It’s been a while since I posted an excerpt for #SampleSunday. But seeing as Glimmer Vale hit the electronic shelves yesterday, this seemed an appropriate occasion to change that. So without further ado, here’s an amusing scene that I thoroughly enjoyed writing:
“You’re one of them two newcomers, the ones who brought the thief in this evening, right?” The man sitting next to him had turned to look at him, and addressed him in a tone of friendly curiosity.
“Sure am. Julian.” He held out his hand and received a good firm handshake in response.
“Horace. Damn good to meet you, boy. ‘Bout time someone did something about them scumbags.”
“It’s wasn’t much, really. Just defending ourselves is all.”
Horace snorted. “Way I hear tell, you two boys fought off a dozen of them bandits without taking a scratch. Don’t sound like nothing to me.”
Julian looked incredulously at him for a moment, then burst out laughing. “First of all, there were six. Secondly,” he gestured toward his thigh, then held up his bandaged right hand and pointed to his nose, “I took more than a couple scratches. Now, my friend over there,” he nodded in Raedrick’s direction, “he got off without a hitch. But I had the tougher task in that fight.”
Horace snorted again. “Well, whatever. Point is, you boys did real good, and I’m proud to know you.”
“Thanks, Horace. I appreciate that.”
The bartender finally made it over to Julian, and he ordered another tankard of mulled wine. But when the bartender brought the drink, Horace spoke up again.
“I’m paying for that, Rolf. In fact, this boy and his friend don’t pay for another drink tonight, understand? It’s on me.”
Rolf looked quizzically at Horace, then shrugged. “However you want to play it, Horace. I’ll put it on your tab.”
“That’s really not necessary…” Julian began, but Horace waved him to silence.
“The hell it ain’t. You boys did us a public service today. Least I can do is buy you a couple drinks.”
Julian realized arguing any further would be futile. Besides, who was he to pass up free drinks, especially if they were for doing something that really wasn’t anything special at all. Smiling, he raised his tankard to Horace and said, “In that case, thank you, kind sir. I…”
A movement at the other end of the room drew Julian’s eye, and he lost track of what he was about to say. The woman descending the stairs from the second floor was hard to miss. Long wavy black hair, a perfectly hourglass-shaped figure, and a pretty face, she would have stood out anywhere. But here, the fine fabric of her dress and the glitter of precious metal and gems reflecting the firelight from her wrists, ears, and neck stood out and marked her as a lady of means. Julian couldn’t help but stare.
Horace noticed, of course, and followed Julian’s gaze with his own. Then he burst out laughing.
“Forget about it, boy. That girl ain’t got no interest in the likes of you and me.”
“Is that so. What makes you say that?”
Horace looked at him as though he was daft. “Well look at her!”
Rolling his eyes, Julian returned Horace’s gaze with one of incredulity. “That’s it?” he asked, and realized that he had just let a healthy dose of annoyance slip through into the tone he was using to address the man who was buying his drinks. He cleared his throat and looked away. But if Horace was put out or offended, it didn’t show in his demeanor or in how he treated the question.
“A well set-up lass like her probably comes from nobility, has a rich husband, or is looking for one. That’s it.”
The woman walked, or rather flowed, over to an empty table near one of the fireplaces and sat down. Julian noted with interest that she sat with her back to the wall. She was a careful one, or so it seemed. She had barely settled into her chair when a server hurried over. They exchanged quick words then, making a slight curtsy, the server made her way quickly back to the bar.
“Let’s see if your theory is true,” Julian said to Horace. Then he stood and moved over to where the server stood waiting for the woman’s drink.
Horace chuckled. “Your funeral, boy.”
Julian reached the server as she was reaching for the drink. Moving quickly, he got his hand in ahead of her and snatched it up then tossed a few coins onto the bar.
“I’ve got this one, thanks,” Julian said over his shoulder as he moved away from the bar. The mixture of chagrin and bemusement on the server’s face was classic.
He reached the woman’s table quickly, only having to pause once to avoid being run over by a large drunk fellow on his way to the privy. She was reading from a small leather-bound book as he approached. From a distance, she looked attractive. Close up, she was gorgeous. Stunning, even. Suddenly struck by a big case of nerves, Julian almost turned around and went back to Horace at the bar.
None of that.
Taking a deep breath, Julian squared his shoulders and strode the last few paces to the woman’s table.
“Your drink, my lady,” he said as he placed her glass onto the table in front of her.
The woman didn’t look up. She just murmured, “Thank you,” and held out a coin. A silver coin. Again, Julian was tempted to just walk away, after pocketing the money, of course. Instead, he sat down in an empty chair at her table.
“No need for that. I covered this one.”
She looked up from her book and frowned. Julian moved ahead before she could say anything.
“I’m Julian Hinderbrook. And your name is…?” He put on his most charming smile as he spoke, the one that normally made the maidens swoon.
“None of your business.” She inserted a place mark, snapped her book shut, and cast it down on the table with an expression of disgust. “It’s bad enough I’m stranded in this flyspeck of a town in the middle of nowhere. I don’t need to be accosted by every bumpkin in the place. Thank you for the drink. Now, off with you.” She made a shooing gesture that carried entire levels of contemptuous dismissal.
Julian had to force his smile not to compress into a scowl. Why that conceited little… “I’m no bumpkin.” He knew his tone was frosty, but he couldn’t help it and, frankly, she deserved it.
The woman rolled her eyes. “Yes, of course. How could I have missed it? You’re a cultural minister from Tyrash.” Sarcasm dripped from her words. It didn’t help that Julian had no idea where Tyrash was. All of a sudden he felt stupid, and from her expression he looked the part, too. She shook her head slightly then picked up her book again and opened it up to her place. Making another shooing gesture, she began to read again.
A lesser man would have departed at this point. Julian decided to make one last attempt.
“Look, I’m just trying to be friendly here. I…”
As he began speaking, the woman looked up at him through narrowed eyes that sparkled with irritation. She cupped her hand in front of her mouth as though she was going to blow him a kiss. But when she blew out, instead of a kiss a plume of flame leapt out toward him.
Julian shouted a curse and pushed himself backwards, his hands flying upwards to protect his face. He leaned way back and his chair teetered for a moment, then fell over onto the ground, taking him with it. The flame burned out very quickly; it didn’t even reach his position where he had been sitting. But the flash of heat was real. Very real. Julian lay there on the floor for a moment, stunned.
A sudden silence descended on the taproom as Julian pushed himself up to his feet. Every eye was fixed on him and the woman. His face warm with embarrassment and from the brief heat from the flame, he fixed the woman with a glare as he brushed himself off. Then he turned and walked away. From the corner of his eye, he saw her give a mocking little wave as he left. He did not look back.
Horace looked as stunned as Julian felt when he returned to the bar. All the same, he managed a smirk as he said, “Told you so.”
Glimmer Vale, a fun fantasy adventure. Available in ebook NOW!