I'm busy. I've mentioned that, right? I work from the time I get up until I go to bed, and very little of it is writing just now. That's going to change because we all know I'll go crazy if it keeps up.
But, overall, things are going well enough.
So this week I'm turning to another novel. This one is very nearly ready to go out but it falls a little short at almost 96k, and Baen (the place I had intended to send it) wants at least 100k. I can add another 4k, and probably not with a lot of trouble... if I can just get the time.
So here you go with the first snippet. I'll probably stick with this novel for a few weeks!
NOTICE: This material is copyrighted. Do not quote or repost. Thank you.
From: Paid in Gold and Blood, Chapter 1 (not the very beginning, though)
Katashan had hurried ahead of the caravan to do more than gape at the welcoming sight of the Inner Sea. The caravan had followed the ancient Iron Road, a trail that for centuries had linked the resource rich northern lands with the grain rich southern coast. Stone-carved Verina Guardians -- waist high kneeling images of the goddess with her hands held in a bowl shape before her -- had stood sentinel at every important locality, from crossroads to mountain passes. The statues represented an old religion, in abeyance in the south, since the old empire had long since dwindled away. There had been a time, though, when the land of Taris ruled from the northern shores all the way to the Inner Sea.
Katashan hadn't realized he could feel any affection for the Gods who had never been his friends in life. Yet the first time he had seen the kneeling statue of Verina, protector of travelers, he had felt an odd stirring in his heart. During the long journey he had stopped at every Verina statue and made a token offering of food or drink. He had served in her temple for a few short years when he was younger. It seemed so long ago now, that it might have been another person who had prayed at the altars and wished all travelers in the world peace.
A shame those prayers had never been saved for himself.
Tyren and his men had scoffed at the superstitious northerner at first, but as the journey progressed with few problems, he saw Tyren eyeing the old goddess with some consideration. It amused Kastashan to think he may have helped to reintroduce a piece of the old religion to counter the apostasy of the south, where the Cyrenian monarchy had introduced new gods as soon as they broke allegiance with Taris.
"Up! Up ye' damned beasts!" Tyren bellowed, and the donkeys answered in much the same tone. Soon the pack would catch up with him. After so many months on the trail, Katashan knew better than to waste the few precious moments he had to himself.
However, even knowing where to look, it still took him longer than expected to find the Verina Guardian for this pass. He had started to believe -- being this close to the Cyrenian heartland -- that it had been thrown down during the war.
Finally he found the very top of the statue's head showing through a snowdrift off to the right, farther from the trail than he had expected. By then he could also hear the plodding step of the lead donkeys and knew he didn't have much time if he wanted a moment to say his thanks in private for having had such a trouble free journey.
Getting to the statue wasn't easy this time, though. It lay in a blanket of snow, knee deep in many places. He tried not to curse as he forced his way through the ice crusted snowdrifts. Katashan had always believed the Gods listened at the worst of times, and he had already dared their ire too often in the past to take a chance now. He even bit back a curse when his foot caught on a snow covered limb and sent him sprawling near the feet of the Guardian.
By the time he stood, Tyren had almost topped the rise, all but dragging the lead donkey with him. Katashan quickly stood and brushed the snow from his pants and cloak. He took the last step and reached out, brushing snow from the covered statue --
The stone felt uncommonly warm, and it should have melted the snow for several feet around the shrine if he had been true warmth. Instead this had to be magic, and that could not be good.
"There you be," Tyren said from behind him. "Why'd ya not take the cleared path to your Guardian? Never struck me as a snow lover."
Path? Katashan turned and could clearly see the stone-lined trail, just a few steps to his left. He could not possibly have missed it before, except that the Goddess intended him to. . . and meant for him to trample through the snow.
And even fall as he had.
She would not have done it on a whim. The gods had never shown a taste for burlesque before, though irony and farce seemed common enough. So why send --
"Damn," he whispered, despite himself.
Katashan quickly retraced the three steps back to where he had fallen. He knelt, ignoring the cold, and brushed snow away from the limb -- and found frozen cloth beneath, and then fingers, blue as the ocean below.
"What norther ritual is it this time?" Tyren demanded as the rest of the caravan began to move past, his men anxiously herding the laden donkeys onward.
"Tether the animals and bring a blanket," Katashan ordered. He looked up into Tyren's scowling face. "I've found a body."