So, this week ended up being crazy with floods and stuff, and my kidâ€™s school got delayed and let out early, and anyway, this is me just throwing up an excerpt from my latest release instead of blogging for the week. Is this the beginning of the end of weekly blogs? No, Iâ€™ll try to do something original next week, I swear.
â€œNo.â€ The word escaped Magdaliaâ€™s lips, a wail. â€œNo, no, no.â€
The Croith walked towards her, a cold smile wreathing his features, which were familiar to her, because she knew him.
He crouched down in front of her, resting his elbows on the tops of his legs, looking her over. â€œWell, look at you. All grown up.â€ His gaze dragged itself over her and she saw the light in his eye, the way he was looking at herâ€”
â€œNo!â€ She got to her feet. â€œYou canâ€™t be the Croith.â€
He gazed up at her, still in his crouch. â€œOh, I thought you would have figured it out, after everything.â€
A sob escaped her lips and she covered her mouth with both hands, gripped by horror.
â€œYou were never exactly intelligent, I suppose.â€ He sighed, shrugging.
â€œHow dare you?â€ she snapped.
â€œYou do seem to have developed other assets, however.â€ His gaze settled on her chest.
She hugged herself. â€œDuranth, stop it.â€
He chuckled, long and low, deeply amused. â€œDo you remember when you were in love with me? You must have been, what, four years old? I was nine. And you told everyone you were going to marry me when you grew up until your nurse informed you that humans canâ€™t marry fae, and that you must think of me as properly below your exalted station in life.â€
â€œI never said that,â€ she said, shaking her head furiously. â€œI donâ€™t remember it, soâ€¦ it canâ€™t haveâ€¦ no.â€ She did remember it, of course, because she had loved him. But sheâ€™d been a child, an idiot child, and she hadnâ€™t understood anything then.
Over time, she had left behind all that childish whimsy and seen him for what he wasâ€”a sort of dear pet, beloved but not her equal. And even at the end, when sheâ€™d tried so hard to save him from her fatherâ€™s wrath, it had only been out of a sense of that sort of love, notâ€¦ nothing like what heâ€¦ when she was a little girl, she hadnâ€™t understood anything about marrying someone, andâ€”
â€œDonâ€™t you remember your promise?â€ His voice had dropped suggestively.
All right, so maybe it had been sort of like that, but not really. She didnâ€™t have any true feelings for him.
Suddenly, she realized something. â€œYour hand.â€
He laughed. â€œOh, itâ€™s rather lifelike, hmm?â€ He reached over, and she saw a leather strap and a buckleâ€”bone, not metalâ€”which he undid, and then he tugged his hand off and tossed it at her.
Clumsily, she caught it. She wasnâ€™t good with things like that, but he was only standing a few feet away. Even so, she fumbled it, nearly dropping it. She turned it over. It was an artificial hand, encased in a leather glove.
He held up the stump. â€œYou did a good job healing it, of course. Look how smooth. No scar tissue at all.â€
Her heart stuttered. She didnâ€™t want to think about that. â€œIâ€™m sorry about your hand,â€ she whispered.
â€œYes, it was cut off because of you, wasnâ€™t it?â€ He smiled at her, a particularly nasty smile.
â€œI wish I could have helped you,â€ she said.
â€œWell,â€ he said with a shrug, â€œI hope you still wish to help me, Magda.â€
â€œWhat do you mean?â€
He held out his good hand, palm up.
Wordlessly, she put his artificial hand into his hand.
He busied himself with reattaching it. â€œYou know what we can do together, and so I want us to work on that and to put it to good use.â€
â€œNo,â€ she said. â€œFor the fae rebels? You think I would help you in your mad attempt to overturn the empire?â€
He glanced at her. â€œOh, so patriotic now, are we? I thought little Magda never paid attention to such things.â€
â€œWell, perhaps I didnâ€™t,â€ she said, â€œbut your armies came and killed everyone. All them dead, bodies piled up around remnants of my sisterâ€™s wedding feast, andâ€¦â€ Tears began to stream down her face.
â€œCouldnâ€™t have anyone coming after you, could I?â€ he said. â€œIt was either kill them now or kill them later when they tried to rescue you, and this was easier. Besides, weâ€™ve had our eye on the Villa Prantia for a while. Itâ€™s a nicely strategic place to hold for the army, and we will soon have conquered the entire Tertia Island. Now, I sent my best cohort for you, of course, that should please you, but theyâ€™ll have left by now. Iâ€™m sure lesser men can mop up what is left of Tertia Island.â€
She didnâ€™t know what to say to this.
â€œOh, see how I trust you, Magdalia?â€ He smiled at her. â€œI tell you my strategies. I am quite willing to share much with you. Everything, in fact.â€ His voice dipped down into a low register when he said that.
â€œAnd all I have to do is sell out my country and my people,â€ she said.
â€œAnd surrender to me, completely,â€ he said in that gravelly voice of his.
Aaaand a link to the book: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B09C1B3874/