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Excerpt from Thorn Changer by Christy Reed
Reisika played with the stem of her wine glass, filled with grape juice, of course, as she watched her father pace the room. His eyebrows drew toward his arched nose, as his mouth tightened into a narrow line. “Where are those bumbling idiots? They should have been back by now. How long could it possibly take them?”
Like usual, their weekly dinner together had been reduced to his barely acknowledging her as he worked. And like usual, she had no idea what he was talking about.
“Daddy,” she tried to keep the impatience out of her voice, “I’m sure whoever it is will get here soon. Why don’t you sit down and eat?”
He didn’t even glance at her. Had he even heard her? Reisika looked from his half-eaten plate of food to her own barely touched one. She didn’t even know why they bothered any more. Her mother had insisted on these meals together, insisted that Reisika’s father take one evening away from worrying over empire affairs and attend to his family. But she was long dead now. Ever since Reivitae had been killed, these meals had become tortuous.
He glanced at the clock, and turned away with disgust. “Eight o’clock already. They should’ve been back hours ago! How long do they expect me to wait? I still have to prepare my notes for meeting with the emperor tomorrow.”
Reisika sighed again, and shoved her plate away. She motioned to the serving girl by the door to clear the table. Dinner was over, if it had ever really begun at all. Her father was once again lost to her, caught up in the never-ending work of keeping Arilan safe.
Sometimes she wished the emperor had chosen someone else. As Commander of the Imperial Guard, her father answered to only the Council and the Imperial Family. It was a great honor to bestow on the second son of one of the high nobles. But Reisika couldn’t help thinking quite bitterly that, if he had become one of her uncle’s right hands, instead of the emperor’s, he would have more time for her. Not to mention her brother wouldn’t have died.
“Those morons. They just better hope they’ve actually caught her when they finally show their sorry faces.”
“Caught who, Daddy?”
Her father stopped mid pace and turned to look at her. Once again, he’d forgotten she was still here. His face tightened a little, as his left eyebrow twitched. “Never mind, Reisika. It’s getting late. You better be off now.”
She sipped her grape juice. “Since when is eight late? At the emperor’s palace, we’d barely have gone into dinner by this time.”
A knock sounded at the door. Her father turned from her, and scowled at it. “Didn’t I tell the servants we weren’t to be disturbed? The fools. Can’t even get a simple order straight.” He yelled at the door. “Leave me alone. I told all of you miserable loafers I wasn’t to be bothered with your petty nonsense.”
“But, my lord,” Slo’s muffled voice sounded through the lock, “I thought we were to report to you when we got back.”
Reisika almost dropped her goblet. Slo? What was he doing here? Hadn’t her father sent him off on some errand? To check on that miserable creature, wasn’t it? “I thought you sent him to the Tower, Daddy. How’d he get back already?”
Her father, once again, ignored her. He almost smiled. “Took them long enough.” He went to the door, and threw it open. “So there you are at last. You sure took your time about it.”
Sure enough, Reisika could just make out the squat form behind her father’s tall frame. Slo bowed, almost falling flat on his face. “It was necessary, Lord Cinote. We returned as soon as we could.”
“Good, good,” Cinote turned his back to him and motioned him forward into the room. He stopped as he noticed Reisika still sitting at the table. “Reisika? I thought you’d gone off to bed.”
“I told you, Daddy, it’s only eight o’clock. Only grannies go to bed at this time.”
Cinote waved his hand. “Ridiculous. A child your age needs her sleep.”
Reisika sighed. “The only fourteen-year-old girls who go to bed at this time are invalids.”
Cinote waved his hand. “Off with you, now, I need to discuss important matters.”
She thought about arguing, but stopped, and walked out of the room. When the door had closed behind her, though, she stooped, peering through the key hole. What had Slo’s real mission been? If he had really been sent to check on that monster in the Tower, he wouldn’t have been back for another two weeks.
Cinote turned back to Slo. “Now, where’s that beast? I hope you made sure to secure her.”
Slo swallowed hard. “Um, my lord, I…we—”
“Yes?” Cinote turned back to him. “Well now, out with it. Where is she? In which of my dungeons did you put her?”
Slo fingered the paper in his hands. Cinote frowned. “Well? Where is she?”
“I don’t know, my lord.”
“What do you mean ‘I don’t know’?”
“She’s escaped from us, my lord. She used that wretched curse of hers, and slipped from our grasp.” The paper rattled as he tried to unfold it. “We did manage to find this, though. It—”
Cinote dashed the sheet from his hands. Reisika tried to make out the writing on it as it fluttered to the floor. “You idiots. What do I care for a scrap of garbage, when that creature roams free? You blockheads couldn’t even do something as simple as catch a child of fifteen.”
Escaped? A chill went around her neck, strangling her. He couldn’t mean…
“But, my lord, this paper might help—”
“Help what? Help to draw a map which you fools will get lost with? Help to plan the next scheme you idiots will bungle? The only use that paper has is for a death warrant to sever your fat head from your body.”
“But, my lord, I think you should see it.” He had retrieved the paper, and his hand shook as he held it out to Cinote. “I think it tells where she’s headed.”
Cinote snatched it from him. Reisika shoved her face against the wood, trying to see. It was a map of some sorts. A map of the continents, it looked like. Was Beolki circled?
Cinote folded the parchment with a chuckle. “Ah, so she thinks to escape, does she? She thinks she can just leave her sins behind her?”
He started to the door. Reisika scrambled to her feet and slipped around the corner. She peered back. Her father and Slo headed down the other hall, conversing in tones so low she couldn’t hear. Her heart pounding in her ears would have blocked out their words anyway.
The Form Changer had escaped.
Her brother’s murderer was free.
* * *That's the end of Chapter One 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 One Part Three will be available tomorrow.