If you are a Boden fan, that seven-foot-tall leprechaun who tells bad puns and loves Ria, check out an excerpt from his new story, “The Shoemaker’s Apprentice.”
He turned out to be everything I thought he was.
We wound our way through hills, trees, and mist until we came up behind one of the waterfalls on the American border. The water wet my hair and shoulders as Hailey dragged an old chalk stone across half-dry rock beneath the cascade.
Irv pat me on the back, smiling wide. “Can’t say I’d mind seeing you again, buddy, and I hope to all things holy that I can get in on the action next time. But I wouldn’t mind you calling a fella for a thank-you whiskey when peace is upon you, either.”
I agreed. My tongue stuck to the back of my throat, not ready to step through a gate that led home.
A shimmer covered the jagged pieces of earth, and breath sucked into my lungs as Hailey motioned me forward. Each member of their squad laid a hand on me, and we stepped through together.
Drenched in chills, the world whooshed around us, upturning my stomach with its topsy swirling.
In a blink, my feet hit the springy grass beyond the wooded entrance of the faerie mound.
My bags thunked softly against the ground, and the team made quick work of their goodbyes, nodding to the two armed guards that stepped from beyond the cloak of magick.
My thank you didn’t suffice, but it was all I had.
Unless I included the bag on my back and four around my feet.
The coward in me—the one that’d run away all those centuries ago—wished they’d stayed behind. When what I needed was to face the guards and my punishment myself.
I dropped my last bag on the rest as the two approached. We’d never had guards when I lived here. Few of us left our mound for the human world. With the way humans were, the change surely became necessary.
That was, after all, what sent into action the events that ruined my young life. What killed my little sister.
The sentries accessed my baggage—one tall and lean, the other small and slender, an elf and a pixie. The elf poked around the canvas, but the pixie took more interest in me.
My mother tongue hit my ear like a painful echo.
“Boden Einarsson, son of Unnur and Halldor.”
They shared a brief look before the elf nodded.
“You’ll have to come with us.”
I bowed my shoulders in consent.
“You’ll need to relinquish that weapon before we take you inside.”
They could have it.
Past the glittering trinkets on tree trunks and branches, we walked into a holding cell. They were different than the ones I remember from picking Fannar up after one of his benders—less iron and more light.
I sat at the oak table, hands in my lap to keep its natural truth properties from igniting a spell. Odd, I’d never felt one as strong as I did now, but my powers had morphed, evolved. So much had changed in such a short time.
Ria’s blood whispered magick across the left side of my face, sharp and tingling where the iron sliced into it but tendrils crept deeper.
Even before she touched me with her blood, our magick mixed together, and part of her lingered with me, easing the emptiness. The effect doubled when her skin met mine. I’d never experienced such attachment before.
The longer I waited, the more I itched to rub her stone between my fingers.
A portal opened to the room via the far door, and cold air pushed against my damp jeans. The faerie that entered was a council guard, someone working towards becoming an agent from the leaf insignia pinned on his collar. Down-turned features showed that he lacked the sense of humor custom to most of their enlisted.
“We need a record of where you obtained the weapon before I take you to meet the official who will review your statement.” The drone tossed down a pad of paper and pen and frowned when I didn’t snap to it.
“A friend found it.” I twirled the red stone between my left thumb and forefinger.
“Write it down.”
My smile irritated the crinkle in his brows, but I leaned forward and wrote it down.
A friend found it.
I couldn’t help myself, twisting Ria’s charm with more intent. My outward calm was her doing. A bluff is only as good as the audience, and the rest of the fae never did get my sense of humor.
The drone sneered. “Leprechaun.”
Probably not such a good idea to antagonize the organization I’d run from, the one ready and willing to punish me for what happened in the woods east of the mound.
I shut my eyes to recall Alvilda’s small, sweet face. She’d been more present for me these last few weeks, as heavy as they were when she’d died.
“Hey. We want the real story. The whole thing. On paper. Now.” The drone’s fingers thumped against the table to accentuate his authority.
“Wrote it on oak. The spell shows I am telling the truth. A friend found it.”
Silver eyes narrowed at me. “How can you see the spell?”
I shrugged my left.
He examined the mark on my face, matching it with the sword I handed in. “A friend found it?”
“Yep. Don’t know where from. Don’t know who from. Don’t know why.”
“Who is your friend?”
“A friend. You know, the type of person you’d protect with your life?”
Features touched in distain, nostrils flaring. “If the big wigs didn’t want ahold of you, I’d have you under a truth extraction to watch you squirm.”
“If you wanted some squirming, you only had to ask.” I winked and sent him back a step.
“Get up. Let’s go.” He jostled me upright, ushering me through the door with the dramatic flair only a faerie would take time for.
This time, we stepped through to a plain, corporate-looking hallway. Clove smoke swirled in the air as the drone opened the wide Alder door. The sweeping room imposed the occupant’s importance, and the tree emblems signaled his high rank.
Beyond the shelves and displays spread a dark desk, lit with magickal enchantments, but the show-stopper was the floor-to-ceiling window overlooking their mound, the curve of the wooden barrier around the clusters of homes, the small farms, the city center, and the edge of the palace with its ceremonial gates. Beyond them spread the half-frozen mountains, a river, and the shine of clear water replacing smaller peaks of the Hekla volcano.
Cold flashed through my bones, dropping me into the shallow but frozen depths of the lake, the weak ice around me crumbled each time I tried to climb out. Fannar saved me, but not before falling in himself. The warmth he siphoned into me kept me alive and handicapped my brother.
It fractured our already strained relationship, and not long after, I got our favorite sister killed.
The drone nudged me into a seat with his foot, and I sighed at the silhouette of shoulders and whirls of smoke, itching for one of the cigars in my bag and a glass of whiskey.
“Thank you, Neisti. You can go.” Familiarity swam in that dour voice as the council member turned. Light highlighted his short blonde hair, slender nose, and strong chin—one we shared.
Long ago, the death of his little sister broke his family apart.
After a close call left him blind in one eye, Boden must return to the home he fled as a young leprechaun.
For hundreds of years, he has feared facing his family and punishment for his sister’s death.
Boden needs to make up for his mistakes before he can fight a war for the woman he loves.
Find out what secrets are unleashed in THE SHOEMAKER’S APPRENTICE.