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SotS Official Snippet # . . . er, 13!

Fans of Bahzell and Tomenack come on in! Let's talk about David's fantasy series and our favorite hradani!
SotS Official Snippet # . . . er, 13!
Post by runsforcelery   » Tue Apr 28, 2015 6:38 am

runsforcelery
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I am way behind on posting these, mostly because of Real-Life™. Among other things, I have been working 12 to 14-hour days finishing up the edit on a book that was supposed to be done two months ago.

I realize that certain people have acquired the ARC on this one, but for those of you who haven't . . . .

********************************************

“Suit yourself.” Kenhodan shrugged.

“It doesn’t suit me a bit. Something’s missing, and that bothers me as much as whatever’s behind her new tactics. There’s been an addition or change, and I want to know what it is and how it happened.”

“What do you mean?”

“If anyone had asked me, I would’ve said it was impossible for her to summon something like the shadowmage even with her students’ power joined with hers. On top of that, it’s not like her to give such a weapon to another. Especially not someone like Alwith, who might turn on his teacher. It worries me to find her doing unanticipated things.”

“Don’t most wizards know about these shadows? How can you be sure it’s beyond her strength?”

“The art isn’t a campfire you build higher or lower with a stick of wood!” Wencit turned suddenly snappish. “Someone — Alwith or Wulfra or one of the others — must’ve rummaged through the shadow lines for our opponents. You never know what you’ll meet out there, and moving something like the shadowmage increases the odds of attracting some very powerful entities between the worlds. Some of them, like Tomanāk, would simply obliterate someone like Wulfra with a thought. Others would take their time devouring her soul one inch at a time.” He shook his head. “Taking chances like that isn’t like the Baroness.”

“But would it be impossible for her?” Kenhodan asked.

“Whatever she may have told the world, she practices blood magic,” Wencit said grimly. “That means she could raise the power, but controlling it — that’s something else entirely. It’s her will I question. She’d have precious little margin for error, and if her will wavered even for an instant there’d be a smoking crater where her castle stands. That means it took more courage than she normally displays.” He stood and frowned. “No, that’s not really fair. She’s willing to take risks if she has to, but she’s cautious. She wouldn’t take such a chance unless she thought she absolutely had to. That’s what’s so strange about it.”

They reentered the tavern, wiping rain from their hair, and Wencit leaned over the bar for a squat bottle and two glasses. He poured pungent, cinnamon spiced Belhadan rum and handed one glass to Kenhodan, who sipped the strong spirits thoughtfully.

“So how do you explain it?” he asked finally.

“I can’t.” Wencit leaned one elbow on the bar and frowned. “At least not in a way that makes sense and doesn’t scare me.”

He sipped slowly, then shrugged.

“I see two possibilities. Either she thinks our confrontation justifies extraordinary risks — which isn’t like her, when she can’t yet know exactly what I’m up to — or else she’s found a way to augment her power. To be honest, I like that answer less than the first. Increasing her power would certainly lessen her risk, and I’m afraid I can think of at least one way she might have done it, but I hope to all the gods I’m wrong!” He frowned again. “But unless I can learn more, I can’t be sure what she’s done. Still, I’d have taken an oath that she didn’t have the nerve for that, either . . . .”

“Well, something must’ve happened,” Kenhodan said carefully as the wizard’s voice trailed away in thought.

“Obviously.” Wencit shook himself. “Well, of the two, I have to vote for the second possibility, much as I’d prefer not to. Wizards don’t change their styles easily, but they can gain power in a number of ways — not all of them pleasant.”

“Aye, I’m thinking I’ve heard that tale before.”

Bahzell’s voice startled them, and Kenhodan blushed slightly as the hradani eyed the glass in his fist with a twinkle. He and Leeana had entered the taproom silently, a nightgowned Gwynna riding sleepily on her father’s hip. The immense direcat padded in behind them and sat gracefully, then convulsed in a violent sneeze.

“You heard?” Wencit sounded unsurprised.

“Aye. It’s sharp ears hradani have — and noses, come to that.” He sniffed loudly at the rum and chuckled. “Best be pouring out two more glasses, Wencit, seeing as you’ve made so free with my stock.”

“Of course,” Wencit said courteously. He filled a fresh pair of glasses and handed them to his host and hostess.

“So your friend Wulfra’s not performing as expected?” Bahzell rumbled. “And you’re not liking the smell of things overmuch, I take it?”

“No.” Wencit shook his head, then grinned. “On the other hand, wizards seldom perform as expected. Or so I hear.”

I’ve not known one as did, any road,” Bahzell agreed pleasantly.

“I thank you.” Wencit bowed to him, then turned to Leeana. “I see you suffered no mischief, Leeana.”

“Only three of them got as far as the bedroom, and they could only come at me one at a time,” she said simply.

“And young Gwynna?”

“Slept through the whole affair,” Bahzell chuckled.

“Did not!” the girl protested sleepily.

“Did so,” Leeana corrected, touching her nose gently.

“Well . . . maybe,” Gwynna admitted with a grin.

“As well for the shadows, I’m thinking.”

Her father smiled, easing her onto the bar, and reclaimed his knife. He wiped it before clicking it back into its sheath.

“At least wizards’re after having honest blood, though I’m thinking it’s the only honest thing as most of them do have. No need to be wiping shadow blood from a blade.”

“Yes, they were very considerate,” Kenhodan agreed guilelessly.

Bahzell eyed him suspiciously, and then chuckled and clouted his left shoulder so hard he staggered. He opened his mouth, but the direcat went into a fresh sneezing fit before he could shoot back a smart remark.

“What’s his problem?” he asked instead, nodding at the cat while his right hand checked his shoulder for broken bones.

“He says shadows taste funny,” Gwynna said sleepily. “We bit six of them, and he’s been sneezing ever since.”

Kenhodan glanced up, ready to smile, but the look on Bahzell’s face stopped him. He swallowed his humor as he realized Bahzell actually believed his daughter could talk to the cat! The hradani’s expression mingled acceptance and pride with an edge of concern, and Kenhodan reminded himself — again — that he was in no position to say what this peculiar family could do.

“Don’t worry, young Gwynna,” Wencit reassured her. “The sneezing will pass.”

“I already told him so,” Gwynna nodded. “I did when we bit them. He just says he wants it to hurry up. You know how he is Wencit.”

“Yes.”

The wizard moved to the broken windows and peered out, and Kenhodan sighed mentally and refused to ask questions. Everything else about this household was preposterous. Why shouldn’t Gwynna talk to the cat? But what about this “we bit them” business? Surely she didn’t mean —?

He put a firm lock on his curiosity and joined Wencit by the windows.

The first faint light of a blustery dawn glinted on the wizard’s silver hair. He sniffed deeply, wrinkling his nose, and nodded to himself.

“Time Kenhodan and I were gone. This may have set them back enough for us to make a clean break.”

“Aye, and you’ve come with your usual luck, Wencit,” Bahzell said. “It’s just this week Brandark raised Belhadan. We’ll be finding him at the docks, and he’ll find us a way south. I’m thinking we’ll make better time by sea than afoot, seeing as how Walsharno’s taken it into his head to be visiting the Wind Plain right this very moment. Aye, and Gayrfressa with him.”

“No!” Wencit spun to his host accusingly. “I thought I made it clear you weren’t included in this little episode!”

“And so you did, or tried to. But that was being then, and now’s after being now,” Bahzell said calmly. “You could refuse to invite me before these enemies of yours were after violating my roof and raising weapons against my guests. Now?”

His expression was as calm as his voice, but his ears were half-flattened and his brown eyes were hard. Wencit looked into that unwavering gaze for a moment, then turned to his wife.

“Leeana?” Wencit appealed to her without much hope in his voice.

“He’s right, and you know it.” Leeana reached up to rest a hand on her husband’s bulging biceps with no sign of her earlier resistance. “You know our customs. Honor demands that one or both of us accompany you against anyone who violates our roof.”

“I might point out that you invited the attack by extending your hospitality against my wishes! Honor shouldn’t demand that you risk your lives in my quarrel, and I won’t have you doing it!”

“Honor requires what we believe it requires.” Bahzell repeated Leeana’s earlier words softly. “We can’t be picking and choosing on the basis of safety, Wencit. Not with honor.”

“But it’s not your quarrel! It’s mine — mine and Kenhodan’s!”

“Wencit, if you try much harder, you’ll be making me angry,” Bahzell said. “I remember a wizard as made mine and Leeana’s quarrel his fight, once upon a time.”

“That was different! This is —”

“Oh, admit it, you old horse thief! You’re not so senile yet as to not want me along! Who else is it as might be keeping your ancient and venerable hide in one piece?”

“Kenhodan might! And I might be ancient and venerable, but I’m not exactly a dotard yet myself!”

“Aye, and Kenhodan’s one as swings a pretty blade. But if two swords are good, why three are after being better. Besides, if you’re not minded to let me come with you, I’ll have to be following on my own. And if you’re daft enough to be making me do that, how is it you expect me to talk Leeana into staying home with Gwynna? You know she’s the better tracker.”

Wencit swelled with frustration, but then Bahzell put one hand lightly on his shoulder.

“And laying all that aside,” he said softly, “I’d a talk with himself whilst waiting for your friends the shadows.”

Wencit glared at him for an instant, then exhaled sharply.

“All right. All right!” He shook his head resignedly. “Tomanāk knows you’re handy with that cleaver, but don’t blame me if you wake up dead one morning!”

“Oh, I wouldn’t be blaming you for that. Why, if such as that was to happen, it would mean someone’d managed to be sneaking up on me in my sleep. And if that’s after being the case —” his left hand blurred and the hook knife whined from its sheath to sink four inches deep into the far wall “— it’s only myself I’ll have to blame, isn’t it now?”

Kenhodan thought he heard Wencit mutter something about the thickness of skulls under his breath . . . but he might have been mistaken

* * * * * * * * * *

Wulfra of Torfo flinched as the icily incisive thought speared her brain. She herself required a crystal at both ends to communicate with someone else, though she could observe others with her unaided gramerhain. The ability of that ice and iron mind to reach her anytime and under any circumstances mocked her power, and the implications of such strength made her nervous.

The shape of two eyes, slitted and yellow like a cat’s, glittered in her thoughts, and the mental voice was a chill purr of malice.

“Your minion failed.”

“He was outclassed. Just as I’d be if I faced Wencit personally. You knew that when you agreed to let Alwith attack.”

“True. But having tested the mettle of your opponents and counted their number, my dear, I suggest you deal with them from a distance.”

The biting thought’s malicious amusement angered Wulfra, but she pushed the emotion carefully aside.

“I have to know where he is for that. His glamour’s too strong for me to pierce without a link to someone inside it. You know that, too.”

“To be sure. Wasn’t it I who found him for your lightning strike? Yet even I dare not take liberties when he’s fresh,” the cold voice whispered. “If your minions bungle their attacks too often, he may begin to suspect that I’m observing him despite his glamour, and neither of us would like that, would we?” The mental purr became a chuckle. “Still, at the moment he’s too tired to detect my prying. Alwith was a fool, but he wasn’t completely wrong. Our Wencit’s less young than he was.”

“Do you have a suggestion?” Wulfra kept her mental tone respectful, but the cat-eyed wizard sensed her impatience.

“Patience, Wulfra. Patience! Revenge is best taken slowly, distilled in small sips. But, yes, I have both information and a suggestion. You might like to know that our Wencit is highly perturbed by your recent display of power. Isn’t that amusing?”

“Do you mean —?”

Wulfra’s thoughts were suddenly icy with fear. If Wencit ever guessed who she was dealing with, her fate was sealed, indeed.

“Calmly, dear Wulfra! Of course he doesn’t suspect that; how could he? But he’s anxious — very anxious. I believe he fears you’ve tapped the sword’s power, or a part of it. Of course, we know better, don’t we?”

Wulfra’s racing fear became the coal of anger the cat-eyed wizard could so easily ignite. Of course she hadn’t mastered the sword! And neither, she thought in a secret part of her brain, had her patron. If he could have done so, he would’ve had no need for her.

“But that’s neither here nor there,” the cat-eyed wizard purred, “and I do have information. Look for a ship, my Wulfra. A ship of Belhadan captained by a hradani named Brandark. There now! Even you should be able to find so singular a vessel.”

Communication ceased and the mind link snapped, leaving Wulfra to feel dismissed . . . and angry. She was no child to be so discounted! She’d won her power the hard way, through acts which would have led to instant execution had they been known at the time. And her cat-eyed patron needed her — needed her badly! How dared he treat her so?!

But deep inside, she knew how he dared. It was because for all her knowledge, she was a child beside him. Yet perhaps he’d forgotten that children grew up and some surpassed their tutors . . . .

She forced herself to undertake several minutes of carefully calm thought, banishing her rage. It was many minutes before she could unclench her fists in a semblance of normality, but then she brushed back her golden hair brusquely and moved to her crystal. Purposeful concentration carried her rapidly through the energizing incantation. Whatever the cat-eyed wizard thought of her, it was she who must bear the brunt of any failure . . . well, she and her allies.

She bent closer to the stone and formed a mental image of Harlich’s face. He should be alert for her regular contact.

He was. The face she’d pictured appeared in the stone, masklike for just a moment. Then the mask’s eyes opened. Harlich himself blinked into existence in its place, and his eyebrows rose in question. She shook her head, and he shrugged. He’d never cared much for Alwith anyway.

“There’s a ship,” Wulfra began carefully. “You have to find it. And then . . . .
Last edited by runsforcelery on Tue Apr 28, 2015 6:40 pm, edited 1 time in total.


"Oh, bother!" said Pooh, as Piglet came back from the dead.
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Re: SotS Official Snippet #12
Post by John Prigent   » Tue Apr 28, 2015 6:50 am

John Prigent
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Thank you!
Cheers
John
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Re: SotS Official Snippet #12
Post by Vince   » Tue Apr 28, 2015 1:39 pm

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FYI: I think this is actually Official Snippet #13.
-------------------------------------------------------------
History does not repeat itself so much as it echoes.
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Re: SotS Official Snippet #12
Post by iranuke   » Tue Apr 28, 2015 2:12 pm

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Hopefully, the next snippet will include Brandark meating up with everyone and will be very interesting. I wonder if RFC used to watch "Laugh In".
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Re: SotS Official Snippet #12
Post by Taras_Potatos   » Tue Apr 28, 2015 4:20 pm

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Сan someone explain to me what the point of this snippet if on Baen page 7 complete chapters are available? I'm not trying to be rude and ungrateful.
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Re: SotS Official Snippet #12
Post by Randomiser   » Tue Apr 28, 2015 5:13 pm

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Taras_Potatos wrote:Сan someone explain to me what the point of this snippet if on Baen page 7 complete chapters are available? I'm not trying to be rude and ungrateful.


The snippets are for those of us with supernatural self control who like to get our fix little by little rather than all at once, so we can be unbearably smug about our virtue. ;)

More prosaically, for most books the snippets start before the sample chapters are available over at Baen and eventually go further.
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Re: SotS Official Snippet #12
Post by Cartref   » Tue Apr 28, 2015 5:47 pm

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Thanks yet again, for this snipet, despite all the extra activities at the moment.

Cheers & Beers
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Re: SotS Official Snippet # . . . er, 13!
Post by phillies   » Wed Apr 29, 2015 7:16 am

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“As well for the shadows, I’m thinking.”

I believe there is a clue here somehow. But I am not sure what.
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Re: SotS Official Snippet # . . . er, 13!
Post by phillies   » Thu Apr 30, 2015 1:36 pm

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Is it just me, or did Mommy, daughter, and dire wolf dispose of more shadows than any one of the folks down stairs did?
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Re: SotS Official Snippet # . . . er, 13!
Post by dan92677   » Fri May 01, 2015 1:32 pm

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We know that the coursers are off on a vacation trip to the wind plain, but if necessary Tomanack (sp) could issue a recall message, I would think.

After all, part of their journey is going to be on land, and then there's the escape afterwards...
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