Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Story Snippets: Guardian Prince by Lauricia Matuska (Lauricia)

Greetings, all and happy fall. Only THE best season of the year. I adore the way the light takes on a richer tone and the air takes on a mysterious smell, and the mist... having grown up in a land-locked, semi-arid desert, I can't tell you enough how I adore misty mornings. I hope that you're finding this time of year just as enchanting.

Here's a snippet of my most recent release, Guardian Prince (book two in the Ceryn Roh series), for you to enjoy during these magical autumn days. When you've finished, I'd love to know what your favorite season is and why. Tell me in the comments below! 

        Sabine expected to walk into complete blackness. Instead, she found the cave faintly illuminated by a multitude of green luminescent specks draped like a canopy across the cave ceiling. At first, she compared them to stars—although she knew she was now inside the cliff and could not see the sky, she could think of no better way to describe them. Upon closer inspection, however, she noticed the lights were moving, squirming over one another, like—
         “Glow worms,” Koen stated, his head craned back to study the ceiling. “Gaoth will be beside himself when he learns of this.”
         “He eats them?” Sabine guessed.
         Koen chuckled dryly. “He can’t resist them though they make him very ill. His droppings glow for days.”
         Sabine grinned. Ahead of her, Gaelan snorted.
         A thought of Bree twinged Sabine’s heart. She wondered how the dog was doing without her, then reminded herself that Bree had Gaoth for company. Besides, Sabine would only be gone for a few sennites. The dog would be fine.
         For some reason she couldn’t explain, Sabine had expected the labyrinth to be constructed of carved stone, so the ruggedness of the path they now stood on surprised her. The glow worms were so numerous that they provided enough light to see by, but only just. Even so, everyone agreed it would be best to not use additional light, yet, in case it alerted the Rüddan to their presence. Because of this, Sabine stumbled several times as her toes got caught in shadow-concealed holes.
         Sabine checked the cuff often, worried that she would misjudge the distance between the twists and turns of the path. Fortunately, the glow on the armband seemed to fade behind them as they followed the trail, indicating where they were as they moved. Sabine was grateful for this, because the strain of peering through the gloom was making her head throb and her eyes ache so that when they came upon the first turn, she almost walked right past it.
         “Turn here,” she called, directing the others off the main path.
         “Are you sure?” Gaelan furrowed his brow. “We’ve already passed two branches just like this.”
         Sabine nodded. Displaying the armband, she explained how the path was fading as they followed it.
         “We’re here,” she pointed a fingernail to the spot where the black path behind them met with the red glow before them and turned right. “And we go there.”
         Gaelan nodded but said nothing before stepping into the new tunnel.
         Sabine led them like this for a while, constantly checking the armband and indicating turns as they came upon them. The others followed without much comment.
         Then the path ended.
         “What now?” Gaelan asked as they faced a wall that blocked any forward movement on the path.
         “The cuff says to turn right again,” Sabine said, looking from the cuff to the wall and back again.
         “I’d love to,” Gaelan remarked. “Would you like to tell me how?”
         “Look around,” Koen said. “Labyrinths are full of concealed paths. You just have to find them.”
Sabine’s face burned, the heat of embarrassment scalding her cheeks. What would she do if she had led them to a dead end? Could she have misread the armband, maybe misunderstood how it worked? She scanned the wall in front of her desperately, so focused that she almost missed the clue that revealed the hidden path Koen had suggested they find.
         It was the breath of cold air that caught her attention. She had stumbled yet again as she moved to inspect a new section of the wall and had paused to massage her ankle when the wisp of cold passed her face.
         “Did you feel that?” she called softly to the others.
         “Feel what?” Koen said as he drew near.
         “A small wind, as if from outside.”
         “Wind?” Gaelan’s voice carried across the path. “In a cave?”
         “Maybe a cross tunnel,” Aodhan countered.
         Sabine surveyed the wall doubtfully.
         “Don’t expect it to be obvious,” Koen cautioned. “The easy paths are often the deadly ones.”
Sabine nodded, not really sure what she was looking for until she felt another puff of cold air. Following the direction it came from, she examined the shadowy crannies and nooks until she found an opening that turned out to be much wider than it had initially appeared.
         “Over here,” she called to the others. “This crack is wider than it looks. If we go single-file, we can fit through it easily.”
         “The glow worms stop here, so we’ll need a light,” Aodhan said as he peered over her shoulder. “A dim one, though. The Rüddan will discover our presence soon enough without our announcing it.”
A moment later an orb of light blossomed in the darkness. Hovering near Koen’s shoulder, it was just bright enough to illuminate the path clearly. Sabine was glad for this since the new tunnel was just as rugged as the one they were leaving.
         The air grew colder as they walked. At first, Sabine welcomed it. The chill refreshed her as it cut through the still, dank cave air. Soon, however, it grew chilly. Not long after that, it became uncomfortable enough for Sabine to draw her cloak around her. Unfortunately, everything she wore was still damp, so the chill soon sank into her core.
         “Human, does that map of yours indicate any new turns?” Gaelan asked, apparently unfazed by the drop in temperature.
         Sabine checked the armband. “Not for a while yet.”
         “Then that gate is going to be a problem.”
         Squinting into the gloom ahead, Sabine envied her companions’ superior eyesight. She continued forward, reluctant to admit she saw nothing. “There’s no mark on the cuff to indicate any sort of barrier, but that’s not necessarily significant. It could be the map only marks distance and direction.”
        “Let’s hope so.”
         Just then, Sabine spied the gate, as tall and as wide as her former home in Khapor. Small black mounds dotted the ground before it, splayed randomly in a half-circle array. Yes, she agreed silently, wrinkling her nose as she caught a whiff of a charred, acrid smell. Let’s hope so, indeed.

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