Snippet Sunday #19

I’m so close to finishing a beta draft of The Witch under Mountain. So close (if my own head would stop getting in the way). Here is a bit of it.

In a lot of ways this is Fox’s book. Hopefully, you’ll see why when you read it.

~*~

He turned his eyes across the cavern, where trolls stoked a great hearth-fire. One of them, clad in a burnt, greasy-looking apron, sharpened a series of wicked knives. Panic tightened its iron bands around Fox’s chest. He leapt to his feet and clutched at the side of the pen; he’d chosen the closest to Eagle last night, and had to listen to Eagle sob, but it was worth it. “Vo!” he called, clinging to the bars.

Eagle’s head went up, and he unfolded so quickly Fox had trouble tracking the motion. In half a blink he was at the bars too, with a couple of fairies trailing him; he didn’t say a word, only stood there looking at Fox as if from the bottom of the sea, faraway and longing.

Fox took him in. Lacy white sleeves spilled from an outsize velvet doublet. Silk stockings sagged into puddles around his ankles, above the tops of huge buckled shoes. His thighs were too slender for the pantaloons, and instead of puffing up as they ought to, they hung around his knees. The whole effect was dreadfully unbecoming—outright laughable, if it weren’t for the situation—as if the thinnest little chick were given clothes meant for a fat capon.

He ordinarily looked far different: unobtrusive, unassuming. His usual clothes were meant not to catch on anything, but not to foul his movements either, tough enough to hold up and fit well enough to accommodate intense activity. Under Fox’s regard he tried anxiously to smooth what he wore, but he couldn’t make it look well, or himself appear to advantage.

How little it mattered! Fox’s mouth curved in an involuntary smile. Most people wouldn’t have tried to apply an adjective like “sweet” to Eagle Eye, but with Fox he was sweet as the strawberry preserves on a breakfast buffet. He tried valiantly to smile back, but it didn’t quite come off.

Snippet Sunday #18

Hey! Snippet Sunday’s back too. Here’s a bit of The Brothers Mala, which I’m really enjoying right now. It’s longer than I thought it’d be, but what isn’t these days…

~*~

Aurelius sat up, then swung bare hairy legs around to the old worn rug. He had big broad feet with big square toes, thick hands that rasped through the blonde stubble on his face, and a thick neck red from sunburn.

He pushed his blanket aside and stood, leaving the faded couch behind. His feet slapped on the tile, echoing down the tiny hall to the bathroom. There were drawings hung on the wall there, where they wouldn’t fade, Dad’s drawings of a better time. Aurelius never looked at them on purpose, but every so often he’d turn his head wrong and see Mom smiling, Mom with the comfortable soft weight she’d carried before grief made her angry and thin, and it could ruin his day in a blink.

Today he didn’t see anything on the walls. He made it to the basin, but while he peed his eye fell on the framed pencil portrait of himself and Felix, younger, gladder.

Snippet Sunday #17

Today, another piece of Princes and Kings (a working title), introducing White Raven. He’s so damn interesting. You don’t see why right away, or in this piece, but he’s very interesting as far as I’m concerned — has a redemption arc. Anyway, go on and meet him, and later you can decide whether you like him or not…

~*~

White Raven jogged up the stone steps from the servants’ quarters, letting his hair down and anticipating a pleasant liaison with Slender Palm of Coral Spires. Lehua was bronze-skinned and dark-haired; she smelled of flowers Raven didn’t know, and her brown eyes and low voice were warm. The memory of his white hands on her dark thighs enticed, particularly with the tattoo that snaked down her leg. He’d first seen it when she wore a dress that was slit up the side to the weapons yard—and she’d seen him.

He was definitely looking forward to it. She fucked like she fought, loose-hipped and free. Too bad they were running out of time. Soon she would be back in Coral Spires, far away from everything, and he would be at Tangletree, and they might not meet again in either lifetime.

A figure flashed past him, well to his left. The exposed whiteness of stomach and the streaming hair might have been anyone, as well might the sobbing, but the way it—he—ran, like an untrained child no matter how much time Raven spent with him, marked him as Rhuez.

With a sinking stomach, Raven pinned up his hair again and strode after. In truth he minded less than he ought. He liked Rhuez, for all the boy was hopeless with the sword. It was only the loss of a night with Slender Palm he minded, and she’d probably tolerate an explanation. She’d seen Rhuez at his lessons.

His legs, longer than the Eiten Liedan’s, kept him close enough for sight, but not too close. He carefully turned his eyes from the huntsman’s cabin, where all the lights burned; he didn’t want to ruin his night vision. A fortunate decision, for Rhuez rounded the front of the Palace—Raven had to hustle after—and made straight for the oak lane that led away into the Valley. Rhuez squeezed into the lane and was lost.

Snippet Sunday #16

A little of (yet another) short this week. I’m calling this one “Crossbow Wedding,” and it’s about Dingus’s parents.

~*~

The first one Daddy hadn’t chased off, and he was lying to her. Lying! Sweet Rose had no patience for liars, and never mind Daddy had taught her that, Mama too: not to get mixed up with no low-down liar. “You can be sure they’re more trouble than they’re worth,” Daddy would say, and go off on a story about Silent Owl, dead now, who Rhiada remembered as an okay guy basically, even if she didn’t understand all what went on between him and Daddy.

Mama usually rolled her eyes and patted Daddy’s shoulder, and later in the kitchen she’d tell Sweet Rose what she thought: “Baby, half what he says is a lie and don’t let him tell you different.”

“Which half?” Sweet Rose would say back, like always, but she never really got an answer, and it had got to be a joke between them.

Now here was this big boy—in a man’s body, but a boy—lying to her and yelling “Wait, wait!” and Sweet Rose had had enough. She couldn’t get away from him, though, not with his legs so long and hers so short.

“Wait,” he said again, walking easy beside her. He didn’t try touching her. Just as well for him. Mama and Daddy had taught her a trick or two. She didn’t use them, didn’t have to, but she knew how to make him regret it. “Look, I know how you feel. My dad is Marcus Xavier.”

She stopped, blinking. “You mean that Marcus Xavier? Like those Xaviers?”

“Yes.”

“That don’t change it. You lied,” she said, shook her head, and walked on.

“I’m sorry. I won’t do it again, okay?”

“How am I supposed to believe one word you say?”

“You can’t, I don’t guess. All you can do is give me a chance.” He whipped in front of her then, and did she ever think about wrecking his hopeful smile! But she didn’t. It was a nice enough smile she didn’t want to wreck it, liar or no. He had a big old beard no tulon could ever grow, and it split around his white teeth that shone in the starlight.

Snippet Sunday #14

For Snippet Sunday this week, a little piece of an untitled work in progress (yes, I know, I have a million). This one’s about Kirsten Kalt, and it ought to go in a Tales from the Knights collection, if I can get my act together.

~*~

The familiar kid-again smell of the barn enveloped Kirsten as soon as she stepped inside. It was much warmer in here; the bodies of the reindeer made it a pleasant place to be in winter, even if it cooled off quick after they left. She yanked her mittens off with her teeth and put back her hood, never mind the flyaway hair it gave her.

It was quiet here, at least for now, and she stuffed her mittens into her pockets and blew out a sigh. She’d forgotten the bad parts of home in the middle of the missing it, just like always.

The house was even more crowded than she’d remembered, which only made sense. All the brothers and their wives and children, plus a couple of the sisters and their husbands and children, in to visit blasphemous little Kirsten… yeah, it made sense. Besides all them, there was Mama, with a woolen blanket around her shoulders, taking up three times the space an old lady ought to.

She finger-combed her hair, which never helped matters really, just made it crackle and zap, and leaned back against the door. There was somebody in here—she could tell because a lantern burned on a stall divider’s hook, and not even the tiniest Kalt would’ve left it. Ivar’s kids especially. Shit, she couldn’t even count how many he was up to. There were little ones and middle ones and older ones, even a baby. His wife must be exhausted. Kirsten could only be glad her skills hadn’t been called upon to deliver another screaming red thing.

Yet.

She sucked in another draught of the ordinary-life scent: sweet hay and dry oats, straw and shit, reindeer milk fermenting, richly sour, in the shed attached to the barn. Whoever was in with her, she couldn’t see, but now that she relaxed, she heard the rhythmic shuff-shuff of a currycomb. One of the hundredth generation (most likely) of barn cats chased a mouse, scuttling and scuffling.