Prequel Snippet 4

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Prequel Snippet 4

Update prior to snippet:  My computer has been out of commission for a couple weeks which has set me back on the writing project for the mainline book.  That and I’m going to have to stay in the states until february at least.   I’ll update you as I get more.  That said the last I checked the prequel novella is up to 40-50k words written for the first draft.

Here’s the snippet!

Chapter: A Course of Action

As she returned to her chambers, Akantha beckoned Persus to enter and he did so without argument. It was only the second time he had ever been inside her chambers, and it was against tradition for a bodyguard of the Daughter to the Hold Mistress to enter her chambers unless it was a true emergency.

This, they both knew, was one of those.

Akantha quickly roused Olgaya from her slumber, and after she was awake they sat in the chairs located in the entryway to her more private chambers.

Olgaya listened intently as Akantha described the conversation between the High Protector and old Nazoraios. To her credit, she only blanched once during the telling, and it was at the mention of a slow-moving green star. Akantha was proud for a moment of her best friend’s attention during history lessons.

“So Nazoraios clearly believes the Sky Demons have returned,” mused Olgaya. “And Nykator does not wish to cause alarm or panic in the populace, which would most certainly accompany the public deliberations regarding how many troops to send, and how to compose the battle strategy.”

Akantha nodded. “Or so he says. Uncle Nykator has never shown any sign of fear in the years I have known him, but the mention of Sky Demons seemed to unnerve him,” Akantha said. “Perhaps he is beginning to lose his warrior’s heart,” she spat.

Persus chose this time to interject himself. “My Lady, if the High Protector is as concerned as he appeared to be, then the threat is grave,” he warned in his smooth, unusually deep voice. “Your Mother chose his sword to bear over others because he is unquestionably the most fearless man in the known world and his accomplishments are without equal, outside of fanciful legends told to little boys to make them feel inadequate.”

Akantha was momentarily stunned. Persus had always been reluctant to participate in conversations such as this one, and he had never openly contradicted her as far as she could recall. She drew her breath slowly, her eyes darting this way and that as her mind worked frantically to untangle this mess of information.

Olgaya nodded. “I agree with Persus,” said the freckle-faced handmaiden. “If Hypatios Nykator does not eagerly don his armor in the middle of the night at the opportunity to yet again prove himself the greatest warrior who ever lived, then we must also give heed to caution. We would be fools to do otherwise,” she said flatly.

Akantha actually agreed with her, but this was too great an opportunity to pass by. “I have come to value your insights, Olgaya. And yours, Persus,” she said with a meaningful look at each of them. “I would hear your recommendations now.” She shifted her gaze to Olgaya first, prompting her to go first.

Olgaya slowly nodded for a few seconds. “My Lady is correct in believing this to be a great opportunity. The value in merely chronicling a sighting of these Sky Demons would be immeasurable, as describing them and their behavior could help future generations deal with their malignant threat.” She paused for a moment before continuing, “And if it is possible, then we must try to protect your mother’s loyal subjects, even at the cost of personal safety.”

Akantha nodded, trying desperately to contain the surge of emotion she was feeling. She had to remind herself that this was not the time for brash actions. She needed to keep a level head and do as she was raised to do. She shifted her gaze to her bodyguard. “And you, Persus?”

Persus chewed his cheek, as was his habit during contemplation, Akantha had learned. “Olgaya is correct: this is a great opportunity,” he said finally. “I do not believe we can defeat the Sky Demons without the support of multiple free warrior bands at the very least. But if we could learn of these monsters and their ways, we could bring back valuable information which could help in the development of defense strategies for the Hold.”

Akantha nodded, a savage smile spreading across her lips. ‘At last,’ she thought to herself, ‘an opportunity to force Nykator to remove himself from his position as Protector of Argos.’

Persus sighed, a barely perceptible sound that snapped Akantha from her thoughts.

“What is it, Persus?” she inquired.

Persus paused before replying. “If Nikomedes had not left, he would be ideally suited to this task,” he said cautiously.

Akantha blinked, “What do you mean?” she asked.

“He sought to prove himself worthiest among warriors to become your Protector,” he continued. “This would have provided him a far better opportunity than questing after a long-lost artifact.”

Akantha finally took his meaning and her smile disappeared, being replaced by a hard look which hid behind it growing anger. “You think we are not capable to undertake this task, Persus?” she began coldly. “You believe Nikomedes, or Kapaneus or even that preening fool Kallistos would be better able to deal with this?” Her anger was rising, but she worked hard to keep her thoughts clear.

Persus sighed again, and this time it was a louder sound which carried with it resignation. “My Lady, I believe that the three of us are every bit as capable as whatever band Hypatios Nykator would assemble to deal with the threat,” he said earnestly.

Akantha waited for him to continue, but when he failed to do so she prompted, “But?”

“But, you are the First Daughter of Argos, and the only member of House Zosime’s inheriting line who did not spring from Nykator’s loins,” he said levelly. “You are more valuable to Argos than any band of young warriors ever could be.”

Akantha raised an eyebrow at this. “Am I more valuable than the farmers who plow our fields? Or the craftsmen who fashion the arms and armor which make our warriors the most fearsome in the land? Or the women who bear and raise our young, those who will one day take their places in our society?” She paused as she held her bodyguard’s gaze with eyes which contained pure fury. “No, Persus. I am not more valuable than they are. What I am is responsible to them as their First Daughter; responsible to lead them, to care for them and in difficult times, to protect them,” she said in a voice which did not invite argument.

“Akantha,” began Olgaya, only to be cut off.

“No!” Akantha yelled, jumping to her feet. Her handmaiden and bodyguard sat there in silence for a while.

She reined in her emotions for a moment, took a breath and continued when she was sure she had control of her temper. “We owe it to our subjects to take action on their behalf, and not hide behind excuses or fear. It is our duty as their leaders. If we fail them in that regard, we are little better than savage animals wandering the land in search of our next meal,” she said, feeling her face flushing as she struggled to explain herself to her closest advisors. ‘I shouldn’t have to tell these people this!’ she thought to herself.

Olgaya opened her mouth to respond, but Persus held up a hand which quieted her. “My Lady,” Persus began, “I am sworn to your service, not to the Citadel or even House Zosime. My oath is one which I did not take lightly, or without understanding of what it might one day mean.” He stopped as he visibly struggled to compose his next words. “You asked our advice, and I only offered what I thought was best for Argos and her people. But if you are committed that we are to undertake this task personally, then I am eager for the opportunity to serve my Lady.” He cracked a smile and continued, “I would offer to undertake this mission personally if I thought you would accept, but I know you well enough that to do so would be a waste of air and, more importantly, precious time.” He stood and held his right fist over his heart, “Shall I retrieve your armor and prepare travel gear for three?”

Akantha smiled and looked to Olgaya. Her best friend grinned and nodded, and Akantha had to fight to keep the mist in her eyes from forming tears. “Thank you, Persus. We should meet somewhere we will not be noticed by prying eyes. Secrecy is of the utmost importance,” she said in a more commanding voice than she would have liked.

He nodded. “The old lodge house just outside the Citadel walls, then. I will have everything behind the livestock stables there within the hour.” With that, he turned to the door, opening and closing it almost silently as he made his way down the hall.

Akantha breathed out, and felt the tears that had been forming fall down her cheeks. Shedding tears was not how she had intended to start this adventure, but the avalanche of emotion was just too much for her to bear at the moment.

“Akantha,” Olgaya said softly, striding over to where Akantha was sitting and kneeled in front of her. “What’s wrong?”

Akantha laughed and quickly wiped away her tears. “Nothing’s wrong, Olga. I’m just so proud! We can finally make a difference for Argos,” she gushed, then her visage turned hard. “And if we can ruffle a few feathers among my Uncle’s men, so much the better,” Akantha said icily. “I will not stand by while those whose sworn duty it is to protect our people hide in this fortress. If Nykator refuses to take up arms at the opportunity to do battle with our enemies, then he is not fit to be Protector to my mother! When we return with evidence of his cowardice, my mother will have everything she needs to dismiss him from his post. What she does with such evidence is her choice, but I intend to bring it!”

Olgaya nodded and then chuckled. “Of course, there is no harm in the First Daughter and Land Bride acquiring her own battle honors in the process, right?” asked the red-headed handmaiden.

Akantha glared at her for a moment, then shrugged her shoulders and let a hint of a grin play out over her features. “Who am I to argue with my lady in waiting?” Akantha asked playfully.

They laughed for a few moments before going about the task of preparing themselves for the journey ahead.

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