Hooray for Teaser Tuesday :D!
I always love reading these snippets on other writer's blogs, so here is your dose for today from LEGACY OF THE EMPRESS. Background: Astrid (our heroine) has just escaped her mother's castle after a decade of imprisonment. Aaaaaand, go!
The servant boy fidgeted as he approached the door. As always the shadows writhed before it, making a shield of darkness blocking the doorway to the tower. He drew breath slowly, feeling the panic tightening in his chest. It’s okay, Tim. You can do this. The old man doesn’t have a problem with it, so I shouldn’t either. He ran a hand nervously over his face, feeling the sweat beading on his brow.
I shouldn’t have goaded him. If I’d only kept my big mouth shut, I’d be down in the stables where I belong. He thought of the horses; their musty smell, their soft snorting breath on his face, the feel of the hay under his feet as he moved through the stables. Why did I have to tease him for being afraid? Stupid, Tim, stupid. Bloody magics give me the creeps.
He edged toward the doorway, feeling the hair on his arms stand up as he approached the shadows. Setting down the food tray, he fumbled in his woolen breeches for the key the queen gave him. It was a small piece of paper. He unfolded it with shaking fingers and held it up facing the shadows. He didn’t look at what was written on it. I don’t want to know, he thought turning his eyes away. I don’t want anything to do with these bloody magics. Slowly, the shadows at the bottom of the door began to thin, swirling to each side, like water running off stone. A small sliding door appeared through the darkness. Tim swallowed, his tongue scraping like sandpaper in his rapidly drying mouth. He moved forward and reached a trembling hand through the gap to slide the door open.
The old man said she screams like an evil spirit when you open the sliding door. He said she can possess you if you’re not careful. Have to be careful… I can’t listen to what she says…
He pressed one hand over his left ear and pressed his right to his shoulder. Thank goodness no one can see me. I probably look a fool. Still, he thought. You can’t be too careful.
He bent down and slowly slid the tray through the doorway, flinching as it bumped and scraped over the stone floor. The tray made it an inch through before it hit against something and stopped. He felt his tunic clinging to him with perspiration as he bent down to peek through the doorway. Bile rose in his throat as he hunkered down. Don’t listen, don’t listen, don’t listen. Oh, Light, what have I gotten myself into? Peering through the gap, he saw another tray blocking the way, a bowl of congealing stew sitting on it untouched. It hadn’t moved since the old man left it there the night before.
She didn’t eat. Oh damn, oh, damn. He sat down outside the door, his hands still over his ears, trying to think. Is that okay? Oh, damn…
He looked at the tray and heard the old man’s instructions echoing in his mind. “Put the new tray in, take the empty tray, don’t look into the room, and don’t listen to her lies. She’s an enchantress. Dangerous, boy. Do you understand?” He shuddered, although the air in the hallway was stiflingly warm. What if this is a trap? What if she wants me to look so she can… do something to me? He stared at the doorway and suddenly felt that it was looking back at him, taking the measure of him, testing his nerve.
Tim licked his lips and stared back at the gaping hole in the darkness. He closed his eyes, steeling himself. With a shaking hand, he slammed the tray and the bowl of oat gruel through the door, jerking his arm back to the safety of the hallway. The corridor was filled with the sound of bare feet pounding the flagstones as he ran for the safety of the stables. The darkness swirled closed behind him, encasing the doorway once more.
The boy returned that evening bearing another tray; stew again. He’d been mentally kicking himself all day for his cowardice. I’m letting that old man’s superstitions get the best of me. What can the girl do to me after all? She’s the one locked away. Helpless, isn’t she? He looked down the corridor at the door before him. Then again, why would her Majesty have taken such precautions if she were helpless? Maybe she is as mad as they say, he thought, biting his lip. Oh, there I go again, like a fool.
He approached the door, the stew slopping onto the tray as his hands shook. He held up the paper, showed it to the door, and watched with mounting tension as the darkness pulled slowly away. Can she hear me breathing? Can she sense that I’m afraid?
He moved forward and slowly slid the tray in through the space in the door. It bumped against something with a metallic clang. I can’t believe this. Why now, Princess? What are you doing? He felt his hands becoming moist and wiped them on his tunic. He bent down slowly, breathing heavily, and peered through the door into the forbidden space beyond. Two trays sat in the doorway with two bowls untouched.
The queen will kill me if something has happened to her. Oh, damn it all…
Working up his courage, he got down on his knees and slowly, ever so slowly, put his face down between the swirling shadows to peer into the tower room. Please don’t let there be a body. Tim scanned the room, his eyes lighting over the shelves of dusty books, the rumpled bed by the window, the chamber pot. The room was utterly still, except for a few flies flown up from the gardens to examine the remains of the stew. There was no body, no hand reaching for his throat, no screaming voice full of treachery and lies. No princess beyond the door.
I hope you enjoyed that sneak peak.
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