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Authors: Christina Quinn

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Heart of the Forest (Arwn's Gift Book 1)

BOOK: Heart of the Forest (Arwn's Gift Book 1)
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Table of Contents

Title Page

Copyright

Dedication

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Nineteen

Chapter Twenty

Chapter Twenty-One

Epilogue

Loose Id Titles by Christina Quinn

Christina Quinn

Arwn’s Gift 1:

HEART OF THE FOREST

 

Christina Quinn

 

 

 

www.loose-id.com

Arwn’s Gift 1: Heart of the Forest

Copyright © July 2016 by Christina Quinn

All rights reserved. This copy is intended for the original purchaser of this e-book ONLY. No part of this e-book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without prior written permission from Loose Id LLC. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author's rights. Purchase only authorized editions.

 

Image/art disclaimer: Licensed material is being used for illustrative purposes only. Any person depicted in the licensed material is a model.

 

eISBN 9781682521540

Editor: Kerry Genova

Cover Artist: Fiona Jayde

Published in the United States of America

 

Loose Id LLC

PO Box 170549

San Francisco CA 94117-0549

www.loose-id.com

 

This e-book is a work of fiction. While reference might be made to actual historical events or existing locations, the names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

Warning

This e-book contains sexually explicit scenes and adult language and may be considered offensive to some readers. Loose Id LLC’s e-books are for sale to adults ONLY, as defined by the laws of the country in which you made your purchase. Please store your files wisely, where they cannot be accessed by under-aged readers.

* * * *

DISCLAIMER: Please do not try any new sexual practice, especially those that might be found in our BDSM/fetish titles without the guidance of an experienced practitioner. Neither Loose Id LLC nor its authors will be responsible for any loss, harm, injury or death resulting from use of the information contained in any of its titles.

Dedication

To everyone who put up with me being overly worried and hypercritical of my writing.

Acknowledgment

Special thanks to Morwen Navarre and C.L. Mustafic. Without you two, I would have never sent this off to a publisher. And to my editor Kerry who answered all of my stupid questions and put countless hours into helping me polish my manuscript. Also to Tahn, DirtyAngel, PippyChick, and Kokoa_B on AFF, whose friendship, delightful nicknames for the characters, and support helped make this possible.

Chapter One

Winter, 1355

The butcher’s boy, Miksa, was with fever again. It was the sixth time since the first snowfall that sickness burned through him. He was a fighter. Most in the minuscule village of Laeth didn’t survive one fever a season, let alone six. I was fairly certain the carcass of something was rotting at the mouth of the river, putrefying the water. However, no one dared venture into the forest to check, and we would suffer for it come spring. The bitter, frigid wind howled around me as I packed snow into my old wooden bucket. Shivering, I pulled the thick, fur-lined cloak tighter around my shoulders. It did nothing. This would be a hard, long winter. The worst was yet to come, and it was only half over.

As I trudged back through the snow toward town, that was all that preoccupied my mind. It was going to get worse, which meant more death. Not just from the fetid river but also from frostbite, fires, poisoning, and injury—not to mention the inevitable starvation. As I reached the gate and noticed the small paper announcement tacked into the thick wood, I grumbled. “NO NON-HUMAN NON-RESIDENTS ALLOWED—BY ORDER OF FREDRIK FRANZ EALDORMAN OF LAETH,” read the paper. I stared at it for a moment before tearing it down and throwing it into the snow.
Laeth, you have bigger problems.

Sighing, I slipped through the unmanned gate and wended my way through the deserted, snow-covered street. I could hear the butcher already:
“Why did ya have ta go all the ’ay to the tree line for snow?”
I was growing sick of explaining to them that horses, goats, cows, sheep, pigs, and drunkards piss and shit in our muddy streets and the snow inside of town is worthless because of it.

Opening the door to my modest two-room shack, I was greeted by the sobbing mother and irate father. Looking at them, I could guess what happened: while I was gone, the boy probably had a seizure, or either of the well-meaning parents gave him more of the polluted water, and he was dead.

“Wot took you so fuckin’ long?” the butcher yelled as I stepped past him. He was a large man, with arms the size of my waist, and as many teeth as I had fingers and thumbs.

“Did anything happen while I was gone?” I asked as I sat beside the small boy’s body. He was six, and last summer he threw a rock at me, spat at me, and called me a witch—I could only guess where he’d picked up that behavior. But sleeping, with fever, he was tolerable—it wasn’t the boy’s fault he had a boar for a father.

“N-nofin’, miss,” the mother stammered out, wiping away her tears. “I jus’ know this be it for my boy.”

“He’s a tough one,” I reassured her before I checked to see if the boy was breathing. He wasn’t. It felt like my heart stopped as I stared at his lifeless body. Last month, the night of the first snowfall, the next town over burned their Cunning Woman on a pyre because she couldn’t cure a fever and a baby died. “But sometimes, the toughest don’t always pull through,” I whispered as I checked the boy. He was still warm, and his lips weren’t blue yet. My sadness and fear quickly gave way to anger. “Whichever one of you gave him more of that fucking water, get out!” I yelled as I quickly turned the boy on his stomach, brown water pouring out of his mouth. “I said get the fuck out!” I yelled again, over my shoulder. The butcher grabbed his heavy cloak and left looking a bit scared as I patted the boy’s back and he started coughing and vomited up more of the water.

“I sh-shoul’ prolly go see ’bout ’im.” The woman sighed.

“It’ll be a while this time. I’ll send for you if anything changes.” I offered the woman a small, warm smile. She pulled her cloak back on before heading back out into the snow.

After they left, I locked the door and finally took off my cloak. I moved the bucket of snow to the rough dining table and warmed my hands a bit at the fire. My home was one of the larger hovels in the village. Most were simple one-room shacks, but mine had two. One was the outer room, where I treated patients; there were two cots, a stove, a table and chairs, and shelves that lined the walls, full of ointments, tinctures, poultices, potions, and various other concoctions. Herbs dangled from the ceiling as they dried, filling the air with the scent of a woodland grove.

I was a healer, what some called a Wise Woman or Cunning Woman. I knew how to make charms to keep just about any beast out of a home, and I knew how to treat illness. Even with the fear of witchcraft that had started to take hold in Ersland, most would still rather see a Cunning Woman than a Barber Surgeon.

The second room was really my home. It held only a bed, a small bookshelf, and two chests. One contained rare and expensive ingredients. The other held what passed as my wardrobe: eight dresses—three wool, four linen, one velvet—and three cloaks. Also in that chest, in a small red box buried at the bottom, were two gold wedding rings, neither of which had been worn in four years.

* * * *

After tidying up and putting straw over the floor where the boy had vomited, I wrapped my thick wool shawl around my shoulders and drifted off to sleep in front of the fire. My lids had barely closed before I was jolted awake by banging on my door.
Oh joy, more idiots who drank the water.
Groaning, I made my way to the door and opened it. Standing almost knee-deep in the snow were four men, supporting a fifth. The smell of blood was heavy on the air, that distinct odor of freshly minted coppers.

“Please, we have coin. Our…friend’s hurt real bad.” That accent. I froze in the doorway staring up at the towering males. They were elves. I knew the only elves in the village, which meant they had to be from the forest. The elves were why those who lived in Laeth were afraid to go through the forest. We humans had pushed them to the brink of extinction, and now they pushed back, killing travelers and taking captives. I was a tad nervous, but I still stepped aside.

“Lay him on the cot,” I instructed them. Gesturing in the direction of the cot I grabbed a few wads of linen bandages, then a needle, thread, and a few jars of ointment. “How did he get hurt? I won’t judge. But I need to know what I’m dealing with.” I didn’t pay attention to the others once they set the injured one on the cot. He was half-conscious, muttering words under his breath that I didn’t understand.

“We went to see friends in Nathton. We were in the tavern. He went out to relieve himself, and the city guard jumped him. No one saw what happened. We just know he ended up on the ground unconscious and bleeding,” the one who spoke at the door said softly. I could hear the sadness in his voice.

“Are you the only one who speaks common?” I asked, glancing back at him.

“Yes, well… Aneurin does as well.” He nodded toward his friend on the cot.

“I’ve only treated one elf before,” I confessed, turning my attention back to the bleeding elf on the cot. I started peeling off the heavy winter layers he wore. “I can’t use an iron needle, right?” I asked as I unbuckled the tunic. I gasped at the red, angry wound in his side. There was blood everywhere, so much that I was curious how they made the six-hour hard ride without him bleeding out.

“You can use an iron needle. That’s a lesser fae, like a pixie or nymph.”

“Lesser fae. Right. Sorry.” I shook my head as I opened one of the jars of ointment. Staring at the elf on the cot, I rubbed the herbal mixture over my hands.
He is going to die
. The thought made me inexplicably sad. The give of the flesh under my fingertips told me it couldn’t be sewn. The sliced tissue was going to need to be cauterized. The sides of the wound were rough. They had attempted to sew it, which was probably the only reason he made it to my door, but the wound had reopened. “Stupid fucking guards,” I grumbled as I stood. Then, taking a handful of sage off the shelf, I tossed it into the fire, followed by my cauterizing iron.
I haven’t gotten to use it yet this season.
I smirked at the thought as I snatched more gauze and filled a bowl with a few ladles of melted snow.

“So you don’t hate us?” I jumped at the voice as I returned to the wounded elf’s side.

“No, I don’t. I have no reason to hate anyone particularly. Am I afraid of you? Yes, but not here. Only an idiot doesn’t fear elves in their domain,” I murmured as I set to cleaning the massive gaping wound in the poor elf’s side. He whimpered as I poured the cold water over it. Once the wound was clean, it was clear that it wasn’t bleeding as badly as I’d initially thought. A soft sigh of relief escaped my lips as I retrieved the red-hot iron from the fire. The elves who didn’t speak common started yelling at me, but I tuned them out. I was used to it. Usually, when I walked toward anyone’s ailing friend or relative with the large hot iron, people started yelling. The one who spoke common bellowed something in their strange, melodic tongue and pointed to the door. The others left with a grumble. “I need you to hold him down,” I said, brandishing the hot iron.

BOOK: Heart of the Forest (Arwn's Gift Book 1)
5.51Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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