This is one of those times I LOVE living in New Zealand, and being a few hours ahead of most of the world. Because not only do I get say say:
earlier than most of you, once my Christmas celebrations are over for the day, I get to hang out on social media and enjoy y’all talking about the celebrations in your neck of the woods — sort of like a rolling Christmas day… which IMO is always an epic win *g*
I hope your Christmas day is full of joy and laughter and kindness, and lots of hugs from people you love.
And to thank you all for your support throughout 2013, here’s another snippet from my work in progress, Opal’s Wish (Book 4 of The Crystal Warriors series). This scene takes place immediately after Opal’s daughter, Sera, accidentally frees Danbur from his crystal prison– hope you enjoy it!
Excerpt from Opal’s Wish
By Maree Anderson
He strode to the door, shouldered it open, and halted. His stomach performed a lazy somersault and then lay leaden in his belly. The sleeping room had been shock enough, but this? Only the washbasin and tub were familiar, yet even these were purest white and shiny and alien.
He kicked the door shut with one booted foot and approached the tub. In or beside? Beside, he decided, and lowered his arse until he perched on the edge. Setting his jaw, he transferred the child to his lap. She lay limply against his chest, exhausted by her efforts to breathe.
Silvery spigots—at least, he presumed them to be spigots—jutted from the wall above the tub. One sported a red circle, the other blue.
Danbur ground his teeth. He was a warrior—elite among his kind. He would not allow this… this… minor setback to defeat him. He twisted the spigot with the red circle, and grunted with satisfaction when it belched water. A swipe of his fingers beneath the stream confirmed it was warming, and within seconds, the stream was hot enough to waft a curling tendril of steam toward him.
A miracle indeed.
He rubbed the child’s back and chanted his demands for her to breathe in and out, while the small room filled with steam.
Time passed. His world shrank to the negligible weight of the child in his arms and the hair-raising whoops that punctuated her efforts to breathe. He’d never felt so helpless. He’d thought himself beyond petitioning uncaring gods. They’d not deigned to answer his prayers to be mercifully put down, as any warrior would show mercy to a mount with a broken leg. But for this innocent he would try one last time. And as he chanted the prayer over and over, he rocked the child in his lap and wondered, despairing, what he could offer his gods that they hadn’t already taken from him.
At last it appeared the Mother had chosen to be merciful, for the child’s breathing eased… and slowed until it synchronized with his so perfectly, Danbur could almost believe that he and the child were somehow connected, and that he was breathing for her.
After a while she sighed and the breathy exhalation was echoed with his hiss of relief that the crisis was over. And then she wriggled in his lap and peered up at him through the mist-fogged lenses of her spectacles.
“Can you breathe without effort now?”
His question was answered with a nod.
“Shall I turn off the water?”
He turned the spigot, marveling anew at the efficiency of such an invention, even as he despised the guardians who had seen fit to leave this young one on her own to cope with such an affliction. If he’d appeared in her room a few minutes later….
The child wriggled restlessly in his lap but it was difficult to gauge the extent of her recovery when he couldn’t make out her expression. He plucked the spectacles from her pert little nose, intending to wipe the lenses with a piece of cloth he’d spied hanging by the basin. But her sharply indrawn breath and the stiffening of her body stilled him mid-stretch. “Forgive me,” he said. “I meant only to clean them and return them to you. I should have asked your permission before removing such precious possessions.”
“It’s okay,” she whispered, her voice hoarse.
Poor little chick. Her battle to breathe had drained her. “May I?” he asked.
She nodded, and he snagged the nubby cloth… which did not prove the best for wiping such delicate things but was far superior than using his fingers.
He perched the cleaned lenses carefully atop the bridge of her nose, and hid a wince when she cringed. “There is no reason to be afraid, little one. I will not hurt you.” He fisted his spare hand to his breastbone. “My word on it.”
Those rare green eyes peered at him through the thick lenses. She scrambled from his lap and settled cross-legged on the floor with her back against the wall. “I’m not afraid of you,” she said, folding her arms over her chest and thrusting out her lower lip. But this brave declaration was somewhat ruined by a hiccup and a tear tracking down her cheek.
So courageous. He favored her with a terse nod to convey his respect.
Her lower lip wobbled. “When we were back in my room you laughed.” She swiped her cheek with the back of a hand. “Is it ’coz I look so funny?”
A tight fist grabbed his heart and squeezed. And something akin to the intuition that served him so well during battle told him to be wary of how he phrased his answer. When it came to young females, a careless word could wound far more efficiently than a finely honed blade. “I laughed with the relief of finally understanding what I was seeing,” he said, speaking slowly and carefully, infusing his words with truth and willing her to believe. “And I laughed because I realized I had no cause for fear.”
She blinked tear-spiked lashes and a tiny frown pleated her forehead. “You were scared?”
“But you’re so big!”
His lips curved at her awed tone
“Black?” he supplied, wondering if black-skinned people were a rarity here—wherever “here” might conceivably be.
“Duh,” she said, wiping her nose on the back of her hand. “I was gonna say muscley.”
So black skin did not unnerve this child. Good. A useful piece of information. “I would share a secret with you, young one,” he said, hoping if he gained her trust she would reveal more. “But you mustn’t tell a soul.”
Her eyes rounded. “I won’t tell anyone,” she said, her voice squeaky with excitement. “I promise!”
He leaned forward to impart a bit of the wisdom his mother had once gifted a small, skinny boy who’d suffered what his disappointed father had termed an irrational fear of horses. “Even grown men as big as me are oftentimes afraid.”
“Indeed. My word on it.”
The tiny frown deepened to a scowl that was impressive for one so young. “You’re just saying that to make me feel better,” she said.
Damned if he didn’t feel like smiling again when he had no cause to smile—not given the absurdity of his current situation after lifetimes of enduring an emptiness so profound it was a miracle he’d not lost his mind. Or perhaps he finally had, and this “reality” was nothing more than the product of a fractured psyche. Perhaps in truth he was still entombed in darkness. If so, he would embrace this fantasy for however long it lasted.
“In truth I was fearful of your spectacles,” he said. “And then I recalled where I’d seen such a wondrous invention before.”
Her jaw sagged. “Huh?”
A screwed up nose conveyed her confusion. Perhaps he had mispronounced the word. “This clever contraption that makes things appear larger.” He gently tapped a forefinger on the metallic frame bridging her nose.
She crossed her eyes, the expression made more comical magnified through the thick lenses. “My glasses?”
Danbur fought the grin that threatened to bloom across his face. Doubtless she would take it the wrong way and be offended. “If that is what you call them, then yes.”
“You were scared of my glasses?”
He nodded, keeping his expression grave. “Indeed I was.”
Whatever that strange word might signify she was no longer breaking his heart with her efforts to suppress her sobs. All in all an excellent outcome—even if she now regarded him like some alien beast from a traveling menagerie. Before he was fully conscious of his decision he’d already begun to introduce himself. “My name is Danbur.”
She gave a little burbling giggle that dared him to throw caution to the desert winds and laugh alongside her. “Danbur? That’s a funny name. I’ve never heard of anyone called that before. Can I call you Dan, instead? Dan’s a proper boys’ name.”
He cocked his head to one side, gauging her expressions, her body-language. He detected neither mean intent nor slyness in her tone. He nodded. “Very well.”
She stuck out her hand, gazing expectantly at him.
Ah. A greeting was in order. He leaned forward to engulf her tiny hand in his, and relaxed his arm muscles when she enthusiastically pumped his hand up and down.
“Seraphine,” she said.
Interesting. Seraphinite was a stone so rare the priests of his home world possessed but one example of it and— A tremor coursed through him and he was struck by a sense of… of… teetering on the verge of discovering something vital. And then it faded, leaving him pondering the startling coincidence that this girl-child would be so closely named for a seraphinite crystal.
He didn’t believe in coincidences.
Excerpt from Opal’s Wish, Book 4 of The Crystal Warriors series
Copyright 2013, Maree Anderson