Gift of War excerpt

 

How I nearly abandoned my dream.

The following is the excerpt I promised in the post Oh the Joys of Writer’s Block.  I began writing the story of Peace of Evon:  Missing Heir in 2005 during my first year of university.  By the time I graduated from university and began looking for a job, I had hit a point in the storyline where I couldn’t figure out where to go next.  In fact, I was stopped not far into the apology between Gemi and Ulla, and I only include the scene on either side so you can get an idea of what I had and where I finally decided to take it.  Keep in mind, of course, that this is completely rewritten from the original, but the first scene still holds most of the same meaning that the original did.

I will post an excerpt from Peace of Evon, to be published on September 30, 2014, in a later post, but I wanted to provide this since I’d already promised it.

 

Excerpt from Chapter 4

Ferez woke slowly, opening his eyes to reveal light-colored fabric hanging high above his head.  He didn’t remember falling asleep, but he felt much more comfortable than he would have expected for the desert, which was the last thing he remembered clearly.

Maybe arriving at the oasis wasn’t a dream then.

A gentle tugging on his tunic finally pulled Ferez’s attention away from the drifting fabric that seemed to glow softly.  Tucking his chin down, the king was surprised to find a small boy seated on his chest.  He’d been so comfortable that he hadn’t even noticed the weight of the child, whose hands plucked gently at Ferez’s tunic.  Despite the gentleness of the boy’s touch, his brow was furrowed and his small lips tightly pursed.

“Hello,” Ferez murmured curiously.  The child lifted his gaze to Ferez’s face, but the small hands didn’t still their persistent tugging.

“‘Allo,” the child answered shortly before turning back to his work.  Ferez blinked, suddenly unsure of himself.  He was accustomed to children who were more excitable.

“Lorenz,” a new voice suddenly hissed softly.  “Are you in here?”

Turning his head, Ferez spotted another small figure ducking through what appeared to be the tent’s entrance.

“Ja, I’m ‘ere,” the boy on Ferez’s chest answered softly.  His fingers continued tugging as the new arrival drew closer.

“Herr Kanti,” the second child, a girl by the sound of it, chirruped as she knelt by Ferez’s head.  “You’re awake.”

As Ferez nodded, the girl turned to Lorenz and tugged on his sleeve.  “How many does he have left, Lori?”

The boy wrinkled his nose and stuck his tongue out at the girl, his hands finally stilling.

“Ava,” he whined.  “You know I ‘ate tha’ name.”

Ava giggled.  “True, but I also know that you tend to grow the seeds instead of just removing them if you’re left on your own.”

“I do not,” Lorenz denied, even as his face reddened.  He caught Ferez’s gaze then and ducked his head, muttering, “Not on people, I don’.”

Ferez smiled and gently patted the boy’s leg.  “I’m sure you don’.  Although,” he added with a soft chuckle, “I am curious what it is you’re talkin’ about.”

Lorenz nodded quickly and tugged once more on Ferez’s tunic before holding one hand out in front of Ferez’s face.  Blinking, Ferez focused on the hand and realized the boy held a sprouted seed in between two fingers.

“They’re Senf seeds,” the boy explained.  “They get blown ‘bou’ by the deser’ wind, and they grow on anythin’ they land on.”

“Including Tier and humans,” Ava added, plucking the seed from the boy’s fingers and burying it in a pot of dirt Ferez hadn’t noticed before then.  “I’ve heard it’s really painful if they manage to start burrowing into the skin.”  She plucked the sleeve of her own tunic.  “It’s one of the reasons we wear long sleeves and Kopfabdeckungen.”

“But ever’one needs deseedin’ ever’ once in a while,” Lorenz added as his fingers began tugging at Ferez’s tunic once more.  “‘Specially af’er a long journey.”

He twisted and tugged on the fabric for another minute before releasing a cry of triumph and holding his hand out for Ferez to see.  This time, the sprouted seed seemed to writhe within the boy’s grasp.

“Tha’s the las’ one.  I’d ‘ave pulled it sooner, bu’ they tend to grow fas’er when I’m around.”  The boy dropped his gaze and buried the seed in the pot of dirt.

“Because you’re a Plant Mage, aye?” Ferez confirmed, remembering what James had told him about his youngest brother.  “The only one in your family?”

Lorenz blinked before nodding and smiling shyly.  “James told you about me?”

The king chuckled.  “About all of you actually.”  He turned his gaze to the girl at his head.  “You’re his sister, Ava, then?  An Animal Mage?”

The girl dipped her head before tapping Lorenz’s leg and motioning him off of Ferez’s chest.

“You can meet the others, too, now that Lorenz has finished deseeding you.  James and Vati’ll want to know you’re awake, but introductions will probably have to wait until after James finishes apologizing to Ulla.”

“Apologizing?” Ferez asked as he stood and stretched.  “What for?”  He did note that Ulla was the name of James’ older sister, the only Mindspeaker among the siblings.

“For things said and unsaid this Morgen,” Lorenz answered.  Gripping the man’s hand, he pulled him towards the tent’s entrance with an unnecessary “Komm.”

Ferez chuckled as he stumbled after the two children, one hand reaching up to straighten his Kopfabdeckung.  As they left the tent, he nearly halted, startled to see that the sun was already dropping towards the horizon.  However, the children didn’t give him the chance to pause and, instead, dragged him away from the tent.

They passed several other nomads, all of who were dressed in the same type of outfit that Ferez and James had been wearing since they’d left Kensy.  Even the boy’s younger siblings, Ferez realized, wore similar outfits.

Lorenz tugged him along until they reached a group of nomads seated near a cold fire pit.  As they approached, Ferez recognized James kneeling in front of a young woman about their age.

That must be Ulla, he thought as he watched his friend plead with her.

*~*~*~*

“Bitte, believe me, Ulla,” Gemi begged, all too conscious of the other Nomaden surrounding them.  “I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings.  I was just tired.  You know how I get when I’m tired.”

Ulla sniffled and swiped a hand under her eyes.  “Slow to react,” she mumbled.  “Quick to anger.”

Gemi grimaced but nodded.  Most who knew her knew that her temper was closer to the surface when she was exhausted, though anger really wasn’t what had gotten her into this mess.

“You’re mein Schwester, Ulla.  I love you.  You know that, don’t you?”

Ulla sniffled again and lifted her head to meet Gemi’s eyes.  After a moment, she nodded.

“Ja.”

Gemi smiled reassuringly.  “Gut.”

However, Ulla sniffled again and frowned.  “But I still don’t get why.”  Gemi must have looked puzzled because Ulla added, “Raymond’s right.  You usually are grumpy around me.  I want to know why.”

Gemi’s cheeks heated.  She really wished she didn’t have to have this conversation in front of so many people, even if they had all known her since she was ten.  But the Clan was the Familie, according to Nomade tradition.  It was the one thing about Leben as a Nomade that she still found disconcerting.

“Well…” Gemi whispered.  She wasn’t sure how to explain to Ulla without upsetting her Schwester more than she already was.  “You remember the first time we met?”

Ulla sniffed and wiped at one eye.  “Of course I do.”  Her voice still sounded choked up.

Gemi felt her lips twitch as she remembered her first meeting with the Katze Clan.  “Do you remember that first conversation we had?”

To Gemi’s surprise, Ulla actually blushed.  Shifting her gaze from Gemi’s, Ulla muttered, “I guess I deserve that.”

Gemi blinked at the unexpected reaction.  “What?”

Ulla sighed and sat up straighter.  “I guess I can be a bit of a Gör, sometimes.”

Gemi gaped at her Schwester, as those around them chuckled.  “I would never call you that,” she finally said.

Ulla’s smile was soft.  “I know.”  The smile widened into a grin.  “You’d probably prefer ‘brat’, or something else from your native tongue.”

Gemi groaned and dropped her forehead onto Ulla’s knees.  “And this is why I’m often grumpy around you.”  When Gemi felt Ulla’s hand gently touch the top of her head, she sighed.

“I take it I’m forgiven, then?”

Ulla’s chuckle was answer enough, and the Fräulein slid her hand under Gemi’s chin to lift it.

“Of course, Bruder,” the young Geistmagier whispered.  “I forgave you a while ago.”

Gemi raised an eyebrow.  “And the tears?”  She found it hard to believe that Ulla would continue crying after forgiving Gemi.

Ulla grinned.  “I just wanted to see if you could actually explain it.”  She shrugged.  “You got your point across, at least.”

Gemi sighed and rolled her head back.  She might have responded, but she caught sight of a double purple Statusgürtel to her side and quickly swung her head around to the wearer.

She was surprised to find Ferez standing there, frowning as his gaze moved back and forth between Gemi and Ulla.

Gemi’s cheeks burned then.  She didn’t know which was worse:  the possibility that Ferez had heard her pleading with her Schwester, the teasing that followed, or the position that Ferez had found her in, with her head practically in Ulla’s lap.

Why should that bother me? she wondered, even as she pulled back from Ulla. We’re Schwestern. It’s not like we’re interested in each other in more than a familial way.

Despite her self-assurances, the heat in her cheeks didn’t abate.

Hoping to distract herself, Gemi scrambled to her feet and grabbed Ferez’s hand.  “Let me introduce you to mein Familie.”

*~*~*~*

As Ferez watched James lay his head in Ulla’s lap and listened as they referred to the first time they met, a growl swelled in his chest.

Biting his lip to keep the sound from escaping, Ferez frowned at them.  This level of intimacy hardly seemed appropriate for such a public place, even if he still had a lot to learn about the nomads and such might be normal within the clan.

Not to mention, they’re siblings, Ferez thought, chastising himself for the sudden anger.

Even so, the anger didn’t ease until James jumped up and grabbed Ferez by the hand.  The king didn’t have time to wonder over the odd emotion as the boy began introducing the small group that surrounded them.

“Frenz, this is mein Schwester, Ulla.”

The young woman to whom James had been apologizing stood and nodded before brushing off her trousers, though Ferez couldn’t see how they needed that much cleaning.

“Mein Mutter, Mina,” James continued, turning to a woman seated to Ulla’s left.  While Ferez had been distracted by the conversation, the boy’s younger siblings had joined her, Lorenz in her lap and Ava kneeling by her feet.

“A pleasure, madam,” Ferez greeted, offering her a small bow.

“Hardly necessary, young Mann,” Mina dismissed with a wave of one hand.  “A Freund of James is a Freund of the Familie.”

“You are too trusting, Mina,” someone accused in a rough voice.

Ferez turned towards the speaker and swallowed as he took in the melted appearance of the left side of the woman’s face.

“He is a stranger.”

Mina shook her head.  “I trust mein Sohn not to bring with him someone who might mean harm to the Clan.  Surely you cannot fault James’ judgment, Isa?”

The scarred woman must be James’ aunt, then, Ferez thought idly as he watched the exchange.

Isa scowled.  “It is not his judgment I’m questioning.”

“Tante,” James interrupted sharply.  “Frenz has been traveling with me almost since the beginning of the Jahreszeit.  He’s a Freund.”

“He doesn’t mean any harm, Tante,” Ava twittered.  “He’s just curious.”

She flashed Ferez a smile that he couldn’t help returning.

“Bitte, Freund, forgive mein Schwester.”

Ferez glanced to the man who’d spoken and nearly bowed a second time.  He didn’t need to see the double purple of his Statusgürtel to recognize that he must be the Clan’s leader.  The way he held himself was too reminiscent of Ferez’s own father for the man to be anyone else.

“Frenz,” James spoke with a quick squeeze of his hand.  “This is mein Vater, Häuptling Hausef Kanten, Erstehäuptling of the Vereinte Clans.”

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