by Vanessa MacLellan
Publication date: July 30th 2022
Genres: Adult, Dark Fantasy, Fantasy, Horror
Balin stands between two great Powers. One will shatter his mind; the other will destroy his soul. Only one of them can save his people.
Fort Resonbirg, a Norse stronghold in the New World, is besieged by the evil sorcerer Ursulard the Dreamspinner. Though their fields are scorched and homes destroyed, the residents and refugees do not worry, because Fort Resonbirg is Awakened with the power to provide, protect, and grow. But not all is as it seems when a wall of impenetrable mist surrounds the fort, and within the mist hunts the dragon, Nidhogg. Nidhogg hungers for more than flesh and bone. It instills nightmares on its prey, feeding on fear and pain, inevitably taking lives.
Balin Tremore, a commoner bound for the militia but hoping to stay by his noble love’s side, never expected to amount to grand things. When the great power of Cradleweaving is awakened within him, Balin unknowingly becomes the one person with the power to pierce the wall of mist and banish the deadly beast within before it destroys them all—if he can master the new power in time. But to master the power, he must sacrifice much. The question is, will it be his position, his Lady, or his very soul?
The Mist meets Nightmare on Elm Street in this classic tale of personal sacrifice.
He rapped his knuckles against the wooden door, leaning against the frame to take the strain from his leg.
“Who is there?”
“It is I, Balin Tremore.” He glanced up and down the hallway. Vacant. “I request an audience.”
The door swung open. “Please enter with an open heart, Balin.” Elaine beamed at him, her joy evident in the musical laughter in her words.
Balin stepped inside, and Elaine slammed the door closed.
“Is Kirsten here?” he asked, scanning the suite for Elaine’s handmaiden.
Elaine shook her head. “She’s getting fabric.” With no warning, she threw her arms around Balin’s shoulders and hugged him close. “I’m so, so, so glad you are well,” she said, her words held stiffly, as if voicing a vow. “Don’t ever do that again. Don’t ever.” She squeezed him. His body took a moment to react, and then he melted into her hold.
He embraced her, brushing his cheek against her plum silk shirt, holding her close, praying to Baldr that she’d never be taken from his arms. He inhaled her lilac scent and closed his eyes.
She pulled back, and the intensity in her gaze captured his breath. They were of a same height, except for when she wore ball shoes and could stare down at him with haughty superiority. She’d tease him then, drape her arm over his shoulders when nobody was looking their way. He didn’t mind, he just enjoyed being close to her. Now, however, no tease twinkled in her stormy eyes. Only worry and determination resided there, and he hated to see all those emotions in turmoil over her sweet features.
“Balin, would you just give in? You don’t have to return to the field.”
Balin took in a breath and let his gaze slip from hers to stare at the side of her nose. “I can’t do that.”
“Yes. You can.” She pulled away sharply, turning her back on him as she charged into her sitting room, her strong trouser-clad legs cutting the distance to a few strides. She gleaned pieces of paper from her writing desk and tromped back towards him, shaking the papers in his face. “I’ve completed the requisition. All I need is the Hauld’s approval, and after you and William—” she waved her hands through the air in a grand gesture, the papers crackling under the abuse, “—there’s no way he wouldn’t agree to you being my steward.”
They’d had this argument before, and Balin found it harder and harder to refuse her.
But he wanted to be so much more to her than just her steward.
“I don’t even need your approval, you know.” Her eyes narrowed, and her mouth turned into a frown.
He dropped his shoulders back, attention wandering over the copper molding encircling her ceiling. “You wouldn’t do that.”
“Don’t you tempt me, Balin Tremore. If it means keeping you out of the war, I will do what I have to do.”
The command in her voice drew his attention back to her face. He scooped up her hands, papers and all, and pressed his forehead to hers. They stood that way for a moment, Elaine’s breathing fast, Balin’s heart thumping in his ears. Those weeks in the cage, cold, starving, he’d wanted her. Wanted her soft touch. Her amused smile. He’d kept her stored in his mind in the hidden places Zebbens couldn’t beat out of him.
“We have to fight him, Elaine. Every one of us, we all have to do what we can.”
“Then, Balin,” she argued, her voice a terse whisper, “that means I need to be out there, too.”
Through his bangs, he saw her looking at him. He rolled his forehead against hers until their noses touched. “You can’t go out there, Elaine,” he whispered, the words hovering between their nearly touching lips.
“I’m a better fencer than you.”
“Fencer, not swordsman, they aren’t the same.”
Behind him, the door opened.
“Oh, Miss, I’m so sorry to intrude,” Kirsten said.
The air crackled with anticipation, but Kirsten, so-sorry-to-intrude, didn’t leave.
Balin bowed his head and slowly pulled away. Then he turned to the handmaiden. “Hello, Kirsten.”
Vanessa MacLellan was born and raised in the farmlands of eastern Washington, works as an environmental engineer, and is an avid birder, naturalist and hiker living in Portland, Oregon.
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