Here’s the totally unedited intro to my new book, Brighthaven. Savage away, please.
P.S. Every fantasy book needs a creepy cat intro.
“Kitty, here kitty, kitty,” the old woman’s voice crooned, searching the night with cataract eyes.
Sitting like a small God in a nearby alley–which is how cats sit–was Kitty, unperturbed by the calling of her Old Woman or the rats burrowing through the trash around her. She lifted her leg, giving it an appraising lick. With her amber eyes, and her sleek black fur, Kitty was the undisputed queen of the neighborhood.
Her plan tonight was to bully the softhearted maître d’ at the gorgeous fish smell restaurant at the end of the street into giving her the whole head of the fish. She knew the man’s weaknesses like she knew the streets, and knew how to wait, as she had been doing.
A piece of the night detached itself from the end of the street. It glided across the alley. It had no business with Kitty. The hairs on her neck, the ones all queens had, prickled with the long knowing of cats. She hissed and backed up the alley toward the space Old Woman had for her. The shadow smiled quietly to itself and went past the fish restaurant, toward the inn.
The night was cool and the two riders bound against it. The well shod hooves of their two Sarian greys struck quiet sparks from the ruddy cobbles of the inn’s courtyard. The greys were small and smartly trained, good for swift journeys that end in small towns at night. Meta threw back the hood of her ermine-lined cloak. Her white hair picked up the moon light gleamed softly. Everything about her was small and neat and pale.
Basil, on the other horse, was her match. He was a smile pinned inside a riot of mismatched colors, all competing with the fire of beard and hair, adorned with dagger whose jewels rendered it absurd. He dropped down onto waxy blue boots that he always told people were the skin of a great blue crocodile from the swamps of his youth. It sounded like a lie.
He gestured to the cold courtyard, “Some welcome, eh?”
Meta smiled like a ghost. Her horse stamped quietly, enjoying the brief fireflies it was kicked up. The horse was, after all, Sarian.
Basil whistled for the groom, or valet, or stable boy. He shouldered velvet saddlebags and tucked foxfur gloves into them, and bare-handed Meta down from her horse. They stamped with the horses, but for different reasons.
A smaller man with the straight, handsome features, emerged from the light of the inn. He bowed in his dark, tasteful suit. “I’m glad you two could make it,” his enthusiasm was genuine and infectious.
“Alras, you are here!” Meta effused, softly, “And by the Sisters if you aren’t even sober!”
Alras did up the buttons of his coat, “In each man, all things are possible. Although,” he twirled his hand like an actor’s salute, “I may have imbibed medically – against the cold, of course.”
Basil laughed, and the three of them passed in to the warm hay dream of the barn where three horses only shifted and ruffled in unison, united by shelter and the hour. The three humans, by contrast, were joined by a dark cement of days where civil unrest stole their youth and separated and divided kingdoms. That history lay behind and about them, making their connection all the brighter.
They began to chat, intently, filled with interest in small things.
Basil had been back home, in the deep south of the Sarian capitol, Corum. He was setting up a series of clinics in a country badly damaged, using inborn talents and subtle human skills picked up from Meta. Bodies and hearts needed tending – and he knew how they connected to one another. To Alras, he seemed almost like a new man, or may be back to being the man he had been before the troubles. The consciously–exaggerated verve of the Sarian people was back, but tempered into something new.
Meta had been beyond the Bridge mountains somewhere in the Empire of the Flame. Alras heard that she had attended the monastery in the great plains of cracked earth south of the Empire’s capital. She had always been clever, seeing people for what they were. This was how the Essence manifested in her. She was a Seer: distances, people, skies, all were bared to her. The Essence had been, in its way, kind and unkind to her. Near the end of the war, she had entered into the Sarian prince’s madness, allowing him to use his military genius to outflank Vaern and force them back to the settlement table. Travel and time had helped, and as much as Alras could read in her beauty, her manner. She heated depths in the Bard didn’t spend too much time thinking about.
Alras himself had taken to wandering. He shed his red Vaern Bard cloak in favor of a dapper businessman’s outfit. He had left the hellishly powerful Vollin’s Lyre in the safekeeping of an now–crippled knight of their mutual company. He hoped never to retrieve it.
“So,” Basil smile was full of mischief and delight as they strode together into the butterlight of the inn, “are we ready to do well by the world – or at least be a little rich?”