Elfrida, the heroine in my "Snow Bride" is a powerful witch, skilled in healing, finding and more.
She is not invulnerable however, including illness. (Chicken pox, which I had in my 20s and remember vividly.)
Here are two excerpts showing her fretful, irritable and anxious, with Magnus, the warrior who has found her in the woodlands. The first excerpt is from Magnus' point of view.
The Snow Bride
She is Beauty, but is he the Beast?
Book One of The Knight and the Witch
England, winter, 1131
Elfrida, spirited, caring and beautiful, is also alone. She is the witch of the woods and no man dares to ask for her hand in marriage until a beast comes stalking brides and steals away her sister. Desperate, the lovely Elfrida offers herself as a sacrifice, as bridal bait, and she is seized by a man with fearful scars. Is he the beast?
depths of a frozen midwinter, in the heart of the woodland, Sir Magnus,
battle-hardened knight of the Crusades, searches ceaselessly for three missing
brides, pitting his wits and weapons against a nameless stalker of the snowy
forest. Disfigured and hideously scarred, Magnus has finished with love, he
thinks, until he rescues a fourth 'bride', the beautiful, red-haired Elfrida,
whose innocent touch ignites in him a fierce passion that satisfies his deepest
yearnings and darkest desires.
Magnus was worried. The fire he had made should have brought his
people. It was an old signal, well-known between them. His men should have
reached the village by now—that had been the arrangement. They were bringing
traps and provisions in covered wagons, and hunting dogs and horses. He had
been impatient to start his pursuit of the Forest Grendel and so rode ahead,
returning with the messenger until that final stretch when the man turned off
to his home. He had ridden on alone, finding the wayside shrine.
But from then, all had gone awry. Instead of the monster, he had found an ailing witch, and the snowstorm had lost him more tracks and time.
Magnus shook his head, turning indulgent eyes to the small, still figure on the rough pallet. At least the little witch had slept through the night and day, snug and safe, and he had been able to make her a litter from woven branches. He would give his fire signal a little longer and then return Elfrida to her village. There he might find someone who could translate between them.
Perhaps she did have power, for even as he looked at her, she sat up, the hood of her cloak falling away, and stared at him in return. She said something, then repeated it, and he drew in a great gulp of cold air in sheer astonishment, then laughed.
“I know what you said!” He wanted to kiss her, spots and all.
He burst into a clumsy canter, dragging his peg leg a little and almost tumbling onto her bed. She caught him by the shoulders and tried to steady him but collapsed under his weight.
They finished in an untidy heap on the pallet, with Elfrida hissing by his ear, “Why have you done such a foolish thing as to burn all our fuel?”
He rolled off her, knocked snow off his front and beard, and said in return, “How did you know I would know the old speech, the old English?”
“I dream true, and I dreamed this.” She was blushing, though not, he realized quickly, from shyness.
“Why burn so wildly?” she burst out, clearly furious. “You have wasted it! All that good wood gone to ash!”
“My men know my sign and will come now the storm has gone.” He had not expected thanks or soft words, but he was not about to be scolded by this red-haired nag.
“That is your plan, Sir Magnus? To burn half the forest to alert your troops?”
“A wiser plan than yours, madam, setting yourself as bait. Or had your village left you hanging there, perhaps to nag the beast to death?”
Her face turned as scarlet as the fire. “So says any witless fool! ’Tis too easy a charge men make against women, any woman who thinks and acts for herself. And no man orders me!”
Magnus swallowed the snort of laughter filling up his throat. He doubted she saw any amusement in their finally being able to speak to each other only to quarrel. Had she been a man or a lad, he would have knocked her into the snow, then offered a drink of mead, but such rough fellowship was beyond him here.
“And how would you have fought off any knave, or worse, that found you?” he asked patiently. “You did not succeed with me.”
“There are better ways to vanquish a male than brute force. I knew what I was about!”
“Truly? You were biding your time? And the pox makes you alluring?”
“Says master gargoyle! My spots will pass!”
“Or did you plan to scatter a few herbs, perhaps?”
He thought he heard her clash her teeth together. “I did not plan my sickness, and I do not share my secrets! Had you not snatched me away, had you not interfered, I would know where the monster lives. I would have found my sister! I would be with her!” Her voice hitched, and a look of pain and dread crossed her face. “We would be together. Whatever happens, I would be with her.”
“This was Christina?”
“Is Christina, not was, never was! I know she lives!”
Magnus merely nodded, his temper cooling rapidly as he marked how her color had changed and her body shook. A desperate trap to recover a much-loved sister excused everything, to his way of thinking.
She called you a gargoyle! This piqued his vanity and pride.
But she does not think you the monster, Magnus reminded himself in a dazzled, shocked wonder, embracing that knowledge like a lover.
August 15th by Prairie Rose Publications
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Here's a second excerpt, from Elfrida's viewpoint.
a faint shudder. “Do not remind me.” Since stirring, she had been aware of her
whole body tickling and burning. Mark’s idea of rolling in the snow might not
be so bad.
me that the
She did not
say that the village could afford to spare no foodstuffs and would not be
distracted. She had tried to rush off in pursuit of the monster before and
gained nothing, so now she would gather her strength and learn before she
moved. “What did you call the beast?
his head. “It is not known, but I do not think so now, or at least not
outdoors. I have hunted wolf’s heads who have been outlawed and fled into
woodland, and they always have camps and dens and food caches within the
forest. I have found none of those hereabouts.”
caught no sign of any lair of his,” Elfrida agreed.
leaned forward, bracing himself with his injured arm. Elfrida forced herself
not to stare at his stump, but to listen to him.
sense anything?” he asked softly.
you came, I felt something approach.” She frowned, trying to put into words
feelings and impressions that were as elusive as smoke. “A great purpose,” she
said. “A need and urgent desire.”
was frowning. “Have you a charm or magic that will help?”
think I have not tried magic, charms, and incantations? My craft is not like a
sword fight, where the blades are always true. If God does not will it—”
“I have been
in enough fights where swords break.”
men good trackers?”
not be with me, else.” If Magnus was startled by her determination to talk only
of the beast, he gave no sign. “Tell me of your sister and her habits. Did she
keep to the same paths and same tasks each day?”
yes, but what else did Walter say? The old men have told me nothing!”
“No, they do
not want the womenfolk to know anything, even you, I fear.” His kind eyes
gleamed, as if he enjoyed her discomfiture. He had a small golden cross in his
right eye, she noticed, shining amidst the warm brown.
for the lasses, eh, Magnus?
further discomfiture, she realized he had asked her something. “Say again,
like some food to go with your mead? There are the remains of mutton, dates and
ginger, wine and mead and honey.” His brown eyes gleamed. “My men found it in
the clearing where I found you. The mutton has been a bit chewed, but the rest
is palatable, I think.”
drugged!” Elfrida burst out. “I put”—she could not think of the old word and
used her own language instead—“I put a sleeping draft in the wedding cakes and
all.” She seized his arm, not caring that it was the one with the missing hand.
“Do not eat it!”
draft?” He used her own words.
and feigned sleep, startled when he started to laugh.
feast to send the groom to sleep! I like it!” He chuckled again and opened his
left hand, where, to Elfrida’s horror, there was one of her own small wedding
August 15th by Prairie Rose Publications
read with Kindle Umlinted.
To buy on