QUEENS OF THE WYRD by Timandra Whitecastle (Release Announcement and Excerpt)
It is a truth universally acknowledged in epic fantasy that mothers never go on adventures.
Because mostly, mothers are dead.
Dead by giving birth to the Chosen One, or dead by some tragedy that really motivates the man (son/ lover/ husband) to finally go on a quest – and even if mothers are alive, they usually stay at home to mind the kids while the menfolk are away SAVING THE WORLD …
Not in this story, though.
In this quest, the mothers are in the spotlight and they’re done being fridged. They believe the children are our future, AND they save the world from Ragnarok on the side – because if you’ve ever been a harried, overwhelmed, bone-tired mother of one or more kids, you know ONE THING for sure: taking on a murderously fierce dragon is actually a bit of a relief …
Queens of the Wyrd is my brand new epic fantasy tale. It has:
- motherhood representation
- Norse inspired mythology
- female friendship
- Hel, Goddess of Death
- chapter headings
- sword and sorcery
- positive L+TQ rep
- fights against dragons/wyverns
really bad jokesgreat humor
- the Norns (Maiden, Mother, and Crone)
Sounds like your thing? You can get your copy of Queens of the Wyrd TODAY at an Amazon store near you!
Still not sure you’d like it? How about an excerpt! Enjoy!
Queens of the Wyrd by Timandra Whitecastle
I can’t get no sleep.
– Every mother, everywhere.
Birke’s drawn out wail pierced through Lovis’s sleep, and she could hear her rapid footfalls on the dirt path that ran past the house. But damn, it was hard to open her eyes. It was too early. She managed to crack open a lid, just a slit to see a single slanted ray of dusty sunlight illuminate the darkened room they shared, the remnants of their breakfast together (millet gruel and peppermint tea) still laid out on the table. The angle of the solitary sunbeam said that breakfast was only two hours past.
Lovis groaned and closed her eye.
They lived in a small fisherman’s hovel on the northwestern cliff of the island of Grimming. Imagine the realm of Midgard on a map: the very center of it would mark the plains of Vigrid; the hubbub of kingdoms skirting its edges were commonly referred to as Ereb (which means Descent in the language of Cush, since Ereb lay in the west, where the sun sets). Some of those kingdoms were rich with wide lands of fertile fields, and resources and people to till them. They made for good raiding. Others were tiny, settled in pockets that clung to the mountainous southern rim of the island, despite the red desert sands of Akebu sweeping across the White Sea in great clouds and killing their harvests. Still other island kingdoms were scattered around Ereb, the largest of which, Arkaim, lay in the east. Lovis had crossed into Midgard from Jotunnheim through an ancient passageway that lay deep in the Arkaim mountains. She had walked through the bitter Arkaim winter to the coastlands of the Baldras Sea, where she fought on the battlefields of Ereb and there met Solveig. And together, on their vikingr, they had raided as far as the ancient city of Richat in the Akeban desert.
“Mom!” The door exploded open, whacking the whitewashed wall, and her daughter skidded in. “Mom! Wake up!”
“Mommy worked all night, twiglet. Let me sleep for just another hour or so.”
That’s what Lovis wanted to say but what came out was “Mmmmm.” She rolled over and turned her back on her daughter. Just five more minutes . . .
After she had left Solveig—when Birke was a newborn and Lovis was desperate for peace and quiet—she had considered retracing her steps eastward, to go back to Jotunnheim and raise her daughter there. But in the end, Jotunnheim had never felt as much like home to Lovis as Midgard. Her mother’s side of the family had never felt like family. So she had turned to the most insignificant of the islands far off the western coast of the Doggerlands, beyond the green of the Emerald Isle (to which Grimming nominally belonged, but none of the tribes of the Isle really cared, so that was nice). After ferrying in small rickety boats from one small island to the next, she and Birke had ended up in a little fisherman’s hut on Grimming, one of many such dwellings that clung to the steep cliff like mussels on a stone.
“Mom, mom, mom, mom, mom,” Birke danced around Lovis’s makeshift bed close by the fireplace. “Mo-om! Wake up! You gotta come with me. I promised Bjorn you’d come.”
“S’better be important, Birke,” Lovis growled, eyes still closed, while her waking mind registered the name of Birke’s best friend. The two ten-year-olds were usually inseparable and each caused their share of mischief. If Birke was shrieking about something Bjorn Alvasson did, Lovis could probably eke out another hour of sleep.
Life was hard on the northwestern side of Grimming, but it was definitely more honest than in Cliffside, the so-called entertainment district which sat on the peak of the little island like seagull droppings on a fisherman’s hat. When Lovis first arrived on Grimming, it was little more than a tiny fishing village. But unlike the other tiny islands around them, the industrious Grimmingas had decided that their existence at the very edge of things could in fact be a selling point. While Grimming was nominally under the jurisdiction of the Jarls of the Emerald Isle, no one ever came to check on them. No one came to collect taxes. And so at first, the fishermen had taken up smuggling which was profitable on a small scale, but then they decided that having a reputation as a place for entertainment, where one could barter any goods for precious luxuries or niché experiences, would probably bring in far more wealth. So now travelers from the other islands came in by the fancy harbor built on the north edge of Cliffside, which was open for all kinds of trade, legal and illegal, unlike the small fishing piers on the beach below Lovis’s hovel. However, they pulled knives and axes too quickly in Cliffside, Lovis found. A punch in the face was practically the handshake. No place to raise a child, but a great place to spoil one.
Birke stopped dancing and knelt beside the heap of furs Lovis called her bed.
“Mother,” she whispered. The sudden stillness made Lovis open an eye again. Never trust a silence around children. It is as unnatural as a sudden calm on the tempestuous sea, and as much a herald of unpleasant surprises to come.
Birke’s face was red from exertion. Her hair and her eyes were wild, and she shook slightly like a young sapling in an autumn wind.
“What?” Lovis croaked, raising herself on her elbows. “What is it?”
“A dragon took Bjorn.”
“Say what?” A spear thrust into Lovis’s heart. “A dragon?”
“Uh . . . yes?” Birke jumped to her feet and started her panic dance again. “I don’t know. The other kids said it was a dragon but I said it can’t be a dragon because it only has two legs and everyone knows dragons have four so I said it might be a wyvern but it doesn’t have wings and—”
“Did you just say ‘the other kids’?” Lovis heaved herself out of the furs and blankets, and ran her hands over her tired face. “What other kids?”
“Just some kids. We were only playing. But then—Mom? You’ll come, right? I promised Bjorn I’d be back with you.”
Kids need saving. Even Bjorn.
Lovis held herself upright, one hand on the rough mantel of the fireplace. Her shield hung there, in its place of honor. Her knuckles brushed against the blackened furywood. She had sold her weapons and her armor, but had kept this one souvenir from her past.
She took it down. It felt so right as she slipped her hand into the leather strap and grasped the wooden handle. Her shield had the typical round form every shield had, yet it was fashioned to her size. It was unique. No one had a shield like this but her. It had been custom made for Lovis Shieldmaiden by Jotunnheim’s furywood craftsmen what seemed like a lifetime ago now. The furywood was durable yet light—far lighter than any other wood. Despite the huge size of the shield, even Birke could lift it. Not for very long, mind, but as Lovis strapped the shield on to her forearm the weight of it felt as if she were carrying her baby through those colic-filled nights. The most natural feeling. With the welcome weight came memories. Memories of who she had been and what she had lost when she put the shield away and chose a mother’s life. She gripped the handle tightly, feeling like a Shieldmaiden once more.
Birke was jumping up and down in the golden sunlight at the door, a skinny silhouette with a wild mane, the most beautiful, impatient person Lovis had ever fallen in love with.
“Lead the way,” Lovis told her.
Birke nodded and sped off. Lovis was decidedly slower. She slipped into her boots outside the door easily enough but then scowled at the sunlight. She started jogging after her daughter, but then doubled back to grab a small wood-splitting axe from the chopping block in her tiny yard; almost as an afterthought.
“Lovis!” Gramma Greta, their elderly neighbour called out from her bench in her adjoining yard. “What in Midgard are you doing, child?”
“Can’t talk now, Greta,” Lovis shouted over her shoulder. “Be right back.”
In the early morning sun, Lovis’s shadow lay monstrously tall before her, and she rushed to fill it, as though she could hide what she was. She ran down the narrow pathway she had dragged herself up only hours earlier, jumped the trickle of sludge water cutting a groove into the stone steps at the edge of her yard, and dodged colorful, yet low hung washing lines . . . and most of her grumbling neighbors. It was mid-morning, and the fishermen had gone to sleep—wisely so, after a long night—but their wives gaped at her as she ran by and then returned to their daily business of tending the gardens, cleaning, sitting in what passed as the street on their woven chairs to pull peas, and mostly gossiping and yelling at their kids to be quiet.
Lovis kept an eye out for Bjorn’s mother, Alva, but guessed that she’d probably already be working riverside, washing richer people’s clothing. She kept on losing sight of Birke who was running ahead, treading on narrow footpaths where grown ups couldn’t go, and slipping into spaces between yard fences. After a few breathless minutes, Lovis would see her dark-haired head pop up in front of her again.
They ran downhill, towards the narrow beach dotted with red and yellow boats. Birke vaulted over the low harbor wall, and sprinted off to the thin stretch of sand at the base of the cliff, studded with rock pools. Older children were harvesting seaweed and crabs; they looked up and call out in annoyance as Birke ran past them. They shut up when they saw Lovis following Birke, shield and axe in hand, long braids flailing, wearing nothing but a short tunic and a look of grim determination.
She thudded on past them, faintly aware that she probably looked like she intended to raid Grimming’s cozy little harbour by herself.
Birke slowed down, but showed no sign of exhaustion. She skipped over the wet rock like a lizard. This was not the first time Birke had come down here, Lovis realized, though she had expressly forbidden her from climbing down the cliff. The rocks were tall and jagged and often loose, and the high tide pounded them with relentless fury. The rocks were treacherous, some moved beneath you. And as every mother knew, grey gnomes lived under the rocks and reached their clawed hands out to snatch little children by the ankles. Every now and again, a fisherman’s child would be found dead on the beach after the tide had gone out.
Lovis gripped the shield tighter, and closed the space between them.
“It’s not much farther,” Birke said, then added meekly as she caught a glance of Lovis’ clouded face, “Um . . . just around this corner.”
They were heading to the northern side of the island where the cliffs fell to swampy, salty marshland. Mud flats lay everywhere when the tide was out, and reeds as tall as a man.
“I told you not to go into the flats. Ever.” Lovis barked as they squelched along.
Birke twitched at the anger in Lovis’s voice, then slumped her shoulders. “I know.”
“No. We agreed on a boundary, and you overstepped it.” An icy terror gripped Lovis’s heart. “Did anyone see you…?”
“Shadow-walk home?” Birke supplied. “No! I swear!”
“Good. But we’ll talk about this later.” Lovis shook her head and sighed, relieved.
She noticed a huddle of kids by some of the tall reeds, and stomped over to them. Birke hung her head and followed, dragging her feet, no longer in a such a hurry as before. The kids’ eyes widened with fear for a moment at the sight of the raiding giantess, then they realized it was Birke’s mother. They came at her, waving and crying and pointing and talking in a jumble, most of them she recognized as Birke’s little horde of friends: acquaintances, or enemies, depending on which day it was.
“There’s a dragon over there!” one of the little snotnoses shouted.
“It’s a linnorm, dumbass,” another immediately rejoined.
Then they all started shouting at once.
“It ate Bjorn!”
“Birke’s fine.” Lovis said, aware that her daughter sulked around her elbow. “She’s with me. And you all know you shouldn’t be here. This is a dangerous place. I need you all to calm down, so that I can go get Bjorn.” She didn’t mention that, if a linnorm had really taken him, he was probably a pile of gore by now. “You, Snorre, and you, Tjark, you’re the eldest, aren’t you? Take the other children back with you, and we’ll meet you at the harbor wall. Go. Now!”
When the bigger boys started to usher the others past them, Lovis turned back to Birke.
“Can you show me where you saw him last?”
“We were playing hide-and-seek, and we were hiding in those reeds.” She pointed. “Bjorn said something touched his ankle, and then suddenly he was pulled into the marsh.”
As Lovis turned to see which clump of reeds Birke was pointing at, the huge snake-like head of the linnorm burst forth.
Remember, you can get your copy of Queens of the Wyrd TODAY at an Amazon store near you!
And hey, if you buy a copy in the first two weeks, send me a copy of your receipt at firstname.lastname@example.org, and you’ll unlock a small bonus content – all five main characters inked by Megen Nelson!