As I continue to await news of Hexborn's fate in the Kindle Scout competition, I thought I'd share with you an excerpt from the sequel. I've tried to choose something without too many Hexborn spoilers. :-) Enjoy.
Shiloh stood at the back of the line filing into the Script Shop. A number of the faces round her were familiar, belonging to courtiers who had, evidently, fallen out of favor, but none would meet her eyes. They were a mix of men and women, though most of the men were elderly. She wondered if the young ones were assigned to more physical labor.
As the others took their seats at their desks, Shiloh stood hesitantly in front of the monk overseeing the scribes. The room was rather lovely, to her surprise. A large hearth kept it warm. I guess it would not do to have the ink freeze. Floor to ceiling windows bathed it in natural light, which she supposed made sense, given the task at hand. It was the first sunlight she’d seen since her arrival the day before.
“Pardon me, Honored Brother, but his is my first day. My name is Shiloh Teethborn. Where would you like me to sit?” she asked.
His dark eyes flicked upward, lingering on first her hair, then her hook. He pushed a scrap of parchment toward her, along with a pen.
“Write something,” he ordered. “Let me see if I need to throw you back.”
Shiloh bent to comply, writing her favorite verse from the Tarwah, from the Scroll of the Mother. For she who has known wilderness most appreciates the warmth of the hearth.
“Good enough,” he allowed. “I’m Rikkoh. You will call me Master or Honored Brother, or, preferably, nothing at all because you are too busy attending to your work to disturb me. Tell me, girl, do you know why we copy the edicts of the Patriarch by hand rather than by magic?”
She swallowed heavily. “Because the words of his holiness are sacred?” Saying the words nearly made her lose her breakfast.
“Indeed. To copy them by hand is an offering to the Lords of Heaven,” he replied with grudging approval. “Who taught you to write?”
“Edmun Courtborn,” she confessed warily.
“The old traitor’s still alive?” Rikkoh asked with surprise.
She shook her head. “No, Master. He died two summers back.”
The man laughed. “Tell me, how did the arrogant bastard die?”
Shiloh gritted her teeth. “A cancer took him.”
He continued to laugh. “Reduced to teaching a Hexborn freak in the Teeth. I love it.” Finally, his mirth faded, and he pointed to a desk. “Sit there. Copy this.”
“How many times, Honored Brother?” Shiloh asked.
“Until it gets too dark to work.”
All morning, they all bent silently over their tasks. Shiloh got into a rhythm. It was almost meditative, as long as she focused only on forming the letters. If she allowed herself the read the words, to comprehend the sentences, then the rage became too great a distraction. She breathed into each stroke of the pen, trying to make it the prayer it was supposed to be. Several hours passed in this fashion, until her focus was shattered by a clatter just behind her.
“What is this rubbish?” Rikkoh demanded, hauling an old man bodily out of his seat, sending the stool crashing to the stone floor. “Four errors on one page! Are you going blind?”
“I’m sorry, Master,” the man protested. “I’ll do better.”
With a gasp, Shiloh realized that she recognized him from court. It was a minor nobleman named Dann, whose sole reason for noteworthiness came from having been the father of the executed queen, Zina. Esta sent him here for spite, she realized.
“You’d better,” Rikkoh growled, then dropped the man to the floor, giving him a swift kick for good measure before stalking back to his own desk. “What are you looking at?” he spat at the scribes, whose necks quickly swiveled back toward their desks.
I should help him up, Shiloh told herself. I should help him up. She listened to him struggle behind her, grunting as he pulled himself painfully to his feet and straightened out his stool. At last, she heard his pen resume its scratching. Shame made her cheeks bloom pink.
I should have helped him up.