I have officially learned how to add files to my website. This means that I've uploaded my work samples for you, Dear Reader, to enjoy. (Or not. But hopefully yes. :)) So, the first chapter of Blackthorne can be found in the sidebar--freshly edited, unlike that in the back of the paperback of Cold Iron. Yeah, yeah. Blackthorne changed a lot over the time it took to write it. It happens.
Now, for those of you who've been with me for the long haul...I've a surprise today. That is, a fresh new snippet from Blackthorne. This time, from Suvi's perspective. So, have this scene--where Suvi meets her spymaster, James Slate, for the first time. Oh, also, SPOILER ALERT if you haven't read Cold Iron.
23 Korjuukuu, 1783
Assuming a chair opposite that of Councilor James Slate's, Suvi silently agreed to Ilta Korpela's offer of a cup of tea. Nervous, Suvi kept her face otherwise impassive. The expression was wearing thin after traveling the whole of Västmark in order to conduct nine months of fruitless negotiation. She was finished with begging for her people. For now. That said, she wasn't entirely sure how she should interact with this former Acrasian. On one hand, she had every right to hate Acrasians. Their war had destroyed Eledore and her people. Worse, she understood that Acrasians had begun hunting kainen for sport. Still, this particular Acrasian had joined forces with her Silmaillia, Ilta Korpela, and saved hundreds of kainen refugees.
I've found it in my heart to forgive Ilta for grave mistakes she made--mistakes that killed Mother; why not extend the same to this Acrasian? Suvi thought.
Ilta is kainen. He is not. She returned the Acrasian's stare, listening to the clink of silver against porcelain. His eyes were shielded with polished dark-lens spectacles that made him seem all the more aloof. His weathered, clean-shaven face was drawn in pale, broad Acrasian lines, and his expression revealed nothing. The challenge was implied, but it was there nonetheless.
What if he wants to retain rulership? she thought. She glanced to her korva, Jami Rautio, standing next to the door with her back to the wall. She seemed unconcerned, at ease, but Suvi knew Jami--had seen her in action. She knew all it would take is a nod. Am I prepared to assassinate this man? She kept back a sigh. She had other alternatives for handling the situation, and they were ways that wouldn't require the use of Jami's blades. Hasn't there been enough death and struggle for power in Eledore?
I will do what I have to do. Is Eledore not my home? The questions were weighted with months of exhaustion. She had been far too long living in uncertainties. It was time for that to end. One way or another.
James Slate turned to Ilta when she placed a hand on his arm. For a moment, the lenses of his dark spectacles reflected the light shining in from the high windows overhead like a mirror.
"The tea is ready," Ilta said. Her voice was informal, almost a whisper. "It's directly in front of your right hand. Be careful. It's hot."
Suvi looked to Ilta. Is he blind? Ilta hadn't mentioned it in her letters.
After a short pause, Ilta seemed to catch her unspoken question and nodded.
Why hasn't she cured him of it? Suvi thought. Is it possible she can't? Or is it that she's too afraid to try? Before the war, Ilta had been the former Silmaillia's impulsive apprentice and had been rumored to be the most powerful healer in the country. She had been passionate and unafraid of her power, but a great deal had happened since then, and one of the consequences was that the queen had died of variola. Has Ilta grown more cautious? Surely, that is a good thing, isn't it?
Suvi watched Ilta prepare the tea as if her motions might reveal some secret. Ilta looked up from her task, and Suvi lifted her gaze to the windows. She thought she recognized their shape, but she couldn't place where she'd seen them before. Probably scavenged from one of Father's buildings he was so obsessed with. Of course, those buildings were now rubble for the most part--thanks to Acrasian artillery.
And now here I am. Examining the room, she had to admit that James Slate had done a wonderful job of disguising the stronghold's original purpose. The forced neutral expression began to hurt as she willed away the beginnings of a bitter smile. The idea that she was now inside what had once been a grave mound held a certain symbolic correctness.
"Please permit me formally welcome you to the Hold, Your Grace. Are your accommodations to your liking?" Councilor Slate asked, picking up his cup with expert care. His grey-peppered brown hair was neatly gathered with a black ribbon at the nape of his neck. He dressed like an Acrasian professor of philosophy--in austere blacks and browns--which was, she told herself, as it should be, since that was exactly what he'd been until a little over two years earlier.
"I'm quite comfortable for the moment, thank you," Suvi said, relaxing her face. If the man was blind, there was no point in maintaining her control.
She wondered if he knew about the former Eledorean taboos surrounding death and anything and everyone associated with it. If so, her father would've been offended to the point of making the Councilor throw himself on his own sword. Staring at those dark lenses, she found it was difficult to read the man's intent. Perhaps that's the point?
Is he as blind as he pretends? Surely, there is an advantage in being thought more blind than one is?
If so, I must be careful. She caught herself almost smiling at the thought of the challenge of getting to know his unspoken cues. It'd been one of the things she'd enjoyed about court--the little intrigues, at least the harmless ones. She'd been very good at reading people, and on some level she already liked this James Slate.