Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Book Excerpt: Thorn Changer Chapter Four Part Two

If you missed Chapter Four Part One of Thorn Changer, you'll find it by following the link. Today, I'm posting Part Two. If you want to see the copyright/disclaimer page, go to the Amazon page and click on the picture of Thorn Changer for the Look Inside option, and scroll up (this also gives you a chance to see the beautiful detail of the cover).


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Excerpt from Thorn Changer by Christy Reed 


Her shoulder throbbed. She grimaced and sat up, a hand to her head. Something orange glimmered in the corner of her eye, on her cheek. She wiped her hand over it, and the orange slippery glitter rested on her palm. She wiped it on her cloak, and then scrubbed her face with the edge of the fabric. Light peeped in from the tent opening. No guards outside, no shadows across the tent. She reached into her belt pouch and started to put on her metal-studded gloves. The cloak began to glow brightly. She tore it off her, and threw it. It vanished before the fabric touched the ground. She shivered. Was that dark magic?
She rose to her knees, and rubbed the back of her aching head. “He sure can hit hard.” Her lips stung. Her probing fingers stopped as they felt the crusty blood. She shook her head, and almost wanted to laugh. “Looks like you’ve got yourself into something, Skey. Who knew Cinote was so smart? I didn’t think those idiots could find their own feet, let alone that map I dropped. But how did they get here so fast? Unless Cinote had them here in the first place.”
Was that it? Had he known what she planned to do from the beginning? Had someone realized the map was missing?
She shook her head. If they had, they wouldn’t have let her keep it. Maps weren’t cheap, and definitely weren’t something you let prisoners have.
How would he have known to send men to Beolki anyway?
She bowed her head and sighed. Oh well. She’d just have to figure out another way to escape him. If she could just get to one of the Beolkin nobles’ castles… Once there, she could disappear. At least for a while. Right now, though, she’d do better to make up a plan for getting out of this camp.
“Miagulo. Yeah!”
Her head jerked up. “What was that?”
“Miagulo.”
Steel clanged. “Why, they’ve been attacked,” she scrambled to her feet. Her harp rested by her. She snatched it up.
Cloth ripped. The beam of light widened as she turned back to the door, only to be darkened as a man’s form ducked in. “Ah,” he halted. “What do we have here? A lassie, it looks like.”
Skey stood up, and slung the harp over her shoulder. “A minstrel,” the soldier laughed. “Well, you’ll come in handy. You can write a song about our victory.”
“I write songs for no one unless I choose to.” How could she get by him?
The burly soldier chuckled. “Ah, you’re a feisty one. That’s good. They write the best songs.”
“Try this for a song,” Skey struck him right below the jaw.
He let out a roar. Another when she kicked his legs out from under him. She darted past him, but he seized her ankle. She fell, and kicked herself free. She jumped up, and ran. He was right behind her. “Get the lass.”
Skey darted around the tents. Soldiers were ducking in and out of them, shredding the fabric with their blades. Too busy to notice her. Now where was that gate? There. She ran towards it, and skidded to a halt. Two soldiers had just swung it shut.
The soldier seized her arms. Fire rippled through her right shoulder. She kicked him hard. He grunted, tightening his grip as he looked about. “I can’t keep hold of her.”
A soldier and a captain ran towards him. One grabbed her legs, while the captain drew his dagger. “I’d be still, if I were you.”
Skey froze as the cold metal brushed her throat. The captain nodded to the burly one. “You take charge of her. Keo, watch her, keep your blade drawn. We’ll see what the prince has to say.”
Keo relinquished his hold, and drew his own knife. Skey tried not to swallow as the steel touched. The captain watched her a moment, then sheathed his blade. “Much better. March.”
Skey scanned the camp as they headed toward the center. There had to be another way of escape. The soldier holding her laughed. “You’re meek enough now, lassie. Tired?”
“Maybe your face finally got to her, Paylor,” the other soldier teased.
The first glared at him. “Most like to be your face that scared the tongue out her, Keo.”
“Perhaps she’s the wisest of you blockheads, keeping her mouth shut that I don’t yell at her like I am at you,” the captain glared back at them. “Now shut up.”
They reached the center of the campsite. On the other side of it, a lad not much older than she was sat tall astride his horse as he talked with two soldiers. The general? He’s awful young, she tried not to smirk as he ran long fingers through his spiky orange hair, then folded his arms across his chest and laughed. He doesn’t look much like a general.
“Prince Kotua,” the captain waved, stopping Skey a few yards away. “We’ve a prisoner.”
His ice blue eyes sparkled as he turned to them. “A prisoner, you say? Well, she sure isn’t a prisoner I’d expect to find here. In the Iezomen army camp.” He smiled. “A minstrel, are you? Since when does General Sodoma have a minstrel in his camp? He must’ve gotten a better sense of humor since I last met him.”
Skey didn’t answer. What a stupid grin. As if he didn’t expect her to reply, Kotua went on. “What shall we do with you? If only my uncle could see you. I’m sure he’d find you like no other.” He rubbed his chin. “Maybe I should bring you with us. My uncle might like another minstrel for his castle. Maybe he’d give me a break from looking at those state papers.”
“I sing for who I choose, and no other,” Skey jerked away from the soldiers. They reached for her, but Kotua held up his hand. “I was seized for no cause. I demand you release me.”
The prince laughed. He laughed way too much. “So you can talk. I was beginning to wonder, you know.” He shook his head. “A mute minstrel. That’s like a blind artist. Or a deaf scribe.”
“Will you release me?”
“You remind me of my uncle. He acts the same way, you know. All business, no fun. Or at least when he has a game to win. Which’s been often lately, considering the war and all.” He shook his head. “I’m afraid I can’t. I’ll have to take you with me, in case you’re a spy or something like that. But, not to worry. A few days in the dungeon and you’ll be as free as one can be. That being, of course, that you don’t know anything that’d warrant you being dead instead.”
Her jaw clenched. She wouldn’t be imprisoned again. “You’ll not have an easy time of it.”
“Easy or not, I still have to do it.” He looked to her captors. “Bind her.”
Skey struck the one called Paylor as he tried to seize her, and gave Keo a sharp kick in the side. The captain caught her about the waist. She elbowed him sharply in the ribs. Kotua swung down from his horse, his eyes not as laughing as they’d been. “You’ve a temper like my uncle, too.”
He grabbed her wrist. Her fist came in contact with his jaw. He rubbed it with his other hand, but his grip didn’t loosen. “You sure hit hard for a little kid.”
Skey’s teeth clenched. “I’m not a little kid.” A sharp kick hit his shin.
He winced. “And you kick hard, too.” The laughter changed to a scowl. Her other hand was trapped with her first one, as his arm seized her about the waist. “I don’t have time for fooling around, lass. I’ve papers to look to when I get back.”
Skey struggled to get her hands free. She drove her elbows backwards into his ribs. “You’re getting there without me.” She wrenched away, and sprinted towards the horse. It squealed, almost rearing as she threw herself into the saddle. She forced it down, digging her heels into the creature’s flanks.
The steed took off as its hooves struck the ground. “Stop her.” She glanced over her shoulder. Kotua stumbled after her, one hand gripping his side. A blood-drenched bandage peered through the tatters. “Don’t let her escape.”
She kicked down a soldier who grabbed at her foot, and charged on. The gate was still closed, but it and the walls weren’t much taller than the prince. This horse could jump over it, given a running start. She drove her heels harder into its sides. Her heart kept time with its hooves. The horse had to make it. “Come on,” she whispered in its ear. “You can do it, boy. It’s only a little jump.”
“To the gate. Come on. It’s closed. She can’t possibly escape.”
Didn’t he realize the power of his own horse? Good thing she had taken it then.
The gate loomed up in front of them. The horse stiffened. “You can do it, boy.”
“Make sure the gate’s secured,” the prince was still behind her. “I don’t want her slipping through.”
“I know you can. Just don’t think about it.” The pupil of its eye grew wide as they neared the gate. “Just jump when I say. Okay?” Her eyes scanned the wooden structure, the only barrier between her and freedom. “Ready?”
The horse’s eye grew wider, but he didn’t slack his pace. “Stop her.” Skey smiled at the dismay in the prince’s voice. So he finally realized what she planned to do? Took him long enough.
She leaned closer into the horse. The time had come. “Jump.”
They were flying through the air, the wind whipping against their bodies. The hooves struck the ground hard on the other side of the gate. She clenched her teeth against the jar, her rear bouncing hard against the saddle. “Now run,” Skey hissed.
There was no need. The speed the horse had built up kept him going. The gate burst open. She glanced back over her shoulder. A group of horsemen urged their steeds after her, at their head Prince Kotua. No smile on his face now.
“She must be a spy, or a deserter. We can’t let her get away.”
She spurred her horse on faster, towards the city looming up ahead. Smoke and char wafted from the blackened ruins visible through the sagging gates. She coughed, her eyes watering. So that general had attacked this city. But he’d lost. Those chasing her now weren’t the same that captured her before.
They were gaining. Foam gathered on her horse’s mouth, flying back and spattering her cheek. Its sides heaved under her, its gait slightly off. It wouldn’t be able to go much farther. She glanced up at the city. They were almost there. If they could only make it. “Come on, my friend. You’re tired, I know, but we’re almost there. Just a little farther, and you’ll be able to go where you please. They’ll never find me in there.”
“We’re gaining on her,” Kotua’s voice was close enough to make her uneasy. “Come on, only a little farther.”
She turned her eyes to the wall. The moments passed like hours. “Come on. Only a few yards more.”
The wall reared itself up but a yard in front of them, broken here and there but mostly still intact. Skey wheeled the horse from it, and jumped off. Her fingers clawed at the rocks, as she scrambled up over them. She lost her footing when her hands reached the edge, and she hung there for a moment until she was able to scramble onto the top. “She’s on the wall,” Kotua grabbed the reins as the riderless horse bucked and reared. “Easy, boy, easy. After her,” he waved his men on. “If she escapes, it’ll not be well for the one who caused it.”
Skey scrambled away from the edge, and catapulted herself off towards the guard house roof. Arrows whistled in her wake, and struck the wall by her as she clawed at the edge of the roof. “I didn’t say I wanted her dead,” Kotua voice rose over the wall, over the sound of men running towards the steps down and other running through the city gates. “I want her alive, unhurt, if possible.”
Like that was going to happen. No more dungeon days for her. She scrambled onto the roof, and scuttled across the shingles, making for the lower part of the roof. She jumped down, and took off to the other side of the city. Armor clanked and men yelled right behind her. If she could escape them long enough to hide… She’d give them the slip come nightfall.
“There she is.” She glanced back. They were barely a score of yards behind her. They were fast, even in mail. She bowed her head to the wind, and ran even faster.
The gap widened as she veered left. An alley loomed up ahead. She sprinted to the opening, slipping in just as the guards rounded the corner. She pressed herself against the shadowed wall, and held her breath as they passed by. As their footsteps sounded down the road, she let out a sigh of relief, trying not to breathe in the rotting vegetables and human filth. She was safe. For now at least.
Green filled her vision, the pin feathers sprouting. A dingy gray sparrow hopped about for a little, pecking at the ground, and then flew up and away from the war-marked city of Mokayi.



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That's the end of Chapter Four Part Two. I hope you enjoyed it. For right now, Thorn Changer is available exclusively on Amazon. Feel free to share this excerpt, just please include all text between the asterisks (* * *), as well as a link to Thorn Changer's Amazon page. This will give your viewers a link to where they can purchase Thorn Changer if they're interested. Thanks.

Chapter Four Part Three will be available tomorrow.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Book Excerpt: Thorn Changer Chapter Four Part One

Last week, I posted Chapter Three Part OnePart TwoPart Three, and Part Four of Thorn Changer. This week, I'll be posting Chapter Four. I struggled with how to divide this chapter, because it consists for three scenes which are all about the same length. They're all a little longer than I like for a post, but none of them have a clear spot where they could be split. I decided to leave each scene intact, even though the posts will be a little long. I'll post the three parts today, Tuesday, and Wednesday because I want to post my January Update of my Book Challenge on Thursday. If you want to see the copyright/disclaimer page, go to the Amazon page and click on the picture of Thorn Changer for the Look Inside option, and scroll up (this also gives you a chance to see the beautiful detail of the cover).


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Excerpt from Thorn Changer by Christy Reed 


CHAPTER FOUR



Kotua squinted against the glare of the late afternoon sun. He hoped they were in time. He wouldn’t miss a chance like this for anything. “How much farther?” he asked the young soldier who rode by his side.

“Only a few more miles, Your Highness,” Keo replied, his face covered in sweat. Did he fear a run-in with those dark hawks he’d been talking about? “It should be just up ahead.”
The soldier, no matter how crazy he was to believe those tales of the Arilians, was right. The city wasn’t more than two leagues distant, surrounded by the enemy army. His heart sunk. Then he whooped. The stronghold in the center still stood.
“On, men, we’ll save it yet.”
Hooves pounded like thunder as they narrowed the distance. Kotua leaned close to his horse, urging him on. One and a half leagues…one…one half…one quarter…
“Farer, stay here and get ready to sing. A few of you stay to guard him. The rest, after me. To the city,” he spurred on his horse, taking a deep breath of earth and sweat, throwing back his head into the wind. “Yeah!”
Within ten minutes they were on top of the enemy army. Though he couldn’t make out the words, Kotua could hear Farer’s voice swelling above the battle roar. He urged the soldiers on. “They’ll be weakening soon. To the stronghold. Make way. Clear the enemy scum from the streets.”
He drew his sword, and struck down the nearest soldier. The Iezoman staggered back before swinging his sword at Kotua. The song was having an effect. Blood rushed through his veins. This was much better than state papers.
“Clear out. Out,” the cries of his soldiers carried on the wind. “Miagulo. Miagulo.”
“Onward, my blood hounds,” Kotua threw back his head and howled. Wait until his uncle heard about this. “Let’s clear this city of these miscreants once and for all.”
“Miagulo. Miagulo. Yeah!”
Keo stopped short. His face had gone ashen. “There.” Three dark figures loomed up ahead of them. “There. The dark hawks.”
Kotua halted as the huge creatures came toward him, eyes piercing green, beaks as sharp white spears. His spine stiffened. His uncle hadn’t mentioned how large the beasts were.
He spurred his horse on. “Onward. Are we going to let some over-grown chickens stand in our way? Never. Miagulo. Yeah!”
Horses pounded after him. “Miagulo. Miagulo. Yeah!”
Kotua charged straight at the center creature, sword gripped in his hand. He pulled to the side as the beak lashed out. He caught it on his blade, and was shoved back. He needed a clear shot of the heart. And he’d only get one chance.
He smiled. He almost burst out laughing. What would his uncle say if he could see him right now? It’d be something like, Kotua, you’ve more brawn than brains. Though I’ve known that for quite some time now. Rushing in to be eaten alive isn’t exactly what I’d call good strategy.
Kotua’s smile widened as he shook his head. No, his uncle wouldn’t approve at all. Good thing he wasn’t there to say so.
There was no time to think about it. Forest wouldn’t go any closer. Every time Kotua tried to urge him on, the horse took a step backwards. “Fine then,” he jumped off his back, and slapped his sweat-slicked rump hard. “Get out of here. I don’t need any distractions.”
As the horse galloped off, the wind whistled. Kotua sprang aside just as the beak of the hawk tore through the air. He grasped the hilt in both hands, and lunged at the monster, driving the point in between its eyes.
The bird screeched. With a swipe of a wing it threw Kotua to the ground. He picked himself up. He clamped his hand to his throbbing sticky side. He glanced down. Three giant claw marks oozed there. Since when did hawks have claws on their feathers? This bird just kept giving him more reasons to dislike it.
 The bird shook its head. The sword tumbled to the ground. Kotua caught it right before it landed. Not dead yet? This was no normal beast. He slashed at the bird’s neck as it lunged for him, the blade biting deep through the feathers. It shuddered, and fell to the ground. A long shriek. Green mist flew from its beak. Then it didn’t stir.
The soldiers had taken care of the other two. Kotua grinned. He was pretty good at this kind of thing. “Onward. Let’s free the city. Miagulo.”
“Miagulo.” The doors of the stronghold burst open. A rush of soldiers poured out. “Your Highness,” Keo shouted. “They’re breaking out.”
“Charge the enemy. We’ll run them out the gates.”
Farer’s voice filled the air. The enemy army wavered. “Go on,” Sodoma’s shout arched over those of the soldiers. “Attack them.” The Iezomen stood still, and then started to retreat back to the Darklands. Some of the Iezomen pressed towards Kotua and his men. But Farer’s song made them weak enough to battle with.
Kotua struck an Iezoman down, grinning as he caught a glimpse of the general through the fray. “Not even you can make them stand up to the song, Sodoma.”
The Mekain glared at him, his long hair streaming out behind in the wind. “Next time will be different. Lord Foaie will crush this worthless kingdom.”
Kotua threw his spear at him, but Sodoma jumped aside. “At least we have one prize to take with us.” The glove on his right hand began to glow orange as he disappeared over the top of the hill. “To the Iezo.”
The Iezomen stopped fighting as one, and followed Sodoma. Kotua seized the bridle from his footman, and swung up onto the retrieved horse’s back. No, he wouldn’t let him get away. He wouldn’t let any of them get any. “On, soldiers. On.”
A flash of orange filled the sky. Kotua dashed up over the hill, his heart pounding. No, they couldn’t escape. Sodoma couldn’t do this…
Not one Iezoman was in sight. And of course Sodoma wasn’t either. He drew his horse in. “No. Confound it, no.” That cursed magic…
He sighed as he sheathed his sword, and started to turn back. Only the remains of the old outpost that had been abandoned when Mokayi was built remained on the other side of the hill.
But it looked different, somehow. Could Sodoma have been using it as his camp?
“That must be it.” He grinned. Now he’d get to plunder a camp as well. Forget Sodoma, and whatever nonsense he’d been spouting. He could deal with him later. This chance was too good to pass up.
“To the camp,” he pressed the heels of his boots into his horse’s sides. “Onward, my men. To the camp.”



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That's the end of Chapter Four Part One. I hope you enjoyed it. For right now, Thorn Changer is available exclusively on Amazon. Feel free to share this excerpt, just please include all text between the asterisks (* * *), as well as a link to Thorn Changer's Amazon page. This will give your viewers a link to where they can purchase Thorn Changer if they're interested. Thanks.

Chapter Four Part Two will be available tomorrow.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Book Excerpt: Thorn Changer Chapter Three Part Four

If you missed Chapter Three Part OnePart Two, or Part Three of Thorn Changer, go ahead and follow the links. Today, I'm posting Part Four. This completes Chapter Three. If you want to see the copyright/disclaimer page, go to the Amazon page and click on the picture of Thorn Changer for the Look Inside option, and scroll up (this also gives you a chance to see the beautiful detail of the cover).


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Excerpt from Thorn Changer by Christy Reed 


The sun had risen again over the distant hills when the thrush finally landed. Soon Skey replaced it. She rubbed her shoulder. The ache was there, but less than after her last flight.
Another poultice or two, and she’d be out of herbs.
But her shoulder should be fine to heal on its own then.
She stared back the way she’d come, scanning the edge of the woods far behind. Her heart was playing a rapid song in her chest. She wiped the sweat from her brow, and let out a misty sigh. He’d been the same man who’d stopped her in the market square.
Maybe he’d get lost in that forest for good.
Or maybe he’d keep following her.
She shook her head. He couldn’t follow her now. You couldn’t track a bird through the air. Even if he did somehow pick up her trail again, by the time he and his men made their way out of the forest, she would’ve disappeared into the countryside of Beolki. She might even be hidden away in a lord’s castle as his minstrel. Why worry about it?
But her heart was heavy. Cinote must have found that map. How had he sent men here so quickly though? Even if they had boarded that ship, it wouldn’t have reached the harbor before she had. And that man had already been in the market, as if he had been waiting…
She strode on. Her boots whispered as they crunched the snow. A message of hope? Or was it one of despair? She shivered again. Only this time it wasn’t from the cold.
Eventually, her steps led her to the top of a tall hill. A city sat in the valley below. It was sure to have a tavern that’d be interested in her playing. She went down the hill, and started toward the speck of a city in the distance.
There were no cottages or little farms here. Was she nearing the border? Who knew in this weird place? Besides the city, all she could see was a white desert of snow. She shivered as a wind came up, and huddled deeper in her cloak. She took off her metal studded gloves, and shoved them into her belt pouch. She definitely would have to find some place to stay until winter was over. She would never make it to the north coast in this weather. It was much colder here than in Arilan.
The sun was past the middle of the sky. In places, the snow had turned into damp slush, churning up the smell of earth. It wasn’t a city, or even a town. It looked like a barricaded army camp. What on earth was it doing there? Was it a settlement for a new city? Or a prisoner camp? Oh well. It didn’t matter. It actually made things all the better. The soldiers probably were bored out of their wits. They’d look forward to her songs, and be grateful. And grateful ones always gave more.
A line of guards stood along the outer wall. She stopped, and ducked behind a tree. She studied them. Why would there be so many soldiers guarding it, unless something was wrong? Maybe she’d better turn back.
Her jaw tightened. She strode on toward the gate. No, she wouldn’t give up this chance to make a few coins, and maybe a dinner. Her stomach growled, and gnawed at her in its protest of the almost two-day fast. Maybe there were robbers hiding in this lonely plain. Or that man Foaie the tavern owner had been talking about. That’d be reason enough to increase the guard.
Burning wood and some sort of stew reached her as she sauntered toward the gate, and waved a hand as she drew near. How you acted in army camps couldn’t be much different than the way you did in taverns. “Greetings. Be there any interest in the songs of a minstrel at your camp?”
The guards at the gate ignored her, and stared on ahead. That was weird. Not to mention rude. Maybe they hadn’t heard her. “Excuse me,” she stopped right in front of the one on the left. “Would your camp like to hear the music of a minstrel?”
Still no answer. She looked from one guard to the other. Each had a long angry scar running down their left cheek. Their eyes looked almost glazed over. Were they dead? Or maybe asleep?
She tugged on the right one’s sleeve. Maybe the captain would like to hear a song or two. “Excuse me, where could I find your captain?”
“I am the general.” She froze, and turned to the voice.
Sharp gray eyes met hers, staring out of a weather-roughed face. Ice-blond hair streamed to the massive shoulders. Was he a Mekain, or a giant? She bowed stiffly, and held out her harp. Her elbow twitched. “I am a minstrel. I was wondering if you would care for some music?”
He folded his well-muscled arms across his mighty chest, and surveyed her. Had his freezing stare turned her to ice? “So I see. Are you any good?”
Skey forced a laugh. Why had she stopped here? Her left hand reached up to brush back her hair. “Well, I suppose I am. I’ve never—”
The general seized her about the waist with one arm while his hand clamped onto both her wrists. “Shut the gates.”
The soldiers sprung to life. The gates banged closed. Skey struggled to loosen herself. Why had she stopped here? “This isn’t the way to treat a minstrel!”
He laughed. “Oh, don’t worry, you won’t be harmed, Skey.” His smile grew cruel. “At least not if you cooperate with Lord Foaie’s wishes.”
Skey slipped a hand free, and struck him across the face. “I know nothing that you or Foaie would want to know.”
He wiped away the blood from his lip. “Ah, that’s what you think, lass. You’ve much to learn.”
“I’d prefer different teachers,” she kicked him hard in the shin.
His grip slackened. Skey broke free, and struck him again. She darted toward the back of the camp. There had to be another way out.
“Seize her.” Metal clanged against metal. But no shouts. Skey glanced behind. Maybe they weren’t—several guards were yards away. She ran faster. Every face she had caught a glimpse of had the same strange scar running down it. Were these the Iezomen?
There was the gate, straight ahead of her, with not a guard in sight. And still open. She ran faster. Sweat dripped down her brow, racing down her face as she raced to the gate. Metal clanged closer. Behind her the general shouted something. An orange light flashed by her head, the warmth grazing her cheek. She had to get to that gate.
The orange light struck the closing gate. Two bounds brought her there. It wasn’t fast enough. The gates banged shut just as she reached them.
She whirled about. Those strange scarred soldiers blocked off her path. Splinters dug into her shoulder blades as she braced against the gate. How could she escape this? The sea of soldiers parted, as the general strode forward. His right hand was gloved, and glowed with the same orange light. Was that magic?
Green filled her vision. The general shook his head. “You are clueless, aren’t you?” His gloved hand shone brightly. The leather cracked across her face. Orange light shoved out the green, acrid anise and cinnamon flooded her nose as cold earth surrounded her knees. Everything blurred and faded. “Foaie has much to talk to you about,” his voice rang out as if from a distance. His image blended with the rest. Everything went dark.


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That's the end of Chapter Three Part Four. I hope you enjoyed it. For right now, Thorn Changer is available exclusively on Amazon. Feel free to share this excerpt, just please include all text between the asterisks (* * *), as well as a link to Thorn Changer's Amazon page. This will give your viewers a link to where they can purchase Thorn Changer if they're interested. Thanks.

Chapter Four Part One will be available on Monday.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Book Excerpt: Thorn Changer Chapter Three Part Three

Yesterday, I posted Chapter Three Part Two of Thorn Changer. Today, I'll be posting Part Three. If you want to see the copyright/disclaimer page, go to the Amazon page and click on the picture of Thorn Changer for the Look Inside option, and scroll up (this also gives you a chance to see the beautiful detail of the cover).


* * *

Excerpt from Thorn Changer by Christy Reed 


Kotua stared at the paper in front of him, tongue in cheek. He never did understand all the fancy terminology in the letters sent to his uncle. Why couldn’t they just use regular everyday words? Like “How you doing? I’m good,” or “Heard about the attack yesterday, you guys okay?”
He smiled and shook his head. “What am I thinking? Even I don’t talk like that, and he’s always correcting me. If they all started talking that way, he’d have to give up being king, and become their full-time tutor.” He grimaced. “Leaving me to do all his paperwork.”
He leaned back in the chair, and crossed his arms behind his head. He almost put his boots up on the table, until he remembered what his uncle had said the last time he’d done it, Kotua, you know that’s not how a crown prince should bear himself. I don’t believe that would make a good impression on the emperor.
He sighed at the pile of papers. He pulled a face as he mimicked his uncle. “As crown prince, you really should look at these, Kotua. They’re state papers. Examining them should give you some needed experience.”
He’d rather gain some experience in the field of dancing than of paperwork. At least he wouldn’t have to stay locked up in this stuffy room. He gazed out the window at the fields, just dusted in last night’s snow. He wished he had to gain experience in riding Forest over that plain…
He sat up with a smile. Why didn’t he just take a break? He could always come back after a ride outside. The horse could use the exercise as much as he could. His glance fell on the papers again, and his smile faded. It was an awfully tall stack. And he really should work on it. Four days, and he was barely an eighth of the way through. Maybe it’d be better to work a little longer.
But that grass… He turned back to the window. It was so green despite the snow, calling to him… The room grew stuffier.
But he had to work on those papers. “A little break won’t do any harm. I’ll just take a short ride, and then I’ll get right back to it.”
Kotua had just reached the door when it burst open. One of the footmen charged in. “Prince Kotua,” he scarcely bowed before the words poured out. “A messenger’s just arrived from Mokayi. They’ve been attacked by Foaie.”
Kotua forced himself to walk. Yes. Now this was some excitement. “Where’s the messenger?”
“In the courtyard. He’s been wounded.”
“Send him to me.”
After the footman had gone, Kotua almost danced to the audience chamber. His uncle’s advisor wasn’t here either, so that meant he would get to lead the army. What a great day this was after all.
The door opened behind him. The servant entered with the messenger leaning against him. “Here’s the soldier, my prince. He says they need more troops, and Farer, or Foaie will take Mokayi.”
Kotua looked at the panting messenger. “How did you leave the city?”
“We were in the stronghold,” the soldier gasped out. He looked up, his eyes wide. “I don’t know if they were able to hold it. They have dark hawks.”
Dark hawks? His uncle had said something about battling them before, said they were vicious birds, but Kotua had never seen one. “How many?”
“Three.”
With Farer to weaken the Iezomen, he could handle three dark hawks.
He turned to the footman. “Where’s Farer?”
“In the barracks, Sire, polishing that old harp of his.”
“Good, might as well have it look pretty for the scum. Tell Captain Oise to gather the horsemen. Ready my horse.”



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That's the end of Chapter Three Part Three. I hope you enjoyed it. For right now, Thorn Changer is available exclusively on Amazon. Feel free to share this excerpt, just please include all text between the asterisks (* * *), as well as a link to Thorn Changer's Amazon page. This will give your viewers a link to where they can purchase Thorn Changer if they're interested. Thanks.

Chapter Three Part Four will be available tomorrow.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Book Excerpt: Thorn Changer Chapter Three Part Two

Yesterday, I posted Chapter Three Part One of Thorn Changer. Today, I'll be posting Chapter Three Part Two. If you want to see the copyright/disclaimer page, go to the Amazon page and click on the picture of Thorn Changer for the Look Inside option, and scroll up (this also gives you a chance to see the beautiful detail of the cover).


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Excerpt from Thorn Changer by Christy Reed 


She was still traipsing through the forest when night fell. The ground was easier to travel here. Not as much snow had been able to find its way through the tree canopy. She peered into the darkness, wishing she had some tinder to make a torch. Not much moonlight got through either.
An owl hooted in a tree nearby. Mice and tiny woodland creatures scurried through the undergrowth. Her breath was steam in the faint light that did break through. Skey shivered, and pulled her cloak tighter about her. She trudged on.
The low wail of a night thrush hit her ears. She paused in front of a shallow snow bank, and smiled bitterly. Was it exiled like her? Maybe that was why it was so sad and mournful.
She turned, and took a step. A twig snapped behind her. Too big to have been broken by an animal. She whirled about. A dark figure stood a foot away, arms crossed. “We never did finish.”
She took a step back. What was colder, her body or her heart? “Yes we did. I told you I wasn’t interested. Now let me be.”
The cloaked figure laughed. “You’ve much to learn if you think such an answer will stop me.”
Skey turned to flee, but stopped short. More dark figures had come up, blocking off every escape. She turned back to her captor. Was that his teeth glinting in the moonlight? “What do you want with me?”
His smile widened. “Ah, Skey,” the words froze her heart, “much more than you know.”
The shadow figures edged closer. Skey stiffened. How had he known her name?
She drew back from them, reaching for a handful of snow, as her eyes started to glow. “I’ll never come with you,” she flung it in his face.
He grunted, wiping it away. She drew her cloak around her, and slid into the snow bank. An ice crystal cloud engulfed the shadowy forms as she darted through their circle. Hands reached at her, and tore at her cloak. She kicked at someone’s shin. She almost tumbled to the ground as she broke through. She ran on as fast as her feet would carry her, the pin feathers ready to break out along her spine. Behind her heavy footsteps thudded.
Her eyes darted about. Wasn’t there a tree she could slip behind or a bush she could dive into? Anything, as long as it hid her for a second. She sprang, and dove behind a giant boulder. A small thrush flew away as the shadows pounded to the rock.
“Catch that bird,” the cloaked figure shook his fist as he ran after her. Orange glowed around it. “Don’t let her get away.”
Skey flew out of the tree she had rested in, and winged her way west. She cringed as the shouts below followed her. She hadn’t been fast enough to hide, to make them believe she wasn’t the bird. She beat her wings harder, wincing at the burning in her shoulder. The sooner she found a noble’s castle to hide in, the better.



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That's the end of Chapter Three Part Two. I hope you enjoyed it. For right now, Thorn Changer is available exclusively on Amazon. Feel free to share this excerpt, just please include all text between the asterisks (* * *), as well as a link to Thorn Changer's Amazon page. This will give your viewers a link to where they can purchase Thorn Changer if they're interested. Thanks.

Chapter Three Part Three will be available tomorrow.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Book Excerpt: Thorn Changer Chapter Three Part One

Last week, I posted Chapter Two Part OnePart Two, and Part Three of Thorn Changer. This week, I'll be posting Chapter Three. I'll be dividing this chapter into four parts, which I'll post each day through Thursday. If you want to see the copyright/disclaimer page, go to the Amazon page and click on the picture of Thorn Changer for the Look Inside option, and scroll up (this also gives you a chance to see the beautiful detail of the cover).


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Excerpt from Thorn Changer by Christy Reed 


CHAPTER THREE



“No,” Skey mumbled, tossing onto her other side. “No, don’t.”

A scream. The warrior’s sword ran through the lady.

Fire ran through her shoulder.
She sat up with a shriek, gripping her shoulder. “No.”
Darkness filled the loft. Downstairs, snoring. She shuddered. What a nightmare. The throbbing in her shoulder subsided. She undid the bandage. The swelling was down, the skin not such an angry red. She’d only jarred it just now.
She retied the bandage and lay back down, twisting the blanket around her fingers. What an awful dream. Flashes of the man with gleaming eyes, eyes she couldn’t tell the color of, went through her mind again. She trembled, and pulled the blanket up to her chin. No, not again.
What had caused it? She hadn’t had a single nightmare after a year as the emperor’s minstrel, after a year in that cage. Her life had been enough of one. But now… A low moan escaped her before she could stop it.
She should go back to sleep. Dawn would be here soon, and the tavern owner wouldn’t be happy if she was still here. But what if it came again? She shivered, and stared up at the low roof of the attic. Maybe she should just stay awake…
Skey opened her eyes and stretched, shaking her head. A weak beam of light broke through the roof, straight into her face. She didn’t remember falling asleep again.
She was still tired. She shouldn’t have stayed up so late playing. “Oh well,” she yawned, as she pulled on her boots and picked up her harp. “Might as well get used to it. That kind of thing’s done all the time in the nobles’ castles, I’m sure. It was in Arilan.”
She rose from the straw mattress, and crept to the ladder leading down from the loft onto the second floor of the tavern. Snores from the guests broke through the early morning stillness. She snuck down the stairs, and into the main room of the tavern. The barmaid was already up, stoking the fire. She nodded at Skey, and then pointed at a small loaf of bread. Skey smiled her thanks, and picked it up as she slipped out the door into the chill air.
A thick blanket of snow snuggled the ground. It’d come early this year, at least compared to Arilan. Skey breathed deeply of the chill air, and smiled. All of this snow would be reason enough for her to seek a place in a lord’s castle. But the owner had said… Skey redid her braid as she thought over the man’s words, making sure a big enough chunk of hair was loose to fall over the left side of her face, her headband underneath it. Did minstrels only stay in border towns in this country?
What country was this, anyway? She shouldn’t have lost that map. It had taken four months to steal it. What had it said…Miagulo, was it? Yes, that had to be it. The song, after all, had been “The War Song of Miagulo.”
That song… A chill went up her spine. Something about it… What was even the word to describe how it made her feel? It wasn’t afraid, but it wasn’t exactly comforting, either. Somewhere in between…maybe it was almost beckoning? Yes, like it was inviting her to come closer, but she was too afraid to.
Another ray of light poured into her face. She shielded her eyes. Even through the snow, a path marked up its center. She shouldered her harp, and started up it.
When she reached the top, Skey stopped, and let her eyes wander around the landscape. She hadn’t realized in the darkness of last night that there were so many houses around here. Several small farms dotted the countryside in front of her, fringing the path she was traveling. As she continued on, sheep bleated impatiently in their folds to be milked. Hens clucked about in irritation, still trapped in the hen house she passed by. On top of the roof a rooster strutted about, ruffling his feathers and preening himself. A proud and graceful king waiting for the freedom of his queens.
She laughed, and then sighed as she turned back and went on her way. All these little farms…they weren’t much different from Arilan. And that city hadn’t been that much different from her father’s own city…
She shoved her fingers through her hair, and then took out her braid once more. Well, so what? Had she really expected them to be different? Houses were houses, cities cities. She started to redo her braid. Why was she thinking about them anyway? They betrayed her.
She picked up her pace, her fingers working furiously. She was free, finally free. She would find some castle, which did not have a minstrel, in this weird country where you were questioned and thought to be a deserter if you weren’t at the border, and just stay there until her shoulder healed enough for the long flight to Mekai, or at least to the coast where she could catch a ship. That empire loved minstrels, or so Zeino had said. And no traitorous…
She stopped short, her fingers frozen. Where had that come from? She wasn’t going to think about them. Her eyes closed, and the day she had been taken to the Tower to play only for the emperor forced itself back through her mind. She bit her lips, and shook her head. But the images, the words, remained.
Form Changer. Danger. Must be locked up. Will bring harm to everyone. For the best.
Whose best? Definitely not her own.
She fastened the braid, and dashed down the path toward the forest, her boots crunching the snow like the stories of dark hawks crushing victims in their fierce beaks. The story no one would believe.
Someone had traveled the path last night, or at least long enough ago for the snow to melt and harden into ice. Her foot slipped. She fell, and slid through the trees into the outer circle of the forest. She lay there a moment, her face to the ground, the cold soothing her shoulder. She raised herself up on an elbow, and looked around.
Her face had made a shallow hollow in the snow. She carefully tried to patch it, then stopped. No amount of filling could repair the crater in her heart. Something glimmered above her head. She looked up into a mirror of ice hanging from one of the trees. She rose to her knees, and shoved aside the hair over her left temple as she undid the wet bandage. The odd birthmark that had been there ever since she could remember still remained.
Her eyes traced the purple outline of the eagle, no bigger than her thumb from the first knuckle to the tip. The curves that almost looked like strange letters circling the bird. A strange symbol. A strike against her. When her form changing was more than enough to condemn her. She looked up again. Her reflection glared back at her. The only one who separated her from her family, from the entire world.


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That's the end of Chapter Three Part One. I hope you enjoyed it. For right now, Thorn Changer is available exclusively on Amazon. Feel free to share this excerpt, just please include all text between the asterisks (* * *), as well as a link to Thorn Changer's Amazon page. This will give your viewers a link to where they can purchase Thorn Changer if they're interested. Thanks.

Chapter Three Part Two will be available tomorrow.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Book Excerpt: Thorn Changer Chapter Two Part Three

If you missed the rest of Chapter Two, here is Part One and Part Two. Today I'll be posting Chapter Two Part Three of Thorn Changer. This completes Chapter Two. If you want to see the copyright/disclaimer page, go to the Amazon page and click on the picture of Thorn Changer for the Look Inside option, and scroll up (this also gives you a chance to see the beautiful detail of the cover).


* * *

Excerpt from Thorn Changer by Christy Reed



Skey muffled her face with her cloak, and squinted against the snow. Was that a tavern up ahead? She hoped so. Anything to get out of this cold.

The wind gusted against the door, but Skey won the battle and pulled it open. The snowflakes turned to water drops on impact with the blistering air. She yanked the door closed, and started to the counter. “I wish to speak to the owner,” she caught the barmaid’s eye.

The girl nodded, only glancing at the dark green strip of cloth pulled low over her brow and temples for a moment before she filled a mug from the tap. But that was nothing compared to what she’d do if she saw what was underneath, on that left temple. She slid it down to Skey, and went to one of the tables. Skey took a sip as she watched her talk to a Beolkin, huge and with hair almost as red as the Arilians. She grimaced, and stared at the mug’s contents. What was this foul stuff these Beolkins drank? It was nothing like the light grape juice and honey the Arilians served.

She tried to take another sip, as she watched the maid and the host. They were glancing back at her while they talked. Skey played with the handle of the mug. Did the girl mouth “minstrel”? The host’s face went a shade paler. The beer soured her stomach. Or did it? She kept her face straight as the tavern owner made his way over.
“Well, now, lass, what brings you to these parts?”
Skey tried to look casual. Her heart began to pound. “Traveling. A minstrel needs to find work.”
The host’s deep blue eyes went a shade darker. “One would think you’d find enough at the border, what with the Iezomen about.”
“Border?” What was this? She wrapped her fingers around the mug. “I’m afraid I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
His eyes narrowed. “No Beolkin is dumb to what’s happening with Foaie. You wouldn’t be deserting your post, would you now?”
Skey swallowed. What had she gotten herself into? Hadn’t that man in the alley hinted at something like this? “Honestly, I’m not stationed at the border. I’m one of the wanderers.” She laughed half-heartedly. “You know, we need to eat too.”
He nodded, but his eyes weren’t friendly. “If you say so. A bed and a meal, but I want you gone before Miagulo’s Guard rides through tomorrow.”
Skey nodded. Why had she bothered stopping? “Deal,” she started to tune her harp. “What songs would you like?”
She had to stop herself from groaning as his eyes grew more hostile. “Only one song popular right now. We’ll have ‘The War Song of Miagulo’.”
Why hadn’t Zeino taught her more about Beolkin cultures? He had taught her all the major songs of Beolki, sure, but not the kingdoms in general… Wait, didn’t she know that one? Yes, he had her pluck it out long ago, when he first taught her to play. And he would sing…
Skey turned to face the room, her back against the counter. She ran her fingers over the strings.
“The war may wax hard
The cold wind of Death may blow.
But still our people will
Never give in to the foe.
We will fight on, we will be
Able to live on peacefully.

Though Fire will rage,
And Pain’s Claw will sink in deep,
Yet we will never be
Silenced, stilled or caused to weep.
We will battle, we will be
Able to raise our children free.

The foe mocks and laughs,
‘They will not escape my grasp.’
He may conquer at first,
But we will vanquish him at last.
We will conquer, we will be
Free, Forever, Eternally.”
Her head spun as the last notes plucked themselves. Her left knee began to shake. Her spine tingled. What had just happened?
The owner started the outbreak of applause. “Well done, lass. Take a break to eat your supper. We’ll want to hear that one again.”
Skey’s other knee shook as she turned back to the counter. The ache in her shoulder crept back. She hadn’t noticed it at all while she played. The barmaid smiled as she placed the bowl in front of her. Skey toyed with her spoon, and stared at the bits of cooked carrot and mutton. Something about that song warmed her inside. Why did she feel so cold then? She pulled her cloak over her. The first bite was tasteless. But the song echoed on…
* * *

That's the end of Chapter Two Part Three. I hope you enjoyed it. For right now, Thorn Changer is available exclusively on Amazon. Feel free to share this excerpt, just please include all text between the asterisks (* * *), as well as a link to Thorn Changer's Amazon page. This will give your viewers a link to where they can purchase Thorn Changer if they're interested. Thanks.

Chapter Three Part One will be available on Monday next week.