Development Diary #13: In The Rough

For today’s Development Diary, I’m changing it up a little bit. I usually don’t like to show my cards before they’re lined up for the win. But it's a new year. And, in the spirit of shaking off my need to wait until I feel that I’ve reached perfection, I’ve decided to share a scene from a book I’m drafting.

I must say that this is still the first draft of this scene, and it has yet to be revised and edited. Because of that, anything is subject to change, and, please, excuse any typos.

This scene may not even make the final draft, but I’m sharing it anyway because… well… Why not? I don’t think that this scene gives away too much of the story. There is, perhaps, a minor spoiler or two, but nothing that would significantly alter your experience of the story.

 

Without any further preamble:

 

Scene 31: “The Crown Sabre”

Gabriel snapped the collar of his dinner coat shut against the chill of the exterior passage. Spring had indeed come, but winter still breathed upon the night. His exit was hardly noticed among the hall’s talk. He’d caught the eye of one table who signaled for his approach, but he slipped by, pretending he’d not seen their invitation.

The rain fell in a chorus of light pelts, driving a song of various pitches between wood, metal and rock. The exact tones created reverberated harmonically in an even rainfall ― a phenomena intentionally designed to pleasantly caress the ear. In a rain like tonight’s, it sang discord.

He turned left, towards the bridge that crossed over the canal and separated this part of the palace from the primary keep. The canal flowed east from the river Drunn and split across the delta on which the Hzorah Crown sat. His hands dug deep into his shallow coat pockets and he walked briskly to keep his blood flowing warm.

Before he rounded the corner, he caught wind of one of their servers.  “...And then, right out of the dark, the soldier says the king is dead. At least that’s what Finnian said when –” The server cut his story short as Gabriel turned and crossed onto the bridge.

They both turned to face him, undoubtedly fearful that they’d been caught gossiping in the shadows during work hours. He didn’t stop to reprimand them. He really had no concern with what they did. Never once had he said anything to anyone who served at the palace. It wasn’t his place ― there were others who governed the palace staff ― and frankly, he didn’t much care. Their eyes shifted from fearful to apologetic to sympathetic all within the span of his passing. Gabriel picked up his pace.

The edging sunset across the western horizon cast long shadows over the Hzorah Crown. The city extended across the delta, spliced by canals both natural and constructed. By convenience of the Crown’s locale, the city played to the land, using the water as primary passages throughout.

A strong back and high endurance went far within the Crown. Taxis powering long canoes profited considerably during the warmer months and well into winter. Only the coldest of days froze the streams. Salters were always in high demand, too, for fishing for salt was as large a business as fish, if not larger. High Lord Roth acquired most of his wealth through Salting. When the canals didn’t need it, meat did.

Gabriel grimaced at the thought of the High Lords. Roth had softened as much as his father had. And between Lord Eddings’s ever-present concern with his finances and his wife’s covetous gawking, the entire experience had pushed him just short of shouting. Gabriel was far from physically exhausted. He’d left because he had exhausted his tolerance.

Lord Bendeth’s speech still rung in his ears. He’d said all the right things. In fact, Gabriel couldn’t have done a better job. It was exactly the kind of speech that should be given at a time like this. For some reason, though, the speech fell silent on the ears of the other High Lords. Gabriel was no fool. Something had happened tonight… he just couldn’t place what.

What he could place was the speech that he overheard afterwards. And what he heard were lies. Gabriel couldn’t imagine his father confiding in Lord Bendeth. While they were brother-in-laws, King Jeremiah rarely had anything good to say about Bendeth in private. His father would certainly not confide in him. Those who listened didn’t know this and they were gulping it down like fine ale.

He couldn’t deal with it ― with the looks, the whispers, the lies, the ignorance. It all ground at his well-being. This was how it was going to be. This was kingship. He spat.

The halls were silent within in the primary keep. A member of the palace staff zig-zagged far ahead with a thin torch, opening the small shafts in the hall’s columns and lighting the candles inside them. The design was said to be sleek, ingenious, and the first of its kind. Common rooms of new buildings and houses now used a similar construct to light their rooms. Gabriel walked briskly to keep the hall’s memories out of step, letting each light pass by like street wicks.

He took the same grand stairway up to his family’s private wing and stopped before the entry of his father’s study. The door sat open with the soft glow of fresh lit candles that sweated the scent of Hzorah pine. Gabriel thought for the briefest instant that he saw his father sitting behind the large wooden desk, hunched over a small stack of parchment. The illusion was cast by shadows and once he realized its true form ― the combination of a high-backed chair and a thick coat of bear hide ― he wished it would reform so that he could have that small spark of hope once more.

He crossed inside. The hearth against the western wall warmed the room, though there was no king to enjoy the luxury. It was a waste. The Crown’s staff stuck to such strict routine that even this continued senselessly. The room was lined with darkly stained birch. The shelves behind the desk held many objects: books, stacks of parchment, trinkets collected and passed from father to son. Most beautiful of all was the Crown’s sabre.

Gabriel rounded the desk and stood before the sword in its ruby red and silver plated sheath. He let his eyes brush over the slightly curved form and slip between the ridges of design and embossed ruins that wrapped the blade from tip to cross guard. The metal wound hilt was stained midnight black and extended to allow both single handed and double handed techniques.

The Crown’s sabre had belonged to his grandfather first and was forged by the most talented smiths of the era. It was shaped, balanced and hardened with fourth degree Hzorah steel ― the highest grade of steel in all the world. This was a weapon far beyond the common. A calibre above even that of most lords. This was the sword of a true warrior.

He reached out, first letting his hand wrap around the hilt and then his other lifted the blade from its stand. He stared at it, tightening his grip and preparing to let the blade breathe once more. Then he paused, remembering that last time he’d attempted to pull free the blade seven years past.

 

“Gabriel!”

Gabriel nearly dropped the sword as he spun to face his father. King Jeremiah stood with a frown creasing his face and the hearth casting him in a long shimmering shadow. Gabriel stood frozen with his muscles tight and ready to pull the sword free of its scabbard. In five quick strides, his father crossed to stand directly in front of him. His near giant form breathed heavily under the thin shirt he often wore to his chambers at night. He placed a proportionately large hand between Gabriel’s, grabbing the sabre in the middle.

Gabriel looked up into his father’s disapproving eyes. “Father… I…” He tried to form words but they wouldn’t form. “I…”

“I have told you not to touch this sword. Have I not?”

Gabriel cringed at the rhetorical question. His father knew the answer. He knew the answer. Why ask it? “Yes.”

“And why have I found you sneaking about, touching things you know well not to touch?”

Gabriel’s mouth simply hung open. He struggled to find an answer that his father would find acceptable, but there simply wasn’t one. He hated feeling trapped like this. Knowing that if he lied, it would most definitely be nonsense. If he answered honestly, his father would be displeased. And every time Gabriel looked like an imbecile ― just as he looked now ― with his mouth drying.

But he had asked him. He’d responded this way countless times before. It never smoothed things. The way his father looked, saying ‘I don’t know’ may not be good enough. He decided that he would take a chance with his real reasoning. “Because I want to learn to fight.”

King Jeremiah raised an eyebrow at the response then lifted the sabre from Gabriel’s hands. “You are never to touch this sword, Gabriel.” He placed the Crown sabre back on the stand.

Gabriel hung his head, ashamed at his actions as his father crossed the room. He heard a wall panel slide open and he lifted his head. His father turned back around, his hands clutching another sword. It was near the same as the Crown sabre, save length.

King Jeremiah crossed back and stood before him. “You will meet me at the south garden tomorrow morning before the sun rises. And you will bring this with you. Is that understood?”

Gabriel stared at the sword, how delicately wound the hilt was and the intricate embossing that snaked around it’s sheaf. It was a beautiful sabre. He couldn’t be serious. “Father… What… I…”

The king gestured with the sword for Gabriel to take it. He reached out with caution, still half expecting his father to pull it back at the last moment and have a laugh at his belief in an obvious joke. When he took hold of it, his father let go then turned and headed for the study’s exit. He stopped just before the entry and turned back.

“You best get some sleep, Son. Tomorrow will be a long day.”

 

“Gabriel?”

Gabriel spun to Samuel’s intrusion on his musing. He turned back and placed the sword on the stand before facing his tutor. Samuel glided into the room, ignoring the fact that Gabriel had been snooping in his father’s study. He pulled a long iron spike from under the hearth and shuffled the logs, redoubling the flame.

“No need to be so jumpy, Gabriel.” He said as he replaced the iron and turned to face him again. “All of this is yours now. Yesterday I might have reminded you that you should not be in here. But today… Well, today everything is changed.” Samuel appraised him for a moment before leaning back against the study wall. “This must be all very confusing for you.”

Gabriel ignored the lead. “Did the High Lords mourn my early departure? Did Bendeth comfort them with fake stories of how Father cried on his shoulder?”

“Bendeth delivered quite the performance,” Samuel said. “but I fear there is more than good will fueling his intentions. Bendeth has played his card for the Crown. His tongue speaks easy, but is slick with acid. He does this knowing you are far too inexperienced to see a play even when it is done right before your eyes.”

Gabriel frowned as the image of unsettled Lords passed over his mind’s eye once more. Then he smirked. “Bendeth can’t hold a sword to me. I don’t think he’s lifted one since youth. He’s weak. I don’t think I have to worry about him.”

“There are battles that are won without ever lifting a sword,” Samuel said.

“How about I grab a sword and you make a speech, and then we’ll decide who wins,” Gabriel scoffed.

Samuel frowned at him. “You miss my point.”

“I caught your point. Be careful of Bendeth.”

“This is a dangerous game you find yourself in, Gabriel.” He let his feet take his weight from the wall. “You must not let your words flow without careful assessment. All that you do and say will be scrutinized. This will not be the same life you lived the day before.”

“I hardly consider molasses-paced litigation and tea parties dangerous, Samuel.” Gabriel smirked. “Drawing bath requires more tact. What will they do? Talk me to death?”

“You, yourself, said that you foresee a knife in your back.”

“Not from Bendeth. Lady Eddings, however…” Gabriel chuckled. “I’d bet she’d live here as a Runner if someone asked her.”

“Well,” Samuel began, unamused. “no matter who, you must practice caution. We will wait for your father’s advisor to arrive before we make any moves. It is imperative that we not make any rash decisions.”

As Samuel waited for his agreement, Gabriel wondered what he meant by we. Samuel wasn’t the one who had to make any of these decisions. “Prophet Davin? I was thinking he might be the first to go once I’m king.”

“He is a trusted advisor,” Samuel said. “You would benefit from his skill.”

“I don’t need to tell you how the people of the Crown feel about magic, Samuel. And I don’t trust it either.”

“Prophets don’t cast spells.”

“May as well,” Gabriel snapped. “And with Prophet Tristan threatening us? How do you think it looks that I have my own Prophet whispering in my ear?”

“Prophet Davin is a good man. He has done a lot for the Crown.”

“And how did his skill prevent Father from dying?”

“You presume to accuse him for your father’s death?” Samuel asked.

“I presume that he didn’t prevent it,” Gabriel returned.

Samuel sighed and rubbed his forehead. “Please Gabriel, don’t be foolish. Do not allow your new authority to lead you to haughtiness. We can help you.”

Haughtiness? Gabriel frowned. He didn’t remember asking to become king and he couldn’t recall anyone asking him who he’d like his advisors to be. He felt rage tasting the air, but decided to sidestep its hunger. “Goodnight, Samuel.” He stepped past him and headed for the entryway.

“Please be on time tomorrow, Gabriel!” his tutor called from behind.

Gabriel waved his assurances.

 

What About You?

I hope you enjoyed this small sample of my upcoming novel. If you did, you’ll really enjoy the whole thing. Especially if you’re a fan of authors like Robert Jordan, Terry Brooks, and Brandon Sanderson.

I’d love to let you know when the book is ready. And, really, I’d love to send it to you for free!

If you’d like to grab this novel when it’s ready for you, click the button below and I’ll make sure you get it.

In fact, you’ll be getting all of my books for free because you jumped in early! You can’t lose :)

Also, I’d love to know what you think of the scene. Feel free to leave a comment below and let me know what you think!