Sorry I didn’t get Teaser Tuesday done last week, and right after I said I wanted to make this a regular thing. I woke up last week so sick I didn’t have the energy to turn on the computer.
But I’m better today, so here is your teaser for Sword & Illusion. Oh, just to keep you updated, I spent all day yesterday doing line edits – two rounds of them. I have one more set to do today, although the email I got last night said it wasn’t much, just some clean-up things from the last two sets. Then the book goes on to proof-reading. We also got a mock-up cover, but we had some issues with it. Not big ones, but kind of important ones, so we don’t know yet what the cover will look like. I’m really eager to see it and share it with you all.
Okay, that said, let’s get on with the Teaser for today. This scene focuses on my hero, Prince Varian of Tellan. He is on his way to participate in the Choosing Rituals but is distracted by “a damsel in distress.” This scene is my response to Steve telling me my hero had to be more “heroic.”
“What are you on about?” Varian said, turning to his valet. “Can’t you hear that child crying?’
“What about it? Probably hungry. I’m sure the brat’s mother will handle it. Can we please turn back? I don’t want to freeze my manhood off before we get to Cool Trails.”
“No.” Varian shook his head. “That is not the sound of a hungry child. Something’s wrong.”
He kicked his horse’s side, and the animal increased speed. They headed toward the wailing.
“Sire,” Anthelme called. “Please. Cool Trails in the other direction.”
Varian ignored the other man and rode into the scraggly forest, his horse stepping as quickly and carefully as he could over the broken branches and small, virtually invisible ice patches.
After a few moments, during which the crying never ceased, he found himself near what must be a storage shed on the edge of a small clearing cut in the forest. The sound of the child crying came from the other side of the building and now he could also hear what sounded like a woman moaning.
Anthelme and his horse came out of the forest next to him.
“What is this place?” the valet asked.
“Clearly, someone lives here,” the Prince said. “Come on.”
“Sire,” Anthelme said. “We need to get to the Exalted Warrior’s Tower before nightfall. The instructions were quite explicit. If we are late, you will be disqualified from the Rituals.”
Varian was already on the other side of the greenhouse where a well stood. The crying seemed to be coming from inside the well, but the source of the moaning was a woman, dressed in what looked like set of leather body covering, lying on the ground, a large wound in her leg and her arm at an unnatural angle beneath her.
The Prince jumped off his horse and rushed over to the woman. As he knelt beside her, he was surprised to see that she was conscious. He’d seen large men, soldiers by trade, with smaller injuries who had passed out from the pain.
“My child, my daughter,” the woman gasped, grabbing Varian’s cloak with her good hand, which was covered with blood. He assumed it had come from her leg wound.
He grabbed the scarf from his neck and wrapped it around her wound, even though the bleeding had slowed. He hoped it was a result of the cold and not that she had lost too much blood.
“My daughter,” she said, pushing his hands away from their ministrations. “She is in the well. It is deep. She fell. I tried…” The effort to speak was too much for her, and she collapsed.
“Anthelme,” Varian called, checking that the woman still lived. “Hold this here to stop the bleeding.”
The valet, sobered by what he saw, hurried to the Prince’s side. “I will find something to splint her arm.”
Varian shook his head. “Deal with the bleeding first. We don’t want to move her any more than necessary.”
As soon as he was sure Anthelme had everything with the woman under control, he stood up and went over to the well.
The inside was so dark he couldn’t see the child, but he could hear her crying. His heart lurched as he realized that the sound was fainter than before.
“How long has she been down there?” he asked, looking over his shoulder at the woman who watched him.
“Most of the day,” the woman said, her voice breaking. She stifled a sob and continued, “I was gathering wood for the fire and Moonwhisper was playing. I carried a load into the house, and just as I came out, I saw her climb up and fall over the side. I raced to try to catch her but slipped on a patch of ice.” She motioned with her head toward a glassy path in the snow.
“I lost control and slid into the stones on this side of the well. One of the sharp ones gashed my leg, and when I fell, I must have broken my arm.”
“You rest now,” Anthelme said. “We’ll take care of everything.”