© Astrid Gast – Fotolia
The following is an excerpt from “Quellseek: Army of Empaths,” the novel I’m in the process of writing for NaNoWriMo this year. The excerpt is taken from the opening of the fourth chapter: “The Servant of the Never-Lord” and the POV character is Wellynd Niles, the advisor/spy of Daleen Brax, an un-lord land-holder who owns the lands neighboring Bon Pelees Atarem’s keep. In this chapter, Niles pays Bon Pelees a visit, carrying a message from his master.
“You must get there, and get there soon,” Daleen Brax had commanded him, and so here he was, before the keep gates of Bon Pelees Atarem, sealed envelope from his master safely tucked away inside his leather riding vest. Brax had not counted on the difficulty they would have getting in to see the Bon nor envisioned that they might encounter other travelers along the way.
The least you could have done for me, my kind and generous master, was to send one of your own meanders ahead of me to prepare these suspicious louts, he thought sarcastically. He waved his hand majestically at the watchtower atop the tall outer wall of the keep.
“Take your time, Atarem. Alert your serving ladies, Atarem. Niles has ridden a long, long way and is in sore need of a warm bath, hot food, and a hotter woman.”
The knight mounted next to him laughed heartily as did the other three armed guards. The hooded man in Quell robes they’d picked up along the way was still and silent.
“Maybe the Bona Atarem will attend to you. They say she’s not fond of her husband,” joked the knight.
Wellynd Niles smirked. “Not fond of him?! She’s a Sanis, man! And he’s Atarem. I’m surprised either of them have lived this past eight months without slitting the other’s throat. I don’t know what madness our majesty was suffering from when he suggested this sham of a marriage as a term of the blood-feud truce. And as for me, I’d rather bed an taiga iceman’s wife!”
“Comes down to the same thing, doesn’t it? Sanis’ sure are cold people, for all they live in the warmest clime on Esphaera.”
Niles laughed. “Ha! You’ve spoken well-and-truly, sir! My fair boyhood was spent in these parts and northern women know how to keep a man warm.”
The knight grinned. “They do at that. Perhaps those serving women will remind us of that.”
“Alas, the Bona Atarem I wouldn’t mind sharing a bed fur with is not at Blackened Falls, but Hook Harbor. Now, there is a fine woman, just come of age. But…to my dismay, my master is determined to have her.” He brushed a strand of his long, black hair out of his eyes and looked up at the watchtower again, irritated at the long wait.
“I’m sorry for your loss, sir.”
“Sir?! Do I look like a gods-damned knight to you? I’ve told you half-a-hunnerd times, call me Niles, or Wellynd, or if it suits you, one of those other endearing epithets that the rest of them use…just not to my face. That would spoil the joke on me, don’t you think?”
The knight chuckled. “It would indeed, Niles.”
“Now…” he said, looking again to the watchtower and high keep walls. “Where the hell is the sentry? Doesn’t someone see that we’re down here waiting to be let in? Don’t they have a knocker or bell or somewhat to let them know they have company?”
“We could have sent Rochester.”
Niles reached out and rubbed the head of the meander that rested in front of him on the pommel of his horse’s saddle. The greenish-brown lizard unfurled and shook out its sheer wings.
“We couldn’t have sent him. He’s still recovering from that pellet wound. I’m just glad my stableboy was there to see him come down.”
“No idea who shot at him?”
“None. No Atarem’s around…not many left. Same for Sanis’. They’ve just about done for each other. A spy of Rauling, perhaps, but that’s a long guess. Rauling is too far off. My guess is that some of the hands were mucking about with their slings and thought he was a wild meander. Now, not a one of them has the balls to own up to it.”
Finally a man appeared along the top of the wall looking down at them.
“Who’s calling?’ he cried.
“Wellynd Niles. I bring the word of my master, Daleen Brax.”
The man turned his head as if he were speaking to someone inside the watchtower and then faced them again, this time aiming a crossbow at them.
The knight beside Niles snorted with laughter. “Never, my friend? Never?”
“Oh ho! So we’re friends now, are we? I’m a dangerous man to call a friend, Sir Wallis.”
“I can see that,” Wallis chuckled.
Cover of “Quellseek: Army of Empaths.”