Life in the old city of Aldgard is (almost) never boring...
When music student Penny Wells first met the Erlking, she had an inkling that trouble would follow. Especially since she had a thesis to write and concert to prepare for, and she definitely didn’t have time for magic.
So it really stands to reason that Penny should have known better that to stroll into the Hinterlands to return a strange locket he’d left behind – because nothing is ever accidental when it comes to the Erlking.
And when she does so anyway and awakens an ancient sleeper, seriously annoying the Norse Gods (well, most of them), she finds that she has to set things right before they use her new friend for their upcoming ritual sacrifice. Because Penny won’t stand for that.
But first, she has to figure out what it is they’re really worried about and what all of it has to do with a Schubert song cycle that the Aldgard University music department will be putting on in just a matter of weeks...
Excerpt from Chapter 1
The Erlking drank his coffee black, no sugar.
Penny rather thought he’d have done better with herbal tea, given his tendency to be neurotic. It would certainly have helped with the twitching. Anyway, there was likely no coffee under the hills, so it was a wonder he’d developed a taste for it at all, never mind mastering the art of drinking it without wincing.
They were at the local coffee shop: the kind with squashy couches and rickety tables. It had pale wooden panels on the walls, and Wilhelm, the owner, was a troll. Nobody knew this, of course, except for the Erlking, and Penny, who was rather good at eavesdropping.
Wilhelm disguised himself with clever bits of enchanted spider silk to make him appear human, but given the standard mortal tendency to ignore the unusual, this was hardly necessary. Mortals generally kept the uncanny at bay by pointedly ignoring it: that way, the barely seen world often passed entirely unseen.
Wilhelm used to own a tavern in the Hinterlands: The Broken Keg, it had been called. But owning a tavern was a rough business, even for a troll: no-one had appreciated his secret-recipe strawberry shortcake, and taverns were astonishingly flammable no matter how much magical fire-proofing you did.
When some rowdy dwarfs had trashed The Keg in a bar fight of epic proportions, Wilhelm had decided he’d had enough. His gnomish nurse, who had refused to move on once Wilhelm had reached adulthood, had always said he wouldn't be any good at tavern-keeping. “A job for dimwits and scoundrels!” she would proclaim, while taking a fierce swig of his father’s finest fire wine. Gnome women made the best nurses, not because of any silly instinct, but because of their no-nonsense approach to gnome-rearing, and their wonderful baking.
Wilhelm had considered his options, decided that his nurse had made a valid point after all, and moved camp to the mortal side. Stepping between worlds was a surprisingly easy thing to do, Penny realised upon hearing his story.
She knew that there was a doorway to the fairy realms quite nearby, going on what Wilhelm had once let slip. Penny imagined the door to be mystical and glittery: maybe hidden somewhere deep within an ancient oak tree. It went quite well with the overall ‘old stone and ivy’ medieval-town atmosphere of Aldgard University.
Not that she had much time to think about magical portals and the like. She had two essays due that week, one of which was a monstrous thing on the development of fifteenth century French harmonic practices. She definitely didn't have time for any portals just then…
Winterreise can be found here:
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Daphne has always had a passion for literature and history and one day it occurred to her: what better way to use her English Literature degree than to write the kinds of stories she loves to read? She hasn't looked back since.
Daphne also writes lyrical fantasy under the pen name Emily de Courcy, and who knows where she'll branch out next!
Daphne has stacks of notebooks full of stories that still need to be written, which she insists on bringing with her when she moves around the world (she’s done this a lot!). She likes her books full of romance, magic, adventure, witty repartee and a dash of silly humour. When Daphne isn't writing, she can be found painting, picnicking, reading and listening to all sorts of exciting music.