Today on the site, we’ve got a cover and excerpt reveal for All Downhill From Here by Erin Ptah! This is a short spinoff story for the webcoming Leif & Thorn, but it’s a standalone AU; no previous knowledge of the comic is required. Here are the deets:
When a diplomatic conference gets derailed by an avalanche, native groundskeeper Leif and visiting knight Thorn end up buried together in the snow. The good news: Leif knows how to survive in the wilderness, and Thorn knows enough of the language to take directions. The bad news: a concussion, divided loyalties, malfunctioning magic, and any vampires that find them are legally allowed to eat them
Or: 13K words of fantasy survival hurt/comfort m/m, with translation difficulties, tangled loyalties, and romantic tension in between the mortal peril.
And here’s the cover!
They talk, for a little while, about safe topics. Nothing political. Nothing that has a real chance of killing either of them over the next few days.
At some point Thorn pulls out his smartcrystal, and Leif nearly melts with delight as he coos through the photos of Thorn’s cat. Some things are culturally universal.
With both of them inside the bedroll, it’s almost cozy. “I’ll take first watch,” says Leif presently, as Thorn is starting to get sleepy. “You should put your coat on back-to-front, so it’ll be open at the back, and we can put the heatpack between us while we’re spooning.”
Thorn’s mouth curves upward. “That sounds like dishes.”
“It…is. It’s the same word. Because spoons in a drawer, they’re like this….” Leif cups his gloved hands and sits them together, one inside the other. “Don’t you say that in Ceannic?”
He looks baffled when Thorn starts laughing — the first real laugh he’s had in what feels like weeks. “No, never! But maybe now I start.”
There’s a scramble as they rearrange their bodies and their clothes, so Thorn is facing the mouth of the tunnel with Leif hugging him from behind. The back-to-front coat means he can’t put his hood up, not without choking himself or at least getting a faceful of fur, so he gets to keep Leif’s scarf. Leif, meanwhile, nuzzles bare-faced against the back of his neck.
It’s…nice, okay? It’s really nice. It’s….
Look, it’s not like Thorn doesn’t know what’s going on, here. You go through a dangerous situation with another person, either you wind up stressed enough to go at each other’s throats, or worked-up enough to go at each other’s…well. Possibly also throats. Depending on what you’re into.
Especially if your companion is resourceful, and confident, and kind, and occasionally vulnerable, and unselfconscious about wrapping his arms around you to ward off the chill. Cute, too. Not that cuteness is the most pressing issue on Thorn’s mind right now…but he has noticed Leif’s snub nose and thin lips and pale, expressive skin.
He might even have said something, if not for be careful with the Sønska servants plus working up a sweat makes you more likely to freeze to death.
Best for Thorn to just keep quiet, no matter how much he likes the innocent “spooning.” (What a great word.)
“Is it only spoons?” he asks sleepily. “Can I also say that we’re forking?”
It’s his turn to be the baffled one, as Leif kinda splutters for no reason Thorn can figure out. “N-no, sir. That already means…something else.”
Release date is December 20!
Ebook-friendly formats can now be preordered on Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/763085
A fancy illustrated PDF will be available December 20 on the website: http://leifandthorn.com/short-stories/