And so, to celebrate, I'm going to share an excerpt from Rose Petals and Snowflakes, which is my high fantasy mash-up between Sense and Sensibility and Snow White and Rose Red. Really looking forward to getting back to this story when I get the chance.
Please note that this is largely unedited and may change in the final version.
When Elinrose finally stopped for the night, a terrible crash tore the air, spooking the horse that she had not yet tied. The poor steed ran into the woods, with all of the supplies that she had brought with her. And, as she was still staring dumbly after it, it began to rain.
“Well, well, weren’t you ever told that it’s not a good idea to wander into the Forest, Princess?”
It was a man’s voice, and yet, when Elinrose spun around to face the speaker, she saw no man.
She wouldn’t let that perturb her – it was not her way to let anyone know that she was at their mercy. “I seek my brother,” she answered. “And how do you know that I am a princess?”
“You wear the crest of the north country,” the speaker answered. “And I have been following you since you crossed the border – it’s not often that people cross into this territory. Even rarer that they’re allowed to leave. You really should have left your brother alone.”
Elinrose frowned, wishing she knew what this man wanted of her. He had to want something of her, to be talking to her. That was how the Forest worked. Everyone knew that.
“My brother must be returned home,” she answered. “I did not care for the dangers.”
“Then you are not as sensible as they say, Princess Elinrose,” the man answered. “Still, loyalty to your family is to be admired. And there was a time when I was not as sensible as I thought I was.”
Another crack of lighting boomed above them, illuminating the clearing for a split-second, and Elinrose finally beheld the stranger.
A large bear.
She stifled a gasp and took a step backwards, eyes widening. She fought for her composure, though, and stared the beast firm in the eye. “Do you know where I might find my brother?”
If legend and lore were to be believed, this bear could be as easily friend as foe. And he hadn’t seemed to terribly foe-ish, yet.
“I might,” he answered. “How desperately do you wish to find him?”
He was bargaining. Elinrose knew better than to give in to such a scheme – yet what could she do? Her brother had to be found and she was without a horse now.
“I’m afraid that my horse ran off with everything I have of value,” she answered, with a shake of her head.
“Did he, now?” asked the bear, tilting his head to the side. “How unfortunate.”
Elinrose lifted her chin. “Are you patronizing me?”
The bear took a step towards her, giving a growl that sounded strangely – and terrifyingly – like a chuckle. “You have courage, princess. Perhaps I shall take pity on you.”
“I don’t need your pity,” she answered.
“Ah, but you do – and your brother as well,” the bear answered. “So does every mortal soul that steps foot inside this forest. Pity, for they are fools. Come, mount upon my back, and I will take you to your brother. He has sadly entangled himself in a web that will not be easily undone.”
He took another step towards her, and every muscle in her body screamed to run, but she held her ground.
“How can I trust you?” she asked.
He gave another growling chuckle. “You already trusted yourself to this forest, and it is a thousand times more dangerous than I could ever be,” he answered. “You will trust me because you must. Without my help, you have no help of finding your brother – no hope of finding your way out of this forest.”
“And you’re doing this purely out of pity?” she asked.
“Does it surprise you that a bear can possess a heart?” he asked. “Did you not know that our hearts are the largest in the forest? Come now, let us find your brother. If I have heard correctly, your father’s life drains away as we speak. There is no time to waste.”
He was upon her now. Even on his all-fours, he stared her in the eye. And, yet that seemed to reassure her, for though his mouth was filled with teeth sharp indeed, those eyes were strangely gentle. And human.
“You are a trifle large for me to mount,” she pointed out.
“True enough, but we must manage,” he answered. He turned away from her and shifted down so that his belly was against the forest floor.
She grimaced as she took a hold of a large clump of his fur, hoping that she wasn’t hurting him, and climbed onto the beast’s back in a heartbeat. In the rain, the bear smelled strongly of wet dog, and Elinrose knew that her dress was ruined for good.
Fortunately, she’d had the foresight to wear an old dress.
“Hold tight,” the bear ordered, and then he took off at a bounding run.
The forest blurred into a streak of gray-green, and she held tightly to two fistfuls of the bear’s fur, not knowing what else to cling to. He wasn’t complaining, so she supposed that it must be all right. At length, he slowed to a walk, pausing every few moments to sniff the air.
“So, what are you called?” she asked, after a moment. When he didn’t answer, she continued, “Come now, I can’t just call you ‘bear,’ now can I?”
“Bear will do,” he answered. “Now, be quiet. We’re near your brother.”
Elinrose clamped her mouth closed in a frown.