The Antlered Crown

Here you will find the full synopsis and an Excerpt for the Antlered Crown

Muse for the Antlered Crown. Image Borrowed which inspired the story in the first place.

Synopsis:

Cael is held bound by the granddaughter, Violet. She and her grandmother seek the ancient artifact, the Antlered crown to aid in regaining their kingdom in the far south.

The crown is reported to give the wearer great insight and power to rule over all the forest, to be in charge of the very essences of the forest, for a period of six months, from the autumn equinox until the spring. This gives the grandmother and Violet enough time in which to achieve their aims.

But they are not without opponent. The forest King and his council stand in their way. But Cael will wear the crown this season and being bound by Violet is not a good thing for him or any of the Fae. He seeks to escape and seeks help to do it, but none have been able to release him from the binding he has set upon himself, for it was his own stupidity that set the course for his being bound.

Jannis and her sister Airin have left the only home they have known. When their father died, there was no one to look after them, as Jannis was not able to obtain work in the only job she knew. No one wished to take a woman into the woods with them, being suspicious saying that a woman in the woods was bad luck. Hr only other option was Joachim Brins, who sought her out everywhere she went with a request for marriage. With no one to protect her or her sister, their options were limited.

They decide to leave, and travel north seeking new horizons. They travel for over a thousand miles with just their mountain pony, Striker, their dog, Dal and their belongings, they end up on in the Village of three Rivers Cross, and decide to stay and try their luck.

Before they leave their home, Jannis obtains a charm, which will give her the appearance of a man/boy for a period of seven days, long enough she hopes to find work. She is hired by the woodsman guild and starts work the next day.

While she is out with the woodsmen, she encounters Cael and Violet, who seek out the woodsmen to purchase supplies of wood, Knives and other things that they are not able to get themselves.

Cael can see the charm on her and wonders why she is trying to hide who she really is and why she has disguised herself. Jannis is not impressed with him, he is a large, strange wolf and she cannot understand why he also is bound, which she sees clearly enough.

A few nights later, Cael visits Jannis after having watched her from afar, and they strike up a friendship, which leads Jannis to try and free him from the binding that has been placed on him, but to do this she must travel to the frozen forest and bring back a rare mushroom which will put the shapeshifter to sleep and allow them to remove the binding.

To travel to the Frozen Forest, Jannis needs the help of the council and the woodsmen, who have lived in harmony with the forest for a long time, long before the Grandmother and Violet came.

But they are pressed for time as the equinox id fast approaching, and they are also beset with mishaps along the way, they make it back and find that they are too late. Cael is gone and the crown also. The equinox has come and gone Cael is captive to the whims of the Grandmother and Violet.

Jannis sets out again, but Cael is also not content to rest, he seeks release, at every angle and the binding is weakening. They do not realize that Cael has fallen in love with Jannis, and she him. And the bindings have become loose enough for him to free himself the rest of the way. With the binding finally broken, Cael seeks to escape, but he cannot leave the Crown behind.

Jannis is coming for her man shifter, her wolf, her mate, and she will allow no one to take him from her. She has a few tricks up her sleeve, tricks even she is not aware of.

When she finally catches up to the pair and Cael, the fight is intense, dangerous and risks the lives of not only Cael and Jannis and those with them, but the eco-system of the forest they seek to protect. The wolf spirit must awaken and work hard to restore the balance that has been upset by the Grandmother and Violet, who tried to take charge of the crown.

 Excerpt – Unedited work in progress

As they neared the working woodsmen, the steady thwack-thwack of axes hitting wood could be heard. Jumbled conversations and activity all drowned out the natural forest murmurs. Cael slowed his pace, circling around the group of men, assessing the group for danger before he stopped to approach them. They had seen him before, but each visitation was something that caused them to watch him warily, and mark wards across their chests, as though simple hand signs were proof against him, especially within his own element.
As he circled to the east of the group, the wind brought a scent to his nostrils, that caused him to misstep, something he hadn’t done since a pup, too young to know where to place his feet. He turned, lowering himself, so Violet could descend, and padded behind her as she approached the Woodsmen.
Cael scanned the group of surprised men, except one wasn’t as she seemed. Cael wondered why she wore a charm that caused her appearance to blur. It was as though she sought to trick the eye from what it saw. But if nothing else, he would know a female regardless of how she sought to hide herself. The question that Cael could not decipher was why she wanted to hide.
He stalked her, walking to within a few inches of the woman who appeared to be a man, and sniffed her deeply. Her scent tickled his nose, and the large dog which had been resting at her feet, stood tall beside her, clearly willing to protect if the need arose. Cael looked at him, nodding his approval, which caused the dog to relax, and return to his previous prone position.
The woman stood, stiff as a rock carved statuette, barely breathing through her nose, her lips parted slightly. Couldn’t they see her outline was nothing like a man? She was narrow hipped, but her hips eased outward in a gentle curve no man could hope to imitate, and no woman could possibly hide. Her waist, narrowing further and her breasts straining against the fabric of her shirt. One thing that Cael could say, was that she was built, strings of muscle roped her arms, and supported her legs, but in a way that gave her strength, not bulk.
Her lips were plump, dark brown with a pink kiss where they’d parted in surprise. He wanted to see her lips whisper his name, the sensual bow shape stirring his interest. Her skin was a warm, caramel brown, which looked velvet soft. Her eyes a dark brown, so dark they were almost black, and her nose was small and pert, narrow like the rest of her body. But she was strong, she hefted the log in her hands, like any of the men around her, even after he had scrutinised her for the better part of five minutes, still she held her place, and the hunk of maple tree also.
Her hair was woven in an intricate tail behind her back, no doubt to keep it out of her way. And she was tall, as tall as the woman who had bound him, who at present was bartering for new blades from the head woodsman.
Cael dipped his nose to the woman, sniffing her again intently, sure that his senses were mistaken. He growled low in his throat, so only she could hear, widening her eyes in fear. Cael could do nothing to ease the fright, he already stood a head above her. His thick white neck ruff, almost brushing her face, he stood so close. But her scent called him, called him like nothing had ever called to him before. He wanted this woman, with a need and passion that he had never known, a desire that grew within him the longer he stood before her.
He lowered his head, pinning her with his eyes, trying to communicate something to her.
‘Move away from me,” she whispered, “You will call the wrong type of attention upon me.”
Cael whuffled in amusement. What care he for others attention. He had had attention all his life, and look where it had gotten him! Bound to a hedge witch by the most simplest means imaginable.
“Back up, I told you!” she raised her voice slightly, causing her dog to prick up his ears. The dog barked. A short sharp noise that caused all the men, and the witch, to turn towards them.
“Wolf, leave the woodsman alone,” she stated, and turned back to her business.
Cael considered the fact that she did not see the simple enchantment placed upon the girl, and what that could possibly mean. He backed up a few steps, but pushed his nose towards her, tasting her with the tip of his long tongue.
She swatted at his nose in anger, “Stop it. Now!”
Cael raised his head, and fixed her with his eyes. He would find her again. He had her scent and her taste, and nothing in the forest could hide from him once he had their scent, even if he had to track them for days after the trail had gone cold.
But Cael knew exactly where the woodsmen lived, it had been him and the rest of the forest council that had given them permission to hunt, fish and chop wood for their livelihood within their domain. They saw things that no mortal had ever seen, but the pact that they had with the forest dwellers meant that if they spoke they would be banished, or worse. The ancient forest had to be protected at all costs, and if someone had to die to keep the secret that was far better than the alternative.
The woodsmen could never travel the deep forest, they had no right to go there, and the forest itself would prevent them, twisting them around and depositing them back where they had started, almost. It had happened so many times, that they didn’t even try to find the deep heart of the forest anymore, content and rewarded enough to remain on the outside.
He would find her again. Her scent was embedded on his senses.