Between the knee (torn MCL, medial meniscus and more) and the fact the first of the Thanksgiving company arrives later this morning, writing a post was the last thing on my mind. I considered putting up an open floor but decided to do something I’m not great at — promoting my own work. Below is a snippet from Sword of Arelion, the first book in my Sword of the Gods series.
The second book of the series, Dagger of Elanna, is also available for purchase. The third book, tentatively titled Foil of the Gods, will be published Spring 2018.
The snippet below is not the opening scene but comes near the beginning of the book.
* * *
She stared at her hands where they rested in her lap, fingers clasped so tightly together it hurt. But that was nothing compared to the pain lancing her ribs with every breath she took or that where the tavernmaster’s belt had broken the skin of her back. Not that pain was anything new to her. It had been her almost constant companion for so long she now expected it.
What she wasn’t used to was being the center of attention. Her master had told her to never bring attention to herself. Having so many eyes watching her, so many people discussing her as if she wasn’t even there unsettled her. If she could, she would flee the room but something told her that would not be allowed.
So she sat as still as she could, praying they would soon leave her be. Her master would be so angry when they did. She hurt now but it would be nothing compared to what he would do to her once they were alone. Blessed Elanna, why hadn’t she tried to give Master Longbow her mid-day meal sooner? If she had, her master would have been none the wiser.
“What is your name, child?”
She lifted her head slightly and studied the young man kneeling in front of her. With his blond hair and blue eyes, he looked like so many who frequented the tavern. But he wasn’t one of those she had served. She would have remembered his fancy clothes. Then she remembered the others had called him duke. What did he want with her?
Unsure, afraid of what Giaros might do should she answer, she glanced to her left. Longbow sat at her side, his expression concerned and yet oddly reassuring. He placed a gentle hand on her shoulder and nodded. He wanted her to answer the young man. The duke, she reminded herself. She had trusted Longbow before but could she now?
“H-he calls me Sparrow.” She spoke softly, so softly the words were barely audible. Still, they sounded almost like a shout in the silence of the common room.
“And your age?”
“H-he told me eighteen winters.” Without taking her eyes from the duke’s face, she nodded to where the troopers held Giaros in place.
“Child, don’t you know how old you are?”
She heard Longbow’s concern and tears pricked at her eyes as she shook her head. There was so much she didn’t know, but how could she tell them that?
“No.” If possible, she spoke even softer than before. Why couldn’t they leave her alone?
“Child, look at me.”
Something about the voice made her comply. She looked up from her hands as someone knelt next to the duke. The stranger, the one who had tried to protect her from her master, knelt there, his expression troubled. He reached out and she started nervously. He paused and then gently brushed a lock of hair back, revealing more of her face than she had let anyone see in so very long.
“Child, my name is Fallon Mevarel. I am a knight of the Order of Arelion. I swear you have nothing more to fear. I will make sure nothing else happens to you.” He spoke softly, almost as softly as she had, yet there was such confidence in his words and the way he looked at her that she wanted to believe him. But how could she? She had learned the hard way how foolish it was to trust anyone but herself. “Will you answer a question for me?”
She nodded almost reluctantly.
“You said the tavernmaster calls you Sparrow. Is that your name? Is it what you call yourself?”
She closed her eyes as a single tear tracked down her cheek. Why couldn’t he leave her alone? She didn’t want to think about what he asked and what she knew he would ask after that.
“N-no.” She licked her lips, struggling to find the courage to continue.
“What is it then?” The knight’s hand cupped her cheek so lightly she could barely feel it. Never could she remember anyone treating with such care.
“I don’t know.” Once again, she ducked her head and stared at her hands.
“Child, are you telling us that you don’t know your name or how old you are?” the duke asked.
She nodded, too ashamed to look at him or at anyone else. She was a nobody, not worthy of having a name. That was what her master had told her. She was property to be used and discarded at his whim. Would these people feel the same?
“How did you come to be called Sparrow?” the knight wanted to know.
“My master named me. Said I was his caged bird with no more sense or beauty than a common sparrow.”
She glanced up and, through the mask of her hair, saw Fallon’s expression harden as he glanced at Giaros. A spark of hope, faint but real, seemed to come alive at the very core of her being. Maybe she could trust him, this stranger who saw more in the span of a few hours than others had in so very long.
“What do you call yourself?”
A slight, bitter smile touched her lips. She could tell him, just as she could tell him how much she had hated being called Sparrow, hated all it had stood for. But that would reveal much, perhaps too much, about what she thought and felt. After so long of hiding that part of her from everyone, and most especially from her master, did she dare trust this stranger?
But what did she have to lose?
“Please, child. We need to know what to call you and it would be best if it was a name you prefer.” Longbow’s hand closed over hers and gave it a reassuring squeeze.
She drew a deep breath, wincing as her ribs screamed in pain. She could do this. She had to do this if she was to ever break away from her master.
“Call me Cait.”
* * *
Here’s hoping everyone has a safe and happy Thanksgiving!