Hello, everyone! What have I done to keep myself busy while anxiously awaiting feedback from my beta readers (for THE GIRL MADE OF GOLD)? Well, I’ve been editing book two of HEMLOCK VEILS. It’s been so much fun jumping back into that world that I haven’t visited in far too long. I’ve missed Henry and Elizabeth dearly.
My point to this? I decided I want to share the prologue for book two (VEIL OF THE ROSE, which is a lose Sleeping Beauty retelling, but based in the same world as HEMLOCK VEILS and picking up a few months after HEMLOCK VEILS left off). So, if you’ve read HEMLOCK VEILS and want a hint of what’s next, check it out. If you haven’t read HEMLOCK VEILS, read this anyway (if you want, I mean). It doesn’t offer any spoilers, really. Just new insight we didn’t get with book one. Regardless, enjoy!
Celebrating the birth of a baby would prove a menial task for most immortals. Especially for other Wardens of the Magical Realm. But nothing had ever been more of an honor for this old man.
The new mother lay in her hospital bed, one shoulder of her gown untied. A blanket covered her recently bulging belly, and a barrette held back sweat-plastered hair. Her face flushed, her skin glowed. It defined the greatest kind of exertion, but her eyes defined a love of the highest capacity, one not even the immortal man had ever felt. Nor any man for that matter.
With occasional tears, the mother smiled and cooed soft noises at the infant in her arms—red, tiny, and wrapped in a pink blanket, and wearing a cap full of hair the color of her mother’s. The baby’s eyelids drooped with drowsiness only newborn babies could own: a drunkenness on mother’s milk. The father, just as teary-eyed, put an arm around his wife. They met each other’s eyes when their child’s would no longer open, and the old man, standing in the doorway, felt like an intruder on an intimate family moment. Out of respect, he looked down.
This baby wasn’t just any mortal though. She was special to the old man, which made her special to the other Wardens of this continent. One at a time, with the exception of the eldest, they entered the stark hospital room, joining father, mother, and newborn. Good health, a loving and loyal heart, courage: they placed their personal blessings upon the infant, her only acknowledgement of them the occasional twitch of a petite finger, embellished with a nail so teeny it was hardly visible at all.
At the Wardens’ blessings, the look on the new mother’s face was one of tolerance, at best. A Warden’s gift of fertility had given the couple what they’d prayed for, but the mother had dismissed the miracle of their pregnancy nine months before as a work of God.
The old man didn’t doubt that, but all prayers are answered through different means. It’s a mortal’s job to decide for themselves by which means those prayers are answered. To this woman, it simply couldn’t have been through her husband’s strange friends.
When the old man’s turn arrived—number eight of the nine Wardens—the mother’s smile turned from one of tolerance to one of warmth. She had grown fond of him during her pregnancy. He didn’t hold her disbelief against her. In fact, she was the way humans were supposed to be. They were supposed to be close-minded to this life. Even most the angelic souls are.
He bent and kissed the mother on the forehead, her skin warm and slightly sticky. After peeling the infant’s pink blanket slowly from her chin, in order to better view her, it hit him, what she was. He recoiled, staring at the chafed but beautiful miracle of life before him. The one he was partly responsible for. Roland, his eldest Warden brother, watched from the hallway. Technically his leader, and last of the nine, his eyes penetrated the old man’s back.
The old man turned to meet them, narrow but unreadable, while the other seven Wardens conversed happily to the side. Roland listened carefully, no doubt interested in what blessing the old man would place upon the baby. Roland too seemed aware of how special she would be one day. Only this knowledge seemed to have a different effect on him than it did on the old man.
He broke Roland’s gaze and turned back to the new family, meeting the father’s grass-colored eyes before his own fell upon the baby girl. In placing his hands on her head, he swallowed deeply, breathing through the rush that washed through his body. Discomfort radiated from the hallway, from Roland—lingering like a dark shadow over a heavenly landscape.
The old man spoke, blessing the baby with the same intuition and gifts her father had: the ability to see things and beings for what they truly were. And being moved by nothing more this his disheartening suspicion that Roland felt no reverence for this occasion, the old man whispered an added blessing on the baby: an immunity to curses.
However, he sensed that Roland, who would be the last of the Wardens to bless baby Elizabeth, would find a way to twist the old man’s blessing.