I’ve been busy editing for the past few weeks, and I’m about a third of the way done. Here’s another excerpt from Chapter Seven, enjoy and tell me what you think!
A week passed in the same manner. Riding all day with only infrequent stops to rest that were all too brief, keeping wary eyes out for danger, and learning as much about each other as possible. Sometimes at night Salebeth would tell stories filled with wonderful and thrilling characters made even more fascinating because they were real: an Illusionist called Whistler, who could conjure up flights of fancy in the palm of his hand; the Horsemen of the far north warring with the Horsemen of the west; the great Snow Elf Isykel who knew the secret of creating a fire so cold it could freeze the air around it.
Sienna listened, enraptured. The stories sent thrills through her blood; the narrow escapes made her heart beat faster, the tragic loves lost brought tears to her eyes, the magic stirred excitement in the pit of her stomach.
One night, after one such story, as they sat around a campfire where they had stopped underneath a snow-covered overhang to sleep, Sienna sat and watched the flame’s reflection lick up the edge of Salebeth’s sword. He was sharpening it, but Sienna did not understand why – he had not used it, so how could it have gotten dull? She voiced her question, at the risk of appearing ignorant, and he smiled.
“Lack of use will dull a sword, although less quickly than if you used it in combat,” he explained, the fingers of his left hand wrapped around the handle and his other hand pointing the blade up toward the night sky. “Any blade needs a fresh edge every few days if you want to keep it battle-ready.”
“Oh.” Sienna shifted and glanced over at her saddle, lying on a rock that looked bald with no snow on top of it. Her saddlebags hung over the saddle, and though she could not see it from where she sat, she knew that her sword was among the other supplies. She had discovered not long after they had left Florenhaven that she and Alec had both been given one, as well as the small knives.
She had not even taken hers from its sheath.
It scared her to think that in this unpredictable world she might have to use it one day. But now, watching Salebeth make his ‘battle-ready,’ as he had said, it made her want to know how to use it should the occasion to do so arise.
She walked over to her saddle and shifted the saddlebags, pulling the sword and the hard leather sheath free. Gripping it tightly, she looked back at Salebeth, who was setting his own sheathed sword down again and watching her with his glittering green-and-blue eyes.
“Could you teach me to use this?” she asked, a strange sense of power rising in her as she held the weapon. It was heavier than she had expected. She felt like some heroine in an epic tale, except she knew she wasn’t. “I want to know how to defend myself,” she added in a somewhat nervous voice, feeling as if all eyes were on her and ridiculing her for asking.
But Salebeth smiled, looking eerily like a young man instead of an ancient, aged elf. “Certainly,” was all he said.
From behind a hand, Eristor muttered in a voice that was only half a sigh, “This will be entertaining, to say the least.”
Tylir, who was seated next to him, barked a laugh before cutting himself short. He leaned forward, pulling his cloak tighter as a wind picked up. He watched as Salebeth rose and moved away from the fire, motioning Sienna over next to him. He showed her the proper stance, and Tylir noted the look of fierce determination on Sienna’s face.
“She’s a pretty girl,” he said, turning to look over his shoulder at Eristor. “For a human,” he added jokingly. Eristor looked at him with an expression of incredulity, his lips shut, his eyelids halfway lowered. Tylir laughed and raised his hands in mock surrender. “I apologize,” he said. “I forgot that no human can compare to an elf in any way, shape, or form.”
“Remember that,” said Eristor, and for a moment the faintest of smiles lingered around the corners of his mouth before returning to a hard line.
Tylir heaved a pretend sigh, a glum look on his face. “I just hope that some day I may be able to achieve one-tenth of an elf’s glory.”
“In what area?” asked Kael, folding himself down beside Tylir, where he had moved to get closer to the fire. Thane stayed on the other side of the flames. “Because I’m afraid you’ll never be as good-looking as I am. Even Thane can’t compare to me.”
“He looks just like you,” said Tylir. “Just without braids.”
“No,” said Kael, grinning wolfishly at his twin. “We only look the same to untrained eyes. To each other, we look completely different.”
“I’m sure,” said Tylir. “I think she’s doing well, don’t you?”
“Who? Thane? Since when is my twin a ‘she’?” asked Kael, giving Tylir a startled look.
“Not him. Her.” He pointed toward Sienna, who was slowly bringing her sword up to meet Salebeth’s as he showed her, moving slowly, a demonstration of a block.
Kael shrugged, his fingers forming a snowball. “She looks very…”
“Determined?” asked Tylir after a moment’s hesitation on the elf’s part.
“I was going to say ‘frightening,’” said Kael. “But determined works just as well.”
Sienna had become so lost in her lesson that she did not realize that everyone really was watching her now. Not until Salebeth gave her a pleased smile and said “Very good! We can continue this tomorrow,” and sheathed his sword did she notice her own personal audience.
Alec clapped wildly and whistled as if she was a performer in a Broadway show and she flushed, but bowed quickly with a grin at her brother. A chill tingled up her spine as she caught a glimpse of Eristor out of the corner of her eye. The flames cast flickering shadows over him, and through his dark hair she saw his eyes, glittering as he watched her.
She could have sworn that they were as orange as the flames.