I don’t seem to be getting on very well with Book 4 of The Wolves of Vimar. Somehow, life keeps getting in the way. Anyway, it’s currently undergoing critiques from a couple of online critique groups I’m in. As it’s chapter by chapter, and I need to do crits for others before I can post, it’s a long process. Still, we’ll get there. Eventually!
I’m still waiting to hear about my poetry book. It’s been nearly 5 months now, but I hope it won’t be much longer. I’d self-publish it, but as it has pictures, and the formatting of poetry is not straightforward, I’m reluctant to go down that road.
For your delectation, today I’m going to post a bit from Immortal’s Death, Book 4 of the Wolves of Vimar series. Please, remember, though, that this is just the first draft, so might not be perfect. In fact, it’s unlikely to be perfect!
This is from near the beginning of the book. Thadora was brought up as a thief in the Warren at Hambara, but she was recognised as a daughter to the Duke of Hambara when he saw her remarkable resemblance to his grandmother. He adopted her, thus legitimising her.
Here, Thadora is attending the wedding of her sister, Randa, the duke’s elder daughter, to Prince Almoro. It’s rather long, so my apologies.
Outside the great banqueting hall in the palace, Thadora found herself standing next to Sandron, brother to Duke Larrin of Sendolina.
“Have you seen Larrin?” he asked.
She shook her head. “He must be here somewhere. There are so many people it’s easy to miss someone.”
Sandron frowned. “I didn’t see him in the temple, either, but you’re right, he’ll be here somewhere. Allow me to escort you into the banqueting hall, Lady Thadora.” He bowed.
Thadora giggled. “Now you’re Sandron, the courtier. Different from when we first met.”
They had met when a group of bandits, led by Sandron, captured Wolf after they found Sauvern’s Sword. The youngest son of the late Duke of Sendolina amused himself by leading these bandits, but Randa recognised him and he quickly released her and her friends when she promised not to tell his father how he had been amusing himself.
Youngest sons often found they had little to do, and so long ago they formed a band of mercenaries and called themselves The Red Hawks.
On Randa’s suggestion, Sandron recruited enough young men to form a new group, also calling themselves The Red Hawks in memory of the band from the past.
Thadora took Sandron’s proffered arm and the pair entered the banqueting hall.
As they crossed the threshold, Thadora’s shoe caught in the hem of her dress and she staggered, hopping, as she tried to release her shoe without tearing it. “Zol’s balls, I’ve been promising myself I wouldn’t do that.”
Sandron laughed as he managed to steady her. “Being the Duke of Hambara’s second daughter hasn’t improved your language any, has it? Nor your grace in a dress.”
Thadora pressed her lips together to prevent the swear word that rose to them, this time at Sandron. Instead she simply elbowed him in the ribs.
He groaned and rubbed the sore spot. “Sorry, Lady Thadora.”
Lady Thadora stared daggers at him. “Stop mocking me, Lord Sandron, or it’ll be the worse for you. I won’t always be in a dress.”
He laughed and Thadora joined in.
As the sister of the bride, Thadora was seated at the table next to King Perdillon unable to find words to say to her royal neighbour.
I must mind my manners. I must mind my manners, she told herself, over and over again.
When the king spoke she thought he sounded so ordinary that she forgot about his royalty. He asked about her adventures and the formation of Wolf, and seemed genuinely interested in her answers.
“So this sword, the one that belonged to King Sauvern, is magical and will be needed soon?”
“Yes. Carthinal found a prophecy. But you know about that. He thinks this Branlow he met in Frelli is the Never-Dying Man, and can only be stopped by using the Sword.”
She looked around the room. The crowd made a continual buzz. How was Fero coping? He never liked crowds, and with Randa marrying someone else, it would be even more difficult.
As her eyes sought her friend, she noticed a couple of spare seats.
She turned to Perdillon. “Who hasn’t come to the wedding? There are two empty seats next to the Duchess of Eribore.”
The king looked to where she indicated and raised his eyebrows. “I think that’s where my wife put Duke Larrin of Sendolina. I wonder why he’s not here?” He leaned across to Almoro.
“Duke Larrin isn’t here, Almoro. Do we know why?”
Almoro shook his head. “He answered the invitation saying he’d be here. It’s not like him to go against protocol.”
Thadora leaned forward. “Sandron was looking for him, too. He thought his brother should be here.”
“No doubt it’ll sort itself out. There must have been some emergency we’ve not heard about.”
The banquet continued through four more courses, then a messenger came and whispered something in Perdillon’s ear.
The king blanched, stood and left, apologising.
His wife, Queen Helloria looked up. “What is it, Perdillon?”
The king told her it was probably nothing, but he had to go and see someone.
He returned shortly and walked over to where Duke Firbolt of Meridor sat next to his wife. The duke looked unwell. His health had not been the same since the mysterious illness that had killed King Gerim, and many of the dukes. The king bent and whispered something in his ear. The duke immediately stood, said something to his wife, and both hurried out of the room.
Without speaking to the master of ceremonies, who announced the speeches, Perdillon lifted the man’s gavel and banged on the table.
“May I have your attention, ladies and gentlemen.”
Silence fell as King Perdillon began to speak.
“I apologise to Almoro and Randa for this interruption to their wedding festivities, but there has been a serious event. It seems that the army of Erian has entered our territory. They have taken Meridor.”
A hubbub of voices broke out. Meridor had never been taken in battle until now. People called out asking questions, but the king banged the gavel once more.
“From what I have been told, Meridor capitulated without a fight.”
Gasps were heard around the gathered crowd.
Perdillon continued. “We have no idea why the Duke Firbolt’s steward surrendered without a fight. The duke has gone to find out. We also noticed the absence of Duke Larrin of Sendolina. We hope there isn’t a similar problem in that duchy.
“Again, I apologise to Almoro and Randa, but, in view of the situation, I’m calling an immediate meeting in the council room. Would the dukes please attend me there? The rest of you please continue with your meal.”
The king strode out of the banqueting hall, followed by the dukes.
Everyone else remained sitting in silence. The joyful occasion had turned sour, and few people wanted to eat anything more.
Seeing this, Almoro stood. “This has spoiled a happy celebration. I’m sorry. I think we should abandon the meal. You can either leave for your accommodation, or we’ll meet in the ballroom. Thank you all for attending, and for the generous gifts you have given to my wife and me.”
Thadora spotted Carthinal across the room. His deep blue robe looked startling with his shoulder-length auburn hair, and almost matched his indigo eyes. He had trimmed his beard to a short stubble.
No doubt about it, he’s a handsome man.
Sitting next to him at a low table was his wife, the elf, Yssalithisandra. She had plaited her golden hair and wound it around her head. Her robe was a rich burgundy. She smiled at their daughter, Starralishinara, who played with a stuffed dragon.
Starr, as she was known, had her father’s auburn hair, and her mother’s blue eyes, paler than her father’s.
Thadora made her way over to them, accompanied by Randa and Prince Almoro. The three drew up chairs and sat.
Sandron approached with the little dragonet, Muldee, sitting on his shoulder. Thadora exclaimed with delight at seeing this small relative of dragons. His iridescent scales gleamed in the light coming through the large windows on the south side of the huge room. They changed colour as he moved.
“You’re here, Muldee.” She tried to put her arms around the creature, but he flew into the air moments before her assault. “I thought you’d gone back to the lake to join your brothers and sisters.”
“I did, for a while, but after the excitement of living with Sandron, it was boring. When I came back, and Sandron told me Randa was getting married, I had to come. I wouldn’t miss the wedding of one of my friends.” He studied Randa. “You look lovely, Randa. But Sandron told me to stay away from the actual wedding. What did he think I’d do?”
Sandron tossed his head back and laughed. “I had no idea what you might do. That’s why I said you weren’t to come to the ceremony.”
Thadora looked around. The ballroom had been decorated in blue and white in a similar way to the great hall. Tables surrounded an open space in the centre of the room.
I don’t suppose the dancing will take place now. That’s good. I would probably fall over my own feet and end up in a heap, the laughing stock of the whole court.
Thadora glanced towards the door where Queen Helloria entered with three year old Crown Prince Gerim. Dowager Queen Carrolla accompanied her. Seeing Randa and Almoro, they approached.
The company bowed or curtsied to the two queens, Thadora barely managing to keep her balance as she stifled the swear word that sprang to her lips. If she swore in front of two queens, her father would definitely kill her.
“I am really sorry your wedding has been spoiled.” Queen Helloria shook her head and hugged Prince Gerim tightly. “I hope we can avoid a war with Erian. What’s this Master doing, attacking us? We’ve been at peace for so long.”
Little Prince Gerim squirmed. When the queen released him he ran towards Starr. Yssa and Queen Helloria moved off to discuss the merits of their children.
Queen Carolla turned to Sandron. “I wondered why your brother wasn’t here. Do you think it’s anything to do with this crisis?”
“I don’t know, Your Majesty,” Sandron replied, “but I think Muldee, here, might be able to help find out.”
“Ah, yes, your little dragonet. I heard…”
Muldee interrupted the queen dowager. “I’m not his little dragonet. I’m my own little dragonet. I’m not a pet to be owned by someone.”
Thadora stifled a grin that Muldee should speak so to a queen, but the monarch smiled.
“My apologies, Muldee. How can you help find out?”
“You might have heard we dragonets are telepathic. We can hear people’s thoughts. Oh, not everybody, and not all the time.” He giggled. “But it’s fun sometimes to listen to the thoughts of people if they don’t know about blocking.”
“Stop chattering, Muldee.” Sandron turned to the queen who had a slight frown on her face. “I apologise, Your Majesty. Muldee has no idea of rank and treats everyone the same. As to hearing your thoughts, he rarely tries, and even if he does, most people are not telepathic.”
The queen smoothed her face and smiled. “What’s your idea about finding out about your brother?”
“I can ask Muldee to go to Sendolina. It will be much better than sending someone on a horse. He can slip in, listen to people’s thoughts and find out what’s going on.”
“What a good idea.” The queen dowager beckoned to Sandron. “Follow me. We must put this to my son.”
When Sandron and the queen dowager left, the other members of Wolf approached.
Asphodel smoothed the white robes that showed her as a priestess of Sylissa, the goddess of healing. She curtsied to Prince Almoro before sitting next to Randa.
Thadora watched The Cat as he squirmed in his seat. She understood why the small thief was uncomfortable. Not long ago he had been a wanted man in Bluehaven and had fled to avoid capture. Now he was here in the royal palace in the company of members of the royal family. He ran his fingers through his dark hair and looked everywhere except at the prince and the queen.
Grimmaldo looked at ease in his yellow robes. She liked the young mage. He made her laugh with his sense of fun. He did not talk much about his family, but she understood he came from Frind, in the far north, and that his family had been well off merchants.
Many guests sat on chairs assembled around small tables surrounding the dance floor. From what Thadora could hear, most were discussing the missing duke.
Footmen strolled around the room with glasses of wine and fruit juice.
All the members of Wolf chose to drink fruit juice, although Basalt exclaimed he would have preferred a good glass of dwarf spirits.
Thadora watched Fero as he looked sharply at the dwarf. “Bas, this is not the place for drinking dwarf spirits, nor any other strong drink. You know what happens when you start.”
“And you’ve never got drunk with me, ranger?” He glanced at Randa and Almoro. “I would have thought this was a perfect time for you to get drunk.”
Fero shook his head. “No, friend. It would spoil her day. That I will not do. I will, however, get blind drunk with you tonight. And perhaps tomorrow, too.”