidden away inside Cadeyrn's fortress in Fairie once he realizes that she is to be his destined soulmate. Cadeyrn acts with good intentions and is the hero of the story despite the way my description makes him sound. The story is a fairy tale (no pun intended) that reminded me of the mystery and wonder I felt as a child reading similar stories. The romantic and magical quality of this book may have appealed to my inner child but there were more explicit aspects that could only be appreciated by my present maturity.

'Taken By The Hunstman' was engaging, well written and thought provoking while remaining entertaining and erotic. That combination is often rare in books standing out in the genre of fantasy romance. The author does a terrific job of keeping your attention and walking the reader through the magical realm of the Fae with enough backstory and description to introduce the characters, their language, their history and their culture to those who love fantasy and those without prior experience to this world. The sensual nature of the novel is handled with dignity and great care even though the sex is erotic and extremely steamy. This is a feat in and of itself. The sexual aspect intertwines with the romance and was presented in a way that is not heavy handed at all. Even the introduction of bondage fits well with the characters and their struggle to come to terms with love and how it differs across the gap between the world of the Fae and the world of the humans.

I was pleasantly surprised with this book. There were a few grammatical errors, as to be expected with indie books, none of which deterred me from falling in love with the story and the characters. I'll be anxiously awaiting the author's next release.


Thursday, December 25, 2014

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Taken By The Huntsman Featured On Day 24 Of #25DaysOfIndie!

Hey Everyone!!

Keeley Frank, who is a TOTALLY AWESOME YouTuber, was kind enough to feature my novel, Taken By The Huntsman, on the 24th day of her #25DaysOfIndie project!!  Please check it out and give it some love!!! :-)  You can also enter to win a free copy of Taken By The Huntsman!! :-)


My Review Of Blood Assassin By Alexandra Ivy

Blood Assassin is the second novel in Alexandra Ivy's Sentinels Series.  It's set on Earth in a society that is pretty much exactly like the one we all know and some love more than others. ;-)  The one difference is that there are some people who have special powers due to genetic mutations (yes, I thought of the X-Men too but it's different enough to be interesting) who are called "high-bloods." The powers these people have varies from person to person with some being stronger and/or having a broader range of powers than others.  The story in Blood Assassin centers around Serra (a powerful psychic) and Fane  (a guardian who protects other high-bloods using muscle, brains, and magic).  Serra is kidnapped by a powerful witch-assassin, Bas, who wants her to find his four year old daughter who is being held hostage by person(s) unknown.  To convince her to do his bidding he infects her with a magical poison which only he can remove.  Serra and Fane have to find the little girl before time runs out, and then find a way to make Bas keep his promise to remove the poison.

While I'd read Alexandra Ivy's Guardians of Eternity series before, Blood Assassin was the first novel I read in her Sentinels Series.  I wasn't disappointed.  Since I haven't read the first book (something I'll have to rectify) in the series, Born in Blood, I had to play a little catch-up with the back story, but Ms. Ivy shares enough that this novel could be read on its own.  There were a few typos in the ebook copy of this novel which were a bit distracting at times, but not enough to detract from the charm of the story.  Reading the interactions between two very strong and opinionated protagonists was a lot of fun, and, as in all of Ms. Ivy's stories, the romance between Serra and Fane was HOT! Overall, five stars; I would definitely recommend this book to lovers of paranormal romance novels. :-)

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Mary Ann Bernal: Ten Facts You Didn’t Know You Needed to Know About Author Mistral Dawn

Hi Everyone!!

Awesome indie author Mary Ann Bernal has been kind enough to post ten facts you didn't know you needed to know about me! ;-) Whether you actually needed to know them is debatable, but it is kind of fun so go ahead and check it out and give us both some love! :-)

Thanks everyone, you're all the best!! :-)



Monday, December 22, 2014

Mistral Dawn's Interview Of Markie Madden

Hey Everyone! 

I'm here with Markie Madden today, a 39 year-old, married author who has two teenage daughters. She lives in SE Missouri with three dogs and a horse! And has written 3 books: Keeping a Backyard Horse, My Butterfly Cancer and Once Upon a Western Way.

Me: So Markie, what is the name of your latest book and what inspired it?

Markie: They all came out at the same time, but my best-seller (in paid sales) is My Butterfly Cancer. It's the memoir of my personal battle with leukemia and how I became an independently-published author. I use the theory of the butterfly effect to explain this!

Me: That's awsome!  And what are you working on now?

Markie: I have two projects I'm currently working on. Triple Heist is a crime romance where Allison, the main character, is head of security at the Federal Reserve bank. But she has a plan to rob the bank! Fang and Claw is book one in the Undead Unit series. Lacey is a detective with the Dallas police department. She's also a vampire. In a society where the Undead creatures are, if not completely accepted, tolerated, she's just been put in charge of an elite squad to investigate crimes dealing with Werewolves, Demons, Reapers, Zombies, and so on. I'm also currently working to get all my books made into audiobooks!

Me: How exciting!  What genre do you place your books in?

Markie: I have two non-fiction and one fantasy/romance that I would put at about age 16+. If they read Nora Roberts type romances, mine isn't any worse in the "adult" situations. And even though my characters are young, they're actually married!

Me: For those who might consider reading your book, what would you tell them to expect?

Markie: If you pick up My Butterfly Cancer, expect to be introduced to chemotherapy in the harshest of ways! Embarrassing though it was, I didn't hold back in detailing the trials I went through, even when I thought I was going to die!

Me: How frightening! Well we're all glad you're here with us now. Changing gears a bit, what would you say is the hardest and easiest parts about being a writer?

Markie: The hardest part of writing is definately selling! I first published on Smashwords in 2012 (Once Upon a Weatern Way), and sold 5 copies in two years! Now that I'm on Amazon, and Twitter and other social media, sales are better, but it takes a lot of effort and time! For me, writing the beginning is always the easiest! I don't know how many "first draft first chapters" I've scribbled down in the past!

Me: I think most independent authors can sympathize with how hard it is to market your book, slow sales seem to be a universal bane, at least sometimes.  And what is your favorite part of being an author?

Markie: I love the fact that I can take readers into another world, if only for a short time. And with my memoir, I hope to inspire other cancer patients who might be feeling like there's no way to overcome!

Me: I'm sure everyone is wondering by now: do you have a day job as well?

Markie: Before I had cancer I was a manager at Auto Zone, a chain of auto parts stores. I could still get my job back, but I haven't recovered 100%, and if I can't carry and install a car battery (or lift any other heavy things we have around), I feel the job is better for someone who needs it. Jobs are hard to come by in our small town.

Me: Yeah, jobs are scarce where I live too, it seems to be a common problem in less populated areas. Are there any authors or books that have influenced you?

Markie: My favorite authors are J.D. Robb, Nora Roberts, Kay Hooper, and Patricia Cornwall. Among others! I especially like Kay Hoopers psychic FBI unit (Special Crimes Unit) series.

Me: And what are you reading now? 

Markie: I haven't had much time for reading, though I'm in the middle of Yesteryear, A Novel of Reincarnation by Samyann. She bought and reviewed one of mine and I did the same.

Me: Anything else you'd like to tell your readers?

Markie: I love to hear from my readers! I like knowing I've written something they enjoy!

Well, it sounds like you are off to an excellent start at a writing career, Markie, I wish you the best of luck!  For anyone who'd like to check out Markie or her books, a bunch of her links are below.

Amazon Author Page: www.amazon.com/author/margueritemadden

Website: www.margueritemarkiemadden.simplesite.com

Blog: http://www.writermarkiemadden.blogspot.com/

Twitter Handle: @naddya81975

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/booksbymarkie

Individual Book Links:
My Butterfly Cancer on Amazon http://geni.us3Xdr/
Once Upon a Weatern Way http://geni.us/26Fb
Keeping a Backyard Horse http://geni.us/47ot

She'll also be on B&N and Smashwords, but right now her books are Amazon exclusive releases

Smashwords Profile: http://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/Naddya819

Email Address: naddya81975@gmail.com

Saturday, December 20, 2014

My Review of Six Cats In My Kitchen By Lyn Horner

Lyn Horner is an awesome, multigenre, indie author! She wrote Six Cats In My Kitchen, a funny, sweet, sad story about the cats and people in her life. I wrote a review for it which you can find here (http://www.amazon.com/review/R2ZB1T17LLWYO2/ref=cm_cr_pr_perm?ie=UTF8&ASIN=B004VXM0TQ ) and you can view her amazon author page here ( http://www.amazon.com/Lyn-Horner/e/B004CY506Y/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_1 ). Check her out and show this indie author some love! 

10/20/2014 Lyn Horner Interview Of Mistral Dawn

Hi everyone! 

Check out my interview with Lyn Horner:

Friday, December 19, 2014

A Review of Grave Mercy By Robin LaFevers

Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers was a lot of fun to read! It's a YA fantasy novel with a little bit of romance sprinkled in.  The main character, Ismae Rienne, is the daughter of Mortain, the God of Death who has been downgraded to a saint by a church-dominated society but who is still worshipped by many.  Her father despises her as the evidence of her mother's affair with Death and sells her in marriage to a cruel man who nearly beats her to death when he discovers her true paternity. She escapes, with the aid of an herb-witch and a hedge-priest, to a convent of nuns who are dedicated to the worship and support of Mortain where she becomes an initiate and learns the ways of Death.  Once she is trained she is dispatched to protect Brittany's 12 year old duchess and to bring Death to those who are Marqued for it.  Along the way she meets Gavriel Duval, a Breton noble, who is also devoted to the young duchess. Together they must find a way to preserve both her throne and her life.

As I said, this was a lot of fun to read and I would recommend it to anyone who likes a good fantasy adventure.  The characters are well developed and the reader is sucked into a world where a strong, young woman finds a place and some independence in a world where women are valued at about the same rate as a good horse. This is definitely something to be put on your to-be-read list! :-)


A Rant: Different Does Not Mean Wrong!

Taken By The Huntsman came into being because I had a dream after having a debate with an online friend. I'll leave the details of the dream to your imagination , but the debate was about the nature of consent and what should and should not be accepted by society. I'm of the opinion that any behavior (sexual or otherwise) that is engaged in by consenting adults (of any number or combination) that does not affect anyone other than the consenting adults involved should be accepted by society. My online friend disagreed strenuously, and insisted that there are societal standards that must be adhered to; even among consenting adults in private.

While I generally try to respect any and all points of view, whether or not I agree with them, I found my friend's stance to be disturbing on many levels. First, I believe that any attempt to regulate people's freedom to act in the manner in which they feel most comfortable is a very slippery slope. Obviously people need to be careful to avoid acting in ways that infringe on other people's freedoms (in other words, your freedom to swing your arm ends at my nose), but short of that I believe it is very important for people to be free to express themselves in whatever way they feel is true to themselves. Second, I believe any attempt to define morality in regards to personal behavior is arrogant in the extreme and will ultimately be unsuccessful. Just look at how successful prohibition was.

I set out to write a book that would entertain, and hopefully arouse, my readers, but also to start a discussion about right and wrong, and consensual contact vs. non-consensual contact. There are several plot lines in my story where the characters explore their feelings, and the reasons for them, about sex, crimes, punishment of criminals, societal structure and one's place in it, justice, revenge, and both romantic and platonic relationships. I had hoped to start a dialog about how our society treats people who don't always fit into a nice, neat little box for us.

Therefore, it shouldn't have surprised me, though it did, when one of the people who know my real identity (I know, so mysterious! ;-)) read my book and informed me they were offended because the relationship between the hero and the heroine glorifies rape! I probed a little to find out why the book gave them such an impression and I was informed that in their opinion, any time one partner is restrained by another during sex it is rape. The fact that my characters repeatedly communicated with each other and sought explicit consent for every sexual encounter and act was apparently irrelevant; restraint was involved and therefore it was an act of rape.

This person wasn't the only one who has read my book who expressed concern about some of the themes contained therein, but it was their bold declaration about a subject as serious as rape that stuck in my mind. I have to say, I did expect some judgment from others when I set out to write an erotic romance novel, that's why I chose to use a pen name, but it still surprises me to hear others make blanket statements like 'all sexual encounters that involve restraining one of the participants (even when it is done with their consent and for their pleasure) are rape.'

Really?!? Rape? Rape is a very serious crime, that should never be trivialized, and, honestly, I find the comparison between the mutually agreed to and enjoyed sexual activities engaged in by my characters and an act that, by its very nature, is non-consensual, demeaning, and traumatic to the victim to be insulting. Though the activities described in Taken By The Huntsman are certainly not activities that everyone would enjoy or agree to (can anyone name any activity other than breathing, eating some form of food, and drinking some type of liquid that everyone would agree to?), there are many people who do engage in them (and enjoy them) here on planet Earth (not just in Fairie), and the claim that what they are doing is wrong or immoral in some way (or criminal, dehumanizing, and cruel like rape) is both absurd and dangerous. Seeing how popular erotica has become gives me hope that people are willing to open their minds a bit to the possibilities life has to offer, and to the idea that different does not mean wrong, but some of the conversations I've had as a result of writing Taken By The Huntsman have shown me we still have quite a ways to go.

I sincerely believe that love, in all of its many and varied forms, is magical, and that if we, as a society, can truly embrace this concept many of the problems we now find insurmountable will disappear. Until then, I wish all of you luck in finding your own magical love, and hope you will fully embrace and explore your own passions and desires.

With love,

Mistral Dawn

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Merrie Housdon's Interview Of Mistral Dawn

Hey Everyone!

Check out what Merrie and I found to chat about! :-)


Review of Warlord's Honor by LW Browning

Hi everyone!

Check out my review of awesome indie author LW Browning's Warlord's Honor:


It's a lot of fun to read and you can find it on Amazon here:


Happy reading! :-)

Kitties, Kitties, Who's Got The Kitties?!? ;-)

Someone recently asked me if the kitty in my novel Taken By The Huntsman (and the one in my upcoming second novel) are based on my pet kitties. The answer is yes and no. Sir Fuzzalot, in Taken By The Huntsman, has attributes and characteristics of several kitties I've had the privilege to know over the years. I've had a couple of kitties who had the long, silver/gray tabby fur and the large, stocky Maine Coon body type. Ironically though, neither of them acquired the moniker "fuzzy" (or any derivative or version thereof) while in my keeping. My "fuzzy" (or rather His Royal Fuzzinessness) was a short-haired blue/gray kitty (sort of looked like a Russian Blue) who passed from this plain of existence while I was in the middle of writing Taken By The Huntsman. He was 13 years old at the time, and his passing was very sudden and unexpected. I was fortunate enough to meet him when he was small enough to fit in the palm of my hand, and he made two trips across the country with me during his lifetime.

Sir Fuzzalot was already a character in Taken By The Huntsman when my "fuzzy" died, but I now sort of consider the book a tribute to him; along with the two kitties I think of when I think of Sir Fuzzalot's appearance, one of whom died of feline leukemia virus when I was a teenager and the other of whom died several years ago of kidney disease. Sir Fuzzalot's personality is also a conglomeration of these three kitties and several more I've known over the years. All kitties show their affection and appreciation of the humans who are lucky enough to know them in different ways. I chose to use some of the most endearing methods I've been privileged enough to witness over the years and combined them in the distinguished personage of Sir Fuzzalot.

Mr. Spatz (who you've been briefly introduced to, though not by name, if you've read the first chapter of the second book that I posted) is also a combination of many kitties I've known. He's a young cat, not fully grown. Somewhere around a tween and a teen. So his personality isn't fully developed yet and he's a bit rambunctious, as you'll come to find out if you read my second novel. Having done cat rescue for more years than I care to contemplate (and having worked with quite a few rescue groups in my travels) I've known many kitties in this awkward stage, and I've learned they are often just as confused and misunderstood as human children in the same phase of development. I hope to reflect this awkwardness and uncertainty in Mr. Spatz's character. His appearance is as a short-haired, black and white, tuxedo kitty, which some people may consider a rather generic appearance for a cat. I assure you, once you've known more than one tuxedo kitty you'll learn that no two are exactly alike, and Mr. Spatz will have his uniqueness as well.

So, are the kitties in my books based on the kitties in my life? Well, yes....and no. 

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

My Awesome New Business Cards! :-)

Taken By The Huntsman on Ask David! :-)

Hey all,

Here's a new page about my Taken By The Huntsman:


I would deeply appreciate it if you would check it out and give it some love! 

Thank you so much!!!

Book 2 (In Progress) Chapter One (Subject To Revision ;-) )

Chapter One

  Roni was in trouble and she knew it. This wasn't an unusual condition for her. As a con artist and petty thief by profession, she often found herself on the wrong side of the law; and, so, in trouble. But this time the men who were chasing her wouldn't read her rights and lock her up if they caught her. No, this time the end of the chase would be far more violent. Roni knew this and knew that because of this she had to make sure they didn't catch her, which she was trying desperately to do. If only she hadn't put on the damn high heels when she left home earlier!
  She had worn the heels because she knew how important it was to look one's best; especially for one with her vocation. Roni barely cracked five feet tall in her stocking feet and wearing the highest of high heels was just one of the ways she manipulated people's impressions of her. Besides, they made her legs look longer and her butt look good. But, unfortunately, none of that changed the fact that they were very difficult to run fast in!
  It all started when she'd found herself short of money for her rent and had tried to throw a quick con together so she wouldn't be evicted from her rat-trap apartment.  She was new to the city and hadn't learned who all of the major players in the underworld were yet.  She'd had to leave her last city of residence rather precipitously, and so she hadn't had time to do her usual amount of homework. 
  Roni wasn't classically beautiful, and was far too voluptuous to be fashionably beautiful, but she'd found that there were always men who'd follow her wicked curves around anywhere she'd cared to lead them.  Her tits and ass coupled with her unusual complexion served to keep men guessing; which, of course, kept them interested.  Roni's parents had both been of mixed race, though they refused to disclose what exactly those races were; even to Roni. 
  She, herself, had no idea what parts of Earth she owed her genetic heritage to, but she knew that the unusual mix of features and the indeterminate skin tone she had been blessed with made it possible for her to be a veritable chameleon.  A simple change of clothing and slightly different shades of makeup and she could change her appearance dramatically.  Was her skin a lovely creamy cocoa a la Halle Berry?  Or was she a tan Malibu beach bunny?  Or perhaps she was a descendant of the place that had once been commonly referred to as 'the Orient?' She'd never tell. Throw in some hair dye or a wig and she could be a completely different person.
  Her current predicament stemmed from her most recent mark.  He had seemed like any average Joe and she had picked him out almost immediately from all of the possible suckers who had been at the club she'd ventured into earlier to ply her trade.  He hadn't been very attractive, but he hadn't been impossibly ugly either.  He'd obviously had money, but he hadn't seemed to be rich enough to have the money to be a problem later.  In short, he'd seemed perfect, and he'd responded beautifully to the scam she'd run on him.    How was she supposed to know he was the local gang leader's brother?!?
He hadn't dressed with the ostentatious flair that most of the successful criminals favored.  He hadn't seemed to have an entourage or any 'security' with him.  His face had been open, and rather guileless; not the hardened, cynical expression most people who spent time with the less-than-pure-as-the-driven-snow elements of a city usually developed.  He hadn't had any of the normal signs that would have warned her away.
  She had given him a professional evaluation before she'd even approached him, and he'd seemed like a very safe target.  The only thing that would have made him more perfect would have been for him to keep his wallet in an easily accessible pocket.  Then she would have dispensed with the whole charade and just light-fingered herself into solvency.  Unfortunately, he'd been savvier than that and had kept his wallet buttoned up in an inside pocket at the front of the sport jacket he'd been wearing.  She'd been able to see the outline of the wallet from across the room, but knew she'd have to get up-close and personal to have a chance at relieving him of it.
  She'd begun by dancing her way through the crowded club towards him.  She knew the second he noticed her; she had felt the way his eyes caressed her body.  Once he'd finished studying her breasts in her low-cut dress he'd raised his eyes to her face and she'd met them with hers.  Her 'come-hither' smile had him following his dick straight to her side and from there it had been easy. 
  He'd bought her drinks which she'd pretended to drink and she had acted progressively more intoxicated as the night progressed. As she swayed her body in time to the music she had moved closer to her target, and when she suggested they find someplace more private to get to know each other he'd been all too willing.    Once he'd taken her to his apartment, it had been easy to get him out of his coat and to convince him that she just had to have one more drink to calm her nerves.  After all, the thought of being with someone as handsome as him just had her poor, little head in a spin.  He'd swallowed it hook, line, and sinker and had left the room to get a bottle of 'the good stuff.'
  Naturally he hadn't put his jacket back on just to go to the kitchen and she'd been able to nick his wallet out of his pocket and silently depart via the window and fire escape.  That's when she'd realized her mistake. 
As she'd climbed down the fire escape she'd noticed that the outside of the building was crawling with just the type of 'security' that had been notably absent from the club.  Fortunately, she'd seen them before they saw her and she'd been able to slip away, but she had heard them talking about their chief, the city's top crime boss, and how they hated babysitting his brother, and she'd known it wouldn't be long before they'd be on her trail.
  She hadn't even made it back to her tiny apartment before she'd noticed them shadowing her.  She had considered just making a break for it, but she'd wanted to collect some personal items before she skipped town (again) and had thought she'd be able to give them the slip.  She'd made it to her place and had managed to throw most of what she wanted to take with her into a duffle bag, but before she'd had a chance to change clothes and alter her appearance she'd seen them circling the building.  Not wanting to be trapped in her apartment, she'd made her way to the roof and had been able to jump the short space between her building and the building next to it.
  Roni had been able to make her way back to the street and away from her apartment, but the part of the city she was in didn't give her many options for losing herself at that time of night.  The streets were deserted and the few businesses in the area had long since closed and locked up tight.  Even the clubs and the bars had closed down and the local drunks had made their ways home to escape the winter chill.  Everything was still and silent and deceptively peaceful.
  The cold winter wind cut through her thin club-wear like a knife and the click-clacking her high heels made against the pavement was painfully loud in her ears; she felt horribly exposed out on the open street. Convinced she was being watched, she ducked down a side street and hurried through the narrow alley as quickly as she could.  When she'd reached the other side she turned and saw the outlines of four men following her.  Knowing she'd been right and that stealth was pointless at that point, she'd run as fast as she could and had zig-zagged through a number of smaller streets and alley-ways.
  She'd finally found a building with an unlocked door and had ducked inside and closed the door behind her just before the men who were chasing her had turned the corner.  She knew they were right behind her and she looked around desperately for a place to hide.  The room she was in seemed to be some kind of warehouse and there were boxes and equipment stacked around at what seemed to be random intervals.  She dashed into the maze of odds and ends and found a small, concealed space that she thought she could hide in. 
  Just as Roni found her hiding space she heard the door open and the footsteps of the men following her.  They knew they had her cornered and didn't seem to be in any hurry as they split up to search through all of the junk scattered around.  It would only be a matter of time before they found her; there was no where for her to go.
  As Roni scrunched down into her hiding place, she wished, not for the first time, that she could just give the wretched wallet back, but she knew that would be pointless.  Roni knew exactly what type of men she was dealing with, and she knew they would not be willing to just forgive and forget.  If they caught her she'd be lucky to escape with her life, and if they did kill her she was sure she'd be wishing for her death long before it came.
  One of the men passed close by the place Roni was hiding and she tried to quietly snuggle deeper into the small cavity.  As she did, she realized she was sharing the space with a half-grown, black and white, short-haired kitten.  The animal was regarding her with wide eyes and just as she started praying it would remain silent it let out an ear-piercing yowl and jumped into her arms. 
  Roni jumped up out of her hiding place with her duffle bag still slung around her back and the small cat still in her arms and she ran as fast as she could for the far side of the room.  The men had all started to converge on her position as soon as the kitten had given her away and were close behind her.  As she ran for all she was worth, Roni tripped over some debris on the floor and began to fall towards a dark spot on the wall. 
  Expecting to hit the wall hard, and unable to put her hands out to catch herself without dropping the cat, she turned to take the impact on her back instead of on her face.  She was astonished when she kept falling, and falling, and falling.  She looked back up to see that the light from the warehouse seemed to be getting very far away and that the four men who had been chasing her were also falling down the same hole she seemed to be in.
  It seemed to Roni that she had been falling for quite a while, and she was beginning to wonder when she'd land, and if she'd survive when she did, when she was suddenly caught in a vortex.  The cyclone took her breath away and ripped the kitten from her grasp.  She had just long enough to worry about the poor creature before the lack of oxygen stole her consciousness and everything went black.


  Roni slowly came back to herself and the first thing she realized was that the air was no longer cold and biting; it was warm and wet.  She opened her eyes and discovered that she was laying on a leaf-strewn ground and that it was daylight instead of nighttime.  She wondered how long she'd been unconscious. 
  As she took stock of herself and found that her limbs all seemed to be in working order and that her duffle bag had miraculously remained strapped to her back, she looked at her surroundings and saw that she seemed to be in the middle of a jungle.  There were trees all around her which seemed to disappear into a sky that she could only catch glimpses of through the green canopy above her.  Close to the ground, the trunks of the trees were as big around as a small car and there also seemed to be quite a few bushes, vines, and creeping vegetation scattered in places where there were breaks in the towering foliage. 
  Roni stood up and slowly dusted herself off, continuing to stare in amazement at the verdant wonderland around her.  The cat was no where to be seen but the four men had made the journey to wherever they were with her.  None of them were awake yet, fortunately, and as she continued to look she saw that one of them would never wake again. 
  One of the men was lying next to a tree that seemed to be oozing a golden, viscous substance from its roots.  The man's head and shoulders were already encased and the ooze was slowly making its way down his body. It almost looked like he was being encased in amber, but Roni had no interest in moving closer for a better look.  It was clear the man was dead, but she still had three more to worry about and they were starting to stir.
  Looking around for the cat one more time, and failing to find him, Roni quickly started off into the jungle; seeking to put space between herself and her pursuers.  She had to be careful about how she placed her feet in order to keep her heels from sinking into the soft, moist ground.  More than once her shoes got stuck and she had to stop and free them before she could continue.  Because of that she made much slower progress than she'd hoped and she began to worry that it wouldn't take long for the men to catch up to her.
  As if to confirm her fears, it wasn't long before she heard her pursuers crashing through the underbrush and moving closer to her.  She started to panic and looked around for somewhere to hide.  Unable to help herself, she turned and looked over her shoulder and saw that one of the men was nearly upon her.
  Roni tried to stretch her legs to run faster but one of her shoes caught again and she went sprawling on her face. The man chasing her missed his grab at her when she fell, but turned to take advantage of her helpless position.  As she looked up, expecting to feel his hands on her at any moment, she saw a blur of motion approaching him from above.
  While Roni looked on, a vine whipped out from the trees above and severed the man's head.  She gasped as his head flew off into the underbrush and a second vine dropped down to grab his body and quickly haul it up into the tree's branches.  The whole procedure had happened between one breath and the next and left Roni blinking in astonishment.
  Scrambling to her feet, Roni desperately tried to avoid looking at the place where the man's head had disappeared.  She kept a wary eye on the branches overhead as she scuttled underneath them to continue her flight from the remaining two men.  She could still hear them not far away, and she didn't have time to contemplate the fate of the man who had nearly caught her.  She'd have to think about that later.
  As she ran she tried to keep an eye on the surrounding forest as well as behind her for signs of pursuit.  Her caution cost her speed, and it wasn't long before another one of the men caught up to her.  She looked around for something to use as a weapon as he advanced on her.  This man seemed to have learned from the examples of his two unfortunate companions and kept part of his attention on their surroundings, which slowed him down somewhat. 
  Roni picked up a stone she found lying on the ground near a tree, intending to use it to defend herself, and was startled when it suddenly sprouted a plethora of legs and began squirming and chittering at her frantically. With a yelp she threw it away from herself, and it happened to land on the leg of the man who was chasing her.  They both watched in astonishment as rock-creature quickly climbed to the top of the man's head and latched all of it's legs around the man's cranium.
  The man started screaming as if the rock-creature were burning him and Roni, unable to help herself, raced over to try to help him.  The man was running in circles and waving his arms around hysterically, and he knocked her several feet away from him with his frantic flailing.  Before Roni could gather her feet under her again, she saw that the man was bleeding badly.
  The bleeding started underneath the rock-creature, from the top of the man's head, but the man quickly began bleeding profusely from his eyes, ears, and nose.  Horror-struck, Roni continued to watch as the man appeared to begin to melt.  First his head seemed to deflate and sink into itself, as if his skull had ceased to exist, then his neck sunk into his chest and his chest seemed to melt down towards his feet.  Mercifully, the man's gurgling screams ended quickly, and it was only Roni who was left to be horrified as his bones seemed to liquefy and what had once been a human being turned into a skin sack leaking red, viscous fluid.
  Once the man was a puddle of skin and goo on the ground, the rock-creature settled in the middle of it and extended what looked like a straw to Roni.  It inserted the end of the straw into the puddle and began making slurping sounds.  Fighting her rising gorge, Roni ran off into the forest.
  Out of breath, Roni soon had to stop her headlong flight; plus, it occurred to her that running blindly through the forest might not be the best idea.  It was clear to her that she was either dreaming, dead, or someplace far from home.  She immediately decided to operate under the assumption that she was still alive (and not dead and in Hell), that she hadn't lost her mind, and that she was awake.  This decision wasn't made because she was sure that all of these things were true; she'd just decided that on the off chance that she was alive, awake, and sane the best way to remain so was to act as if the dangers she perceived were real.  If it turned out that her mind (either awake or asleep) was manufacturing nightmares for her to navigate she didn't see how acting as if they were real would harm her in anyway, and if she were dead she supposed she'd be beyond harm.
  With that resolution in mind, Roni decided she needed to either find her way out of the forest (and hopefully to somewhere safer) and/or find people who could help her.  Considering what she had seen, climbing the trees to try to find out where the edge of the forest was didn't seem like such a hot idea; so she decided to just pick a direction (away from the last place she had seen the man who was still chasing her) and go in as straight a line as possible.  She couldn't hear the last of the men who had been chasing her and she thought to wonder if he were already dead, but erring on the side of caution seemed the better part of valor in this situation and she started off into the forest again.
  Just as she began to think she might be putting some real distance between herself and the place where the third man had died, she heard a plaintive mewing from nearby.  Sighing, but knowing she'd never be able to walk off and leave if the kitten was near and needed her help, she started looking around; after all, she considered herself at least partially responsible for the kitten being in danger in the first place.  It didn't take her long to follow the crying and find the kitten.  It was entangled in what appeared to be a web of long, thin leaves.
  On the ground in front of her, there was a plant that looked like a giant, mutated tulip.  It had long, thin leaves and a central stalk with a blossom at the top; but instead of standing up straight the leaves were woven into a cage, at the center of which was a very frightened looking kitten.  She crouched down to get a better look.  The kitten didn't appear to be injured, just trapped. 
  Given what she had seen of the potential for violence among the flora and fauna of this forest, Roni was rather reluctant to just stick her hand into the tangle of leaves and try to pry the kitten out, so she began looking around for something to use to move the leaves.  First she had to be sure that whatever she picked up wouldn't suddenly decide to eat her; it was a nerve-wracking process. She finally found a stick that seemed both long and thick enough for the purpose, and also seemed to be relatively inert.
  She picked the stick up, keeping a wary eye on it, and began to move back towards the plant that had trapped the kitten.  It appeared as though the leaves were moving closer together, trapping the kitten in an even smaller space.  Worried that the kitten would either be crushed or smothered, Roni began to hurry but was stopped as the kitten let out an ear-piercing yowl at the same time something crashed through the brush behind her.
  Roni spun, raising the stick in front of herself, to face the threat behind her.  She saw the last of the men who had been chasing her stumble out of the underbrush and fall on his face on the ground.  He lay there, twitching, and then looked up at her, an expression of utter anguish on his face.  The man seemed to be trying to speak, but no sound escaped his mouth.  Suddenly, he opened his mouth even wider and looked as if he were trying to vomit.
  Thousands of tiny, crawling creatures (distantly Roni's mind tried to classify them as insects, though she knew she had nothing to base that assumption on other than superficial appearance) came scuttling out of his mouth.  The man gave her an expression of complete horror, and then his eyes rolled up into his head and he was still except for the movement of the creatures.  Roni prepared to run, but the creatures didn't seem at all interested in abandoning their meal, and were busily encasing the man's body in some kind of web-like substance.
  Trying to keep an eye on the mass of creeping creatures, she turned back to the plant that had trapped the kitten.  She could no longer see the animal, though she could hear his mournful cries from inside the bundle of leaves.  Poking the stick into the center of the tangle, she found the leaves were difficult to move, and that they left marks on the stick as though their edges were sharp.  That knowledge made Roni glad she hadn't just blindly plunged her hand into them, but she was able to use the stick to make a large enough opening to stick her hand into and grab the kitten.
  As she pulled the kitten out, she found that there were small vines wrapped around its back legs.  They didn't release it when she pulled it away from the plant, but she dropped the stick and let the leaves close back together and the sharp edges severed the vines.  She was then able to unwind them from its legs. 
Roni looked the kitten over, but other than some lost fur where the vines had wrapped its legs, it seemed none the worse for wear.  She did notice during the course of her inspection that it was a he. He didn't seem at all inclined to leave her arms again, and he snuggled under her chin and purred. Even with the threat of the men gone, Roni knew the forest itself was still a threat and she needed to get out of it as soon as possible.  Turning to continue on her way, she found that she wasn't alone.
  Between the trees, in the direction she had been headed before she'd been distracted by her search for the kitten, stood a very tall man with hair that was a blonde so yellow she doubted it was from nature.  He was very well-built and muscular, and the features of his face were stunning with large, purple eyes, high, sharp cheek bones, and full, bowed lips.  Roni became lost in the beauty of his face for a moment, but soon realized that this man might be the help she'd been looking for. 
  Just as she was about to speak to him an expression of rage contorted his beautiful face and he raised his hand to point at her and shouted in a language she'd never heard before.  Afraid that the man meant to attack her, Roni spun, intending to run away, but found that she was unable to move her feet!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Poems About The Wild Hunt

These are a couple of poems I read before writing my novel, Taken By The Huntsman. They describe a couple of the legends associated with the Wild Hunt, and I thought the imagery they use was inspiring. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did. 



Taken By The Huntsman: Chapter One

  The bus pulled up to the curb with a tired-sounding wheeze and Cassie looked at the driver, waiting for him to unlock the back door.  He took a minute to fiddle with his radio but finally pushed the button opening the door, and the heavy summer air hit Cassie as she stepped onto the sidewalk.  There had been storms earlier in the evening and the ground seemed to be trying to give back all of the water it had taken.  At 3am the sky was clear, but the air was still warm and wet just waiting for tomorrow’s sun to generate another storm.
  Cassie listened to the bus rattle off down the street as she looked around at her neighborhood.  At this hour she was the only one on the street, but the evidence from the day’s activities was all around her.  She sighed, it seemed as though every summer people became more and more careless of their trash.  Soda cans and beer bottles were almost as numerous as cigarette butts.  Children, seeing the lack of concern over littering from their parents, had left their ice cream wrappers and Popsicle sticks wherever they happened to have been when they finished their treats.  Waste from dogs (and perhaps even humans in a couple of cases) lay in piles on the sidewalk leaving its odor in the oppressive heat.  Cassie sighed again, she understood people needing to get out of small, non-air conditioned apartments in the heat of the summer, but she didn’t understand why that always seemed to translate into turning the neighborhood they all shared into a landfill.    She pulled out some plastic bags and put on some disposable gloves and started picking up the garbage that was along her route home.  It wouldn't be necessary for her to carry anything very far; the neighborhood had a sufficient number of street-side garbage cans.  None of them were more than half full.
  As she tried not to think about what she was picking up, Cassie thought about the argument she’d had with her boss just before she left her 12-hour shift at the call center.  Her boss had pulled her into his office to lecture her about the amount of time she was spending on the calls she took.  She had tried to explain to him that she was only trying to listen to the customers to make sure she fully understood their problems and so would be in the best position to try to help them.  She knew that most of her coworkers held the customers in contempt but she had taken the job as a customer service representative and so was trying her best to help customers.  Many times she had been able to make customers happy just by listening to them and showing some concern over whatever had upset them enough to call.  So many of the people who called her were just lonely people who wanted someone to talk to, someone who would listen and show some interest in their problems.  But waiting for customers to finish expressing themselves and then finding a solution that both satisfied them and conformed to the company’s policies took time.  Her customers nearly always (sometimes it was impossible to please people no matter what you did) ended the phone call feeling satisfied and as though the company she worked for actually cared if they were happy with the products and services they purchased. 
  Her boss had curtly informed her that the goal of customer service was not to serve customers but to get them off the phone quickly.  He told her the company was obligated to provide some outlet for people to complain, but that her job was to move those complaints through as fast as possible. It wasn’t necessary to make everyone happy, just try not to piss them off so much that they’d want to complain to someone higher up.  Her boss went on to explain that while her customer satisfaction scores were fine, that wouldn’t be enough for her to get a raise, or even secure her job, she needed to improve her turn-around time on calls.  He then reiterated that her job was to take calls quickly, not make people happy.  How depressing!
  At 28 years old Cassie was still trying to find her niche in the world.  She had worked at many menial jobs, the call center was just the latest, trying to find something she could tolerate until she could earn enough money to go to school.  She was trying to save enough so that she could afford to finish a degree (not just start one) without taking on any debt.  The problem was that tuition kept going up while her salaries did not.    She’d tried working as a retail clerk at a clothing store, as a waitress, as a cleaning woman, and most recently as a customer service representative.  At all of these jobs she’d been informed that she didn’t have the drive to do well. That her dedication to doing the job well, while admirable, was not what management wanted; management wanted fast not good.  She’d had people tell her over the years just to give it up and borrow money to get an education, but she had never owed anyone anything and she wasn’t interested in starting now.  Besides, she still wasn’t entirely sure what she wanted to study.
  Most of Cassie’s off hours (of which there weren’t many) were spent at the public library.  She and most of the librarians were on a first-name basis because they often helped her explore her latest topic of interest.  Cassie was interested in just about every subject she had read about, so she was having trouble narrowing it down to just one subject to study.  Her passion, if she had to pick one, was helping others.  She had hoped the call center would help her fulfill that need, but apparently not.  From everything she had read about careers that focus on helping others (social worker, school teacher, police officer, councilor, etc.) they also focused on speed over thoroughness, and she didn’t think spending years and tens of thousands of dollars to be just as frustrated as she was now sounded like a good idea.  So Cassie planned to keep working and saving and hoping she’d figure out what her calling was one day.
  As Cassie picked up a dirty diaper that someone had left lying next to a garbage can instead of in it, she realized she’d reached the point on her walk home where she needed to make a decision.  She could either continue on for another two blocks and cross over to her street via an open, well-lit thoroughfare and then have to walk back two blocks to her building, or she could cut through the narrow, dark alley she was standing next to now and save herself four blocks (and about ten minutes) of walking.  She knew the alley was often a hiding place for thieves and other criminals, but the streets were so empty at the moment, except for her, and she only had about five hours before she’d have to go out again to her second job as a barmaid.    She was tired and she thought it would be safe enough to take the shortcut at 3am because the criminals were normally home in bed by that time (she hoped).  Cassie looked around one more time and saw nobody; she heard nothing except for the normal hum of traffic a few blocks away on the highway and the electrical buzz of the street lamps.  She took a breath and decided to risk it, she really did need to get home and get some sleep.

  The Erlking had left Faerie for the human world, something he hadn’t done in decades and didn’t do lightly now, to hunt the one who had killed a pixie child named Coel.  The Wild Hunt (also known as the Wild Horde among the Fae) often punished murderers (as well as oath breakers, liars, and others who committed crimes against the goddess) but catching a child-slayer had special meaning.  Children were revered among the Fae (probably because they had so few) so when Aeronwen, Coel’s mother, spilled her own blood and called for vengeance against Griogal (the male Sidhe who’s suit she had rejected and who had murdered her son out of spite) the Erlking responded immediately.  He had reviewed the evidence against Griogal and found it more than sufficient.  No one called the Wild Hunt lightly because if the evidence didn’t support the charge, or the offense was not great enough to warrant a punishment by the Hunt, the one whose blood had called them would be punished instead, and the Erlking was the sole judge, jury, and sometimes executioner when the Hunt was called.  Even more so than the US Supreme Court, the Erlking decided which calls to heed and his judgment was final, no appeal possible.
  In this case the Erlking had heard Aeronwen’s call for vengeance against Griogal for the crime of child-slaying and had traveled to the scene of the crime immediately.  The ability to instantly appear to a caller was a power that was unique to him, as far as the Erlking knew, and was one he only possessed when a call for vengeance was released onto the wind with blood.  He could carry any or all (as he chose) of the rest of the Horde with him to the initial call, but the rest of the hunt had to proceed by other means of travel. 
When the Erlking and his Horde appeared at Aeronwen’s side she accused Griogal and her accusation was supported by two other witnesses who had seen Griogal cast a spell of fire against Coel.  The Fae were very hard to kill but a magical fire was one of the few things that could accomplish the task, especially with a child who would not have grown into his own magical protections yet.  The Erlking cast his own spell of revealing which did indeed show that Griogal had used magic fire to murder Coel.  With the charge being child-slaying and the guilt of the Sidhe proven beyond any doubt the Erlking had immediately started the hunt for Griogal.
  Coel had been loved within his community (as any child would be) but even those who had never met him refused to shelter Griogal.  People were rarely willing to risk the wrath of the Wild Hunt, for to interfere with the Hunt was to be magically compelled to join it and the duration of the service was entirely at the discretion of the Huntsman who was always the Erlking.  However, it was also rare that there would be any who would be willing to aid the Hunt. Usually nothing could compel the residents of Fairie to draw the attention of the Wild Hunt except the most urgent and righteous need for vengeance. In this case, with a child-slayer the focus of the Hunt, the Fae had not only refused to hide Griogal, they had left signs to direct the Hunt to places Griogal found to hide himself.  With the act of murdering Coel, Griogal had literally left himself with nowhere to hide.  In fact, the Erlking would have long ago caught Griogal except for the fact that he had escaped to the human world. 
  The human world was fraught with peril, more so now than in older times.  The humans had dirtied their world to the point that the air was dangerous to breathe and the water not fit to drink.  They had covered whole swaths of land with tar and metal and other artificial things so that nothing natural could grow in those places.  There had always been risk in entering the human world, any manmade metal could poison a Fae if it broke the skin and some Fae would even be burned by touching such materials.  These were the reasons the Fae’s deadliest swords and spears had always been made from manmade metal, but never had it been so dangerous as it had become in recent years with humanity’s enormous increase in numbers and apparent determination to destroy their world.  Humans were still susceptible to Fae glamour (the ability to change appearance or to become invisible) though the Erlking was not sure what (if anything) would show on their recording devices, so he was concealing his Hunt while he searched for Griogal.  In ancient times, if the Hunt had revealed itself in the human world the humans who saw it went mad.  The appearance of some members of the Hunt was so fearsome as to make it impossible for an unshielded human mind to survive an encounter with them without breaking.  The Erlking was worried about what might happen if a modern human happened to see them.  Would they also go mad or had humanity lost too much innocence for that?
  It was the recording devices that the Erlking really worried about. If humanity saw proof of the existence of the Fae would they try to find the entrance to Fairie?  Would they succeed?  Humans had worshipped the Fae at one point in history but had forgotten them in more recent times except for old stories which were dismissed as imagination.  If the humans realized that those stories were real what would they do?  The Erlking tried to dismiss these concerns as questions for another day; he had a child-slayer to catch.  It was a testament to Griogal’s desperation that it would even occur to him to try to flee to the human world.
Of course those hunted by the Wild Horde were nearly always desperate (the punishments devised by the Erlking were the stuff of legend) and Griogal was not the first Fae to run to the humans to hide.  It was more common in times gone by, but even more recently there had been some Fae who had tried to hide with the humans.  The magic held by most Fae made it possible for them to hide their true natures behind glamour and in some cases to amass wealth of the kind recognized by humans.   In past times, some of the Fae the Erlking hunted would try to blend in with a human community and sometimes they even succeeded for a time.  In more recent times this happened less frequently because of how polluted the human world had become.  A full-grown Fae could not die of thirst or starvation, but they could suffer from them.  As dirty as the human world had become, it was almost impossible to find food or water that was not contaminated with the very manmade substances that would poison a Fae so trying to survive for any length of time in such an environment was not a happy prospect.
  The Erlking was not compelled to run a target to the ground before he could leave a hunt, but he had made it a point of pride to do so unless called to another hunt.  Considering the fate that awaited those who were hunted by the Erlking the Fae were usually careful about committing the types of crimes for which he could be called, but with all of Fairie to care for it was certainly not unheard of for one hunt to be interrupted by a call for another.  If such a thing happened, and the Erlking elected to respond to the second call, then he left his second in command, Ionhar (a skilled hunter and expert archer), to continue the hunt while the Erlking responded to the second call and decided which hunt took precedence.  Lately, however, the Erlking had not been pursuing his targets into the human world because they usually returned to Fairie so quickly, but had just been waiting near the portal the target had taken out of Fairie for their return.
  Millennia ago the Erlking had cast a spell on all of the portals of Fairie so that he would know if one he chased passed through to the human world or back from the human world to Fairie.  The portals were difficult to find in the human world unless you knew exactly where they were, so it was unusual for a Fae to return to Fairie through any portal except the one through which they left.  The risk of entering the human world was not justified when it was so easy for the Erlking to track his prey’s movements into and out of Fairie, so he had not been entering the human world in recent years.  Griogal, however, had entered the human world and had stayed there for quite some time, and with the crime of child-slaying to avenge it had become worth the risk for the Erlking to take his Hunt into the human world.  The Erlking did not know how Griogal was surviving in a world so saturated with toxins, but he would find him no matter how cold the trail.
  The Erlking sat upon his each-uisge (a Fae horse that is wild in nature and known for tearing would-be riders to pieces, especially if the horse-like creatures caught a whiff of the sea air of their native lands), Uasail, a great black beast with eyes that flickered with red and blue flames, wearing his battle armor.  Together they were a frightening sight.  The each-uisge had once been dubbed the “hell horse,” though the Fae had nothing to do with a Christian heaven or hell (they were much older than that) and stood half as high again as a human draft horse.  The hooves on the ends of his six legs, which he stamped on the ground hard enough to draw sparks, were made of some type of hard, black, shiny stone.  One might guess they were obsidian, which would seem to fit with the creature’s fiery nature, but they were much harder and less brittle than that, though they were as sharp as a razor blade and could slice a foe’s flesh from their bones.  His mouth was full of razor teeth more like what one would find in the mouth of an earthly tiger than in the mouth of a vegetarian horse.  Periodically the animal would snort flames from his nostrils and smoke would waft from his ears.  Having those flickering eyes turned on them had been enough to make battle-hardened Fae freeze in terror.
  The Erlking himself was an imposing presence.  In his battle armor he stood nearly seven feet tall.  The spiked armor was black and shiny, like the exoskeleton of some prehistoric insect, and the enormous helmet he wore had a visor with the snarling visage of a wild boar and two sets of antlers coming out of the top like the rack of some great stag.  Outside his armor the Erlking’s appearance was not much more comforting. He stood six and a half feet tall with a wild mass of red and gold hair that seemed to shimmer with its own internal flame.  His eyes were a brilliant deep green, like living emeralds, but so cold as to make one think that the stones they resembled had taken their place on his face.  He was a handsome man with high, chiseled cheekbones and pale, luminescent skin, his muscles were developed and hardened from millennia of hunting and battle.  He did not fall into any category of Fae; he was not Sidhe or Pixie or Goblin or Brownie or Blue Man or Spriggan or Elf or Giant or Leprechaun, he was the Erlking. 
  There were very few Fae who were a kind unto themselves, not falling into any other category and not a lingering remnant of a nearly extinct race, but the Erlking was one.  Most of the others, such as the Morrigan, were deities in the past whose powers had faded as their worshipers decreased.  The Erlking was unique in that from the time he came into existence he was who and what he currently was.
  All of Fairie feared the Erlking, from the monarchs of the Season Courts to the smallest of the Goblins.  The Erlking could not hunt a Fae unless they committed some transgression against another, but he did decide which transgressions were worth punishing and which were not.  While his usual practice was to wait until he received a call for vengeance, he was not bound to do so.  If the Erlking witnessed a wrong for which he wished to bring justice he was free to do so, and who could know when he would choose to watch? To offend the Erlking was to draw his attention, and the Fae were very long-lived creatures.  In such a long time who would be able to keep from transgressing against anyone?  Yes, the Erlking’s powers were limited by the condition that he must punish a wrong, but that condition did not stipulate that he couldn’t search for a wrong to punish or that the punishment had to be in proportion to the wrong. 
  The Erlking was aware of the awe in which the rest of Fairie held him and he occasionally used it to his advantage (especially when dealing with the monarchs of the Season Courts), but for the most part he tried to avoid abusing his power.  After several hundred thousand years of existence the Erlking was lonely and did not want to drive other Fae further away from him.  His position as the personification of vengeance required a certain ruthlessness, which he could display when needed, but he had no need to be so ruthless in all of his personal dealings and he chose to be temperate when he could.
  His current task, that of hunting Griogal, was not suited for temperance, but he was having a hard time bringing the ruthlessness of which he was capable to bear; he could not find Griogal! Somehow the Sidhe had managed to cover his tracks in the filth of this human world and the Erlking was having a hard time figuring out how.  The Erlking had been on this hunt for longer than any other in recent memory and had ignored a couple of other calls to the Hunt (none were of as serious a nature as child-slaying). He was growing tired of this hunt, the human world was no place for self-respecting Fae and he wanted to return to Fairie.  Some of the members of his Horde who were more reliant on the magic of Fairie had already been sent back to Fairie to avoid the risk of them dying from the human poison that was everywhere in the human world.  What sustained the Erlking now was the thought of what he would do to Griogal when he caught him; there were few things more satisfying than bringing justice for the death of a child.
  Something pulled at the Erlking’s attention but he knew it was not Griogal so he tried to ignore it.  He needed to be focused and catch this bastard!  The same thing had been pulling at the Erlking for several days now, but he could not determine why anything not related to the hunt would be vying for his attention at a time like this and so he’d been trying to push it away.  Now, though, it was closer and the pull had strengthened to a compulsion, the Erlking could not ignore it any longer.  He called Ionhar to him and told him to continue tracking the last few leads they had found, and to summon him if Griogal’s trail was found.  Ionhar nodded to acknowledge his lord’s instructions, but did not question the Erlking about where he was going.
  The Erlking, still in glamour and mounted on Uasail, followed the pull to a dark, garbage strewn alley.  There was nothing there!  Just the detritus left by the human inhabitants of the area and one small, human woman.  His attention was drawn to the woman as she made her way around the obstacles made by the piles of trash in the alley.  She seemed nervous, as though she feared being attacked, but he didn’t know why since (other than him) she was the only one in the alley. 
  He continued to watch her. She was very small for a human, he doubted she was much taller than five feet and she was very slender, though her breasts filled the strange thin shirt she wore very nicely.  He thought he could see the outline of another garment underneath the thin shirt and wondered if it was there to help conceal such treasure or if it was there to make it appear as though her body was different than it was.  It had been several decades since he’d seen a human up close but he remembered they were fond of such deceptions.  Her hair was straight as a ribbon and black as the velvet night.  It fell in a shining wave to her small waist and light reflected from it as though it were the finest silk.  He felt the strongest desire to run his hand through it to see if it felt as soft as it looked and marveled at himself; he’d never been drawn to a human before!  He felt compelled to discover the color of her eyes and directed Uasail to move around her. 
  He was careful to make sure that neither he nor his mount touched her.  She wouldn’t have felt it if they had, not with glamour as strong as his, but she already appeared so apprehensive it seemed cruel to do anything that would infringe upon her space.  He leaned down to look into her face as she passed and it hit him: the Siorghra, literally, 'eternal love,' the bond between Fae who were Anamchara (soul mates).  He’d heard of it, of course, all Fae knew of the Siorghra and hoped one day to feel its sweet sting, but after so long?  And with a human?  Impossible!  He had never heard of a Fae finding their Anamchara in a human, not in all the millennia of his existence.  Long ago some of the Fae had kidnapped humans and brought them to Fairie as mates or as servants, but even in the cases when the Fae and the human had felt the deepest of love for each other he had never heard of them forming the Siorghra.  And yet it was unmistakable. 
  The Erlking looked into the human woman’s eyes, blue eyes that sparkled like the darkest sapphires, and felt a devotion unlike any he had ever felt in his very long life.  His connection to this woman, who he had never even spoken to, was stronger even than his connection to the Wild Hunt.  He hadn’t even thought that possible!  He thought to wonder if this was some sort of spell cast by Griogal to distract him from the hunt, but no, Griogal was Sidhe and it was Pixies who had power for love and lust charms.  No Pixie would aid one who had slain one of their children and even if they would, no love charm could be mistaken for the Siorghra.  Dea Matrona (the great mother goddess) had created the Siorghra so that the Fae would always know when they had found their perfect match; she had made it so that all Fae would instantly know what it was when they felt it.  She would never allow a cretin like Griogal to pervert such a magic for his own petty uses.  No, this woman must truly be his Anamchara.
  There was no question in the Erlking’s mind about what must be done next.  All Fae only ever received one Anamchara; he could not possibly leave her in the human world.  Aside from all of the perils she would face as part of her human existence, just being his Anamchara would make her a target for his enemies…and he had many enemies.  Several hundred thousand years as the final arbiter of Fairie had resulted in more than one Fae holding a grudge against him; and along with their very long lives Fae had very long memories.  The Erlking himself was impervious to injury (both physical and magical) and had survived blows that would have killed any other Fae.  On one occasion an opponent in battle had managed to strike off his head, which would have been a mortal blow for any other Fae, but the Erlking had just picked up his head and carried it under his arm while he cut his opponent down.  He had heard this had given rise to a human legend called 'The Headless Horseman.'  But the woman was human, she did not have his resistance to death and so he would need to make sure she was protected at all times.
  He would need to immediately take her and bring her to his fortress in Fairie.  There only those who were oath bound to him would have access to her.  It was possible for a Fae to break an oath, of course, but if they did so they were subject to vengeance from the Wild Hunt.  Thus far none had ever broken an oath to the Erlking.  Aside from that, he had only ever brought those he trusted to want to remain loyal to him into his personal service. Over the years he had compelled certain targets of the hunt into one form of service or another, but never to serve within his personal strong-hold.  As liege lords went, the Erlking was considered a good one, always fair and generous with his people, as long as one didn’t cross him, and many of the Fae came to his service quite willingly.  The Erlking always protected what was his and everyone in his service could depend on that protection.  Fairie could be a dangerous place for those without strong kin or strong magic.  The Erlking was quite selective about which calls to the Hunt he responded to, and often the only protection the Fae had from other Fae was what they could provide themselves or what their kin would provide.  To be in the service of the Erlking was to be protected.
  The Erlking immediately laid a spell of claiming on the woman (something that all other Fae would see and recognize) which she remained completely oblivious to, and thought about how best to bring her to Fairie without frightening her too badly.  It had been centuries since most humans had believed that the Fae were more than stories to charm or frighten children, so it was unlikely she would take it well if he simply revealed himself and Uasail.  He could use a glamour to appear human and walk around the corner of the alley on his own feet so that she would see him and believe he was just another human using the alley to travel, but he couldn’t see how that would help him convince her to return with him to Fairie.  No, the only solution he could see that would get her to Fairie quickly (and time was of the essence, he had a hunt to return to after all) was to put her in an enchanted sleep and kidnap her.  He would have to leave her in his castle and hope he would be able to return before she woke from her sleep. 
  She wouldn’t be harmed, the magic sleep would make her feel stronger and better rested than she had felt in years, but he was pretty sure she’d be angry.  If he remembered correctly, the last time he was in the human world the trend had been for women to take umbrage if men tried to force their will on them.  He doubted that trend had reversed itself to when women were more biddable to the commands of men, so he would just hope that he would eventually be able to convince her to forgive him.  He planned to spoil her more than even the monarchs of the Season Courts were spoiled and to offer her the kind of safety seldom known in Fairie or the human world, and once she was in Fairie she would cease to age (all humans who were brought to Fairie became as long-lived as the Fae as long as they stayed in Fairie).  Surely all of that would be worth forgiving him for one kidnapping?  He hoped.  He took one more breath and cast the sleeping spell.