Here it is, the first snippet. I’m not finished writing the book, and I’m not going to finish in time. However, I don’t expect to have it take much longer than I’d originally planned, and the publication will still take place in March if all keeps going to plan. Which it might not. However, I like to snippet about the first quarter of the book, in the tradition of marketing in the style I learned from Jim Baen. Each snippet is between 1-2K words, depending on where I choose to break the scene (and not a full chapter, as my chapters tend to run about 2500 words) which gives just shy of a quarter of a 100K word book. As of this snippet, I don’t have a cover for Dragon. I have some elements, and the layout of the art in my head, but I’m more focused on writing than painting the cover. So that will happen after I’m finished with the writing part… and I have to get moving!
The End in the Beginning
I blew open the doors of the Great Hall with a resounding crash. It matched my mood, to hear the splintering wood. My hands were too full to have gestured a more subtle spell of opening, and my brain was too full of anger to think through the education I was giving to the gathered High Court. At that moment, they didn’t exist for me, fading into the background as I marched toward the two people I was there to see. My burden made my arms ache, but pain was good.
Physical pain kept me from dwelling on the mental pain, from thinking about what I was carrying. I kept walking, on foot in front of the other. This morning had been the bright start of a new life, and now I was about to make an ending.
An ending had already been made for what I carried, and an hour ago I had learned of this. It had begun innocuously enough. Bella was going to be in Court for the day, meeting with the Council in part to report what had happened when we visited Eastern Court, and in part to begin the preparations for her coronation. Corwin was anxious to get that over with, and her officially working. I was left at home, anticipating a day in the armory, but first I needed to see a few people. Being able to travel on my own was only one of many things I was enjoying for the first time, but damn, it felt good.
Ever since I’d lost most of my magic to the elfshot, I’d operated carefully, never using much, or paying for it later. Underhill, this made me a cripple, an object of pity, and in the human world it made me slightly more than human. With the carelessness for my own life I’d operated under for most of two centuries, this had formed me into what I was when I went to collect Bella. She’d softened me, and ultimately, healed me.
She’d also addled my brain. I was standing in my library, hands on hips, laughing a little to myself as I gathered a bubble to go see Devon in Elleria when there was a ringing knock at the door. I didn’t even open my Sight to see who was there, I just went and opened it. Dangerous, stupid thing to do. Sure, I have wards around the place, and in theory ill-wishers would trip it, while those who have been given pass-keys can pass through. It’s still a good idea to look first before you swing open that last barrier of the door between you and your potential foe.
There was no one there. I stood looking out over the tangled gardens of my lodge, the home I’d carved from a forgotten pocket of wilderness Underhill, and where for so many years I’d lived virtually alone. Absently, it crossed my mind that Bella might like to clean up the garden. This all happened in a second, looking out, a fleeting thought… and then I looked down.
My sister lay at my feet. Pale, composed, and I knew even before I dropped to my knees that she was dead. I didn’t touch her, I closed my eyes and wrenched open my Sight as wide as it would go. Nothing. Other than the green glow of Ellie, somewhere over my left shoulder in the vicinity of the kitchen, there was no other living being anywhere around. I focused that internal blind sight on my sister’s body. Traces of magic still lingered, like the last sparks rising from a dying campfire. The aura she’d had in life was gone, extinguished as surely as a bucket of water hitting that campfire. What remained visible was not Margot, it was remnants of whatever had killed her. Inhuman, magical, and of this world, not the one above. Which meant nothing. I had no enemies in the human realm. All my enemies were here in the enchanted world of Faerie, which I had indulgently managed to forget how lethal it could be, in my distraction with my new bride and elevation in social status.
I opened my eyes reluctantly. Using the Sight came with a price, and my renewed power was not enough to escape that. But if my head hurt, my heart hurt more. Margot and I had not been close as children. She was older than I, old enough to be considered an adult when I was old enough to be aware of her. And for years I had held a grudge against her, and my mother, because of how my apprenticeship had begun and ended.
That didn’t matter, now. We’d made up, as adults, discovering the shared likenesses that might have been blood relationship, or simply the ways we were molded by the world around us and our shared mother. My father had died while I was still a boy. Margot, I’d discovered, had hidden a keen mind under the airy ways of Court and hedonistic whirl that society kept.
That mind had most likely led her to this. If she were to have been killed as a direct message to me that would have happened long ago. Her delivery to my doorstep, when all of Court still believed me a magical, pitiable cripple, meant something else entirely. I turned my head and pitched my voice low, with a ripple of magic to carry it beyond the limits of sound.
“Ellie. I need you.”
It did me no good to see the wood elf lose her composure as she neared the door and saw Margot at my feet. She pushed a fisted hand to her mouth, turning a little green in the complexion.
“What happened?” She managed after a moment, keeping her gorge down with a visible effort.
“I don’t know. I am going to find out, but I need you to call Ash, and any others you think necessary, to protect the house. Alert my mother, and Devon, to come here, but don’t tell them…” I looked down at my sister’s body, at the gaping, bloodless wounds. Someone had cleaned her carefully.
“Tell them I will be back soon.”
“Where are you going?” She was wide-eyed, and as pale as I’d ever seen her.
“To find out who did this.”
I dropped into a squat, pushing my hands under her limp body, then with an involuntary grunt, I stood up, trying not to notice how her head fell to one side loosely. As soon as I was braced, I snapped a bubble around us and transported my macabre burden to Court.
I had landed just outside the Great Hall, and had gone through the massive wood doors as though they were paper without even a passing thought for the mess. The objects of my attention were in front of me, standing with their eyes on my sister’s pale corpse. Around me, I was dimly aware that there was shouting and a shrill scream. But I only had eyes for my wife.