The Arcadian Druid, Tales of the Feisty Druid Book One
By Candy Crum and Michael Anderle
Present Day – Ten Years Later
The intense, morning sun was bright enough to shine through the thick canopy of leaves overhead as Arryn prepared for the day.
She made her way outside of her small cabin that was expertly crafted out of live trees by magic, bending and shaping them into a thriving home. Walking down the steps made of stone, she stopped to take in the morning view.
The ground was particularly cool against Arryn’s bare feet. It had rained the night before, and the sun hadn’t yet risen enough to allow the dirt to completely dry. Still, it was dry enough for her to walk around without her boots, and that was good enough for her.
Like the druids she’d come to call family, she preferred to explore the area barefoot. In training, battle, and normal, everyday living, the druids went without shoes of any kind. The constant connection to the ground below always kept them close to nature and allowed them to better access magic at all times.
Only when it rained or on journeys did they prefer to wear shoes.
Over the years, she’d grown to enjoy it just as much. It didn’t matter to her that she’d been adopted into their ways instead of being naturally born there—she loved them. The druids’ peaceful way of life allowed her to be free. Free in every way.
Several of her friends were up and wandering around, but she could easily sneak away. Those few moments alone always brought her joy.
Arryn had only made it a few hundred feet away from camp when she felt something slither around her left ankle. She gasped and jumped, trying to pull away, but it held strong.
Then, something wrapped around her right ankle, tugging a little as it did. Another gasp escaped her throat as her heart began to pound. She looked down to see thick, leafy vines encircling her legs.
Her face fell, and her eyes narrowed as a heavy sigh escaped her. “Oh, hell,” she said to herself just before her feet were pulled out from under her.
She landed hard on the ground, the air rushing out of her lungs in a loud oof! She silently thanked whatever gods could hear her that it had rained, and the firm ground beneath her was softer that morning.
Arryn sighed in defeat, lying there, ankles tied together. She defiantly crossed her arms over her chest like an angry child. “Who the hell needs enemies when I have the two of you?”
Wild laughter at her expense echoed through the immediate area, only irritating her further.
“Come, now,” Elysia giggled. “You can’t blame us entirely, now can you?”
Arryn looked to her right to see Elysia and Cathillian standing there, both with mischievous grins on their faces.
The elusive and mythical druids… Arryn had heard tales about them as a child, but no one really believed they existed.
Oh, they existed alright.
And they were assholes.
But they were only assholes if they liked you, and only if they cared enough to teach you to always be on guard and never lose focus. Otherwise, they were just piss-your-pants terrifying.
Arryn, however, was not amused. Still wearing her smile, Elysia looked around the forest as she inhaled deeply, no doubt taking in the scent of the early morning air.
Cathillian locked eyes with Arryn, the smirk on his face telling her he was very pleased with his prank. “It never fails!” he said. “You have to do better than that. Always keep your senses up! If you don’t close yourself off to nature, it’ll warn you of impending dangers. How do you think we know when something wanders into the Forest?” He tapped on the side of his head. “Guard’s always up.”
Arryn kept her position on the ground as she let him lecture her about the usual. Her mind always wandered a bit. Being in tune with nature one hundred percent of the time didn’t come easy for her. It was something a druid was taught from day one to do, but she had to work hard.
Elysia always played little harmless pranks on her to remind her to open up. Cathillian, was just as bad. He was a damn good warrior, but his magic was a bit weaker in comparison.
Though, that wasn’t saying much as he was one of the strongest warriors that they had, and he was also the grandson of the Chieftain which meant his magic was nothing shy of strong. Unfortunately for him, he was always a total scatterbrain. Not much better than Arryn in that department.
And she planned to remind him of that. As he prattled on, a large bird landed in the tree next to them. It was a golden eagle, not unlike Cathillian’s own familiar, Echo, though much smaller by comparison.
More specifically, the eagle landed on a thick branch just overhead of Cathillian. Arryn furrowed her brows and nodded her head, feigning sincere interest in his lecture.
He was so sure of himself that he didn’t notice the slight shift in the position of her eyes as she focused on the bird. She felt the connection to the eagle, allowing her to communicate wordlessly through her magic. It looked down at Arryn, and the corner of her mouth turned up as she pointedly looked over to Cathillian.
With a familiar—animals that have a much deeper, magical connection to their druid—the communication happens seamlessly. The effects are unpredictable with random wildlife, though the bird seemed happy enough to entertain her.
The bird unfurled its large wings for a moment before settling in, shaking its tail feathers a little, and shitting directly on top of Cathillian’s head.
Arryn laughed hard—almost too hard.
“Oh, my,” Elysia said, sharing in the laughter as well. “I suppose you should take your own advice, son.”
“You’re no better!” Cathillian argued, wiping the mess from the front of his face where it had run down his forehead. “You didn’t even notice she was casting!”
Elysia shrugged. “I was taking in the morning. Perhaps we should all take lessons on keeping our guard up.” She looked over to Arryn, smile still on her face and winked. “Nice one.”
“Thanks. So, uh… You guys planning to let me go any time today? Or should I plan to forage on—” she looked to each side of her “—these lovely ferns here? I’m sure they’re delicious.”
With only a wave of Elysia’s hand, the vines unraveled, and Arryn was freed. Cathillian made his way over, and Arryn put her finger in the air.
“No! No, you just stay right there, sir.”
Cathillian gave a devious smile. “Aw, but I just wanted to help you up.”
Arryn knew better. She shook her head. “Nope. Not with that on your hands. You just stay right over there, shit head.” She looked up, thinking over her witty retort for a moment before laughing hard all over again. “Oh, damn. You’re not living that one down.”
“Jerk,” Cathillian said, waving his hand a bit. A few clumps of mud lifted from the ground and hit her directly in the side of the head, sticking to her hair and rolling down onto her shoulder.
Arryn sat there, shocked for a moment before jumping to her feet. “Oh, you’re gonna die now, bitch!”
The two had grown up together as best friends. Always arguing. Always sparring. Always playing pranks. It wasn’t unheard of for one to attack the other, especially when there was a single step taken too far.
“Arryn!” Elysia said, stepping between the two. “It’s such a beautiful morning. You should walk with me to the river. We’ll clean that mess outta your hair.”
“Can I come? Because I have far worse than a little dirt in mine,” Cathillian said, looking to Arryn. “Besides, she wants to kill me, and I can’t pass up the opportunity to show her up.”
He winked, earning an eye roll from Arryn.
“After that speech you gave, I assumed you were one with all of your surroundings, son. Right? I’m sure you’ll figure it out,” Elysia said with an exaggerated smile before turning to walk away.
Arryn bit her lip to keep from laughing or slinging another insult his way.
She loved Elysia like a mother, though she’d never been raised to think of her that way. Elysia showed Arryn the love and affection that any mother shows her children, but Arryn was more like a friend of the family, and Elysia was her godmother.
“That wasn’t the first time I’ve caught you wandering off alone,” Elysia said. Though her words might have suggested that she was irritated or upset, her voice was as warm as it usually was. “You know how I feel about that.”
Arryn didn’t answer right away. They walked in silence as Arryn tried to pull larger globs of mud from her hair, but instead only pressed them in further. Her nose scrunched as she pulled her hand away and saw just how dirty it was, knowing her hair was even worse. She wiped it on her brown, leather pants.
“I know how you feel about it, and I’m sorry,” Arryn finally responded.
“I don’t need to tell you that large beasts lurk in the woods, even in the peaceful Dark Forest. They, too, find their way in. They aren’t quite as deterred by thick walls of thorns and brush as humans. There’s never a shortage of food sources here because of our people. It attracts animals of all kinds. You know better than most why I fear anyone wandering off alone. Everyone travels in pairs.”
Arryn absolutely knew why Elysia had such an issue with traveling in solitude…
To be continued… Keep checking in to the Age of Magic and Kurtherian Gambit fan pages for more updates on snippets!
The book releases soon, so you won’t have to wait too much longer. Tuesday July 18th!
To check out Candy Crum and her other books http://www.candycrumbooks.com