Edited by Stephanie Eding stephanieediting.com
The First Daughter is for the throne. The Second Daughter is for the Wolf.
A Second Daughter hasn't been born in centuries, and the dark reasons for Red's birth have been forgotten. She belongs to the Limoreha, the once-enchanted wood on her kingdom's border, and on her eighteenth birthday she'll be sent the Wolf, its enigmatic guardian. Red has heard stories about the Wolf her whole life. They say he's handsome, powerful – and dangerous.
Once she reaches the Wolf's Keep, Red learns she isn't cursed like she was led to believe. She has a powerful gift for magic, and was born to save her kingdom from the evil beyond the wood. The magic in her must be bound to the magic of the Wolf, Eammon, to keep her world safe from a malevolent force that's been plotting for centuries.
The Wolf is everything the stories warned her he would be – and some things they didn't. An unlikely friendship forms as he teaches her magic and the truth about her kingdom. The truths about himself, he's less inclined to share.
Secrets must be revealed when Red's mother dies and her sister, Snow, takes the throne. Snow is intent on bringing Red back, even if it means working with the dark forces beyond the wood.
My YA dark fantasy novel, RED AND THE WOLF, is 88,000 words long. It will appeal to fans of Uprooted by Naomi Novik and Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge.
I have a BA in English and Professional Communication from Tennessee Tech University.
Red and the Wolf is a reimagining of multiple fairy tales – including Red Riding Hood, Beauty and the Beast, and Snow White – that hearkens back to their dark folktale roots. I've enclosed the first five pages below, and I'm prepared to send the full manuscript upon request. Thank you for your time.
First Five Pages:
Snow straightened the ribbon on the back of her sister's gown and skimmed her hand over the bright crimson skirts, summoning a tentative smile. “Red for Red,” she said.
Red's lips pulled back from her teeth, but the mirror told her it wasn't a smile. It was the grimace of a caged thing. The words of the Amalthecron echoed through her head, an endless litany.
The First Daughter is for the throne. The Second Daughter is for the Wolf.
Snow's smile faltered, like she could see the words running through Red’s eyes – tired, kohl-rimmed, hollow. She reached for Red's hand, gripping it like a vice. “It might not be that bad, Red.”
“I'm being sent to the Wolf in the Wood,” Red said. His title burned in her throat, this nameless darkness that had loomed over her for eighteen years. “In two days, I'll go to the Limoreha, to the Black Keep, and you'll never see me again. What part of that might not be that bad?”
Snow's hand slackened in hers. She held her gaze in the mirror for one more moment, mouth poised on the verge of something empty but comforting. In the end, she was silent, dropping Red's hand.
An apology rose in Red's throat, but she choked it back down. She would not apologize for telling the truth. No one had ever apologized for telling it to her.
She stared at the window, eyes tracing patterns of frost. The glass pane was laced with it, letting Valleydan winter seep in despite the flames in the marble fireplace, set by Snow with a whispered word and a moment of concentration. Valleyda was always cold, but it was especially brutal in the winter months, when the castle was wreathed in ice and no amount of hearth fire could cull the chill.
Her eighteenth birthday was in two days. She thought it fitting, the bitter cold.
A cursory knock, and the door opened. Snow straightened behind her. It wouldn't do for the First Daughter, the future Queen, to be caught acting as a lady in waiting to her cursed sister. Red tilted her head, blinking traitorous tears back behind her eyelids. Queen Aeda already told her that tears wouldn’t be tolerated.
But it was only Bronwen. Their old nursemaid swept into the room almost silently, carrying a cup of warm spiced wine. She handed it to Red.
“Courage,” she murmured. “Courage, Redarys.”
If Snow heard, she pretended not to. The First Daughter demurely folded her hands in front of her blinding white gown as she sat in a carved chair next to the fireplace.“Would you touch up her hair, Bronwen? The curls in the back are falling.”
Unbidden, more lines from the Amalthecron rose to Red's mind. The Wolf sends a token, to show the court that his sacrifice has arrived. A lock of her hair, bound as they are bound – inextricably. Her teeth ground together. She grabbed the wine from the tray and downed a mouthful, too large to be ladylike.
Bronwen took one of the irons from the dressing table, bespelled to be warm without staying in the fire. Red studied her nursemaid as she wrapped her hair around it, more to avoid her own reflection than for anything else. Bronwen hailed from one of the villages further north, closer to the Limoreha. She wasn't Red's friend, not really – such things would be frowned upon, even for a Second Daughter – but Red trusted her to tell the truth.
“What do you know of the Wolf, Bronwen?”
Snow’s breath caught. Red said it in part to be shocking, to make it impossible for anyone in the room to pretend that this was an ordinary ball and not a celebration for a sacrifice. The other part of her, a larger part, desperately hoped that Bronwen knew something, anything.
Bronwen's hands stilled. The iron trembled slightly when it touched Red’s hair again. “I know he's handsome,” she said, voice layered with some emotion Red couldn't parse. “The Amalthecron says so.”
“See, Red,” Snow broke in, relief evident. “Everyone knows he's handsome.”
“You are willing to forgive a multitude of ills for handsome, Snow.” Red shot her sister a look as cold as the ice on the window.
“And aren't I glad of it.”
Erick ducked into the room, dark hair stark against his white coat. He grinned at Red in the mirror, but there was something sorrowful behind it, pulling down its edges. “Who knows how many ills my betrothed has forgiven me for, all because I cut a fine figure in a suit.”
“Erick!” Snow stood, eyes wide. Despite her warning tone, a pleased smile tugged at her mouth. “You shouldn’t be here.”
“Red's decent.” Erick shrugged. “And since she's the guest of honor this evening, I didn't anticipate having another chance to speak with her.” He looked at Bronwen like her presence surprised him. “You can go, Bronwen.”
Bronwen left as silently as she came. Right before the door closed, she cast an unreadable look at Red over her shoulder.
Erick planted a kiss on Red's cheek. “How are you?”
“How do you think?”
She tried to make it sound blithe, light. She failed. The question hung heavy in the air between the three of them.
Snow came to Red’s side, reaching for her hand. They looked a pair, reflected in the ornate mirror – the most powerful First Daughter in an age, and the only Second Daughter to be born in centuries.
Snow’s fingers were icy. “He may love you, Red. He loved Gaya.”
“And Gaya is dead,” Red said quietly.
The door opened again, no knock this time. The Queen swept into the room, and Red's gaze fell to her feet. Snow squeezed her hand one more time before stepping back in deference to their mother. Erick hesitated a moment before following suite.
“Erick.” Queen Aeda narrowed her eyes. “You know better than to be here.”
“I didn't think I would get a chance to speak with Red at the ball, your majesty.” Erick's voice did not waver. He looked the queen straight in the eyes. Snow's gaze was still on the floor.
“You will not.” Aeda turned to her second born. She looked Red over once, from the top of her head to her crimson train. “You look suitable.”
Red just nodded.
“Sinorah.” Snow looked up, hands still knotted at her waist. “The Order tells me it is customary for the First Daughter and the Consort Elect to greet the guests at these – events.”
Red thought the Order probably made that up. The ball wasn't part of the sacrifice – at least, the Amalthecron didn’t require it. The ball was because the kingdom wanted to celebrate being rid of her.
Snow nodded. With one last glance at Red, one last encouraging smile that didn't quite reach her eyes, she left the room. Erick lingered a second longer before following her out.
Aeda looked at Red like one might look at a statue. A slight line appeared between her brows as her hands clasped at her waist, a mirror image of Snow's regal poise. Red's hands opened and closed on the fabric of her skirt.
“You know what is expected of you, I presume.”
“I know exactly what is expected of me.”
Aeda nodded. “Try to be less of a contrarian where matters of the bedroom are concerned. I don't believe the Wolf would attack just because you fail to please him, but with monsters you can't be sure.”
Nothing about that was spelled out in the Amalthecron, either, but it seemed like a logical conclusion to reach. Why else would the Wolf demand every Second Daughter? The knot in Red's gut tightened, her heart climbing into her throat. She said nothing.
“Sometimes I fear I've been too soft with you,” Aeda mused. She watched her daughter in the mirror, contemplative. “Raising you alongside Sinorah. Keeping you here.” Her voice turned inward, almost speaking to herself, as if Red really was a statue. “Letting her get attached when the only way to keep us safe is to send you to him.”
“Do you think he'll be kind?” Red blurted, forcing the question past the ice in her throat. “I know he's the Wolf –”
“There's your answer.” The Queen noticed Red's wine glass, empty now, and raised a disdainful eyebrow. “Kindness is too much to expect, Redarys.” She turned to leave, moving toward the door.
“You won't be sorry to see me go.” It was clear in every move her mother made. Aeda was ready to have her gone, to have her darkness scourged from the court. Red heard the rumors. She knew that the courtiers speculated what kind of ancient power Aeda must have angered, to curse her with a Second Daughter after centuries without one.
Besides that, she'd ruined any chance she had for compassion from her mother in Floriane the summer after she turned thirteen. Red deserved this coldness, this fear. She was a dark thing. She'd proven it herself.
Aeda paused, pale hand on the doorknob. “I know you think me cruel,” she said, so quietly Red wasn't sure she was supposed to hear. “But you never belonged to me, Redarys. From the moment we saw you were a daughter. From the moment you were born, you belonged to him.”
The door closed behind her.