I know I said I’d have a Moon Pack snippet but I was busy writing today..yay writing. Instead I’m posting the first chapter of what I’m tentatively labeling Pilgrim.
The jingle of harnesses and mist from the horse’s breath brought Xaylon to reality. He was really doing this. Escaping. Running. Whatever you wanted to call the coward’s way out, he was doing it.
Xaylon ran his thumb beneath the satchel strap bisecting his chest. Only a few more minutes and he would leave Raven’s Hallow, possibly forever. Pilgrimages were hazardous and often set upon by bandits. A quick glance at their escorts banished most of his worry but not completely silencing the terror nibbling at his subconscious.
Could he do this?
Xaylon would be the first to decry himself as an adventurer, but his father’s actions were forcing him to these steps.
“You all right there young one?” A loud, brash voice jolted him out of his introspection.
Blinking he focused on the person speaking. The very tall, warrior with dark braids and shoulders one and a half the size of Xaylon’s. Only the kind concern in the man’s eyes stopped Xaylon from squeaking in terror.
“I will be.” He offered a nervous smile.
The warrior’s expression didn’t change with Xaylon’s convincing argument, but he nodded and moved onto the next pilgrim.
“Running away from home?” A silky female voice asked.
Xaylon spun around to discover a thin waif like woman, even smaller than him, standing in the shade. It was easy to miss with the way the shadows folded around her. A shiver of unease winnowed down his spine.
“Not exactly.” Caution kept him from blurting out his story.
She slinked out of the shadows with a disturbing grace that hid the fact she had a skeletal structure. “How not exactly?”
Her dark eyes trapped him in her unnerving gaze like a mouse before a viper.
“Come. Let’s get you to your mount.” A heavy hand clamped down on Xaylon’s shoulder moving him along. He’d never been so happy to be manhandled away.
A quick glance up revealed the warrior from minutes before. “Thank you.”
“You’ll want to keep a distance from that one. The priestess of the shadow Queen will use any scraps of information you grant them for their own means.”
Xaylon nodded furiously. “I’ll do my best to avoid her.”
“Good man.” He patted Xaylon’s back with a friendly pat that could’ve been an iron bar for the heaviness of his touch.
Instead of protesting, Xaylon gritted his teeth. It would do no good to start the pilgrimage on a bad note. He had to keep positive relations with his travel companions especially the guards.
“Which group are you traveling with?” The guard, whose name he still didn’t know, asked.
The warrior stepped back to see Xaylon’s face. “Why would any man want to visit the goddess of magic?”
“I found a notebook from my mother stating she was a priestess of Lady Selene and I would like to give an offering in her honor.” It was a partial truth but a truth all the same.
His answer appeared to calm the warrior and whatever existential crises he experienced over having a man visit a female goddess. “I hope you find the peace you are seeking.”
Maybe Xaylon wasn’t as discreet as he hoped. “Thank you.” He offered a short bow. Not deep enough to indicate a higher status, but low enough to show appreciation.
“Your caravan is over here.” He waved to a group of five wagons with over a dozen women inside. “There will be more guards here than with the others due to the high number of females.”
“Makes sense.” It didn’t really unless they were completely incompetent. Xaylon would pit his sister against any hardened soldier. She not only was a vicious harridan, but she would stab someone without remorse if they thought to take advantage of her, or her little brother.
A smile curved Xaylon’s lips. It was because of Lila that he was following through on this wild plan. If he kept out of his father’s way and went on an adventure maybe he could avoid the ridiculous marriage his father was binding him to. Xaylon had no interest in becoming the bonded spouse of a man with six children and three dead wives. Especially when no one was certain what happened to them.
Still pondering terrible life choices, Xaylon headed for his assigned group trying not to choke on the dust being kicked up by the horse’s hooves.
He reached the group and stood unmoving at the stare from at least a dozen pair of eyes. “Hello,” he offered a small wave and an equally small smile.
“What do you want?” The tallest of the group stepped forward, a hard expression on her face. “If you think you can take advantage of us because we are women I am happy to disabuse you of that notion.”
A scoffing laugh escaped before he could prevent the sound. “My sister is far tougher than me and I have no interest in defiling anyone. I’m a pilgrim same as you and take my duties with a serious mind.”
His words must have been convincing. Most of the group lost their scowls and tension, the girl before him did not. “And what use do I have for pretty words.”
Xaylon shrugged. “I don’t know. My mother was a worshipper and I am here to fulfill her life’s dream.”
She sniffed at him as if he were something foul that came out of a horse’s ass. “We’ll see.” She spun around and stalked back to the watching group.
A sigh slid from between his lips and his shoulders sagged. This would be a long journey.
“Don’t take it personally, Deta has had a hard time of it, and she hates men.” A plump girl with springy brown hair and a wide smile scampered up to him emitting cheery.
Xaylon instinctively smiled back. “I’m both sorry and happy to hear that. At least it wasn’t as personal as it felt.”
Her laughter danced on the air. “You’re funny. I think I’ll choose you as my companion. I’m Sahra.” She held out her hand.
Xaylon gave it a friendly shake. “What do you mean companion?”
“Every person had to have a travel partner. The guards don’t want anyone to be alone.” She lost her cheer as she continued. “I’m not much of a fighter but I can do this.” She held up her hand. Her brow wrinkled as she stared at her fingers. Before Xaylon could comment lightning crackled across her fingers in an arc of sparkling lines. She kept it up for a minute before dropping her hand. Sweat beaded her brow which she wiped with the back of her hand while she took a deep breath. Her skin had a new pallor. “As you can see it takes a lot out of me but I could zap a few people so we can get away if needed.”
“Sold. I’ll be your partner.” Xaylon grinned.
“Great.” She went back to bouncing on her heels. “I don’t suppose you have any powers? I know Lady Selene usually only grants females powers but you never know.”
Xaylon shook his head. “I am good with a staff though.” He lifted his walking stick up for inspection.
Sahra eyed the intricate engravings with proper respect. “Nice. I’m sure between us we can live to escape any bandits.”
“We can hope.” Xaylon nodded. He didn’t want to admit it, but the guards had an excellent idea of teaming people together. “How many people are in our caravan?”
“Fifteen women, including me. One male pilgrim, you and six guards.”
“That’s not a lot of protection,” he commented.
“It’s two more than the others. Pilgrims aren’t a high priority with the crown.” Her bitter tone turned Xaylon’s attention back to her. “Not a crown lover?”
“They’ve done little for the citizens. My mother worked for them once. They killed her because she tripped and spilled some sauce on the prince’s robes.”
Xaylon winced. “You have my sympathy for your plight.”
Sahra gave a sharp nod. “Thank you. You said you are doing this for your mother. Has she also passed.”
Xaylon swallowed the lump in his throat. “She died giving birth to me. I’ve only known her by her journals.” Journals that revealed a vibrant woman who had goals and dreams that were never experienced due to her untimely death. “I thought if I lived out some of her dreams it would ease her spirit closer to Lady Selene.”
“That’s so sweet.” Sahra sniffed and discretely wiped at her eyes.
“I know I can’t bring her back, but it makes me feel closer to her.” Xaylon gave a helpless shrug. The gods knew his father never brought out any positive feelings. The typical lord, he only interacted with his children to make sure they were obeying their tutors and following the paths he laid out for them. There had never been a kind word or gesture granted by their father and his parents hadn’t married due to any warm relation between them. Xaylon hadn’t been neglected because of his father’s distress over his mother’s death. That had only been an inconvenience to his schedule. Xaylon firmly believed his father never married because he didn’t want to be bothered with a bride and since he had his son he had no use for one.
Xaylon scratched at his arm glad that his thick shirt protected the vulnerable skin beneath. Nerves had his arms scratched bloody at times.
“Hey.” Sahra grabbed his scratching hand. “It will be fine. We will do our pilgrimage and come back home hopefully with a gift from the Lady.”
“Hopefully.” Xaylon returned her smile. Pilgrims were often granted small powers by their chosen god or goddess if their hearts were pure and their belief strong enough. Xaylon had neither a pure heard nor a burning belief in his goddess, unlike his mother. Instead he had the token she had crafted for the pilgrimage she never had the chance to go on. The small stone figurine sat heavy in the lining of his jacket. If they were robbed it might be overlooked if the bandits were particularly stupid. Almost every thief knew that was where pilgrims hid things but there was no better place. They would just take his bag anyway whether they found anything or not so it wouldn’t be a wise spot to hide anything.
“Let’s get the best position,” Sahra nudged him, knocking him out of his thoughts.
“What do you mean?”
“We are assigned places in the caravan. I’m going to go flirt with a guard and get us a prime spot.” She offered a smug smile before skipping away.
Xaylon remained standing unsure of his next move. If Sahra wished to go flirt with a guard he wouldn’t stop her but he watched her just in case she got into trouble. She all but danced up to the guard who had helped Xaylon find the right group. Her lashes fluttered furiously and she played with the long curl laying against her shoulder. The guard appeared unmoved until she pointed at Xaylon. He remained still while the guard inspected him from head to toe as if he hadn’t seen him before.
After that unnerving stare he returned his attention to Sahra and said something in words too quiet for Xaylon to hear that far away. Sahra gave a loud squeal and nodded enthusiastically before scampering back to Xaylon.
“I should’ve sent you to talk to him.”
A smirk curled her unpainted lips. “Because he was unmoved until I told him you were my partner. Then all of a sudden we had the best spot in the middle. I knew being your partner was a great idea.”
Xaylon laughed. “I’ve never brought anyone luck before. We’ll have to see if it holds out.”
“We shall.” Her eyes continued to dance with amusement. She looped an arm through his. “Come, they are going to leave soon and we don’t want them to leave us behind.”
“No we don’t.” Xaylon let her drag him along with no protest. They really needed to be gone before father noticed him missing. His sister could only hide his absence for so long.
19 thoughts on “Pilgrim”
Marvelous I can’t wait to read it
This is a wonderful start looking forward to reading more.
This is going to be fun! Can’t wait to read more!
Fabulous start. Can’t wait to read Xaylon’s story. Thanks for sharing. ❤
Interesting start. Looking forward to more.
It sounds promising. Thank you for the excerpt!
Interesting adventure story. Looking forward to more
Great start to a story.
Ok, I am intrigued. Loved how this started.
Another good start.
Nice start! I’m really intrigued! Can’t wait for more.
I look forward to reading more. My poor bank account is going to be screaming when you get all these new stories published. .😁
Oh that is going to be a wonderful book. Looking forward to all your writing.
Oh that is going to be a wonderful book. Looking forward to all your writing. Looking forward to more.
Very intriguing. I look forward to more.
Another wonderful beginning. I hope to see more.
I can’t wait for more of this story, love it so far.
Oh, I like this one already. You come up with the coolest names.
Sweet! All the characters already make me want to know them. I can almost see Sahra bouncing on her toes. 🤓 I’d definitely read this.
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