Frozen Wasteland, Tales of the Fiesty Druid: Book 3
By Candy Crum and Michael Anderle
With every breath she took, thick white mist streamed from her mouth, but she didn't let it distract her. She bent over as far as she could, slowly moving behind a large rock. Her target was several yards away.
A beautiful white rabbit. He was quite large for being at that altitude with so little food, but she knew he would be quite the challenge to catch.
It had been several days since she'd arrived in the Frozen North; transported and abandoned on the highest peak of the tallest mountain. At first, she'd been almost too weak to move, and using magic to create a fire hadn't done much to keep her from freezing to death.
Just as Talia had told her, it had sapped her strength. But as Talia had also predicted, Arryn refused to give up. Several times a day she had thrust her hands deep into the snow, feeling for the energy in the water under and around her and pulling it into herself. It had taken several days, but she was finally feeling more like herself.
Arryn wanted to get back to Arcadia more than anything else. She needed to finish what she had started, and she needed to make sure the citizens were safe. She wasn't sure what Talia was capable of or what she truly wanted, but she sure as hell didn't want to go back home and find the entire city desolate. All life lost; only Talia left for her to return to.
Now that she was feeling a bit more normal, Arryn decided it was time to prove the bitch wrong and get her ass off that mountain. The snowy rabbit was going to help.
As Arryn shifted her weight, she saw the long white ears perk up, swiveling as they listened for whatever might be approaching. Then the rabbit turned his head, and his eyes met Arryn's.
“Shit!” Arryn exclaimed, shaking her head.
He jumped into action, sprinting across the snow. Arryn wasted no time as she put all the strength she had into a powerful run, chasing the rabbit across the snow while trying to avoid slipping and falling.
The rabbit was fast, and his skill at sharp turns was incredible. Try as she might, she couldn't catch him.
“Hey!” she shouted as she ran. “Give me a break! This isn't fair!”
The rabbit ran straight for a massive rock. Arryn thought he would go around it on the easier terrain, but he didn't. He planted his feet against it without breaking stride and used it as a pivot point to change directions. Arryn almost had him, but was forced to drop and slide on her hip to keep from running straight into the boulder.
“Gah!” she yelled into the vastness around her.
The rabbit turned and stared at her as she got to her feet, as if challenging her to come for him. Her eyes narrowed and she returned the gaze, her body lowering to a crouch as she once again prepared to run.
“I will catch you. And when I do, you're gonna be—”
Her threat was curtailed when the rabbit took off again. She growled to herself as she lit out after him. Stiff from several days of disuse, her muscles were screaming at her, begging her to rest, but she wasn't having any.
She knew that she would have to be strong, fast, and pay full attention to her senses if she was going to get off this mountain. The only way to get back into shape was to be extremely active.
She charged after the rabbit in the hope she would catch him, but she became careless. Her desire turned into impatience, and she quickly lost focus on her surroundings.
The rabbit made his sharpest turn yet, spinning in the snow and running directly back through her legs at the last second. As she turned, her feet slid in the snow and she landed hard on her side. Though her breath didn't leave her, it hurt like hell.
Rolling onto her back, Arryn groaned as she cursed the rabbit and her own impatience. She grunted as the fat, fluffy, snow-white rabbit jumped onto her stomach, his little nose twitching up and down as he stared into her eyes.
She reached up with both hands and scratched the sides of his face. “I'm gonna get you next time. You just wait and see. You cheated, anyway.”
The rabbit leaned his head into her touch, and she scratched between his ears before taking them between her fingers and rubbing down to their tips.
“You're lucky you’re cute. Do you have any idea how hungry I am?” she asked, a smile on her face.
The rabbit bit her hand, lightly enough that it didn't draw blood, but hard enough for her to know he took offense at her comment.
She laughed. “Sorry! It was just a joke. Jeeze, you’re so sensitive!”
She was just about to set him aside so she could stand when the rabbit's ears perked up, warning her that they weren't the only ones in the area. A deep, guttural sound filled the air around them. It wasn't a growl, but a warning, sounding very deep in the animal’s chest as it slowly stepped toward them.
Arryn laid on her back, the rabbit frozen on her stomach as they both stared at the large, hungry snow leopard.
“Run,” Arryn whispered to the rabbit.
She felt a slight movement on her stomach, but not enough to suggest he'd listened. A louder rumble from the beautiful cat warned her that time was running out. This time, she didn't give the rabbit a chance.
“Run!” she shouted, throwing him far away from her and quickly rolling onto her stomach.
The leopard pounced, but Arryn was fast enough to get out of the way. The slick snow she’d been laying on took the leopard down just as it had her. In only seconds the leopard was back on her feet, roaring loudly and charging for Arryn and her furry companion.
Hearing the rapid crunch of snow behind her, Arryn risked a look over her shoulder to see the animal coming directly for her, moving far faster than she could possibly run. The rabbit was in front of Arryn, running in a zigzag pattern but making good time.
“Ooooh, run, Puff-Butt, run!” Arryn exclaimed as they began scrambling down the north face of the mountain.
A loud growl sounded as a large shadow fell over her. Without looking back, Arryn dove forward, catching the rabbit in her arms and twisting, landing on her side and rolling out of the way. The leopard landed hard, sliding and rolling over, which gave Arryn enough time to get back to her feet.
Arryn was still very weak. Not only did she have very little time to try to use her nature magic to subdue the animal, but as weak as she was, she wasn't even sure she could. If it didn't work, she would be directly in front of the big cat’s jaws.
Using physical magic wouldn't be much better, but it appeared she didn't have a choice. It was the guaranteed option in this instance, unlike attempting to use nature magic.
She tossed the rabbit away from her, out of the direct path of the leopard, before turning and throwing her hands out. A small gust of wind pushed the leopard back, and she encased it in ice.
But the leopard jumped forward again, breaking free of the thin ice Arryn had created in hopes of scaring it while expending minimal energy. Apparently, the leopard had no plans to back down under any circumstances. It was just as hungry as she was, and it wasn't like there were a lot of food sources in the mountains.
Still, Arryn wasn't about to let her friend be eaten after he'd helped her, and she sure as hell wasn't going to die.
When she swiped her hand upward, the snow from the ground lifted in a small wave and wrapped around the leopard. Her other hand jerked forward, her magic freezing the snow. The leopard fought, but the ice froze rapidly and Arryn heard a sharp snap just before the cat's head slumped.
The animal fought her and the force had combined with her lack of skill with magic to cause the leopard’s death. She'd only planned to encase the cat in ice long enough for the rabbit to get away, allowing it to melt once she herself had traveled far enough that her magic no longer held. But now, she was presented with a new opportunity.
It had been two days since she'd eaten, and as strong as she'd become on her own with no sustenance and only the snow around her for hydration, she knew the leopard would gift her with both food and warmth.
Arryn quickly made her way over to the animal, melting the ice and gently lowering her to the ground. Placing her hand on the cat’s jaw, she closed her eyes.
“Though I did not mean to end your life, I promise you that your death will not have been in vain. Thank you for your sacrifice. It will not be forgotten.” She paused a moment as she looked at it. “Oh… And you tried to eat me and my puffy-butted friend. So, fair is fair.”
Having wasted the majority of her strength chasing the rabbit to keep her skills sharp and using magic on top of that, she wasn't sure how she was going to drag an animal that large back to her camp.
The chubby rabbit slowly and cautiously wandered back to her. He came to her side and looked up at her with his little nose wiggling.
Arryn smiled. “I caught you. Told you I'd catch you!”
The rabbit turned and used his back feet to rapidly kick snow at Arryn as she laughed at her little friend.
I know, I know! It's been a while.
I had to push out a bit for my own sanity–writing back to back 90k and 80k novels is crazy awesome! And also CRAZY! Ha!–and it helped me to produce this book.
I have to say… This one is my absolute favorite. It really is. Actually, it's one of my most favorites out of all the books I've ever written. It's fun. It'll make you laugh. It's DIFFERENT! I've never written anything like it, and I just CAN'T wait for you to read it!
So, again, I apologize for the wait, but I promise it was worth it! We had to push back a few extra days because of Hurricane Irma as well. The hurricanes beating down on everyone lately has been terrible, and all my positive thoughts are with everyone dealing with the aftermath!
Thanks again for stopping by the page. It means a lot! And without keeping you anymore… Here is the first snippet of The Frozen Wasteland: Book 3 in the Tales of the Feisty Druid series!