Hi there wonderful people!
As you can probably already tell from the picture and title of this post………book 5 is not a bit late, it will be published precisely when it means to be.
In this case, a few more days.
And in the meantime, please enjoy this little sneak peek/preview/teaser of the Guardians of the Path: Wasteland, coming soon to a screen or page near you:
Cedar Jal sat with his back against the tree, his hands under his armpits to keep his fingers from freezing. The tiny flame Ria had conjured flickered bravely in the wind. It didn’t seem to realize it was outnumbered and doomed. Cedar empathized with it.
Jæyd sat next to Timo, their heads close in conversation. The Daleman now had a frown permanently imprinted on his face. The elf stood, placing her hand on Timo’s shoulder for a moment, then came to sit beside Cedar.
“Did you scare Timo with your reaction to this place?” Cedar asked.
“Why would you ask that?”
“His folk don’t like magyc, but invisible magyc that you can’t see was even worse. I can’t say that I disagree,” Cedar stated.
“I told him it would be alright,” Jæyd said. “How are you faring?”
“As well as can be expected,” Cedar said.
Jæyd laughed. “And with our new Ria? How are you faring with that?”
“It’s so odd,” Cedar said. “She was just a little girl a week ago, and now she’s a grown woman.” He looked down at his toes for a long time before he moved his eyes back to Jæyd. “She even looks like Her.”
“I know,” the elf said.
“So that means the Prophecy is coming to pass,” Cedar said.
“She doesn’t know anything,” Cedar said. “I don’t want to tell her, but someone should. She should know.”
“I believe she does, at least part of her,” Jæyd said. “When she-”
She stopped, grabbed Cedar’s arm and hauled him to his feet.
“What is it?” he asked, calling for his bow and only finding his guitar.
Cedar looked, and saw the pair of glowing points just outside the firelight. He tried to call his bow, but the guitar refused to change. Another pair of lights joined the first, then a third, and then they were surrounded. The snuffling breaths and cracking twigs multiplied the number of the creatures, but when Cedar counted the points, he only counted thirteen pairs. Not terrible odds. Though we don’t know what those eyes belong to.
That thought was not a comforting one, and he tried again to call his bow, but the guitar remained as it was. Demonfire.
Timo, Luca, and Ria joined them close to the fire, staring out at the blackness. A series of chattering yips came from behind them, and then answered from in front. The eyes came closer. A gust of wind drove the flames higher, and the eyes retreated.
“They do not like the fire,” Jæyd noted.
“We should make torches,” Timo said.
“Out of what?” Luca snapped.
At the edge of the light, lithe shapes on four legs darted between the shadows, eyes blinking. Suddenly they all went still, eyes wide and fixed. Not a sound was heard. Cedar steeled himself. The shape at the front crouched, light shining off bared teeth.
A far-off roar reverberated through the air, and all eyes snapped to the dark sky overhead. Cedar searched the blackness, and the stars blinking out and back to life, and he thought a shape moved overhead but it was hard to tell with the shifting stars. The roar repeated, closer this time, and the eyes scattered.
The Guardians waited, but they did not return. The roar did not sound a third time.
“We have a guardian angel,” Timo commented.
“An angel with teeth, who probably wants to eat us,” Luca said, and huddled closer to the fire.
“At least we are still alive,” Timo said.
“For now,” Luca muttered in return, refusing to be comforted. Or comforting, Jæyd thought.
“We should get some rest,” the elf said. “We have a long journey tomorrow.”
“I’ll take first watch,” Cedar stated, knowing he wouldn’t be able to sleep.
He took up his position on the log, and watched as the other Guardians found places to lie down. Luca was asleep in an instant. Timo lay down, his hands clasped on his chest, his drums beside his head. Jæyd sat on the ground and used the end of the log as a pillow, her long auburn braid hanging over her shoulder.
The stillness of the night took over, and kept Cedar company as he kept watch. His golden eyes never left Ria, who slept curled up next to the smoking ashes, her head on her arm. Her hair was darker than when she was a child, her face still round but thinner.
Death’s words came back to haunt him. We are at a very special turning point in the confluence of the worlds. Events which are beyond you, and even beyond Me, are upon us. Death had also hinted at impending Chaos. Cedar thought it was very unfair that he was to be the one to prevent or cause it, and yet not know what action or choice would bring about either end.
“Death and His Mandate can go burn in demonfire,” Cedar muttered. “I’m sure He must know, but His lips are sealed.”
Cedar frowned, trying to see where he had gone wrong with the girl, aside from the still tender point that he had killed her using First Magyc. She was too young, at least she had been when she was twelve. The Maker of Marks had been ambiguous about what the girl was or was not, as had Death. How was Cedar to know she would return as Aethsiths?
She stirred in her sleep, and Cedar started forward, then settled back. He didn’t want to smother her. His frown deepened. He was happier than he could express that she was alive, well, and here under his watch, but her presence also stirred up unpleasant memories and feelings. She was more of a mystery now than before, and she didn’t know any more than they did.
He looked skyward, at the strange stars in patterns he didn’t know. Some people believed the stars could answer questions and prophesy. Cedar only knew the stories people wove into the points of light in the sky. He wondered if the people here had stories for the patterns like those in Demona, stories they told their children around hearth-fires.
She is going to die and there is nothing I can do about it.
A wetness stung his eyes, and he blinked. Emotions writhed in his stomach, balling into an unrecognizable mass of agony. He knew there was anger and fear and regret mixed in with the joy and hope. Each heightened the others, and left him wishing he could banish them all.
“Demonfire,” he whispered. “Demonfire demonfire demonfire!”
“Are you trying to bring them down upon us?” Jæyd asked, settling beside Cedar. “Or did you leave something behind in the Other World?”
“It’s not time for your watch,” Cedar said, startled then alarmed he had been so absorbed that he hadn’t noticed her move.
“I cannot sleep,” the elf said, and she leaned back, gazing at the sky. “It is so odd where the currents of the world take us.”
“Odd is one word for it, but not the one I would choose,” Cedar replied.
“Did you ever imagine as a child you would be caught up in such a story as ours?” Jæyd asked.
“Does anyone?” Cedar asked, and his eyes fixed once more on Ria. “Do you think she did?”
“Perhaps,” Jæyd said.
“Do you think I should have kept her with us?” Cedar asked, dreading the answer.
“I cannot say. She was an extraordinary girl, but perhaps it is the woman we need. If she had remained in Demona, she would be the same little girl,” Jæyd said. “And perhaps that would have been enough. Or perhaps she would have died. It was her choice and action to go back, remember? Who can say that was not the best thing to do? Perhaps it was what she needed to do to grow into the woman she needed to be.”
“Now that is odd,” Cedar muttered. “I still cannot wrap my mind around it. How could she have been twelve years old a few weeks ago, and now-” He gestured at the sleeping woman.
“The Worlds are not connected,” Jæyd said. “They float independent of one another through the Voide, like bubbles of golden light in a mist. At least according to the stories of my people.”
“That sounds so simple and innocent,” Cedar said. “Alas for us it didn’t remain so.”
“Good fortune, bad fortune, who is to say but Time?” Jæyd told him.