Tempered by Fear – A sample from the novel
One with the shadows, the assassin padded in pursuit of his prey. Beneath Zendar’s two mis-matched moons, the heavy air muffled the scurrying sounds of night creatures as they burrowed and slithered from his path. Everywhere pointed leaves cast fitful shadows that tumbled on the green mist as the Suru, a dark hooded specter trained to stealth, screened his aura so that the girl ahead was unaware of his passage. As a withered water-lizard slunk grudgingly out of his path, the assassin melted to the ground. His cold blue eyes assessed the moon-dappled lichen and rock ahead then he crept through the roiling mist, skirting the gnarled roots of an aged reed tree. Now he could see the pale shine of moonlight on the young woman’s hair. He tightened the distance between them.
Ahead, the light evening cloak chased behind Dreanna as she moved in nervous haste towards the timbered building. Through the smith shop windows, the hearth cast an amber glow into the night. The throbbing drone of bark bugs filled the cooling air as she hesitated at the door, gathered her nerve and gently eased the latch free. She slipped inside to the sound of thudding blows.
Outside, the green-clad assassin disappeared into the darkness beneath an open window.
Dreanna pursed her lips and anxiously twisted the black plait of hair that hung over her shoulder. The young face was strong, but the luminous brown eyes were marred with doubt. Her hand wrapped around the polished stone of the neck pendant that had been her mother’s. She took a deep breath and closed her eyes, the sadness weakening the wall she had erected to hide her aura from her father. Quickly she strengthened it. She wanted to watch him, gauge his mood before making her request. Dreanna opened her eyes and looked across the dimly lit room.
Timbered walls and heavy ceiling beams made the smith shop appear smaller than it actually was. The rounded, raised hearth and anvil sat in the center of the hardened dirt floor surrounded by storage trays and shelves on all four walls. Flickering reed torches coaxed shadows into a gentle dance.
A sheen of perspiration covered her father who, clad in knee-length breeches and his worn smith’s vest, worked at the hearth. Self-consciously her eyes lingered on the muscled shoulders, slid down the brown back to the sweat-stained waistband. She saw the jump and roll of his lean muscles as he effortlessly raised the hammer overhead. It swept down smoothly, bounced once then seemed to leap up over his shoulder again. It hurtled down, time after time, creating the rhythm that Dreanna knew so well from childhood. She saw the motion of his legs, felt the pulsing beat in the air, and knew it was good. She inhaled another deep breath and drew herself to her full height.
“Father. It’s time that someone teaches me how to make love.”