White Stag (Permafrost #1)

White Stag (Permafrost #1)

Kara Barbieri

To Avalon Hills Eating Disorder Treatment Center for saving my life; and to Kayshia, Lia, Megan, Marina, Jade, Talisa, Jordan, Sam, Eleni, Kate, Jessie, and Courtney, my fellow ED warriors

Author’s Note

THERE IS TRUTH in fiction. That much we all know. When White Stag was originally conceived and written in its baby draft two years ago, I was going through a(nother) very dark time in my life. I have been, and always will be, open about my personal struggles, and those struggles come to play in White Stag. Writing it was a way to turn my pain into something productive that could transcend my own experiences and limitations on this earth.

Like me, Janneke suffers from a loss of agency that was not her own doing and from the failure of those who should have known better and done better (whether or not they meant well in the first place). Her journey of forgiving herself, letting go, and finding strength inside her own self and her own scars mirrors mine.

That being said, there are things in this book that you may find distressing or disturbing. Janneke’s trauma and struggle regarding both her sexual assault and her attacker is a contributing part of her character arc and her healing, and there will be some descriptions or narratives you may find triggering.

Like me, Janneke also deals with an eating disorder and body dysmorphia. Our disorders manifest a bit differently, but they come from a very similar place. It is a scary, obsessive, and vulnerable place to be, especially as a young woman.

White Stag contains violence that may be considered graphic to some. So be warned that there is content in this book that may trigger you. If that does happen, I want you to know that your feelings and experiences are valid and your safety (both physically and mentally) matters more than anything else. My experience is not yours, and I would always advocate for you to do what is best for you. If that means putting the book down, then I want you to know it’s okay and I understand.

I do hope that we can continue this journey together in pain, healing, and all the ups and downs that come after. I’ve found that sometimes we’re so burdened that we think we might break, and in that moment nothing looks like it will ever be okay again. Places like the National Eating Disorder Association; the Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network; and the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255) are there to help.

I want to end this with a quote from Angel that really speaks to me as someone who has so often felt helpless: If nothing we do matters, then all that matters is what we do.

Who rides there so late through the night dark and drear?

The father it is, with his infant so dear;

He holdeth the boy tightly clasp’d in his arm, He holdeth him safely, he keepeth him warm.

“My son, wherefore seek’st thou thy face thus to hide?”

“Look, father, the Erl-King is close by our side!

Dost see not the Erl-King, with crown and with train?”

“My son, ’tis the mist rising over the plain.”

“Oh, come, thou dear infant! oh come thou with me!

For many a game I will play there with thee;

On my strand, lovely flowers their blossoms unfold, My mother shall grace thee with garments of gold.”

“My father, my father, and dost thou not hear

The words that the Erl-King now breathes in mine ear?”

“Be calm, dearest child, ’tis thy fancy deceives; ’Tis the sad wind that sighs through the withering leaves.”

“Wilt go, then, dear infant, wilt go with me there?

My daughters shall tend thee with sisterly care; My daughters by night their glad festival keep, They’ll dance thee, and rock thee, and sing thee to sleep.”

“My father, my father, and dost thou not see,

How the Erl-King his daughters has brought here for me?”

“My darling, my darling, I see it aright,

’Tis the aged grey willows deceiving thy sight.”

“I love thee, I’m charm’d by thy beauty, dear boy!

And if thou’rt unwilling, then force I’ll employ.”

“My father, my father, he seizes me fast,

For sorely the Erl-King has hurt me at last.”

The father now gallops, with terror half wild, He grasps in his arms the poor shuddering child; He reaches his courtyard with toil and with dread,– The child in his arms finds he motionless, dead.






THE FIRST THING I learned as a hunter was how to hide. There was a skill in disappearing in the trees like the wind and merging into the river like stones; masquerading yourself as something you weren’t was what kept you alive in the end. Most humans didn’t think the masquerade was as important as the kill, and most humans ended up paying for it with their lifeblood.

Here, as the only mortal in a hall of monsters, I was very glad that I was not most humans.

I kept my steps silent and my back straight as I passed beneath the white marble pillars. My eyes flickered around me every so often, counting hallways, retracing my steps, so I could escape at a moment’s notice. The Erlking’s palace was treacherous, full of twists and turns, stairways that led into nowhere, and places where the hallways dropped to gaping chasms. According to Soren, there were also hollow spaces in the walls where you could slink around unnoticed to the mundane and the monstrous eye, but you could hear and see all that went on in the open world. The lair of a king, I thought bitterly. I dared not say it out loud in case someone was near. But beside me, Soren sensed my disgust and made a sound deep in his throat. It could’ve been agreement.

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