The Shrike & The Shadows: Exclusive Sneak Peek at Chapter One!


With the upcoming release of "The Shrike and the Shadows" seeming so far away ~ March 3rd 2020~ AM Wright and I thought we'd be generous to share an exclusive chance to read the first chapter of our book during the Parliament House Celebration of Mabon!

Be sure to check out all the fun! @theparliamentpress (IG)

You can also participate in the awesome giveaway The Parliament House is conducting! Enter HERE for the chance to win a $5 Amazon Gift Card, and your choice of 5 Digital Parliament House Books!

AM Wright and I are holding our own giveaway: Enter the chance to win ONE Physical ARC of "The Shrike and the Shadows" (Open to US Only) Exciting stuff, right?

If you haven't already, be sure to add "The Shrike and the Shadows" to your GoodReads TBR List!

And without further ado.

Shrike [shrahyk] : any of numerous predaceous oscine birds of the family Laniidae, having a strong, hooked, and toothed bill, feeding on insects and sometimes on small birds and other animals: the members of certain species impale their prey on thorns or suspend it from the branches of trees to tear it apart more easily, and are said to kill more than is necessary for them to eat.

Prologue:

“Papa!” a young boy cried. “Papa! Papa!”

A flame came to life on a bedside candle, sparking a tiny light in the one-room cottage where the boy slept with his sister and father.

“Hush,” a deep voice replied from one side of the room. A tall man approached the young boy and knelt beside his bed, the little flame lighting every line of his tired face.

“Hush now, Hans. I’m here.”

The little boy cried, wiping away big tears as they rolled down his warm cheeks. “I had a bad dream, Papa.”

The man’s thick brows creased. “Tell me.”

“I saw Mama,” he sobbed quietly. “She tricked me, Papa. She told me she had a surprise for me.”

The boy’s father’s frown deepened. “Mama would have never tricked you.”

“But she did, she did!” he insisted. “We were in the woods... and you and Greta... you were dead, Papa. And then Mama tricked me!”

“Shh, your sister is sleeping,” his father chided gently. “How did Mama trick you?”

“She had a thing in her basket,” he choked out hurriedly.

“A thing?”

“It was beating, Papa. It was red—”

His father pressed a finger to his lips. “That’s enough. You’re all right, Hans. And so is your sister. We’re here.”

Hans whimpered as tears spilled over the spots where others had dried. “It was a bad dream.”

“So it was,” his father nodded in agreement. “You’ve had a long day. Perhaps too much to eat?”

“Maybe.” Hans sniffled.

“I know you’re ten now, but you still need your rest, my boy. Go back to sleep.” His father patted the cot with a gentle hand. “I’ll be here beside you.”

“Promise?” His lip quivered, threatening more tears. His father was right. He was ten now, and so was Greta. He had to be braver than the bad dreams that came to him at night.

His father snuffed out the flame. The only light left in the room coming from the dimly-lit hearth. And so, Hans closed his eyes as his father’s warm hand brushed against his forehead.

“I promise.”

Chapter One:

GRETA

A scream pierced the morning sky, jerking Greta upright in her bed. Her head spun with the suddenness of the motion, and so too did the room. The rush of her waking might have made her more alert, but her eyes were dry, and she felt the vibrations of the scream that woke her working through her nerves still—striking each slumbering muscle like a match against another.

“Hans…” She rubbed at her eyes, spying from between her fingers the clumps of straw scattered about her. “Did you hear that?”

No one answered.

She licked her lips and swallowed. A bead of sweat rolled down her temples and cheeks as she darted her gaze around the small hovel of a room. It was quiet, the early morning having settled over the stillness and made it new with day again. Greta pushed the blankets away from her knees and swung both legs carefully around until her bare feet touched the cold ground. It served its purpose, the cool touch racing up through her toes and to her spine.

“Hans?” Greta stood in one languid movement, stretching her arms high above her head and reaching upward on her toes. “Wake up.”

An old, darkened sheet hid him from view. It separated them in their one-room cottage, granting each a semblance of privacy. Long ago, sometime after their father passed, Greta had strung it up between them. She pulled it back now, sucking in a deep breath; the bed was empty.

Where was her brother Hans?

Her heart leaped to her throat as the realization of what the earlier screaming meant.

Please, not Hans, she thought, begging softly to herself. Not today.

She ran to the front door of their home breathlessly. Her trembling hands yanked on the latch as she swung it open, revealing nothing but a dirt path. What she thought would be waiting, was nowhere to be found. Which meant that Hans was safe—for now. She grasped at her stomach, the knot of sickness that had taken her unclenching itself. Greta could have wept, but another scream broke out across the early morning, like a crack of thunder just before a storm.

Only, this time, it was followed by a wallowing cry.

Shackles of worry wrapped themselves around Greta, wrenching her away from the perfect illusion of safety they had grown into. A scream like that could only mean one thing, and she was certain of it.

The Shrike had come again in the night.

Greta ducked back inside, racing to her discarded dress at the foot of her bed. She slipped it on over her nightdress, the bulk of the layers sitting uncomfortably on top of each other. She twisted her hair to the side and secured it with a length of twine from the tiny table beside her bed. It took her three tries to steady her shaking hands long enough to tie it, and by then, she was too anxious to care if it fell out.

Nearly tripping over own two feet, Greta scrambled back to the door and grabbed her heaviest cloak from a wooden peg. She slipped on her boots, threw the cloak around her shoulders, and pushed out the door once again. The autumn air was chilly, almost cold enough for her to see her breath. She bit back against the sting of it along her nose and cheeks. Winter would not keep them waiting long.

I should find Hans first, Greta thought, rubbing her hands together beneath her cloak. She quickly started down along the only road that led to Krume from their cottage. The dirt path she took had been trodden down by years of walking and rolling carts into town. But still it stood the test of time, always there to guide her back into the world. A world where the village was just coming to life, and would no doubt be shaken as well by the screaming.

“Hans! Where are you?” she called out, momentarily cupping her hands around her mouth.

For as isolated as they were, and how little people came to visit, it should have been easy to find her brother. But he was sly, and he had his hiding places.

“Greta! Greta, wait!” someone called from behind.

She stopped hard and turned quick, spying Hans a little way down in the pasture. He leaned against a pitchfork and wiped at his forehead, which was slick with sweat. Piles of dead grass were stacked in neat piles behind him. Greta squinted at him from afar. How had she not noticed him out there before?

“Where have you been?” Greta asked, crossing her arms in a forbidding manner.

Hans dropped the pitchfork and abandoned his field. He started across the pasture toward his sister and shouted back, “Chores!”