Thursday, October 26, 2006

Excerpt Winter's Orphans by Elaine Corvidae

An excerpt from WINTER'S ORPHANS, Book One of the Shadow Fae Trilogy by Elaine Corvidae, Now Available from Mundania Press, LLC (http://www.mundania.com)

I wish none of this had ever happened, she thought. I wish I was normal, I wish there was nothing in my veins but human blood. I wish...

That I had never met Duncan? Or Bryan?

It was a lie. Damn it all to hell, but that was a lie, even knowing that death was coming for her because of it.

Even that was an assumption, of course. The death the bean-nighe had foreseen might have nothing to do with faelings. A fall into the machinery at the mill or an explosion of the cotton dust in the air--those would kill her just as quickly as a Hound. Hell, she might fall under a hansom cab on the walk home tonight.

The soft crunch of wheels sounded on the gravel path. Duncan came up beside her and looked out over the water. "I hope you aren't too angry," he said unexpectedly.

"About coming here? No. It was a good idea."

"Perhaps you would have rather spent the day with your friends, though."

"I thought I was." She threw another stone, watched it skip a few times and sink out of sight. Just like life, she thought. You get thrown out with no one asking if it was what you wanted, you touch the world or other people a few times, and then...you just disappear. Gone.

For the first time in a long while, Mina thought about her mother. Really thought about her, instead of just fighting off the memory of her death. Her hard life had made her hard in return. Sometimes it had seemed that she blamed Mina for her circumstances, as if the baby was just as guilty as the sire that got her.

"I'm glad you aren't angry," Duncan said finally. "It seems to me that you are angry a great deal of the time. I suppose you've a right to be."

"Maybe." Another stone left land for water. "Or maybe none of us has. Maybe we should just take what life gives us like anyone else."

"I don't believe that. We should struggle to change, to make our circumstances better. I wouldn't teach otherwise."

They went onto the dock. Mina sat at the very end, her legs dangling over the dark water. It occurred to her that the death coming for her might be the aughisky, lurking about, waiting to drown foolish young women who put their feet within its reach...

They talked for a while. Just talked, about things that had no life-or-death importance, while the sun got more and more westerly. Duncan spoke of his childhood home at Dahn--how the fog would hang over the meadows in the mornings. Mina remembered one or two funny stories from her days in the orphanage, mostly pranks the girls had pulled on one another, which made him laugh. The sun went down, and the stars came out. Mina sighed and leaned her head against the armrest of the chair beside her. After a few moments, she felt Duncan's fingers touch her hair, very lightly. The unexpected pleasure stole a small sigh from her.

"Why do they do it, Duncan?" she asked after a while, as the faintest stars of the Hunter finally became clear in the sky. "The fae, I mean. Why do they make us? Don't they even care?"

He thought about her question. That was one of the things she liked about him, she realized--he always seemed to consider her words carefully, as if she might say something important. Crazy that, to think a factory slave like her might have something insightful to say to a university man like him.

"I don't know," he said at last. His fingers touched her hair softly, rhythmically. "Perhaps they do it for the same reasons as mortals. Out of love, or lust. Perhaps they have motives beyond our understanding. I often wonder what becomes of the faelings sired by humans on fae women. Are they outcasts as we are? Or are they something more? The fae have a long-standing reputation for stealing human babies and leaving changelings in their place. But I've never heard that anyone knows what they do with them."

She sighed. "It must have been my father. He must have been fae. That's all I can think."

"I believe you're right. You're too strong to be anything less than half fae."

"Half fae, half human." She shook her head under his fingers. "You know, when I was growing up, I always dreamed that my father was a lord. My mother was a serving woman in a fine manor somewhere, you see--for the RiKenn family, I believe. She got pregnant with me and was turned out for immoral behavior. It didn't seem such a leap of the imagination to think that the lord was the one who knocked her up.

"I'd tell myself that the real reason she lost her job was that my noble father had fallen wildly in love with my mother, but his wife was jealous and made her leave. Of course my father hadn't known until it was too late. I told myself that he had looked and looked for us, but just couldn't find us. But someday, after I grew up, I'd go home. The jealous wife would be conveniently dead, and the lord would have no other heirs, because he'd never loved anyone else but my mother. He would welcome me with open arms, and I'd spend the rest of my life with servants and carriages and beautiful dresses. Stupid, huh?"

"Not at all."

"I used to dream that my father was noble. Now I dream that he was human. I think that's sad."

Duncan sighed. "Our dreams become smaller and more desperate as we get older, I think. The world strips more from us, until we'd trade anything just to get back what we once had."

"I wish that I knew my father. I mean, I wish that I knew why he did it. If there was any other motivation than plain lust."

"He may have been in love with your mother. If she never told you what happened, then you don't know that for certain. They may have loved one another very much."

Mina looked up at him sadly. "There's no such thing as love. I figured that out a long time ago. There's just lust and stupidity, with a few pretty words like 'love' to gloss them over."

She stood up abruptly, wrapping her arms around herself. "It doesn't matter why he did it--why any of them do it. The result is always the same. We're winter's orphans, Duncan. And, for us, spring will never come."

WINTER'S ORPHANS is available in hardcover, trade paperback, and ebook formats here:


Elaine Corvidae

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