I am busy cranking out ‘Elf Shot’ at the moment, and I’m so effin excited writing it that I couldn’t wait to share the Prologue and Chapter 1! Please note, I have run it through Grammarly but this is still a draft. If a sneaky typo or two have gotten through you’ll just have to forgive me.
As some of you may be aware, I get really sucky seasonal depression at this time of year but I’m still aiming to get this one out mid to late August. As always, I will keep everyone posted on its progress. Finishing it is giving me a reason to get out of bed and I ADORE Arne and Layla so damn much. This book and Lord of the Rings rewatches are my sole source of dopamine at the moment lol.
I hope you enjoy it!
Far above the arctic circle in the furthermost reaches of Finnmark, an area that crowns the top of Scandanavia and Finland, the wild and mythical creatures of the north still roam.
If you go there, you can feel the deep magic in the land and know that it doesn’t quite sit in the same reality as the rest of the world.
The human shamans and magicians always found themselves in the north, called by the magic, and when they left to return to their warmer southern homes, they always carried a touch of the wildness within them.
Here the trolls walk, the shapeshifting wolves and bears make their dens, and the elves quietly govern. They move through their lake and forest portals, visiting the nine worlds of Yggdrasil as quickly as they would any other country in Midgard.
The fae came out in England with a brutal purpose and dazzling force. The elves in the far northern wilds watched on, horrified and amused at their fae brothers’ lack of tact and open hostility.
They didn’t understand the fae’s desperation because they had never left their lands or were forced by the humans to go. They moved seamlessly from their worlds of Alfheim and Svartalfheim and into ours, much as they had done since time began.
They never had to make peace treaties with the humans. They had always been there, and the humans knew it. They could feel the magic in those places and respected it without needing to see the proof of the beings that lived there.
When the fae returned, the elves made themselves known more openly, but the Finnmark was always their land and always would be.
They would never negotiate their right to be there, and they certainly wouldn’t let a fallen god take it from them.
Arne Steelsinger, Prince of the Light Elves of Alfheim, hadn’t traveled the dark paths of Yggdrasil for three hundred and twenty-four years. Despite that, his feet and magic still remembered the way, the portals moving him seamlessly to the heart of the World Tree.
The heart was a waypoint, and not everyone could find it. It had a series of portal doorways that accessed all the branches of the Nine Worlds. Then there were the darker paths that led to the underworlds; Niflheim and Urd’s Well. The latter was his destination, though he didn’t know why.
Arne had woken two days ago, a rune burning on his palm, and he knew he was being summoned by beings too powerful to say no to.
The timing couldn’t have been more shit for a quest. Arne was still trying to undo the damage to his relationship with the fae princes and the Ironwoods. Well, one Ironwood in particular.
Fucking Arawan and his big mouth, Arne cursed that damn god every day. Not that the Lord of Annwn gave a shit about exploding Arne’s world and making him live his greatest fear.
It had taken Bayn a week to take his calls. When Arne finally had a chance to explain, the fae prince had cuffed him in the back of the head and told him not to hide shit like that from them.
Bayn and Freya were his friends again, and Arne was on his way to building a solid alliance with Kian and his fae army.
The summit for the light and dark elves was only a fortnight away, and Arne was still trying to convince their chosen human ambassador to come.
Layla Ironwood. The source of all of his misery. He had gone straight to the Ironwood manor to try and fix the damage Arawan had caused. Having Layla call him a liar was like getting knifed in the chest. He had still refused to give up. There was only one small problem.
The woman was gloriously stubborn.
Arne had sent emails and text messages and had even tried calling her twice. He hadn’t left a voice mail; hearing her voice on the recorded message had gutted him both times, and he had hung up before getting a word out.
Worry about it later, Arne scolded himself. He needed to focus. The paths of Yggdrasil seemed quiet and peaceful, but only fools would believe that. Usually, dead fools.
The rune on Arne’s palm pulsed with power, and he opened the doorway it led him to. It was a dark staircase. He rested a hand on the hilt of his dagger and stepped through the door.
In the pitch black, he placed his sigil-burned palm on the cold stone wall, and pale crystals hanging from the roof lit up at once. They were mixed with sharp stalagmites that would fall on trespassers without the rune of passage.
How he was in a cave and walking a path twisted with the roots of the World Tree was one of Yggdrasil’s many mysteries that he refused to think about too hard.
The elves were all born with an innate sense and acceptance of magic around them. They could feel it in the elements and in others. They could bend and twist that magic to shape the world around them.
There was some magic that not even the elves could fight, and as he reached the bottom of the path, he prepared himself to face it.
Their power hit Arne first. It was rolling, pulsing thrum like he was standing inside a thunderclap. His palm was burning, but he didn’t stop walking. He passed through a carved stone archway and stopped by a deep, black pool.
Twisted roots framed and dipped into the pool, and he didn’t dare look into its inky depths in case it looked back. The chamber was lit with more glowing crystals. There were no fires in that place, but it wasn’t cold. The air was warm, moist, and laden with so much magic that he could taste it on his tongue.
“The prince finally arrives,” an ancient voice crackled. Behind a large root came a crone with a gnarled staff in one hand and carrying an empty bucket. “You look your time, little eagle.”
“Apologies for keeping you waiting, Lady Urd,” he replied, giving her a deep bow.
“All we have is time in this place, where it doesn’t exist at all.” Urd pressed the wooden bucket into his hands. “Here, fill this for an old woman.”
Arne took the bucket and dipped it into the pool. He shut his eyes as he did it, refusing to look even for this.
Urd cackled. “Still smarter than you look, prince.”
Arne pulled the full bucket free from the pool and only opened his eyes again when he had straightened. “What would you like me to do now?” he asked.
“Carry it and follow me.” Urd leaned heavily on her staff and hobbled off. Arne swallowed his nerves and hurried after her, knowing better than to dawdle.
Threads of light curved down and around the roots, all tangling together. Arne was careful to step only where Urd stepped and kept his mouth shut. There were few beings in all the Nine Worlds that Arne was afraid of, and he was about to be in the presence of the three of them.
A straight-backed, middle-aged female with silver in her black hair sat on cushions in a circle of roots. She had the threads of light twining through her long fingers before they fell to a twisting spindle.
“Ah, a visitor,” Verðandi said and smiled in greeting. “And a prince of the Ljosalfr no less.”
“One with strong enough muscles to carry a full bucket from Urðanbrunnr without spilling it,” Urd added, waggling her thin eyebrows at Arne.
“Where shall you have me place it, Lady Urd?” he asked.
“You will water the roots, and we will see what we see,” a new voice called. Arne glanced up higher in the roots, and amongst the glowing stalagmites was Skuld. She sat in a nest of light threads, her flaxen hair tangled with them. Despite that, when she grabbed the nearest root and slid down it like rope, the threads released her.
Skuld glowed softly; she was the future, always shining with the brightness of possibility. She was the one that Arne feared the most. She stared up at him with pale grey eyes.
“Tall. I approve of that. This way, eaglet.” Skuld looped her arm through his, and Arne’s magic pulsed inside him. She took him through another doorway and into a chamber that was only roots. These ones were pale and tender shoots.
Skuld gestured to them. “Pour, but spread it wide and do it gently, prince.”
Arne gripped the bucket and slowly began to water Yggrasil. He did his best to not disturb the frail roots, Skuld walking behind him, watching the black waterfall.
“Why is it always Daddy issues,” she muttered, and Arne almost dropped the bucket in surprise. He didn’t answer her, only kept up his task until the bucket was empty.
Skuld stared at the gleaming wet roots, her light pulsing around them. Finally, she let out a long sigh.
“Vili being loose is going to be problematic,” she said.
Arne nodded; this he knew. “How can I kill him?”
“He’s primordial god, eaglet. You can’t kill him. You don’t want to add patricide to the weight of your soul anyway. Nasty business. ”
“So Vili wins.” Arne gripped the bucket tight enough that the wood creaked.
“No, I said you can’t kill him, not that you can’t defeat him,” Skuld corrected him. “Very different things.”
Arne’s despair eased, and his breath steadied once more. “Do you see how we can defeat him before he kicks off Ragnarok?”
Skuld’s smile went feline. “Oh yes, but as handsome and valiant as you are, you aren’t going to be able to defeat him alone. You need to become more than what you are, eaglet.”
Arne knew better than to snap at her in frustration, but he wanted to. He had never met a seer that could give him a straight answer. “Can you tell me how?”
“You seem a bit slow and impatient today, so I will spell it out for you, hmm?” Skuld patted his cheek. “You need your mate, Arne. Unless you have her by your side, Midgard will burn and become ashes under Vili’s feet.”
Arne started to laugh, long and broken and desperate.
“What did you do to him?” Urd asked, appearing through the roots.
“Told him the truth.”
Urd poked Arne hard in the chest. “I think you broke him.”
“Prince, if you don’t stop braying like a donkey, I will hit you with my staff,” Urd threatened.
“I’m sorry, my ladies, it is a stress response, so I don’t cry.” Arne tried to stop laughing and cleared his throat. “If I don’t have my mate fighting by my side, Vili will burn the world. Do I understand that correctly?”
Skuld’s eyes narrowed. “That’s what I said. What are you having trouble understanding, eaglet?”
“Better prepare for Ragnarok, ladies,” Arne said, helplessness threatening to choke him. “Because my mate wants nothing to do with me.”
Urd hit him, a sharp rap on the top of his head. “Knock any sense into it? Hmm? If your mate wants nothing to do with you, it’s because you fucked up, my boy.”
“I didn’t mean to.” Arne rubbed at the bump on his head. “I don’t suppose I can get another bucket of water, and you can tell me what to do to fix it?”
“You don’t need more water.” Urd grabbed him by the chin, forcing him to stoop to her level. “You stop being a coward. That’s how you fix it, Arne Steelsinger. And you better, because if Ragnarok is unleashed because you didn’t know how to apologize, I will feed you to Fenris myself.”
Arne valued his life, so he only nodded.
“Good! Now, get to it,” Urd said, letting him go. Before Arne could stop her, Urd twisted her staff and hit him in the center of the chest. He stumbled and fell backward…..and landed hard on the forest floor.
Arne stared dazed at the birch and pine leaves above him. He knew without looking that he was home in Finnmark. He rubbed at his eyes, the journey already going hazy. The message was clear; he needed to get his mate before Vili made his move.
Arne lay where he was, letting the sounds of the forest settle him, and he tried to think of a plan. He knew without a doubt who his mate was; the problem was Layla wouldn’t answer any of his calls, so he could apologize or explain himself.
When Arne had asked the fae princes to mediate for him with Layla, all three of them had politely told him to go fuck himself.
Actually, Killian hadn’t been polite. He had looked him dead in the eye and told him to go fuck himself. He knew better than to get into a fight with an Ironwood.
Arne needed to petition an authority higher than the princes and only one step down from the gods. He smiled up at the sky as a name formed on his tongue. “Kenna.”
A fortnight later, Arne stood in front of Kenna Ironwood’s desk, wondering how a stocky human female could make him feel so intimidated. Her greying red hair was tied back in a braid, and she was wearing her hunting gear, just like always. He had seen her fight the night Morrigan attacked Dublin and knew that the Matriarch of the Ironwood clan was more than formidable.
She looked him over slowly before reaching into a drawer and taking out a packet of nicotine gum.
“How do I know I’m going to need at least three pieces to deal with whatever is about to come out of your mouth?” she said, unwrapping the gum and putting them in her mouth. “You going to start talking or just gawp at me, elf? What do you want?”
“Layla. I mean, I want Layla to represent the human and fae alliance at a summit the elves are having in two days,” he said, straightening his shoulders.
“So ask her.”
“I did. She said no.”
“That’s surprising because she’s obsessed with you lot.” Kenna shrugged. “But she said no, so there you have it. Find someone else.”
“There is no one else!” Arne ran a frustrated hand through his hair. “The elves are highly secretive, and they don’t like outsiders. Layla speaks elvish and knows enough of our customs that the queen has agreed to let her attend.”
“The queen, as in your mom?” Kenna chewed her gum.
“Yes, my mother is Queen Alruna of the Light Elves.” Arne was starting to sweat, and he couldn’t figure out why for the life of him.
Kenna popped her gum and pointed to a chair. “Sit your ass down, prince. You’re so wound up. You’re giving me a headache.”
Arne did as he was told. Sitting didn’t help his anxiety, but she wasn’t kicking him out, so that was a start.
“Now, I don’t know much, but I know when someone isn’t telling me everything,” she began, folding the gum foil between her fingers and rolling it like a cigarette she was trying to give up. “So…anything you want to add?”
“I went and saw the Norns to see how we can defeat Vili,” Arne replied, leaning his elbows against his knees. “They told me that unless Layla helps us, the world will burn. It’s why I need her to attend. The goddesses of fate themselves have decreed it.”
Kenna only popped her gum again, her expression not shifting.
“I know you don’t really care for supernatural creatures, but you care about this world. If Vili is allowed to reach Midgard, he’ll kick off an apocalypse.”
Arne desperately tried to think of something he could offer her.
“The elves would pay you an extremely generous fee. I also know that you have more hunters due to turn up and stay at the manor for training and a safe base. It’s a lot of mouths to feed and many people to discipline. The elves are some of the most elite fighters in the world; I will send you elves to help train the new recruits.”
Kenna held up her hand. “If you keep offering me things, I’m going to think you’re going to use my Layla for a blood sacrifice. Just…take a breath, lad. There you go. I’ll do you up a contract for Layla’s services. She’ll be pissy about it, but she’s a good girl and will do what’s right. If she wants to fight about it, she can fight me.”
Arne sagged with relief. “Thank you, Kenna. I have a plane to take her to Finnmark. Would it be possible for me to speak to her while I am here? I’d like to give her an itinerary and tell her what meetings she will need to attend.”
And to see her face for a moment. Pin her down and make her listen to my apology. Perhaps just pin her down…Arne quickly shook those thoughts away.
“Yeah, you can’t see her right now, lad. She’s busy tonight, but I’ll talk to her tomorrow,” Kenna said, turning to her laptop and bringing up a contract template.
“What do you mean she’s busy? The fate of the world hangs on her getting this done correctly.”
Kenna rolled her eyes. “And it can wait until tomorrow. She’s got a date tonight and hasn’t had one in a while.”
“A date,” he said flatly. Arne’s vision swirled with red.
“The girl needs to have some fun, especially if she’s about to be working with the elves for gods know how long,” Kenna said.
Arne couldn’t be sure, but he thought her eyes gleamed with mischief for a moment. His nervous sweat had turned cold, and his hands were clenching the arms of the chair too tight.
“It is very important I speak with her. Do you know what time she will return?” Arne asked, trying to keep his voice steady.
“If it goes well, I imagine it won’t be until tomorrow morning.” Kenna raised a brow at him. “Have to admit, I’m kind of jealous. The restaurant she was going to is a new Italian place that just opened up in Temple Bar. Roberto’s, maybe? It sounded good anyway.”
Some of the red cleared from Arne’s vision. Did she just tell him where to go? Kenna’s printer buzzed, and a contract slid out. She passed it over to him.
“Sign on the line, prince.”
Arne did so without checking any of the details. He was too busy thinking about another male touching Layla and all the violent things he would do to make it stop.
‘Elf Shot’ is coming soon!