Monday, February 06, 2017
New Novel Snippet
Journey of a Thousand Truths is over 70k. Since I had thought it might only go to 70k, I'm pretty pleased in that respect. The fact that I might only be halfway through the novel bothers me a bit, but at least it's still moving and quite nicely. So I will share the opening with you:
Legend walked through the door of The Lost Way Inn.
Oh, not the boy himself, but rather the blood that ran through his veins. Zaron was the grandson of two contending barbarian conquerors who had finally ended their wars when neither the Tiger of the East nor the Wolf of the West and sealed their peace when the son of the East married the daughter of the West. Despite a marriage as tumultuous as the battles their fathers had fought, the pair had three daughters and one son.
What brought that illustrious son to my humble inn worried me so much that I almost stared too long. A quick glance around the crowded room showed that no one else had recognized the hooded figure. I had only had a brief glimpse of his face, but I had known him well until five years ago. Besides, he looked remarkably like his father, whom I had served for ten years before.
That the boy was here was reason to worry.
"More beer, Mai!" One of the regulars reached out and caught my arm. "More beer!"
I signaled one of the others to bring it while I threaded my way past a dozen tables. Zaron had not stopped at the door; he had walked in as though he knew the place, scanned the room once, and headed for a little table at a back wall. I had been wending my way there as well, laughing with customers, pretending that there was nothing wrong.
I didn't want Zaron in my Inn. I no longer served the royal house, not since his father had been taken up for treason and killed. His mother hadn't trusted anyone who had served her husband. I was lucky that I'd made provisions the moment I saw the way the dice were rolling, and after a few months in hiding, I had presented myself as one of the many widowed women who had taken up a business. Few knew the truth about my past and Zaron was not one of them. He should not have been able to find me here.
I reached his table ahead of any of my people. He looked up at me with such relief that I felt a shiver. No boyish lark sent Zaron here to find an old friend.
He didn't waste my time.
"My mother and sisters are dealing with demons," he said softly. Far too cultured of a voice for this place. He knew how to keep his voice soft, though, having grown up at court. "They intend to kill me, my grandfathers, and take the rule."
I blinked several times. Someone came closer, but I had made certain I stood at an angle where no one else would see him clearly. Oh yes, the old ways of court, came back too easily.
"We have beer of three levels," I said, sensing someone in hearing range again. "May I suggest the golden?"
"Yes, thank you," he said. Still too cultured, but I didn't think anyone would take note of someone being more polite than most of the others.
I didn't dare stand over him for much longer. "Outhouse after the next bell. If anyone goes out before you, wait for the following bell."
He bowed his head.
I passed back through the tables and gave his order to Jana, who was the least observant of all my girls. Then I went back to the kitchen and chopped vegetables for the next day's food, though I suspected I would not be here to cook it. I purposely went to a place where I could not see the boy because I would stare, despite knowing better.
"Ah," Danisin said as he came in the door with a bag of rice over his shoulder. He dropped it onto the table and eyed me. "Old Han make another play for you did he? I'll just stay clear of that knife."
"Ha." I chopped some more and then turned to him. "I may have to go for a while."
He nodded and asked no questions. This wasn't the first time, though the reasons before this had never been this dire. I suddenly remembered what the boy had said -- demons. I chopped some more and he went about the business of preparing for the late night business. The bell rang as the nearest temple counted the hour. I saw movement toward the door -- the boy in his cloak still. I went out after him.
Zaron had taken a spot by the wall in the most shadow he could find. I gave him a nod, checked the outhouse to make sure it was empty and put the lock down on the door so no one could come out. Then I crossed to Zaron with my anger starting to bloom into a righteous rage.
The rage died when he looked up at me again.
This was not the boy I had left behind five years ago. He was nearly twenty and looked far too much like his father at that age. More than the age and resemblance stopped my ill-timed rage, though. His face was damp with perspiration, his mouth set in a tight line against obvious pain, and his right hand held tight against his left side. I pulled the cloak back and could see the bulge of cloth and a dark circle that had to be blood.
"What in the name of the Forgotten Gods --"
"Endris sent me," he said and drew the hand away from the wound, standing up straighter, and doing his best not to show any pain.
"Ah, Endris," I said. "He wouldn't have sent you unless --"
"He's dead," Zaron said. He gave a bow of his head. "I'm sorry. He suspected something was happening and managed to get me away from the others. Hasana killed him."
"I assume you mean your sister and not the Goddess of Mercy."
"She thinks she's the Goddess incarnate. They all think so -- Mercy, Abundance, Hope. Mother convinced them --" His breath caught and I put a hand on his shoulder when I feared his legs were going to give way. He looked startled. No one touched the prince without permission. I almost bowed my head and apologized. "No matter," he said. I wasn't certain if he meant me touching him or the story about his sisters. "Endris sent me because he said you should know. He said to tell you it is a truth unwritten."
I had not expected those words despite the situation. My breath caught. He nodded and seemed to understand the important of the words he'd said. Then he did something I had not expected. He stood up straighter -- he'd grown as tall as me in the last five years -- and gave me a nod that was clearly meant to be a sign of farewell.
He had not come here for my help. He'd come to deliver a message and nothing more.
I could let him walk away. I won't say wisdom made me catch hold of his arm before he turned. Maybe I only wanted a chance at redemption and to do for Zaron what I had failed to do for his father.
"We have someone else we must see," I said.
"You know what I've said," Zaron replied. He sounded weary and his hand went to his side again, no longer trying to hide his weakness. "You do not need me. I'll go now while I still can. They won't find me near the inn."
Those were the words of wisdom. I didn't listen to them.
I hope you enjoyed it. And now I'm back to working on the story!