Thursday, October 26, 2006

Excerpt PRINCE OF ASH by Elaine Corvidae

An excerpt from PRINCE OF ASH, Book 2 of the Shadow Fae Trilogy by Elaine Corvidae, now available from Mundania Press, LLC (http://www.mundania.com)

Alex quickened her pace, determined to catch up with the thief. He'd led her into a strange part of town, and she was starting to seriously question how much longer she ought to follow him. Although she wanted to recover her belongings, getting her throat slit in some back alley was not an appealing alternative.

The child dragged his cart to a narrow alley and disappeared inside. Taking a deep breath, Alex slipped closer and peered around the corner. In the narrow slot between two rows of tenements, the young thief and his cart had come to rest at last. An old tinker burdened with a cart of his own was talking to the child; across the alley from them, a young man watched their transaction with a faintly superior air.

Unlike almost everyone else she had seen in this part of town, the youth was not dressed in beggar's rags or laborer's clothes. A spotless silk hat perched atop his smoothly brushed blond hair. His stiff-collared shirt was covered with a yellow silk vest, which in turn was half-hidden beneath a fine blue frock coat. A cigar hung from the corner of his mouth, and his features were sharp and cruel.

"Let's see what you've got, then," the tinker said, gesturing to the towheaded thief. The little boy proudly pulled back the tarp, revealing a large number of oddments stuffed into the cart: purses, hats, horse tack, coats...and Alex's valise.

A flare of rage swept over her at the sight. Damn them for taking it from her. She imagined dirty fingers touching her mother's diary--worse, imagined them throwing it into the slush of the street, like a piece of trash.

With an angry hiss, she darted out of her hiding place and seized the valise.

The thief let out a startled yelp and grabbed her arm. "Let go of me!" she shouted, and aimed a furious kick at him. But her skirts fouled the blow, and her boot connected with his shin instead of his crotch as she had intended.

"Put that down, you little slut!" shouted the tinker, coming around the cart with his hand raised threateningly.

Fear clutched at her heart, but she only gripped the valise tighter. "It's mine! He stole it! You have no right! I--"

Her protests died in her throat, cut off by a thread of fiery power. Shocked and afraid, she looked up and saw that the well-dressed youth had left his position against the wall and was approaching her. His eyes were bright, almost metallic in color, flat and unforgiving as a mirror of brass. The scent of hot metal filled the air, and she could feel the power gathering in him, a flame that would burn her from the inside out...

"Hey! You found it!" exclaimed a cheerful voice.

The youth's head jerked up, and Alex felt his spell break. Shaking, she turned frantically towards the intruder, not caring if he were another thief or a blackguard, knowing only that he had probably saved her life.

It was the beautiful stranger from the docks.

He strode confidently into the alley, his smile brilliant in his dark face. So close, she could see his eyes were gray, the color of wet ashes, but spangled with flecks of pale silver. Like stars against an evening sky.

Without any hesitation, he put one hand to her arm and took the valise with the other. "Sorry to disturb you b'hoys, but my sister here just can't keep track of her things. A little touched in the head, you know? Misplaced Dad's old bag here, and we can't go home without it, or else we'll get a beating."

His sister? The lie was beyond outrageous--she'd probably have a hard time finding anyone in Dere who looked less like her.
Apparently the thieves were equally thrown by the sheer audacity of the lie and the total confidence with which it was delivered. The tinker made a confused sound, but before anyone could protest, Alex's stranger had wheeled her around and dragged her out of the alley, valise in hand.

His long legs forced her to almost run to keep up with him. "You need a keeper," he remarked mildly, making a sharp turn into another alley and hauling her with him.

An angry flush heated Alex's face. "I do not," she snapped haughtily, jerking her arm away from him.

"Then why is it every time I see you, you're about to get arrested or attacked?"

It was hard to argue that point. "It isn't my fault," she muttered. "Give me my valise."

"It's heavy," he replied, not slowing his pace at all. They ducked down another alley and came to a dilapidated fence with several boards missing. Cutting through the gap, they crossed the yard behind a block of tenements. Her rescuer calmly opened the back door to one, led her down the hall, and exited out the front. "We got to put some distance between us and that seelie faeling. He might not be chasing us--might figure that, with it being winter and all, he don't want to push his luck against us both. But that's counting on him being reasonable, which I ain't going to bet my life on." A frown marred his brown face for a moment. "Plus, I think he might've been a Firestarter."

"A what?"

"That's the gang around here," he said, as if that explained anything. Probably it did to him. "I heard their leader was a fancy b'hoy. Why'd you go up against a seelie faeling like that?"

"I didn't know what he was at first." The pace he set was beginning to make her pant, and she could feel the strain in her legs. "They'd stolen my valise. I had to get it back. And I'd thank you to hand it over."

He sighed, took a quick look around, and slid into yet another alley. The garbage that formed the roadbed of the street outside was even deeper here, perhaps because it hadn't yet been mashed down into a single mass by hooves, feet, and wheels. Fighting to hold her breath against the stink, Alex followed him but remained near the entrance, wary and ready to run if she had to.

Why did he save me? What does he want?

Now available in ebook, trade paperback, and hardcover from Mundania Press, LLC


Elaine Corvidae

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