Tuesday, May 22, 2007

From Chapter 1 of my current Work in Progress:

Twelve armsmen, eight among them unblooded youngsters, none of them battle-tempered. Six archers aiming from window slits high above. Thirty-seven apparent noncombatants leaning over the battlements and peering from the windows--any could be armed.

Vey marked each person’s location in his mind. With practiced precision, he calculated the likely trajectories between them, his Queen and her handmaid, and his Brothers. The grounds outside the palace walls offered few places for defense, but the Brothers could move swiftly, and Halle would protect their Queen’s life with her own.

Standing orders were to avoid offensive engagement unless otherwise directed. Neutralize the enemy even when attacked. He had the advantage--his nearest opponent faced into the sun. Squinting against the sun’s glare, the guard shifted uneasily as his eyes darted from Vey to the other faceless Wraiths. A flash of light reflecting off of his sword heightened the nerves of the other guards; all raised their weapons higher to keep their uninvited guests in place.

Vey and his Brothers were motionless, waiting for their Queen’s command.

“My arrival has not been a surprise.” Within the circle of her protectors, his Queen’s voice was edged with displeasure. “The King of Eindeven has promised me the peace of his household.”

The guard who had halted their party, an officer by his wide-legged, dominant stance and by the symbols embroidered on his tunic, was unimpressed. “I’ll not let a force of armed assassins into His Majesty’s court,” he growled. “Your men surrender their weapons, or you leave the lot of ’em out here.”

A flicker of movement from high above caught Vey’s eye. One of the high windows that had been previously unoccupied now framed the figure of a late arrival. A woman.

She was darker-skinned than any woman he had ever seen. She was dressed with the plainness of a servant, unornamented, and unprotected. Her dark eyes were intent as she watched the conflict below, her lips slightly parted. When she leaned closer to the window, a shaft of sunlight brushed her skin, gilding it with honey.

Vey had tasted honey once. He’d been very young and very ill, unable to even look at food. The spoonful of dark, thick honey had been a heavy sweetness against his tongue, making his mouth water in spite of his lack of appetite. He had longed to ask for more.