From The Narrator, Chapter Twelve

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“What are you doing?” she hissed through her smile. She refused to allow the court see how upset she was with him. “Why did you challenge Brindon of all people?”

“Because Tarell doesn’t use a sword when he fights.” Endar snatched up his waterskin and guzzled half the contents.

“But Brindon is lame,” she reminded him. “You can’t humiliate him in front of the entire court like this.”

“Why not?” he demanded. He dragged his hand across his mouth. “You think he’s going to start his war because I hurt his pride?”

“Certainly won’t help matters.” She glanced back at the crowd, easily spotting Pennington where he leaned on the yard fence’s top rail. Her stomach lurched and she turned her back on him. She didn’t have time to deal with that right now. “This is a mistake.”

“Mine,” he said. “Not yours.” He tossed the waterskin on the ground and picked up a small leather-bound book.

Arianna eyed it warily while he turned it over in his hands. “What are you doing with that?”

He idly flipped through the pages. “I need a second wind. I’ve already had two duels, Brindon’s had none.”

“For good reason!” She moved to his shoulder, blocking the book from the court’s view. “If I can’t talk you out of stopping the duel, at least promise me that you won’t use magic.”

Endar met her determined stare. He wore an easy smile, but she noticed faint lines of strain along his jaw and around his eyes.

Slowly, he ran a finger down the page. As it passed each line, the sharp handwriting billowed and curled in its wake. His back straightened, the lines on his face disappeared, he seemed to thrum with new energy.

He snapped the book shut and handed it to Arianna with a smirk before striding back into the middle of the yard.


Jennifer A. Johnson is a newly published fantasy writer thanks to The Adventure of Creation anthology. She's still revising her first novel, but you can sign up for her free newsletter to pass the time.

From The Narrator, Chapter 5

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By the time she reached the main courtyard, most of the court had turned out to greet their new king. All eyes were trained on where the road emerged from the forest two hundred yards away. Ladies were caught up in last minute primping for their bachelor king, while lords were placing bets on the exact moment he would appear. Arianna stifled a laugh. The multitude of frills and flounces reminded her of an exotic aviary.

With a few smiles and nods in the right direction, she was able to maneuver to the front of the flock. Unfortunately, she ended up at Brindon’s elbow.

At least, unfortunately for him.

Arianna pasted on her sweetest, sickliest smile — the one Father had said made her look like a feral horse. “Good morning, brother.”

He merely nodded in greeting. His lips were a thin, disapproving line, and his eyes seemed to have sunk into his skull. Not a morning person, then.

Good.

“Don’t tell me I missed the reception,” she cried, pitching her voice in an unattractive whine.

Brindon winced, and she nearly laughed in his face. Her game wasn’t much, and it certainly wasn’t useful, but it was oh-so-very satisfying.

“I was so looking forward to it,” she continued, digging in the vocal screws. “He promised to bring me all sorts of presents.”

“Is that so?” Brindon seemed to be trying his best to tune her out. Impatience rolled off his shoulders like rain. But his gaze never left the spot where the road left the forest.

He looked…nervous.

And why shouldn’t he be? He probably expected Endar and Quin to be rotting on the southern road, not trotting up it.

“Don’t worry,” she said gently.

The switch in her manner caught Brindon’s attention. He looked down at her and raised an eyebrow in silent question.

As dismissively as possible, Arianna turned back to her own vigil and said, “I’m sure he hasn’t forgotten about you.”


Jennifer A. Johnson is a newly published fantasy writer thanks to The Adventure of Creation anthology. She's still revising her first novel, but you can sign up for her free newsletter to pass the time.

From The Narrator, Chapter 6

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The guards marched them down tapestried halls and stone passageways. Nobles and servants alike calmly stepped aside as the column passed. None of them looked twice at the prisoners.

The passage’s right-hand wall opened up into intricate archways. The elegant walkway looked out on a wide, lazulite river that rushed past two hundred feet below them. A few more sights like this, and Saydie might appreciate why Endar chose to live in an otherwise dreary castle.

A small fleet of ships flickered on the water. They hadn’t been there before, had they?

Then she heard a faint pop.

“Get down!” she bellowed. She rammed the soldiers in front of her. They stumbled into Calder. He hit the stone with a slap as a boulder smashed through the archway. Stone rained down on them. A sharp pain cut through her arm, but at least she had her head.

She scrambled to her feet and danced through the spattering of debris and groaning guards. One had taken a stone wedge to the thigh.

And another boulder was coming.

Based on the siege she’d worked for Pennington two novels ago, they only had thirty seconds until the reload. Less if other ships were aimed at them, too.

She found Calder, pulled him to his feet, and dragged him along. They had to get out of the open air. Fast.

“Let’s go!” she cried, hauling on his arm.

“Those were Delmaran flags,” he said, as if that mattered.

“That’s nice. We’re still going.”

A second boulder plowed into the cliffside. They staggered as the ground jumped beneath their feet.

Okay. Other ships were aiming at them.


Jennifer A. Johnson is a newly published fantasy writer thanks to The Adventure of Creation anthology. She's still revising her first novel, but you can sign up for her free newsletter to pass the time.