Title: Shadow's Voice
Author: Natalie Johanson
Rose Trewin is on the run. Pursued by memories of her father, she runs from city to city, seeking normalcy. But Rose can’t escape her past, or the magic running through her veins, the magic that allows her to slip through the shadows unnoticed. The magic her father once used to mold her into a mercenary sent to destroy his enemies.
Now her magic is growing and changing, becoming something new and untamable. Rose is unable to rest. Wolves wrapped in fog follow her relentlessly along the countryside. Desperate, she uses her magic to escape, but the shadows are pushing her towards the center of a conspiracy.
Now, her country teeters on the brink of a civil war as a Lord Governor gathers power against the king. An enemy, with magic similar to her own, emerges in the chaos of political intrigue.
Faced with a country at war and a king brought to his knees, Rose must accept who she is and harness her powers in order to save her country and herself.
Excerpt from Shadow's Voice
Copyright © 2019
When moonlight filtered in through her window, Rose climbed from her stiff bed. With an angry sigh, she pulled on her trousers and stuffed her feet into her worn and cracked boots.
With the dagger in her bodice, she slipped into the hallway, peer- ing through the shadows in each room as she passed it. It was an easy enough trick, looking through the shadows as though they were nothing more than windows.
She found him back in his room, bent over at the short table in the corner. The soft glow from an oil lamp distorted any more details. Rose looked up and down the hallway, saw no one else, and stepped into the shadow casted by the still lit candles. She fell into the darkness, became part of it, and was in Gavin’s room. She didn’t know how it worked, where the magic came from, or why she could use it when no one else apparently could.
When she’d still attended the lectures at the small schoolhouse in town, before her father made her work, she was told there were different planes of the world. The gods lived in one, the world in another. Rose often wondered if the shadows were another plane, and that was what she was touching.
It scared her back then. It scared her still. Maybe if she wasn’t afraid of it, she’d know what she could truly do with it. Rose had never pressed herself with her magic. Never challenged herself.
She drew her small knife as she moved closer. She paused in the shad- ows, the cool mist that always seem to be present ghosting over her skin.
This would be difficult. His back was straight and rigid. Even through the loose sleeves of his shirt, long lines of muscle were visible. She had one shot, one try for this to be easy and finished. Good thing I’ve had practice. Rose moved closer in the light shadow.
With a deep breath, she fell out of the shadow.
The bed dipped as her weight suddenly appeared on it. The second she was back in the real world her hand whipped around his mouth and pulled him back against her, her dagger sliding across his neck a second later. She pushed him to the ground, her hands and arms covered in blood. There were splashes on the wall across from her.
She stayed kneeling on the bed, her breathing deep and raged. Gavin choked on the floor in front of her. She should say something. He stared at her as if he was waiting for her to say something. Instead Rose looked at her bloody dagger and stained arms. They never could stay clean for long, no matter how far she went.
Rose sank back into the shadows and stayed in them until she was back in her own room. A headache started between her eyes from the time in shadow, it had been a long time since she’d used her magic. A nauseous feeling settled in her stomach, but she didn’t think that was from her magic. With a sniff, Rose methodically cleaned herself in the small bowl and changed her shirt and bodice. Throwing her ruined shirt into the small wood stove, Rose locked it all away with the rest of her past. She’d see it again in her nightmares.
Quietly, Rose walked around the small room and gathered her things: a few changes of clothes, old and worn, her one good set of boots. Numbly, she blinked at the tears in her eyes and hauled her pack over her shoulder. Rose tossed the key onto the bed and headed off toward the servants’ stairs. Once outside, Rose heaved a sigh and started toward the edge of town. She was just passing the stables set behind the inn when the first tear made its way down her cheek.
Rose took a deep breath and pinched her lips together, but that didn’t stop the tears as she walked. She wrung her hands in her shirt, as if there was still sticky blood to be wiped off. Her breathing came back, the tears came faster, and Rose had to cover her mouth to stop the sob.
“Stupid,” she cursed herself and gulped down air. She let herself think, for just a second, while working the spinning wheel in Marg’s dusty little shop that she could stay. “You know better.” Oh, but it had been nice. The illusion of a normal life, working a boring job for too little coin in a small town. Rose took a deep breath, her tears slowing and her pace quicken- ing. She should’ve remembered it was an illusion.
Rose followed the uneven cobblestones past the old buildings, the cool night air blowing loose strands of hair around her temples. She just needed to go further. Rose scrubbed at her cheeks with her sleeves and cleared her throat. She walked through town, past the slaughter house at the edge, the smell of rotting meat following her into the fields. Eventually those faded, and with sore feet Rose walked into the tree line.
The crickets were loud around her and every so often she’d hear the hoot of an owl. The moon was large in the sky and provided light on the small trade road. And so, she walked and tried not to think of Gavin and the look in his eyes. Or his blood. She reminded herself Gavin had killed and robbed. His death was no loss. Rose thought, for a second, she hadn’t needed to kill him. She could’ve just slipped away without a word, but if Gavin sent word she was this far west . . . if her father turned his attention toward her after so many years. . . . Rose snorted. She would not go back to her father.
When her feet hurt enough to make her limp, she walked off the small road into the forest and settled against a large tree. She pulled her knees to her chest and wrapped her arms around them. She let her head fall back against the rough trunk and closed her eyes. Rose sent a short prayer to the gods she wouldn’t dream and let herself sleep.
A hand on her shoulder woke her, her heart jumping into her throat. Rose palmed her dagger and had it shoved against the person’s ribs as she opened her eyes. The man kneeling above her stilled and slowly lifted his hand from her shoulder. Rose kept her dagger pressed against his ribs.
“You’re all right.”
Rose looked around before slowly sitting up and scooting back against
the tree. She kept her dagger raised. “What are you doing?”
“Checking on you,” the stranger said and cautiously moved backward on his haunches. “A young woman asleep in the woods. . . . I was check- ing to make sure you were not injured.”
Rose eyed the man, trying to point where she’d seen him before. He was familiar, but she couldn’t remember why. “I’m fine.”
About Natalie Johanson
Natalie Johanson has been interested in writing and reading since she first held a pencil. What first began a short story for her own reading turned into a world with a story to tell the world. When her time isn't being monopolized by her ferret, work as a police officer, running Dirty Dash races or reading she is writing.
Check out Natalie's website, nataliejohanson.com, for news, updates and more.
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