Excerpt: Dark Moon the first by, well, me

So some of you may have seen the little tabbies up there and realized that I am writing a novel!  Well, okay, I'm writing a boatload of novels but Dark Moon: Title to be determined is the one I've been working on the longest and the one that is probably the least hopeless.  I know; I'm as cheery as rainbows dipped in glitter.  Anyhoo, as I go through the final (probably) read-through and edits, I figured I'd offer up an excerpt.  Because, I dunno, it's kinda cool and what-not?  Enjoy!  

Somewhere in the screen of trees, she heard a voice.  She froze.  It was a man’s voice, too low to make out but definitely human.  Another voice joined him.  They were coming closer.  Then, the panic hit.  Crying out, she broke into a run, wincing at the branches that slapped her cheeks but still pumping her legs as fast as she could over the slippery brush.  Behind her, she could swear she heard heavy footfalls, but she didn’t stop running to make sure.  The dark was too thick to see the fallen tree in her path.  She slammed right into it.  Momentum kept her flying forward but her foot was caught in the rotted branches.  It wrenched out with an agonizing pop, leaving her splayed on the ground, howling.  Though her screams, she barely heard the cries of, “Lena!” until Ayla was crouching over her.  The men’s voices were gone. 
“My ankle,” she managed to blubber. 
Ayla ran her hands over the joint.  There was a glow and then she said, “It’s only sprained.  That’ll keep you ‘til I can really heal it.  Come on now.”  She yanked Lena to her feet and marched her in silence another twenty feet, where the tree line broke and the forest became Ayla’s cottage lawn.  Lena had almost been back.  She’d been too shaken to speak while they walked out of the forest, and now she never got the chance before Ayla shook her by the shoulders and barked, “What were you thinking?” 
“I told you to the stay to the paths!  I told you to be back by sundown!  You know how worried I was?  Waiting there fretting, thinking you’d been caught by Durrigan’s men!” 
“Who’s Durrigan?” Lena squeaked. 
“Only the leader of the Malines!  Have the Watchers told you nothing?”  She growled with frustration.  “No, of course they haven’t.  The Malines are the oldest group of outlaws in Mystala.  They’ve been around for centuries starting wars and causing trouble and fighting the Wards, and they were nearly gone but now Durrigan’s brought them back.  He’s got soldiers kidnapping and pillaging all over the continent.  A Maline catches you and finds you’re a Ward and he’ll kill you, plain as that.” 
“I’m sorry, I got lost!” 
“Well don’t,” Ayla snapped, but seeing the shake in Lena’s shoulders seemed to soften her, because the glare vanished from her eyes.  “Just don’t go straying from the paths again.  It’s not safe at night.  The Malines could be anywhere.  Not to mention wolves and bears and woodwatchers, or gods forbid, a shadeling.” 
“Shadeling.  They sound cute.”    
“They’re not.” 
            Ayla was gentle and chatting by the time she healed Lena’s ankle—a process twice as painful as spraining it—and shooed her off to bed.  Lena could only respond in absentminded single syllables.  Until she fell asleep, the only thought in her mind was whether those voices had belonged to Malines, and what would have happened if they’d caught up to her.  

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