Midweek Update

I think I mentioned that I started writing Chosen: Book Four of the Druid Chronicles (hereafter referred to as either DC4) in January and primarily quit because of anxiety/depression/exhaustion, but the other reason was that I really wanted to write it from both Davis and Angie’s perspectives. However, I was concerned that it would be confusing to read even though each entire chapter would be from one person’s viewpoint. Most of the time that’s fine, but when I read Allegiant by Virginia Roth, I got confused as to whether it was Tris or Four talking – my fault and not hers because when I read I tend to skip over titles and dive into the next chapter.

I couldn’t decide what to do so I did what comes naturally – procrastinating! I also discussed it with a good pal who is also a beta reader and DC superfan, and she thought it would be fine. But I still had to think over it some more. The back of my mind is kind of like a crockpot, always something cooking in there.

I decided to go for it. The worst thing that can happen is that I have to rewrite half the book back to Davis’ perspective or delete a bunch of chapters entirely. The best thing that can happen is that you get a better view of some of the events I have planned for my hapless hero. After all, unconscious and/or sleeping people aren’t very good storytellers.

I already had something like 8 or 10 chapters written, so I wrote three brand new chapters, 2 – 4, from Angie’s point of view (POV), kept chapters 5 and 6 pretty much the same, and reworked 7 and 8 from Davis’ POV to hers. Half of 8 was already written, so I changed that to Angie’s POV and added something I hadn’t planned but what seemed like a good idea. I was going to move on but the story seemed abrupt and some stuff had been unaddressed, so I’m adding another chapter between 8 and what was 9, so now 9 is 10. I try to write chronologically as much as possible, but when I get good ideas (or good suggestions or critiques from others) I like to try and use them.

I wanted to alternate their viewpoints but that’s already blown out of the water so I’m just going to let the story flow from whichever character tells it to me best. I’ve written other books and have other works in progress, but none of my other characters are as wild and unpredictable as these druids. Davis and Angie are willful and headstrong, so I just let them do whatever they want. It’s always more interesting than whatever I had in mind, anyway.

On to chapter 9!

So fed up

This week’s writing had been repeatedly interrupted and postponed. Some of it has been my family and I worked an extra day this week, but most of it has been my own rampant disorganization and inability to focus. Honestly, the only way I finished the other three novels was by almost totally abandoning cooking and cleaning. So you can imagine what my house looks like.

I started writing Chosen (Druid Chronicles book 4) this past January but was derailed by needing to find a job and frankly, several months of anxiety and depression. Might write a blog post on that later, but for now I’m mostly over it.

I set Labor Day as my goal date to start writing again and it went swimmingly that first week. As the saying goes, something that can be done at any time is often done at no time, so I scheduled my writing sessions from noon until 4 on weekdays.

I was JUICED with creativity and excitement. I would prefer to write daily because I think that staying in the habit of sitting with my laptop makes it easier to dive into those still, deep waters where the magic happens, but I work as a private duty nurse on weekends – 16 hours on Saturday and 8 hours on Sunday, so that’s not feasible right now. Fortunately, I have Monday through Friday to get some writing done. Unfortunately, I also have all those other things to get done: grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning, and laundry. My house is also super cluttered, so decluttering is also a priority. BTW, I am a feminist and think household chores should be shared as equitably as possible. However, my husband is currently paying all the bills (and usually working 60 hours a week), allowing me the free time to write and play with horses, so I think it’s only fair that I take on the lion’s share of the housework.

Sept. 11th was my granddaughter’s birthday so the day was spent cleaning and decorating. After that. Another nurse works weekdays for this client and her family experienced a terrible tragedy during my second “writing week,” so I worked four extra days between weeks 2 and 3. I really like my client, and it was my choice to do so. Then it was my older son’s birthday, so more cleaning for company because of course, the kitchen was a wreck again. This past week was just a clusterf*ck and so far I’ve only been able to write for four hours on Wednesday. Granted, my husband wanted me to play video games with him on Tuesday, but for the most part, I’ve been chasing my tail with trying to get the daily duties done – and failing miserably, might I add.

Shit happens and shit is going to happen. While I’ve become quite a bit more organized, I’ve come to the realization that I need to be uber-organized or I’m going to feel like I’m constantly drowning. Granted I’ve put a lot on my own plate, but apparently, I like it that way.

I’ve heard that every minute spent planning saves 10 minutes in execution. Since cooking and grocery shopping is my biggest stumbling block right now, I’m going to focus on that first. Planning and precooking haven’t worked out well in the past because by the end of the week I don’t want to eat what I’ve already prepared. To combat that problem, I’ve compiled a list of family favorites (i.e., my favorites) so that no matter what the meal, I’ll be happy to eat it.

My other major stumbling block involves those times when I know I need to do something so the rest of the week goes more smoothly, but I just can’t make myself do it. I chalk that up to being a “Rubin Rebel” (as I like to call it). If you don’t know what I’m talking about, go to https://quiz.gretchenrubin.com/ and take the Four Tendencies quiz. The Rebel tendency is the rarest and is characterized by difficulty meeting both inner and outer expectations. So nobody can make me do anything, not even me.

Yeah. It sucks a little bit.

However, the Rebel’s strength is that we can do whatever we want to do, and we are motivated by identity. Thus, I think of myself as a novelist and I want to write, so I have successfully written and self-published novels. So the way to get around not wanting to go grocery shopping or do meal prepping is to remind myself that I want to write and can’t do that unless I’m organized and fed.

Here’s hoping the plan works. *fingers crossed*

Zombies, Run! 5K Trainer

I’ve been meaning to start running again for about a year now, and while the C25K app is a wonderful training app, I needed a little more encouragement.

I downloaded the Zombies, Run! app several weeks ago and used it for the first time today. Without giving away too many spoilers, here are my thoughts on my first run.

First off, it’s walking and running because, duh, it’s a trainer. Maybe I wasn’t paying attention, or maybe they didn’t give instructions, but I was initially confused on exactly when I was supposed to be doing what – except for the first run segment when they tell you to run for your life. I’m still not sure but settled on running during the silent parts and walking when the dramatization continues.

Note: My music drowned out the dramatization segments so I had to keep pausing it manually. I need to to set the music app to pause or quieten for other apps.On to the story. I found myself in a helicopter going to Abel Township. It sounded like an island of sanity (or at least safety) in the middle of the zombie apocalypse, and a nice British lady explains that they need “Runners” to do missions and bring back supplies.

Some asshole fires a rocket at our helicopter, upon which Nice British Lady sounds mildly alarmed. Must be that British stiff upper lip. As our wounded bird plummets to the ground, I can’t believe she isn’t screaming right now? I’d be screaming if I could fucking breathe. You want me to what??? Oh, hell, no, lady. Parachuting from a falling helicopter is like jumping into a food processor. I’ll take my chances in here.

7:01 PM
Nice British Lady didn’t make it. But I did! Yay me! As I got on my feet, a helpful British gent contacted me on the radio telling me to RUN!

7:07 PM
As I enjoyed a breather from the run, some egghead gets on the radio and vaguebooks about some file that may or may not be the salvation of the human race, but I’d better run to avoid the zombies on the way to the site. Oh, and no supplies = no entry? Are they freaking serious? Like I needed more motivation than not wanting to be fast food for a zombie. Or food that’s supposed to be fast but isn’t because you’re stuck in the drive-thru waiting for it still.

7:15 PM
Right. Get the important info to the township. Just call me Mazer Rackham.

7:20 PM
Oh shit oh shit Oh shit I can’t BREATHE please tell me I’m safe so I can stop.

7:22 PM
Oh, thank goodness. Am I getting a blister on the ball of my foot? I know it’s been a couple of years since I ran on the regular (okay longer than that), but these are Altras I’m wearing. They make me look like Ronald McDonald going through a fabulous phase.

7:25 PM
Oh, thank the gods that ever were, I made it. What’s that? Did I bring any food?!? Yeah, I did. It’s back there in the helicopter wreckage. Have fun getting it.

Super fun, ya? BTW, running isn’t required. Slow walking alternated with fast walking is perfectly acceptable. Just watch out for the Zoms!

In Appreciation of Earth Druids

Last week I developed a new appreciation for earth elementalists.

I was digging in a pile of dirt, loading it in a wheelbarrow, and dumping it in my horse’s stall. I get a little over-enthusiastic when cleaning his stall, and as a result, have dug out a lot of the dirt floor along with the poop and pine shavings.


Peregrine, maker of large poops

We’ve also had some heavy rains in the past couple of weeks, and while the barn is nice and dry during a rainstorm, the farm is on low-lying land. Groundwater has been coming up into the stalls, creating a good-sized puddle in the crater I’ve dug in the middle of Peregrine’s stall.

Wet conditions tend to weaken a horse’s hooves, and thoroughbreds typically have crappy hooves anyway, so he needs a dry stall. Thus, I had to do something about the puddle. The floor was also quite uneven so that needed to be addressed as well. Which brings me to my adventures in dirt.

I don’t know if you know this, but dirt is heavy. Like, really heavy. I imagine I did know it at one point in time, as I’ve done some gardening in the past, but over the past several years I’ve neglected the garden in favor of writing books. I’ve also never pushed a load of dirt around in a wheelbarrow that I can recall. I’ve transported horse poop many many times and it can get weighty, but it still has nothing on dirt.

Calling our garden neglected is something of an understatement. Before my husband cleaned up the front yard last summer, my daughter used to give her friends directions by saying “It’s the house that looks like it’s losing a game of Jumanji” and they found it every time, no problem. But I digress.

As you can imagine, it’s been quite a while since I’ve even looked at a shovel, much less used one. Each shovelful felt like about 5 lbs, but I didn’t count shovelfuls. According to DirtConnections.com, one cubic foot of dirt weighs about 40 lbs, depending on the type, density, dampness, etc., but I’m just going to go with 40 lbs because I’m already in over my head involving math in this post.

This dirt pile was a lot bigger before I attacked it.

The wheelbarrow I used can hold 10 cubic feet, but I only filled it up about a third because I wouldn’t have been able to lift it if there was more. So we’ll call it 3 cubic feet, weighing 120 lbs per load. Which, coincidentally, is how much I weigh. So basically it’s like I was pushing myself in the wheelbarrow. Which probably would have been more fun than pushing dirt.

Not much in the wheelbarrow.

On Monday I moved 3 loads of dirt, about 360 lbs. On Tues and Wed moved 4 loads of dirt, about 480 lbs each. Grand total: 1,320 lbs. Thank goodness for not-so-modern technology.

Boots the barn kitty, inspecting my work.

While I was digging I started thinking about earth druids and how much elemental magic they’d have had to exert to move all that dirt. Air, fire, and spirit (electricity) are essentially weightless, so those elementalists are exerting more willpower in controlling their elements than lifting or moving them. Imagine how much focus it takes to move air, an element you cannot see. Water druids are the only other elementalists to manipulate really heavy stuff, but most of them only work with relatively small amounts of water, like a couple of gallons. So even though water is heavier than dirt – 62 lbs per cubic foot vs. 40 lbs of dirt – earth druids are moving vastly greater amounts and so are doing more work.

Going with the theory that all druids have approximately the same size Well that contains their magic and that they all have about the same size “channel” through which they draw magic from the gods, how are earth elementalists able to do so much on such a large scale? How do they dig huge pits or raise thick walls? How do they tunnel through the ground? How do they create earthquakes?

It doesn’t make sense. Logically speaking, like a water druid who can only manipulate a few gallons, an earth druid shouldn’t be able to move more than a few cubic feet. Yes, I know we’re talking about a fantasy world with magic, but bear with me.

It made me wonder how an earth druids can move so much more of their element than the rest. Then I remembered when one experienced druid was teaching an inexperienced druid to earthmove, telling him:

“Feel the mother supporting you. Danu is the goddess of fertility, growth, and abundance. Permit her to help you grow and develop your elemental ability. She is the goddess of inspiration, intellect, and wisdom. Listen to her teaching and meditate on it. Allow your consciousness to flow into her, and let hers flow into you.”

But more importantly:

“[W]hen you engage with the Earth Mother, communicate your feelings of respect, of amity, of camaraderie. Let your needs be known. Instead of demanding assistance, simply… ask for help.”

The answer becomes obvious: earth druids are not doing all that earthmoving on their own. They have help from the earth mother herself. Whether she is worshipped as Gaia, Danu, Freya/Frigg, Terra/Tellus Mater, or an earth goddess from some other hearth culture, the earth is her spiritual embodiment.


Statue of Danu. Photo from John Beckett’s blog “Under the Ancient Oaks

This is why earth elementalists spend more time in meditation than their counterparts who wield air, fire, spirit, or water. Communing with the earth mother on a regular basis provides the deep connection that is necessary for an earth druid to call upon her, ask for help, and receive aid. Through that bond, these druids are able to move vast amounts of earth and even to shake the ground underfoot.

Now that my horse is taken care of, I think I’ll go do some earthmoving in my own garden. I’ve neglected it long enough.







I am happy to announce that I have finished the final edit of my latest novel, titled… *drum roll*  Druid, Book Three of the Druid Chronicles.

I am gathering all the info my graphic designer needs to work on the cover and will be sending the project form to her shortly.

The next step is uploading to CreateSpace to make sure the layout is okay and making a temp cover so I can order proof copies and go over it one more time while the fabulous Leah Kaye works on the cover.

Thanks for hanging in there with me!




Chapter 18 – Guilt

We shall draw from the heart of suffering itself
the means of inspiration and survival.

~ Winston Churchill ~

I couldn’t sleep at all that night, tossing and turning with thoughts of hope and fear running through my mind. Once the house was quiet, I lay in bed trying to focus on the druidic bond between us, the bond between chosen. I hadn’t paid it much attention since I had returned from my journey north, with Charlie at my side.

As far as I knew, he himself had only used the druidic link a couple of times since then, both times finding me in the Willows. The first time was after some girls loyal to Sebrina had hacked off poor Onóra’s beautiful long black hair and I’d found her running away from the Elementalists’ Third. The second time was after the worst fight we’d ever had, and all because I had wanted to go with him to deliver the supplies that Wolfric and Onóra so desperately needed if they were to succeed in leaving the grove.

My insistence on going with him, on having my way instead of trusting him, had made a tense situation worse. And when my logical arguments failed, I had used emotion, insinuating that he didn’t want me along because his true intent was to run away with Wolfric.

Remembering his expression of disbelief and the naked hurt in his eyes made me ache with guilt. His pain had quickly shifted to anger, and rightly so, for how could I even think such a thing after all we’d been through, much less say it?

“If that is what you truly think of me, then perhaps I should,” Charlie replied, his amber eyes lit with the fire of anger. He stalked out of our house, slinging the pack of supplies over his shoulders.

I ran after him, tripping over the cobblestone walk, and I’d have fallen if he hadn’t grabbed my arm. Even though he was in a fury, he had stopped in his tracks to make sure harm didn’t come to me.

“I’m sorry!  I’m sorry!” I cried. “I didn’t mean it!”

He released my arm as though I was an acid that burned.

“Yeah, you did,” he said. “Don’t bother waiting up.”

He put his foot in the stirrup and absolute terror shot through my body like lightning. “You promised you would never leave!”

He turned to face me again. “Yes, but now I know how you really feel.”

“Don’t say that!” I shrieked.

And then I slapped him. I had slapped him in the face and called him a liar and a coward. Even after all that, he had returned to me, finding me in the Willows once again, crying hysterically like a little girl. Stubborn and childish to the end, I told him to go away.

“I’m not leaving,” Charlie said.

“You said you were, so just go.”

“I only said that to make sure you didn’t follow me.”

She sat up, green eyes glossy with tears, her face swollen and blotchy.  Distrust warred with hope in her eyes.

“I’m not leaving,” he said again, and with the most tender of touches, brushed the hair out of my face. I threw my arms around his neck and began sobbing all over again, and he just held me until it was over.

“You seemed so sincere,” I whispered. “Do you want to leave?”

“It’s not that simple anymore.”

“Yes, it is! We can gather our things and be gone by morning.  We can take Duncan and they’ll never find us.”

My cousin had been sitting among the Willows when I’d burst through the trailing branches, collapsing dramatically at the foot of the biggest tree. He had stayed, offering comfort that I’d refused to accept.

“You can’t ask him to leave if he’s not ready,” Charlie replied.  “That’s not fair.”

“Nothing will ever change,” I said bitterly. “So what’s worth staying here for?”

“His chosen.”

Selfish to the end, I looked at Duncan and said, “Your chosen can find you anywhere.  There’s no reason not to go.”

But my chosen wouldn’t allow that. He was too good, too kind.

“You can’t browbeat him into it.  It isn’t fair, and it isn’t right.”

I slumped against him in defeat.  “I still want to leave.”

He shifted and there was a new tension in his body. “Right now might not be the best time,” he said.

“If they’ll be out looking for Onóra, it’s the best time,” I insisted.

“They’re not looking for her anymore,” he said.

“What?  Why not?”

“Because they’re looking for you now.”

Realization dawned and I turned to my cousin.  “Are you concealing my presence here?”

Duncan nodded.

“Does Padraig know?” I asked.

He shook his head.

“See?” she said. “It’s the perfect time to go!”

“I’m not leaving you,” Charlie said again. “Besides, we’re not ready.  We have no food, no supplies.  Wolfric has my Travel pack.  I even gave him my fishing pole.”

“Why did you do that?”

He smiled gently and kissed her forehead. “Because we still have a cause to champion and a point to make.”

“I don’t care about that anymore!  All I want to do is get away from here!”

“Angie, think about it.  They hunted for Onóra for three days.  How much harder would they search for you?”  He shook his head.  “Before we make a move, we have to be prepared to run and travel fast.  There won’t be any time to hunt or fish.  We’ll barely get to sleep.”

He was right. On our journey from his home in Jonesboro to the grove, we had been relentlessly hounded by bandits and thieves and gods knew what else. I’d had little sleep and Charlie had gotten even less.  If we hadn’t had travel rations, we’d have dropped in our tracks long before arriving in Searcy.   

“Let’s just bide our time and finish training,” he continued.  “You are a role model for the other girls.  Do you really want to abandon them now?”

“If it means the slightest chance of losing you, I would abandon the gods themselves,” I said.

“Angie! You don’t mean that.”

“Oh, I mean it.  Here we are struggling as hard as we can and they aren’t helping at all! If they’re not going to help me, why do I need them?”

Duncan spoke, his voice soft.  “They are always helping.”

“He’s right.  Just because you don’t see big magic and lightning bolts from the sky doesn’t mean they’re not helping.  Look at all the things that have gone right.  Duncan’s birth parents let him keep his magic.  Wolfric’s parents did the same.  Onóra had the courage to claim him in public.  Her mother openly resists Sebrina’s policies; so does Padraig.  If those things are not the work of the gods, what are they?”

I wasn’t having any of it.  “Those are only small things.”

“You know what my father would have said about that? He’d say ‘Small strokes fell great oaks’.  People are noticing, Angie.  Wolfric leaving has made people wonder if all the young ones will go.  I could see it in the faces of the caretakers in the winter cellar.”

“I still want to leave.”

“Wherever you go, I will be there with you,” I said.  “But I’m not running away only to watch you die of starvation or exposure.  We have to prepare.  We have to be ready.”

Less than two hours later, I watched my chosen allow himself to be tied to a whipping post and the skin on his back ripped to shreds while we both screamed.

I should never have let him talk me out of leaving.

Not only that, but I should have encouraged him to run. I’d been so afraid of losing him that it never even occurred to me to send him away. On horseback, he could have easily made it to Lone Oak in just a few days. The folk there would have taken him in, especially Chasity. All I would have had to do is wait until the grove quieted down a bit and then slip away in the dark one night.

It would have been so easy. Why had I not thought of it?

It’s water under the bridge, Charlie would have said. Don’t beat yourself up about it.

I pushed the recriminating thoughts away and focused on the bond for what felt like hours but felt nothing. It was discouraging even though I knew it only worked over short distances. I told myself that if my chosen was too far away to feel him through our bond, then he was well beyond Sebrina’s reach and therefore safe.

The warmth of the oath mark was all I had. I traced the silvery line across my palm. It was such a small thing to pin my hopes on, but as long as the scar was warm, my chosen was alive.

“Small strokes fell great oaks,” I whispered to myself, running my fingertip over the scar again and again.

Maybe we didn’t need to create a tempest in a teacup to wake up the druids of White Oak Grove and make them pay attention. Maybe we just needed a few innocent-looking events that were certain to yank the ArchDruid’s chain. After all, she’d crashed the Autumn Moon party, bringing half the masters and her entire Tetrarch to scatter a bunch of magically neutered boys and some rebellious elementalist girls.

Small strokes fell great oaks.

The violent strokes of a whip had been enough to bring my great oak to his knees, I thought bitterly. He may not be dead, but he was gone. Everybody else thought he was dead so he might as well have been.

And then it hit me.

Charlie hadn’t been given proper funeral rites.

Father hadn’t found a body and had only halted his search a day or so ago. The grove had been in such an uproar that I wasn’t even sure if any of the earth druids murdered by Darryn and Orion had been buried. Even if they’d already been interred and rituals performed for them, there was still one more to do – that of my chosen.

There was no body to bury, but holding a memorial service for him would not be amiss at this point. In addition, it was one “small stroke” that could lead to the eventual fall of the ArchDruid. A celebration honoring my chosen, the hated Outsider, would aggravate Sebrina if not enrage her.

It might seem a bit disrespectful to use a loved one’s funeral as a political maneuver, but as Charlie wasn’t really dead I didn’t see the harm in it. In fact, I knew he would appreciate the cunning use of it to needle the ArchDruid and foment rebellion.

I spent the rest of the night planning until sleep claimed me.






Chapter 17 – Bitter Pill

Note:  For those who have already read Chapter 16, the last few paragraphs of it were cut, rewritten, and moved to Chapter 17 for a little better flow and continuity. Work in progress!

~ * ~ * ~ *~ * ~ * ~ *~ * ~ * ~ *~ * ~ * ~ *~

History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived,
but if faced with courage, need not be lived again.
~ Maya Angelou ~

“What happened to Dragana?” I asked in a near whisper.

“She went running to Padraig for help. Why, I don’t know, because he can’t heal.”

Because he was her chosen, I thought. Because you seek the one you trust the most when you’re in trouble.

“Dragana died screaming in agony, and he couldn’t even touch her because the flames were too hot.”

“But… but he’s a fire druid,” I said, fighting back tears. “No other druid’s elemental fire can harm him.”

“No other druid’s fire should be able to burn him, but it did,” Father said, “I can only assume that the augmentations somehow potentiated whatever elements were given to the children.”

Poor Padraig. He was brave, righteous, loyal, and honest to a fault, and his chosen had deceived him.

“What happened after that?” I asked, wanting to move past this nightmare event in my family’s history.

“The political fallout was disastrous,” Father said. “The blame for all the augmentation-related deaths was laid at Connor’s feet. He was ousted as ArchDruid and exiled as well. Sebrina was voted in as our new leader, and the decision was made to take magic away from all the boys from that moment forth. We just couldn’t risk any more lives.”

I wanted to be disgusted. I really did. I wanted to argue that if the gods had seen fit to allow the augmentation of babies, then perhaps it should have been left in their hands. Or that maybe Sebrina and the council should have devoted the time and effort to finding out whether any of them truly were augmented.

Except that I understood that a community living in fear of annihilation by an overwhelming enemy would be terrified of losing anyone else who could help protect them, including the next generation. They had acted rashly, motivated by that fear.

“Why alter them still?” I asked. “Surely the danger had passed.”

“Because there are no guarantees, or so Sebrina likes to say. No one in my generation has forgotten that augmenting an unborn child is possible. Some may still know how it was done.”

“Surely no one has forgotten what a catastrophe it was!” I said. “Why not trust people to do what they know is right?”

“Once it was started, it was impossible to stop,” Father replied. “And Sebrina is not a trusting soul.”

Unscrupulous people rarely are, I thought.

“We’ve condemned an entire generation to irreparable damage,” he finished.

“Yes, now we have boys with warped minds instead of warped bodies,” I said.

“Their minds aren’t warped.”

“Orion’s is. Was. So was Darryn’s,” I said. “I don’t know how Niall escaped it, but I can name several others in the Warriors’ Third whose sanity is a bit precarious.”

“What’s done is done,” Father replied. “It’s all damage control from here on out.”

“Maybe so, but is continuing with a questionable course of action justified?”

“Whether it is or not, I no longer have a say in the matter.”

“We all have a say in the matter,” I responded. “Or at least we should.” A thought popped into my head, something so un-radical and so appropriate to our democratic druid society that it had never occurred to me to try.

“What if we did?”

“What do you mean?”

“What if we took a vote?”

“Even if you did, Sebrina would claim fraud and accuse you of manipulating the votes cast.”

“Not if she held the vote.”

“She’s not likely to do such a thing.”

“Right,” I replied. “It wouldn’t surprise me if altering them was a condition of her treaty with the ‘Ville.”

His gaze grew sharp. “What do you know about that?”

“Only what Davis told me after returning from his little trip with Niall and Darryn,” I said. “He said the bandits accused them of breaking the treaty by encroaching on their territory. He thought the treaty was why druid dyads weren’t out healing the earth or defending the neighboring towns anymore.” I paused. “He also said the bandits knew that Niall and Darryn didn’t have magic – that everyone knew our boys didn’t have magic.”

“That was not supposed to become common knowledge,” Father said, anger glinting in his eyes. “All the ‘Ville has to do is wait until my generation is old and they’ll own this grove.”

I nodded. “That’s what Davis said, too. ‘Once Liam’s generation is too old to fight, who will defend the grove?’ ”

“Something tells me I will come to regret the loss of your chosen more than I already do,” Father said, looking grim.

“Maybe we can use that.”

“I beg your pardon?”

“Maybe we can use the future vulnerability of the grove to force Sebrina to allow a vote.”

“Allowing a vote to stop the alteration would be tantamount to admitting it was a mistake in the first place,” he replied.

“Not if we expressly point out that the old danger is past and has been replaced by a new one,” I insisted. “Sebrina might give in if enough people demanded it.”

Drumming his fingers on the table, Father pondered my words.

“It would also give us an idea of how many people will leave with us when we go,” I said, knowing he would not agree.

“Let’s not count our chickens before they hatch,” he said. “We’re not packing our bags just yet.”

It sounded like something Charlie would say – or his father, who had passed on a good many such proverbs on to his son.

Regardless of his thoughts on the matter, I knew that nothing would change at White Oak Grove. Sebrina liked holding power and enjoyed lording it over people even more. The general populace was too afraid of rocking the boat and suffering the consequences.

“However…” Father stopped, tapping his fingers on the table again.


“We could ask for a vote to reinstate the druid council.”

There hadn’t been a council since Sebrina had taken office. She had disbanded the existing council – the one that had exiled Connor Shitozaki – and had installed her own supporters, creating the Tetrarch.

“I don’t see how that will help.”

“It’ll help if we have people sympathetic to our cause on it. A motion to vote on whether or not to continue altering boys would seem more legitimate coming from a council member.”

“And if this new council refuses to allow the vote?”

“Then we’ll know where we stand.”

“I already know where we stand,” I said, annoyed. “So does Padraig.”

More politics. I was sick to death of politics. Why couldn’t we just go back to the way things had been after the Rebirth? According to the history we’d been taught, the grove had been established in a spirit of unity and cooperation, with peoples of many faiths and backgrounds participating. If so many different people had come together to create a grove, why couldn’t we come together to save it?

“I have wronged him greatly,” Father said, breaking the silence. “I should have known it wasn’t Padraig who instilled Dragana’s child with elemental fire.”

“It sounds like you were in the middle of confusing and turbulent times,” I said.

“That doesn’t excuse me from forming such an ill opinion of my own brother.”

“It may have been unkind of you to have assumed such a thing, but at least you never accused him directly. That would have been worse, I think.”

“I’ll never be able to make amends,” Father said. “To him or anyone else, I fear.”

Never in my entire life had my father revealed such vulnerability to me. I always thought he never cared what anyone thought about his actions; that he acted out of conscience and his personal morals

“Gods know I’ve done my best to do what was right, but somehow all those decisions took us further down wrong paths.” He sighed. “I should never have agreed to be First Warrior.”

I placed my hand over his. “Maybe you could have done some things better,” I said. “But the fact of the matter is that Sebrina acted out of fear and the rest of the grove was looking for someone to save them. Things would have been much worse if you hadn’t been First Warrior.”

“How do you figure?”

“It was your idea to create the Warriors’ Third and start formally training the boys to fight. Sebrina may have taken away their magic, but you gave them a new purpose.”

“I couldn’t allow them to be defenseless.”

“It was also your idea for them to learn how to shoot, and for the blacksmiths to make shotguns.”

“It wasn’t enough.”

“You took me north so I could find my chosen.”

“And look how that turned out.”

Around the lump in my throat, I said, “I don’t regret finding him and I never will. In spite of what’s happened, my life is infinitely better for having him in it.”

Father nodded. “It seems we never have enough time with the ones we love.” He rubbed his palm, which was still bandaged but no longer bloody from where he had severed the oath that had bound him to Sebrina.

“Does it still hurt?” I asked.

He shook his head. “No. It’s cold, like I’m holding a sliver of ice.”

I touched my own palm where the oath mark was still warm.

“Does the mark always feel cold like that when the oath is broken?” I asked.

“Such oaths are not often made, but yes. Their warmth is derived from the binding magic.”

“We’ll both get used to it eventually,” he said, compassion in his eyes.

“I suppose we will,” I replied, lowering my eyes so he could not see my true feeling – elation. A rush of joy and optimism filled my heart to overflowing and soon my eyes were, too. These were not tears of sadness, however, but of relief and sheer gratitude.

His severed bond was cold, but mine was not. The person to whom he had been linked was alive, and even so the mark had gone cold when the oath was broken. The silvery mark on my palm was still warm, which could only mean the magic of the oath was alive and well. Therefore, the one to whom I was bound was also alive. Combined with Duncan’s continued absence, it could only mean one thing.

Charlie Davis was alive.