For your reading enjoyment today, I thought I would share a fun scene from my in-progress novella Thorn and Thistle. For those who haven’t read the first excerpt from this story, I highly suggest doing so before reading today’s entry since this is the sequel to that one. Have fun!
“You’re late,” a quiet voice said.
Thorn jumped and then glowered at the shadows to his left. “How can I be punctual when you choose to be early, Ebenezer?”
The gray-haired wizard motioned the younger man to his side. “Emperor Sung raised the bounty; he now offers 20 rubes for your head on a pike.”
The captain hefted the mercenary’s bulging coin purse in his hand. “How thoughtful of him! He must have known I was feeling unimportant,” he mocked.
“Be careful, Sea Wolf; he will start sending Ashara hunting parties after you next.”
“And what makes you think he didn’t already?” Thorn asked sourly, looking down at his ruined raiment.
“How did you escape then?”
“A couple of concealment magic tricks you once showed me took care of the first. Snapdragon powder got the second and a knife to the singer dropped the third. Look, can we talk in a cozier spot? The Panthea City Watch will notice those bodies at any moment and I don’t fancy being around when they start asking pointed questions.”
Ebenezer nodded and then firmly gripped Thorn’s hand. With the old man’s muttered incantation, a gust of wind wrapped around the pair and flung them onto the nearest rooftop. They raced their way across the tiles with the wind magic assisting their strides and leaps. Thorn had to give the wizard credit; he had no idea how such a fossil could still be so spry.
Neither of the pair dared slow their pace until they were safe inside Ebenezer’s home within the Enchanters’ Guild district. The wizard lived above his apothecary shop and training house close to Panthea’s main waterfront. Although the furnishings were sparse, Thorn knew better than to doubt either the old man’s instructive skill or the wealth he had accrued from teaching his numerous students. Ebenezer had never put much faith in material possessions and so much of his wealth had ended up distributed to the poor—including, at one time, into Thorn’s own cold, chapped hands. The only true luxury that the wizard had ever invested in was the ornate iron bathtub that sat in the corner of his kitchen near the cooking hearth.
“Off with your clothes then, Thornton, so I can draw a nettle-soak for you,” Ebenezer said in a businesslike tone as he threw herbs into a large black kettle and then gestured for the man to follow him downstairs. Thorn helped Ebenezer fill the great iron tub with buckets of cool water from one of the rain barrels downstairs and then sat in a chair and stripped out of his high black boots, mud-spattered pants, and sweaty stockings while the old man set the kettle to boil in the fireplace hearth. The captain dropped his clothes into the nearby washtub to soak in a soapberry wash and then regrettably tossed his ripped and bloody shirt into the fire.
Thorn watched his mentor prepare the iron tub with the steaming kettle of herb-imbued water and then add his signature healing chant for extra remedial strength. The man cringed at the prospect of being dipped in the essence of stinging nettles, but obediently thrust himself into the familiar liquid nonetheless. The bath would not only ease his many aches, but it would also help disinfect his wounds. He’d gained two deep gashes during the bout with the mercenaries and, now that his nerves were relatively calm in the safety of Ebenezer’s home, Thorn could feel every new throb of his injuries acutely.
The wizard handed him a wash rag and then fit the modesty panel back on top of the tub to help hold in the water’s warmth while the younger man bathed.
“So…who is this young magician you want me to protect?” Thorn asked after settling into his current pungent torture.
“Oh, of course, I should introduce you,” the old tutor said and quickly strode to the guest quarters door. He knocked once and it opened almost immediately from the other side.
“Come now and meet your knight protector.”
“I think rogue protector is more appropriate,” Thorn muttered. He thought about standing to formally greet the new arrival and then, upon seeing just who and what the newcomer was, he quickly sank as low into the reeking water as possible.
“Captain Thornton Tobias Tarok may I present the Lady Zana Cynara,” Ebenezer almost purred with smug satisfaction.
Never in his life was Thorn more grateful for a bathtub modesty panel than at this moment. He would dearly enjoy repaying the old man for this supreme embarrassment! Although he had been naked around females a time or two before—mostly in the public baths of Poulapaus—this was not his preferred method to meet a woman.
Doing his best to keep a sincere smile despite the extreme awkwardness of the situation, Thorn extended his hand for hers. “My Lady,” he said formally.
To her credit, the dryad did not blush when the bathtub-trapped man kissed her hand. Instead she simply inclined her head toward him. “Captain Tarok.”
Thorn and Thistle currently stands at 28,350 words (about 103 pages) and is the first novella in the Tempest Maiden series. I plan to continue writing it as soon as I finish the rough drafts of four upcoming short stories. As always, I’ll keep you posted on my progress.
Until next time, may we each rewrite our world for the better!
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