A Bond of Thread
by Allegra Pescatore & J.P. Burnison
Series: The Mountain Fell
Genre: Fantasy Romance
Intended Age Group: New Adult – Adult
Published: June 21, 2021
Publisher: AO Collective
Enter the Nine Lands of the Mountain Fell.
Skye has only ever known pain and solitude since waking up with neither memories or magic. Hunted for being a Ruler in a time when they are scarce, she has survived in the wilds near the Rim, always on the run from the rest of her kind. Only starvation could draw her close to a village, but when a chance encounter and a bit of bad luck launch her into the arms of a man whose soul is bonded to hers, hiding who she is may no longer be possible.
Ilyas is a hunted man. Wanted for killing the last High Queen of Vine, he is plagued by his past of wholesale slaughter. He never wanted another Queen, and certainly not a half-feral, distrustful girl who gave up on the Fae a long time ago. Unfortunately, Soulbonds are not so easily walked away from, no matter how hard they both may want to, especially when trapped together in a cave with a pack of Feral Fae right outside.
With long-held enmities breaking out between the besieged villagers and all their lives on the line, Ilyas and Skye must learn to work together and trust each other if they want to survive.
#GirlBoss • Red Bull Gave Him Wings • #FaerieLivesMatter
Shown on Page (things clearly told to the reader):
- Mentions of rape, sexual abuse, and torture
- Realistic representation of PTSD
- One romantic sex scene
Alluded to (things only mentioned in passing or hinted at):
- A brief mention of self harm where a character considers killing themselves in a memory
Burgled & Bonded
Since I cannot guarantee that I won’t die, I wanted to write this letter. This way, should I fall tomorrow, you will know what you mean to me and how grateful I am that you barreled into my life and changed every facet of it.
Skye had known her luck was bound to run out eventually. As she crouched in the dark next to the burlap sack of rice, shoveling handfuls into a pouch, the Faerie Queen was well aware of the dangerous game she played. Three weeks earlier, she had stumbled out of a faerie ring not far from this cave. Had she not found it full of provisions, Skye might have jumped right back into the faerie ring and taken her chances at another blind leap across the Lands of the Mountain Fell, but the lure of food had been too strong.
Starvation, Skye found, had always made her dumb. Normally, she would have searched for some out-of-the-way farm that needed extra hands for the harvest. Busy people didn’t usually ask questions about where she came from or her lack of magic. With her body weak from a summer cough that had laid her out for months, though, Skye doubted there was a Faerie alive that would hire her. Going into town wasn’t an option, so thievery was the only choice left. Being a thief was better than being discovered as a Faerie Queen.
Vine was hunting for those.
Hopefully, this would be the last time she would have to steal from the inhabitant of this cave. Her bag was big enough for two weeks of supplies, if she was careful. It might take that long to find another source of food, but the Vine Faerie who lived here was growing suspicious. She had to get out before he got home.
Skye was so focused on her plan that when the strong hand closed upon her wrist, she let out a high-pitched scream. Rice went flying. She jerked back, twisting to face her assailant. The light he had conjured was right behind his head, blinding her and casting his features in darkness. He towered above her, a silhouette of muscular shoulders and huge wings, with a glint of bared teeth.
Skye yanked her hand away. She expected resistance, but his grip went slack, sending her sprawling onto the ground as he let out a sharp gasp.
Scrambling to her feet in a panic, Skye got a whole step away before he grabbed her again. She swiveled, using his hold as leverage to drive her knee squarely into his balls. The Vineman cursed and doubled over at the unexpected attack, letting go. Skye took her opportunity and bolted.
“When I get my hands on you…” he growled. A shimmering ward of Silver essence formed at the entrance to the cave, blocking her way.
Leviathan curse him!
Silver was the second-most powerful eye color. Bad. She would never have stolen from him if she’d realized he held a Silver Gaze. Skye danced back a few steps, teetering as she avoided tripping over any of the crates and baskets of supplies.
Void beyond, why was her luck so bad these days?
“Listen, whatever-your-name-is. I was going to pay you back as soon as I had the money.”
He lunged for her again, and Skye darted to the right, pulling her coat around herself. A single thought activated its magic, making her invisible. It wouldn’t do much good against a man whose every sense was heightened, but any advantage helped. Oh, how she wished she still had magic.
The ball of Faerie-light the man had created moved up to the center of the cave. “You eyeless bitch,” he snarled. “Come out of hiding and I’ll consider not beating you within an inch of death. Just give me back my food you’ve stolen, and you can go.”
It wouldn’t be a bad deal if she still had any of the food she had stolen over the last few weeks. “Can’t do that. Needed it to live. I am really, really sorry.”
To be on the safe side, Skye scampered away from where she had spoken, her bare feet quiet on the rocky ground. The Vineman lunged at the place she had been, arms closing on thin air. Skye tiptoed towards the back of the cave with every intention of fleeing into the dark tunnels down there. There was a chance she might get lost or cornered, but it was better than getting caught.
The man stopped and inhaled deeply. He looked around, then closed his eyes. His body stilled, and she could feel his essence wash over her. Cool water over warm skin, a sizzle of deep power. It brushed against her skin, making her shiver. Skye didn’t move, holding her breath, and prayed to the Mountain itself that he didn’t sense her.
He shouldn’t. Whatever had taken away Skye’s magic had also made her a null-spot. Power slid right off her, especially when she was using her coat.
Everything was fine.
He wouldn’t find her.
A hunting knife appeared in his hand out of nowhere and in a fluid motion, he threw it with shocking accuracy. The weapon sparked off the wall, missing Skye’s head by inches before bouncing and skittering along the floor. Startled, Skye nearly jumped out of her skin, gasping in fear. The Vineman swiveled to face her as his eyes opened, and looked directly at her. “I can smell how afraid you are. Show yourself, and we can work something out.”
Skye blinked, then clamped her hands over her mouth to muffle her scream as he moved toward her with unnatural speed. He stopped hardly a foot away, his eyes searching the area. Skye swallowed very, very slowly, not daring to so much as breathe. Too close. He was too close.
She realized, belatedly, that her eyes were squeezed shut in fright. That was beyond stupid. Skye forced them open, meeting and holding his Silver ones for the first time without a blinding light behind him.
Everything stilled. Those eyes bored into hers and, like the quicksilver they resembled, his soul poured into Skye and wrapped around the core of her being. She could have sooner stopped her own heart from beating than halt the connection forming between them. Even as terror consumed her, the part of Skye that was a Faerie Queen roared to life.
He is yours, it whispered.
The realization hit her like a charging ram: Soulbond. Queens and Kings were born into the Gentry—the highest echelon of Fae society—but every Ruler elevated others. Each Soulbonded formed part of a Faerie Ring, the group of Faeries that facilitated a Ruler’s rise to power and helped them in their work. Skye had read that in a book once and had subsequently done everything she could to avoid Soulbonds. Just like she was avoiding thinking about the terrifying Silver-Eyed Faerie in front of her by focusing on a book.
This is a very bad time to freeze, Skye.
Reflexively stepping back, she tripped on a basket. Flailing wildly to keep her balance, and with a distressed cry, Skye lost her footing. An electric zing passed between them when he caught her, the hood of her coat falling back and making her visible again. The Bond settled into place, wrapping around her like a noose. Skye tried to yank away but his hold on her only tightened as he stepped forward, slamming her against the cave wall.
“Let me go,” she squeaked while squirming to get free.
With one arm, he pressed her against the cool stone and held her there. Those Silver eyes flashed dangerously as he leaned in. “Hold still.”
His free hand patted down her body. Shivering in panic, Skye wondered what he was about to do. Until she realized he was searching her pockets and bags on her belt. When he seemed satisfied that she had no more of his food, he dropped her.
The ward at the entrance to the cave vanished and her Bonded backed away, teeth bared, “Get out. Your kind has brought me nothing but trouble. I want nothing to do with you.”
Skye’s feet hit the ground and didn’t hesitate. Bond or no, those wings marked the Silver-Eyed Faerie as being from warring, brutal Land of Vine. Skye wanted nothing to do with him either. She sprinted for the opening of the cave, half-expecting the ward to pop back up.
There was an uncomfortable tug in her chest as she fled, but the Queen ignored the pull to her Bonded. If the Mountain wished to saddle her with a Bond, she would tell it what she always did whenever she stubbed her toe on a rock: go collapse into the Void and die.
Skye skidded to a halt near the edge of the ravine, just shy of toppling down the mountain. Banking a hard left up the rocky path, she scrambled and jumped from rock to rock with every intention of getting as far from the Vineman as possible. The sun burned her eyes after weeks of hiding in the dark caves, but that didn’t stop her.
A strange scream did.
It rent the air as she rounded the bend, shrill and inhuman. Skye stumbled, squinting into the brightness.
Stopping to listen, she looked around, then wished she hadn’t.
Dark shapes were crawling up the sheer slope to her location. Some of them looked vaguely like High Fae, but most did not. Extra limbs protruded from their torsos, hands twisted into talons, and faces bristled with too many eyes and teeth. Their skin was patchy, some sections smooth and others scaled or feathered.
Had she offended some luck spirit or something? The last thing she needed was Ferals.
Between the larger ones, little voidlings scuttled and leapt from rock to rock, their shapes even more bizarre and disturbing. Scuffling and snarling sounds were replaced by a shrill shriek as one with too many eyes spotted her.
Skye’s gaze darted to the faerie ring on the valley floor far below. Could she make it? It was unlikely. The distance was too great and she would have to go through the mass of Ferals, but would that be preferable to the alternatives?
No time to think about it.
One of the monsters leapt onto the ledge further down the path, letting loose another bloodcurdling scream.
Almost tripping on her own feet in her hurry, the Queen turned and raced back the way she had come. She barreled into the entrance of the cave, pressed herself to the wall just inside, and turned frightened eyes to the Vineman. “Put the ward back up. Now!”
A thin ray of Silver essence crashed into the wall next to her head, exploding it in a burst of sharp stone shards. Several embedded themselves in the arm Skye flung up to protect her face, the pain sharp.
Her Void-damned Bonded hadn’t even looked at Skye, but his open hand was pointing straight at her. “Leave.”
“But there are—” she tried.
His hand shifted, fingers flexing threateningly. Then his eyes met hers. “Last chance, thief. I’ve killed Rulers before. Run.”
Balling up her fists, Skye bellowed back, “Ferals.” Which she would have already told him if he had shut up for two bloody seconds.
Her Bonded opened his mouth just as a howl echoed through the caves. His eyes flew wide and Skye felt the Vineman’s essence wash over her as it flowed through the mountain. He began muttering to himself. It sounded like he was … counting? After the number fifty, his gaze snapped back to her. “Ferals and voidlings. Too many to fight single-handedly. The village below needs to be warned.”
Had he said go warn the village? With Ferals and voidlings out there? Skye opened her mouth to protest and tell him they were staying put. His Silver wards would keep them—
She was cut off when he grabbed her around the waist, tugging Skye close hard enough to knock the breath out of her. Skye yelped and jerked, but the Silver-Eyed brute tightened his grip. He took several running steps then leapt off of the cliff.
She shrieked as they plummeted toward the valley floor before all the air was expelled from her lungs as his wings snapped open to catch the wind. Cursing loudly, Skye wrapped her arms and legs around her Bonded as vertigo assailed her.
They were flying.
She might have been named after the air, but Skye very much preferred having her feet firmly on the ground. In the arms of this man that she didn’t know, she found herself hundreds of feet in the air, diving down through the valley towards—
“No. Nononono. You can’t take me to town. Put me down! NOW!” Between falling to her death and going to town, falling sounded marginally better.
“The Deepest-Gazed Fae I’ve seen there has Golden eyes,” he told her, glancing over his shoulder. “The town is practically undefended, and I have no intention of leaving them, or you, to get torn apart and eaten by a few hundred Ferals.”
Her arms tightened around his neck.
He picked up speed, rising further into the air. Behind them, the shrieks and animalistic cries were growing louder, even over the roar of the wind. Skye cracked her eyes open, and immediately wished she hadn’t. Below them was a veritable army of Feral Fae. Their bodies seemed to twist and shift like clay, growing extra limbs as needed to navigate the steep terrain. Feral Faeries—Fae lost to the corrupting touch of the Void—maintained all the powers of their original form, but without the mind to guide them. No longer in control of their own magic, let alone themselves, these had clearly been Shapeshifting Grass natives, which meant—
“What happens when they grow wings?” she asked, panic making her voice quake.
Raising one hand, the man holding her twisted mid-flight and extended his arm in the direction of the Ferals. A ray of Silver power shot out from his hand into the horde. Another ray followed after it, and then another. Each time, the Feral he had targeted disappeared, burned up by the raw essence. The monsters screamed and howled, many growing bat-like wings.
“Shouldn’t we be hurrying?” Skye shouted as he continued to shoot rays of essence into the horde, slowing their speed considerably.
“You could help instead of being useless.” He snarled as he continued, “Either start fighting or shut up and continue being a sack of grain.”
If he wasn’t the only thing keeping Skye from falling to her death, she might have pointed out that if he hadn’t literally flown off with her, she wouldn’t be in this situation. That didn’t seem like the sort of comment that would prolong her life, though.
Cursing again, Skye tried to reach within herself for magic. Any magic. As always, the power that should have been hers given the Golden color of her eyes did not respond. She was supposed to be able to do something. Not so much as a flicker, even though her life might well depend on it. “I can’t.”
Through the nascent Bond between them, his annoyance burned like fire. He muttered something uncomplimentary about Queens and tossed her over his shoulder. “Sack of grain it is.” Pulling his wings in, he dove towards the Ferals that had taken flight. As he got closer, he twisted and spun, gaining momentum with every rotation.
We’ve been Bonded for all of a few minutes, and he’s already going to get me killed.
Skye braced for the bite of teeth and claws ripping her apart.
Silver rays of essence burst from the Vine Faerie, shooting in every direction. These were thin, piercing spikes, meant to wound. Ferals shrieked and fell from the sky as limbs and wings alike were torn asunder, thinning the number of monsters and giving the Vineman an opening he was quick to take advantage of. At the speed they were going, and with his wings pulled in tight, they were clear of the horde within a single heartbeat. As soon as they emerged on the other side of the swarm of flying beasts, he pulled out of the dive, snapped his black-and-white feathered wings wide, and turned back towards the town, using the speed he had gained in the dive.
“Still with me, Queenling?” he asked, sounding winded.
Skye didn’t reply. If she opened her mouth, she was going to vomit.
“Good, I won’t have to deal with you grumbling.”
Says the man doing the grumbling. Void take your wings.
Skye held on tighter to him as he increased his speed, heading towards the last place she wanted to go: civilization.
Author Bio & Information:
Allegra grew up in a small village in northern Tuscany as the daughter of two artists. She was raised on the works of J.R.R Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Phillip Pullman, Frank Herbert, and many others, all read aloud to her while she drew and played make-believe. She began to write at the age of eight and hasn’t stopped since.
After many moves and dozens of countries visited, she now lives in a cozy cottage in Western PA. She is accompanied in her current adventures by husband Job, co-conspirator and long-time writing partner Tobias, and a small army of furry and scaly pets. When not writing or daydreaming, Allegra rules her kitchen with an iron first and feeds everyone who walks through her door. She also gardens, dabbles in various art forms, and spins stories for her tabletop gaming group.
As a disabled woman and staunch LGBTQ ally, Allegra hopes to write engaging, diverse, and representative Fantasy and Science Fiction, where people who do not often see themselves center stage get the chance to shine.
Her debut book, Where Shadows Lie, was an SPFBO Semi-Finalist and is a CIBA award finalist. It is the first book of The Last Gift series, and the first title of Project Ao, by Ao Collective Publishing. Other titles in Project Ao include NACL: Eye of the Storm (2021 SPFBO Semi-Finalist) and A Bond of Thread.
Co-author of The Mountain Fell series, along with Allegra and E. Sands, Justin joined the team in 2019 to help create the Fae Lands. Working as a tight-knit team, the three writers use a collaborative back-and-forth style to craft the action and adventure in the upcoming series. Justin lives in Florida with his spouse, Quinn, and two fuzzy and rambunctious cats.
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