I can't believe I've never done a Firechild teaser on the blog before... that can't be right! I'm going to have to go back into the archives to check...
To be sure, I did put a handful of scenes from a previous (and only slightly altered) version up on Wattpad a few years ago, when my indie publishing expedition first began... but that doesn't really count.
Hmmm, where to start?
The beginning, obviously...
Here's a hefty serving of Chapter One as it currently stands:
(the completed chapter is really long, so I'll post the second part tomorrow)
Chapter One: Part I
Kailet shifted in her seat on the carved stone bench lined with pillows, her mind wandering restlessly away from Caven’s bored monotone as she spied a silver tray of honeyed pastries arrive in the hands of one of the castle servants. Her dark blue eyes widened excitedly, then narrowed to near slits as she heard her Governess suck in a sharp disapproving breath.
The woman waved the tray away, and Kailet narrowed her gaze over her Governess in a dangerous, seething fury. Her hawk-eyed caretaker watched the servant leave with a sour grimace and pointed tersely at the passage in her book that Caven had been reading aloud. She was Kailet’s fifth Governess that year, and the fiery-tempered Princess of Coren was already eager to get rid of the pinch-lipped woman’s confining presence. She may have been young, but Kailet’s blood burned with a fierceness and fire that many had a hard time withstanding.
“Is it the droll sound of my brother’s voice that displeases you, or just the illuminating text in question?”
Caven gritted his teeth as he watched Kailet turn and smile pleasantly at his half-brother standing at the railing of the balcony just above them. Her eyes followed Haegan with each step, wide and discerning as the Prince-heir gracefully descended the steps from the second-floor down into the central garden below.
He paused when he reached them, resting his shoulder against a large marble statue of a nude woman crowned with stars, her arms stretching up towards the heavens above while her lifeless eyes shrewdly examined the gathering at her feet. Haegan’s own eyes twinkled with mirth as they swept over his brother’s furrowed brow and settled easily on Kailet’s lovely smiling face beside him.
The Prince-heir held his hand out for hers and Kailet slowly rose from the bench, placing her delicate fingers into his as he pressed his lips over the surface of her knuckles. Caven snapped the cover of the book shut and moved to stand beside them, unwilling to allow his brother to steal her attention away.
“I was hoping you’d take a turn about the gardens with me. I hear your ship departs for Coren in the morning, and my father has asked that I make my case to you before you leave us.” Haegan lifted his chin with a smug look of assured victory as he spoke.
Kailet raised a curious eyebrow, sharp and arched in a way that made a grin curl up the side of Caven’s cheek unbidden. They’d spent a great deal of time together during her long visit, and he’d gotten to know her well enough to understand what that look truly meant for his brother's ambitions.
Haegan was oblivious… as was her constant shadow of a Governess.
“Of course.” Her cheeks rounded out with a sly grin as she took the boys on each arm, peering over her shoulder at the irritated frown on her Governess’ pinched lips. “I’m going for a walk. Unless you take issue with the Tyrian Princes, I’d like you to remain here so we can speak in privacy. I promise, we’ll behave ourselves.”
The woman’s cheeks drained of color. She knew she couldn’t protest without offending the Tyrian royals, so she huffed a grumble under her breath as she watched the trio shuffle out of view behind the tall hedges that led towards the inner fountain.
Haegan narrowed his eyes at his brother on Kailet’s opposite arm, his jaw tight as he addressed her, “I had been hoping to speak with you alone. This is a personal matter, between us only.”
“I see.” She smiled, batting her long dark eyelashes innocently. Caven could barely contain the bubbling mirth her taunting his brother stirred within him. She had no intention of allowing Haegan to off-handedly woo her mere hours before her departure.
The servant with the tray of confections they’d spied earlier disappeared around a sharp corner of the far wall, and Kailet directed their strolling pace in that direction. Caven knew instantly what she was after.
“Haegan, have you heard? A juicy bit of gossip came with the ship arriving from Coren.” She said casually, “They say there’s a creature lurking out in the depths beyond the Ocuate Sea that can crush an entire ship and its crew to splinters in a matter of minutes. The crew said they saw it attack a merchant vessel off the coast just a few weeks ago.”
Haegan’s light green eyes widened with surprise, “Truly? What a fascination! Who told you of this?”
Caven felt her hand grip over his forearm where it rested. She’d hooked his brother completely. Haegan would spend the next several hours searching out the mythological creature before the sailors departed for home with the Princess - and leave Kailet and Caven alone.
“One of the servants told me they’d overheard the crew yammering on about it last night in the garrison.” She shrugged, winking at Caven playfully when his brother’s back was turned.
Haegan fidgeted and tugged at the sleeve of his tunic, his head turning towards the stairs leading to the barracks on the opposite end of the courtyard.
“You shouldn’t listen to the rabble.” He chided absently.
Caven rolled his eyes. Though he knew Kailet was enjoying her little game, he also knew a much more expedient way to get rid of his half-brother. With less than a day left before the Corenian Princess’ departure, Caven was determined she spend all of her remaining hours with him instead.
“Did you see that?” Caven asked suddenly, pointing into the knee-deep pool of water in the fountain’s intricately carved marble basin.
“What—” Haegan turned his head to look just as Caven’s palm landed against the middle of his brother’s back, pushing him into the water with an explosive splash. The garden erupted in chaos as Haegan stumbled and flailed, servants running in a scramble to the Prince-heir’s aid as water from the fountain splashed and sprayed everywhere.
In the commotion Kailet twined her fingers through Caven’s, gripping his hand tightly as she led him away at a jubilant pace. They ran, laughing, chests heaving, her face bright and rosy with mirth as they turned the sharp corner in pursuit of the servant with the silver tray. Kailet found the startled young man some distance away, her free hand rustling through the sweets piled over his outstretched arms as they cornered him against the prickly hedge. She beamed happily, stuffing one into Caven’s mouth before peering over her shoulder to see if anyone had followed.
“Come. They’ll be distracted for a good while.” She said, the mischievous light in her eyes making Caven swallow down the lump of sweetened dough with a heated flush of his cheeks.
She was so beautiful, especially when she was like this - unfettered and reveling in her fiery nature. It made her eyes seem to sparkle with an inner flame that Caven found almost hypnotizing.
Stray wisps of her vibrant red hair fell about her porcelain skin, kissing her cheeks and neck down to her delicate, exposed shoulders. Caven exhaled slowly, pushing the strange feeling away as she hurried them into a secluded recess of the garden where another statue of a naked goddess loomed above their heads.
Footsteps echoed on the terrace above them, and Kailet pressed her finger softly to Caven’s lips, peering up the length of the statue towards the noise on the second-floor balcony. She was so close, Caven could feel her slender body pressed against his through all her layers of dress as she urged him further into the arched recess behind the statue. It was almost more than the young prince could bare.
“Is it safe yet?” He mumbled through the haze her closeness had placed over his senses, blinking it hastily away to regain his composure.
Kailet leaned back to peer out into the courtyard and Caven resisted the urge to pull her back in, the scent of her filling his nose until he sighed and pressed his backside firmly into the wall behind him to stop himself.
There was a soft clicking sound as the secret panel came free, and they both jumped, moving away in surprise.
“What is that?” Kailet’s eyes widened with wonder - excitement and adventure curling her supple lips into a wicked grin that made Caven weak in the knees. He peered into the darkened passageway on the other side, partially blocked with cobwebs and debris.
“It’s one of the old tunnels.” He said, reaching through the opening to clear away the film of obscuring white for a better look, “This one seems like it hasn’t been touched in ages.”
Kailet hopped excitedly on her toes as she peered curiously inside.
“Oh, Cav! It’s my last day…”
Caven sighed - defeated, knowing there would be no convincing her to leave it be. The look in her eyes was clear enough.
He bowed his head, pushing the panel forward so she could pass through before checking the area behind them to be certain no one was watching. The moment the panel slid back into place, Caven instantly regretted his decision. The passage was black as pitch, the air stagnant, and they had no idea where the stone hallway led.
Even worse, no one knew they were there.
To be continued.
To my fellow NaNoWriMo Scribblers:
We're one week in! Keep those stories going. Go go go!
*shakes her pom poms and makes dramatically cheerful faces*
Good Luck To All!!!
For those of you scratching your heads and mouthing "NaNoWriMo?" with a puzzled expression:
NaNoWriMo is a month long event where both fledgling and professional writers alike commit to writing 50,000 words within the month of November (30 days). It is a shortening of "National Novel Writing Month" and has participants all over the world.