So earlier this week I posted on Facebook asking who you’d want to hear about in an excerpt from Chapter 7: Bellora or Niquel? After a few cries of “All of the above!”, it settled out at three votes for Niquel and one for Bellora. So Ptyverias it is then!
Haha, just kidding. I will admit, I’m a little bummed nobody wanted to hear from Bellora, because her scene so far was f**king intense. But you asked, and I’ll deliver!
MODERATE SPOILERS AHEAD for those who aren’t caught up:
Chapter 6 leaves off with Niquel’s poorly thought out ruse to pretend she doesn’t speak Novamnean or Trade Common blowing away on the wind when she wakes up in a panic after a nightmare only to shout at Raothan (who shouldn’t have been sleeping beside her anyway) to get off of her. The jig is up, lady! Now what?
Well here’s a peek for you. I tried to keep it interesting without giving too much away.
I’m 8,939 words into Chapter 7 right now (that’s three full Lit pages, about to spill over into four), with three and a half scenes to go, so I’m guessing that will add at least another five or six thousand words. Guess I better get back to it!
OK, enough talk. Excerpt time:
An Emperor for the Eclipse, Chapter 7, Excerpt:
One indefinable moment had seen her fleeing grasping hands amid a void of hissing, giggling darkness, the next found her waking in a strange man’s arms, nestled into a warm bed of opulence. What other reaction could there have been, but for Niquel to leap out of bed and cry out?
A wiser reaction, for a start.
She hadn’t been awake enough yet to remember with any clarity the events of the night before, aside from the fact that she should have been sleeping alone. And now here was this man—the Emperor—accusing her with those amber eyes from where he sat, still bound up in the linens.
“I knew it! You even looked me in the eye back on the steps when I asked you. How did I not see? You understood me the whole time!”
His gestures grew vehement and Niquel did what she always did when others became excitable: she went quiet and still. A chill on the air to counteract the flames.
“Well?” he said, not the least bit patient with her silence. “What do you have to say for yourself? Why did you lie to me?”
It was her fervent wish at that moment to be able to talk to Vodi. Like many other things, however, there was nothing to be done for it. Niquel decided to admit her shame. More for her fear than for the lie. Though that, too, made her feel low. Because of her ill-considered ploy, the man had confessed truths he otherwise might not have. At least one of them made her fight down another flush of color.
“I was afraid,” she said, lowering aggressive hands from her hips to hang at her sides. “I have never encountered a situation of this nature. My fear caused me to stop thinking. And to choose poorly. His Grace has my apology.”
Niquel dropped eye contact at this, pleased at least that she’d remembered the use of the honorific as Ellestia had warned. It would be foolish to upset the man further.
The moment stretched out in the brightening blue of early morning as she examined her feet and the stone of the floor beneath them, the two nearly the same color. Then she heard him clear his throat.
“Look. Out of all the people in this palace,” he said, “you have about the least to fear from me.”
At this, Niquel looked up at him and opened her mouth again before she could help it. “His Grace was in the bed. With me.”
His eyes cut to the side at her accusation and he made a face, forcing air out through his nose. When he met her gaze again, he’d carved out a portion of calm for himself. “And for that you have my apology. It was never my intent. Now please,” he said, swinging a leg out of the bed and rising to his feet, still in his rumpled toga, “call me Roathan. I have no interest in being anyone’s Grace.”
This was not expected behavior, if the stories Niquel had heard about lowlander kings and emperors were to be any guide. He should be pointing, demanding, imperious.
Instead, he waited with an open stance. Frank eyes. Spoke to her in plain language, forming the Novamnean words so that the vowels came wide and round, hinting at another first tongue behind it, somehow ancient and closer to the earth, to a … a source. It was a voice that was affecting her in a way Maudri had described when she waxed on about Zidjhal. Only she’d never quite understood what her friend had meant until now.
“And what will I call you?”
Niquel blinked. She’d been staring, unfocused.
“Niquel,” she said, coming out of her stupor, “my name is Niquel.”
He repeated it, tasting the word for himself, and she found she liked the way it sounded on his lips, as though it had more weight, more substance.
“So I suppose you speak Common then, too?”
She looked at the floor again.
“Flames of Abra’an.”