Official site for the high/dark fantasy books of authors Barb Hendee and J. C. Hendee, including the Noble Dead Saga (a.k.a. The Noble Dead series), the Mist-Torn Witches series, the Vampire Memories series, and TNDS: Tales from the world of the Noble Dead Saga.

New Beginnings… Part 8

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J.C. back again with another set of excerpts from this ongoing new work. But first, a little FAQ based on submitted questions from readers of “New Beginnings”…

Q: Is this going to be a self-published work, or are you going with a traditional publisher?
Last things first: there is no such thing as a “traditional” publisher. The publishing industry of today is unrecognizable for its way-back origins. Likewise, along the way, it has changed again and again in many ways, and is changing even now. The true difference is between a “professional” publisher, self-publisher, and the many steps in-between. Oh yes, there are other options, but that being said…
Once the manuscript is complete, it will be submitted to my (and Barb’s) literary agent, who will then “shop” it around to see what offers are made. After that, who knows, but certainly direct self-publishing is an option. We have done such before (see “Tales” at NobleDead.org), and we are involved in consulting within this field for clients (see N.D. Author Services – site currently being upgraded.)
Q: Is this a sequel to the Noble Dead Saga or a spin-off?
No to the first; not really to the second. It does focus on a few minor characters first (and last) encountered in Thief of Lives (Series 1, Book 2), but this book centers very much around their own lives and adventures, which that have nothing to do with the saga's plot(s). It also has quite a cast never before seen in our previous novels.
Q: Are we gonna get all the way to the end, or at least to what happens with the hand?
No to the first; hmmm… maybe partly to the second. Sharing these rough excerpts is fun and certainly keeps me motivated. Very soon, Barb and I will settle in to writing the first book in our next collaborative project: Dead Seekers. When that starts, it will at least be a pause point for this solo project. I will re-evaluated my approach to this work at that time and afterward. Now onto what you came for…

Chapter 3, Scene 3

As soon as Miss Tryskiäna was out of the FFPS, Pìnt ran around behind his cousin's desk and stared at the right-side top drawer. He'd promised to stay put until she returned, and he'd never break a promise to her, but he could do something else before she came back.

Below the drawer's tarnished brass knob-handle was a slot for Vàtz's one and only key to all of his desk's drawers. By the look of that hole'n'slot, it didn't even need a special key—just a common barrel rod with flat wing that tripped the inner lock. He'd even found some like that but didn't have them anymore. He'd never thought he'd need one until now.

Keys lost and used by someone else were not for finding but stealing.

This time, someone had stolen from him, so taking that something back wasn't stealing. This time it was Cousin Vàtz instead of Katrina, and he'd already fixed her for that.

Pìnt eyed that little keyhole and looked all about the room. Atop Miss Tryskiäna's desk lay his pile of finds that he'd unloaded from his pockets—well, most of them. He ran over, grabbed the tin butter knife, and returned to his cousin's desk to squat before that one drawer. Try as he did, the knife's bent tip wouldn't jamb into that little keyhole.

The blunt end was too big, and he hadn't see anything else among his finds that'd work better.

Pìnt straightened, still dripping as he glared at that keyhole. The sound of muffled voices outside, maybe upslope behind the FFPS, made his breath catch. Miss Tryskiäna could come back any moment—and he started to panic.

There was only one thing left to try. Afterall, it was an old, worn, beat-up desk that Vàtz had scavenged up somewhere.

Pìnt grabbed the little brass knob with one hand and pulled hard. That didn't work, so he grabbed hold with both hands and tried again—and again nothing happened. His big, soaked boots kept sliding forward on the now wet floor boards. So he dropped on his butt, braced his boots against the bottom drawer, and heaved. And heaved—and heaved—until his butt lifted from the floor.

Crack! Snap! Pop!

Pìnt slammed over backward and slid. The top of his head ramped shack's front wall. He would've yelped if he could have, and he sat where he'd fallen. The whole room was a little white and blurry for a couple of blinks as he rubbed his scalp but only twice.

He went still, rigid, stopped breathing, and panic tripled.

The knob was gone from the drawer.

All that was left was a snapped-off bit of rusty iron rod where the knob should've been. He looked down and there was the little tarnished knob in his other hand. His next breath sucked in and wouldn't come back out.

Pìnt's held breath rushed out, followed by frantic pants. With all of the fuss everyone else had made about just a hand, there was only one person Vàtz would blame when he saw that knob was gone.

Eyeing the keyhole, Pìnt knew he had to get that kind of key real fast before Vàtz returned to the FFPS. The bad part was that he also knew he didn't have time to find one. He'd have to get the one he knew about already.

 

 

Chapter 3, Scene 4

As Devnik reached the ramp up to the waterfront, he was fixated on two things that he'd heard. One detail was troublesome and the other was naggingly bizarre. And for the first…

He now had to tell Master Kriändul that the larger ocher box of whatever was going to cost more later on than it had already. He didn't care to do that, though the box he held now looked much like one on the master's worktable this morning. Shacking the new double-sized box—gently at first and then harder—he though heard a swish-swish inside of it like shifting sand.

A seam ran all around the box's sides at about half of a thumbnail's widt from the top. Try as he did, he couldn't slide, twist, or fold the top open. So what was inside this bigger box, aside from whatever had been in the littler matching one?

What had “cost” too many “lives”?

He puffed a heavy sigh, knowing he'd never get an answer out of his master. As to that second something he'd overheard…

Twice this morning, Devnik had caught mention of a “severed hand.” That was strange enough, but both times had been from that rude, lanky girl in leathers. He couldn't stop thinking that he'd run across or heard of something somewhat like that somewhere else. Certainly not in tavern talk or passing quips among the salt-mill's workers. So it had to be something from somewhere else.

Maybe something he'd read in the master's books?

“Heads up! Comin' through!”

About to turn, and someone rammed his right thigh from behind. He spun left, one hand faltering on the box.

“Sorry—'scuse me—gotta go!”

Devnik re-gripped the box as that messy-haired boy race by up the waterfont. He calmed enough to start fuming and then—

“Outta the way, Bean-pole!”

Something ram from him from behind on the left. He bobbled the box into the air, sucked down a panicked yelp, and two kids with poles ran by after that girl in worn-out leather.

Devnik scooped the box out of the air and clenched it in both arms against his chest. He watched as those four kids dodged into the crowd in hurrying along the waterfront. He was fed up with that girl and the rest of those with her.

He then stared too long after they'd already slipped from sight in wondering what were those nosy kids up to now. Why had they shown up at the same ship he'd been sent to and at the same time? Why had they been talking to the same person he'd been sent to find?

That was two too many coincidences, and Captain Fas'sud seemed to know the messy haired one.

And what about that… severed hand?

Devnik's bug-eyes narrowed as he started off again. His strides grew longer and longer on long legs as he rushed after those kids, craning his neck to spot them in the crowded waterfront.

 

 

Chapter 3, Scene 5

Tryskiäna pulled aside the old, smoked stained carpet-curtain over the end of the alley behind the FFPS.

“Master Moufud?” she called out and then “Moufud… ahk'thú an?

Common Sumanese was not one of her mastered languages. With what she had learned of it, she made that simple, polite call to their closest business neighbor. He appreciated this, though he certainly needed practice in the local language. Through him, she might also improve her ability in yet another tongue, but not right now.

The stench of that space behind the eatery, filled with barrels, crates, and sacks of imported food stuffs—along with the still smoking clay dome of the low oven—was a overwhelming this close.

“Master Mou—”

The eatery's backdoor squealed open and nterrupted her. A grisly, stubble-shadowed, dark-skinned face popped out of the doorway and glared all around. Those dark, black-irised eyes widened at the sight of her peeking into his private cooking area.

Master Moufud's expression softened a little with almost a smile.

Al'has'sa a yas, Miss,” he rumbled out. “What you want? Is trouble?”

“No, not truly,” she answered, stepping into his alley “kitchen” for a moment. “Umm… I would like some hot water, again, if you have a little spare. Enough to warm any rainwater… for bathing.”

He had to have understood most of that, for he looked her up and down with obvious concern. It was not the first time Pìnt needed a midday bath. It was the first she had to attend to that.

“Not for me,” she explained, but then he interrupted.

“Pìnt!” he growled, as if cursing. “Su-wer-ses?”

Tryskiäna affected a sheepish shrug. “Yes… the sewers… again.”

Master Moufud became his dangerous, sour, and dark-looking self once more. He growled something she did not quite catch as he dug through his stacks of stores in the alley. More than likely—most certainly—those utterances were not ones useful for Tryskiäna to learn. In little time, he rolled out an empty half-barrel for washing raw ingredients used in his pastries.

Moufud snatched up a kettle still resting on the clay oven's front ledge

“Behind?” he asked flatly.

“Yes, please,” she answered, pulling back the carpet curtain for him. “Right behind the FFPS, per usual.”

He rolled the half-barrel out of the alleyway, up behind the old shack-stable, and tipped it flat on its bottom with a crack of wood on cobble. As he returned to the curtain, Tryskiäna waited, and soon he reappeared with a cask of rainwater. Pouring this into the tub, he added the kettle's still steaming contents. Tryskiäna tested the water with a fingertip.

Still rather chill though not as much as it would have been without the kettle. Certainly it was not as chill as sewer water.

“Thank you… very much,” she told him.

Moufud crossed his thick arms and glared, though not at her. She followed those dark eyes toward to the entrance of the FFPS. When she looked back and up in puzzlement, he merely grunted and jutted his thick, stubble chin toward that entrance.

At a loss, Tryskiäna stalled but then went off to retrieve Pìnt. We she reached the door and looked inside, panic built and she rushed in.

“Pìnt? Pìnt, where are you?”


Until next time, again in a week or a little more, thanks for joining me and questions are always welcome. —J.C.