Happy Valentine’s Day!

After blogging about Egypt, I felt like I needed something a little more light-hearted. So I decided to partake in the Romance Blogfest, put on by Jordan McCollum. Her instructions are as follows:

The theme is Love at first sight . . . or not so much. Post a first meeting between two characters who will fall for each other (even if it doesn’t look like they will at the time!).

You may write a new scene on the topic, OR you may post a scene from your WIP.

So for the first time ever, I shall post an excerpt from my 15-months-in-progress novel on the blog. It’s not strictly a meeting, but it’s the first time the female protagonist lays eyes on the male protagonist, and yes, they do eventually fall in love– it’s complicated, of course, but such is the nature of love.

But it’s definitely not love at first sight. The initial emotions are, shall we say, somewhat more acrimonious.

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Iliya stood on the roof of a building just outside the castle walls, blending into the crowd. She chuckled to herself. The Emissary would probably not be pleased that she was up here, even though several other people were sitting there casually, including two other women. A bunch of kids were sitting in a row across the front, dangling their feet off the edge, and yelling happily at the crowd that stretched out below them, lining the street. There were thousands of people here; she hadn’t known there were this many people in all of the Ama’s City, but they had come, seemingly out of nowhere, to be here today.

She had tied her hair back into a simple ponytail, so she looked more like one of the villagers instead of a servant of a high-ranking official. She also wore a pair of pants instead of her usual robe. Since there was no business in the castle for which she needed to follow the Emissary around today, she fully intended to enjoy her free time.

Someone taped on her shoulder, and Iliya turned and grinned. “‘Bout time you showed up.”

Erysa stood next to her. “Fahru said to blend in,” she whispered. “The roof is blending in?”

Iliya shrugged. “Hey, I’m blending in.” She gestured to the people surrounding her. “Besides, this is my day off. He can’t order me around today.”

Erysa had also dressed in pants and a shirt, and she chuckled. “Fair enough.” She sat down, leaning her elbow on the slanted roof. “We can blend in together, like a couple of Skylands peasants.”

Iliya sat down next to her. “The atmosphere here is quite a change from when we first got here, isn’t it?”

Erysa nodded. “I don’t see any signs of the Fatigue anywhere. Everyone’s healthy, and happy, smiling and laughing…” she grimaced. “If we were somewhere else, I might join them, instead of wishing for their kingdom to burn.”

Iliya nodded. The mood of the people reminded her of the Spring Rites back home in Elairyn, when the end of the winter storms and the bursting forth of new life was celebrated. Not only did the whole city celebrate, but many of the merchants from the Outer Reaches sailed in with their families to partake as well. The Spring Rites had been the last thing they did in Elairyn before leaving for the Skylands, and for a moment, a pang of homesickness gripped her.

“Look,” Erysa snapped Iliya out of her daydream, and stood up. “Is that them?”

Iliya stood and squinted in the direction her sister was pointing. Far beyond the village, near where the mountain slope turned more gradual as it joined the grassy steppes, she could see a cloud of dust being kicked up by a long line of horses. “Looks like it,” she said. “They’re a ways off. I’d say they’re still a couple miles away.”

One of the kids noticed where she was looking and followed her gaze. Both she and her sister had great eyesight, but the kids’ were almost as good, and the boy jumped up in excitement, barely preventing himself from sliding down the roof. “It’s Satoro!”

Excited murmurs ran across the crowd.

“Where?”

“Where are they?”

“I can see them, on the other side of the village!”

“Are they almost here?”

The excited yelling slowly died down to a steady murmur as people realized that the approaching soldiers were still a ways off. As the soldiers got closer, the path took a curve and she lost track of them, her view blocked by a grove of trees at the edge of the village. After fifteen or twenty minutes, the crowd had mostly grown silent but an excited, nervous energy ran through it that she could feel, and in the distance, she heard the crowd erupt in cheers. The cheering continued and got louder, and then she saw them. Rounding a corner was a procession of soldiers in full battle armor, banners flying tall from their polearms, which they hoisted high into the air. Their armor was painted in black and dark reds, with intricately detailed carvings and workmanship, as was the usual custom for Skylands mages. In front was a man riding a magnificent brown horse, which lifted its hooves high with every step and kept its head raised up, as if it knew it was carrying one of the most important people in the Skylands. The horse’s rider wore a helmet with large, fearsome horns and an ugly mask, and he nodded from side to side at the people he passed. He wielded a sword which he held high, waving it slowly over the heads of the crowd.

So this was the famed Satoro Kei. Iliya felt a fierce anger rise up within her at the sight. Maybe it was the casual arrogance as he rode on his horse and soaked in the cheers of the crowd; maybe it was the sight of the Skylands banners flying high in the air. In her mind, her memory flashed back to that night when her city burned, when another Skylands mage stood over her, sneering at her dismissively: “get out of Elairyn, girl.” She clenched her fist. She hadn’t gotten out of Elairyn; instead, Elairyn had won that battle, and now it had successfully placed assassins in the very beating heart of Sky.

She felt a strong grip on her hand, and looked down. Erysa was also staring at the procession, with the same dark look on her face. Iliya gripped her sister’s hand. She knew they would probably be conspicuous, as the only two people not cheering, but she didn’t care. She wanted to take her father’s sword and slam it through his face mask, the way she had done to the mage who killed her father.

Behind Satoro, armored warriors tromped down the path, two by two. There were sixteen of them in total, a surprisingly small force. Iliya wondered if she and her sister could take them all. Probably, given the element of surprise.

At the foot of the castle steps the procession stopped, and Iliya saw the stablemaster, Jiro, step forward and take the reins. Satoro bent his head and took off his helmet, revealing a young, smiling man with shaggy brown hair. He slapped Jiro on the shoulder and grinned, talking to him for several seconds as the rest of his soldiers rode up. Iliya was amazed at how young he looked; she had pictured Satoro as an older man, possibly with a goatee and an evil gleam in his eye. This didn’t fit her picture at all. As he handed off his helmet to a nearby servant, several kids from the crowd darted up to him, and he knelt down, gathering as many as he could up in a group hug. She spotted Kaena among them, and Satoro tussled her hair as he walked up the steps. He waved at a friend in the crowd, stopping several times to say hi, then at the top of the steps, he turned, and waved his arms one last time, causing the crowd to erupt with a massive cheer.

“For the Skylands!” he cried, and Iliya winced as the resounding cry echoed from the entire crowd.

“FOR THE SKYLANDS!”

The only thing keeping her from jumping off the balcony and killing Satoro right then was her death grip on Erysa’s hand. When Iliya finally released her fingers, it took her a few minutes to shake feeling back into them.

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Ahh, can’t you just feel the romance in the air?

Here’s hoping you have a happy Valentine’s Day, preferably uncontaminated by murderous rage.

11 thoughts on “Happy Valentine’s Day!

  1. I don’t understand all the nuances but the scene is interesting and I’m intrigued by the questions that are being evoked. Very nice… thanks for participating in the blogfest, Andrew.

  2. Pingback: Romance Blogfest is on! » Jordan McCollum

  3. Pingback: MyNoWriMo « Off the Written Path

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