Current Work in Progress: DragonSpeaker
Floryn (Ryn) is a retired assassin with the inherited ability to read the minds of dragons. She comes out of retirement when she discovers that a local military officer (Cole Cypress) is a Groundspeaker, which makes him the lost heir to the throne and the only one capable of lifting the sickness that fell over the land when the previous king was killed. After accidentally getting Cole captured, she rescues him from the Tyrant, Vezda (her murderous older brother). Together with their friends they set out on a journey to heal the land and free the people who have lived in fear and famine for decades.
If you are a sucker for redemption stories filled with found families, overcoming evil with the power of friendship, and of course dragons and gardens, then this book is for you.
Excerpt: Chapter 1
Her story started here, in this valley, if not this town. At least, that's what Ryn told her neighbors. After all, there are many valleys with verdant fields between vast mountain ranges, ranges which are filled with darkness and challenge. Who was to say if her story really started here?
Within those valleys, there are often roads, built of dust, memory, and a person’s will to control their future. There are often intersections built by other people whose will crosses against another. But on occasion when there is perhaps luck or maybe magic, it just so happens the two roads yield. They might even cut through the land wide enough for some to walk side-by-side.
The roads were wide in Swiftwater, but when the soldiers Marched through, Ryn –like all the villagers—ducked into the ditch on the side of the road rather than oppose the Regent’s dreadful presence in the town.
She waited in the least muddy spot she could get to quickly. She balanced a precarious basket of ribbons and other trim on top of a bolt of regimented wool that she carried toward her shop. Mrs. Baker's daughter would be married soon and the fineries might bring Ryn and her friend Shim some extra coin.
The tromp of boots, which had not yet silenced the bustling market or the sounds of children playing, was led by a sandy-haired man with a sour countenance and stature shorter than herself. A dozen soldiers followed him as he moved with all the bluster a large bird might have reigning over a small orchard. Ryn laid two fingers against her neck as a gesture of respect. She bow her head, even though the bow was mostly to hide a grin.
The soldiers of the high city wouldn’t bother to scrape these fools off their boots. But this was Swiftwater, they were far from parapets and palaces; and these swords were just as sharp.
A little boy’s laughter filled the air to her right. It was the tanner’s youngest boy. He was about three years old. The other kids had already moved off the road, but he was too busy delighting over his successful execution of a somersault (after several attempts) that he hadn’t seen the approaching guards.
The Sandy-haired soldier narrowed his eyes as they approached that part of the road.
“Oh no,” Ryn said under her breath.
She darted toward the boy, but Sandy hair got to him first. He reached down and grabbed the boy by a handful of shirt and lifted him into the air to face him.
“And whose brat are you?” He spoke so low it almost came out a whisper, but no less threatening for the lack of volume.
Ryn scanned the crowd as she ran, but couldn’t see his mother Bridget. The boy twisted his features into a grimace and sobbed. Tears rolled down his pink little cheeks.
“Please!” Ryn shouted, running forward. Ryn ran onto the road, then stumbling, kneeled in front of the Sandy-haired soldier.
“Please! I take responsibility for the boy. It’s my fault. I should’ve—.”
“Enough,” he said as he pulled the struggling child onto his hip and held him in a more permanent grip. “Dangerous mistake, getting in the way of the Regent’s Arm.”
Ryn kept her eyes on the ground, showing no sign of protest despite the heat that swelled in her chest, the sharpening of her senses, and all of the old instincts that cut the fool into weak points and targets in her mind. She ignored the part of her that considered the heft of the fabric-wrapped pole in her arms.
“Yes, sir. Sorry, sir.”
“You don’t seem to have learned your lesson.” He leaned forward. “You’re still in my way.”
Damn him. She could stay and cause a fight, or move aside and lose the kid. Ryn took a shallow breath and glanced toward the side of the street. The market had stopped, every bit of business and inquiry. Bridget stood on the edge of the market where Mrs. Baker held her arm and kept her from running in and escalating the confrontation.
“Please. Let me take the child,” she said.
Ryn risked an upward glance, seeking some hint in his expression about which way she should play his game.
But she caught more than a hint.
She hadn’t meant to use the magic. It had been so many years since she had seen another dragon that she forgot how easily she could forge the mental connection. She didn’t know he was susceptible to her.
The Sandy-haired man narrowed his eyes and Ryn could feel his disdain. She dropped her gaze from his and focused on blanking her mind. If she was very lucky he might not have noticed the intrusion.
A second soldier stepped forward, placing his hand on the first man’s shoulder. “Anasteri, it seems the lesson is learned. Look around.” He gestured broadly toward the market; the soldiers had the full attention of the villagers. Some widened their eyes in fear, others looked away in submission. None spoke or opposed Anasteri’s authority. Even Ryn was frozen in fear.
Anasteri’s gaze was still on her. She could see herself in his mind cowering on the ground. She bowed her head even further and tried to think of something else, the grass, the dirt on the side of the road. Shim. No — not Shim! Then the connection was gone.
“A simple mistake,” then the second soldier raised his voice for the crowd’s benefit, “and not a mistake likely to be repeated?”
The whole market nodded, bowed, or answered for their obedience.
“Cypress, you forget your place.” Anasteri spat the words at the second soldier.
“Sir, he’s too young to be useful for a few more years. I don’t feel like cleaning up after the kid until he is old enough.”
Anasteri’s pushed the still screaming child into Cypress’s arms, then turned to Ryn.
Her hands were cold and skin was linen white. All the blood had drained from her face when she had heard his name. She shook in earnest now and bowed lower, hiding her face from the sandy-haired man.
“Take the child and go,” Anasteri said. His voice was strange with the recognition, echoing with ghosts now that she knew who he was.
She didn’t dare look up again. She bowed deeper and did not rise until Anasteri left.
“It’s safe now. You can get up.” Officer Cypress extended his hand and helped her up from the road.
“I’m sorry. I’ll take him.” She dropped the wool and reached for Robin, she remembered that was the boy’s name.
He handed the boy to her. Then she turned and ran off the road toward Bridget, disappearing as best she could among the villagers like always.
Ryn kept her back to the soldiers and a few breathless moments passed until she heard the stomp of their boots disappear.
Bridget took her son and cried as heavily as he did, covering him with kisses instead of a lecture on the danger of enjoying somersaults.
With stiffness and intention, business began again, but the mood of the market had shifted, a cheery affair for exchanging coins and gossip became a hushed day of transaction and efficiency.
“You’re forgetting something.”
Ryn’s hand flew to her opposite sleeve as she spun to face the speaker.
Officer Cypress stood behind her and extended the bolt of wool and basket of laces in her direction.
“Oh.” She smoothed her sleeve over the weapon she kept in a slipcase that was stitched into the sleeve. Cypress glanced at her hand, then raising an eyebrow, he turned to leave.
“Thank you, officer Cypress.”
“My name is Cole.” He smiled. “Will you be alright?”
Ryn nodded while she tried to slow the fear in her chest.
Ryn turned back to Mrs. Baker. “Where’s Shim?”
Mrs. Baker’s cheeks flushed and she said, “He’s headed to your shop I think. He only stopped by for some bread this morning.”
Ryn forced a smile and nodded, then stepped back onto the path toward her shop.
Anasteri. He was here. How did she not recognize him? He must have changed his form. If he was here, was Vezda coming?
Once she unlocked the door, stepped inside her shop, and closed the door behind her, she tried to bury her fear in the routine of opening her shop.
“It will be fine. He won’t be in town long.” She left the wool on the table.
“Troops move through all the time. A few tense hours, or even days and I’ll be fine.” Saying it aloud would make it easier to believe. “Shim will be fine too.” She looked out the window, scanning the street for her old friend.
She whispered at the window, “Shim, please don’t do anything stupid.”