This week, I have an excerpt from the most recent section of Pathway of the Moon. I’m already finishing up Part Four of Six. I’m really excited about how much progress I’ve made, and I can’t wait to start on the sequel. I’m slowly working on planning that. At any rate… Enjoy!

~~~

ALRIAN huddled in the reeds on the shoreline. The water lapped at her bare feet, and she shivered. The moon hung full and heavy overhead, a silent testament to the remaining time. Too much of it. Something snapped in the distance, and she retreated further into the reeds. Was it Shiador? The noise quieted. Not Shiador, then.

She let out a soundless sigh. She’d hid well. He wouldn’t find her if she stayed here. But she couldn’t hide until dawn anymore like they’d planned. With Leo and Deira’s arrest, she had to find her way to them. But she didn’t know where they were, and she had to figure it out without being caught by Shiador. Thankfully, she was certain he was searching obvious places. He still believed he was in possession of superior intellect, so why would he start in the good hiding spots? A dumb girl like her obviously wouldn’t be smart enough to prepare or think through her hiding places. And the women he was used to would never break the rules the men laid out.

After their last run in, he should already know she wasn’t anything like the women in camp, but she wouldn’t complain about how dense he was. It was working in her favor at the moment. She listened a moment longer, then stretched her stiff limbs in preparation for the swim back to the mainland. Her clothes had barely dried from her last swim.

She sighed.

Swimming with them was possible, of course, but was it really wise? The cold water and damp cloth against her skin for hours more could slow her down and make her sick if the air got any colder. She groaned softly and began to peel the thin clothing off. Bundling it together, she used the thin sash from the dress to tie it to her shoulders for the swim. She’d wait for it to dry again before she redressed. It was barely any protection against the wind anyway.

Then she took a deep breath and plunged into the water. The cold crashed into her, spread through her bones. But she pulled on her ashtra and forced her limbs to keep moving through the moonlit waters.

Ten minutes later, she dragged herself out of the water and onto the bank. Pushing her sopping wet hair out of her face, she sprawled out and took slow, shallow breaths to slow her heart rate. Best to take a moment to recover now while she knew Shiador wasn’t anywhere too close by.

While she rested against the cool, damp grass, she took a moment to think. Where would the Pathway be? Would Leo and Deira be there or would they have escaped already? She didn’t have any answers, though if they were still at the Pathway, it was probably because Leo was incapacitated. And they couldn’t be near any source of water because Amadeira would have been able to use that against them.

The wind played over her bare, damp skin, and she shivered. Somewhere in the distance, a fox released a sharp alarm cry and another one picked it up. She pushed herself to her feet and crept into the bushes. The sounds were quite far away, but who knew what had alarmed the animals. She veered away from the sound and headed for the camp. It was probably the last place Shiador would think to look, and it would be the first place she might find clues to the Path’s whereabouts.

Something hooted, and she jumped. The soft flutter of wings in the night met her attentive ear. She sighed. Nothing but a bird. If she made it out of this alive, she swore she would never spend the night alone in a creepy forest again. And she’d definitely make sure she stayed armed if she ever ended up the hunted instead of the hunter.

Speaking of arms, hadn’t Leo left a few knives and other weapons back in the little cottage? If she could make it there, she’d at least have some measure of protection on her if Shiador ran across her. Better that than nothing, and with the element of surprise, she might even stand a chance. And while she was there, maybe she could find a warm change of clothes.

She glanced up into the foliage overhead. The moon shone as bright as ever. She heaved a sigh and began the trudge back toward the camp. The sounds of the animals in the forest enveloped her, and she let them guide her through the forest safely. If she heard cries of alarm or disturbances nearby or in the distance, she stayed away from that area.

But the forest was large, and in the moonlight, it looked far different than it did during the day. Going a different direction from usual also hadn’t helped. Was she even on the right track? The forest began to thin, and a path cleared for her. She frowned and followed the trail. 

Things began to look more familiar. There was the old twisted tree that had been hit by lightning. And there was the stone with odd carving on it. Her shoulders sagged in relief. She slowed her pace and moved from the cover of one tree to the next. If anyone was watching for her, hopefully this would keep her out of their sight. She paused on the edge of the woods. Would anyone be watching for her? Would they suspect she might try to return to the cabin in search of her friends?

She peered around the trunk of a tree. No lights lit the cottage from within, and everything was quiet outside. Shiador had hardly been quiet in his initial pursuit of her, and she doubted he would bother doing so now. He wanted her running and terrified out of her mind so she wouldn’t think straight. Too bad for him. She wasn’t the type to do that. Maybe if he’d met her before she joined the military, he might have had more luck.

She rolled her eyes. As if. He’d only have had more luck because she wasn’t trained to deal with situations like this back then. She slipped out from behind the tree and hurried to the cottage. No one stopped her, and no one tried to accost her. The place was deserted. She turned the knob on the back door. The handle turned with ease, and she pushed inside.

Nothing moved or made a sound in the cottage’s interior. She eased the door shut behind her and hurried toward her trunk in the living room. She stumbled over an overturned cushion from the couch and stubbed her toe on the edge of a table leg. The search party Kiarhsu had assembled had left no stone unturned, and it seemed they had also left the house in disarray when they’d left. She slowed down and squinted to make out the shadowy shapes by the moonlight streaming in the window. If only she could turn on a light. But that was too risky.

She groped around beside the love seat until she located the trunk she’d thrown her clothes and weapons into. Opening the lid, she sighed. At least her things were still in the trunk. Someone had folded everything neatly, and she guessed Deira must have done so while she was trying not to go mad with stress before she and Leo were moved to the Path. She dug through it and laid out a warm shirt, loose fitting pants, a belt, and her weapons. Then she yanked the soaking wet dress the camp’s women had adorned her in off her back. The cursed thing looked like a shapeless, sad mess now. She wadded it up even more and threw it into a corner. Infernal invention. She dragged the shirt over her head and then tugged on her pants with a grim smile. Much better suited for what she was doing. Traipsing about the woods naked or clothed in a flimsy dress meant to slow her down was Rith’s own curse. No woman deserved to be chased through the forest by a madman in clothing that was designed to slow her flight.

And besides. She had another mission to perform. Besides evading Shiador, that was. She strapped her sword on and strode to the front door this time. A quick peek out the windows confirmed that no one was lurking around in wait, so she pushed the door open inch-by-inch until she could squeeze out. Shutting it behind her, she scanned the immediate surroundings. Nothing.

The birds and other night animals were creating the usual soft buzz of noise in the background. Nothing had come this way recently besides her, and they knew she was not a threat. Her shoulders sagged. That was one problem out of her way. The next problem was a bigger one: would the women be willing to help her?

She squared her shoulders. Only one way to find out.

~~~

Thanks for reading! What are you guys up to? Feel free to share in the comments below. I’d love to see what all of you are working on right now.

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