Tree Shepherd's Daughter (Faire Folk, Book 1)

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9780738710815: Tree Shepherd's Daughter (Faire Folk, Book 1)

When her mother dies, fifteen-year-old Keelie Heartwood is forced to leave her beloved California to live with her nomadic father at a renaissance festival in Colorado. After arriving, Keelie finds men in tights and women in trailer trash-tight bodices roaming half-drunk, calling each other lady and lord even after closing time! Playacting the Dark Ages is an L.A. girls worst nightmare.Keelie has a plan to ditch this medieval geekland ASAP, but while she plots, strange things start happeningeerie, yet familiar. When Keelie starts seeing fairies and communicating with trees, she uncovers a secret that links her to a community of elves. As Keelie tries to come to grips with her elfin roots, disaster strikes, and Keelies identity isnt the only thing thats threatened. One part human determination and one part elfin magic, Keelie Heartwood is a witty new heroine in a world where fantasy and reality mix with extraordinary results.

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About the Author:

Gillian Summers is the pseudonym for co-authors, Berta Platas (Georgia) and Michelle Roper (Georgia), both experienced writers in the romance and fantasy genres, respectively. But more importantly, both are ardent renaissance faire groupies. Visit them online at GillianSummers.com.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

one

Trees. Keelie Heartwood didn’t think her life could be more depressing than it already was, but the sight of the green forest before her made her feel gray inside. She could al­ready feel the tingling of her allergic reaction. Wood of any kind made her feel sick, but living trees were the worst.

She stepped forward, slipping a little, and a ghastly smell greeted her. She looked down. She’d stepped inside a circle of rotten and decaying mushrooms. “Gross!”

Thunder boomed in the dark clouds that hung from the overcast sky, promising more rain. More bad news for her white Skechers. Lately all her news had been bad.

The black mud on the wide, winding, tree-lined path sucked at the shoes, staining them as she struggled to keep up with Ms. Talbot’s fast pace. The woman was her mother’s attorney, and Keelie hated her almost as much as she already hated Colorado. Behind her, the taxi that had dropped them off spun its wheels on loose gravel, then skidded onto the paved road and sped away. Keelie didn’t look back in case her longing to return to California showed on her face. She’d sworn to herself she wouldn’t cry, but the tears pushed at her throat, trying to rise. Maybe it was the trees. There were too many trees, and her tingling was turning into full-blown jitters.

Heart thumping, she hitched her heavy leather messen­ger bag higher on her shoulder, not wanting to risk ruin­ing her few remaining clothes. The airline had misplaced her luggage, another black mark against her miserable day, her miserable life.

The enticing scent of roasting meat wafted by, cutting through the wet, earthy smell that covered everything like a moldy blanket. Her stomach growled. The only thing she’d eaten all day was the tiny bag of peanuts and miniature pretzels tossed at her by the flight attendant on the plane from L.A. Too bad she’d been too depressed to accept Ms. Talbot’s offer to buy her an Au Bon Pain sandwich at LAX.

At least it wasn’t raining any more, though it looked and sounded as if it could start again any second. Dark clouds like spongy cannonballs hung low over the ever­greens. Ahead, the trees thinned, revealing two tall, an-cient-looking yellow stone towers on either side of over­sized wooden gates with black iron hinges. The doorway was flanked by giant topiary lions. One stood on its leafy haunches, its paw on a huge wooden shield that read, “Welcome to the High Mountain Renaissance Festival.” The other crouched as if ready to spring.

Framed by the tall trees of the forest, it looked like a leftover set from The Lord of the Rings.

Fake, she thought. Everything here was fake, except for the trees. Her fingertips tingled from all the living wood around her. She’d never been in such a big forest. Any minute now she’d break out in hives.

People milled around a ticket kiosk, some regrouping, ready to leave, others digging through wallets and purses for the admission fee. Beside the kiosk, a big painted map of the fairground showed the place was enormous, with lots of streets, even a lake. And a depressing amount of forest. Forget lunch. She was feeling nauseous.

Ahead, Ms. Talbot bypassed the ticket booth and dis­appeared through the gates, intent on her objective. Keelie was abandoned to make her way on her own. So what else was new? Her mom had been a busy woman, too. Keelie was used to fending for herself. She was going to be six­teen, not six.

Two big security guards in movie armor ran after Ms. Talbot. “Hey miss, stop. You have to buy a ticket.”

Keelie smiled, pleased that the lawyer was caught. Served her right.

Keelie flashed a fake smile at the ticket taker, smooth­ing her hair behind her ears. She’d wait right here for the taxi that would take them to the airport as soon as La Tal­bot got booted out on her can.

The ticket taker’s eyes widened and he bowed low. “You are most welcome, milady. Your father awaits within. Welcome to the High Mountain Renaissance Faire.” He handed her a small map and brochure.

Keelie stared at the papers in her hand. Was the man psychic?

“Keelie, get a move on.” Talbot was waving her in. The two guards were walking back to the ticket booth, one of them counting money.

Keelie groaned, her elation short-lived. She approached the lions. No one stopped her. A movement at the cor­ner of her eye made her turn. Had the lion shrugged? She could have sworn she saw a green ripple run through its body. Impossible. Must have been a gust of wind.

A flicker to her right. The tasseled tail of the crouching lion had twitched, as if it was ready to jump off its stone planter and leap into the woods. The costumed man at the doorway glanced at her and waved her through. He hadn’t noticed the movement, and either she was expected or this place was totally lax about letting people in.

She shivered as she passed under the banner and through the tall gate. It was like a noisy fortress. A raucous prison. Primal drumbeats kept time for clashing trumpets, fiddles, and bagpipes in a dizzying mix that these poor idiots seemed to enjoy.

Despite the friendly greeting on the lion’s shield, there would be no welcome for her. She certainly didn’t want to be here.

She glanced at her watch. Two hours into her new life and already her shoes were ruined, her luggage was lost, her back hurt, and she’d probably wrecked her manicure. Not to mention the skin-crawling, nauseous feeling she got from the woods. And she was seeing things.

She wanted―no, needed―a hot bath and a mas­sage. Back in the day, Mom would call TJ at the Beautiful Dreamer day spa and make an appointment for side-by-side hot stone massages. Keelie wished she could take the next plane back to California and civilization. Back to Mom.

Mom, who would say, “Okay, babe. Let’s talk it over,” whenever she’d seen or felt something strange, something inexplicable. The older she got, the more of those talks they’d had. Mom always made her feel normal again.

Except there was no Mom anymore. She inhaled, find­ing it hard to breathe. The pines pressed in all around, and she felt as if they were murmuring to her. Claustrophobia wasn’t far behind, but where could she run where there weren’t any trees?

“Hurry along, Keelie,” Ms. Talbot’s voice came from somewhere ahead. “I’ve got to get back on the road in thirty minutes, or I’ll miss my return flight.”

Ms. Talbot, who also worked at Mom’s law firm, had apparently drawn the short straw, and it was obvious she wasn’t thrilled about it. Keelie imagined how the meeting had gone. “Take the kid to Colorado?” Talbot would have said. “Can’t we just drop her off at the airport?”

But no, that would have been too easy, and she was al­ready labeled a flight risk, after the incident the first week­end. A potential runaway who had to be escorted like a baby. It was infuriating, even if it was true.

Irritated, Keelie blinked back the tears that threatened to return.

“Suck it up,” she muttered. “Show no fear.” She didn’t want to be all weepy when she saw her father for the first time since she was a toddler. Her bio dad, she reminded herself.

The mud made slurping noises against her feet as she struggled to follow the lawyer’s prim, dark blue suit. She was so not dressed for this. Neither of them were.

The visitors who streamed toward the entryway looked tired, but laughingly retold their favorite parts of their day. Keelie rolled her eyes as they passed. If they’d all lived through the same events, why retell them? Did they all suf­fer from short-term memory loss?

Ms. Talbot moved upstream through the human river, effortlessly sidestepping to avoid colliding with the tour­ists. How did she do it? Her high heels should have sunk into the mud, but she moved as efficiently as if the rustic path was the polished granite floor of Talbot, Talbot, and Turner’s L.A. office.

Keelie moved faster, determined not to stop. No whin­ing, she told herself. Ms. Talbot paused at a jewelry booth and talked to the clerk behind the counter. She pointed toward Keelie and brandished a folder. Keelie knew its tidy white label read, “Keliel Heartwood,” project number whatever in Ms. Talbot’s busy life.

The pinch-faced clerk behind the counter, plump and tightly corseted in her medieval costume, shook her head.

“Don’t know, ma’am,” she said. Her enormous bosom looked as if it was about to burst out of her bodice, like can­taloupes in bondage. She looked over at Keelie, frowning.

An ancient relic of a man, his weird medieval outfit covered by a disgustingly greasy leather apron, tapped Ms. Talbot’s shoulder.

Keelie hid a smile as the attorney stifled a shriek.

“She means the woodcarver,” the old man told the clerk, speaking with an outrageously fake British accent. He turned to Keelie. “So you’re one of them? We heard you’d be coming. Ye be wanting to go down the way a bit, miss. Heartwood’s in the two-story wood building, next to the jousting. Isn’t that right, Tania?” He cocked an over­grown eyebrow at the big-bosomed clerk.

Jousting. Keelie shook her head. Too much. And what did he mean that she was one of them? She wasn’t one of anything in this place. She pretended to look at the necklaces and charms on display. A box of polished stones caught her eye.

“How much are these?”

“Just two dollars, dearie.” The word was affectionate, but the woman’s tone was cold.

Keelie pulled two crisp bills from her bag and laid them on the counter, careful not to touch the wood. Ms. Talbot called her name from farther up the dirt road. Keelie ignored her. She examined the rocks in the box and pulled out a white-veined pink oval. “I’ll take this pink one. What is it?”

“Rose quartz.” The dollars had vanished. “Go on, that woman’s calling for you. And thanks for the business. This is the second straight week of bad weather. One more like it and we’ll all be in the Muck and Mire Show.”

Keelie took it, afraid the woman might start a laying on of hands and chanting to the rain gods. Thunder boomed again, causing Tania the melon smuggler to scrunch her face with worry.

“Good thing it’s near closing time,” she said. “Looks like another devil of a storm brewing.”

Wind gusts made the colorful banners overhead snap and stretch against their ropes. The breeze smelled sharply of ozone―rain was definitely near. Keelie hooked her leather bag back on her shoulders, then glanced down at her white sweater set and light blue linen capri pants and muttered, “I shouldn’t make fun of La Talbot. I am so overdressed for Never Never Land.”

Across the wide dirt path, a family guffawed as they stumbled out of a tent marked “Magic Maze,” bump­ing into each other dizzily. Keelie hated them for being happy, for being together. The mother glanced at them as they passed, eyebrows raised as she eyed Ms. Talbot’s suit. Keelie figured their clothing made them as remark­able as the jesters, stilt walkers, and medieval peasants that swarmed the grounds. Her stomach rumbled, again. “Ms. Talbot, can we―”

The lawyer was gone. Keelie looked around. No blue suit anywhere.

A crash sounded behind her. A shelf of jewelry stands had fallen. Necklaces were pouring onto the muddy ground.

“My stuff!” Tania scrabbled around, gathering them up. “This Faire is cursed.”

“Hush, girl. Don’t let management hear you say that.” The old man had lost his accent.

The place was packed with visitors, not all heading to­ward the exits, and it was hard to go in a straight line. She thought she saw a glimpse of the blue suit, but then she was surrounded as a crowd of faux peasants, cheering and singing, came down the path from the crest of the hill.

One huge man, wearing a red coat lined with fake fur and trimmed with dozens of jingling silver bells, yelled out in a megaphone voice, “Make way for the king and queen.”

The peasant-dressed crowd that surrounded Keelie shouted, “Huzzah, huzzah.”

She tried to push her way out, holding her breath. It was humid and hot, and several of the peasants were carry­ing authenticity a bit too far. Her nose detected that some of them had a serious need to get reacquainted with using modern-day deodorant.

A flash of blue flitted through the trees on the other side of the path. Ms. Talbot.

Keelie shoved her way clear, then saw the attorney wav­ing her folder in a man’s face. The man wore a jester’s hat and multicolored patched silk pants. And stilts. He leaned over from the waist, trying to read the papers Ms. Talbot waved. A black-haired goth girl stepped up, dressed in a form-fitting black gown with long, flowing sleeves pushed back to show tight undersleeves that buttoned from her elbows to her wrist. She spoke to Ms. Talbot and pointed toward a clearing on the other side of the hill, then turned and melted into the milling throng. The man on stilts yelled, “Long live the King and his new Queen.”

“Yeah, whatever,” Keelie said. Long live the King and his new Queen. Well, she hoped so. Long lives to them. She wondered what had happened to the old Queen. Probably came to her senses and fled this loony bin.

Keelie blinked back the tears that seemed to hit her by surprise every once in a while, even though Laurie’s mom, Elizabeth, told her she was taking it very well. Yeah, well, that meant she could fake being okay when in public, and she wasn’t about to quit now. She blinked fast to get rid of the wetness without having to wipe at her eyes and give herself away.

Through blurred vision she saw another flash of dark blue. She pushed through the jostling crowd, ignoring the curious looks she got from several of them. She suddenly realized she wasn’t queasy any more. She looked down at the smooth pink rock in her hand. Whatever works. She tucked it in her pocket.

At the other side of the mob was a throng of people watching a man with a bird with a leather hood on its head. Falconry. Okay, now this was interesting. She’d stud­ied medieval history in eighth grade at Baywood Academy and had done a report on falconry.

Up close, she could see the big falcon also had long leather ribbons tied around its legs. Jesses, she remem­bered.

Poor birds. They were prisoners, too. Just like Mom had said, the people here were a bunch of childlike dorks who wanted to live in the Middle Ages. They were totally out of touch with reality. Who’d want to relive a time when there was no sanitation and people walked around with scented pomander balls held up to their noses to cover the stench of unwashed bodies?

Mom had warned her about these Renaissance folks. And about her father, who had done the medieval version of running away to join the circus.

An owl hooted next to Keelie and she saw that there were more of them in the enclosure, along with hawks and falcons.

There had been a stuffed owl in Mr. Stein’s biology lab at Baywood Academy, but it had looked bald and moth-eaten. The white owl on its stand swiveled its head to fol­low her, yellow eyes huge and unblinking, feathers fluffy and soft. Keelie wished she could touch it.

A man in a puffy-sleeved white shirt and soft, black knee-high boots walked into the center of the circle, a hawk on his gloved hand. Despite the bird’s size, the man held it as if it didn’t weigh much. “Can anyone tell me why this bird’s eyes are covered?” His voice was loud, and he was faking an English accent, too. Voices offered answers.

Keelie looked at the bird, its wings fluttering. It shifted its weight from foot to foot, as if impatient.

“Hello. Interested in the birds?” The voice made her turn quickly. S...

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Book Description North Star Editions, United States, 2007. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. When her mother dies, fifteen-year-old Keelie Heartwood is forced to leave her beloved California to live with her nomadic father at a renaissance festival in Colorado. After arriving, Keelie finds men in tights and women in trailer trash-tight bodices roaming half-drunk, calling each other lady and lord even after closing time! Playacting the Dark Ages is an L.A. girl s worst nightmare. Keelie has a plan to ditch this medieval geekland asap, but while she plots, strange things start happening - eerie, yet familiar. When Keelie starts seeing fairies and communicating with trees, she uncovers a secret that links her to a community of elves. As Keelie tries to come to grips with her elfin roots, disaster strikes, and Keelie s identity isn t the only thing that s threatened. One part human determination and one part elfin magic, Keelie Heartwood is a witty new heroine in a world where fantasy and reality mix with extraordinary results. Bookseller Inventory # AAS9780738710815

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Book Description North Star Editions, United States, 2007. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. When her mother dies, fifteen-year-old Keelie Heartwood is forced to leave her beloved California to live with her nomadic father at a renaissance festival in Colorado. After arriving, Keelie finds men in tights and women in trailer trash-tight bodices roaming half-drunk, calling each other lady and lord even after closing time! Playacting the Dark Ages is an L.A. girl s worst nightmare. Keelie has a plan to ditch this medieval geekland asap, but while she plots, strange things start happening - eerie, yet familiar. When Keelie starts seeing fairies and communicating with trees, she uncovers a secret that links her to a community of elves. As Keelie tries to come to grips with her elfin roots, disaster strikes, and Keelie s identity isn t the only thing that s threatened. One part human determination and one part elfin magic, Keelie Heartwood is a witty new heroine in a world where fantasy and reality mix with extraordinary results. Bookseller Inventory # AAS9780738710815

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