Although this is the last free preview of Emily Hall Bates’ “Demon’s Heart,” this doesn’t have to be the last you read of the book. Just purchase a copy for yourself to get the rest of the story.
“Demon’s Heart” is available in bookstores and from online retailers.
From the author: Rustav has enjoyed the safety of the mountain village, a place far different from his chaotic home. However, a startling exchange with Anton, the town’s old carpenter, sends Rustav on the run.
Rustav began running, the methodical thud of his feet against the dirt roads beating away Anton’s wild words. He took the shortest route out of the town, then took a sharp turn to head directly uphill. He blew past the church and slowed only as he approached the tree line.
Five feet from the first of the old trees, Rustav stopped. He hadn’t yet decided whether he fully intended to plunge recklessly through the forest, spurred on by the absurdity of Anton’s declarations. After all, things had been going so well. It had been three months since he ran from the castle. Three months with no Guards and no sign of Karstafel. He could almost believe that he had outrun his problems.
But if he stayed, his problems were bound to catch up. Not even the mountains would avoid the island plague. The sooner he moved on, the better.
But what about the others? Didn’t they deserve a warning too, after all they had done for him? Could he really just leave them behind to suffer under the rule of demon-worshippers?
Torn by indecision, Rustav stared into the darkness of the woods, the world where scarcely any sunlight penetrated the thick tangle of boughs. Something within the shadows drew him in, straining at a place deep inside of him, a place he had never before been aware of. Cautiously, he took a step closer, then another, until he could reach out and touch the nearest of the trees, placing his hand lightly on the deeply grooved trunk.
Whispering filled his ears, and Rustav strained to hear. Though he couldn’t understand any words, he could feel the spirit of the message—excitement, anticipation, invitation. The whispering pulled at him, urged him onward. Into the woods to meet my death, Rustav thought ruefully, trying to shake the mysticism of the moment. Still, he couldn’t free himself from the urgency of the whispers. A breeze pushed at his back, and Rustav pressed his hand a little harder against the rough bark of the tree. He’d be able to hear the words, he was sure, if he just had another moment.
And then the whispering stopped.