Today I’m taking part in a cool Merry Christmas To All Traveling Blogathon (of Doom!). One randomly chosen commenter will win a copy of my fantasy novel Protector (Anniversary of the Veil, Book 1). To give you a little taster of what you can win, here’s a short excerpt from PROTECTOR:
Chapter 2: Training at the Keep
Kae walked behind her left shoulder as Issa entered the dining room. She hadn’t first gone to her chambers to change into something more appropriate. Most likely to annoy her father, she still wore her woolen trousers and knee high leather boots. King Ardnan was already seated, but stood when she entered. Issa hardly acknowledged this gesture.
Kae’s stomach rumbled as the smell of the creamy mushroom soup hit him. Tonight the soup would be followed by roast chicken and slow baked potatoes. He could smell it all from where the servants waited for the king and the princess to finish their soup. And Kae could have none of it.
Issa and her father were having dinner in the king’s private dining room tonight and, as Issa’s Guardian, Kae could not just sit down and eat with them. Could she not dine in the common hall tonight where he could join her? She’d already made him spend the entire afternoon on the cliffs.
Protector Hyldar, who was standing behind the king’s chair, winked at him and gave him a knowing smile, before his face turned back into the expressionless mask all the Protectors wore. Kae had already begun practicing at it in preparation for the Pledging. Hyldar could smile all he wanted, Kae was sure the Protector had already eaten. Still a trainee, Kae had to go through old one-hand Bron to get food at the Keep, and the dinner bell was at twilight.
King Ardnan sat back down and picked up his spoon. “Tell me, Issiyanna, have you had enough time to reflect on your words since last night?”
“I have reflected, to be sure, but I have not changed my mind, if that is what you are indeed asking. And I am sure that I will never understand why you are forcing this on me.”
Her father looked at her with a smile beneath his bushy golden mustache, which was quite at odds with the stern tone of his words. “I have gone to speak to the Head Priest today to see if we might postpone your wedding. Reluctantly, he has agreed that it can wait until summer next, so that you might have some more time to enjoy yourself.”
“Because I will not enjoy myself once I am married?” Issa didn’t look up from her food and didn’t see the smile.
“I expressed myself clumsily…”
“Why has my marriage only been postponed? You were allowed to marry the one you truly loved. Why can I not?”
A shadow seemed to creep across the king’s face. “My love for your mother was stronger than any rules imposed. Is there one that you love beyond measure?”
“No. That is to say, I have not met such a man yet, but I feel that he is out there, and he is not Thomma, whom the priests have picked for me.”
“It would be different, if there was one from whom you could not be parted. You have until summer next, almost eight turns of the moon from now. If, in this time, you should meet someone you love beyond measure, I will see you wed to him. But try not to romanticize what your mother and I had. I only enjoyed her love and warmth for eight short years before she was taken from me. Such strong love carries a terrible price at the end of days, and perhaps it is a mercy one does not have to pay it.”
Issa didn’t reply. The servants brought out the chicken and potatoes. Issa only ate a few potatoes and left the chicken untouched, before excusing herself. What a waste.
“Did you know about this, Kiyarran?” Issa rounded on Kae as soon as the dining room door closed behind them.
“I heard something about the meeting between your father and the Head Priest from Orn, while I took my lunch with him.” Kae was fighting down a smile. She was angry enough as it was.
“I knew it. You Protectors gossip worse than old market sellers. And where is the duty and honor in that?” Issa stopped at the foot of the wide marble staircase, which was covered by a forest green carpet and turned to glare at him. Kae avoided her gaze.
The endings of the staircase railing were carved; the left side in the shape of a rose and the right in the shape of the sun. When he was younger, Kae wondered if all of that meant anything special to the royal line, but Issa wouldn’t say. He later found out the carpet was placed on the stairs at the request of Issa’s mother, Queen Aelde. This explained why Issa wouldn’t speak of it, Kae didn’t like speaking of his parents either.
He held up the edge of the charcoal grey cloak of his uniform. “I am not a Protector yet. See?” Protectors wore black. It was meant to goad her a little and worked, even though Kae could never understand her displeasure at the Protectors.
“You should have told me.” Issa’s bright blue eyes were alight with indignation.
“How could I kindle your hope on a piece of market gossip?” It was never his place to tell her. Besides he had it from Orn, who himself didn’t have it first hand, except for having seen the king ride to the Priests’ Palace in the morning.
“You may go now,” Issa said loudly and stalked up the stairs. She’d pulled her long blonde hair into a knot earlier, and it was bouncing now with every step she took. If it had a mouth, it would stick its tongue out at him, Kae was sure.
First Captain Entan emerged from the small room where the king held his private councils.
“Captain, the princess has dismissed me. I request permission to return to the Keep,” Kae said as he fell in step beside him.
“Yes, Kiyarran, if the princess has no further need of you then, by all means, return to the Protectors’ Keep,” the First Captain answered and lengthened his stride.
Instead of following the captain outside, Kae walked to the narrow servant’s tunnel that led to the kitchens below.
He was in luck. Katy, the hourglass-shaped serving maid with the pouty lips, was just clearing away the remains of Issa’s dinner. Kae liked the look of Katy. She had the same dark brown hair and green eyes that Kae did, and he imagined she was from the north, just as he was, originally.
“If you were going to throw that to the dogs, I could help you out,” Kae said.
She turned and blushed, then handed him the plate. “Here. There’s more if you want.”
He took the plate and started eating right there. Katy blushed again, then turned away and resumed her cleaning. Kae could never get more than a few words at a time out of her, but he thought her responses were getting longer on the whole.
“Here you are. It was great,” he said once he finished the meal and placed the empty plate next to the stone basin used for washing the dishes. He smiled at her and she blushed again.
“Do you want more?”
“No, I’m full.” Evening practice on a full stomach was never a good idea, no matter how hungry one was.
Kae turned to walk outside. She grabbed his arm and handed him two apples from the wide pocket in her apron.
“Thank you.” Kae took the apples and she nodded then turned back to the sink. This was the most initiative she’d ever shown. And she didn’t blush.
Have to tell Orn about this!
So, comment below for a chance to win the rest of the book 😉 (DEADLINE EXTENDED: I’ll announce the winner on Monday, 12/23)