In The Crow Maiden, Nahla is tasked with helping the broken hero heal his terrible leg wound that lamed him. In order to do this she also has to help him heal his mental wounds, the guilt and shame he suffers from not being able to protect his family and his people, but Balin has to want to heal.
When she finds him, he is using wine to suppress his pain, and he is living alone in a cave, an angry, ruined man. Nahla has to push him to be strong, something that causes friction between them at first. I could have had her use magic to heal him, but that would have been way too easy. It had to be a challenge for both of them. Plus, Artemis wanted her to work hard to heal the champion as part of her penance or her wrongdoing.
The mind is very powerful. It can make you strong or it can destroy you. I can attest from personal experience that the mind plays a very important role in healing. Perhaps that’s why I wanted to write a story with a wounded character. I had to overcome my own medical scare that almost left me disabled. If I hadn’t pushed hard to get better, I doubt I would have. I still struggle daily with it. Staying positive is the best way to fight it.
Nahla refused to give in. She crossed her arms, her stance firm.
“No more wine and now you are forcing me to have a bath? What does a bath have to do with our alliance?” His scowl deepened.
“Have you smelled yourself lately? I cannot stand to be around you.” She waved her hand to push away the foul odors of stale wine and sweat coming from his body. Somewhere, she hoped, beneath his slovenly, unpleasant manner lurked a warrior and a champion.
He looked down at his rumpled, dirty clothes and wrinkled his nose. “A bath is, perhaps, an excellent idea.”
It was no surprise that his cave home lacked a bathtub. “Is there a river or lake nearby?”
“Yes. Having you bound to me has been highly unpleasant so far,” he grumbled. He grabbed a blanket from a long, flat ledge cut into the wall a few steps from the fire and seized his axe on the way out of the cave.
“I am not here for your pleasure.”
She followed him. A craggy hill greeted her. Yellow and purple orchids sprouted from the cracks of the frowning rock face, lending it beauty. Clusters of scrub grass, bushes, purple hyacinths, and red poppies filled the area in front of the cave.
She was uncertain how her bond to him worked. It seemed that being with Balin was her new waiting place until Aramon summoned her. This was an improvement from the Shadowlands, but this man had some unpleasant habits she hoped to break to turn him into a true champion, one worthy enough to wield Artemis’s great weapon.
He was the one chosen, but she had not seen Aramon’s death, not yet. His death would come at the hand of the one who wielded the goddess’s weapon and that person must be Balin, since she was bound to him.
He turned right and limped down a path lined with tall, sentry-like cypress and thick-needled pine trees that covered the steep-sided gorge in dark green colors that enhanced the bright colors of the orchids, hyacinths, and poppies and deepened the blue of the sky. Fragrant flowers and pine filled the air with wondrous perfume.
The beauty of her surroundings embraced her as she descended the path into the gorge, her step growing lighter. The tranquil greenery and the colorful flowers sparkled in the blend of shadows and light. Afternoon sunlight streamed through the forest and spread warmth through her body. She had the urge to remove her cloak and bask in the sun. Aramon kept her inside his bedchamber unless he sent her on some unpleasant task. She couldn’t remember the last time she’d been outside, free to enjoy the sunshine and do as she pleased. Being trapped between the worlds in the Shadowlands was like looking through a doorway, one she longed to step through out into the vibrant world, but her magical bond to Aramon wouldn’t allow her to cross the threshold.
The sound of running water filled the air along with birdsong. She caught herself smiling, something she had rarely done since her captivity. Having this experience of freedom made her more determined to get what she wanted.
The path reached the bottom of the gorge and opened to a small waterfall cascading down the craggy wall into a blue-green pond surrounded by vivid layers of lush plants and poplar trees, sprinkled with vibrant-colored flowers that twinkled like yellow, purple, and blue starlight. Farther down, the pond flowed into a large river lined by white and black poplars. The pale trunks and white twigs gleamed among the dark brown trunks and brown twigs. In the slight breeze, the dark green-gray leaves of the white poplar with a woolly snowy underside flashed among the shiny green leaves of the black. She couldn’t take her eyes off the beautiful sight.
“Are you going to watch me bathe or join me?”
She turned toward Balin. He sat on a rock, bare-chested, his impish grin revealing rows of even white teeth. The playful sparkle in his eyes was oddly appealing, much different from the anger she’d seen in them more than once since their meeting.
“Neither.” Though the pond did look inviting. His muscular chest and arms took her by surprise. Given his condition, she had expected him to be flabby.
“Perhaps next time then.” He struggled to remove his leggings.
“Perhaps.” She fought back the urge to assist him. She wouldn’t coddle him, and he wouldn’t want that either.
Naked, he limped toward the pond. She stared at him with her mouth open. Aramon had a firm, strong body, but Balin had the body of a god, tall and golden. His disheveled appearance hid a muscular warrior’s body. He would have been perfect if not for his damaged left leg. A large, ugly, jagged scar marred the back of his thigh and ended below his knee. It was the kind of injury made by a long iron sword, the terrible slashing weapon used by Aramon’s army.
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The Crow Maiden
Book 3: The Arcadia Series
(The Crow Maiden is a standalone story in the Arcadia Series)
She betrayed her goddess for him…
He betrayed her.
Plotting her revenge is her only solace. Until now.
Nahla is the Crow Maiden, an Arcadian, and once a priestess of Artemis. Now she is a captive, a being who lives in the shadows until her vile master the sorcerer-king Aramon summons her. Another releases her from the Shadowlands, and while he might be the champion she has waited for, the gods must be playing a cruel joke. Her champion is crippled.
An Achaean lord who once ruled a great city, Balin is a broken man. He has lost everything—his kingdom and his family. Revenge consumes him. Although wary of the mysterious, cold-eyed female who appears and claims he summoned her, she may be his only hope to exact vengeance on the king who ruined him, the same man Nahla seeks to destroy.
They are bound by revenge, and soon, both learn they are bound by much more, but the secrets she hides might tear them apart and ruin their only opportunity for vengeance—and their chance to love again.
“Ms. Heckart draws the reader into the pages and enchants them with her words.”
Karen McGill, Coffee Time Romance
Multi-published author Kelley Heckart lives in Arizona with her musician husband, dog and a number of backyard “pets.” Her stories reflect her passion for ancient and medieval time periods, storytelling and the supernatural. Inspired by the ancient Celts, her tales are filled with fierce warriors, bold women, otherworldly creatures, magic, and romance. When not writing, she works as a freelance editor and practices target archery. She can be found online at http://www.kelleyheckart.com/
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Otherworldly tales steeped in myth, magic & romance.
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Kelley-Heckart/e/B002BMOQ3C