Tuesday Snippet – Hero of Corsindor – Chapter 2

Hero of Corsindor 2018-2Queen Mallory’s small private balcony was molded to the side of the looming gray castle. This castle was built for defense with inner and outer courtyards, parapets, and high walls.

During the late war bowmen had loosed arrows from the parapets, while men on the walls and men on the ground defended this very castle. It’s history was bloody at best.

The light flickered and disappeared into the shadow of its walls. Queen Mallory gazed down into the courtyard as she had done many times in the last twenty years. In her hand she clutched her current needlework of a phoenix burning in ashes just before rebirth.

Her long dark vibrant hair was hidden by a wimple. Her virtue was all she had now. She was a stranger in a strange land and a hostage to fortune. She had been wed to this king and she had failed at her one duty. She had not born a son.

Maria. That name made her want to stab her needle into the phoenix and rip the cloth. That little commoner mistress of the king’s had ruined so much. She had had a child and then she had died. The king had looked at the queen with disgust on good days. After Maria’s death, he wouldn’t even touch her.

So there was no child. If for a moment she had known that she wouldn’t have a child, she would have taken that newborn son of Maria’s…

The needle slipped from the fabric and punctured the queen’s finger. She set the needlework now. A maid hurried over and wrapped her finger in a white cloth. Then she backed away. The queen’s temper was legendary. The maid kept her eyes away from the queen and stood near the door.

The queen had listened to the insinuating hisses of her courtier, Rhali as he bowed to her. The mistress would gain power at the birth of a son, he had said as he leaned toward her. To her regret she had listened to him. He was so handsome and lean and had made her heart beat faster.

She hadn’t known that he was a snake. It was Rhali that had given her the tea that she had brewed for the pregnant mistress. In the end the mother died at her hand. The baby died soon after.

Instead of mourning and then turning to her for comfort, the king had spent the last twenty years insisting that his son was alive. He spent every last bit of his influence and power looking for that child. While he was obsessed, she had taken over the reigns of the government.

She knew how low the coffers were getting. She wiped her hands down her gown. It hadbeen more than a year since she had even had a new dress.

The king spent his days and nights tucked into a laboratory that he had built in the ballroom. She hadn’t seen the king or his magician, a lowly sneaky crow, in days. The magician was brewing a new potion that would help the king find his son.

Neither the needlework in her hand nor the scene of the mountains from the window captured her attention. She wanted to rub her temples to relieve the headache, threatening to become full-blown.

An under-servant cleared his throat. Just the distraction she needed from her thoughts.

“Your Highness,” he said. He bowed deeply.

She waited for him to face her. When she saw the carefully blank face of the servant, she knew something was very wrong.

“His Highness is calling for you.” The servant stepped back respectfully.

She picked up her skirts, ran through the door, and almost ran to the laboratory. She shook the door handle, trying to open one of the locked doors. The under-servant who had ran behind her, pushed in front and put his full strength to pulling the door open.

“It was open earlier,” he muttered.

She could hear the king calling. With another heave, the door finally opened. She stood at the threshold for a moment to survey in the room.

In the center of the room was a pentacle drawn in white chalk. The king stood in the center o f it. She could see drool dribbling down the corner of his mouth. His eyes had that lost dim look of a mentally deficient child.

As she walked closer to him she could hear the words he was mumbling. “I’ve found him. I’ve found him. I’ve found him,” the king repeated.

“Where?” she asked. But he didn’t hear her and continued repeating his message.

She brushed the chalk with her skirts and the king collapsed into her arms. The under-servant was there to take the full weight of the king or she would have collapsed.

“Guards. Guards.” She yelled. The guards took the king from her and the under-servant and carried him to his chambers. They wouldn’t drag his royal ass. A little bitterness colored her thoughts.

She had been more worried about the king than the supposed wizard. About fifty feet away from the pentacle, she found the wizard’s cold body. She checked this pulse. There was none. A wind rattled through the ballroom and it chilled her.

The papers around the wizard’s body blew through the air and landed into the fireplace at the other end of the ballroom. She tried to jump and catch them. The papers would tell her what these two idiots were playing with, but she didn’t have a chance.

The ballroom became so cold that she started to shiver. The under-servant grabbed her by the arm and dragged her out into the hallway. She looked up at the runes on the doorway. She hadn’t noticed them before. Now they were glowing red and they seemed to look at her.

She felt some regret for what she had to do next. She sent the under-servant to get more guards. Then when he was gone.

When she was a girl, her mother had taught her the shape of runes for protection. She now regretted that she had never been interested in her mother’s craft. She tried to remember the shape of those runes.

White smoke started to seep through the door. She had to do something because the smell of brimstone began to intensify. She wanted to cough.

What hope did she have? She could give in again or she could protect what little belonged to her. She put her hand up, ignoring her head that was screaming at her that she had no power, and traced the runes for protection above the runes on the door.

As she traced, she saw the runes on the door glow green. She kept tracing and the runes on the door turned a fir green. A blast of sound reached her ears and she was thrown against the other wall.

The under-servant with the guards ran toward her. She took a deep breath or tried to.

The under-servant helped her up. She closed her eyes, took another breath, and sighed.
“Guard this door,” she told the two guards.

The under-servant walked her back to her own chambers. She wiped her hands down her dress. The pins in her hair had fallen out and she looked a mess. She straightened her back and walked into the chambers.

This group of women who attended her were a mess of spies from her enemies. The fact that she was disheveled wouldn’t go past any of these eyes. Still her ladies-in-waiting helped her into a new dress. They braided and pinned up her hair. Not one of them showed surprise.

“Send for the Castellan,” the queen ordered.

She didn’t have to wait long. Sir Robert Astru walked in without knocking. He glanced around the room, noting the tapestried, ladies-in-waiting, and her. He smiled, showing bright white teeth. He was a handsome man with dark hair and eyes who according to the gossips liked his paramours young.

“What are you doing here?”

“You asked for the Castellan. I am here.” One of the ladies-in-waiting put a hand over her mouth and giggled. Sir Robert bowed to the giggling girl. Queen Mallory eyes hardened just a little. She wouldn’t forget this slight.

“I asked for the Castellan.” The queen kept her voice even.

He looked at her with a slight sneer. “The one you seek is gone. I have taken his duties.”

So that was why some of her orders had been ignored and why some of the court would titter when she walked by. The ladies-in-waiting watched her avidly to see what she would say or demand of Sir Robert.

Instead she said, “Guards are posted at the ballroom. The king is in his old rooms and he needs a doctor.” She raised her eyebrows in anticipation of his disagreement.

“I will send my doctor to him.”

“As my queen wishes,” said Sir Robert. For a moment the queen could see why her court was fascinated with this man. He glowed with health and was a handsome beast. She kept her face blank, hoping he hadn’t caught her thought.

“Is there anything I’ve missed?” she asked him. For a moment he said nothing as if she had surprised him.

“I’ve will put the king next to your rooms,” he said. “Better to guard you and him if there is a need.”

If she hadn’t known when she first got here that Corsindorians liked intrigue, she would have figured it out after living here. Sir Robert Astru was a cousin of the king so he had been breathing intrigue from his birth. He was rubbing the scar on his right index finger, a scar given by a rival.

His normal mask slipped and his eyes looked thoughtful, “How dangerous is the ballroom?”

Queen Mallory bit her lip. What she said here would be all over the castle as soon as she finished. She sighed. They wouldn’t be able to keep this secret.

“It’s very dangerous,” she said slowly. “I traced a protection rune and it barely kept it contained. We need to watch the doors closely to make sure it doesn’t break the ward on the door.”

She didn’t want to reveal the next part, but he probably already knew. “Whatever it was, it was whispering in the king’s ear. He thinks he has found the prince.” Her throat closed up and she cleared it.

She felt relief when Sir Robert agreed with her. The court had become more and more unruly as the king slipped into madness. Sir Robert would be a good ally.

“I will leave the guards at both the king’s door and his ballroom.”

She wanted to sink into the floor with relief. Instead she tightened her knees and stood proud.

“You do know that it could overpower the guards.”

“I thought of that,” she said. “My doctor will give then an amulet that will give them enough protection to warn us before the door bursts. When the door goes red, the ward is breached.”

Sir Robert frowned, made an abrupt about face and marched out the door. It would be done.

The queen sighed and gracefully sunk into a padded chair. She casually glanced around. Rose was missing, the giggling girl who flirted with Sir Robert. At least she now knew who the snake was in her garden.

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Tuesday Snippet – Hero of Corsindor – Chapter 1b

As the sun touched the peak of the gray mountain, the last rays hit the large tent that had been erected as a banquet hall in the center of the nomad city. The last of the light turned the tent from orange to gold and then to a pale yellow.

As the last light disappeared into the dark night, the pale gray tent glowed yellow from the lamps lit inside. It was a gathering that only happened once a decade. The Ahrah gathered together to eat, drink, laugh, and sing. They would trade stock and this was where the younger men could meet potential brides.

Shira slid into the noise and stepped through the opening. Young women and children were serving lamb seasoned with hot red peppers, garlic, and onions. The heat in one bite would burn the mouth and warm the belly. Each family brought their own signature dish to the feast so the tables groaned with carrots, potatoes, peas, beans, and corn.

Shira had help set up the tables for the feast. One of the Counselor’s advisers had come up with a table that could be easily assembled and disassembled. Usually in a family setting, Shira and Oor would sit on blankets and eat cross-legged. It was strange to see tables. Instead of blankets, the families set on chairs. It was a novel ideal.

Oor had told her once that their neighbors didn’t sit on the ground. That they used tables and chairs all the time. Who would have the time to assemble or disassemble the things before moving on? It just didn’t make sense.

She wouldn’t pass up the chance to sit on the things even if they looked too rickety to hold an adult’s weight. Shira ambled around the tables, going to the big table at the other end of the opening. She greeted friends and non-friends alike, keeping a simple smile on her face.

Oor was fond of saying that she was not old enough to have enemies. So instead of showing her disdain, she nodded politely to the more powerful council members.

Unfortunately she would have to walk by Malkiah’s mother, Cianne. His mother kept her face covered in a transparent white veil, which moved back and forth with her breath.

“Sit with me,” she said. Shira could not afford to upset Cianne. She was one of the most powerful members of the Council. Also she was a traditionalist, hence the white veil.

Her stated position was that the Ahrah needed more men in powerful positions. She had been politely angry when the Ahrah had selected a woman as the Councilor.

Before the veil had fallen obscuring the Ahrah from their neighbors, many of the best warriors died in the border wars. Corsindor wanted their land.

The border veil changed all that. Corsindor had forgotten them. Still there was a shortage of men. The birthrate of boys was low and many of them died before they reached puberty.

Women stepped into the void to lead the people.

Shira bowed her head politely to Cianne and sat down on one of the rickety chairs across from her. She waited for Cianne’s pronouncements.

She had heard it all before. Cianne thought she was blessed above all other women because she had a boy, Malkiah and that her boy was now a man. It would only be advantageous if Shira would pledge herself to a strong man. Cianne would point to her son with her chin.

Shira knew were this would lead so she tried to head Cianne to other topics. Shira’s direction must have been clumsy because Cianne’s eyes gleamed. Her mouth pursed as if she had bitten into something sour.

Then Cianne shifted her body to the other council members at the table. She waved her hand sideways at Shira like an afterthought. “This is Shira,” she said.

Shira stood and made a formal bow to the elders, who were looking at her as if she were a rat caught stealing grain from the stable.

An old man with a long white beard sprinkled with crumbs sneered at her. “She has taught you well,” he said. The white haired lady with blue highlights bobbed her head as if the old man was a wise. She put some more meat onto his plate. He stopped and took a bite.

When he looked up at Shira, she knew he was going to say something cutting.

“She’s not one of us,” he said. Shira waited for the scriptures that was supposed to cut her down to size. “Woman is a bright jewel. Speak not. Her beauty radiates.”

She could tell he was quoting from the book because of the sonorous ring to his voice. Shira wanted to turn away and head to the table where her friends were. The meat wafted to her nose and her stomach growled. Instead she nodded politely as if he had made a hit.

Then she said, “Man is the ox of the family. He feeds and protects his family.” Shira knew she had made a hit when he jerked just a little.

Before he could roar at her, Cianne intervened. “Canroh was wise,” she said.
It was the gleam in Cianne’s eyes that warned Shira. She held herself still and waited for the blow.

“You had an audience with the Councilor.”

Shira nodded her head, yes. She stared into Cianne’s eyes, which reminded her of a snake. After a moment Shira said, “The Councilor is wise.”

The silence lasted until Shira bowed again and backed away. She could feel their eyes boring into the back of her head as she turned away.

She blew out a breath of air as she saw Oor at the table. There was a crooked smile on his face as he moved pulled a chair next to him. “Sit,” he said.

“So, the elders cornered you.”

There was nothing to say. Shira filled her plate and listened to Oor and one of his students argue about the merits of stick versus sword. She settled into the warm companionship and ate.

Who knew when there would be this much to eat again?

Tuesday Snippet – Hero of Corsindor- Chapter One-a

Hero of Corsindor 2018-2 Shira stopped in the door to take in the magnificence that was the Counselor. Even by the oil lamps light, the Counselor’s robes were a whiteness that was almost impossible to clean. Shira idly wondered who had the job of keeping her quarters immaculate and her clothing in such good shape.

Shira dusted off her clothes, feeling shabby in the Counselor’s presence. She strode toward the center of the tent where the Counselor was sitting on a carved wooden chair.

A red pillow peeked from under her seat. A small portable wooden tray next to her held her inks, quills, and books. Shira could tell she had recently used her quill because there was a light black dot on her finger.

When she stood in front of the Counselor, Shira bowed deeply.

“No need for that here, child.”

Shira stood at attention, trying to honor this woman who led the Ahrah. The Counselor smiled. Shira had not been close the Counselor in a long time. Around the Counselor’s lips and forehead, the lines had gotten deeper. Her skin was pale and papery. Her eyes were the colors of bruised grapes and not the normal dark brown of her people. Under the lavender perfume was a slight dark smell of earth and rot.

Shira’s stomach clenched as she saw into this woman, who had taken the Ahrah from a few tents to a large community. She was sick, very sick. Shira waited for her to speak.

The silence became long as the Counselor used a cane to get to her feet. She leaned against the cane and when Shira tried to reach for her, she gave Shira a look that told Shira stay put.

Shira settled back into her position and waited. The silence became longer and Shira wanted to fidget. You didn’t fidget in front of the most powerful woman in your world. She wiggled her toes and waited.

The Counselor sighed. “You are so young.” Now the Counselor was inches from Shira’s face. She looked deeply into Shira’s eyes. Then she touched Shira’s cheek. When had the Counselor become so old?

The Counselor sank back into her chair exhausted.

“I must tell you your origins.”
Shira had wondered where she had come from and who her people were. All her life she had been an outsider with her pale corn-silk locks. Now she would know where she came from.

“We found you, a little baby, near the great veil that is our protection against our southern neighbors.”

The oil lamp flickered and the Counselor’s face became even older to Shira’s eyes. It was not the romantic beginning Shira had thought she would have. She had been a foundling.

They had taken a big risk to shelter a foundling. So many things could have gone wrong.
Oor was not shy about the stories of demon foundlings who had grown up to kill their foster families. He had told her that if she found a foundling to leave it there. It was not safe.

Shira felt an electric shock go through her body. She could have been that foundling.

“We decided to take a risk because you looked so much like our blood-thirsty neighbors to the south. We would raise you, train you, and make you one of our own.”

Shira could see the strategy. The veil had been powered by magic for so many years. Children with magic were rare and in the last few years there were less and less Ahrah mages who could renew the spell that separated the two countries.

“But we can’t keep you.”

Shira wanted to interrupt the Counselor and tell her she would be loyal to her and to the Ahrah for taking in a foundling. Instead of bursting in speech, her training kicked in and she became a statue.

“I had a vision,” The Counselor closed her eyes for a moment. The lines in her face deepened. “You through the woods with a sword in your hand. Under your feet were the skulls of the Ahrah. You were fierce, but a hairy dark man pulled you down to the ground and pierced your throat.”

The Counselor took Shira’s hands in her own.

“Child. Cut your hair. Burn your locks. You are not one of us. Your destiny is not here.
A wetness moistened Shira’s cheek. She took a deep breath and wanted to pull her hands out of the old woman’s hands.

“You leave tonight after the banquet. Tell no one.”

Hildaebookcover2015finishedIn honor of Liberty Con and the 4th of JulyHilda’s Inn for Retired Heroes will be free from July 3-5.

In Delhaven, there is an Inn run by a retired mercenary. If you are a down-on-your-luck mercenary or men-at-arms, come to the public rooms and Hilda Brant, the owner, will give you a bowl of stew. If you want ale, hand over the coins. Hilda may give you floor space, but she expects you to pay in favors or coins.

Tuesday Snippet – Hero of Corsindor Chapter One

Hero of Corsindor 2018-2
The huge gray boulder rested on the edge of the ridge. In the last ice age it had probably been pushed to this remote spot and left by the ice. It was colored with varying colors of tan and white among the gray crystals.

Today Shira was not inspecting it. Today she was sitting on top of it and gazing down into the valley below her. The sheep looked like little white dots and she could see young boys following the flock in the brown and green patchwork fields.

Her long legs were slung over the boulder and she kicked them idly. The sun beat down on her and she had taken off her head scarf and her light corn-silk reflected the sun that had found its way to her. She shook her head to feel the air through her silky hair.

Down below she could see the tent city of the Ahrah. She had come here to be alone so she didn’t have to talk to anyone. Every day some woman thought she wasn’t covered enough. She had stood in front of too many women for too many years. Besides she had been picked to be a warrior. It was a break with tradition. Among the Ahrah women ruled their tents and families with an iron fist. The men fought and defended their family and their herds of sheep and goats.

The Ahrah lived in these temporary quarters because they believed that one day they would come home and then they would build permanent structures. They only built wooden stalls with covered roofs for their horses.

Shira shifted on the rock. She scraped her hands on the rock, feeling the texture of rock. She would like to sit here forever. But she was here to think and she was not getting much thinking done.

Not far from here was a meadow filled with wildflowers. She could go there and watch the little ones, tiny sprites with wings, flit from flower to flower. They would sometimes pull out their pins and attack the bees. But even that pastime didn’t thrill her. She was growing up and she was not wanted among the men of the Ahrah.

It was obvious that she was not one of them. She had the light skin of the Northern people while the Ahrah were more swarthy with dark brown eyes. She was tall and slim while their women were busty and moved like they were dancing. Their women looked good in the robes and head scarves, while she looked like a child, trying to imitate them.

There was no reason to keep brooding here. She turned to slip off the rock when a large stick swung past her head. She automatically ducked and rolled to the ground around the boulder. She grazed her shoulder and winced, but kept rolling.

The stick whooshed again and almost hit her shoulder as she jumped to her feet. She faced her mentor, Oor.

Oor was barely taller than Shira. She stared into his brown eyes, watching for the next attack. Normally she would have enjoyed the practice, but she had come up here to have time to herself. She gasped as she tried to get her breath back.

“Girl,” Oor said. “You should be alert at all times.” He frowned at her as he prepared to hit her with his long bamboo staff. It rested easily in his hands. His stance was low so Shira was sure he was going to sweep her off her feet.

She jumped as he swept the staff to her feet. Then he hit her ribs when she wasn’t fast enough to get out of the way. She knew the drill. If she wasn’t there, he couldn’t hit her.
After a whirlwind of blows she fell to the ground. Suddenly she could see time slow down. This was why she was being trained. She saw the staff come down and she caught it.

It took a lot of energy to be able to see time slow and she had only a few moments to act before she would be unable to do much more than lie on the ground like a grounded fish.
She pulled the staff hard and Oor landed on the ground. She heard a hard “whoof” as he fell on his side. They lay there on the ground getting the air back into their lungs.

She rolled over and took a long look at Oor. He was in magnificent shape for an old man. There was not an ounce of fat on his body. Many of the women in the tribe would have considered it an honor to have him live in their tents. He was handsome too. His beak of a nose had been shattered. His face had started to wrinkle around the eyes and mouth.

There was a story about Oor. That he had left the tribe to go to their lost home. Another people lived there now. He had learned hand-to-hand and the way of the sword. When he had tired of adventure, he had come home.

He had no wives and no children. He taught the boys and men self-defense and war. Shira was his only female student. But then she wasn’t Ahra so there wasn’t a prohibition for teaching her the arts.

“Truce?” asked Shira. She felt concerned about how long it took for Oor to stand up. He used his staff to stand up and dusted the dirt off his pants. He was one of the few who didn’t wear a robe. Shira dusted the dirt of her robes.

Oor looked pointedly at her bare feet. She put on her boots and laced them up. She liked going barefoot because she felt more energy when her feet were touching the earth. Oor had showed her in one of their sessions what happened to bare feet when fighting.

He had stomped her foot and Shira was sure that he broke her little toe. She listened to him after that and wore shoes. Oor wasn’t all warrior, but in the last few days he had stressed self-defense.

“Truce,” Oor said. “You skipped your lessons.”

Shira groaned. “Why do I need to learn math, history, and geography? Isn’t that only for the ruling class?” She could hear a short whine come out of her voice. She hated school. She would rather fight or sit here and watch the sprites.

It was not that she was lazy, it was just that she rarely had time alone.

Oor grabbed her by the elbow. “Are you going to help an old man down the trail?”

Shira laughed then. “Old man?” She did slip her arm into his. “See that rock, old man? Don’t trip?”

The dirt path wound back and forth like a snake down the mountain. On the sides of the path were a forest of firs. Their needles swayed at the slight breeze. The trees shadowed them as they walked down. Shira took a deep breath of air. The smell of sap smelled like a tree had farted. It followed them down the mountain until the trees thinned and then instead of trees there were bushes.

They stopped and picked some blackberries on a bush that had spread across a huge clearing. Shira kept a look out for bears. The bears liked blackberries too and could strip a bush in less than an hour. She could usually tell when a bear was around because the bush would shake.

Even Oor, great warrior that he was, was wary of bear. Their claws could rip and tear and their teeth. Well, Shira gave them the respect they deserved.

Both Shira and Oor walked with a little bounce, while grabbing a few berries and eating them. Shira’s stomach was growling because she hadn’t eaten the oatmeal that morning. In fact she was supposed to make some that morning for Oor.

“Should we save this for our meal tomorrow?”

Oor shoved another another handful of blackberries in his mouth. There was a twinkle in her eye.

Shira agreed with that sentiment, so she ate some more. The berries burst in her mouth making her feel happy. She rubbed her mouth with the back of her hand to get the stickiness off her face, then licked the rest of the berries.

When they reached the tents, Malikah, one of the council members’ sons waited next to the wooden fence posts that marked fenced corrals for the horses. Privately, Shira thought that Malikah looked like a younger Oor. He always looked like he could handle himself in a fight.

He spent a lot of time with the horses. Malikah was traditional in his ideas. Shira and Malikah had been trained together by Oor. Unlike Oor, Malikah would never touch her with the sticks or his fists. He would practice the forms with her, but he never went farther than that.

Oor had told him in her presence that the people down south did train some of their women to fight. It was rare. So Malikah needed to learn how to defend himself from any swordsman whatever their gender.

Malikah had laughed at the suggestion. Oor was the one who used to tell them stories of cannibals that lived amongst the southern people. If one wasn’t true than the other wasn’t either.

Besides Malikah came from an old Ahrah family. His mother still wore the veil and covered her entire body. Shira had seen the contempt in Malikah’s eyes when she had quit wearing the robe. It was new times and the Council had allowed it. What more did he want?

So having Malikah waiting for them unsettled Shira. She felt her stomach twist a little.

“Shira Loedsdotter. Oor,” he said, formally. His lean body straightened and Shira could feel his aura seeking to surround her. He probably didn’t know he was doing that. Still she stopped and waited. “The Councilor requires your presence.”

Shira and Oor followed him around several of the home tents. Shira grimaced behind his back. Oor gave her a sharp nudge. She composed her face to a more neutral expression, which was not a smile, but not a frown either.

When they reached a large tent set in the center of the small village of tents, Malikah said stiffly, “Oor, you will wait here.”

He gestured to the flap of the tent. Shira slipped in. She knew that Malikah was glaring at her back. She wanted to laugh, knowing that that bigoted young man wanted something that she was getting… a visit to the most powerful woman of the Ahrah.

Tuesday Snippet – Shira

I will be the first to tell you that the more you practice, the better you get. This applies to music and it doubly applies to writing. I started out writing poetry.

I think the first poem I wrote officially was when I was nine years old and in the style of Robert Frost. I can’t compare the poetry I write now with the poetry I wrote then. It has been not quite fifty years and a lot more experiences behind me.

So last year I decided to go through the fantasy novels that I had published in 2010-11. The story structure was decent, but the descriptions and characters were thin. I know I wouldn’t have been able to critic my own work eight years. So I decided to revise and update my first novel, “Shira: Hero of Corsindor.”

And without further ado, here is a snippet:

Hero of Corsindor 2018-2Prologue

She glanced nervously at the lead-glass windows as the rain hit them in staccato bursts. The rain struck with such force that it drowned out the clanking of armed guards, roaming the hallways. The grayness and cold crept into her heart and chilled her bones.

In the midst of this war of elements, a newborn baby wrapped in white swaddling lay in a cradle. She gently rocked the cradle, whispering to the baby.

“You, poor sweet thing,” she said. His mother had not survived the birth. It was a miracle that this one was breathing. “She said she was in danger.” The nurse hummed and rocked. The baby smiled. It broke her heart. This child wouldn’t be allowed to live. He was born of the wrong woman.

Everyone knew that the woman who had married the king was not the king’s first love. This marriage had been arranged. The king had kept his mistress in the castle so that he could visit her during her pregnancy. It had been an embarrassment to the new queen. The kitchen gossip ran through the nurse’s mind.

The cook had sworn that she had seen the queen in the kitchen in the early hours, brewing up a potion. Then the mistress went into labor. The cook had connected the potion with the death of the mistress. The baby was supposed to die as well.

It was the baby’s smile that had changed her mind. Instead of announcing the baby’s birth, she wrapped the baby tightly in the new blanket. Hoping that the baby would stay quiet and wouldn’t suffocate, she tucked the blanket into a basket.

A silent prayer was on her lips as she walked firmly and confidently down the hall with the basket pressing against her arm. She nodded to a guard and walked past him. She reached the kitchen without being stopped. The warmth of the kitchen was a huge contrast to the coldness of the rest of the castle.

She set the basket down and warmed her hands on the flame.

“Has the baby been born yet?” asked the cook. She was bustling around the kitchen, beating dough with her hands. Two of the cook’s thralls were carting pots out to the courtyard so they could scrub them and clean the pots for the next meal.

“No,” the nurse said. “I’m going to the apothecary to get more herbs to ease her pain.”
The cook just nodded and went back to her work.

A tradesman knocked on the door. A kitchen maid opened the door and accepted the dinner meat. The nurse slipped past them and into the courtyard. A side gate that lead to a narrow path down the hill into the city was open.

It was slippery, but the nurse kept her footing. The rain had turned into a soft mist and she slid into the shadows. She looked back at the castle. It looked menacing in this light.

She shivered just a little and adjusted the basket. Her shoulder ached from carrying the baby.

She thanked every god in the pantheon that the baby hadn’t cried or screamed. She pulled back the blanket so that she could see his face. He was breathing. She let out a sigh of relief and hurried to a cobblestone road with two story buildings dwarfing her.

She slipped into a small alleyway that led to the market square. Then she hurried through the square. It was unusually quiet. The hard rain must have sent the merchants home early. It only made her shiver more and she thought that someone was following her.

Finally after going through a few more alleys, she found the one she was looking for. The shopkeeper sold beads and brocade from far away. Plus she knew him. He was her cousin’s husband.

“Welcome,” he said when she sat the basket on the counter.

He took a long look at the baby. The baby had soft dark hair and light skin. The baby’s eyes opened and they were a dark blue.

“Well,” said the shopkeeper. “It’s come to this.”

The nurse nodded her head.

He pointed to the curtain at the back of the shop. She followed behind him into the darkness.

An hour later the nurse left the shop with herbs in her basket. She headed toward the castle.

Tuesday Snippet

Since it is May, it is time to turn over a new leaf– Plus now that I am starting this month with a clear head, it’s time to write.

I’m leaving you with a snippet from one of my WIPs – Unlicensed Sorceress.

Delhaven
Rooso Derne
Rooso woke, soft silk comforter wrapped around him. He reached to his left to give Mistress Mary Rose a deep kiss. The dip in the bed where she had slept beside him was already cold. The sheer pink fabric draped across the four posts shivered as he put his feet on the cold floor.

She was not standing at the window looking down at the gardens. She was not washing her face with the water left in the basin. She rose early most days to keep her little kingdom of whores and thieves in line. He pulled on his pants and went in search of her.

“You are a charming rogue,” whispered Mistress Mary Rose as he strutted into the parlor so she could appreciate his beauty. His red auburn hair flowed down his bare back. His skin was ivory and freckled. He had the slim build of a runner with enough muscles that he would be deadly with in a fight. He knew she wanted him and he wanted her.

Her words stopped him. Did she suspect? Rooso gave her a smile with all teeth and she gave him the same smile back. His hands trembled as he poured a shot of whiskey that was on the cherry liquor cabinet. He knocked it back, then turned to face her.

“You are a spy.” The tone of her voice told him that she hadn’t believed it until then. He wanted to pour another shot, but he needed to be steady for this conversation.

“Mary Rose,” he started. “I don’t know what you are so upset about. You should be used to spies by now.” And yes, she had her own spy network in Delhaven. Whether she used that intel or passed it on, he didn’t know. He did know that his masters wanted more information on her.

It was then that he noticed her burning eyes. She wasn’t as complacent about his profession as she had sounded at first. She rustled as she picked up her skirts and got off the soft couch. She walked deliberately towards him, lifted her hand, and slapped him hard across the cheek.

“Out,” she said. Her voice froze something inside of him. Her actions this morning was opposite from the night before when she had washed him and held him.

“Please,” he could hear the shock creeping into his voice. “Please listen to me.” He wanted to tell her, but all these things he wanted to tell her were locked magically in his head. It was frustrating as he tried to force words past his lips.

“You were seen with my enemies.”

The cockiness slipped out of him. “What?”

“Manny,” she called. The butler was at the door, “Make sure that Rooso is out of here today. I don’t want to see him again.”

Rooso was still in shock when Manny cocked his head and said, “Sir. Follow me?”

Rooso’s clothes were already in a large bag sitting near the front door. He had been blindsided.

Manny deftly took the shot glass out of his hand as he walked Rooso out the door. Manny handed him a cape to cover his half-nakedness. Manny watched him as he pulled on his boots. Then he politely opened the door and Rooso had his bag was on the front lawn.

He wanted to rage and kick the door. He wanted to march into the house and give Mistress Mary Rose his side of the story. But how could he? His lips were magically sealed. It would just be the same as before.

Instead he picked up the bag, swung it over his shoulder, and trudged down the carriage path that lead away from her. Grown men didn’t cry, but their eyes did get dusty.
He didn’t look back.

Instead of using stealth to get to the safe house in the middle of the city, he marched straight there. Mistress Mary, heck, maybe the entire city, knew he was a spy. She was hurt enough that she might send someone after him to kick his ass. He felt a burning in his throat and a roiling in his stomach. He ignored it.

His red hair shone in the early morning light and he didn’t care. Track me. Give me my deserved beating. He wished he had told her before. Now any trust that he had developed between them was gone. He hadn’t known that Mistress Mary would be the woman to force him into submission. He had laughed and left dozens of women. He didn’t want to leave her.

He gasped on the cold air. It seeped into his cloak and against his chest. He shivered. As his ears and nose numbed from the cold, he reached the wooden doorway leading to the safe house. He knocked loudly on the door. After a moment, the peephole opened.

Without a word from the guard, the door opened. Rooso marched through. A young man led him to a room filled with books and a hearty fire in a fireplace against the wall. He was left alone. A wooden chair made from oak and carved with magic symbols invited him to sit.

Rooso inspected the symbols. As he waved his hand over the carvings, he felt no power coming from them. Feeling a little relieved, he sat down. His bag plunked on the wooden floor. Mistress Mary Rose must have packed all of his weapons into the bag.

“Rooso,” said a voice that made his nerves jump. “For a spy, you fail spectacularly.”

Rooso tried to turn his head. It was then that the power in the carvings in the wooden chair took over. He was bound to the chair and couldn’t turn his head left or right. He stared straight ahead.

“Speak,” said the voice. The person stayed behind him so that Rooso didn’t see him.

Rooso bit his lips. He held his mouth tight. He felt an uncontrollable urge to speak, to explain why he had not fulfilled his mission. He resisted. He tried to move his arms and legs. Then he tried to move his fingers and toes. If he could just move a finger, then he could break the spell that held him.

He continued to fight, but when he tried to breathe his mouth opened. The magician behind him laughed. Rooso had failed to beat the spell.

“She knows.” Rooso finally said. He tried to stop babbling, but that one breath forced the rest out of him. “She has spies.”

He was going to speak anyway so he tried to divert the words coming out of his mouth. He wouldn’t talk about the dragon or Hilda. He wouldn’t skirt talk about the black magician who had made a Dragur. Nor could he reveal that he had helped seal the well at Hilda’s Inn.

If this magician suspected he wasn’t telling everything, he would use force. This type of force was the blackest of all magics. He could feel the waves of enjoyment coming from his captor.

Then Rooso’s voice changed and he went from babbling to placidity. He felt his eyes droop. He talked of other missions where he had been a sailor. He talked of waves, oceans and sails. He talked of the depths of the ocean and of drowning.

The magician tried to redirect him, but he was lost lost lost in the deep ocean. He fell into the depths of his unconscious and was gone.

 

 Monsters, Inc.