**Today on Dark Faerie Tales, read Kalayna Price’s take on the Gingerbread House fable and a chance to win Grave Dance, also a chance to win Isle of Night by Veronica Wolf**
Meet Tara Godfrey, a seventeen year old werewolf hunter who is juggling an egotistical ex-boyfriend, a mysterious new hottie, a controversial political group, and all the secrets of her past. Throw a murderous uncle into the mix and you’ve got Dirty Blood.
The Twelve (Naked) Princes
(PG rated – don’t worry!)
Once upon a time, there was a girl named Tara who possessed a supernatural skill; she hunted werewolves. Tara lived with her mother in a small house on the edge of the woods. Every night Tara would leave and roam the forest, hunting for werewolves, and keeping the town safe. Tara’s mother didn’t approve of Tara’s lifestyle; especially if it meant Tara was still living at home, with no income of her own.
One day a proclamation came from King Henry. His sons, the twelve princes, were mysteriously disappearing every night from their locked bedrooms, only to be found the next morning safely in their beds, with no clothes, and scratches all over their body. No one could figure out how it was happening and the princes refused to say where they’d been. The King invited anyone who would come to stay in the castle and try to solve the mystery of the twelve princes. The person who discovered the truth would be rewarded with riches untold and any favor they would ask of the King.
Tara’s mother insisted that she go. So the next morning, Tara loaded up her car and set out for the castle. While on her way, she met an old woman.
“Where are you going?” the woman asked.
Now Tara was not excited about the idea of going to snoop while the princes ran around without any clothes on. She’d much rather be out in the woods, fighting werewolves. So she answered honestly, and not with a little irritation. “I’m going to the castle to figure out why the twelve princes can’t keep their clothes on.”
“That is not so difficult,” said the old woman, a sparkle in her eye. “You must not drink the wine, which will be brought to you at night, and you must pretend to be sound asleep.” Then the woman pulled something from under her robe, and held it out to Tara. “If you put this on you will be invisible and then you can follow the twelve.”
Tara took it and told the woman, “Thank you,” for her kindness. They parted ways and Tara continued on to the castle.
When she arrived, King Henry greeted her and had a room made up for her to stay the night in the castle. He explained there was a secret passage in her room that led to the princes’ rooms that she could use to keep an eye on them and she would report back in the morning. Tara agreed. Then the King told her that if she succeeded, she’d be heavily rewarded, including any favor she would ask of him.
Tara went to her room and waited. When a knock sounded a couple of hours later, a man stood there; a butler. He held out a tray with a single wine glass, half full. He smiled at her but didn’t speak. She took the offered glass and closed the door with a nod. Then she turned the lock and poured the glass down the drain in the bathroom. She slid the wall open, revealing the hidden passageway the King had told her about. Then she took the cloak the old woman had given her and hurried down the dark hallway.
At the end of the tunnel was a small hole in the wall that she could just barely see through. It looked into a sitting area where five of the Twelve were lounging on couches and recliners, talking.
“So she’s asleep then?” asked one of them.
“That’s what Gerard says. He gave her the wine and then didn’t hear a peep,” answered another, with a mop of a haircut.
The first one laughed and then shook his head. “She could’ve had her answer, but no.”
“So, we’re in the clear, then?” Another one poked his head in the room, rubbing his wet hair with a towel.
“Yes. Are we ready?”
They got up and wandered into another room. Tara assumed it was one of the bedrooms that led off the main sitting room. The princes called to one another and a few more wandered by, all heading towards the back bedroom. The last one was at an angle too hard to see but Tara heard his voice.
“I know you’re all fine with this plan, drugging everyone, but this one’s different. She’s a girl. I have a bad feeling about this,” he said.
The other princes laughed. “You’re such a scaredy-cat, Aaron. Nothing’s going to happen. Come on, we need to go.”
With that, the mop haired boy pushed his bed aside to reveal a staircase that descended underneath the floor. Tara waited until the last boy had gone through and then crept to the hole. She paused to pull the cloak over her head. When it was in place, she stepped onto the stairs.
She’d gone what felt like ten flights when the winding became steeper and she rounded a curve and almost ran smack into the back of one of the princes.
“What the…?” He turned to see what had grazed him and Tara froze. He looked right at her for several agonizing seconds, until she realized he was actually looking through her.
“What are you being paranoid about now, Aaron?” called the mop-headed one from further up.
“Nothing,” Aaron mumbled, turning back.
They began walking again and Tara followed them through the tunnel and out into the middle of thick woods. She looked around but couldn’t see anything familiar about it, though she spent lots of time in the woods near her own home. The trees seemed thicker here, the moonlight choked against the overhanging branches. No owls called and no cicadas chirped. It was deathly quiet. It made her think of her werewolf hunts.
The boys gathered together in a loose circle. Instantly, the air seemed to grow thicker and warmer. The princes’ skin shimmered and blinked out. Just like that, they were gone. All twelve of them. In their places stood wolves. Werewolves.
The closest wolf snarled and wrenched his head towards Tara. It was only a few seconds before they all had their noses in the air, sniffing wildly. A growl sounded from the tallest of the wolves, starting deep in his throat before travelling all the way up to his mouth and escaping into the night. The rest of the wolves howled along with him.
With a final growl, the leader turned and darted into the trees. The rest followed behind him and Tara behind them. She gave into her hunter senses, in order to keep up. Her feet were light enough underneath her that they made no sound as they barely made contact with the deadened leaves beneath her.
When they stopped, the wolves breathed heavily, with giant tongues lolling to their sides. They followed their leader to the edge of the lake they’d come to, and lowered their heads to drink. They’d barely touched tongue to water when a low grumble sounded from within the cover of the trees. Tara tensed. It was the growl of a werewolf but the twelve princes were standing right in front of her, silent.
Tara peered into the woods but even her heightened vision couldn’t show her where the growl had come from. She waited, and a moment later, a towering black wolf emerged from the woods. Saliva dripped from its mouth and murder was in its yellow eyes. It sprang at the closest prince without a second’s hesitation.
Tara might have reacted then but three more black wolves followed on its heels and dove for the throat of one of the princes. And behind them, six more. Fangs and claws glinted in the darkness and all Tara could do was watch in horror as a gruesome battle raged.
A black wolf was thrown to its belly and rolled to a stop a few feet away from where Tara crouched behind a tree. Its ribs retracted with a labored breath and a moment later it struggled to its feet. Tara reacted on instinct and before the wolf could rejoin the battle, she reached out and clamped her hands around its jowls and dragged it forward. That got its attention. It reared up and tried to buck against her movement but she held fast. She could see its wide eyes, shocked at being dragged by an invisible force. She managed to pull it far enough from the battle that she hoped no one would notice. She grabbed a fallen branch, raised it, and drove it down into the wolf’s chest. A soft cry escaped her lips but she barely noticed. She was caught up in the kill and wondering why she’d chosen to help the princes instead of killing them, too, the moment they had changed.
In front of her, the battle raged, and she crept back towards it, looking for another easy kill. Some way to help end this. A voice interrupted her concentration.
“I know you’re there. I can’t see you, but I know.”
She turned and found the youngest prince, Prince Aaron, staring towards the spot where she stood. He was far enough away that all she could see was a shadow of him but she recognized his voice, and knew that he was human.
“I saw you kill the Dark One. Thank you,” he said. Leaves crunched as he turned and sailed forward, shimmering and changing back into werewolf form in midair as he joined the fight again.
Tara stayed where she was, too afraid of being discovered if she moved closer. No more black werewolves came her way and eventually, what was left of the black werewolves seemed to tire and realize they weren’t getting anywhere, and ran off.
When they were alone, Tara followed the princes back through the woods to the castle, jumping in front of them just before they reached the entrance to the tunnel and stairwell. She beat them back to the bedroom and into the secret passage that took her to her own room. Safely inside, she removed the cloak and collapsed into bed.
The next morning, Tara waited for the King’s man to come for her. When the knock came, she answered it reluctantly. To her surprise, it was not the King’s man, but the youngest prince. Prince Aaron. Scratches covered his arms and face.
“May I come in?” he asked.
She let him in and waited to hear what he would say.
“Did you sleep well?” asked Prince Aaron. He looked away from her to glance at the empty wine glass.
“Yes, thank you,” she replied.
He stared at her for a long time and she squirmed under his searching gaze. Finally he sighed and said, “They say you’re a werewolf hunter. It was you in the woods with us last night. You killed that Black One. Why didn’t you kill us?”
“I didn’t expect you to be werewolves. I came here because my mother forced me to. She wanted me to do more with my life than hunt werewolves. It seems that’s all I’m meant for.”
He looked impressed. “You did pretty well with that Black One.”
“Why were you fighting them?” she asked.
“The Black Ones came a few months ago and threatened to attack the castle and the rest of town. We’ve been fighting them off every night since then. It’s the only reason we leave every night.”
“And why you come home with scratches every morning,” she finished.
“Your father will come for me soon. He’ll want an explanation.”
“You should tell him. My brothers might not agree but we can’t keep hiding this. Especially from my father. He needs to be prepared to protect the kingdom if we fail.”
“Are you sure? He’ll owe me a favor.”
“I’m sure,” he promised.
A knock came again and this time it was the King’s man. Tara squared her shoulders and left with him.
King Henry was waiting for her. He turned from the window and watched her enter the room with a troubled look in his eyes. “Well? My sons woke naked and covered in scratches again this morning. What did you discover?” asked King Henry.
Tara took a deep breath and then told him everything she had seen. The King listened and when he was done he called for the twelve princes.
“Is this true?” he asked them. “You lose your clothes because you change into wolves?”
Finally, Prince Aaron stepped forward. “Yes, it’s true,” he said.
King Henry paid Tara the agreed amount and asked her what favor she would request from him.
“I would like to hunt with the princes, until the Black Ones are destroyed, your majesty.”
The King heard how she had killed the Black One in the forest so he agreed. And so she stayed in the room with the secret passageway and hunted with the princes every night.
Heather is offering a copy of her book, Dirty Blood, to one lucky reader!
I killed a girl last night. I did it with my bare hands and an old piece of pipe I found lying next to the dumpster. But that’s not the part that got me. The part that scared me, the part I can’t seem to wrap my head around and still has me reeling, was that when she charged me, her body shifted – and then she was a wolf. All snapping teeth and and extended claws. But by the time I stood over her lifeless
body, she was a girl again. That’s about the time I went into shock… And that was the moment he showed up.
“And even now, there are two thoughts that are so clear, they feel branded into my mind: One, Werewolves do exist and two, I was born to kill them.”
- Open INTERNATIONALY
- If an international reader win, the will get a ebook, if the winner is from the States they can choose a signed bound copy if they want.
- to enter, Leave a comment letting me know what you think of the story.
You can earn one (1) extra entry for spreading the word, please provide a link in a second comment
Ends September 7th, 2011.
Heather is a twenty something mother of two adorable children and wife to a military husband. She lives in coastal VA and works from home, part time, as a property manager. She writes YA Paranormal Romance and reads it.
When she’s not writing or reading, she’s helping her hubby with DIY projects in their home (he woodworks – she paints) or she’s lying on the beach, soaking in those delicious, pre-cancerous rays.
She loves Mexican food, hate socks with sandals, and if her house was on fire, the one thing she’d grab is her DVR player.
More books by Heather Hildenbrand