Here there be dragons...

"I'm telling you stories. Trust me." - Winterson

A sample of what's coming next!

As requested - a snippet from the latest work-in-progress.  I think it mostly stands on its own.  I kinda love this main character.  She might have to stick around for a while :)

The original of the first chapter can be found here -- obviously person and names have changed, but the premise is the same.

My little world is still in need of a name though -- any suggestions?  Medieval-ish, said world has 6 divisions to it.  

Let me know what you think!

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Gavin looked again to Marcus for instruction and Lissa had to work to maintain her calm facade. More than anything from home she missed being treated as an equal by the men.  She may not have their knowledge of war, but she expected to at least be answered directly.  But she took a deep breath and told herself to forget it.  Women’s lib wasn’t even a figment of the imagination here.  The fact that Marcus and Zane respected her was surprising enough – she had to remind herself to be grateful for that.

And then, she learned it went beyond that.  She realized Marcus was livid and when he addressed the knight; his voice was ice cold and his visible tattoos seemed to become more vibrant somehow.  “She is your queen and she asked you a question. You have disgraced yourself and me by failing to answer immediately.  The only reason you are still alive is because she respects me enough not to kill you.  But if you fail again, I’ll take care of it myself.  Are we understood?”

Lissa nodded her appreciation to Marcus, while the knight stammered an apology.  But, she realized, it wasn’t enough.  He would treat her with respect to honour Marcus, but not because he actually respected her.  She’d have to earn that. 

A slow smile crept over her face as the idea came to her.

“Calista…” she heard the warning in Zane’s voice, but ignored it.  She wasn’t going to do anything particularly challenging.  They’d been practising endlessly.  She just wanted to make a point.  She imagined a ring around the knight on the floor.  She could see it clearly in her mind.  The men were all watching her now, but she said nothing.  She held her hand in front of her and turned it over palm down then back up again, as a casino dealer would before dealing the cards.  When their eyes focused on her hand, she created a little flame.  Nothing intimidating, smaller even than the average candle.  It flickered, bouncing just over her palm, and she looked up to meet the knight’s eyes.  She flashed a wicked smile and he paled.

But she wasn’t done.  She brought her hand up to her face.  It was entirely unnecessary, but she understood the effect of a good show.  One of the things Zane had taught her was magic was far more powerful if the audience believed, and she knew how to manipulate an audience.  She blew gently on the flame, but instead of going out or even growing as a flame would usually behave, it took on the characteristics of a leaf – and when she blew on it, it gently floated away. 

The flame wafted gently until it hit that imaginary ring around the knight.  The ring that her mind had lined with gasoline.  The effect was impressive.  Startling even to her, and she knew what was coming.  Instantly the knight was surrounded with a wall of fire taller than he was.  She saw him through the flames, hands up protecting his face, spinning in an attempt to find a way out.

Marcus let out a loud laugh; while Lissa was certain it was forced, she was also reasonably certain the knight was too panicked to notice the subtlety.

“I think,” the wizard spoke calmly, “Sir Gavin has learned his lesson, highness.  I’m getting quite warm, so if you don’t intend to kill him, perhaps you could douse the flames?”

“Look at me, Sir Knight.”

The knight did as he was told, meeting her gaze through the flames.  Slowly she dissipated the flame into the air, allowing the flames to shrink until they vanished.  She held Gavin’s gaze the whole time; her own expression was carefully neutral. 

“Let me be very clear,” her voice was calm and quiet, making it all the more powerful.  “I am queen, which alone means I outrank your lord.  I am also a wizard, which makes me the most powerful queen LAND has seen in centuries.  I was raised far from here and have training the likes of which you cannot imagine, which enables me to think and solve puzzles in a manner you’ve never seen. Trust me, Sir Gavin, what I tell you now.  That wall of fire is naught but a child’s trick.  If you ever disrespect me again, you will learn just what a warrior queen is capable of.  Understood?”

“Yes highness,” his voice came out clear.  He continued to hold her eyes as he dropped to one knee and held his sword out in front of him, point to the ground.  Then very deliberately he bowed his head.  “I give you my sword, highness.  And with it my life.”

He stared at the ground while Lissa considered him.  Technically he owed her his allegiance regardless through Marcus, so the offer, while undoubtedly heart-felt, wasn’t actually of any benefit to her.  Her head was pounding; she put it down to stress and frustration.  She was getting so very tired of the testosterone game.  Threaten them, they respect you.  But it wasn’t the kind of respect she wanted.

“I do not accept,” she said.  Marcus tensed and his hand reached for his blade, but she caught his eye and shook her head sharply.  “Your sword belongs to Lord Thornbury, as does your life.  I have no need of either, for I have his sword.”  Marcus nodded and the knight’s shoulders deflated slightly.

“What I do need, however, is your opinion about the dorns.”  She repeated her earlier request.

“Yes your highness.”  He remained kneeling, but lowered his sword to the floor and lifted his eyes to meet hers.  His recitation was thorough and in the end, she knew what they were facing.  

“Do you have anything else to tell us?” she asked, exhausted and hoping the answer was no.

“No highness.”

“Marcus?  Zane?” she asked.  Both men shook their head in the negative.

“You are dismissed Sir Gavin.”

The knight bowed first to her, then to Marcus and finally to the wizard before leaving the room.  As soon as the door shut, Lissa sighed and leaned back against the wall, wishing she could relax even briefly. 

“You know,” Marcus said studying her, while one hand mindlessly twirled a knife between his fingers, “when I told Gavin you could kill him, I didn’t actually think you could do it.”

“I know.  That’s why I had to do what I did.”

“Why didn’t you accept his sword?”

“Because it was offered out of fear, not respect.”  She paused for a moment and he nodded; he didn’t look surprised.

“You were going to kill him.”  She said it as a statement, but he answered it as if it were a question.

“Yes.”

“Why?”

“A soldier whose allegiance is rejected is dishonoured.  As a subject of yours, I couldn’t keep a vassal whom you had deemed unworthy.  But nor can I afford for him to sell what he knows to our enemies.  His life was forfeit when you declined him and he knew it.  You restored his honour to him smoothly and enabled him to maintain his position in my household.  He’s your man now, whether you want him or not.”

“I know,” she said with a wry smile.

Marcus paled just slightly and his hand paused in the twirling of the knife.   She winked at him and the knife slowly started moving again.  “You are your mother’s daughter,” he said, “but you are so much more than she ever was.  I won’t forget it.”


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