Today’s snippet is the opening of Chapter Three from the first draft of a WIP with no title just yet. I’ve referred to it alternately as Rudabet, after the protagonist, and Queendom because it features one. Either way, this chapter introduces Reeve Elsvet and she is a real piece of work.
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The hall was damnably drafty as the Reeve of Echo Bay held court. A line of petitioners stretched the length of the room and it was all she could do to refrain from rolling her eyes and heaving a sigh. Another dull, interminable afternoon wasted, she thought, turning her gaze toward the great doors at the back of the chamber. After fifteen years chained to this seat, Elsvet could tell the time of day from the light that filtered through the cracks no matter the season nor the weather. Just now, it was past noon, and she had been dispensing judgement since dawn.
She could smell the mid-afternoon repast being set out in the anteroom, hot bread and butter, mulled wine, roast beef with thyme and basted carrots. The scents triggered memories of finer feasts and for a moment, she was a child again, marvelling at the spun sugar confections, the candied fruit pastries, braised duck, suckling pig, the puddings and mashes flavored with half-a-hundred exotic spices from places she had never even heard of, and of course, the wines. Pale gold from Gallis, deep burgundy from northern Nabarais, rich claret from Hollir and her favorite, the slightly bubbly champagne from Estros with its delicate pink color and natural sweetness.
The trilling, nasal voice of her Scribe, Gunildor, interrupted her idle thoughts and dragged her, kicking and screaming, back to reality. He tapped a finger against the parchment page she held in her hand. “The guildmaster would like to request an extra twenty bushels of flour be made available to them, from the city’s own mill, to help offset the losses they took during the flood last month. Is that acceptable to you, Lady Elsvet?”
She paused a long moment, tapping a long fingernail to her lips in a pose of exaggerated pensiveness. Best to appear thoughtful, she thought, schooling her expression and staring down at the Guildmaster with critical brown eyes.
“Petition the seneschal on the morrow,” she said at last, standing. “If he believes we can spare the flour, then the matter is settled.” Before Gunildor or the Guildmaster could object, Elsvet lifted a hand. “Enough. I am weary. We are adjourned for the day.”
“But, Lady Elsvet,” Gunildor began, chasing after her. The small man stumbled over his plain brown robes, struggling to match his short stride to her long-legged one. Though she was well aware of this, Elsvet did not relent, forcing him to practically run to keep up. She flung the door to her dining room open and breezed across the tiled floor, assaulted by the scents of her dinner. With a grunt, she threw herself into the plush chair at the head of the small table, one leg looped over the arm of the chair.
“Lady Elsvet,” the scribe tried again, shuffling through the armful of parchments. “There are several vital petitions left that absolutely must be adjudicated today. For instance-”
“Gunildor, enough! I am done listening to all these ridiculous, droning feeble-minded fools. They plague me day and night! Lower our taxes, Reeve, give us flour. The Lost Men in the forest are stealing our sheep, Reeve, send your guards in to rout them.” Elsvet scooped a fresh, hot roll from the platter and tore it open. “I am sick to death of whining petitioners. The floods were terrible, but would they not be better served if they toddled off to rebuild their hovels rather than stink up my Audience Hall?”
Gunildor ducked his head, hiding his expression behind a veil of stringy brown hair. Though he had served the Reeve of Echo Bay for only two years, his time in the position eclipsed all five of his predecessors by at least six months. He was accustomed to her fickleness, her tempestuous nature, her queer, quiet calms and even her occasional fits of rage. Yet somehow, she still surprised him from time-to-time, usually when her utter lack of empathy reached a new low.
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And that’s that. Hope you enjoyed it. As always, please comment, add suggestions, questions, whatever you have to say below. I look forward to next Sunday, when I should have a snippet from WT: Incandescence ready to share.
Love & Rainbows,