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ISBN-10: 1-89484-184-0
Genre: Fantasy/SF
eBook Length: 530 Pages
Published: September 2002

Total Readers: 3

From inside the flap

A thousands years from now they will still be faced with the same problems...

For the past two hundred years, Longforest has been the home of a collection of people who call themselves 'The Company', a band of warriors, priests, druids, and a few who defy easy description. Based in the druid community, they have defended their home and sought to keep un-natural creatures out of the world. They are not an army, nor do they follow any King or leader except the one they appoint. In every major conflict, the Company has been present to bring an end to the war either by making peace, or defeating the aggressor.

Reviews and Awards

Wolfheart is a well-written epic fantasy, somewhat in the manner of Mercedes Lackey's Mage Wars series. The beginning chapters are over packed with characters and details, but that's a common hazard in fantasy adventure. By the middle third of the book, I was happily ensconced in my chair, watching events and characters unfold,
enjoying the occasional dab of humor. The separate scenes involving Tayan, Amber, and Aliana were particularly good.

Try Wolfheart, and settle in with Mr. Cross for a good, long read.
Jeanette Cottrell, Reviewer
eBook Reviews Weekly

WolfHeart (Excerpt)

Prologue (Twilight's Child)

The small band sloshed through the sodden field, hands on their hoods to keep the wind-driven rain off their faces. A sudden strong gust assaulted them. The second-to-last man in line pawed at his baldhead to retrieve his bit of protection as the wind tried to slide it back. The one right behind the woman lost his completely. His long red hair slapped against hisneck as he reached back to regain his cover.

Squinting against the cold drops pummeling his face, he called over the storm, "I say, this is nasty weather!?

"Lady, do you put up with this all the time?" asked the bald man. His hood now on square, he held it firmly against the wind.

"Not usually," she called back. "Thank you for helping me gather my tubers."

"You are most welcome, m'lady, especially since you are going to shelter us from this heavenly onslaught," the man with the thick waist shouted from the end of the line.

The bald one half-turned to him. "You needed a bath anyway, Erin!"

"Ha! No more than you, Charles--the lady may need nose plugs!"

?What she will need is new chairs, should she let you sit!? Charles shot back with a laugh.

Erin gave him a slight shove, his hand quickly returning to its grip on his hood. ?I would warn her to keep the lighting low, in fear of the glare from your head!?

"Both of you show some manners!" the red-hairedman barked. "Or else the lady may refuse you entry."

"Mayhap she'llrefuse you entry for not having the manners to ask her proper name, Gordon," Charles retorted.

The woman glanced back with a smile. These men liked to tease each other; she knew now they meant nothing mean-spirited by their words.

When she saw them approaching earlier in the day, she had been wary of them. Even after she sensed that they were not wicked, she took their bantering for anger. Ever cautious of strangers, she accepted their help only because the rains were ruining her crop, which was her winter food supply. For a while she stayed apart from them, feeling for their intent with her mind. When she was comfortable that they were, indeed, who they claimed to be, traveling priests, she lowered her guard. These were good men, not like the others.

?My name is Sam, and I will not refuse you entry to my hut. You all need hot food and rest before you go on," she told them.

Another gust howled by, driving the rain horizontal. They leaned into the gale, heads down. As they made their way up to the log hut, the wind ebbed to a stiff breeze.

"?Tis a shame such a pretty lady has the name of a man,? Erin said sadly.

Charles waved the hand holding the bag of tubers skyward. "When did you see her face in all this??

Erin frowned at him. "I have seen a glimpse of the lady's beauty--the gods have smiled upon her."

"Perhaps Erin wishes an extra plate to smile on him!? the red-haired Gordon laughed.

Everyone chuckled except Sam. She stopped before the door to her hut and turned to them. Doubt once again filled her. Was she doing the right thing?

She remembered the last man who had visited her; it had hurt her deeply to kill him. His visit proved that she could not escape cruelty and death completely. The only solace she got from that visit was thatshe had finished him as humanely as possible. She did not share her mother's taste for watching people suffer; that was why she had run away from the underworld. The things her mother did to innocents turned her stomach.

?Erin, you said you have seen my face?"

She said it so seriously the men were taken by surprise.

"Have I offended you?? Erin asked. "Some hide their faces because it is their religion. If I have transgressed, please forgive me."

She peered up slightly at him and shook her head. " No, you did not offend me. I just wanted to be sure...? Sensing them again, all she felt was concern, no fear yet.

They gathered around her in a semicircle, almost as if to protect her. From Erin she got the feeling he wanted to hug and comfort her. That would be pleasant, indeed; she had always dreamed of sharing something besides endless bitterness and hatred.

Her pause made them all listen closely.

"Please go on," Erin urged softly.

She looked up a little more, concern in her large brown eyes. "I do not appear normal to most. I thought I might be offensive to you.?

?We can stand to look at Charles here, and that takes some doing.? Gordon grinned, trying to lighten the moment.

Sam's heart was in her throat. She would just as soon stay under the safety of her hood. These men were going to spend the night, and one might see her by accident. That was how the other man had died. It had to be done now, when she could retreat inside if things turned bad. Gathering her nerve, she slowly pulled her hood up to show them her whole face.

In the dim light they could all see the apprehension in her finely cast features as she gazed back at them. A few strings of dark hair looped low on her forehead as the wind flapped the cloth against her face.

Gordon studied her, wondering how she could possibly think herself offensive. She was young and very pretty, more so than any other woman he had ever seen. If she lived in the city, it was easy to envision a small army of men trying to gain her attention.

Erin looked into her eyes and smiled. "Lady Sam, I see nothing to be offended by. Understand, we are holy men; your looks are not as important to us as your heart is. That is where true beauty or ugliness lies."

Charles wrapped his cloak a bit tighter. "And now we see you are not a monster, may we go inside and dry out?"

She beamed at them, exhaling the breath she hadn?t realized she was holding. Finally, ones who didn?t care. Men who could see past her appearance.

"Yes, please.? She opened the door and went in, followed by the others. Using a spark from her finger, she lit the candle by the door then tipped another to it.

?You have magic?? Erin asked as she handed him one of the candles.

Sam shrugged slightly. ?Nothing great, just a few useful tricks. I hate messing with flint and steel.?

?Especially in wet weather.? Gordon chuckled. Raising his bag of tubers, he asked, ?Where do you want these??

She pointed off to the right. ?There are bins against the wall, if you would be kind enough to put them in.? She then moved to the table, lighting two more candles that stood in plain iron holders.

In the growing light, the simple cabin took form. The fieldstone fireplace sat square in the middle of the back wall, with cooking pots and fire pokers hanging from metal pegs set in the stone. On the far right wall, rough-cut timbers made shelves and bins for storage. Atable with two stools sat to the left, and beyond that was a dark doorway.

?It must be lonely, living out here by yourself,? Erin called over his shoulder as he dumped his bag into the bin.

Sam had moved over to get a fire going. Kneeling down, she paused at his words. It was lonely. She was becoming weary of her isolated life. She was tired of hiding from the few who did venture down the weed-infested road, fearing they would see her and attack, or run away to bring many down on her. She thought about telling them these things but held back.

?Very,? she replied softly.

Gordon, who had finished emptying his bag, perked up at her melancholy reply.

?Perhaps you would like to travel with us to Newburg?? he suggested brightly. ?We are going there to take sabbatical. It is a quiet little town with good people; and if you don?t want to stay, it's only a week's travel back.?

Sam pulled her hood to one side as she looked up at him. The offer was genuine and very tempting. Maybe the town was full of people like these, a place where she would not have to be so wary. She let herself daydream briefly about being on a street in broad daylight, walking and talking with others. Maybe even to walk arm-in-arm with her own man, as she had seen others do in the distance from the safety of the trees.

?The people in Newburg, are they all as nice as you?? she asked.

?Most are.? He grinned. Waving a hand at her, he said, ?Think about it. If you want to go with us, you are welcome.?

She nodded. Hope at last, she thought. She had never believed that everyone in the world hated her. When she ran away, she just hadn?t run far enough. This place, this Newburg, would be her salvation. Her heart was lighter as she dipped her candle under the tinder. The fire caught, and as it spread to brighten the room, her spirits brightened as well. She had a chance for a new beginning.

?Our cloaks go by the door?? Erin asked from behind her.

?Yes,? she said as she stood. The flames were licking up and starting to dance. Soon, she would have more than the dancing of the flames at night to entertain her. She took off her own cloak, shaking loose her long dark hair and stretched her small batwings, fluttering them briefly. Turning to the men to find out if they would prefer venison or beef, she saw they were frozen in various stages of removing their cloaks, gawking at her.

"What's wrong?" she asked, nowsensing fear from them.

Charles was first to raise a badly shaking finger. ? horns...and wings!"

Sam reached up and touched the rounded nubs on her forehead. "Yes, I thought you knew I had them.?

The men now reeked of fear. It didn?t make any sense! ?Erin, you said you saw--"

"You are a demon!" Erin cried.

"Half demon, yes," she started to explain, "But, you see, I--"

"Eeevill!" Gordon hissed.

She shook her head as she cowered from them. This cannot be happening! her mind screamed. These were good men--she couldn?t have been wrong about that.

"I am not evil!? she cried.

The men spread in a wide half-circle, trapping her by the fireplace. Gordon pointed an accusing finger at her.

?You lured us in by pretending to need help. You tricked us!?

Sam shook her head--how could they even think that? ?Please, calm down for--?

A vial crashed across her nose, blinding her and cutting her cheek.

?The holy water affects her, she is evil!" Charles pronounced.

Sam tried to get the water and glass cleared out of her eyes as she held up a hand to stop them. Half upright, not quite facing them, she had opened her mouth to tell them they were wrong when something round and hard slammed into her stomach. She stumbled back into the wall, mouth and eyes wide with pain. Before she could do anything, Charles grabbed a poker and slammed itdown on her shoulder, driving her to the floor. She got out a tiny scream and tried to crawl away.

?Kill the vile beast!" Charles yelled as he held the poker aloft to smash it down on her again. She managed to roll to on side; the poker cracked into the floor beside her.

She was not so lucky with the mace Gordon produced. He swung the iron ball down, making solid contact with her side. Erin missed her head, but the shovel he wielded caught a piece of her wing and ripped a good portion of her blouse away. The poker struck her hip then a boot slammed into her face.

She tried desperately to escape the pounding. They were going to kill her if she didn't do something soon. Their attack had surprised her--these men had laughed and helped her dig out her tubers before the rains ruined them. Now they were beating her to death.

Doing the only thing she had presence of mind to, she screeched and cast the room into darkness. She was still being hit and kicked as she scrambled towards her bedroom. One wing was broken, smashed into her back; then something hit her ankle hard enough that she felt it shatter. Bright spots appeared before her eyes. The pain was great, but she had long ago learned to deal with pain. She crawled for her life.

The three men stayed in the living area, banging on the floor and calling for their god to give them light. When the light did come back, they didn't see her anywhere. They looked about wildly.

"Over here. You wish to try and kill me then have at it!" she snarled in a low, rough voice.

They turned to see her leaning against the doorway holding a large sword set to slash anyone who came close. Her face was bloodied and her body bruised, the remains of her blouse hung off her shoulders and one upright wing wasin shreds. She was breathing heavily, her mouth turned up in a snarl, showing a set of fangs. In this state she truly looked like a thing from hell.

Gordon was the first to break his stare. "Now, all at once--we must rush the thing and kill it!"

She had been shocked at their attack, now she was enraged. Letting her demonic heritage run free, she no longer felt the pain of her wounds. The one thing she had learned from her mother was how to inflict pain. She didn't shy away as they came at her but growled in defiance.

Jumping at Gordon first, she screamed and swung with all her might, slashing deep into his left arm. Yanking the blade free, she drove it into Erin, burying better than a foot of the blade into his large stomach. His eyes grew wide as he clutched at his wound and stumbled back. Something slammed into her back, breaking the fragile structure of her remaining wing. Howling, she swung her weapon in an arc that tore through Charles's throat. Blood spurted from the large gash in a cascade.

Her ankle gave way. She went down, screaming and ranting " Get out! Get out of my house!" as she chopped at the men from the floor.

The men retreated--or tried to. Erin stumbled to the door, both hands holding his bleeding stomach. Charles took two steps back and fell flat, lying still. Gordon backed away, shouting every curse he had ever heard at her as he danced to avoid her sword. She caught a bit of his shoe, clipping off a corner and his little toe. He turned and hobbled after Erin out into the rain.

Crawling to the door, she got it shut and worked the bar in place. Leaning against it, she pulled her good leg up and hugged it. As she calmed down, her snarling faded into weeping. The pain of her wounds came back with a vengeance. Through the haze of her tears, she noticed Charles bleeding all over the floor.

"Why!" she cried at him. "You are not dead yet--answer me! I let you into my home and you try to kill me. Why?"

Charles rolled his head over to look at her. There was a pleading look in his eyes as he mouthed "Demon.? His one arm spasmed and his eyes saw no more.

"Damn you!" she screamed, throwing the sword at the corpse. "Damn you to hell!"

Crying in wracking sobs, she knew now that she was cursed to be alone. Even these kind, holy men turned ugly when they found out what she was. There was no place on the surface world for her, just as there was none below. There was not one who would ever accept her--she was doomed to live alone for all time. That knowledge hurt worse than all the pains in her body.

Outside, as the two men staggered away from the hut, the wind seemed to amplify the banshee wail that rent the air.