Excerpt from My Novel Be
The Meeting of the Main Characters
An except from my novel, Be, that was just published, June 29th, 2021. I spent 14 years writing this story and it’s now available as an ebook and paperback through Amazon.
Henry dropped down, gingerly as he could, biting back a gasp. His hands flexed as he slumped against the wall, bent over and stiff. Careful not to move, he lifted his eyes beneath the hood to his companion.
“What part of ‘wait here’ did you not understand?”
“The soldier was threatening a child, Eacann.” He was met with a roll of the eyes. “You’ve never faced a soldier, let alone seen the King’s dungeon.”
“What is this constant death wish of yours? Why, when everyone else has sacrificed for you, do you still wish to risk your life?” Eacann was less than amused at the smile he received.
“Are you truly lecturing me on gambling?” With a strained breath, Henry pushed himself into a position that resembled standing. At least, standing on his own.
“Can you even walk?” Eacann eyed him critically.
“I’ll make do,” he muttered, head hanging and hood falling even lower over his eyes. “Which way?”
Before he could leave, he was grabbed from behind and spun around in time to see Eacann pushed back. He, himself, was shoved against the wall of the alley. As his head collided with bricks, a groan escaped his lips. The wall scratched at the skin beneath his cape. As his vision swam and the world took its time righting itself, cries of protests broke through the ringing in his ears.
“Take a step closer,” a voice hissed, “and I’ll slit his throat.”
Cool metal pressed against his neck. It was this slight tickle that kept him still. Panic made his head pound worse when he caught the sun reflecting off the blade. His eyes traced the silver dagger, up the arm wielding it, to the face of a woman no older than he was. The dirtied wrappings around her hands only worsened the image he had of her. Some violent thief starving for a pocket to pick or a scoundrel just looking for a fight.
He began to laugh, verging close to hysteria. Eacann buried his face in his hands and groaned. Leave it to Henry to make matters worse. The woman pressed the dagger closer to Henry’s skin.
“I promise you, I will,” she warned.
“I have no doubt,” Henry gasped, tears pricking at the corner of his eyes. Sweat framed his reddening face. “You’ll have to forgive me.” It was difficult not to squirm. “It’s just, of all the ways to die, Eacann, after all we’ve been through…”
“No one’s going to die.” Eacann was somewhere between exasperation and confidence. He held his hands up placatingly toward the woman. Her eyes darted over her shoulder with a darkening smile.
“Who is your friend, Eacann?”
“No one,” he swore. “No one of any consequence.”
“The soldiers chasing him would beg to differ.” Her lips pursed. “Soldiers mean trouble, and my people need no more of that. They’ve got plenty without your help.”
“No trouble.” Eacann took a slow step forward, only for the blade to pierce Henry’s neck. Henry flinched and sobered. The laughter subsided to hiccupping breaths. Eacann froze. “That’s something we all agree on. We mean no trouble.”
“Regardless of intention, the consequences remain,” she warned, but Eacann offered no more than promises to leave quickly. She directed the question to Henry. “I ask once more, who are you? Why do they want you?”
“And, who are you to demand that?” Henry asked.
Eacann silently willed him to shut up.
“The person holding a blade to your throat.” A drop or two of red colored his neck, and he sucked air through clenched teeth. “Do you value your life?”
“Very little. But, entertaining such thoughts, why else would I run from the people who are trying to kill me?”
“I am worse than any soldier,” she promised. The drops turned to a trickle and Henry cringed. “Don’t underestimate me. Now, I will not ask again.” She moved to make good on her threat.
“All right!” Henry cried, pressing himself as far from the blade as the wall behind him allowed. “It’s…”
“No,” Eacann protested. Eyes darted between Henry and the woman. “Puck! People call him Puck! Now, will you release my friend?”
The dagger lowered, and Henry slapped a hand over the cut. “And, your crime?”
His eyes remained glued to the sharp edge painted with his blood, still wrapped tightly in her fist, at the ready for when she deemed necessary.
“My crime?” He swallowed thickly. “I was born.” Unsatisfied, she opened her mouth.
“ARI!” The cry from the road stole her attention.
“Don’t move a step, or I will find you.” As she disappeared behind the corner, Henry sunk to the ground, trying to slow his heartbeat.
“Puck?” Hearing the name was bad enough. Saying it out loud stung worse than any dagger could. “No one’s called me that for a few months now.”
“We needed something, and we couldn’t very well tell her the truth.” He knelt beside his friend and pried his hand away from the cut. “How deep is it?”
“Just a scratch.”
“Good. I’d hate to steal even a needle and thread from these people.” Eacann frowned at the dirt road and crumbling buildings and tents. “She wasn’t wrong, you know. They’ve got enough trouble without adding us to the mix. We best be on our way before either she returns or a soldier finds us.” He got to his feet and brushed the dust from his hands. Henry remained seated with a thoughtful expression.
“We should see if she needs help.”
“What?” Eacann pulled at his hair. “Have you lost your mind? Did she not just hold a blade to your throat?”
“Did she not just threaten to kill you?”
“And, is there a good chance she’ll turn us in to the soldiers?”
“There is,” Henry agreed. Eacann knew it was a losing argument. “Whoever she ran to, though, did not and may not.” He headed to the opening. “Care to join me?”
“I made a promise to protect you, and you aren’t making it easy!” Eacann called after him.
“Just think of it as a gamble.” Henry flashed Eacann a mischievous smile. It was dangerous coming from him. Eacann was sure they were doomed.