Sarah only went to Oreburn University of Incantations so her parents would stop asking her when she’d settle down. However, after a strange plague decimates her hometown, Sarah finds herself fleeing with the undead chasing her.
As she escapes, she meets Brighid, a half orc noble, and together, they must reach Oreburn before the undead can overrun the city. Sarah discovers a decay sorcerer created the original curse, and only a wizard powerful enough to destroy him can end the plague.
But now they have to find that wizard.
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Plague and Ash
Sita Bethel © 2021
All Rights Reserved
Something woke me. I blinked at the morning light peeking through the curtains and cutting rectangles onto the ceiling. Only a corner of the quilt draped over my legs while the rest twisted beside me. I must’ve been thrashing in my sleep again. I hadn’t slept well since I’d come home for harvest break, too worried. After slinging my feet over the edge of the bed, I tucked them into my house shoes to avoid the chilly wooden floor. I heard Mama coughing in the kitchen. The acrid smoke smacked me in the face as soon as I left my room. I waved my hand around my nose.
“Burned the damn sausage. Did the smoke wake you?” Mama scraped four burnt discs out of her cast iron skillet and into the scrap bowl, but I was sure Buttermilk wouldn’t touch them.
“The coughing,” I admitted.
“Don’t worry, Sarah. It’s the smoke, nothing else. Pops and I have been drinking elderberry juice, and once we’ve harvested all the crops, we’ll hole up through the winter and wait for this to blow over.”
“Biscuits.” I rushed to the oven, using a dish rag to pull out the tin pan before they burned with the sausage.
“Sorry, my mind’s elsewhere.”
“I can help you and Pops harvest if you’re worried.”
“No. We done told you to stay inside with your brothers.”
“The only reason I came home from the School was to help with the harvest, so let me help.”
“Oh, you came home to work? And here I thought you’d want to see your family.”
“Of course I do.” I shoved my fists against my hips. “And help. Why won’t you let me be useful? The sooner you’re done, the sooner we can all spend more time together.”
“Sarah.” Mama plopped her rump onto a nearby stool and rested her elbows on her knees. “We didn’t want you to worry, but…”
“Who’s sick?” Frowning, I crossed my arms over my chest. The towel dangled in my hand.
“Aunt Flora.” Mama turned away. The gas lights made her gray streak flash and made the wrinkles around her mouth deep as weathered cracks splitting wood. “The baby’s got the Fever too.”
“Mama.” I dropped the towel. Crouching low, I roped my arms around her.
“You stay inside, all right?”
“Okay. I’m sorry.”
“It’ll…be all right. I’m sure. Will you re-cook the sausage for me? I need to help your father.”
“Go on.” I pulled a pack of butcher paper out of the ice box and set it on the counter.
“We’ll be home late.” Mama pulled me close to kiss my temple and then walked out the door.
I warshed my hands in the deep, enamel sink. It was only October, but the morning water rushing over my hands was frigid. Hissing, I grabbed another towel and dried them before shaping the ground meat into patties and getting them in a hot skillet. The view from the kitchen window was burnished, sun all orange and fiery as it struck the mist clinging to the yard. Buttermilk crept along the fence line, stalking a field mouse. I hoped she caught it because otherwise it’d be burnt sausage for her.
A shadow slipped through the cluster of pecan trees near the road. At least I thought one did, but when I squinted, I only saw a fat old squirrel cursing at something hiding in the branches above him. I snorted, shook my head, and flipped the sausages. As they browned, I fetched a jar of sorghum molasses and set it on the table with the butter dish. We grew sorghum grain, but Mama always kept enough sweet sorghum in the garden to make syrup for us.
Abel was the first to stumble out of his room. His hair sprayed around his head in dark brown wisps. They took after Mama, but I had Pops’s copper highlights. Last semester, the other girls at the School convinced me to lighten my hair with peroxide, but instead of summer-kissed and sunny, it turned a brassy off-orange, and once my roots grew out, I had Billy take his clippers to it. Now it was a shaggy mess, and I couldn’t wait until it was long enough to pull away from my face.
“Where’s Mama?” Abel asked.
“She went to help Pops. There’s sausage in the skillet.”
“Why does it smell of smoke?”
“Mama burnt the sausage, but I cooked more.” I fixed my own plate and sat on the stool next to the stove, balancing the plate on my lap.
“Did she swear?”
“Only time I ever hear Mama swear is in the kitchen.”
Abel was right, so I offered a distracted laugh, but I was focused on dipping my biscuit into my sorghum syrup and not his chatter. Abel pulled last night’s sweet tea from the ice box, sat at the table, and shoved his breakfast into his mouth. He chugged half a mason jar’s worth of tea before sighing and setting the glass onto the table.
“I’m gonna go to the pond and get some catfish for dinner.”
“No, you ain’t.” I snorted. We’ve had this conversation damn near every day for three heckin’ weeks.
“I swear I won’t talk to nobody, so let me go.”
“No, you ain’t going. I promised Mama we’d stay inside.”
“Sarah, I’m fourteen. I can handle myself.”
I pinched the bridge of my nose. Was I this stubborn when I argued with Mama? With three of us giving her sass, no wonder she had a gray streak cutting through her hair like a skunk stripe.
Meet the Author
Hey there, readers. It’s me, ya boi, Sita Bethel. And this is a biography where I tell you all the boring facts about my life- like how I have a degree in writing, and how my two cats, Odin and Anpu, will one day rule this land as your feline overlords. Enough of that same old, same old. Here’s the real dirt. Sita Bethel likes to wrap up like a burrito with a weighted blanket. They host coloring parties as a personal eff-you to anxiety, and read everything from trash British sensationalist novels like The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins to literary masterpieces like The Color Purple by Alice Walker. Had enough of Sita Bethel yet? If not, check out @sita_bethel on Twitter, or sitabethelfiction on Facebook, or even www.sitabethel.com.
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