Thanks for being so patient with me as I work on Supplicant, the sequel to Petition! Writing this book has been far more difficult than I anticipated—and the book itself has turned out to be far longer than I thought as well.
Here is a sneak peek at the raw, unedited draft of the opening scene from Chapter 1 of Supplicant. Nobody (other than the folks who write with me on my livestreams and my writing group) has seen this yet!
Spoilers abound for the end of Petition.
Chapter 1: Departure
The 10th day of truesummer, 530 A.E./A.F.
Rahelu pelted through the Lowdocks, startling a flock of gulls into flight as she tore through their feasting. Though the sun had yet to crest the horizon, the bare stones of the wet market were already slimed with fish guts and seafowl offal (and gods only knew what else) squishing between her toes.
Why were she and Lhorne both such short-sighted, silly, sentimental fools?
Stupid of him to come look for her and then fall into the sea. And stupid of her to linger in the inn room beside him as he slept.
Now she was going to be fucking late.
Rahelu berated herself for her lack of good sense and boots and the fierce, resonance backlash-induced headache that had reasserted itself as soon as she joined the sleep- and hangover-befuddled sailors stumbling out of the dockside taverns. She elbowed and shouldered her way through the press of bodies crowding onto the streets. In turn, the owners of those bodies expressed their appreciation with like endearments: every toe she trod on was answered with blows hard enough to leave glancing bruises, and every shout of “Excuse me!” brought down ill-wishing upon her ancestors and her progeny.
She wanted to scream at all these idiots who couldn’t seem to remember the basic traveler’s courtesies that required every pedestrian and vehicle to keep left and punch every single one of them until they learned to scramble out of her way. But that would require her to take the hand currently clutched around the coin purse hanging from her belt (at which point she might as well hand it directly to any one of the half dozen pickpockets who had rubbed up against her to check if she had anything worth stealing) or to take her other hand off the heirloom resonance crystal pendant—a priceless focus stone worth a House-born’s ransom!—that Lhorne had hung around her neck and called a gift.
Damn his grand gesture of friendship to the fourth hell.
And damn her traitorous heart and its thrilling too.
It’s not too late to change your mind, whispered that weak-willed part of her, still echoing his arguments from the previous night. You could return to the Sable Gull; admit that he spoke wisdom. Go with him before his Atriarch. Hold Mere Ideth to the personal favor she owes you and ask her to match Elder Anathwan’s offer. You wouldn’t even have to give up the one hundred and twenty-five gold kez House Issolm paid you as an unconditional signing bonus…
She could walk away from her oaths to House Issolm and their contract. Never even set foot or sights on the Winged Arrow, the ship that Elder Anathwan and her handpicked team had boarded, the ship that Lhorne had said would send her to die on a suicide mission at the other end of the world.
But if she did, what would that make her?
The very same kind of lucre-blinded, coin-grasping, Issolm opportunist he so very clearly despised.
It would make her like Nheras of Ilyn: a boot-licking, jumped-up, fawning society climber without principles clinging onto the hem of Ideth’s robes in hopes of borrowing someone else’s wealth and influence to rise higher than she deserved.
Rahelu had calculated what her oaths would cost when she had sworn them.
She had made a good trade.
Doubts newly silenced, Rahelu redoubled her efforts. Her family’s future depended on her getting on the Winged Arrow.
She wished the Earthgiver had blessed her with a stouter, taller frame so people would have to dart around her instead of the reverse; wished the Exalted Dominance and his Royal Council cared enough to fix the shitty, unpaved roads on this side of the city; wished that the Isonn live fish haulers didn’t use such ungainly, heavy handcarts that took up virtually the entire breadth of the main thoroughfare in and out of the Lowdocks. The thunderous thud and clatter of wheels and empty barrels juddering down each treacherous step of the north stair made her teeth ache in sympathy.
It was not even full light and the first accident of the day had already occurred. One of the handcarts had toppled over when its wheel pin had shaken loose and dragged its driver down with it. Now it lay tipped over on its side at the foot of the stair, its ropes frayed, half its barrels smashed, and its driver desperately trying to right the wreckage while the rest of the Lowdocks ran roughshod over the means of his livelihood, too intent on their own survival to heed his pleas.
On any other day, she would go back and help.
But not today.
Today, she had a ship to catch.
Rahelu quashed her internal twinge of guilt as she forced her way up the stair against the flow of traffic by darting through every visible gap no matter how narrow or precarious.
The live fish haulers’ irritation at her disregard of personal and public safety—which couldn’t be helped in the circumstances—was so great that their collective, untrained Projections made the ambient resonance glow a bright enough orange to rival the rising sun as they seared her ears with their cussing.
For a moment she was tempted to fend them off with a basic Obfuscation barrier, but the very moment she began reaching for resonance, she felt like someone had taken a pickax to her skull.
The two of them had been so fucking stupid.
“Get out of the way, you lazy Chanazian ghelik!” snarled one of the live fish haulers, when Rahelu’s latest attempt at dodging someone else’s mistimed push caused her to collide with his broad back and knocked him into his cart. He threw her off with a vicious shrug. “Are you so slant-eyed that you can’t see where you’re going?”
Anger seethed at the familiar slurs; urged her to let go of her coin purse, rip off her left sleeve and shove the armband on her forearm in his face along with a nice, demonstrative dose of what a graduated Guild-trained mage could do with a little bit of rage and five years of learning how shape and wield emotions as weapons. Not only would that shut him up, he and every other handcart driver within eyeshot would drop straight to their knees in the middle of the stair to kiss the muck at her feet. Then all those handcarts would trundle themselves off the stair and she would have a beautifully clear path before her.
Her first day as a House-sworn Supplicant and she was already fantasizing about using her power and position to push other people around simply because they inconvenienced her—when the reason for that inconvenience was her own fault for being a damned fool in the first place.
Rahelu swallowed the live fish hauler’s insults, her rage, and the crowd’s ire at them both for jamming what was the busiest thoroughfare in all of Ennuost Yrg during the last span before dawn to bow.
“I’m sorry, uncle,” she responded in fluent, unaccented Aleznuaweithish. “I apologize for my lack of consideration.” Then she pulled out a handful of coins, because the gleam of genuine silver was more eloquent and went farther than any apology. “I would be grateful if you could convince your fellow workers to allow me through with all haste.”
Twenty silver kez didn’t quite clear the way as thoroughly as she had hoped, but it did get her through the Oldgate in less than a count of one hundred and without further altercations.
Rahelu turned north onto the wide, elegant boardwalk along the shore and began sprinting in earnest.
Here in the Highdocks, dawn arrived softly, like the lighting of a candle. Melodic trills—not raucous squawks—greeted the first golden rays of the Skymother’s lamp as they revealed flashes of brilliant blue and deep crimson plumage flitting through the lush green foliage of the parklands to her left. But not for long. The tiny birds were so easily spooked that the rapid drumming of her bare feet against smooth cedar boards abruptly silenced their song. They fled in a frenetic flurry of beating wings, leaving Rahelu alone with the too-loud in-and-out rasping of her breath and a growing sense of dread.
Three hundred strides away, at the very end of the fifth pier, a sleek, sun-gilded courier ship unfurled its brilliant white sails like a gull shaking its wings. Its crew rushed hither and thither on the decks to hoist sails, stow cargo and luggage, and guide passengers to the cabins below while a pair of clerks wrestled a large crate of scrolls down the gangplank.
Port officials; the ones who oversaw departure and authenticated the ship’s manifests.
Panic jolted through Rahelu at the realization; the uncontrolled emotion burst past the thick, spiraling lines of the blood-and-ash resonance ward she had hastily drawn over her heart. She paid no attention to the pale orange sparks crackling in her resonance aura as she flew down the pier; only feverishly hoped that, somehow, the extra speed lent by true desperation would also vanish the remaining distance if she willed it hard enough.
Rahelu stopped squinting against the brightening sky.
Ceased measuring her progress in quantities such as the number of planks blurring beneath her feet or the remaining strides left between her and the three-masted silhouette in the distance.
There was only the raw, metallic taste of iron in the back of her windpipe, the burn of thigh and calf muscles stretching, the sharp, stabbing sensation of cracked soles smacking against hard surfaces as her feet began to bleed despite her thick calluses.
But if she could still think, she wasn’t hurting or running fast enough. If they had already struck her name from the passenger lists…
Rahelu put her head down and ran.
Heart in her throat, her breath shredding her lungs, she cried into the wind: “Wait!”
Her plea went unheard. Drowned out by the chant of the crew’s steady work song as they secured the anchor. On the bridge, the captain stepped up to the wheel and signaled for the crew to cast off. Mooring lines whistled through the air as the gangplank swiftly retracted.
Rahelu abandoned ordinary speech to muster the most focused Projection she could: WAIT!
She was not quick enough.
The moment the captain set his hands to the wheel, layers upon layers of Obfuscation barriers as thick and solid as the city’s walls sprang up around the ship. Rahelu’s Projection rebounded off the Winged Arrow’s shield with no one on board the wiser. True to its namesake, the ship sprang into motion with a snap of taut canvas and tensioned ropes.
And one hundred and twenty-five gold kez—coin that would lift Rahelu’s family out of their miserable existence in the Lowdocks and let them lead better lives elsewhere—evaporated before her eyes.
The end of the gangplank still dangled out over the water. One—no, two—three—strides from the edge of the pier.
She could still make it.
“Hey!” yelped the clerk in House Issolm’s white-and-black livery as she barreled straight through the pair of port officials.“What do you think you’re doing? That ship is—”
“Wait, please!” she shouted again.
One of the deckhands looked up in surprise as Rahelu gathered herself and leapt, reaching for the edge of the gangplank.
The ship surged.
Her outstretched fingers met nothing but air.
And Rahelu plummeted into the shallows.
End of sneak peek.
If you’re keen to know more, check out the early draft blurb for Supplicant.
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