Eirwen

All hearts are capable of breaking.
Especially a heart of stone.

Eirwen Blackvein grew up in a dwarven mining camp at the edge of the map. A perfect place to hide an elven princess destined to destroy a queen and save a kingdom at war, as foretold in a seer’s magic mirror. Except, Eirwen doesn’t know she is the lost princess. Only that she was found as a newborn with her heart carved out. And why she now possesses a heart of stone in her chest, one forged by the dwarves.

A heart made from the black stone she mines to power war machines for her realm’s king.

The same enchanted stone coveted by a neighboring queen to destroy an entire kingdom.

Eirwen’s only desire is to protect her workers from the soldiers who are seizing mines for the crown. Even if it means kidnapping Lieutenant Prince Florian Halivaard, the youngest son of a warmongering king she discovers half-dead outside of the Dark Forest.

With monarchs from different kingdoms willing to kill for her heart’s magic, Eirwen finds herself at the center of a losing battle. Her only chance to protect those she loves and defend her kingdom is to trust her enemy—a prince with haunting silver eyes fated by the faeries to one day meet a heart of stone.

A heart he will break.

Eirwen is a gritty young adult epic dystopian fantasy spin on the romantic tale of Snow White, blending 1930s-1940s aesthetics and World War II technology with faerie magic. Guaranteed to please readers who love angsty, enemies-to-lovers slow-burn fated romances, twisted faerie tales, and strong found family themes.

STANDALONE in a connected series / shared world
Guaranteed happily ever after

PROLOGUE

The girl leapt over a large fern and grabbed a low-hanging limb. The oak tree’s bark dug into her palms, but she didn’t mind. Swinging her legs back and then forward, her graceful momentum carried her over a fallen log. Then she was running again, over leaf-littered ground, around remnant snowbanks from winter past, and by prickly fir boughs.

“There she is!” a familiar voice shouted from behind.

The girl peered over her shoulder and stuck out her tongue.
Mogrik and Lufric, identical twin brothers from the dwarven mines and her foster brothers, had nearly caught up to her. Which she couldn’t allow, or she would lose her bet. Losing meant boys ran faster than girls. Which wasn’t true. But it also meant scrubbing mineral residue off various mining tools for an entire week—practically an eternity to her ten-year-old sensibilities.

And she loathed doing Mogrik’s and Lufric’s chores.

Her rough-spun skirt snagged on a protruding limb. She yanked and tugged, cursing under her breath. Girls could run faster than boys if they weren’t required to wear ridiculous layers of fabric. Boys wore britches. They could walk around shirtless, too, and nobody scolded them for revealing too much skin. It was entirely unfair.
As the only elven child at South Camp, life was constantly unfair.

The twins were nearly upon her. A muscle twitched in her jaw, her body rigid with rage. She would not lose this bet. She would reach the fishing creek before the brothers and prove that girls were just as capable and resourceful as boys. Perhaps more so. After all, they weren’t running a race in a skirt.

A spark of electricity fired from her chest and zipped down her arms. Her breath seized. The girl placed a dirt-smudged hand over her stone heart—a heart made from brennanite, a rare mineral found only in the mountains and foothills of Clifstán.

Magic shivered through her body in an icy rush. Someone was using her heart. Her crystal organ was always a willing conduit for faeries looking to amplify their own magic. But wintering was a feeling she loathed more than losing to the twins or doing extra chores. And an experience she didn’t encounter often. Who was making snowflakes drift in her veins? She could feel the frosty bite of going pale, her skin now as cold as a silvered moon, the air moving over her body akin to the harsh, burning white of a winter’s storm.

Still, she ran, teeth bared and eyes narrowed.

Nothing would slow her down, not even the unexpected presence of magic. Though perhaps she should fear what it meant. The Dvalinn fae—dwarves—didn’t possess the kind of magic that affected her.
The girl jumped over a rock and ducked beneath a needled bough. A pinecone hooked onto strands of her loose hair, snapping her back a step.

“Really?” she huffed at the sky. “Are you gods not amused yet?”

Two days prior, in a fit of rage, she had unintentionally raised a squirrel army from the dead. She should have put the poor animals back to rest in the ground where they belonged. Instead, she ordered them to chase Vinzel Ironhand into the forest for saying that girls were too dumb to tinker with small engines. Sometimes magic pulsed through her in overwhelming currents she didn’t know how to contain, often brought on by strong emotions. A magic different than when her heart wintered by a faerie. How is it she could raise animals from the dead? There was an electric energy to this ability. One that frightened the girl, though she would never tell anyone. If the boys thought her weak, she would be reduced to domestic chores for a lifetime. And the girl loved to work with machines and gadgets.

Mama scolded her before Mo and Lu, after forcing her to apologize to Vin. Then she made the girl scrub laundry to work out her anger for the remainder of the day.

Life was entirely unfair.

Footsteps thundered behind her. The offending cone pricked her fingers as she ripped it from her hair, spun in the mud and leaves, and threw it at the twins.

The pinecone pegged Mogrik right between the eyes.

Lu laughed, unaware of the anger seething from her glacial stare.

Mo’s lips twisted into a rascally grin right before he shoved his brother into a thick huckleberry bush.

“I didn’t hit you!” Lu shouted.

Mo rolled his eyes. “Who’s laughing now, baby brother?”

“Baby?” Lu jumped to his feet, fists clenched at his sides. “I’m not even a full candlemark younger than you!”

Slowly, the girl crept backward, careful not to make a sound. The Dvalinn were known for their tempers, the twins especially. Though no one in the South Camp could rival her temperament.

Another wave of magic vibrated through her. She clutched her chest. Shaky breaths fluttered past her clenched teeth and froze the air before her face. She scanned the forest in search of the faerie who used her cold, raven-stone heart for their spell weaving. Where were they? Was Dalbréath, her elven foster brother, playing a trick on her again? Leaves rustled above her head. The ferns waved their fronds in reply. A strange melody, like a soft lullaby, sang on the breeze. Swirling around her. Nudging her toward a deer path.

The girl wiped her nose with the sleeve of her muddy dress. Then, tiptoeing through the wild grass, taking care to muffle the leaves beneath each booted step, she eased onto the narrow path. Once she disappeared behind a large oak, she was off again. Too desperate to prove that girls were just as capable as boys to be bothered by a magical lullaby.
The sun-dappled forest became a blur of green and gold. Underbrush reached for her clothes as she ran past, but she angled her body effortlessly despite the uneven ground. The babble of rushing water joined the rustling leaves, just ahead. A giggle escaped her panging chest. The fishing creek was nearby. She would win.

Her elation, however, was short-lived.

And her face pinched back into her trademark scowl.

The deer trail tapered off into thick huckleberry bushes and brambles. Cursing the twins once more, she pushed through the thicket—

The girl drew up sharply.

An extraordinarily large rock covered in moss, ferns, and patches of snow swallowed up her vision. Where did this boulder come from? Surely, she knew every boulder and crag in Sorengaard Wood.

Magic swirled around her, insistent, inviting. Even stranger than the unexpected rock was how the pain in her chest eased while warmth tingled down her limbs. The race was now all but forgotten.

Curious, the girl crept forward, her eyes darting between shadows and trees. On the other side of the rock sat a dilapidated cottage. The lulling melody seemed to seep from the rotting, timbered walls, and the magic’s pull drew her forward.
Her fingers trailed over the decaying hewn logs. Had this cottage always been here? The girl cupped her eyes and pressed her nose to a dusty latticed window. Inside was dark—too dark to make out any objects. And unnaturally quiet too. Squaring her shoulders, she lifted her chin a notch and braved her way to the door. A current of warm magic tingled up her arm when her fingers curled around the iron ring and pushed. The door creaked open without much resistance, as if someone were waiting for her. The girl swallowed back her rising fear and checked over her shoulder for any movement. Around her, the forest was quiet. Worrying her bottom lip, the girl stepped into the interior shadows.

Silky cobwebs fluttered as she passed. Thick dust covered the floor and a small table. A broken chair rested against the far wall beside a stone hearth, the coals long cold. In a nearby corner, a large linen-draped object caught her eye. The girl tilted her head and blinked. Glittering gold peeked out from the lower edge of the moth-eaten cloth. Not one speck of dust had collected on the protruding object. Strange, but too wondrous to ignore. Worrying her bottom lip again, she tiptoed forward and pulled the cloth away.

Magic rushed through her body in waves of sunlit warmth. The old cloth fell to the ground and landed in a hushed thud by her feet, but she barely registered the sound. A mirror of sorts, made entirely of polished gold, leaned against the rotting wood, untouched by time. Or what she thought was a mirror, for there was no silvered glass. She had seen many precious gems and ores in her life, but never had she seen a mirror made of pure gold, nor one that hummed a melodious lullaby.

Her muted reflection gave her pause. Was she really as disheveled as the warped image suggested? The girl considered the dirt under her nails, then shrugged.

“Eirwen?” Dalbrenna, her elven foster mother, called in the distance.

The girl scowled over her shoulder. Her foster mother would scold her endlessly for abandoning her midday chores, and probably pile on more as punishment. In addition to whatever Mama Blackvein, her dwarven foster mother, doled out as punishment too.

Dalbrenna hollered for her once again, this time more persistent.

Resigned, Eirwen twisted toward the door and shouted, “Coming!”

“Eirwen? Where are you?”

The race! She had forgotten all about the race, the very reason she had left the mines in a flurry of annoyance. Mo and Lu were probably at the fishing creek, waiting to goad her on how boys are indeed faster than girls. And winter skies above, she was going to be in so much trouble. Should she even let her foster mother find her?

“Eirwen!”

Well, if she was going to lose the race, be chastised, and do extra chores, she might as well enjoy her discovered treasure a while longer. Plus, she was covered in mud. Her foster mother would probably demand a good scrubbing too. Eirwen grimaced.

She considered the golden mirror once more and reached out with a single finger to caress the gilded surface.

Heat sparked up her arm and grasped her heart in fiery ribbons.

Then light burst from the mirror and forced her back several steps.

She started to scream. The pain in her chest was unbearable.

“Eirwen!”

The light dissolved into images.

A mother holding a newborn baby in a spacious room with a blizzard gusting in from a broken window. Anger and disgust flashing across a majestic woman’s face—the most beautiful woman Eirwen had ever seen. Was she a queen?

The images flashed on. An elderly dwarven woman taking a squalling baby—the same baby—from the beautiful woman’s arms. Sobbing nurses. The queenly woman handing a knife made from brennanite to an elf with golden-brown hair twisted into a knot and decorated with cherry blossoms. A cloaked shadow raising the same knife above a small bundle in unfamiliar woods. Elves fighting. Swords clashing. The baby curled inside a frost-tipped fern with fronds for blankets. A toddler with raven-black hair and snowflake-white skin throwing rocks at a mine cart. A girl running through the woods with two dwarven brothers. A female feeling the mine walls for brennanite. A bloodied man in a military uniform leaning on a well, with light blond hair and silver-gray eyes. A young woman in miner’s clothing yelling at the same blond-haired man in South Camp. A coffin made of brennanite—

“Eirwen!”

“Tragic and Grand, that’s enough.” The images in the mirror winked out. “You better answer your mother, Princess.”

Eirwen stumbled back a startled step. Her gaze snapped to an old dwarven woman with long, white hair that reached the floor. Wrinkled grooves lined her face, but her eyes were bright and somehow youthful.

“I didn’t know someone lived here,” Eirwen stammered. Then she lifted her chin. “Who are you, anyway?” The bleating pain in her heart had eased when the light transformed into images, but the faint lullaby still echoed in her ears.

The old Dvalinn crone smiled. “Most people call me the Korrigan.”

“The Grandmother . . .” Eirwen’s mouth parted as her eyes widened. “I’ve heard of you.”

“Of course you have, Princess.”

“Princess?” Eirwen snorted. “Hardly.”

“Hurry along now.”

Eirwen replied with a curt nod, swiveled on her heel, and marched toward the door. She grabbed the rusted iron handle and paused. Warmth tingled up her arm in soothing waves.

“Who is she?” Eirwen asked. “The babe in the mirror?”

She turned to look at the Korrigan and gasped. The cottage was gone. She whipped her gaze back toward the door and gaped. Her hand grasped nothing but air.

“There you are!” Dalbrenna huffed. “Did you hear me holler for you?”

“I think everyone did, Mother.”

“Then why did you not—” Dalbrenna drew in a breath and released it slowly. “We will talk about this later. You have a visitor, lass.”

Eirwen stilled. “A visitor, for me?”

“Aye, Gedlen Fate Maker of the Dúnælven. Come along, child.” Dalbrenna wrinkled her nose. “No time to clean up. Sometimes Eirwen Fionn Blackvein, I wonder if you even understand the meaning of ‘bathing’ or that new clothing should last longer than a week . . .”

Her foster mother chattered on, but Eirwen stopped listening. This day was, perhaps, the worst day of her entire life. How would Mo and Lu take her seriously now? And where did that cottage go? And who was Gedlen Fate Maker? There were far too many questions. She wanted to ask Dalbrenna, but her foster mother’s clipped tone warned her otherwise. She was already in enough trouble.

The girl stomped behind the tall elf, a scowl on her face, dirt under her nails, her dress ripped and covered in mud. As her mind replayed the images of the babe in the mirror, she could not help but wonder why the beautiful woman could possibly want the child killed.

It would be eight harsh winters before she finally understood.