Saturday Snippet – Witch Dance

Here’s a snippet of my coming book, Witch Dance. Release is next week!!! 🙂

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When the figure reached the center of the field, it stood up straight, as if being pulled upright by a string on the top of its head. As it uncurled, its hands extended to the sides with its palms facing upward, and it grew from what looked like an old hag to a healthy person. As if picked up by the same string, it rose straight up into the air. Chiksa’s eyes widened as the figure floated above the earth. A breeze caught the figure’s cloak and the edges swirled. A wind intensified, blowing around the figure, slowly spinning it in circles, but there had been no breeze a moment ago. A cloudy vortex formed around the figure, resembling tight circles of light gray smoke from a fire, extending from the ground into the clear heavens above. Even though he was known to be a mighty warrior, Chiksa’s hands began to sweat and his heart beat wildly, pounding in his ears. He had seen many things in his lifetime, but never anything like this. What kind of creature was this? When the figure hovered about four feet off the ground, the black cape dropped from its shoulders, floating to the ground like a fall leaf, revealing a woman. A young and beautiful woman. Her skin glowed under the stars as if she were the moon itself, coated in shimmering gold. Chiksa gasped and jumped to his feet.

The figure heard him and instantly returned to the ground. The vortex stopped so quickly, he wondered if he had imagined it. The woman retrieved her cloak, covered her nakedness, and walked toward him.

He couldn’t move from his spot. There was no sense in running.

She covered her head with her hood as she neared him. “Why are you here?” she asked in a cracking voice.

“I came to visit with my father,” he said in not much more than a whisper.

She cocked her head. “Your father?” She gestured around with both hands, indicating no one else was there.

He pointed to the mounds. “My father died a short time…”

She held her hand in front of his lips as if to silence him. Her fingers were long and bony, covered in deep wrinkles. Her nails were yellowed claws. This was not the beautiful young form he had witnessed only moments ago.

“There is great pain in this place,” she said.

“My people have recently lost their chief.”

“No. No people. Pain in you.” She pointed to his heart, her finger only inches from his chest.

He said nothing.

“Sa…lee…Salina?” she said slowly, her head cocked as if listening to something only she could hear.

“My wife.”

“A great blackness has taken her.”

“Yes.”

“She will die.”

He shook his head. “She can’t.”

“She can.” She paused and narrowed her eyes at him. “But she can be healed.” The old woman looked up at the sky and her cracked lips parted. Small black gaps between what looked like fangs emitted a foul stench that wrapped around Chiksa. Her yellowed eyes twinkled and she nodded toward the sky.

Chiksa didn’t move. He didn’t know if this creature had put a hex on him or if he was frozen in fear. It didn’t matter. She said Salina could be healed. That’s all he focused on.

“You can heal her?”

She was still staring at the sky.

He didn’t dare ask again. He didn’t want to anger her.

After a moment, she looked back at him. “Yes, yes, I can, but all things come at a price. I will decide the price and will be here again on the full moon. You come. Bring her.”

She turned away and moved toward the woods. He couldn’t say she walked; it was more like gliding, as if she floated just over the ground’s surface.

“What is your name?” he called when she reached the edge of the dark forest.

“Oma.”

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Lori Crane books are available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and iBooksWitch Dance will be available Sept 15 and is also coming to audiobook at Audible Oct 1.

Lori Crane is a bestselling author of historical fiction and the occasional thriller. Her books have climbed to the Kindle Top 100 lists many times, including “Elly Hays” which debuted at #1 in Native American stories. She has also enjoyed a place among her peers in the Top 100 historical fiction authors on Amazon, climbing to #23. She resides in greater Nashville and is a professional musician by night – an indie author by day. 

Look for Lori on “Most Terrifying Places in America” on the Travel Channel the whole month of October, where her book “The Legend of Stuckey’s Bridge” will be featured!

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Saturday Snippet – In Exchange for Your Freedom

Leeds_Maidstone_Fairfax_Doublet_1648In celebration of the release on October 31st of the fourth book in the Culpepper Saga, “Culpepper’s Rebellion,” we’re spending the next few Saturdays re-living moments from the first three books. In the second book, “John Culpepper the Merchant,” John finds himself mostly in Virginia, while at home in England, a deadly civil war has begun. His brother Thomas has been promoted to colonel in the king’s army. In this snippet, Thomas is fighting in his own backyard against General Fairfax of the parliamentarian army. Thomas’s wife and children could probably here the cannons from their house. The photo is the leather doublet General Fairfax wore in the battle. It has been preserved and is on display at Leeds Castle.

 

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The Merchant ebookWhen the afternoon grew late, the heavens opened up and heavy rains fell on Maidstone, but that did not stop Fairfax’s advance. His troops attacked Thomas’s army from behind. Their powder had become wet in the storm so they couldn’t use their muskets, but they fought with their longbows and swords. Fairfax’s men pushed Thomas’s soldiers back street by street, inch by inch. Lightning flashed as the royalists fought near Gabriel’s Hill. Thunder pounded their ears as they were moved back further to Week Street.

By the time evening turned to night, Thomas and his men had been pushed back to St. Faith’s Churchyard. They fought among massive oaks and tombstones, often not knowing which sounds were thunder and which were cannon fire. Thomas’s men held their ground.

As midnight fell, the fighting died down and Thomas’s men found shelter inside the church. The thunderstorm had flooded the cemetery and the torrents had seeped under the door of the church, covering the floor in inches of rainwater. The soldiers lay on the pews, wondering what they would do come morning. They were tired. They were cold and wet. They didn’t know how they would escape from the church that had now become a prison since Fairfax’s army had the building surrounded. What was left of their ammunition was wet and useless.

In the wee hours of the morning, the storms subsided, and the two armies sat in silence until the night gave way to the soft light of early morning. Thomas looked out the window and saw Fairfax, dressed in black, gallop onto the scene on his white horse. Fairfax spoke to a soldier, and though Thomas couldn’t make out their words, he could tell by Fairfax’s gestures that he was instructing the man to allow the royalist soldiers to emerge from the church and then send them home.

Thomas understood the move. Fairfax only wanted to capture the town; he didn’t want to be responsible for a thousand prisoners. Thomas instructed his men to wave a white flag and surrender. He needed them to stay alive to fight another day. Staying holed up in this church with no ammunition would not win the war. They had to keep their eyes on the larger prize.

One of the men cracked open the church door and stuck a white cloth through the opening, waving it at Fairfax’s man. Slowly, the soldiers exited, arms behind their heads.

Fairfax had won Maidstone.

Since St. Faith’s Church was flooded, the prisoners, under the shadow of muskets and swords, were commanded to walk single file up the hill to All Saints Church, where Fairfax’s men would catalog their names and release them, making them promise to lay down their arms and return home.

Thomas stayed with his men but remained silent at the back of the line, his head bowed, his eyes meeting no one’s. At All Saints Church, Thomas stood in the kaleidoscope of sunny colors blazing through the stained-glass windows and gazed down at his uncle Alexander’s tomb. He was certain his men had fought a brave battle, but as he stared at the tomb, he wondered if he could have done more. His men were before him, lined up like cattle ready to go to slaughter. He felt their fate was even worse than death, for they were giving up their pride and their king.

Perhaps he was being hard on himself. Perhaps he was just tired. After all, he had not felt the comfort of a soft bed for the last forty-eight hours.

After staring at his uncle’s tomb for more than an hour and listening to his soldier’s names being taken at the front of the line, Thomas decided to follow in his uncle’s footsteps. They could take his name on this day. They could take his arms and his horse. They could disband his men, but they would never take his spirit nor his ambition to see the king back on the throne. He would live to see these men with their ink pots and quills beheaded for treason. He would fight for his king until his final breath. Today was not the end. In fact, today was a new beginning.

When he was the only soldier left in the church, he raised his head and stepped away from his uncle’s tomb. He marched to the table set up near the door and looked down at the soldier sitting behind it. He found himself gazing into the eyes of General Thomas Fairfax.

“Well, Colonel Thomas Culpepper, do you claim command of these men?”

“No, these are George Goring’s men. I am only here to serve.”

“Goring? That traitor? It seems you have chosen to serve the wrong side.”

“When all is said and done, we’ll see if that is true, but I suspect you’re mistaken.”

Fairfax sighed and scribbled Thomas’s name on the paper in front of him. He spoke without looking up at Thomas. “Colonel Culpepper, in exchange for your freedom on this day, you are to lay down your arms and return to your home. Do you understand?”

“I understand,” Thomas lied without a flinch.

“Then you are free to go,” Fairfax said.

Thomas didn’t move.

Fairfax looked up.

Thomas said, “I hope you know what you’re doing, Thomas Fairfax. It will be a great shame when we change places and you’re forced to give up your talents as a competent military leader, only to find your head on a spike next to Cromwell’s.”

Fairfax narrowed his eyes. “Is that a threat, Culpepper?”

“No, just an observation.”

A bead of sweat appeared on the general’s forehead. He looked around at his own men loitering in the church. “We are finished here.”

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The first three books in the Culpepper Saga are available in paperback and Kindle at Amazon.

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Saturday Snippet – Father/Son Troubles

In celebration of the fourth book in the Culpepper Saga, “Culpepper’s Rebellion,” coming out October 31st, I’ll be reviewing re-living moments from the first three books. Some are triumphant, some are heart wrenching. If you haven’t read any of the story yet, follow along for the next few Saturdays and witness occasional tense and often loving moments between John Culpepper and various members of his family. The following snippet is from the first book in the series, “I, John Culpepper,” which is the story of John’s youth and his turbulent relationship with his father. In this snippet, John’s young niece has died and the family is meeting at the church for the funeral. John’s father, Johannes, has just arrived.

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51hHerBrPbL._UY250_December 3, 1630

John stood in the doorway of the church and watched his father climb down from his carriage. Sporadic blasts of cold wind whipped at Johannes’s thinning, gray hair and ruffled the hem of his cloak. He refused help from his footman and grunted with each movement. He was pale and wrinkled, his shoulders hunched by the weight of his sixty-five years. He leaned on his cane as he hobbled toward the church, favoring one leg over the other. When he reached the door, he looked up at John with tears in his bloodshot eyes. John stepped forward to take his father’s arm and escort him inside.

As they stepped through the stone archway into the church, Johannes grumbled, “Bloody flux.”

John nodded, not knowing if the comment required a reply. “Where’s Ann?” he asked instead.

“She’s visiting at her son’s house. I didn’t have time to go fetch her. I came straight here.”

John nodded again. He led his father to the front pew and helped him be seated. John stood in front of the pew and looked around at the family in attendance. For the first time in John’s life, he felt as if he needed to be the man in control of the family. This was an unusual sensation because his father or brother always filled the role of patriarch, but John accepted it for the time being. He returned to the door, just in time to see Thomas and Katherine enter.

Katherine was holding their eight-month-old baby Anna in her arms. John walked straight toward her, softly placed his hand on the infant’s head, and looked into Katherine’s eyes. “Katherine, I am so very sorry. Mary was such a beautiful little girl.”

Katherine looked down at Anna. Her lip quivered and tears rolled down her cheeks.

“And little Anna is just as beautiful.” John kissed the sleeping baby on the forehead.

“We had hoped for a son,” said Thomas quietly, “but we were happy to have Anna as a playmate for Mary. Sometimes plans and dreams just don’t work out.” Thomas’s voice cracked.

John understood that statement well. He looked into his brother’s face and realized he had never seen his brother so sad. If he could figure out a way to take this pain from him, he would. Katherine began to sob, and the men escorted her to the front pew.

After a long and dismal hour, the sermon finally ended and the family gathered outside in the graveyard, surrounded by stone monuments and chiseled epitaphs. Blustery snowflakes wafted through the air, twirling around bare branches of dormant oaks, as the family placed young Mary Culpepper in her tomb and solemnly left the grounds. John followed Thomas and Katherine home to Greenway Court. He left Johannes to fend for himself.

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The first three books of the Culpepper Saga are available in paperback and Kindle at Amazon.

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