Hello fellow bookworms!!
Since Gail Z. Martin is one of my favorite authors and I really want to get you as hooked on her work as I am, I begged her for an excerpt (or maybe more than one) that I could share with you.
In her guest post she shared with us a little bit about one of her new releases, The Shadowed Path.
The following is a sneak peek into the first story in the collection, Raider’s Curse.
Jonmarc took off running. At fifteen, he was tall, just a bit over six feet. Years of working
alongside his father in the forge had given him a strong back and muscular arms. A mop of
chestnut-brown hair hung in his brown eyes, and he pushed it out of the way as he ran.
A worn path led to the open shed that was his father’s forge. Jonmarc could hear the steady pounding of his father’s hammer on the anvil. The sound echoed from the hills, steady as a heartbeat. He skidded to a stop just outside the doors.
Anselm Vahanian swung a heavy hammer in his right hand while his gloved left hand turned the piece of metal on the anvil. Sparks flew around him, landing on the long sleeves of his rough- woven shirt, his gloves, and his leather apron. The forge smelled of coal, iron, and sweat. To one side lay two swords Anselm had completed for a client in the village. On a table lay a variety of farm tools—iron pots and pans, and hoops for the cooper’s barrels. Jonmarc had helped to forge several of the pieces, though he longed to work on swords, like his father.
“Mother said to tell you to wash up for dinner,” Jonmarc shouted above the clanging.
Anselm stopped and looked at him. “I’ll eat supper later. You know I can’t stop in the middle of something when the iron is hot.”
Jonmarc nodded. “I know. I’ll tell her to put a plate aside for you.” He paused, and Anselm looked at him quizzically, waiting for the unspoken question.
“Have you talked to any of the fishermen lately?” Jonmarc tried to make the question sound off-handed, but Anselm frowned as if he caught the undercurrent of concern.
“You mean the talk about raiders,” Anselm replied, and struck the iron he was working.
“Do you think it’s more than just talk?”
Anselm didn’t answer until he put the iron bar back into the furnace to heat up. He was
Jonmarc’s height, with a head of wiry dark hair and brown eyes that glinted with intelligence. A lifetime in the forge had given him broad shoulders and a powerful physique. His profession also showed in the small white burns that marked his hands and arms, scars too numerous to count. Jonmarc had gained a few of those burn scars too, but not nearly as many as his father. Not yet.
“Maybe,” Anselm replied. “The real people to talk to are the traders. Their ships go up and down the Northern Sea coast, stopping at all the villages. I always get news when I trade iron with them.”
“Have you heard anything?”
Anselm turned the iron rod in the furnace. “Some. One of the villages on the other side of the bay burned. Everyone was gone when the traders came. No way to know why or how. Eiderford, down the coast, did have a run-in with raiders a few months ago.” He eyed the iron, and turned it one more time.
“So there are raiders,” Jonmarc replied.
Anselm shrugged. “There are always raiders. But there’s less to attract them here in
Lunsbetter than in Eiderford. We’re not a proper city, and we’re as like to barter as deal in coin, so there’s less to steal.”
Unless they want food, livestock, or women, Jonmarc thought. And there are enough people who trade with the ships that there’s probably more coin here than anyone wants to admit.
“There’s a garrison of the king’s soldiers beyond Ebbetshire,” Jonmarc replied. “Can’t they stop the raiders?”
Anselm shrugged. “They can’t guard every village along the coast,” he said. “And they’d have to know for certain when a raid was planned.” He shook his head. “No, we’re on our own.”
“Don’t worry yourself about it,” Anselm said, drawing the rod out of the furnace and placing it on the anvil. “We’ve doubled the patrols, and the fishermen are on alert.” He grinned. “And tomorrow, those swords are going down to the constable and the sheriff. We’ll be fine. Pump the bellows for me. The fire’s grown cold.”
Anselm stood in front of a large open furnace filled with glowing coals. Jonmarc pumped the bellows that were attached to the back of the furnace, and the coals flared brighter, flames licking across their surface. Anselm lifted his hammer to strike the iron. “Now get back up to the house. Your mother’s waiting. Just save some for me.”
“I’ll make sure of it,” Jonmarc replied. The clatter of the hammer drowned out anything else he might have asked. He stepped out into the cool night, and started back up the path to the house. His stomach rumbled and he fancied that he could smell the stew. But the worry he felt when he went to the forge had not lifted; if anything, his father’s comments increased Jonmarc’s concern than the warnings about raiders were not mere tales.
If father says the men are keeping their eye out for trouble, then that’s the end of it, he
thought. Naught I can do. But he remembered his comment to Neil about keeping the axe
sharpened, and on the way back to the house, he detoured into the barn. Thanks to his father’s craft, they were well-stocked with farm implements.
He walked over to the space his father used to butcher meat. Butchering wasn’t a pleasant job, but it was necessary, and a task with which Jonmarc was well acquainted. He had learned the craft from his father, practiced enough that it no longer made him lose his dinner to be awash in blood and entrails. His father had taught him to strike swiftly and cleanly, to block out the death cries of the terrified livestock, to go to a cold place inside himself until the job was done. He had even learned a few tricks of the trade, like how to hamstring a panicked animal that was likely to kick or buck. But nothing about how to fight men.
On the wall hung an impressive variety of knives. He selected a large butcher knife with a wicked blade as well as a smaller boning knife, and made his way around to the back door, hiding the knives among his mother’s herbs before going in for supper. Tonight, when everyone was in bed, he would come back for them—one for him, and one for Neil. Just in case the men were wrong.
©2016 Gail Z. Martin all rights reserved. No duplication or reprint without written permission.
You can purchase The Shadowed Path here: http://amzn.to/28Rtk45
Take it from me, Jonmarc is a fun character to read about! Why not follow him on an adventure or two…or ten? 😉