Sword of Jashan — Excerpt from Chapter One
I haven’t done this for a while, so I thought I’d blog an excerpt from Sword of Jashan. This section is from Chapter One, immediately after young Ander is wounded by unknown attackers on a night patrol with his father, Lord Zelan of Northgard.
Sword of Jashan Excerpt (by Anne Marie Lutz)
The old Hunter walked over to offer an arm for Ander’s support. With a nod of thanks, Ander accepted. He felt shaky, either from the effects of the wound or from his use of color magery, he did not know.
What kind of heir would he be to the legendary Sharpeyes, King Martan, strong in arm and in his magery, if he couldn’t weather what his stepfather said was a scratch? With this thought, Ander mounted his mare and urged her on.
The fallen Hunters and the dead attackers lay sprawled across the trail. He clenched his jaw tight against the onset of tears as he thought of the fallen Innes. He knew Lord Zelan would send men back from Littleseed to bring back the honored bodies of the dead Hunters, and to bury the attackers somewhere in the woods. He slumped in the saddle, afraid in spite of what his stepfather had said. After a few moments he began to feel lightheaded.
The trees thinned out. The farmland belonging to Littleseed stretched out dark and lush with the summer’s crops before them. Beyond the fields was the village itself, just a few huts and a central guesthouse visible in the black night only because of the candlelight in their windows. Ander followed Zelan toward the low building in the middle of the village. As they approached, a woman of middle years walked out from one of the huts closest to the guesthouse. She held a lamp.
“Is it Lord Zelan, then?” she asked, holding the lamp to illuminate their faces. “And five others?”
“One of us is wounded, Morem,” Lord Zelan said. “My son.”
Morem peered back through the darkness at Ander. She did not smile, and Ander thought her unwelcoming. Then she said, “My lord, we will make room in the guesthouse.”
Ander slid off his mare and was grateful when someone led her away to be cared for. Hon Kirian led the way into the guesthouse and pointed toward one of the cots that lined the walls. “Sit there,” she said. “This wound needs cleaned better than I could do in the woods.”
“Thank you, Hon Kirian.”
The thin man, Chiss, had gone out as soon as they arrived and now brought in a tub of warm water. Kirian dipped a clean cloth in the tub as Ander pulled his tunic away from the wound. He shivered as the water touched his side. Averting his eyes from what Kirian was doing, he watched the newcomers to distract himself.
Ander knew of Lord Callo ran Alkiran. He was actually his distant kin — the bastard nephew of King Martan, born of Martan’s sister, Sira Joah, by some unknown father. A bastard righ was rare; usually any such complications of righ affairs were disposed of, so as not to weaken the bloodlines and the precious mage talent. This one had been allowed to live, and not only that but had been raised in the palace, under the King’s distant supervision. Ander had met Callo back in Sugetre; the man was almost thirty and had paid little attention to Ander, but Ander remembered the man’s amber eyes and the impression of his almost unbreakable control.
Lord Callo was in some kind of disgrace, Ander thought. He had disappeared from Seagard without leave, and the King had declared his estate forfeit. Now he was here, in tiny Littleseed of all places, by this Kirian’s word on his way to see Lord Zelan.
Kirian put away the wet cloth. “It’s not so bad. It’s done bleeding, and seems to be a clean wound. But see where it is, across the ribs? If it had been deeper, it would’ve been serious. You had a close call. I don’t have the proper herbs with me, so you’ll need treatment from Hon Jesel in the morning, at Northgard.”
“Who sent those men?” Ander asked.
His stepfather replied. “I think they were Sword of Jashan. They wore gray, and no badge. One of them rode off when the color magery was loosed. Did they come through here?”
“We’ve seen no one else,” Morem replied. “But we have your prisoner locked up in the root cellar. A couple of our boys are watching to make sure he doesn’t escape.”
“I’ll see him in the morning,” Zelan growled. “Get out of him whatever he knows. The rebels have an encampment somewhere nearby — I’ve begun to hear rumors.”
Callo grimaced in distaste. “No need, Lord Zelan. We can find out what we need by other means.” He glanced over to where the narrow-faced man worked on the packs. “Chiss, let us go and see if we can identify the rest of those men, before any of their friends return for the bodies.”
Chiss handed Lord Callo his sheathed sword and sword-belt.
Before he left, Zelan gestured to his remaining Hunter. “Go with them. Take a couple of men from the village to help you bring back our own.”
The Healer paused and glanced over at the group as they walked outside. Ander told her, “My father does not trust Lord Callo. He wants witnesses.”
“He does not know us. But I can assure you that Lord Callo had nothing to do with the attack on you.”
Ander winced and pulled away. The Healer was wrapping the wound, and it hurt. She looked up at him with an apology, her eyes smiling. He gave back a tentative smile. She was young, maybe in her mid-twenties; her face was slightly round, her skin fresh and clear, and her eyes a soft brown. He looked down at her hands as they finished their work, admiring their grace.
She stood. “Now, do you want some mellweed?”
“No. There’s hardly any pain.”
“If you change your mind in the night, send someone for me. I will be on the other side of the guesthouse with one of Morem’s daughters. Just behind that door, see?”
“Will I sleep in here?” he asked, looking around. With Lord Callo, whom I do not trust? he wanted to add.
“Don’t worry. You’ll be perfectly safe.” She took her leave and headed for the other side of the guesthouse. In the center of the room, his stepfather stood eating bread and drinking ale, talking to Morem.
One of the village women brought Ander bread and fruit. Ander thanked her and settled back on the cot, exhausted. His side did ache, but he wanted no mellweed. He wanted to wait until Lord Callo and the others had returned, to find out who had dared try to kill him. A sense of foreboding hung over him, as if his life was about to change in unpleasant ways.
He awakened sometime in the night. Booted feet echoed on the wooden guesthouse floor. Lord Callo and the others who had gone out to investigate the attackers had returned. A single lamp was still lit. Ander watched through sleepy eyes as the men took ale and bread from the table and began to report their findings. There seemed to be some disagreement; he heard Zelan’s low voice, tense with disbelief, although the men tried to keep their voices low to avoid waking the sleepers.
Lord Zelan stepped back from the others, shaking his head. Ander heard the words “King’s man” and all at once was awake, eyes wide, feeling as if the world had shifted beneath him. He drew a blanket around him and sat up to watch the others argue. Apparently, Lord Callo did not think the attackers were with the rebel group Sword of Jashan. Lord Callo thought the King his uncle had sent men to murder him.