How do you fight a supernatural battle without the most secret and ancient of powers This is precisely the question that Frost must answer when she is given the awesome task of delivering the Book of the Last Battle to those who have work in good magic. Frost must rely solely on the physical strength of her sword and the magic contained within her beauty to succeed in her quest and regain her powers.
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April 25, 2003
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Excerpt from Frost by Robin W. Bailey
Frost reached into her saddlebag for the last strip of dried meat that made up her hastily drawn provisions. Relaxing in the saddle, she began to chew the tough substance, caring little that it had no taste. A swig of cool liquid from her nearly empty water skin washed it down, and she rode on toward Shazad.
With the storm over, the clouds gone, a bright moon shone down through the trees. Once, Frost stopped her horse and gazed skyward for long, questioning moments, for amid the stars there seemed to be a single red eye, staring toward the ground. But a drifting breeze stirred the thick branches and dripping leaves, shaking water into her upturned eyes. When she could see again, the vision was gone. A trick of the moon, no doubt, or her imagination. Her mother had warned her that madness was the fate of murderers.
She cast her gaze about, peering into the darkness. Etai Calan, this wood was called. Forest of the Forgotten. Forest of the Damned, she thought.
Glimmering in the moonlight were the demon-things that gave Etai Calan its name; monstrous webs stretched between the huge old trunks, burning with a dew-laden fire that never faded. With elegant, lazy grace they draped among the limbs and branches. Esgarian legends spoke of an ancient, half forgotten race of spider-like creatures that once inhabited the land and used this forest as a museum to display their most beautiful works of art -- webs which to this day endured. What had become of that race, no one remembered. No trace of them remained, and no legend or song told of their passing. But the webs were treated with reverence, and when the road was cut through Etai Calan not a strand was disturbed.
Frost was more than glad the path avoided the strange webs. She had no love for spiders, artistic or otherwise. From a safe distance, though, she wondered why they never blew apart in storms like the one she had just come through, and what gave them such an eerie light. The webs grew thicker as she rode deeper into the wood, and a twist in the road brought them close enough to touch.
She stopped her horse and listened. Since darkness had fallen, Etai Calan had been silent. Unnaturally so. Except for the steady fall of her mount's hooves and the dripping water off wet leaves, no other sound touched her ears. The quiet was unsettling, but after awhile she rode on, alert for any hint that she was not the only living thing in the night.
The air came suddenly alive with sound, a soft rhythmic flutter at first as if the dark was filled with thousands of wings. The beating grew and grew as a vague shadow passed overhead, hiding the bloated moon from sight. Frost grimaced as the noise assailed her and fought to stay astride her panicking steed. Then, sound and shadow faded in the distance, and the wood was quiet as before.
A chill fell upon the forest. Frost drew her damp cloak closer around her. Magic, she was sure... Had the storm, too, been created and not natural?
Again the shadow passed over the trees. Her mount trembled and tried to rear, and Frost fought to hold him still, cursing the pig-farmer that had sold him to her.
Thick clouds rolled in and blotted out the stars. The moon slowly vanished, taking the last light. Only the glowing webs of Etai Calan showed her the road.