Thursday, October 2, 2014

Excerpt from A Gift of Poison

Hi everyone,

I hope you are enjoying your October, wherever you are. Here in Atlanta the weather is perfect for writing--a little windy, a little cool.

I will be posting short excerpts from A Gift of Poison over the next weeks. That book comes out soon!! In the meantime, I'm still working on #4 in the Secrets of Itlantis series, For Wreck and Remnant.

Background: the main character, Briand, has been playing Dubbok again, which she is forbidden to do. She's taken before the steward by one of her uncle's men. Here's the scene.


They reached the door to the steward’s chambers. Tibus lifted one massive fist and knocked. He didn’t lessen his crushing grip on Briand's wrist. She dangled at his side like a captured rabbit.
“Yes?” The muffled voice from within sounded irritated.
“Excuse me, sir,” Tibus said. “There’s been a disturbance. Pieter’s niece—”
It was all he got out of his mouth before the door was wrenched open, and her uncle’s steward stood there glaring at them. The words “Pieter’s niece” were always enough to catch his immediate attention, for he’d learned they might be followed by the words “stolen horses” or “knife fight” or “complete pandemonium.”
Briand wanted to shrink behind Tibus, but she forced herself to stand straight as the steward leveled his gaze at her the way some men might point a sword—to ensure obedience.
Kael was perhaps the youngest steward ever to command the castle, but he was also without a doubt the most feared. She heard stories whispered about him in the kitchens and on the ramparts, how he could kill a man without a sound, how he had dissenters flogged mercilessly. Now the young man himself stood before them, not much older than her cousin, Bran, slim but with the look of lean muscle to him, his thin face cold and without expression as he looked at them both over the tops of his reading glasses. Most of the serving girls in the castle said he was handsome, giggling about him as they worked, but Briand thought he was fearsome. His black hair was gathered away from his face, and his sharp gray eyes were frosty as he scanned them both, taking in the situation.
Tibus waited. The men behind them waited too, shifting restlessly. No one dared make a sound with Kael’s cool gaze on them all.
The steward tapped one hand against his leg. “Well? Come in, unless you want to keep standing here for the whole bailey to stare at.”
Grunting, Tibus stepped over the threshold, yanking her along. She stumbled, pitching forward onto the soft carpet that covered the floor. She stuck out her other hand to break her fall, and then glared up at them both.
The steward’s quarters were normally as plain as the rest of the original keep of the castle, but Kael had made efforts to improve them. The fire in the grate blazed and snapped. Drawings of airships and steamboats were tacked behind the oak desk, and embroidered tapestries covered the walls, providing color and warmth. Bri also suspected the images on the tapestries, which showed dragons disemboweling unlucky knights, served a third purpose of instilling the proper fear into those who were dragged before the steward for punishment. She stared at the lush green and gold pattern of the carpet.
“Well, what happened?” the steward asked, going to his desk. He spoke with the air of a weary martyr, but she wasn’t fooled. He was angry at the intrusion, and he was hiding it behind a pretense of simple annoyance.
She shifted nervously.
The steward took his glasses off, folding them carefully and sliding them into a pocket on his vest. He propped both feet up and folded his hands behind his head. Beside his booted feet Briand saw the remains of a late-night dinner and a pile of parchments. A mechanical curiosity, a timepiece or other, sat half-dismantled on the desk, cogs and other bits of metal scattered across the wood as if the steward had been in the process of examining them when Tibus had knocked, even though the night was late and the fires burned low.
He never slept, it seemed.
Tibus cleared his throat and gave her a little shake. “This wretched girl—”
“Not you,” the steward said to Tibus. He looked at Briand. “Why have you been dragged in to see me? Have you been climbing the west tower again? Or were you stealing bread like the last time?”
“Dubbok,” she managed.
“Gambling is reckless, irresponsible behavior.” The steward’s voice was sharp. She dropped her eyes.
“The losers chased her across the ramparts and over the wall. She climbed up one of the dragon statues.” Tibus’s voice had just the barest hint of admiration now. Bless him. She wondered if the steward heard it too.
“Ah. No wonder they call you Catfoot,” the steward remarked.

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