Just as we did with the Trilogy of the Wolf books, we are placing the first chapter of Servants of the Old Gods (Hartland Book 1) here for all to read. Hope you enjoy!
Rubbing the sides of her head, Mercea released a frustrated groan. She stared at the woman the Gods had sent her to. The middle-aged woman sat on a plain wooden chair and rocked it back and forth between two legs. The timed clacking of the legs against the wooden floor did nothing to temper her mood.
Mercea narrowed her golden eyes as she studied the woman. She wondered if her next attempt would waste her time, too. Sighing, she leaned forward in her chair.
“Since you haven’t cooperated as of yet, I’m not asking this time. Tell me what you know.”
The woman stopped rocking. She placed her wrinkled hands on the worn table between them. Her stony face deepened the wrinkles around her gray eyes and tight mouth. Shadows from the oil lamp to their left danced around them.
“My answer is the same. There’s nothing I wish to tell you.”
Mercea sucked in a sharp breath and sighed it out. She flexed her hands at her side. “Please, just tell me what I need to know. They sent me here to protect you. Believe me, I’m trying to, but I must know what to protect you from.”
The woman remained silent. Mercea took in another deep breath. Patience wasn’t one of her strengths. Even after all these years, it wasn’t. As Mercea stood across from her, she watched the woman trace the woodgrains around a knot.
“Please,” she tried again.
The woman shifted. “I’m sorry. I don’t know what you want of me.”
“I’ve told you what I want.”
The Seeress’s gray eyes flickered across the shop. They landed on the two men who had entered after Mercea had. Mercea glanced at them, knowing there was a third man with them. At the moment, he was nowhere in sight, but she could feel him. She could feel his magic.
“Just leave me alone. There’s nothing you or the Old Gods can do. Things have moved beyond your control. You can’t stop any of this. You’re too late. Your destiny is already locked in place.”
Mercea rose, knocking back her chair in the process. She ignored it as it fell to its side, clattering against the worn floor. Out of the corner of her eye, she noted the two men had moved forward. It looked as if they’d thought about coming toward her and then changed their minds. When she turned to them, they busied themselves with the oddities the shop had to offer. One of them fiddled with the dried herbs hanging in bunches from the ceiling rafters. The herbs gave the small shop a strange smell. The other picked up a few misshapen bowls off one of the shelves and then placed them back down.
Since she had arrived at the quaint shop sitting on the edge of Lake Jejdin, uneasiness was one of many things she felt. The moment she had stepped from the trees lining the southern shore, her sword had started vibrating. It was alerting her to the presence of dangerous entities. Even now, the sword had a soft vibration to it.
Mercea leaned across the table, snorting. The woman didn’t move. She sat there, staring at her. It was almost as if she was evaluating her. Mercea hesitated. Nothing of this made sense. The Gods should have told her why she was needed here. They had always done so before. Their lack of communication was one of many disconcerting feelings she had. She had no idea why They had sent her here, away from the place where she watched her family.
Mercea returned her gaze to the woman. “Listen to me when I say one way or another, you’ll tell me what I came for. You’ll explain to me why you say my destiny is set. The first thing to do is have you leave with me. The area isn’t safe, but I think you know that.”
The woman’s gray eyes darted to the two men inside again. Mercea refused to look away from the woman. She studied her, trying to understand her peculiar behavior. Trying to ascertain what was going to happen.
“Don’t worry about them,” she said, deciding to go on faith. “I can take care of them. It’s important you leave with me. For your safety.”
“Please,” the woman whispered, “don’t make this more difficult than it has to be.”
Glancing toward the two men, she wondered if it was their fault the woman wasn’t cooperating. But, she couldn’t dismiss the fact there was something odd about the Seeress. Most of them were a little odd, but never disobliging. Having the gift of sight was a gift from the Gods. All the Seers she had met over the centuries knew it and welcomed the Servants. This one, was nonchalant, at best.
“I know you know what’s endangering Hartland,” Mercea continued, hoping for something. “They wouldn’t have sent me here if you didn’t. Besides, I can see it in your eyes you know something. Just tell me. It doesn’t make sense why you’re fighting me.”
The woman rose, wringing her hands. She shook her head and backed away. “I warned you.” She vanished into a back room.
Mercea started to go after her, but the sound of the door locking in place stopped her. She knew she could knock down the door and force the woman to come with her. She thought about it for a moment before turning away. The woman wasn’t worth her time. At least, not until she dealt with the enemy here. Maybe then the Seeress would tell her something.
The two men were staring at her. Flaring her nostrils with a snort, she knew she would have to deal with them, but not here. She needed more room. If she engaged them here, she’d destroy most of the woman’s belongings. It was tempting.
Passing under the dried herbs hanging from the wooden beams of the ceiling, she batted a few of them. As she did so, she caught sight of the third man standing behind some shelves. There was something different about him, as if he didn’t belong with the others. It was in his eyes. His gaze seemed to plead with her. Whatever the reason, he wasn’t what she needed. Not with what was out there, waiting for her.
Looking back, through the dried herbs and past mirrors with archaic writing around the edges, she wondered if she should go after the woman. It was too dangerous for her to stay here. The Gods had informed her this Seeress was important in things to come. More importantly, she was convinced the woman knew more of what was happening than she should. No Seeress knew so much. It was part of the gift. The things they saw were hazy at best.
She made the wooden walkway bounce in the water with every annoyed step she took. Halfway down it, she stopped. The small hairs on her arms stood on end, and the back of her neck tingled.
The door to the shop opened, banging against the side of the building. Two men stepped out, but they weren’t the ones she was worried about. As Mercea looked back toward the shop, a muscular man pulled himself out of the water between her and the structure. Another two emerged from the water behind her.
Mercea continued to the lake’s bank, rushing past the two men still pulling themselves onto the walkway. Someone grabbed her ankles and pulled her legs out from under her. She caught herself with her hands. The man who had surfaced from the lake continued to pull her toward him. His fingers dug into her flesh but she held onto the wooden planks, resisting him and kicking.
One of her legs broke free from the tight grasp. The bottom of her black boot smashed into his face. A sickening crunch sounded, but the man persisted. Just as she was about to kick him again, another man surfaced from the water in front of her. His massive hands wrapped around the base of her neck and pulled her down. These two were the ones making her sword vibrate.
She struggled against them, trying to reach her dagger at her hip. If she didn’t drown first, the five men on the walkway would kill her. She managed to get her head above the water and sucked in a deep breath. Mercea kicked the man behind her again. He groaned but because of what he was, he didn’t release her.
The man in front of her pulled her head under again. She struggled and struggled against him. Pressure built inside of her chest. Blackness started to claim her, weakening her.
The link to the books is below.