Shea Berkley 

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Mist on Water 

Young Adult Historical Fantasy

Long ago, in a far off land, there rose a tale as old as the earth. 
It’s a tale about a boy named Ryne, a girl named Nari,
and a lake-bound nix who dispenses death to anyone who crosses her. 

As long as Ryne can remember, his parents told the tale of the nix who lives in the lake outside their home - a nix who craves a boon for setting Ryne's father free the night Ryne was born.  And what is that boon?  Why Ryne himself.  When the mist covers the water, the nix will come for him.  The tale has become one of legend as much as ridicule.  It defines who he is and who he will be, and he can't shed its affects no matter what he does ... for in everyone's eyes, Ryne is doomed to die.

Nari, the girl Ryne loves, is the only one who believes Ryne has a future.  She is the only one who fights for his right to live a normal life.  When she is sent away to become a proper young woman, Ryne is left alone to struggle with the villagers and their relentless jeers.  Yet when Nari returns, he falls even more in love with her and asks her to marry him.  Before she can say anything, the nix grabs Ryne and takes him beneath the cold waters of the lake.  Everyone believes he is dead, just as they predicted ... everyone but Nari. 

Now it's up to Nari to defy her family, her village and the nix to bring Ryne back from his watery prison.  With the help of a wise old sage woman and a few magical objects, Nari braves a dragon and an ancient curse to rescue Ryne and begin the life they deserve.

Excerpt:

Mist on Water

 

Long ago in a far off land, there rose a tale as old as the earth.

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As the mist grows heavy,

The father grows tense,

And the mother clutches their babe to her chest.

‘Be still, my child; the nix is near.’

The babe hushes,

The mist disappears.

Another day dawns free from the hex.

 

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Before the Descent

   

Nature wields a powerful force; its power holds an overwhelming allure, an unstoppable temptation.  For some the temptation is in the destructive force of fire – the need to behold the flicker of a flame, to see it smolder and burn, to watch the flame grow and consume until even their own safety is at risk.  For others it’s the power of a storm – the whip of wind, the lash and sting of rain, and the loud crack of thunder punctuated by a dagger of lightning. 

For me, the temptation lay in water.  I felt the pull of the hypnotic lap and ebb of the lake outside my parents’ house.  It projected innocence with the gentle roll of waves, its fresh scent … yet sink below its surface and the potential for death awaited with one indrawn breath.

“Ryne!” the boom of my father’s voice filled the crisp morning.

I startled, tearing my gaze from the morning light dancing across the waterfall.  I’d come to this quiet nook, as I had since my fifteenth year, where water met air and earth, where the mist hung thick and moss and fern grew a rich green and the water sparkled like stardust.  I was not supposed to be so near the water.  For as long as I could remember, my parents told me I must stay away.  Evil lurked within its dark depths. 

Lately, I’d begun to wonder.

My father had walked far in search of me.  I didn’t even want to think what would happen if he found me here.  I pushed myself from the tree I’d been lazing against and grabbed my bow and arrow before dashing into the forest. 

Stealthfully, I made my way through the trees, trailing my father like a hunter would his prey.  I stopped short of the clearing where my father had built our house.  I could hear my mother’s worried voice.

“Did you find him?”

“I told you I would not,” the strong timbre of his voice answered.  “His bow is missing.  He has gone a-hunting.”

“Again?  He hunts every morn.”  This was said with slight irritation.

I paused, and between the thick growth of vegetation encircling our home, I gained a position where I was fairly certain to see my parents without being seen.  My father, a thick-bodied and handsome man, stood beside my petite and handsome mother.  His gaze swept over the forest, touching on my hiding place without recognition before quickly moving on.  I released a ragged breath.  With one look, I could tell he wondered where I went every morning, but he was not worried. 

He turned his attention back to her.  “Hunting is a good skill to possess.”

She worried her apron; her eyes shimmered overly bright.  “You checked by the lake.  He is not there, is he?”

“No, my sweet.  He would not go near the lake.  He is near full grown.  He knows better than that.”

Guilt squeezed my heart.  My father had so much faith in me.  If only he knew …

From my hiding place within the thick brush, I saw my mother’s brow wrinkle.  “I tell myself that, but I cannot help but think he no longer listens, that the story has become more bedtime tale than fact.”

My father gathered my mother to him, and she laid her head against his chest.  He petted her hair with even, calming strokes.  “He knows we speak the truth.  He knows.”

Shame at my deception lashed at me, but it was too late to turn back to the lad I’d been.  I turned away and crawled deeper into the forest, my bow now slung across my back alongside a full quiver of arrows. 

Truth. 

It was a fickle thing.  Soren swore that when the moon rose full, mice dressed in trews and shirts and danced before his fireplace. 

The truth?  Once a month, the pub – full moon or not – brought out a new batch of ale yet to be watered down.  My father, along with a handful of stout men, carried Soren home, delirious and babbling, and laid him on the floor before the fire, for his wife would have nothing to do with him when he smelt so badly and kicked at shadows. 

Then there was Kilen.  His eyes were crossed.  Not because he awoke to find a faery perched on his nose three years ago as he claimed, but because he’d had wonky, weak eyes ever since he was a lad.

I would like to say my family was not the type to dabble in local superstition.  But of them all, my family was the worst.  And the story they shared since the day I was born was a story of legend as much as it was of ridicule.  It defined who I was and who I would be.  And I could not shed its affects no matter what I did … for in my parents’ eyes I was doomed.

 

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