Time of the Wolf was republished by The Wild Rose Press early 2021 after being out of print for 15 years.
InD’tale Magazine gave it 5 stars, and a crowned heart their highest reward.
Mouthing unheard words, she raised her hands in a complex gesture that set the air about her to shimmering.
She could feel Malkinda staring at her with a sense of savage anticipation. If something should happen to her and she not return, perhaps he could gain the book…and then…
Anaya looked around and glared at him. Pain pounded at his head, and all thought ceased….
The Mage Queen closed her eyes again and focused all her inner power on her magick. A strange emptiness filled her skull, then a tightening, as if a vice squeezed her body, then a stretching sensation. One by one her organs began to shrivel and die; a fetid purple substance oozed from the pores of her skin and pooled at what was left of her feet, and a sound of crunching bone echoed in her ears. The world became bright. She tried to close her eyes again, but she had no eyelids. She would have screamed if she had vocal chords—if she had a mouth.
She glanced down and what she saw shocked her. Her legs vanished before her eyes. She sprouted leaves and toppled forward, no longer able to stand. Rose-like thorns sprang from her torso. She tried to move and found she could slither and coil about such as a serpent might.
Twisting and weaving, she moved to a nearby puddle and peered into the water. What she had become was even too much for her to perceive—a malformed, malign thing that emanated corruption. The spell had stripped away her identity layer by layer, removing her features. It had scrubbed her so clean that nothing of her physical identity remained. Where her face had been a black rose bloomed, a golden stamen erupting from within.
She swayed her head back and forth, testing its balance to the rest of her body, and found she functioned more sinuously and gracefully than she could have imagined. Then she felt more. Once again the magick was on the move. It delved deep down within that which was she, that which she had become, and stripped away the feelings, beliefs, emotions and thoughts of who she was and who she would ever be. It gathered those things and hid them in a minute part of her being that would not be found until Malkinda spoke the words, which would release her from the spell. She reeled from the crippling effects of the garden’s dark enchantment, one small kernel of sanity remaining. That which would guide her to her purpose. That which would lead her back to Malkinda.
She slithered into the overgrown rose garden, now a sister to the verdure she had become. They accepted her as their own and rejoiced in her coming. They threaded themselves about her body, caressed her with their leaves, stroking her seductively with their thorns, then uncoiling and allowing her to pass. The creature that was Anaya slipped into their shadowed depths, easing comfortably into their poisonous embrace.
She immersed herself in their baseness, in their decay, letting the tendrils of their collective thoughts worm into her mind, and her mind to meld with theirs. She was their keeper, their gardener come to care for them. She would bring change that would inspire new growth. She would give them release from this cold, doomed place.
Anaya slid farther into the garden seeking that one thing she had come for, yet careful to keep the thought hidden, least she be detained.
With an unalterable and compelling sense of determination, she approached the arch. The portal was barely visible, covered in a dense mass of vegetation. How her soldiers had found it she did not venture to guess.
The vines brushed against her, then slid away, succumbing to her silent command.
Now came the most dangerous part of her plan.
She must convince these creatures of madness to relinquish their prize.
From her emanated a sense of oneness. They needed her. She had come to breathe fresh magick into the garden, charms they could share. Enchantment that would sustain them and allow them to live forever. But first they must relinquish the old magick. The vines shuddered, and with appreciation and new-found hunger, gave up their purchase on the arch and drew back.
Deep down in that tiny part that was still Anaya, she grappled for the words that would unlock the spell she had placed upon the invisible door many centuries before.
Rock dissolved, dirt and debris melted away, and she was inside; memories swift and painful came flashing back. Of the day she had come here alone. The day before the Great Battle—the day before she had, in essence, died.