Viyella

Excerpt: The Nightward – A Battle Approaches

I’m a bit busy today, so I thought I’d post a tiny excerpt from The Nightward wherein the Lady Gretchen and her Amazores prepare to do battle with an ancient weapon called the Dark.

The Amazores waited in the cold.  Even the walls above were empty of their presence.  Behind Lady Gretchen, the sounds of banging doors and dragging furniture drifted out from within the Court.  She didn’t look back.     

“Your swords.”     

Metal shrieked as over seventy swords, all engraved with the same script as the Lady’s, were drawn and piled neatly on the colorful tile.  Lady Gretchen added her sword last, then stepped back from the heap.  Palms forward, she chanted a short spell, the words taut as the expressions on the Amazores’ faces.     

The Lady’s sword began to burn a fierce yellow.  Then golden wraithlight with a heart of green slid along the edge of the blade, limning it with a cold, magical glow.  The wraithlight kept going, jumping from blade to blade, circling each one until the entire heap shone with its light.    

Lady Gretchen lowered her arms and gestured at the Amazores to take their swords.  They did so in silence, the wraithlight throwing multicolored shadows on the gold armor.  Around them, the wind howled and tiny veins of frost began to spread in the cracks in the tile beneath their feet.     

She motioned the archers forward, directing them to pile their quivers on the ground.  Another spell and yet another heap glowed with the unearthly light.  The archers collected their property, dropping the straps over their heads and settling the quivers against their backs.     

“Be warned,” the Lady shouted above the wind.  “Each time you plunge your sword into the Dark, it will take away some of your wraithlight.  The sword is useless without the magic.  If it fades, retreat.  Do not attempt to engage the Dark without it or you will die.  Now, to your positions.”      

See you later, alligators!

Excerpt: The Nightward – The Lady Gretchen Sees Things Clearly

Here’s a bit more from The Nightward. Our little Queen and her protector have arrived at a Seat where they hope they will be safe.

Lady Gretchen stood a few feet from a torch as tall as Viyella herself, with Dagen on her right and the guard on her left.  None of them made a sound as they looked off into the distance and Viyella had an idea what they were staring at.  Steeling herself against the sight she had already witnessed, she stepped to the wall and stood on tip-toe.  She still could not manage to smother the gasp that immediately rose to her lips. 

What had only been an ink-blot before had grown into a massive, solid nothingness.  Not only had the High Court disappeared, but most of the grassland between it and Fairye as well.  The horizon before them was completely dark.  Tentacles so black they made the blackness of the night seem pale by comparison snaked along the sky and crawled across the land.  Heart beating, Viyella grabbed Dagen’s arm, causing him to glance down at her. 

“Viyella?” 

Behind her, she heard a low voice she recognized as Eleanor’s.  “This changes things greatly, my Lady.” 

“Indeed it does.”  The Lady made no attempt to hide her grim tone. 

She could not answer.  At that moment, one of the ropy lengths of darkness lifted away from the ground and swung a bulbous head toward her.  Her throat dried and cold, silvery feeling flowed through her veins.  A nameless compulsion made her want to throw herself, screaming, against the wall.  Instead, she hid her face against Dagen’s arm, the smell of blood and sweetgrass somehow keeping her still.  But it saw me and it will eat me.  I know it will. 

Dagen shook his arm slightly.  “Are you all right?” 

“I don’t want to see any more,” she answered still not looking up.  The cold feeling was beginning to fill her stomach now, and she felt ill.  She sensed someone kneel next to her.   

“Your Majesty, you must be brave.” 

She twisted her head.  Lady Gretchen’s clear-eyed gaze met hers.   

“It’s hurting me.” 

For the first time, the Lady touched her, smoothing her hair from her forehead.  Then she let her hand rest on Viyella’s brow.  A smell like the land on a summer’s day surrounded Viyella, and her eyes slid closed.  As if from far away, she heard Dagen ask a question. 

“Is it as you feared, my Lady?” 

Inside Viyella, the cold seemed to melt.  Warmth pushed it away like the sun’s rays on a winter morning.  With it came a memory of her mother’s smile, the smell of her perfume as she hugged Viyella.  I want Mommy.  She felt tears start to trail down her cheeks. 

“It is the Nightward.”  The hand lifted away from Viyella’s forehead and a sudden draft chilled the skin there.  “And it comes for her.” 

Have a great weekend and stay thirsty, my friends!

Excerpt: The Nightward – Farain the Cat

Another snippet from Viyella’s story. In truth, I’m well past these bits, but I don’t let myself post unless I’ve done lots of fresh work. Just keeping myself honest 😉

Hope you like it!

He stood and sent out one more thought.  Yowls filled the courtyard, punctuated by screams.  Seconds later, his cat Farain rounded the corner, his tail lashing the ground, his golden beard dripping blood on the stones.  Farain threw his head back and roared at the night sky, the sound alone enough to unhinge a man’s courage.  Dagen felt the scream building in Viyella, and he clamped a merciless hand over her mouth.          

“Silence,” he hissed, “or you’ll meet your mother’s fate.”     

Tears slicked his fingers, but he felt her shudder once more and then go still.  He removed his hand and called the cat closer.  With one more twist of its red, red tail, the cat obliged, thinking vague bloody thoughts in its indistinct but unique pattern.  Farain had no saddle, but Dagen had done without on many occasions, and at the moment, he had no time to inquire if the Princess was capable of the same.       

Gripping a handful of the coarse long fur that ridged the cat’s spine, he swung himself up on the sinewy back, fur prickling him between the joints of his armor.  He bent down and swept the gasping Princess onto Farain’s back, settling her between his arms.     

“Grip with your legs–tight.  Good.  Now, hold the fur with both hands and don’t let go.”     

She followed his instructions with a silent obedience he had never guessed she could muster.       

“Now,” he said, still in his low voice, half his mind engaged in soothing the cat into accepting this extra and unaccustomed burden, “this would be a good time to use that incantation you’re so fond of to hide us.”     

“I can’t,” she whispered back, fear making her voice tremble.  “I’m not strong enough.  I can only hide myself for a few minutes.”     

He sighed.  My luck runs with distressing consistency this night.  “Then hold on Princess, and pray that Ragat arrows find their target with more difficultly when a Dagen’s speed accompanies it.”     

He spun the cat around and dug his heels in.   

Have a great weekend. Stay thirsty, my friends!

Excerpt: The Nightward – A Boy Dances

It’s been a while since I proved I was working. So here is a little bit of my current Work In Progress to keep you warm for the weekend!

A burst of applause made her jump, and Viyella realized that her mother had reached the end of her speech.  When the noise died down, the Queen announced, “And now to Gaia’s bountiful feast, while we enjoy the entertainment graciously provided us by my sister Queen, Saline of Kadoomun, and brought here by the Lady Ashwin of Seat Jinn.” 

Her mother inclined her head in the direction of a frail looking young woman seated at the same table as Lady Ilene.  Next to her was a tall, thin Lord Consort, dressed in the white and gold of Kadoomun’s Court, which clashed with his bright red hair.  Viyella smothered a laugh and was surprised to find that his bright green stare sought her out in seconds.   

I hope he didn’t hear that.  Cheeks burning, she turned her attention to the slender young man who had stepped into the open space left between the stairs to the throne and the tables.  His entire body glittered with gold dust and he wore loose white pantaloons that billowed around his ankles.  The musicians began the soft strains of a folk song that made Viyella think of running through the high grass of the lands in front of the Court, and the boy began to move, sinuous as wheat in the wind. 

Entranced, Viyella leaned forward, aware that everyone in the Court had grown silent, captivated by the dipping movements of the golden arms, and the strength in the flashing golden ankles.  More than once, she caught the eye of the dancer–Did he smile at me?–and sometimes she held her breath as he twirled like thistledown in spring, or leaped high, like Dagens at play.  In that endless, powerful moment, she knew immediately she wanted to be a dancer and hold the emotions of others in the palms of her skillful hands. 

When the dance ended, the thunderous applause seemed to lift the roof higher to the heavens.  Everyone stood, some calling down blessings on the anonymous boy.  The Lord Consort of Kadoomun looked around, a strangely satisfied look on his face.   

“Wonderful, simply wonderful,” Viyella heard her mother breathe, and below that, the murmur of agreement from her father.  She continued to clap her hands together, ignoring the stinging that had set in.  The boy bowed deeply to the throne, and then his head raised and his pale eyes settled on Viyella. 

Come.  The voice twisted around her mind, seeped into her muscles.  Come.  Viyella gasped and trembled before the power of the plea; she tried to form a thought and failed.   

Come. 

Something clanged to her right.  She sensed Dagen turn his head to the sound, and Captain Freehold moved to investigate it.  Dimly, she acknowledged that she was moving toward the stairs, still clapping.   

“Viyella?” Her mother’s voice sounded far, far away, drowned out by the whispered plea.  Come to me. 

Something glimmered by the boy’s right hand.  He’s holding a candle?  A torch?  It did not matter. All that mattered was that she obey.  She started to walk faster, her small feet almost tripping on the final stair. 

The boy raised his arm, still smiling, the glimmering thing beginning to take shape now. 

Viyella! 

The thought slammed into her, smashing the command in her mind like glass.  Dagen?  A shout carried across the Court.  She groaned, holding her head and dropped to her knees.  Something went by over her head in a rush of wind, the force so great it tilted her back and to one side. She was forced to put out her hand to steady herself.  She twisted, blinking, and felt her mind clearing, sunlight breaking through mist.  Dagen stood on the stairs, arm back over his shoulder with his sword raised for the throw–but then Viyella saw her mother and that was when she screamed. 

Her mother was staring, bewildered, at the silver spear jutting out of her stomach. She touched her hand to it gently.  Then, red blooming on her pink sari, Queen Elise crumpled to the floor.  

Omg reaction gifs

Have a great weekend!

Stay thirsty, my friends 😉

In Which We Meet The Heroine & Hero Of Our Tale

A bit from THE NIGHTWARD again, because I just wrote a nice section with Viyella and Dagen and thought you should all be introduced to each other. Most words of the week so far on the one day I really didn’t want to do anything. Woot for me!

He checked the rest of the balcony swiftly, but to no avail.  The Princess was not there.  He stood frowning at the top of the stairs, wondering if she’d somehow slipped past him.  No, that’s impossible.  The stairway is too narrow.  But where else could she be?   In his mind’s eye, for an endless, stomach twisting second, he saw a tiny body falling off the balcony.  He darted back to the stone ledge, warped with the cool, slick stems and slightly furry leaves of vines.  But only the faded abstract pattern of the courtyard cobbles looked up at him, red and yellow in the gathering dusk.

If she did not fall, then…     

Behind him, he heard a tiny sound–the silvery jangle of bracelets.  The little beast.  He turned, held out his right palm to the top of the stairway and circled it clockwise, muttering the counterspell Erwyn had taught him under his breath.  A thin mist filled the opening, pearl and coral strands wrapping around itself, coalescing into the tip-toeing form of the Princess.  Dagen grabbed her by the back of her vest and yanked her back, ignoring her gasp of shock.     

“The Princess will refrain from using her concealment spells in my vicinity from now on, or I will talk to the Dowager Mother about several unpleasant alternatives to her magic lessons.”     

Viyella made a little screech of disgust as he started down the stairs and clawed at his hand, kicking desperately.  “I only wanted to see the caravan!”     

“Be that as it may, you have inconvenienced the entire household, and using magic to evade your responsibilities is not something the Queen would look upon lightly.  Also, if you want to be put down any time soon, you had better stop kicking my legs.”

And now I’m off to dinner.

Stay thirsty, my friends!

Excerpt – The Nightward

Here’s an excerpt from my new work in progress. It’s a fantasy set in a world in which women are the stronger sex (they have ‘real’ magic), and modeled on a mish-mash of African, Caribbean and Indian culture. Just so you know I haven’t been lying when I said I was writing these days!

Finally, the Lady said in a hoarse voice, “Do I live?”

“For a while yet.” Frances leaned back in her chair, her hands in her lap. Gretchen turned her head toward her.

“Did my mother send you?”

“Alain begged the favour, not your mother.”

“Alain?” A frown creased Gretchen’s forehead. “Why?”

“Perhaps they trust me. Perhaps they wish to ensure you are treated well.” She dipped the cloth in the vapour water, wrung it out, and laid it on Gretchen’s forehead. Then she took another cloth and began cleaning the smudges from the Lady’s arms. “More likely they think me too old to fight and, therefore, slave to their every whim.”

“Are you?”

“Am I what?”

“Slave to their whims.”

The Dowager Mother’s hands touched a bruise on her shoulder and Gretchen expelled a pained breath. Frances retrieved a pot of salve from the floor before meeting Gretchen’s gaze.

“I was Queen of Kadoomun for many years. I may be Dowager Mother now, but a Queen keeps her own counsel. She is slave only to her conscience.”

Gretchen’s laugh was short and mirthless. “Conscience. Is a Queen even allowed such a thing?”

“The best Queens have one. But a Queendom cannot always be ruled by it.”