Of Water and Dance
by Leslie Griffin
Series: The Golden Twins Series #1
Genre: Epic Fantasy
Intended Age Group: Adult
Published: June 7, 2022
Publisher: Self Published
The forest is impenetrable. Mortals do not dare enter and the ancient Gods residing within cannot break free. In this stagnant, earthen prison they’ve waited, and one-by-one they’ve suffocated. But when a Leviathan is found slumbering deep inside a mountain and a Priestess’ destiny is fulfilled, her decision between four different fates ricochets through time and leaves a crack in the wall that separates the realms of mortals and Gods.
With this fissure an unlikely web of people have found themselves intertwined.
A pair of golden colored siblings born with an ancient, forgotten magic in their veins.
A middle-aged Prince dying from the poisoned blood of his family’s false rule.
A Sergeant whose abilities on the battlefield unwittingly released a dark, immortal secret from within himself.
At the core of their improbable alliances is a secret long buried in stone. A secret that could change the bleak landscape of their home back into the fertile land it once was. But every secret has its price, and in order to expose this one time must shift, and one of them will have to die in consequence.
Shown on Page (things clearly told to the reader):
- Consensual sexual relationships (mature)
- Explicit sexual relationships
- Drug use
- Explicit language
- Discussion about human trafficking
- Depictions of sex workers
- Physical disabilities
Alluded to (things only mentioned in passing or hinted at):
- Sexual violence
- Self harm
Barnes & Noble
The author has set up a book sale through Amazon that will run the length of the tour. During this time, Of Water and Dance will be reduced to only .99 cents (eBook format). It is also enrolled in Kindle Unlimited.
Rae stretched his legs out in front of him, stifling a yawn and looked over at Evengel who was staring out the carriage window. It was their second straight day traveling, but she hadn’t moved much since she’d come to the day before.
After she’d passed out in the woods, Rae had carried her back to the clearing where he’d assessed her physical wounds. He’d never had much of a talent for healing, unlike his sister Cissy and was thankful to see that Evengel’s injuries didn’t need much attending to. While there were dozens of scrapes and bruises, there wasn’t anything needing stitching or binding. Rae did find a large lump on her head and thought that one of her ribs might be cracked. However, there wasn’t anything he could do about it, so he’d collected her up once more and did his best to keep her concealed.
It had been cumbersome traveling this way, but necessary. Evengel’s coloring was far too recognizable and if he was going rogue, he needed to clean up his trail as much as possible. There was too much unknown at the moment, and while Rae hadn’t decided to ditch the Captain’s orders yet, he wasn’t sure he would follow them through either. So after he’d cocooned her inside her traveling cloak, he’d set off to the main road and flagged down a carriage to take them to the East Port District.
Sitting across from her, Rae watched as Evengel braided her hair. He’d always enjoyed the company of women as friends and lovers alike, and before the military he’d had his fair share of flings back in the Farming District. And like most soldiers, he’d sought the comfort of whores after joining. But once Mary had applied for a brothel, Rae had lost his zest for hired women, and it had been years since he’d found comfort in flesh.
When he’d first collected Evengel off the forest floor, a jolt had gone through his body and choked him from his navel to his throat. At first he’d believed it was arousal, pent up sexual energy from his lack of physical contact. But as he’d held her to his body to prevent her from running after her brother, Rae had felt true desire well up inside of him, and the sensations were not the same.
Feeling his gaze, Evengel looked over at him. “You spoke with my brother in the clearing.”
Rae pulled out his flask. “Yes,” he said and took a swig. The contents were almost empty as he’d drunk more than intended after collecting her. He’d need to ration more carefully, or he’d be dead on his feet in less than a day’s time.
Evengel stared at him as he swallowed the Juice down.
She was quite attractive and not just because she was fit from dancing. There was something else about her. She didn’t move the way most people did, and every shrug of her shoulder or sway of her hips was entrancing to behold. And then there were her eyes. Ferocious and unnerving as they were, Rae found her unblinking gaze to be a big turn on.
“He must have mentioned something about his intentions,” she prompted.
Rae looked away as he thought back to the day before. “Your brother speaks in riddles. You of all people should know this.”
Evengel leaned toward him. “Tell me everything about your conversation.”
Rae took another swig from his flask. The carriage jerked as they hit a bump, and he choked on the amber liquid, spilling some down his chin. Once he’d caught his breath, he sighed. “I don’t know what happened yesterday.”
“Who was that woman? Is she one of you?”
Rae snorted as he wiped at his face. “She’s mercenary.”
“Are you not?” Evengel asked, her eyes narrowing. “I don’t see your uniform.”
Rae grumbled. He wasn’t in uniform, but to try and explain why would be too difficult. “She’s mercenary while I’m…”
He shrugged and looked away. “Nothing.” Rae banged on the front of the carriage. They lurched forward as the driver stopped. “I need to piss,” he said, swinging open the door and jumping out. He hadn’t gotten ten paces away when she called after him.
“Can I come?”
Rae lifted an eyebrow at her. “This isn’t exactly a team effort type of thing.”
But she’d already climbed out of the carriage and her long, braided hair swung down by her side. “You always come with me,” she argued, shielding her eyes against the sun.
“Yeah, but I don’t watch you,” he grumbled and moved toward some shrubbery a few paces away.
“Neither will I.”
“If I say no, will you get back into the carriage?” he asked over his shoulder, but there was no response.
Muttering to himself, he stepped around some greenery and positioned himself to pee. But right as he went to relieve himself, the bushes behind him rustled as Evengel came ever closer. Rae bit his tongue, trying to focus on the tree in front of him instead of the spicy scent he’d come to associate with the girl. Screwing up his face, he’d almost blocked her out when she began to hum. It was a soft, soothing sound, one his mother used before bed when he was a child.
“You’re not peeing,” she said, after a few moments.
“No shit.” Rae fastened his belt and began to walk back to the carriage.
Evengel fell into pace with him, and he fought the urge to swing around and catch her up in his arms. They were only a few feet away from the driver when he felt a light touch on his wrist.
“Sergeant Tippet,” she said, her golden eyes flashing in the sun.
“Rae,” he corrected.
Evengel pursed her lips. “Rae.”
“I trust in my brother,” she said and shifted to the balls of her feet. “But that doesn’t mean I inherently trust you. I really hope you’re not making a fool of him.”
Rae was about to reassure her when she reached out and ran a finger along the side of his head. “A hawk,” she said, tracing the outline. “A very powerful creature. Predatory, wouldn’t you say?”
Rae blinked as she tilted her head to the side. “Loyal and brave,” he said roughly.
“And strength?” Evengel’s nails skimmed over his scalp, and he closed his eyes, enjoying the tingling sensation from her contact. When she went to pull her hand away, he caught her by the wrist. She stared at him, wide-eyed before extracting herself, and Rae watched her swaying body climb back into the carriage. He was still looking in her direction when a bird called out in the distance and the sound echoed.
Rae knew that cry.
Spinning around, he surveyed the foliage and saw a few nearby trees rustle as a hawk perched itself on one of the many branches. The creature fluttered down as he made his way over, and once within reach, it held out a clawed foot. In its grasp was a piece of parchment which he removed from the bird’s powerful talons.
He is not who he claims to be. The girl’s value is beyond gold. Hide her. I am now stuck in the center, third from the top, kept here for the protection of another. My orders have gone to the Teeth.
It was signed with a single, swirling A, and Rae knew it was from Andy. He looked from the parchment to the bird and shoved the letter into his breast pocket.
“Tell him I got his message,” he said and the hawk gave a soft cry before spreading its massive wings and taking flight again. As it flew back up to the treetops, Rae was showered with twigs and bits of leaves.
He closed his eyes and swallowed.
The decision was made, and it wasn’t between his orders and his gut as Castor had suggested, but rather based on his unwavering trust in his best friend. Rae turned back around and approached the carriage driver who was rearranging the horse’s harnesses. The man looked up as he neared.
“We should be arrivin’ in the Port aroun’ dusk,” the man said, patting the horse’s flank. “Yur’ wife, she ain’ by chance a dan-suh?”
When Rae had flagged the carriage down, he’d told the driver that Evengel was his wife. He’d explained that she’d had a bit too much to drink after they’d gotten married in secret the night before. The man had chortled at this as Rae had pressed an extra coin into his hand.
Rae shifted and tried to smile in a friendly way. “And why would you think that?”
The man grinned. “I heard stories of a gol’ dan-suh, in the Riva’ Market. I nevah see’ anyone with her colorin’ before, an’ I’ve heard she’s incredah-bul.”
Rae forced a chuckle as he stepped closer to the driver who was getting back up into the carriage behind the horses. “Yeah, it’s her. Took a lot of convincing, but she gave in to my persistence in the end.”
“She a lovely thin’… she still gonna dance?”
Rae made a noncommittal noise. “Maybe for our first few years until the babies start coming that is.”
The man nodded. “Well, may-buh I jus have ta’ spen the coin and go see her at the Capital the next time she comes ‘round.”
Rae cleared his throat and shifted so that the man couldn’t see him reaching beneath his arm wraps. “Well, I’m sorry to say, but I don’t think that will be possible.”
The driver looked down at him with confusion. “Eh? And why’s tha-”
But the man never got to finish his sentence, because at that moment Rae slid the dagger in between his ribs, puncturing a lung. He sputtered, and Rae yanked his head down in order to slit his throat before dropping him to the ground with a thud. As blood pooled in the dirt, both horses whinnied, and the carriage doors opened. Rae had just replaced the dagger into its hiding spot when Evengel came into view.
“Rae?” she called, rounding the side of the carriage, and her face went from curiosity to horror as she took in the dead driver at his feet and the blood dripping from his hands. “What… oh Gods… what happened?”
Rae stepped in front of her to block the dead body from view. “Do you know the Captain?” he asked, but Evengel wasn’t listening as she leaned to her right to peer past him.
“Did you kill him?”
“Evengel, this is important,” he said and took a deep breath. “Do you know the Captain?”
Her eyes flickered across his face as he placed both his hands onto her shoulders. But there was no recognition in her features. “The captain…”
Rae nodded. “Yes, the Captain, do you know him?”
“The captain… the captain of what?” she asked, her brow furrowing.
Rae let go of her shoulders and closed his eyes. “You’re not safe,” he muttered. “But why?”
He appraised their surroundings. Luckily, they’d pulled over while on a side road so there was enough foliage to protect them from view of anyone else traveling.
“You had to kill the driver to keep me safe?” she asked as she gazed again at the dead body.
“Yes, I had to kill the driver,” he said and spun around in a circle looking for a good place to drag the man.
“Because, he’d seen you with me. From now on you cannot be seen by anyone. I’ll keep out of sight as well if I can help it.”
Rae picked his way through some of the denser foliage. About fifty feet ahead some trees had fallen over, and the undergrowth was climbing its way over the dead trunks and branches. It would be a good spot for him to hide the man.
Evengel grabbed his arm. “What’s going on?” she demanded.
Rae looked down at her. “I don’t know yet. But I have a contact stationed at the Capital. He will send word once he knows more.”
Evengel bit her bottom lip. “I saw a hawk yesterday, right before everything happened,” she said, letting go of him. “What do we do now, Sergeant?”
A breeze blew her dress against her side, and Rae had to tear his gaze away from her hips and thighs. “I need you to pack everything, leave no trace behind that you were ever in that carriage. That includes sweeping it for any of your hair.”
“And what are you going to do?”
His face hardened. “I need to drag his body deeper into the woods. It needs to look like a robbery or a random attack.”
“How will we travel now, by foot?” she asked as he picked the man up under his armpits.
“Nah,” he said, lifting the body over his left shoulder. “I’ll cut the horses loose. You do know how to ride?”
Evengel gave him an annoyed look before disappearing into the carriage, and Rae couldn’t help but chuckle. It took some time walking through the denser part of the forest, over fallen branches and decaying trunks, until he got to the spot. Before he left, Rae searched the man’s body. It wasn’t that he wanted any of his trinkets, but the driver couldn’t be found with valuables if it were to appear as a robbery.
Placing a single gold coin on the man’s chest, Rae whispered, “Your payment, friend.”
Standing up, he began to pick his way back through the foliage, but Rae hadn’t gotten more than a few feet away when the creature slithered by him to claim its dead. As it passed, one of its tendrils wrapped around his ankle before letting him go. Shuddering, Rae quickened his steps back to the carriage.
“Are you alright?” Evengel asked when he emerged next to the horses.
“Fine,” he said, not meeting her gaze. “We should get going. Did you clear out all your belongings?”
She nodded and leaned against one of the horses.
“Good.” Rae pulled his dagger out and cut through the leather binding the creatures together and handed the reins to Evengel. “Hold that for a minute.”
Turning on the spot, he kicked in the driver’s wheel. It crumbled to the ground, and when he threw his body against the side of the carriage, the other wheels gave way, and it sank into the side of the road with a crash.
Evengel glanced between him and the broken bits of wood that were now scattered around. “That was impressive.”
Rae shrugged. “Happens all the time.”
She gave him a funny look as he helped her up onto the horses back. He held the creature still as she rearranged her clothing so that her legs could grip the horse’s flank.
“Don’t you have shoes?” he asked, looking at her exposed feet.
She squinted down at him as he ran a thumb over her ankle. “I’m a dancer.”
“And dancers don’t wear shoes?”
She grinned and shook her head. “No.”
“Huh…” Rae walked over to his horse and climbed up onto its back. “I guess it’s a good thing we don’t have to go on foot then,” he teased, pulling the harness tighter. But Evengel didn’t respond as she stared at the forest edge.
Following her gaze, Rae’s stomach dropped.
A single, misty, black tendril had crept out of the undergrowth and was wafting toward them, as if waving them onward.
Evengel turned to him, and her eyes were wide. “We should leave,” she whispered.
Rae nodded and kicked into the horse’s side. As they rode away, dozens of ravens took flight from the trees surrounding them.
Author Bio & Information:
Leslie Griffin has a B.A. in Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies and a minor in English from the University of Kansas. Over the years she has completed courses on herbalism, Seichim Reiki, and Registered Behavioral Technician training. She is passionate about early childhood development and education as well as teaching others about Autism Spectrum Disorder. Of Water and Dance is her first published piece of fiction, and she’s previously written articles on herbalism, gardening, self-sufficiency, and traditional medicine in Mother Earth Living Magazine.
Leslie is an avid PC gamer who first fell in love with Fallout 1 when she was in middle school. Currently you can find her playing Kynseed, Medieval Dynasty, Anvil Saga, Sacred Fire, and Ambition. She has two small children, a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, two guinea pigs, three chickens, and a husband whose ADHD has brought home dozens of guitars and speakers, medal smithing equipment in the shape of lathes and smelters, enough art supplies to fill a museum, and more DIY solutions than she thought possible.
Their family motto is: Sharesies! & “It takes as long as it takes.”
Finally: Leslie Griffin is a hat-stall between Hufflepuff and Gryffindor, eventually landing her in the Hufflepuff House.
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