Promoting Heat Song is a full time job in itself. But it’s great because I’m sharing something close to my heart!
Here’s another little taste.
The weather turned pleasant. The cold was only noticed in the slight, lazy breezes that blew by. We stepped onto the road in front of the marble palace. The front of it looked like a normal building made of marble with pillars holding up the roof to the half circle porch. The trees were just as thick in the front as they were in the back, but the land remained even in the front whereas it rose and fell in large hills towards the mountains behind the palace.
It would be impossible to know the place was there, but also incredibly easy to forge a strike against it. The trees provided the perfect cover for anyone looking to start trouble, despite the place being secluded and peaceful. An attack seemed very unlikely.
Enid walked silently next to me. His sword swayed in rhythm to his steps. The metal caps on the handle glinted in the sunlight. There was more to him than met the eye and I wanted to know more about my new found friend.
“What does A’lainn mean?”
“It means thing of beauty in my native language. It’s a compliment.” He twisted at his waist towards me with a grin pulling at his lips.
“There’s nothing beautiful about me,” I muttered. I felt flattered and embarrassed at the same time. If he only knew what happened, perhaps he wouldn’t feel so willing to dote compliments on me.
“No? You have the most wonderful shade of brown hair, the color of cinnamon, and when the sun strikes it—it makes you glow. I think that is quite beautiful. You also have the most beautiful brown eyes and fair skin. A combination that is rare nowadays and said to be a symbol of beauty. So, tell me, what makes you think you are otherwise?”
I knew I had to answer his question. It seemed only fair, but I didn’t want to share my nightmare, the thing that scarred me. But I could give him a little of what he may already know. “I guess it’s the way that people treat me. The names they call me. I’ve never had a reason to see beauty in myself.”
“It’s also what I used to call my daughter. I would like to think she would have looked like you, had she grown to your age.”
“What happened to her?”
“She and my wife were killed, a long time ago.” I heard the pain in his voice as if they were killed just yesterday. Guilt forced a lump into my throat.
“Don’t be.” His words were free from pain. “It was a long time ago. Shortly after their deaths, Marren found me and gave me a new purpose in life. It gives me a sense of pride and honor defending him.”
I became incredibly curious about that bit of information and quite interested as to what I had been brought into the middle of. “Defending him? From what?”
He glanced at me, then back to the road. “I’m sure you already know Marren has a certain reputation that follows him. It tends to bring him more trouble than he cares to deal with. But you should know he’s quite the opposite.”
I raised an eyebrow. Maybe that was the point of this morning’s routine. “Uh huh. Was that the point of the duels?”
“It was to gauge your ability to wield a sword.”
“Why is that important?” He ignored me. “If you’re impressed with that, just wait till you see what I can do with a bow.” It was meant to be bitter and sarcastic.
“Marren will be pleased to hear of more abilities.”
I’d had enough of the coy banter. I needed some real information. “Okay, that’s enough.” I stopped in the middle of the road.
Enid paused in his walking to turn and face me. “Is there a problem?”
“Yes, there is. I’m spinning my mind trying to figure out what is going on here and for the life of me I can’t! As soon as I get one theory down, there is another one that completely replaces it. Why is my ability to fight such an important need?”
“Your questions are best kept for Marren.”
“Wonderful,” I spat, throwing my hands up into the air and stomping forward.
The top of a small stone house came into view just as we climbed the crest of a hill. The roof was made from twigs and straw. Behind it, just a short jaunt away, was another small hut with black smoke billowing from the chimney. The sound of a rhythmic clank-tink floated on the air.
“Raden,” Enid called out, “we have need of your service.”
In response, a short man with a long beard and hair pulled back, strutted out from the smoking building. His skin and clothing was covered in a fine black dust. I nearly gasped when I realized he looked exactly like the dwarf statue in the room with the weapons—only not made of stone, wearing armor, or wielding an ax.
“Ne’er seen a dwarf before, have ye?” His bright green eyes twinkled under the layers of soot that covered his face.
I shook my head and stammered, “N-no, sorry, I thought the stories were all myths.”
“No worries, lass. Ye’ll soon discover there are things about the world ye live in that the books didn’t cover.” He winked at me and held out his arms for the sword. I handed it to him, and watched as he turned and started for the small building he came out of. From that angle, I saw that his hair was not only covered in black soot but was black. I felt my mouth gaping open and forced myself to close it.
“Marren would like for you to bring it back once you are done. Don’t sharpen it, A’lainn wants to do that.”
The dwarf paused long enough to turn around and say, “It’ll be a while. Ye really dinted the girl.”
“Why is the sword considered a girl?” I asked Enid.
He shrugged with his arms crossed over his chest. “Everything has an essence. That one seems to like being handled like a woman…” Enid started walking along the road back towards Marren’s marble palace.
“Oh really?” I asked sarcastically. “And how exactly does a woman like to be held? Because, I have yet to meet one that likes to be smacked against another repeatedly.”
He continued walking without a word. I followed behind, more slowly, taking as much time as was stubbornly possible.