Chapter 2 of WHEN SHADOWS FALL is really where the heart of the story begins. Teryk and Danya are brother and sister–the prince and princess of the kingdom. They’ve lived sheltered lives, protected from the outside world by the king and
WHEN SHADOWS FALL (The First Book of the Small Gods)
queen, so they look for adventure wherever they can find it. In this instance, they find it by going for a swim in the river that runs beneath Draekfarren castle, and it leads them somewhere they never expected to go.
This chapter pretty much wrote itself for me, but there was one part that proved to be a sticking point for a bit: the characters’ names. In my first draft, Danya was named Eve and Teryk was called–I’m almost embarrassed to say–Bruce. Eve might not be so bad, but the prince’s name just wouldn’t do. So where did the royal siblings’ names come from? Here’s the answer to that future Trivial Pursuit question: my daughter’s name is Anya and my son is Erik. If you’re a true fan, you’ll also notice the name of the kingdom ruled first by Braymon and then Therrador in the Khirro’s Journey trilogy was Erechania.
Without further ado…an excerpt from WHEN SHADOWS FALL chapter two.
II River Under the Castle
Teryk whirled around at a sound behind him, muscles tense and an excuse at the ready. He’d already planned for Trenan if the master swordsman found him—a semi-plausible story involving some bauble long lost during his tenth turn of the seasons. The man likely wouldn’t believe him, but it mattered not. He’d been doing nothing bad enough for Trenan to tell his father, so it would be kept between the two of them. Not so if he discovered him in the water, or worse—on the other side of the bars.
But instead of Trenan finding his way past the shoulder-high hedges, Teryk peered into the smiling face of his sister.
“You’re not going swimming without me, are you?” Danya’s eyes shone as she danced between a hedge of witch’s brew and a shock of creeper vines.
The prince let out his breath. “You startled me. I thought I’d been seen, but Trenan got lazy and sent the dogs after me, you made so much noise.”
“Pfft. You didn’t know I was here until I wanted you to know.”
She strode across the bare dirt to where he stood on the bank of the river. The sound of its rushing water—a constant hum heard in most every room of Draekfarren—became no more than a burble here where it slipped through the bars into the channel beneath the castle. Birds sang more loudly in trees around them, whistling tunes to celebrate another day of warmth and peace.
“It’s been a long time,” Teryk said, watching the water. “When was the last time we swam?”
“Swam? Not so long ago.” Danya giggled.
“Under the castle, I mean. I think I’d seen twelve turns of the seasons, and you eleven.”
“It was the day of my twelfth turn, remember? We sneaked away after the banquet and, when Trenan found us, he made a fuss but didn’t tell mother and father.”
The prince shook his head and laughed. “Trenan said if he ever caught us again, he’d tell the king.” He rubbed the back of his neck, staring at the water, wondering if it was worth the risk. “Hard to believe a half dozen and one have passed.”
“Not quite so many,” the princess said and took a step to stand beside him and survey the gently churning flow. “It’s still one more moon before the day of your twentieth turn of the seasons comes.”
“One more moon. Where does youth go?”
“Ha.” Danya nudged him and he smiled at her. “If it’s youth you want to experience, spend a day with father. Seeing the way he acts should make you feel young again.”
Teryk looked at her feet and saw Danya already without her shoes. He wondered if she’d taken them off upon finding him here, or if she’d been barefoot for some time. With her feet hidden beneath the skirt of her long dress, footwear was a custom Danya avoided whenever possible. The option didn’t exist for Teryk because everyone would notice if he strode around bootless.
He inhaled the aroma of the garden and the river, the chalky scent of the wall through which it flowed. Only a moon until the day of my twentieth turn of seasons. So much time gone, and never a step beyond the walls of the inner city.
“What do you think father would do if he found out?”
Danya gave him another shove, firmer this time. He leaned toward the water, absorbing it.
“First, brother, he won’t find out. Second, it’s swimming in a river, not laying with a peasant cleaning girl.” She raised an eyebrow and gave him a knowing look; he diverted his gaze. “I think he’d do nothing. Trenan only told us stories of how angry father would be to keep two curious children from trouble.”
“Hmph. I suppose that could be the truth of it.”
Danya pushed him again and Teryk side-stepped to keep from treading off the bank and into the river.
“Hey,” he cried. “You’ll ruin my boots!”
He took a step away from the water lest she push him again, but his sister had moved away to pull the ivory comb out of her hair and let her dark brown tresses fall past her shoulders. She shook her head, loosening them, then turned her back toward him.
“I can’t reach,” she said, stretching her arms behind her and slapping comically at the buttons. “Undo my dress for me, brother.”
“Women. Can’t dress or undress themselves.”
“You know I’d rather wear shirt and breeches, like you,” she said, fumbling with the top button.
“And waistcoat, and jerkin, and–”
“Don’t complain. You can get in and out of them all yourself, can’t you?”
He obliged and the dress slid off her shoulders. She shimmied and shook and pulled until it lay on the ground at her feet, leaving her in underclothes that still covered as much of her as Teryk’s shirt and breeches did of him.
“It’s dreadfully hot under all this dress-up, too,” she said stepping out of the dress. She picked it up and surveyed the garden around them, searching for somewhere to secret her clothes.
“Maybe swimming isn’t such a good idea,” the prince said, his hand hesitating on the buckle of his belt. “We’re bigger than we were then. We may not fit through the gap.”
“Nonsense,” Danya said dipping her toe in the water. She pulled it out and considered her brother hopefully. “It’s beautiful.”
His sister jumped into the river, the splash of her body hitting the water and the giggle that escaped her lips cutting his protest short. Her head disappeared beneath the rushing water for a second and an inexplicable surge of panic tugged in his gut; no more than two breaths later, her head reappeared, hair plastered to her head and a wide smile upon her lips.
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