Morning’s Daughter

Winsome

“That was a good start,” Sorcha remarked.

“What do you mean, ‘good start’? We only caught two Runners.” Alasdair wished he’d taken something warm with him. The chase was over and he was beginning to feel the cold air again.

“Exactly! Barton said there were only about two or three out at any time. Two’s better than none, right?”

Suddenly, Conall’s ears twitched and he bounded away down the street, Lyall close behind him. Alasdair and Sorcha followed their wolves until they reached the main square of Redcross. Alasdair remembered going through there at least twice the previous night. He yawned, blinking sleep out of his eyes – and stopped, staring ahead of him.

There was a girl in the square. She wore a pale pink dress that reached just below her knees and left her arms bare. Her blonde hair was loose and brushed past her shoulders; it glimmered gold in the morning light. She had her back to the Wolf-Lords, but Conall and Lyall stood right in front of her.

Conall stepped up to her. She kept perfectly still as he sniffed her right hand. Lyall padded away, back to where Sorcha was waiting.

Alasdair walked towards her, his feet making no sound. “Hello.”

Conall spotted him and trotted past the girl. Just as he reached Alasdair’s side, the girl looked over her shoulder and Alasdair felt his world tremble.

Her eyes were the same shade as the sky above them: a clear, beautiful blue.

She looked as if she had been born of the morning itself.

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Thornless Rose

Finally

It was a relief to admit it.

Isabel had put it off for so long. She hadn’t even been able to admit it the last time she’d spoken to him. The words wound around her throat, choking her.

They still choked her whenever anyone said his name or asked if she’d heard from him. They were like thorns, constantly digging into her.

Then the morning came. She saw him across the river and ran to meet him and then his arms were wrapped around her.

She finally admitted to herself that she was in love with him. And she could breathe.

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Flicker

Cozy

The whole castle was almost in complete darkness. Candles and fires flickered in only a few rooms, leaving the stone corridors as cold as the night outside.

Lorna wished it was a clear night. Clouds obscured the moon and stars. She imagined the forest outside with the moon shining down on it, silver light captured in the snow and stars looking down through the black tree branches. Mira was now too large to walk in the castle, but the Aqua was safe in the underground cave. Lorna had been reassured the pool would be sufficiently warm for her. The outside air couldn’t touch it.

The doorway loomed to her left, black and huge like the mouth of a cave. “If there’s nothing else,” she said, “I’ll be…”

“I don’t want you to go.”

He never took his eyes from the fire. The flames danced, sending light across his face.

“Stay here with me.”

Slowly, carefully, Lorna stepped over to the chair next to his and sat down. She stayed beside him for the rest of the night, neither of them speaking. They watched the fire until the shadows retreated at dawn’s light.

 

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Howl

Legend

He’d heard the stories. Everyone had. Stories of surviving long winters with barely enough meat to feed their beasts; stories of enemies with their throats ripped out, staining white snow with crimson.

Nobody called them legends. A story isn’t a legend when it’s true.

Before the wars, over two hundred Wolflords roamed the land. Now there were less than fifty, but their number was steadily growing. It would only be a matter of time before they became as powerful as they once were.

All Ephraim could do on winter nights was huddle under his blanket, watch the moon through his window and listen to the howls.

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Rover

Underdog

Everybody loves an underdog story.

An underdog is someone who ‘is thought to have little chance of winning a fight or a contest’ or someone who has ‘little status in society’. Which is why we love it so much when they come out on top.

In Black Rose, all Changers fall under the second definition. But there’s a kind of Changer that’s even lower than that: the Rovers. Rovers are Changers that have either left their Clan or have been ‘asked’ to leave; this is pretty important since the Changers place such a high value on community and their Clan. They’re basically rootless, whether by choice or not.

Luke left his Clan when he was fifteen and was semi-adopted by the Silver Clan, the Changers living in Silverdon. His status as a Rover actually helps them: since he isn’t technically a Silver, he is only one of two Changers allowed to leave the Forest. His ‘underdog’ status comes in handy.

That is, until he becomes well-known.

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Intimidation

Black

A character’s clothes can speak volumes about who they are. For instance, if someone appears in a book or television programme wearing dark clothing (particularly black leather), you just know they’re going to be trouble. Spike, Derek Hale and Negan are perfect examples of this.

Isabel Monray likes to wear black because she wants to give the impression of someone you do not want to mess with. Of course, anyone who actually knows her will see right through this.

She doesn’t want to appear vulnerable or afraid, even though she is in a very vulnerable position. Someone tells her if she’s not afraid, she’ll be all right; interestingly, that someone is wearing leather when she says this. But wearing the right type of clothes to show off your confidence doesn’t mean you actually are confident.

Later Isabel starts wearing her black jacket because she wants to wear it, not because she feels she has to.

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Hatchling

Egg

When Lorna was fifteen, Commander Wentsar chose her to become one of the new cadets in the Academy. She remembered being more in awe of the imposing figure standing before her than of the scroll the Commander held out to her.

It was an honour to be selected. Lorna knew that. She could feel her parents’ pride warming her back.

“Do you accept, Lorna Seagrove?” Commander Wentsar asked. The sun glinted off the Argentum feather pinned to his jacket.

Lorna didn’t hesitate at all.

Three months later she was being led through one of the hatcheries. The instructors had emphasised many times the importance of each cadet being assigned to the right dragon to create an equal partnership. The behaviour and character of each cadet was closely monitored during the first three months of training; they would care for the egg themselves for the next three months, during which time the hatchling would finish its development.

“Cadet Seagrove. That one is yours.” Captain Hodge pointed towards a shallow pool hollowed out of a single rock. Lorna looked inside to see what looked like an large pearl nestling at the bottom. “It’s a water dragon, or Aqua. Aquas aren’t the largest species and they aren’t the fiercest either, but they’re always loyal to those they love.”

Lorna trailed her fingertips over the water’s surface. “I can’t make it love me,” she whispered, temporarily forgetting where she was and who was with her.

“That’s right, you can’t,” Captain Hodge agreed. “You can’t force love. But you can nurture it and let it grow.” She clapped Lorna on the shoulder once and headed off to show Cadet Danhurst the egg he had been allocated to.

xxx

The moment the baby Aqua dragon’s eyes found hers, Lorna knew Captain Hodge was right. She couldn’t force love. It was impossible, not when she found herself drowning in its depths.

She scooped the tiny creature out of the water and held it against her chest. It purred softly and nudged Lorna under her chin.

“I’ve always liked the name Mira,” Lorna murmured. “What do you think?”

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