Refugees

An excerpt from Pirates, available on Kindle Unlimited and Amazon Kindle! Thank you all for your support, you have been absolutely incredible.
xxx
-Veronique

At the very top of the tallest guard tower in the Crystal City, surveying the vast lands that lay about the protected realm, stood a woman with raven black hair and skin as smooth and white as ivory. Small black jewels tipped two little fangs that reached slightly over her bottom lip, and a smooth black staff crowned with a mist-enveloped copper orb was in her right hand. Her dark robes, deep turquoise and amber, were in sharp contrast to the brightness of the city and its people.

In ages past, fear had surrounded her and her people, the Darkdwellers—or, as they had once been known, the Dragons, now ill and forced to dwell in human form. Since recent events, however, everyone knew Chiasa for who she really was: the immortal Dragon Queen, the leader of the purest race ever to have lived in Kirael.

And not only that, but she had proved over and over again her strength in battle, her bravery, and above all, her loyalty. The people of the Crystal City and of all the free kingdoms loved their own kings, but they loved and trusted her, too.

Now she stood and watched the main gate far down below, open wide and letting in a nearly constant trickle of all manner of people. Refugees. Most had come from far and wide, and some—more disturbingly—had come from not so very far at all.

Her eyes, deep aqua with flecks of gold and emerald, the only part of her once fair appearance that still remained, looked on with foreboding and sadness as more and more people entered the city. They carried small bundles, hurriedly packed, telling of what sort of attack had driven them from their homes.

Then a fragile, delicate looking figure sitting tall and straight on a great black steed caught her eye, riding at the head of some two hundred people, all on horseback, and a great many unsaddled horses who followed without leads or bridles.

At the sight of Adyah and her people, a stab of pain went through Chiasa’s heart. She had felt the battle in her spirit and had known that many of them had died, but to see them riding to the Crystal City under such a clear banner of defeat, when they had for thousands of years been nearly impossible to reach in their home in the mountains, brought it home to her that the evil they all faced was far greater than anything they had faced before.

“My lady,” said the Tower Captain behind her.

She turned to face him. “What is it?”

“Where will we tell the people to go? So many have come over the last few days that we have little room left to spare. Captain Eldaroth has not returned yet and we are not sure what to do.”

She looked back down at the river of refugees. “Have whoever is able take them into their homes. And open the palace to them as well—the King would gladly have done so, were he at home, and there are hundreds of empty chambers.”

“And what of the horses?”

Despite the gravity of the situation, Chiasa smiled a little. “Leave the horses and their people to Lady Adyah. They will not abide staying within the city walls, I am sure. They are far too wild for that.”

“Yes, my lady,” he said, bowing.

Not long after, Chiasa walked into the great throne room in the palace. It had been missing its King for a long time now, but the great crystal throne had not been empty. She, Adyah, and Adyah’s sister, Cahmeelle, had been taking turns ruling in his stead while he was off on his important mission. It was a bright room at the top of the shining spire that was the palace.

The walls were great glass windows, clear but strong as steel, reinforced with ancient spells, and from here Chiasa could see the whole city and the Barrier Plains all around it.
She found Adyah sitting on the edge of the long glass table which was used for councils and diplomatic meetings. There was a heavy air about her and she stared out at nothing in particular, watching the clouds go by, her face set in a hard, anguished expression.

Chiasa said nothing but simply went to sit beside her, waiting.

“It’s all gone,” Adyah said finally, in a broken voice which Chiasa had never heard from her before. “Everything is gone. My mountains—“ she broke off and swallowed her tears.
There was nothing else to say, or else too much, and so they sat in silence staring at the blue sky outside, as yet untouched by the shadow that threatened everything they held dear.

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The Shard Trilogy

Hello my lovely and beautifully loyal readers. I know I’ve been absent for a while, but things have been happening at the speed of light! Most importantly, I married the love of my life, so you know, that was nice.

In other news, however, you will (hopefully) be glad to know that I’m officially back. Blogs will roll, I say! Ahem. In any case, I happen to have started publishing my books, finally. I’m excited! One of them is already out under the pen name Helen Rose, but I will in fact be publishing the first of the Shard-related books later this month under my own name. I’m incredibly excited to finally be able to share these with you, and a lot of you have been there with me since the beginning as I worked on and slaved over them. So thank you for your continued and awesome support, and stay tuned for Pirates, book one in the Shard trilogy! (Super sneaky sneak peek at the covers up above there for you.)

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NaNo TB-non-T: 2012

So I have been looking through some of my other NaNo novels, and to my great surprise, they are actually half decent (except for 2009 and 2010…but anyway). I thought I would do some NaNo Throwback non-Thursdays and post some of my favorite excerpts, partly as self motivation to keep working on them and editing them. These two are from my NaNo 2012 novel, Prin Ten Arken: Before the Beginning, which is probably my favorite one. It’s the last book in the Kirael series (of which the Shard trilogy is the center) and is sort of akin to The Last Battle by CS Lewis. The first excerpt is close to the beginning of the novel, where Richard, who is one of the great fighting legends, comes to convince Jelda, another legend, to return to the front lines. She has been out of the fray for five years after being seriously wounded.

The second excerpt is the only scene that has ever made me cry while writing. It’s from close to the end during the last great battle, where Alexander, the prince of Mirrorsea (the last free realm in Kirael) dies. It was emotional to write because I hated him when I started writing, but then his character developed and changed and by the time I had to kill him off I was quite attached. He has always loved Jelda, and although she cares for him, her heart belongs to Richard…so #allthefeelings in this scene. Anyway. Here they are. These are still in their original, rough, NaNo form so they are perhaps a bit wordy:)

Excerpt 1

She stared at him in shock, taking everything in; his familiar blue eyes, his caramel skin, the gruff look about him from living in the wilderness for so long. Seeing him brought back more memories, some good and some terrible, and she couldn’t decide whether or not she was happy to see him. He wasn’t the kind of idiot to ask something like, “aren’t you going to say something?” So he let her take it all in and stood in silence, his eyes sweeping over her face. She looked a little older, but still young, still full of energy; not the obvious kind, but the steady, strong, calm kind. The last time he’d seen her, her eyes had been full of fury, full of the knowledge of betrayal. Now he could not read her expression, though he knew it was because she couldn’t make up her mind as to what she felt, or what she wanted him to see.

“I think you’d better come with me and tell me what you’re doing here,” she said after what would otherwise have been a painfully and uncomfortably long silence.

He nodded, still saying nothing, and followed her up the narrow stairs to the light-filled kitchen. He marveled at the cleanness, the neatness, of everything; the way the colors matched and the small potted plants that stood carefully arranged on the window sills, and the light, graceful curtains waving gently in the soft breeze, and the way everything had its place but still seemed to be capable of letting go and being messy once in a while. He’d only known her in the forest, in the wilderness, on a battlefield, through long, cold nights of sleeping under the stars. Although she looked natural here, he felt out of place, and he wondered if somewhere the Jelda he knew was still yearning for wilderness and lakesides.

He watched while she put a kettle on the stove, and then she paused and took a breath before turning around to face him. There was still a space and another counter between them, and he stood with his back to the French lattice doors. In the light, he saw that she looked tired and even sick. The skin around her eyes was swollen and her cheeks were flushed, and a slight sheen covered her face and neck.

“Well?”

He shifted his weight and sighed. “Perhaps I shouldn’t have come.”

“Don’t do that,” she said irritably. “You came, now be man enough to tell me why. Don’t pull that ‘I shouldn’t have come’ drivel.”

That was more like it. “I just meant that you seem quite content here, and I wouldn’t want to burst your bubble.”

“It’s not for you to decide. Tell me why you came, and I’ll either help you or I won’t.”

“Who says I need your help?”

“You wouldn’t have come for any other reason.”

The dart hit him where she intended, and a muscle in his cheek quivered. For a moment she held his stare, and then she broke it, turning her back to him and leaning on the countertop. He saw the weight her shoulders carried, the burden that made her heart heavy. He knew it himself.

“I’m not happy to see you,” she said plainly after a long, still moment. “I left because everything and everyone would never stop reminding me of everything we’ve done, and you least of all.” She turned to him again, and now she looked vulnerable, the outer hardness stripped. “I wish I could be happy to see you, but I’m not. So please, Richard, tell me why you’re here and stop drawing it out.”

He nodded and exhaled heavily. “All right.” He could feel her electric anticipation in the air, crackling and ready to ignite. “The days when you fought with us are long past. Things no longer go as smoothly as they used to, and young and eager fighters no longer swarm the camps. People have grown weary and they have grown accustomed. War is no longer an outlandish thing, to be taken care of quickly and to be ended at all costs; it is now a part of life, and the passion is gone. And because of this, I am sorry to say, things are going badly for us.”

Jelda’s stare intensified as she took this in. “Draw them deeper into the wilderness. You can hide there and take them by surprise.”

“They have taken our wilderness,” he said with a pained voice. “They have taken our forests and wild fields and savage gardens. We have nothing left.”

Excerpt 2

Suddenly the sky grew dark, and everyone looked up. What she saw filled her with fear, and she struggled to even move. A dragon, more enormous than what she could have imagined, wreathed in flame and black, sooty smoke and sulfur, was descending on them, and the smoke that seemed to emanate from it was swiftly covering the sky until it was as dark as night. The creatures came with more force than ever, new determination seeming to spring into them at the sight of their master. Jelda fought hard but she was distracted, one eye always on the descending dragon. Suddenly she was being attacked by seven creatures, and she shouted as they came, knowing this would be her last. She could not hold off seven at once.

And then suddenly Alexander was there beside her, brandishing his sword and crying, “Come on, you dogs! Meet your fate!” They came and Alexander fought recklessly, killing two of them before they knew what was happening. Jelda jumped in and helped him, and they easily slaughtered them and the two that came after. A last one came, holding a spear on his shoulder as he ran. Several things happened at once. Jelda plunged her blade into him, and the creature’s face twisted in pain as he gave his last breath. She turned to Alexander to thank him, and she saw he looked strange. And then she realized that the spear, the spear in the creature’s hand, had gone through – straight through him, as though he were made of cloud – and Alexander, a dazed, confused expression on his face, stood perfectly still.

Everything around them seemed to stop. Jelda watched as he swayed and she half caught him, and they sank down to the ground, their eyes locked, and Jelda held his cold hand as he lay on her knees, and then she saw the blood. There was so much of it, all over, soaking his clothes, and his face was fast paling as the blood drained from it, his lips becoming gray. She could not fathom this, she could not think it was possible that it was really happening, and yet the horror that filled her was too great to ignore.

“Jelda,” he whispered, and blood gurgled in his throat, spilt down his cheeks from his mouth like tears. “I…I always…loved you,” he said, using his last precious energy to hold onto her hand tightly, to keep his eyes focused on hers. “Will it…will it…hurt much longer?” His breath came fast and shallow, his lungs emptying of air.

Tears streamed down her cheeks and fell on his face, and she stroked his cheek, cradling him like a child. “No,” she whispered, shaking her head. “No, it will be over soon.” The fighting continued on around them but at that moment Jelda didn’t care if she was killed right there beside him. He was so innocent and guilt free in all of this, not a hardened ranger at all, and yet he’d fought more bravely than many of them, and now here he lay, dying in her arms.

“Tell…tell my father…tell him…”

“I know,” she said, gently running her fingers through his hair, her vision blurred with tears. “I’ll tell him you love him. You fought so bravely,” she whispered, leaning close to him. “You were as good as any ranger.”

“I love…I…I love…” his voice faltered and his eyelids fluttered for an instant before he suddenly went very still, and the blood stopped flowing from his wounds.

Jelda couldn’t hold back a sob, and she held him to her, rocking back and forth, unable to stop her tears. Richard finished fighting the onslaught that had come and saw her, and immediately went to her, seeing the fresh wave coming. He leaped over bodies and ran around heaps of them. “Jelda!” he shouted, grabbing her shoulders. “Jelda, get up. You have to leave him,” he said, hauling her up. She screamed and kicked and flailed against him, but he carried her away just as the rush came, and he took her all the way to the back as fighters from behind came forward again. By the time they reached the back of the line she’d calmed down, but she was silent and frozen, and limp.