Genre: YA Fantasy
Word Count: 72,000
Seventeen-year-old Taela does what she must to survive, but she doesn’t think of herself as a murderer. When the sister she idolizes is executed for treason, Taela vows to avenge her death--even if it means killing the kingdom’s only hope for salvation. Some believe renegade leader Hawke is destined to save their land from an ancient evil. To Taela, the drunken ass who charmed her sister and left her to die is no hero.
The road to revenge leads Taela to the mysterious Darkling Forest. Lost among shape-shifting trees, she has disturbing visions of evil deeds taking place in the castle. Innocent men are being turned into drone soldiers for the king’s army. When a soldier with no soul attacks, Taela puts her vendetta aside and makes a truce with Hawke to fight against the king. Their fragile alliance will be put to the test when Taela discovers the truth about her sister’s death, and it forever ties Taela’s destiny to the very man she wants to destroy.
I'm an active member of SCBWI and blog about writing at Tales from the Darkling Forest.
Taela wasn’t a thief, not usually, but sometimes people had to do things they didn’t like. She slipped into the cool darkness of the storage shed and quietly latched the door. Her heart beat rapidly and she took a deep breath to calm herself. She made a silent vow that this would be the end. Tonight, she would fulfill her promise, no matter what it cost her or how much it frightened her.
Ribbons of moonlight shone through the slats of the old wooden structure, falling across the crates, casks and barrels stacked around her. She had to be quick. She rummaged through a crate, grabbed a handful of dried apricots and few shriveled potatoes and stuffed them into her pack.
Standing on tiptoe, she reached up to the top shelf for the stoneware crock that held last season’s summerbeans. She slid the container to the edge and eased it off the shelf, but the crock was heavier than she expected. Before she could get a good grip, it slipped from her hands, fell to the dirt floor and shattered with a crash. She jumped back as shards of pottery and beans scattered at her feet.
Blast it! Probably just woke the whole village.
She grabbed her pack and scrambled toward the weathered door, but the sound of footsteps approaching stopped her. Too late. She ducked into the shadows and hid behind a barrel. Blood rushed in her ears. The sour smell of vinegar from the shattered crock overpowered the scents of aging wood and hay.