I’m taking a two-week internet hiatus, starting tomorrow. It’s a good time to sit back, relax, and focus on getting This Mortal Coil and Paper Crowns finished before NaNoWriMo strikes. I’ll still send out chapters, but that’s about it. I’m going to miss you guys. So, before I leave, I thought I’d give you some more snippets from Paper Crowns since you never seem averse to the idea. Have an awesome two weeks and enjoy autumn!!
“How could you?” I hissed through my teeth as I descended, careful not to slip on the ice coating each step. “You snake.”
“I told you.” He pushed the back of my head forward to make me go faster, which I did. “I’m a backstabbing traitor. I practically threw hints at you, you may have noticed.”
“What you said, about wanting Maven back in the winter kingdom. Did you mean that?”
“This is the winter kingdom now,” he said.
“You’re awful,” I said. “You’re worse than awful. You’re evil.”
His laugh cracked the silence, like someone had broken through a frozen pond. “I,” he said, “am nothing. I am frozen water wysered to look real, to fool a blind, orphaned girl.”
“But – but you were rude,” I said, clutching at anything I could. “You had your own personality. You let me borrow your coat.”
“The queen wanted you to execute you publicly as a scheming traitor,” he said, “not an overgrown ice cube.”
“SALAZAR THINKS THIS IS A GOOD IDEA.”
I almost fainted.
A tiny flame appeared out of nowhere and hovered in front of my face. “Salazar,” I gasped. “How did you get here? Where were you?”
“SALAZAR JUMPED IN YOUR POCKET. THERE WAS NO OTHER WAY.”
“I wish I could hug you,” I said.
“SALAZAR DOES NOT NEED HUGS,” he said, but pink streaks shot through his orangey-red body.
“Hold your horses, Aster, I’m coming,” sang a childish voice. I peered over Asterope’s fingers and saw the little girl from the crowd picking her way through the snow. It came up nearly to her waist, and she was displaying several pairs of frilly petticoats underneath.
“Really, you couldn’t have picked a better disguise?” asked Asterope, his voice a tangled mixture of amusement and disbelief.
“Well, I could have,” said the little girl, stopping a few feet away and letting out a loud sigh, “I just didn’t want to.”
“Change into yourself, would you?” Asterope kicked some snow toward her. “You’re making my eyes hurt.”
“If you insist.” There was a faint crinkling sound, like someone tearing wrapping paper off a Christmas present, and Azrael stood there, complete with glower. “That’s her, right?”
Asterope placed his other hand a few inches above me. “This is her royal highness, yes.”
“Hey, Ginny,” said Azrael.
“I hope your heart still works,” I said weakly.
“It was a total failure,” he said, “but it looks nice on the mantle.
I felt something crumby being put in my mouth, and before I could think about it, I swallowed.
“That should put her straight,” Badger’s voice boomed.
Half a second later, I shot up hacking and coughing so violently I thought my bones would break through my skin.
“You didn’t have to give her that much,” said Azrael, his arms folded and his face scowling. He seemed forever stuck that way, I thought as I tried not to suffocate.
“It was only a crumb!”
“People don’t choke on crumbs. But I guess it your stuff is an exception.”
“Spoken like someone with no concept of culinary art.”
“I don’t think verily muffins and pop-darts count as art.”
Pop-darts? I didn’t want to know. “I’m awake,” I said. “Now stop arguing.”
Or rather, that’s what I meant to say.
What I actually said was, “Iarrgh, nossparrging.”
“Oh good,” said Asterope, “she’s awake.”
He tapped his pocket and Salazar jumped out, a curious shade of yellow.
“SALAZAR IS SUFFOCATING!” He twisted in several circles, flashing through shades of orange and red and more yellow with occasional shots of blue. “SUFFOCATING!”
“You look all right to me,” I said.
He grew until he was taller than Asterope and almost as humanoid. “OF COURSE SALAZAR IS ALL RIGHT,” he crackled, sounding miffed.
“What is this place?” I asked, standing with a face numb with cold and an extremely warm back. Salazar tried to help by putting his hand in front of my face, but he startled me so much that I yelped and he pulled it back as quick as he could.
“Just a place,” said Azrael, watching through narrowed eyes as Badger tried to open the front door.
“It’s stuck,” said Badger.
“Good gracious, no,” said Azrael, inspecting his fingernails. “What ever will we do?”
“SALAZAR COULD BURN IT DOWN,” the elemental offered.
Azrael glared at him over his shoulder and Badger called, “Don’t worry! Nothing a little elbow grease can’t fix!” He took several steps back and ran at the door, knocking into it with the full weight of his shoulder.
The door refused to budge, and the baker went sprawling on the doorstep.
Azrael huffed. “I’ll do it,” he said, glancing at the door. He tossed his head and the door swung open, frozen hinges.
“I loosened it,” Badger grunted, climbing heavily to his feet and rubbing his arm.
“It’s not much, but it’s home,” said Badger, glancing toward the cauldron and sighing. “For now, at least.”
“Try baking something in that,” said Azrael, jerking his head toward the cauldron. “I dare you.”
“I see ‘eye of newt’ already,” I told Salazar.
“SOUNDS GROSS,” he said. “SALAZAR PREFERS WOOD. TAPESTRIES ARE ALSO ACCEPTABLE.”
“Is there anything for Salazar to burn?” I asked.
“There’s probably a very damp woodpile out back,” Azrael said, without offering to get any.
Badger whacked his meaty hand across the wysling’s chest, eliciting an ‘Oomph!’ before winking at me. “Don’t worry, princess; I’ll get it for you! Lazy lump,” he added in Azrael’s direction as he walked out the door.
“Am not,” said Azrael, tapping his fingers against his thigh.
“If you’re so opposed to being here, then why are you?” I asked him.
“I was asked,” he said.
“None of your business.”
“I hate to sound prideful, but this entire adventure revolves around me,” I pointed out. “I think that makes it my business.”
“Can’t tell you yet,” said Azrael. “The idiot seemed to trust me, and I hate to disappoint people.” He scratched the sleeve of his rock band tee shirt.
“Hey, wysling, care to start a fire?” Badger asked.
“Salazar can do it,” Azrael muttered.
“Lazy toad,” said Badger.
“I’m not lazy!” Azrael howled. “Making a Rend takes energy, all right? I’m tired!”
I grabbed his arm and said in what I hoped was a soothing voice, “Why don’t you lie down, then?”
Still muttering, he crossed the room and flopped down across the threadbare couch. A cloud of dust rose around it and sent Salazar and myself into a fit of coughing, but Azrael began to snore almost immediately.
I hope you enjoyed the snippets! Have a fantastic two weeks!