So I just released a new short (long short) story, entitled Rescued by the Woodsman. It’s book one in a series called Darkholm, set in a world I’ve been hesitating over writing about for almost a year. I kept telling myself not to, because I have been categorically told there’s no market for the concept, but then this story sort of wrote itself last week, while I was in Shanghai.
I self-published Rescued by the Woodsman on Monday morning, after deliberating over expanding it out into a longer story, because it seemed to fit 12,500 words perfectly, so it’s not the right length to send to a publisher. So, instead, I made it free here on Instafreebie.
On top of that, it’s written in the same universe as my single worst-selling book to date (Sharing the Princess). There are a few things that wouldn’t work in any other story world. As well as that, the content of Rescued by the Woodsman is pretty dark, so all in all, I decided self-publishing the Darkholm series was my best plan, although it’s not the super-dark WIP that I’m currently writing; that’s also on its way. The idea for this dark fantasy series has been at the back of my mind for a while, however. I also haven’t put it on Amazon for the time being. I thought about it, and decided I’ll see how it does on Instafreebie, then I’ll maybe put it on Amazon at a later date, when the next book in the series is released. Maybe.
Sharing the Princess isn’t quite part of this series, but it’s set in another kingdom (called Dovedalethorpe. Rescued by the Woodsman, and the next book, Shared by the Beasts, take place in Darkholm) in the same world as Rescued by the Woodsman.
Do you like the cover? I am really pleased with how it came out, although I can see that there’s room for improvement.
Here’s an excerpt, and the blurb and a free download link are both below it:
Emmett Hartley had watched the young redheaded witch as she made her daisy chain. Since he came out here regularly with his axe, he knew her by sight, although they had never spoken. Sometimes, he saw her crying, and wondered what an evil sorcerer possibly needed to cry over. Witches had killed his mother, and he had sworn if he ever saw a witch he would kill it.
He hadn’t gone near the girl yet, though. Something about her reminded him of the gazelle he hunted sometimes with his cousin Benadrin, when he visited him in the kingdom of Dovedale. The big, soulful, green eyes had the look of one who knew they were prey, and who saw the hunter’s arrow hurtling toward their heart. She never settled, even when she was occupied with a task. Then, every so often, she would pause, staring off into the distance, before dropping everything, waving a hand and teleporting away. He didn’t know how she did that. Now, he went to where she’d been playing with flowers, but all he found were the destroyed remnants of the daisy chain she’d been making.
There was a mystery there, and while she clearly used witchcraft and therefore was his mortal enemy, she was still so young. He knew that one day she would be older and stronger, and would probably kill him, but he simply couldn’t bring himself to take her life. She was barely an adult.
He sighed and ran his hand over the stubble on his square jaw, finding no useful information to explain where she went or why she’d been tearful. Instead, he occupied himself with looking for a good tree to fell.
A Will-O’-The-Wisp fluttered into his path. He paused, knowing they led people to their doom. It hovered near him, waiting. The creatures were fey folk who had been cast out, and now they scoured the world for remnants of fairy dust dropped by other fey. This one didn’t have the wild eyes or the shredded wings of the others Emmett had seen.
“Begone!” he grumbled.
It beckoned to him. He threw a stone at it. Hateful magical creatures, haranguing him in every direction. It continued to hover. When he stepped toward it, it moved away, but as soon as he returned to his task, it was back.
With a sigh, he heaved his axe over his shoulder and followed the Will-O’-The-Wisp. He’d never seen one behave like this before, and all things considered, it was probably something else under a spell or geas. This was why he detested magic. It confused everything and created mysteries where there didn’t need to be any.
He really hoped he didn’t need to kiss a frog.
Continuing after the Will-O’-The-Wisp, he found himself going into a part of the forest he’d never thought of as interesting. Everything in his brain told him to stay out, to turn back, that nothing good ever came of being here. The trees seemed mostly dead, and charred. The static stench of evil witchcraft filled his nostrils.
Adjusting his grip on his axe, he stepped through a wall of trees, and found an abandoned, ruined tower surrounded by a high fence. The Will-O’-The-Wisp wasn’t done, however, and it flew to the twisted iron gate, then reached out its tiny hand and touched it. The gate sparked for a moment, and the Will-O’-The-Wisp jumped back, as though shocked. Emmett stepped closer, and the creature flew through the opening in the gate.
Emmett followed, and frowned. The garden of the tower had looked like it was overgrown with ivy, nettles, dandelions and tall thistles from the outside. Green things. Now, however, he saw only twisted, dead roots, grasping out of the ground like hands trying to escape the underworld. He turned to the gate and pushed a stone against it, so it couldn’t close on him. Emmett had no intention of getting trapped in this place. Clearly, foul magic was afoot. Why the Will-O’-The-Wisp had brought him here, he had no idea, but this might be a nest of witches, and he didn’t know if he’d ever get another opportunity like this to strike a blow against them.
Tiptoeing around the side of the tower, which didn’t seem to have a door, he watched a wizened old man in a black robe being followed extremely reluctantly by the girl who’d made the daisy chain. He spoke some words, then indicated for the girl to sit in a chair. With a lurch of horror, Emmett realized it was a ducking chair, of the sort used for killing witches. Why did he care what one witch did to another, though? Surely it meant one fewer for him to deal with later.
“Do you have perfect trust, Eskara?” The man asked, grinning. He was pure evil, and Emmett didn’t think anyone in their right mind ought to trust him.
“Y-y-y-yes, master,” she stammered. Eskara. Her name was Eskara. Nothing about her reminded Emmett of any of the other witches he’d seen. Even the younger ones were usually arrogant, over-confident, fake-nice, and far too self-assured. But she was something else. Was she even a witch?
“Hmmm… we shall see, won’t we?” The old man spun the wooden beam around, and plunged Eskara into the water. Her terrified eyes met Emmett’s for a split second, and his heart wrenched.
What would fix this? He gripped his axe, and went toward the man quietly, ready to fight him. Apparently, the man had eyes in the back of his head, because he waved a hand and suddenly Emmett was thrown back twenty feet. Every time Emmett ran to the girl, he was thrown back again. It was impossible.
And here’s the blurb:
Darkholm 1: Rescued by the Woodsman:
Eskara has been enslaved to the evil warlock Garamond for the last three years, and tonight, on her eighteenth birthday, she is doomed to become a sacrifice for one of Garamond’s spells. She doesn’t want to die, but she is resigned to her fate.
Until Emmett steals her away, that is. The hot, gruff woodcutter doesn’t know why he’s drawn to the young witch, but when he sees an evil old man trying to kill her, he has to intervene. Emmett inadvertently claims Eskara, and he has to consummate before the sun goes down or they both die. But when Garamond uses his great power to steal Eskara away again, how can Emmett ensure Eskara is safe, permanently?
Note: This is a standalone M/F short story in the same universe as Sharing the Princess, but it’s darker. The bad guy is a complete bastard. This story contains much unpleasantness. If you prefer Katie’s softer writing, this one is probably not for you!
If you want to read the rest, it’s FREE and EXCLUSIVE to Instafreebie right now! Even if you’re already signed up to my newsletter, come on over and grab a free copy as a thank-you for all your support! 😘 Get it here!
The URL is here, if you want to share it: https://www.instafreebie.com/free/fatFm