Hello and welcome to the Fall 2015 YA Scavenger Hunt!
I’m Heather Reid
author of the Pretty Dark Nothing Series
and your host for this leg of the
Go to the YA Scavenger Hunt page to find out all about the hunt. There are EIGHT contests going on simultaneously, and you can enter one or all! I am a part of the ORANGE TEAM–but you can also hunt the other teams for a chance to win a whole different set of signed books!
If you’d like to find out more about the hunt, see links to all the authors participating, and see the full list of prizes up for grabs, go to the YA Scavenger Hunt page.
This post in a nutshell:
1). Read how it works in “Scavenger Hunt Puzzle” below. If you’re a veteran, skip ahead!
2). Read about the author I’m hosting and the top-secret bonus material she’s sharing with you.
3). Copy down my favorite number (in ORANGE somewhere on this post).
4). Enter to win a signed copy of PRETTY DARK NOTHING right at the end of this page.
5). Go to the next stop on this hunt (link at the end of this post).
6). Add up all the numbers on ORANGE TEAM and enter to win by clicking here.
This is an exclusive sneak peak from NOBODY’S LADY (title may change), book 2 in THE NEVER VEIL SERIES and the 2016 sequel to NOBODY’S GODDESS. (As this is still in editing, there may be some changes when it’s released.)
We made our way through the heart of the village, men, women, girls and boys alike jumping backward to make way for their lord’s black carriage. I was still not used to seeing so many faces on display. Before the curse broke, only the men who had earned the love of their goddesses had been able to remove their masks. More than once, I’d shut my eyes quickly before reminding myself I could keep them open.
In the distance were the western mountains, bearing down over the crop fields. The commune beside the fields was now empty, devoid of the unloved and unmarried men who once called it their home. But the place carried too many unpleasant memories for me, too. I had lived briefly in two versions of the same wretched and fading spot.
The southern mountains served as a backdrop for the livestock fields and farmers. The farmers had never been fond of me. As a child, I led a small group of boys around the village as their “elf queen” and attacked far too many cows and sheep with a tree branch sword I called Elgar.
That left the north. There was a quarry there, but more importantly, there was an empty shack. I might have accidentally killed the old crone who lived there a couple of years back. It wasn’t really my fault—it was the earthquake’s. But now that I knew I was responsible for the earthquakes, I guess it was my fault after all. My face flushed. One more black mark in my book.
The carriage ground to a sudden and sharp halt. Through the window, I saw the villagers who had been looking at the various stalls of goods for sale turn around to face us in wonder. More than one dropped the apple or blanket or whatever it was they were examining and stared slack-jawed, almost as still as the specters when they were awaiting orders. Did the lord of the village really still inspire such awe?
Their faces softened when one of the specters outside of the carriage opened the door and the specter inside the carriage disembarked before me. For all they knew, though, the other passenger could have been the lord. His visits to the village were no longer unheard of.
I stepped outside, ignoring the proffered hand of the specter who had been driving the carriage. The staring jaws slackened again. The villagers might have been just as scared to see me emerge from that carriage as they would have been to see the lord.
Or perhaps they just didn’t expect to see any evidence that I still carried their lord’s favor. Well, neither did I.
“Noll!” cried a familiar voice. Alvilda, shopping in the market? She was wearing a golden frilly dress, too, and carrying a basket across one elbow.
Alvilda swooped deftly through the crowd and stood beside me. She shot the specters a murderous look. Ah, there she is. They had a bit of history, although I’d never be able to say for certain whether it was these three specters in particular with whom she quarreled fruitlessly.
“Step aside,” she grumbled to the nearest one. She had never learned that they would neither talk nor acknowledge her. Or perhaps it was her way of not acknowledging them not acknowledging her.
She looped her free arm through mine. “Watching you come out of his lordship’s carriage has to be one of the last things I expected to see today.”
The yellow monstrosity of a gown she wore was so bright, it almost blinded me. “And seeing you in such a lavish dress has to be the last thing I expected to see in my lifetime.”
Alvilda pinched my arm and batted her long, dark eyelashes. “Oh, stop. You know I can’t live with a tailor and not expect to be dressed up like a doll occasionally.” She grinned. “Besides, we have a deal: she can dress me like a lady from time to time, and she has to shut her mouth for an hour or two that night.”
I thought it best not to comment.
Alvilda watched the specters warily. The one who had ridden with me in the carriage approached the Great Hall door. As I had seen time and time before, he produced precisely what he needed from a pocket within his jacket. A nail appeared in one hand and a hammer in another, and he quickly posted the letter to the door.
Before anyone had a chance to read it, he was back in the carriage and the two others jumped up to the driver’s seat. And then they were gone.
“That’s … disturbing,” remarked Alvilda. “Have any idea what they’re up to now?”
I shook my head. “The lord said he was sending an edict to the village.”
Villagers pulled away from their small clusters, and a few started shuffling over toward the Great Hall door.
Alvilda steered us both toward the growing crowd. “So you were visiting with him?” Her voice seemed too unconcerned, almost as if she was trying hard to seem nonchalant. But the slight grimace on her lips was unmistakable.
I bit my lip. “I had to thank him for what he did for my mother. And he was none too happy to see me.”
Alvilda snorted. “That moron should thank you for putting up with his nonsense while letting him walk around with all of his limbs intact.”
My eyes scanned the edge of the crowd uneasily. I still couldn’t shake the feeling that he was always watching, that he had an eye to everything that went on around me.
“Don’t—” I started. I could see Alvilda searched my face skeptically. I turned my head away from her, staring intently on the crowd closest to the posted edict. “It’s more complicated than that.”
“If you say so,” said Alvilda. Her tone made her disgust far clearer. Fat lot of help that was now. Where was her utter disgust with the man when I was looking for any way out from my coupling with him? I knew there were few places I could have hidden in our village wrapped in mountains, but surely she could have helped persuade someone to let me have my right as a woman to refuse him.
But it wasn’t a matter of a woman’s rights any longer. A man now had the right—no, he finally had the ability—to refuse love. As the lord had so aptly demonstrated.
“I guess I shouldn’t be so hard on the man. I’m upset with how he treated you, but I don’t even know him. And I’m thankful I can watch the sunrise in the morning now. I suppose I have him to thank if he broke the curse like everyone’s saying.” Alvilda blew out a hard breath, which ruffled the hair that hung over her face. “Have you seen one yet? I always thought they must be like sunsets, only in reverse. Nothing special. But being able to look up at the eastern sky, not caring if you happen to see that castle, and watching the red light stretch out from the darkness over the mountaintops … Sunrises are so much more hopeful than sunsets.”
“I never stopped to think about it,” I admitted. “But you’re right—”
“No!” screamed a woman in the crowd.
The crowd turned into a mess of buzzing creatures. A gasp, a shout.
A woman slapped a man with her bare hand.
Everyone stilled for a moment.
“What are you doing, woman?” asked the man she’d hit. He cradled his cheek. “Have you gone mad?”
“I … I don’t know.” The woman stared at her hand like it was someone else’s entirely. “But you … ” She squeezed her hands into fists on either side of her. “How could you say such a thing?” Everyone began speaking at once again. Alvilda let go of my arm and shoved forward past the men and women toward the Great Hall door, clipping a boy on the head with her basket. It was easy enough to follow the path left in her wake, but once the people shoved aside had a moment to register their surprise, I had to put up with a few accusing stares as I made my way past them.
“Huh,” barked Alvilda brusquely as I at last returned to her side. “I suppose my brother and Siofra were the first in a new trend.” She arched an eyebrow, indicating that she had never once thought or cared that Siofra had been married when she and Master Tailor announced they were separating and Siofra moved in with her. There had been no formal way to break off the original union.
My eyes at last fell upon the yellowed and water-stained paper. How long had the lord had it there, under the damp and dirty remnants of the garden I’d once treasured? Only to send it out as soon as I entered? It was like he’d been waiting for me to come, even despite his disdain at my arrival.
Read these words and obey the edict of your lord:
Due to the release of this village from the curse that plagued it for years eternal, I hereby release all men from their unions, formal and informal alike. As of today, there are no husbands and wives, there are no goddesses and their men. If a former coupling wishes to maintain their union, they will have to wed once more. My servants, acting in my stead, are the only people capable of blessing a new union.
I heard a few more palms hitting tender cheeks behind me.
And don’t forget to enter the contest for a chance to win a ton of signed books by me, Heather L Reid, and more! To enter, you need to know that my favorite number is 27. Add up all the favorite numbers of the authors on the orange team and you’ll have all the secret code to enter for the grand prize!