The Rose Shield – Vianne

vianne

The Rose Shield Tetralogy is my WIP targeted for release any day now. I can finally say that!  The first book in the series is Catling’s Bane.

You’ve met Raker, the man who hears voices in the fog
Catling, a six-year-old with a rose birthmark around her eye
Whitt, the boy battling crajeks in the swamp
Gannon, captive in the belly of the Wandering Swan

What of Vianne, an Influencer capable to manipulating love and fear, pain and pleasure, life and death with a mere thought? Is she a villain or hero?

Vianne

When Vianne returned to his cell, her face wore a frown of reluctance, green eyes heavy with regret. The weariness in her countenance added years. The ivory clothes, flawless skin, and silver in her cinnamon hair deceived the eye. Upon first glance, she appeared innocent, gentle and graceful, her voice touched with kindness. Yet, the set of her jaw told him he’d find no quarter with her. She planned to torture him.

The latch clicked as the guards locked her in, and she assumed her seat by his cot. “I’ve returned for the truth, Gannon, and I have little time. Tell me how you blocked Qeyon’s influence. He has assured me, beyond question, of your gui…power.”

“You were about to say ‘guilt.’” He caught her eyes as her back stiffened. “Do you execute the guilty?”

The woman sighed. “Only if your pigheadedness forces my hand.”

“Torture away,” he said, turning his face to the wall and shutting his mouth. Fear wormed into his consciousness, the muscles and sinews of his body contracting.

Rising from her chair, she strode to the door and knocked. Two guards entered, carrying a strip of cloth with a bulky knot in the middle. Gannon clenched his teeth as the guards descended on him. One held his head while the other tried to force the gag into his mouth. A sharp blast of pain ripped through his chest, and he gasped. The guard crammed the balled knot into his mouth. He cried out as they twisted his head and secured the cloth. Glaring at the woman, he shouted, his oaths muffled by the gag.

The guards rose and stood by the door. “Anything else, Vianne-Ava?”

“Ignore us,” she replied. They nodded and left.

Vianne strode to the foot of his cot, her voice soft. “Block me.”

He shook his head, steeling himself. Pain flared as an invisible vise closed on his chest. His hands wrenched against his restraints as he squeezed his eyes shut and bit on the gag. The agony expanded, thrusting spears of steel into his arms and legs. As quickly, she released him, and his breath shuddered from his lungs.

“It’s going to get worse, Gannon,” she said. “Block me.”

The pressure returned, the sensation mounting. He screamed into the gag, writhed against the pain of his cracking ribs, his heart exploding in his chest. Torment scoured his veins, shooting into his joints. “Aaah. Naah. Aaaah.” He heard his own muffled bawling.

“Block me!” Vianne demanded.

“Aaaah cahn’t. Aaaah,” he howled. His head pounded, nerves sparking, skin on fire. Needled daggers ground into this bones. “Naaah. Cahn’t.”

“Block me!” she shouted.

She flayed the skin from his body. His joints twisted, bones crushed. Fear exploded in his head, smashing into the fragile barriers of sanity, incinerating the shredded remains of any resistance. The woman’s commands barked, unintelligible. All he could do was scream.

Then the pain vanished.

He panted, shaking, the muscles in his body rigid. The memory of pain bathed him in sweat, quaking through him like a virulent fever. He gulped air, body heaving and trembling.

“You couldn’t block me,” she said, her voice bewildered.

He shook his head, eyes closed. The terrible fear subsided. “Sick,” he mumbled through the gag. He heard the rustle of her jacket and felt her fingers worry the knot behind his head. When it fell away, he vomited on his shoulder and hair. He dropped his head back and groaned, uncaring.

“You couldn’t block me,” she repeated. “No one could endure… It’s not you.”

Gannon shook his head. “No.”

“But you know who it is.” She grimaced at the miasma of smells permeating the small room. “Don’t make me do that again, Gannon. Don’t force me. You must realize I haven’t a choice.”

“Who’s your master?” he asked, turning to read her face.

“The realm.” She paced between the dim walls. “You must have an inkling of how this power might be wielded in the wrong hands. Or why else would you resist me.” She pivoted on her heel to face him. “Yet, in the right hands, it can cut through subversive agendas. It might prevent influence from being used to usurp authority, incite war, and harm the future of Ellegeance.”

“I thought the influencers’ oath was to the realm.”

“It is.” She paused to study him. “Yet, we are human beings and subject to temptation after all.”

“You could just let me go,” he whispered. “It’s over anyway.”

“Tell me who it is, and I swear to you that I’ll spare your life.”

“No, you won’t. I know too much.”

“I want the name.” She resumed her pacing and then halted. “It’s the girl, isn’t it? Qeyon said she was with you in the alley.”

When he didn’t answer, ripples of pain danced behind his eyes. His stomach knotted and fear engulfed him, whether his own or influenced, he couldn’t say and it scarcely mattered. She knew. “Yes.”

She sat beside him, green eyes eager. Her hand touched his wrist, and his body began to warm and relax. The lingering pain of his previous injuries eased, replaced with sensations of physical pleasure and relief. An awareness of gratitude for his torturer tickled his thoughts. It was subtle and would have been imperceptible if it hadn’t felt so illogical.

Vianne leaned toward him. “That little girl is in grave danger, Gannon. You understand, don’t you? Algar’s no fool, and from what Qeyon said, she made a spectacle of herself in the market. I can protect her, here in Ava-Grea. You must tell me who she is and where to find her before she and everyone she knows is dead.”

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The Rose Shield – Gannon

rose-shield-gannon

You’ve met a few characters from my WIP, The Rose Shield, which I’m delighted to say is back in play after 6 solid months of editing other books.

This is an intro to Gannon. He’s having a bad day.

Excerpt: The Rose Shield

Gannon woke in a cargo hold, his ankle manacled to an eyebolt in the rocking floor, his body weak as a feathered hatchling. He lay on his back, deep in a ship’s bowels, the vessel a seafaring hulk by the creaking and groaning as it smashed through the waves. Distant voices teased his ears along with a chorus of clanking metal and squabbling seawings.

The hold was dark, but not lightless. Crates and rough sacks crammed timber berths, strapped down with camgras ropes. Oily barrels perched in wooden frames to keep them from rolling. He needed food and water, and he stank to the stars.

He’d been captive in a ship’s hold before. Memories of his torture after the ambush in Mur-Vallis flooded his head. Panic broke out on his skin in a lurid sweat, and his heart leapt into a gallop. “Gah! Help! Ah. Get me out of here! Help! Let me go!” He thrashed the chain, kicked at a convenient crate, and shouted until a hatch cracked open and a spear of sunlight nearly blinded him.

A sturdy woman with chopped hair and a pickaxe nose climbed down the ladder. A scar wrinkled her upper lip, and her eyes shone in the dim light like chips of flint. She wore a black bodice and leggings, snugly fit and bordering on transparent. For ease of movement, a slit parted the front of her calf-length skirt, and her wide belt sported an assortment of bone-handled blades, none of them friendly. Though older than he and far from beautiful, she exuded an alluring confidence.

She was also Kull Bane; he was shackled in a Kull Bane ship.

Her hand dropped to her hip and she held up a key. “I won the wager.”

“Unchain me,” he demanded and shook his leg, clanking the chain. “Get this thing off me.”

“You might be dangerous.” Her eyes narrowed, lips turned up in a mocking smile.

“You’re delusional if you think I can slay you all and seize the ship?”

“Probably so. Still, why risk it?”

His heartbeat slowed its pace, and he stopped rattling his irons. “I give you my oath.”

“Ellegeans break oaths. They broke faith with the Founders.” She considered the key. “However, I’ll accept your word. If you break it, I’ll slice you up and feed you to the sea.”

He didn’t doubt she would. She knelt by his ankle and unbolted the lock.

“What wager did you win?” he asked, rubbing his ankle.

“I gambled on your life.” She hung the key on a nail “We found a sack of poisons on your boat. The others figured you for dead. If you didn’t wake up today, we planned to toss you overboard.”

“I’m glad you won.” He sat up and almost fell over. “I need food and a bath.”

“I’ll feed and water you, and give you a bucket.” She stood up and offered him a hand. “Maybe a fresh pair of trousers. You stink like a grounder’s shithole.”

He grabbed her hand, grateful for the help and unsteady on his feet. The ship’s roll did nothing to pacify the queasy swill in his stomach. “My respects.” He held onto the corner of a crate and managed a crooked bow. “I’m Gannon.”

“No fancy little surname?”

He shook his head. “Just Gannon.”

“A pity.” She shrugged and swung toward the ladder. “I’d hoped to ransom you. We’ll talk when you smell better.”

“Who are you?” He staggered after her.

“Emer Tilkon of the Wandering Swan. Shipmaster to the likes of you.”

The Rose Shield – Raker

rose-shield-rakerA peek at the start of my WIP. 

Darkest Night.

The ironwood pier below Mur-Vallis pointed like a sooty finger over the Blackwater’s swirling luminescence. Wraiths of fog pirouetted across the surface, trailing veils of white lace. Raker lounged against the piling where he’d tethered his boat, keeping an idle eye out for thieves. Not that anyone would bother his craft this night, not with finer prizes left unattended. Well-rigged riverboats and ferries floated at the wharf, thunking and clinking above the current’s hushed whispers.

With a bone-handled knife, he whittled splinters from a wood waterdragon no larger than his thumb. The solitude suited him, removed from the chaos of the warrens that crowded the dingy expanse below the city’s lowest tier. The welcome there was cold anyway, harsh enough to get a half-blood gutted. His slanted eyes, blue as rime, and three-fingered hands gave his heritage away.

The three pylons supporting Mur-Vallis soared into the vast night sky. Their lighted tiers lay open like petals on an alien flower, soft-edged and overlapping, the upper layers diminishing in size while increasing in opulence.

Or so he’d heard. No one he knew had climbed higher than the first tier, and only for a hanging.