Sneak preview! Chapter one in A WINTER STORY:

It was the first winter storm of the year. It blew through the trees with power, the wind whipping at pine boughs and leaves, snow covering the ground within the first hours. Peasants packed up their belongings and slipped inside at the first signs of the gray clouds on the horizon, knowing not even the toughest among them could survive the first of the winter storms.

By the time the storm hit, everyone was inside their homes, bundled up, crushed together by the fires. Everyone but a lone boy with a small snowy owl on his shoulder.

"Nascha, hold on." The boy whispered to the owl, his face bright pink because of the sting of the cold. "Just a little longer…"

The owl fluffed up its feathers, yellow eyes wide and watchful. The owl didn't open its beak but a soft voice filled the boys head. "Pillan, we don't have much longer—you will not survive this kind of cold. Are you sure he comes?"

The boy's eyes flickered with annoyance. "They say that Kakrian walks in the first winter storm, every year, since leaving the Old World."

Nascha, the owl, let out a hoot. "I spoke to soon! There he is!"

Pillan looked out into the wind and snow. His body felt frozen, his head sleepy. Pillan's tribe had a myth about the snow giants that would blow cold air on small children until they fell asleep and then they would kidnap the child and take them to their snowy home in the islands to the north. Pillan didn't believe it, of course, but he could tell that his primitive ancestors might have. The cold seemed to thrum through his bones.

And then, out of the shadow of the storm, came a man. He was not much older then Pillan's thirteen winters—some said that Kakrian of the Air was only fifteen. But he looked older, Pillan thought, he looked tall and strong and confident as he guided the storm like a dog on a leash.

"Kakrian!" Pillan shouted but the wind and storm stole his words away. "Kakrian!"

When the slow-walking air mage didn't stop, Pillan decided to risk it…

"No! You are not ready!" Nascha screamed in his head as the boy retreated into his power.

There was an eruption as Pillan reached out into the storm, demanding for the wind to disobey Kakrian, the leader it knew, and to listen to him. The wind danced wildly, drifting to Pillan's lead then being snatched away by Kakrian.

Nascha flew in circles on the untidy winds that her master blew. "Pillan! Do you really think Kakrian will make you his apprentice if you steal the storm from him?"

Pillan gritted his teeth. "When he sees how powerful I am…"

It was at that moment that the man in the wind stopped and turned to look at the small boy and owl that were trying to snatch his storm.

"What—" Kakrian said when he was close enough to be heard. "Who are you? Why are you not inside?"

"P-Pillan, sir." Pillan said, his teeth chattering. Maybe the myth about the snow giants was true. He was feeling awfully tired.

Kak looked alarmed. "Don't fall asleep!" He said as if reading the boys thoughts.

Pillan's gray eyes looked up at Kakrian pleadingly. "Please, great Air mage, take me in! I-I want to be y-your apprentice!"

Kak smiled softly. "I need to get you inside."

Pillan whimpered. "Please s-sir."

But Kakrian was patently leading him back towards the houses.

"Show him your power…"

Nascha was circling overhead. She hooted long and loud, eyes piercing downwards, keeping a nice watch on her master.

Pillan reached back into the storm.

He could feel Kakrian's strong power, holding the storm in his grasp, guiding its worst power around homes and pastures. He could see the silver glow of his own power, leaking through Kak's, finding the holes and flaws and breaking them, snapping his holds.

The air mage suddenly looked alarmed. "You!" He said and then the storm was out of his grasp.

Pillan had the storm under his control. It was the largest he had ever held alone before and it tore at him, filling his body.

"Idiot!" He heard Kakrian yell from somewhere far away, even though he was still beside Pillan. "You released the storm! Who knows what will happen now?"

"Take me in!" Pillan screamed back. "Teach me!"

But his voice was torn, as was the storm. Kakrian had it back under his control and was walking swiftly away, not looking back.

And in the wind and the snow, Pillan fell to his knees. His idol had rejected him, told him he would not be willing to teach the small peasant boy.

"Pillan, just leave him! You will die if you are out here any longer."

But it wasn't worth living anymore. As Pillan closed his eyes and let the cold seep into his bones, as he let the snow giants seduce him into sleep, there was one thought that flowed through his mind.

I will show Kakrian! Some day I will beat him, show him I am the ultimate wind mage! I will show him, and when I do, only one of us will come out of it alive!

Can you wait? I sure can't!!!