Time for a new sneak peak of my upcoming novel The King’s Children. If you haven’t had a chance to meet my main characters Patrick Hood or Winnowna, you may want to do so now.
If you have, read on to see what happens when they meet each other for the first time.
Winnowna sat alone at her table in the tea parlour. Scant few others took tea in the spacious room; the resort town popular only in the summer months. The others talked and sipped their tea as if nothing was wrong. They knew who she was. Even in a drastically reduced mode of dress and without her entourage, no one could fail to recognize Princess Winnowna Illusia. Still, they pretended they did not know her.
She stared at her cup of tea, at the reflection of the chandelier in its surface. Her hand shook as she raised the cup to her lips. The next hour or two would decide her fate. After the rebels arrived and signaled their presence, Winnowna would run. Some of them would ensure the guards did not get in her way while others guided her to the docks where a ship waited for her.
Taking a deep breath and releasing it slowly, Winnowna smoothed the mauve satin of her skirt. She would have difficulty running in the voluminous dress and fine shoes, but she could not have worn something more practical without alerting her maid to the fact that she planned to escape.
They would come soon. Winnowna looked out the windows.
A strangeling walked across the roof of the buildings on the other side of the street and a chill of horror swept over her. She considered fleeing deeper into the inn, but she sat and watched him as though caught up into a dream.
Murmurs of concern arose from the other patrons in the tea parlour; some of them stood and began backing towards the exit. Her guard stood stiffly, hands on their weapons. What was this? Strangelings did not brazenly walk the streets in broad daylight.
Winnowna felt her mouth grow dry as his eyes met hers. The strangeling slid down the shingles on his feet, caught the eaves trough before he fell, let go and kicked off a pillar before landing on the street. He must be a strangeling, no human moved with that eerie feline grace.
He began to walk across to the street towards her, but didn’t get far. A group of men advanced on him and soon had him backed up against the wall of a haberdashery. A few onlookers watched uneasily from a distance or quickly ducked into buildings.
Who were these men? Was this the group of rebels she was supposed to meet? They could just as easily be an impromptu gang of concerned citizens. They outnumbered him ten to one, but nevertheless the strangeling did not appear intimidated.
Winnowna picked her opera glass out of her reticule to better observe the scene. The strangeling said something, but she could not tell what. One of the men pushed him against the brick wall.
A knife flashed in the hand of one of the men. The strangeling made a quick, precise gesture, and the knife flew from the man’s hand and struck the wooden sign above the door of the inn. One of the patrons shrieked.
The men backed off, dismayed at how easily their leader had been disarmed. The strangeling walked out from their midst and stalked down the road, back in the direction he had come. He hadn’t gone far before the men started to follow him. The strangeling glanced over his shoulder and began to run. The men gave chase, and were soon lost from sight beyond the window frame.
A breath of relief, the strangeling was gone.
Her guards were still preoccupied, looking out the windows, trying to work out what had happened. She could imagine no better opportunity to escape.
What if the strangeling was still out there?
Winnowna hesitated at the thought, but her choice was clear. Many strangelings awaited her in the gulf. Now she faced only one. And her allies were out there too. She must find them.
She jumped from her seat, hiked up her heavy skirts, and darted for the servant’s door, dodging a maid carrying a tea tray as she ran down the hallway, into the kitchen and finally out the back door into the narrow road behind the inn. Thinking of nothing but ensuring she was not followed, Winnowna ran down the cobblestone street, turned left, right, and right again.
The broken door of an abandoned theatre presented itself as a likely hiding place. She burst through the door, and hurried down a set of rickety steps into the dark and dusty basement.
Winnowna ducked behind a large backdrop, trying to catch her breath. She heard no shouts or running feet in the streets above. For the moment at least, she was free. She giggled. Free, think of it!
It took her over two weeks to accomplish, but now—
A shadow moved in the darkness. She froze. Her eyes searched the cluttered basement, and were met with too many possible threats. Painted faces leered at her out of the dark, and ominous shapes lurked in the shadows.
The princess crept deeper into the room, shying away from a trunk full of gruesomely realistic body parts. She bumped into a coatrack, knocking a rubber mask onto the floor. A hummed tune floated to her, gone almost as soon as she heard it.
She halted, listening intently and watching, but she heard nothing. Perhaps the sound had come from outside?
“They’re coming for you.”
Winnowna whirled at the unexpected voice, her heart convulsing madly in her chest.
The strangeling stood barely fifteen feet from her, his eyes flowing ghastly green like the eyes of a wild animal caught in lantern light. One of the creatures who preyed upon her family for the last three hundred years.
He looked—nothing like she expected a strangeling to look. Indeed if he hadn’t been a strangeling Winnowna might have thought him handsome. Where were the horns and deadly fangs the stories promised? And he was young; he could not be much older than she was.
He wore a long, dark coat that reminded her of a highwayman, tailor made for him. Actually, it looked like a costume.
He brushed his hair out of his eyes. “They’re coming. I tried to tell your friends, but they wouldn’t listen.”
So those had been the rebels.
“What have you done with them?” she demanded.
The strangeling frowned. As he shifted, the green glow disappeared from his eyes, revealing them to be blue, almost black in this light. “Nothing. I’m trying to warn you. My name is Patrick.”
“Yes.” He looked up. “They’re coming.”
Thank you for reading, and stay tuned for part two!