The season 5 finale of Game of Thrones is this weekend!
The HBO show inspired me to write Hockey Gods
and as a special treat I'm posting a little sample of the book here. It's a lot grittier and more adventurous than anything I've ever written before and was a complete blast to write.
Let me know what you think of my medieval interpretation written especially for hockey fans.
skittered across the patchy ice. Nataliya pivoted and cut across the frozen
pond on skates that were held together by birch-bark-tar, a few frayed pieces
of twine, and faith. The skates were old and worn, but they were hers. Aunt Hilde
hadn’t been pleased that her only niece would spend what little money she had
leftover from working in the mines to purchase such a frivolity, but, much to
her Aunt’s irritation, Nataliya of Lochlyn had a way of tuning out what she
didn’t want to hear.
she was female, the fairer of the two sexes, as she was tediously reminded of
on a daily basis, Nataliya had as much speed on the ice as any man who allowed
her to share the pond with them. And her fierce determination exceedingly
surpassed theirs time and time again.
was just her and Daen on Lochlyn Pond, but Nataliya had as much to prove to him
as ever. It was a rare time when they had the pond to themselves as Daen’s
younger brother, Jovi, was fettered by his studies. Jovi always seemed to tag
along and Daen resented his brother’s incessant questions, but Nat didn’t mind.
Although he was younger than she and Daen by nearly a decade, Jovi had a sharp
mind and even sharper wit.
surrounding snow-capped mountains of the South Country made for a panoramic backdrop
to the little pond, but Nataliya didn’t notice the scenery. She swung out her
stick—borrowed from Daen because she couldn’t afford one of her own—and swiped
the puck away before he could intercept it. With a few pushes of her strong
legs, she skated the puck out of her opponent’s zone and into open ice.
normally was a blade attached to the top of the stick, today it was capped off.
The weapon wasn’t necessary in a game among friends.
his custom-made stick—which he had fondly named Gloria—Daen was no match for Nat’s
speed and talent. When it came time to play against her, Daen kept his ridicule
to a minimum because he was well aware that her skill greatly surpassed even
his. The sport of the gods wasn’t about who had the most money and the most
expensive equipment. It was about who spent the most time on the ice honing
their craft. And Nat spent more time on the ice than anyone else in their
goal in her sights, she lined up the shot, pulled her stick back and shot the
puck full force into the net. The rickety old net quivered in its moorings. After
a celebratory dance involving fist-pumps into the air and shouts of victory,
Nataliya skated over to the bench where Daen was apparently sulking. She came
to a stop, upended her canteen and took a healthy gulp of mountain spring water
and poured the rest over her face to wash away the sweat. She had been so
preoccupied with her celebration that she hadn’t noticed Daen’s slow, hobbled
skate to the bench. When she finally looked over at him, Daen sat hunched over,
shoulders slumped, a look of defeat settled heavily over his body language.
dozen of her one and twenty summers spent with Daen as her best friend, Nataliya
knew his moods well. He never handled defeat well, especially when it was a
girl who had beaten him. Today was no exception.
going to take every loss as badly as this one, then you’re in for a long
winter,” she said with a chuckle.
looked up at her and met her gaze. Instead of the usual playful expression he
wore, his face was stark white, his lips agape and trembling.
tossed her canteen away and crouched down at his feet. When she clasped her
hands over his, she found them to be fevered and clammy despite the near-freezing
laced the word and she cursed herself for showing weakness. Especially in front
of her closest and most trusted friend.
and squeezed his eyes shut. His whole body was trembling now and when he opened
his eyes again, the fear she saw there nearly knocked her on her backside.
filch,” he said, his voice scratchy and hoarse.
The filch came
to its name because it “stole” the victim’s body and soon after their life. The
horrendous disease wracked quickly through the body, disabling it, until the
patient was too weak to protest death when it came for them. It wasn’t
contagious and it didn’t spread rapidly from one person to the next like the
plague. It was a discriminating disease that chose its victims completely at
random. It aimlessly plucked someone out of the crowd, sucked the life from
them, and then slithered away into the darkness like a coward.
To even say
the word out loud was tempting the fates.
shook her head. “No, it can’t be. There hasn’t been a case of the filch in Lochlyn
in three winters.” Surely that was enough time to eradicate the deadly disease
altogether. What cause would it have to strike again now?
argue. He just sat there looking at her with wide, frightened eyes. Nat knew
the threat was serious because Daen never passed up an opportunity to argue
with her. Even if he knew she was right.
you home,” Nat suggested brightly despite the cold fear gripping the length of
Just then, Jovi
ran toward the pond, his boots sliding on the ice. Jovi, short for Jovial, was
probably coming to find out what he’d missed while he’d been sequestered by his
lessons or to fill them in on the village’s latest gossip. The youngster was
worse than an old woman.
shouted with excitement, slipping and nearly falling on his backside. “Mother
wishes you to come home. A letter arrived for you! The man who delivered it—”
Jovi stopped short when he saw the harsh look on Nat’s face. He looked down at
his older brother with confusion, wondering why he was huddled on the bench.
Sweat beaded Daen’s ghostly pale skin. Jovi had never seen fear in his
brother’s eyes before and the sight of it made his stomach lurch.
get the healer,” Nat ordered.
stood there, looking from Nat to Daen, fear paralyzing his scrawny legs.
the scene in front of him finally registering in his brain. Then he turned on
his heel and ran toward the village as fast as his little legs would take him.
out of her skates and back into her boots and did the same for Daen. He was
starting to shake so hard that his knees knocked together. Nat moved quickly
and shoved the skates in her pack. She put her arm around Daen’s waist and
helped him to his feet. With his arm around her shoulders they slowly made
their way to his family’s manor at the edge of the village.
feel the heat from Daen’s body seeping through her cloak. Was this how it began?
she wondered. The filch started a fire within the body and then… No. She
wouldn’t allow herself to think such nonsense. “’Twas not the filch. Daen was
just feverish with exhaustion from their game. The combination of the cold and
his sweat had…
“What if I
have the filch, Natty?” Daen asked with a shaky voice that didn’t sound like
his. “What will we do?”
Damn that ugly word. She wished he’d stop saying it.
around her shoulders weakened and she held tight to his waist for fear of him
slipping onto the ground.
it,” she grunted. “Just like we fight everything else.” The outlaws that preyed
on their village...the bitter cold...the plague…
slowly approached the manor, Daen’s strength lessened even more and their
progress was now an awkward shuffle-step, shuffle-step.
waiting for help, which would waste even more precious time, Nat swung the
front door open and helped Daen over the threshold.
-excerpt from Hockey Gods by Rachelle Vaughn copyright 2014