Witchlands Teaser

A little snippet from the next Witchlands book—Iseult’s book. It’s a story Iz tells Owl to get her through a long night.

Long ago, when the gods walked among us, there was a goddess named Owl. She was the Moon Mother’s youngest sister, and everyone knew she was the Moon Mother’s favorite.

Each night, they roamed the forests together. Owl would take her animal form and patrol the trees and life within, while the Moon Mother passed from tribe to tribe, village to village, checking on her people and ensuring they were safe.

Moon Mother did not know why, but she was afraid. Ever since she had guided the Nomatsis through the Sleeping Lands centuries before, fear had been building inside her—fear that something would happen to the people she so dearly loved.

Years of nightly searching though, had turned up nothing of concern. Oh, the other gods had their problems. Wicked Cousin Weasel had a cruel streak, and Little Brother Trickster was always making trouble simply because he could. Meanwhile Middle Sister Swallow lost her temper often, and Old Uncle of the Tides often forgot his duties because he always fell asleep. But Moon Mother did not worry about them. They were her Thread-family, and she trusted them as if their souls were hers.

One night, while Moon Mother and Owl were on their nightly patrols, Owl found herself in a forested valley—one she knew well, where mountain bats hunted and humans dared not tread. There she found a badger, dead for days and out of place upon the detritus floor. Instantly, Owl knew it was Trickster up to one of his games.

You see, one of his favorite pranks was to inhabit the corpses of the forest. He would hide within them and wait for one of his Thread-siblings or Thread-cousins to walk by…Then he would leap free and lock them in chains. Sometimes he left his family for hours like that; once, he left Middle Sister Swallow for an entire year.

He had never been so foolish as to play this trick on Owl though, for with her connection to the forest and all living things, she could always see right through his disguises.

And she saw right through him on that night too.

Normally, she would have turned away, but this night, she felt mischievous. This night, she felt playful, so she pretended not to notice Trickster hiding in the badger’s body. She changed into her human form and wondered past him, humming into the autumn night.

As she knew he would do, once she was only paces away, his soul leaped from the badger and returned to its human form. But when he tried to chain Owl, she chained him instead. And though he begged for her to set him free, she simply kissed him on his forehead and took flight as her animal self once more.

And thus it was that Trickster was bound for a full ten years, and no chaos disrupted the Witchlands. And thus it was that Moon Mother found her fear receded—though at the time, she did not understand why.

And, perhaps most important of all, thus it was that Little Sister Owl became known as the cleverest of the gods. She was the only one to ever best Trickster, you see, and some say that is why he fell in love with her—although that is another story for another night.