Garden of Betrayal excerpt

1 preview“Where is the human?”

Terra looked ancient in the moonlight. “Sleeping.”

Leaf sensed she had earned the right to press for more. “Where?”

Terra turned toward the shadows near the front door. “In the cellar.”

“I’d like to see her. Just to look at her. I’ve never seen a human up close.”

“They are ugly—this one no less so.”

“Still, there’s nothing like a firsthand experience. Just as the luna is like no other flower, the humans are different from one another.”

Terra pulled on a frizzy curl as the sound of stone grinding grain against grain came from the shadows. “The door is open. See for yourself.”

Leaf looked over her shoulder. “Really?”

“Do not attempt to awaken her. It could kill her. Humans are so fragile.” Terra lifted her crystal to her lips and began to play.

Leaf took note of the growing threat in Terra’s voice. “Thank you, Terra. You are truly kind.”

She stepped into the shadows. A passage had opened in the floor to reveal a roughly hewn set of stairs descending into the earth. The darkness was thick, but Leaf pushed aside her fear and stepped down. The treads were spaced too far apart to allow her a natural gait so she moved carefully, sitting on the edge of each before hopping to the tread below until she reached the dirt floor. Moonlight spilled out onto the earth like spilled milk, but it did little to push back the dark so she risked the use of magic by calling forth a tiny flame. She ignored the closed door at the far end of the cellar and turned to the simple pallet in the corner with the rumpled form of the human stretched out on her side, her face to the wall. Anna’s breath was steady and deep, but she twitched in her sleep as if she sensed Leaf drawing near.

“You see. She sleeps as I have told you.” Terra loomed at the top of the stairs. “I keep my promises.”

“Yes, you do.” Leaf turned back to the human. Her foot was calloused and wrinkled, the nails peeling in layers. “May I touch her?”

“It matters not to me.” Terra sat on the top step, blotting out the moon.

Leaf brushed her fingertips over Anna’s foot. The human stirred, but she did not pull away. The skin felt like an onion, but blue veins ran in jagged lines up her ankle, carrying blood back to her steadily beating heart. “When can she go home?”

“She is foolish. Her mouth runs with words the others do not wish to hear.”

Anna rolled over on her back, nearly crushing Leaf with a leg.

“Humans are horrid. They stomp across the earth, destroying what they do not understand.” Terra’s husky voice echoed in the rough cellar.

Leaf moved closer. She was drawn by Anna’s sagging jowls that made her look like a deflated water skin. “Not this one. She’s Mama’s friend.” Leaf touched the mole on Anna’s cheek. “How long will she sleep?”

“As long as it takes.”

Don’t stop now. The legend, the deep, dark, ugly legend is revealed in Garden of Betrayal.