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Excerpt I

Excerpt I

A Story by Tiber

Maybe not so much of an excerpt as it is a draft. Enjoy, if you will.


Wake up, little Beth. Wake up. I've a surprise for you, my little Beth."
        Warm though the words were, and so familiar that half-remembered voice, the mouth from which they came--and, by extension, the person uttering them--did not seem so. Carmine eyes watched, gleaming, from dark-rimmed sockets under a snow-pale raptor's brow, and between them stood out a nose long and sharp and straight, a shadow of emerald and sapphire in the nighttime lighting. The mouth above the pointed chin seemed too wide, the teeth too small and all terribly pointy, like the teeth of some horrible monster out of a children's horror-tale. Nevertheless, Bethany knew her Lord Father's face when she saw it, even if he covered it with a beard; as soon as the cobwebs of sleep loosened from her eyes, of course.
        She threw aside the blankets and leaped at him, knocking the tall gaunt man off his perch at the foot of her bed. "Daddy! I've missed you so much! How long will you stay? Did you miss me? Where have you been? What happened to your hair?" She began raining kisses on his but stopped soon after; the bristly stuble felt too odd.
        "Don't like it," he asked, rubbing his chin with a long-fingered hand. When she made a face, her Lord Father plucked her off the floor and seated her on the bed. "Well, I suppose it is for the best. I don't like it either," he confided, making a half-smile that did not show his teeth.
        "What happened to your hair? It was as long as mine when you left, but now mine is longer." Bethany streaked her slender fingers through her hair, finding a measure of pride in the flame-red strands though her mother cut them short as a boy's as to not exceed the chin.
        Bethany's Lord Father was a very observant man. His brow drooped, his stare darkened. "Blasted woman..." But he wasn't talking about her; he patted Bethany's head, mussed her hair. "Don't worry, you may grow it as long as you like now that you're with me."
        "Mum won't like it," she began, "and when you leave again--"
        "That woman has had enough to say about your upbringing. And do, as well. Though little as she did of that, none of it was any good. I see you're frightened, little Beth. Don't be." He planted a gentle kiss on her forehead.
        Bethany made a face as soon as she felt the tingling. "Don't you use your magic on me!" She tried to push him away but ended up only moving herself. "Why are you wearing armour?"
        Her Lord Father laughed, crossed his arms. "Who do you think you are, little Beth, to ask such questions of the Palethorn?"
        "I'm his daughter," she said, crossed her own arms. She didn't try to be as fearsome as he; even the Black Lord, in his castle of iron and mountainside in the distant frozen north, couldn't look as fearsome as her Lord Father. "And I want to know why. You still didn't tell me what happened to your hair. Why are you here, anyway? Did you bring gifts, money? Or are we going on an adventure?"
        Of these, the last option excited her most. Gifts and money were things everyone could get, but riding with her Lord Father was often something kings and queens fought about. The Palethorn was, after all, a Prince in Exile and heir to the Crown of Thorns, a prince in name and land in another, and a Great Lord as loved and powerful as his king in a third.
        Bethany couldn't number the times her Lord Father took her riding, or walking along the woodland trails, or fishing with spears and sticks, or doing many other things that her mother would never allow. But these were mostly things for little boys and girls, and Bethany was almost a woman now-- she stopped going by Beth, which was a girl's name; Bethany was a proper woman's one, her mother said.
        Her Lord Father grinned, his teeth glinting the palest green and blue in the nighttime light. "Now, that's some speech fit for a Young Lady, my daughter. But you ought not pout so much when you do so, it makes you look half your age."
        "That would make me four!"
        That made him laugh. "Aye, and speak as does a queen who'd seen and victoriously led two-score battles. One with an army at her back. But to answer your questions, little one." At his his face grew sombre and something strange and sad crept into his fiery eyes. "Today is the anniversary to your Lady Aunt's death, and... well, you are too young to know of such things. But we Northmen shave our heads to signify great change about us, or to tell the world a part of our life is over and done with."
        She nodded. Bethany knew what happened to her Lady Aunt; how could she not, when her mother wouldn't stop gloating over it. Raped and murdered, she claimed. "And they'll do the same to you, once your wretched father gets himself killed." She could guess what her Lord Father had done-- blood for blood, he told her once, and a drop from a Northman was worth a gallon from anyone living south of the River Father.
        "As for the armour-- it's one of mine own making, light and strong and black as night. I make a habit of wearing it nowadays. Now get dressed, I want to be on the road as quickly as we're able."
        "That's only two questions."
        He arched his brow, a half-smile on his lips. "Well, what were the others?"
        Bethany screwed her face. "I can't remember." She jumped off the bed and dashed to get her clothes, putting on a pair of hose and a small dress over her shift. "For how long will we be gone?"
        Her Lord Father shrugged, made a face of his own. "You may return here if you'd like, but I have much room and more in my palace at Godswood. And you will meet your brother, Baedwyn, and have cousins to play with; Baedwyn is too old for you to play with, I'm afraid."
        "I have my Sir Oswult to play with," she replied. "Look!" She showed him the doll-- it was one she had made herself, from rags and some wool and paints. It, like the Palethorn, was tall and gaunt, all in black save the face, which was as pale as snow, and the missing hair, which he had once coloured red as his eyes. "I can bring him along, can't I?"
        Her Lord Father grinned. He was a very perceptive man, her Lord Father; he knew who the doll was. "Of course you can, my little Beth," he said. He mussed her hair.

© 2013 Tiber

Author's Note

I think I should make it a bit more dialogue-y, focus about him being a mostly-absentee father and the girl having an abusive mother. But meh, that's why it's an excerpt.
Nighttime: The time in this setting during which the sun doesn't shine. It lasts approximately ten days, with brighttime lasting the same but having a sun.
The 'sapphire and emerald gleam' seen is the sun's light reflecting off the biggest and closest moon (which is green) and off the surface of the tidally-locked planet, Sister World, which is mostly water (thus it is blue).
River Father, the: A broad river crossing the Westerland and separating it from the Shadowsfall to the north and the domain of the Black Lord. The current vanishes into a misty jungle located between the steppes of the Spine.

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Added on November 6, 2013
Last Updated on November 6, 2013
Tags: Ersbeth, Beth, Bethany, Thorn, Palethorn, fantasy, science fiction, fiction, magic, and so on and so forth



I'm merely another aspiring writer and poet, staving off depression with sleep, alcohol, and internet. Currently I am exploring the musical wonder that it Current 93. more..

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