The sound of a blaring trumpet splitting the air rouses me from my wallowing. I lift my absurdly long neck and stare out across the bank. Though I can’t see much, I become aware of the jovial shouts of a group of young men. Before I have time to think, my newfound animal instincts kick in, and I half waddle, half trip over to the reeds fringing the moat. I conceal myself as best I can behind the towering plants, hoping the men won’t spot me. I know enough about my home kingdom to know what the sounds mean: this is a group of hunters, out looking for their next kill.
And I’m fresh poultry.
I peer through the reeds as the troupe rounds the corner. Four young men come into view. A cheerful, dark-haired man is at the head, laughing at a joke as he loads the crossbow in his hands. I try not to fixate on the weapon. Behind him saunter the three other men, all similarly dressed in green tunics and foolish hats. Tall and beefy, they don’t look like the kind of people you’d want to meet in the dark. The man in front looks puny in comparison to them, and I have to wonder how he ranks above them.
A fifth member enters my line of sight. He is much younger than the others and straggles along behind the rest of the entourage, distracted by a purple flower blooming along the waterside. He smiles to himself as he takes a sniff. While the older men boast crossbows and quivers, the boy holds in his hands a rough slingshot crafted from a Y-shaped twig and twine.
One of the strapping men notices the boy’s distraction. He walks over and kneels down beside him. With a grin, he removes his pointed hat and places it on the head of the little boy, who beams back as the brim slips over his eyes.
“Come on, Reggie!” shouts the leader to the man who stopped. “These ducks aren’t going to hunt themselves!”
I shrink a little closer into the reeds as the hunters approach. From the cut and colour of their clothes, these people are clearly of noble families, and their state-of-the-art weaponry tells me hunting is more than a passing interest for them.
For me and the people of my village, it’s a necessity. With aristocrats killing our precious game for nothing but the fun of it, it’s no surprise so many of our people die from starvation. And when all you can ever think about is where your next meal is coming from, nobody stops to think about the humanity of killing another living animal. Now that I’m on the other end of the chain, however, I’m seeing things in an oh-so-different light.
Title: Feathered: Swan Maiden – Book 1
Author: Rachel Wollaston
The light and the dark were never meant to be separated.
When her bargain with a malevolent wizard goes terribly wrong, Marion DuVal finds herself trapped between two forms: a beautiful but darker parallel of herself, and a swan. Somehow, she must adhere to the wizard’s wishes, but it’s hard to perform epic magic when your feet are flippers and your neck’s the length of a small fishing pole. Caught up in a lie of royal proportions, her task is to get close to the queen, and such a thing is difficult when a certain handsome prince keeps getting in the way.
One girl; two identities. Marion must stop the darkness inside her before it’s too late.
Based on the classic tale of Swan Lake.
Born and bred in Gloucestershire, UK, Rachel Wollaston is a huge lover of all things fantasy. From an early age, her dream was to be a fairy, but the pay was no good, so she decided to become a writer instead. A Creative Writing student, Rachel is the author of young-adult fantasy and loves to build worlds that she wishes she could be a part of.
Besides writing, Rachel also enjoys a range of other artistic hobbies, including dancing, drawing, and an unhealthy amount of arts and crafts. You will almost always find her with a cup of tea and a cat watching old ‘70s comedies.