Excerpts, Fiction Friday, Free Reads, Skydancer Series, Zyne Legacy

Fiction Friday: Illuminated

This is an “added scene” that takes place several months before the events in Skydancer Book 1. Astrid is one of my favorites, and I look forward to telling more of her story as the series expands. For a glimpse into the world of the Zyne Legacy, including what all of the characters look like (as children and adults), visit my Rain of Ash Pinterest Board.
night-lanterns
Astrid wasn’t an Oracle. She’d only studied the basics of divination, and even that was sketchy. Still, she thought, zigzagging her way down the jagged hillside to the beach, it was Ostara – the Spring Equinox. For the briefest of moments, her little part of the earth would be cast in equal parts light and shadow. For the briefest of moments, the energies of the Conduit would be in perfect balance. If she was lucky – and prepared, which she was – she could maybe get a tiny glimpse of the future.

She had the perfect question to ask the Universe. She was certain in that fact as she unpacked her bag on the fine gravel. The waves crashed against the sides of the rock cove around her, enclosing her in a bubble of gurgles and whispers. She lit the five candles encircling her and dropped to her knees, folding her robe underneath.

The question was selfless. It wasn’t for her. That’s why she thought she would be able see the answer. She wanted to know so she could do what was right for Kean. She loved him, and she didn’t want to see him suffer anymore.

Closing her eyes, she invoked her personal circle, and the crashing of the waves beside her seemed more distant. The sky overhead was darkening, still a pinkish hue in the distance, but violet at the edges. She tapped into the Conduit and could feel the shifting of the energies around her – each atom re-aligning, as all things do in the cycle of life – coming back to center.

If Briana were ever going to come back to her center, to her home, Astrid needed to know. If there was hope for her two best friends to find love and happiness together, she would do everything in her power to see it happen. She loved Kean. She loved Briana. They loved each other. It was the perfect question – innocent, important, definite. One always had to be careful of the questions they asked. Astrid knew that all too well.

She lowered her head to her chest, focusing on her breathing, on the grounding force of the shore beneath her, and the airy lightness up above. The light, the dark. Balance. She felt the exact instant it happened, as if time stopped. There was no heartbeat, no breath, and no physical body for a silken moment. She was suspended in between worlds – the now and the never, the substantial and the infinite.

All she needed was the question, but in the place where only spirits dwell, there are no words. Still, Briana was more than a word to her, and so was Kean. They were feelings and memories. They were hopes, and dreams, parts of her soul. Parts of her soul that had been ripped apart, she realized, when Briana left them.

Them.

Briana hadn’t just left Kean. She’d abandoned them both, and left Astrid to nurse Kean’s wounded heart through the aftermath. She was still caring for him even now, and Briana was off touring the world.

The realization crashed over her like the waves on the nearby rocks – her question wasn’t selfless at all. She wanted Bri back. She wanted Kean happy. Her two best friends were her real family. She wanted . . . things to be like they were before. She ached with it down to her bones.

Show me Bri. Is she ever coming home?

The intention circled through her thoughts. She reached into the ether with her consciousness, hoping for something – a glimpse, a clue. All she got was a convoluted mix of memories and hopes, like mentally wading through muddy water. Magic surged through her, but all she got was a headache.

“What? No lightning? No roaring wind?” she asked the sky as the last of those critical moments slipped by. One of her candles blew out, and she sighed. “Serves me right.” she said under her breath as she got up and shuffled about, re-packing her bag.

It started to rain in earnest as she ascended the last curve of the path up the hillside. The froth below her was churning louder with each gust that whistled over the rocks. She gripped the hood of her robe to keep it from blowing back as she climbed the train trestle stairs into her yard. She looked over her shoulder at the brewing storm, the whitecaps in the straight barely visible past the dusky haze. She shook her head and walked through the door.

If she was totally honest, the only reason she’d tried in the first place was that she was ready for something to change. As she took off her soaking robe and knelt to build a fire in the woodstove, she reflected that her question was so obviously selfish. No wonder she hadn’t seen the answer. Her own desires were braided into the intention. It was for Kean, but she wanted to see Kean whole and happy. She missed Briana. She wanted to be free to find her own happiness, without guilt. She couldn’t be Kean’s security blanket anymore. She wanted a life too, free from the saga of Kean’s long lost love. She wanted a love of her own. A family of her own.

Yep – selfish, selfish, selfish.

She chafed her bare arms, then wrapped herself in the closest blanket and nestled into the sofa. In two blinks of an eye, a little ball of orange fluff and claws found its way into her lap.

What if she’s never coming back?

Astrid gazed into the crackling flames of her hearth, and stroked her ginger cat’s luxurious fur, wondering, musing, remembering. She was just so tired of waiting, of living on pause. Astrid huffed, and the kitten flounced out of her lap. She got up to make a pot of tea. What was stopping her, really?

Only your own beliefs.

She didn’t have to be Kean’s touchstone, she chose that purpose. She could choose differently. She had her own path to walk. Maybe it was time to take the first steps. As she brushed by a stack of mail on the counter, one piece caught the edge of her tunic and slipped to the floor. As she bent to pick it up, a whisper of intuition tingled the back of her neck, and the hair on her forearms stood up with an electric charge.

She frowned at the unfamiliar return address – a lawyer in London. She tore it open. Her aunt Philipa had apparently had so much cash (like a lot of people in the Edgewood family) she’d left a fortune to Astrid’s cousin Scarlett with plenty to spare. She was staring at a check for $130,000.00.

She blinked, refocused, and checked again.

Still six zeros.

Her phone buzzed, startling her so that she dropped the letter on the floor. Mufasa immediately left his circling of her ankles to pounce on the offending paper.

Kean was talking before she even said hello. “The guys and I are down at the pub, and I was talking to Mac, and you’ll never believe this.”

“Okay…I don’t think I even want to guess.” There was only one pub on the island, and Ewan MacKenzie’s family had run it for three generations. While they were more barkeeps than cooks, it was still the local favorite for gathering, and often erupted into all kinds of unpredictable shenanigans of both the magical and drunken variety.

“He wants to sell.”

Astrid’s breath caught, and she scooped up both the kitten and letter and made her way back to the couch. “For real?”

“He and Serena want to move out east to be closer to their grandkids. I told him my folks could use his help at the tasting room, and he hasn’t let me take two steps from the bar all evening, he’s been grilling me about all the details. He’s serious. Do you think you could come up with the cash? I know you just built the house. I have a little saved up. I could go in with you, as a silent partner.”

She stroked Zeek’s fur and folded the letter, pressing it to her chest. “Actually, I think I can swing it.”

“Really? Awesome! Oh, no. The guys are trying to convince our new recruit to take one of Mac’s mystery shots – I gotta go! Talk later. Bye!”

“Bye.” She clicked her phone off, still too drained from the magic she’d worked and stunned by the sudden shifts all around her to do anything but be still. But a slow smile spread across her face as she snuggled the purring Mufasa under her chin.

An enlightening evening, after all.

Why look to the Cosmos to tell her what the future held when she could decide for herself?

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