Sunday, June 15, 2014

Book Excerpt - A Father-Son Scene from Love Lost for Father's Day

For Father's Day I present an excerpt from one of my fantasy books. It's a scene from Love Lost: Rys Rising Book IV. Cruce and his father Zehn have an important relationship through the whole series. In this excerpt you get some insight into how they're coping with Cruce taking over more family responsibilities. Cruce accepts his grave responsibilities. And Zehn still tries to do what he can and protect his son.

Cruce wiped the sweat from his brow and started again. He swung his sword and lunged and squatted and spun and blocked imaginary blows and swung again. His bare feet moved lightly on the patchy lawn that he had worn down with his daily practicing. He ducked and jumped back and then rushed forward hacking and slashing high and low.

Since coming home that winter he had developed many practice routines. Tirelessly he worked to master complicated moves and then execute them faster. Some of his techniques came from his battle experience and others he created with the help of sparring partners.

He started another series of attacks and pushed himself to do it fast. His final moves were sloppy and he grunted unhappily. Frustrated, he stuck his sword in the turf and walked to a rack of spears.

Zehn sat in the shade with a drink on a little table by his wheelchair. “I can almost see your opponent when you do that,” he commented.

Cruce glanced at his father. “I can see who I’m fighting,” he said. He always pictured the same face when he trained without a partner. The dark man with the scar on his cheek. The killer of Bellastan Carver. The one who had taken the ruby armor. The beast who would have hurt Ajel.

Cruce grabbed a spear and turned toward the targets. Zehn admired his son as he gathered speed for his cast. He wore only shorts and his hard body rippled with muscles, and his sweaty skin was shiny in the sun. Everything that Zehn had once been bounded across the worn grass and threw the spear. It sank into the center of the target.

“You’ve improved,” Zehn praised.

Breathing hard, Cruce put his hands on his hips. The spear in the target satisfied him. “That’s why I practice,” he said with a grin and headed back to the rack.

Cruce had come home lean and hard from his battles, and months of training and good food had bulged his muscles further. Cruce’s relentless discipline impressed Zehn. Daily swims in the lake. Hours of sparring, sometimes into the night. Then Cruce attended to correspondence that came every week from Kahtep that concerned his new responsibilities as Militia Master. Cruce also advised the other Kwellstan estate families on how to outfit and train their recruits. He attended the Adarium. He toured their estates. He even studied inventory reports with Dayd. The scars that Zehn saw on his son’s solid and graceful body explained Cruce’s fervent pursuit of all duties. The long one on his right shoulder told of a sharp blade that had come too close to killing. The puncture mark on the lower left chest recalled the dirty arrow that had sickened him. And jagged white lines on the hands and arms informed Zehn of how many times his dear son had grappled with death.

Cruce threw another spear and it pierced the second target in the bull’s-eye. Zehn sighed. Great Divinity, may he never miss, he thought.

After throwing a third spear, Cruce grabbed his water jug, flopped to the ground at Zehn’s feet, and drank.
Zehn lifted his cup and curled his nose. Nothing managed to mask the bitterness of his newest pain remedy. He gagged down a big gulp and gladly set it aside.

“Uh, how can anything cost so much and taste so bad?” Zehn joked bravely.

“A trader told me once that if such things were priced low, then you wouldn’t value them,” Cruce said, trying to be conversational even if watching his father suffer troubled him.

Zehn chuckled but then coughed to clear his throat. He said, “You need to get cleaned up before our women get home. They’ll want you for the Quadreni festivities.”

Cruce stared across the lawn at the spears in the targets. “I suppose I can’t practice anymore by myself,” he grumbled. All his sparring partners were excused for the holiday, and Radello had gone with Dayd to the Plaza of the Waters for the ceremony.

“So it was just work that kept you here with me?” Zehn said. He was used to staying home alone on Quadreni.

Cruce stood up and stretched. “You know I have no business going to a Kwellstan Sect ceremony,” he said and tilted his head to both sides to loosen muscles.

Zehn scowled and picked up his medicine cup. He knew why his son skipped the ceremony, and it worried him. Zehn accepted Cruce’s military reasons for switching allegiance to Tempet and Alloi, but he feared reprisal from the Kwellstan Sect.

“Going to the ceremony would have been a conciliatory thing to do. The Grand Lumin is not going to let you disrespect him forever,” Zehn said.

“Alloi won’t let him retaliate against us,” Cruce said.

Zehn noted how his son went starry-eyed when he mentioned the tabre female. “Don’t trust those Drathatarlane so much,” Zehn scolded.

Although Cruce regretted inflicting such worries on his father, he was not going to crawl back into the Kwellstan Sect fold. He brushed dirt from his legs and then leaned over his father. “If the Adarium dares to open contracts for bidding because of our falling out with the Kwellstan Sect, I promise you I’ll convince anyone who even considers submitting a bid that it’s a very bad idea.”

Zehn turned away slightly, disturbed by the chilling resolve on his son’s face. Cruce retrieved his spears, and Zehn sipped his medicine. This new side to his son was a stranger to him. A hard and vicious man lurked in Cruce now. His soul had a shadow that could threaten and perhaps kill. Zehn hoped that Cruce would never kill one of their own. Perhaps Zehn could avoid such a tragedy with his politicking. Maybe when the inevitable Kwellstan Sect punishments came, he should just let the contracts go. The Chenomets still had their estates and Cruce had spoken of starting new ones on the frontier. Zehn had meant to do that before injuries burdened him with unwanted challenges.

“Cruce, come here,” he said.

Cruce put the spears on the rack and walked over. He had noticed the paternal tone and expected a scolding. He should not have spoken so bluntly. It only caused his father more worry. If threats to Chenomet power arose, Cruce intended to deal with them without involving his father.

“Yes, Father,” he said.

“It’s been nice having you home so much,” Zehn said. He finished his medicine and gestured to be taken into the house.