I wanted to share this with you all. It’s the prologue to “Scales & Stinger: A Heroes of Avoch Novel”. My agent, Denise Barone, is working on finding a home for it. If you like it, tell publishers to get in touch with her.
Thia began to clear the dishes as Papa and Father Philip talked. The priest had visited before, and she liked him. Something was different today, though.
“I’m sorry, Bran,” the cleric kept his voice low. “I did all I could, but they wouldn’t let me speak. Drogon’s got the entire village worked up. I fear it’s only a matter of time before he convinces them to use force against her.”
Thia felt both of them look her way. She kept her head down and began to wash the dishes. Plunging her dark-skinned hands into the cold water, she sighed. She knew she looked like her mother, but she’d never known anything about her. Where Bran was fair skinned, with brown hair and eyes, her curly hair was blonde. It was Thia’s pale lilac eyes that announced to the world she was part Fallen, though.
She heard him sigh. Thia knew the sound. He’d made a decision, but not the one he wanted to. Honor, justice, and obeying the law were important to him. If she looked like her mother, her personality was all from him. “Tonight?” he asked the priest.
“It may be for the best.” She heard the chairs scrape against the floor as the men rose. “I’ll come an hour before sunset. They already know I’m heading back to Almair. I won’t be missed, and my departure will be accepted.”
“Bran Tannersson!” A deep voice bellowed from outside their home.
Thia whipped her head around, her eyes wide. She knew the voice. Drogon had visited them several times. Each time, her father turned him away, refusing to make the item he requested.
“Thia,” Bran held his hand out to her and she ran to him. He knelt in front of her, taking both of her hands in his, “I need you to take Father Philip into your room. Lock the door behind you, and show him the tunnel under your bed. Follow him, he’ll keep you safe.”
“What about you, Papa?”
He shook his head, “I’ve got to stay here, Thia. Drogon isn’t going to go away quietly. Not this time. Here,” he reached over to his workbench and placed a small, leather wrapped item in her hands. “I made this for you. Keep it with you, always, and I will be there. Trust in the law, and in Keroys, my daughter.” He kissed her on the top of her head, then rose. “Now, take Father Philip and show him how to leave here safely.”
“Bran!” Drogon’s voice screamed out again. “We know you harbor evil in your home! Give us the Fallen spawn and we’ll leave.”
“I’ll keep her safe. This is my vow to you and Keroys both.” Father Philip whispered. “Come, my child. Show me our escape.”
Thia ran for her small bedroom, fear driving her forward. As soon as they were both in the room, she slammed an iron nail into the hasp. “Under my bed,” she stammered at the priest.
Together, they slid the bed aside enough to lift the hidden panel. “You first, child,” the priest instructed. “I’ll put the bed back as best I can.”
Dropping down into the tunnel, Thia clutched at her father’s parting gift. Footsteps echoed from above them. Dozens of muffled voices filtered down, all angry and demanding. Thia couldn’t make out what they were saying. Loose bits of dirt and dust sprayed on her with each stomp.
“Which way?” Father Philip whispered, and she jumped.
Pointing, she led him through the dark, damp tunnel. The smell of smoke began to fill the passage. Tears stung in her eyes, but she kept moving. “We’re almost to the end,” she dared to look back at the priest. Even though the tunnel was pitch black, she could make him out clearly. “It comes out in the barn.”
“Good. My horse is there, and I left her saddled. We’ll use her to get to safety.”
Thia scrambled forward, willing her small body to keep going. They’re not going to hurt Papa, she told herself. The villagers like him.
They used to like her, too. Then Drogon started to visit. And Papa said no to him. That’s when Papa told her she couldn’t go to school any more. Father Philip came, about once a month, and gave her lessons.
This is all my fault. If I didn’t look like her, they wouldn’t care!
The tunnel stopped, and she stood up in the small space. Pushing aside the wooden toggle, she opened the hatch. “We’re here,” she said as she climbed up out of the hole.
The building was older than Thia’s ten years. Papa had said it was barely standing when they first moved in. He didn’t keep horses, so they’d never bothered to fix it up much beyond the tunnel. As far as Thia knew, it was as old as the barn. But Papa always made sure it was clear, just in case.
Father Philip climbed out, closing the trap door behind them before looking at her. “This way, my child. Quickly. We don’t want them to see you.”
Following him to his horse, she caught sight of their home through a large gap in the boards. Thia stopped, drawn to it. Thick, black smoke rose from the windows and roof. A reddish glow backlit everything. Villagers were running out, carrying things that had been hers or Papa’s. As they ran, they stepped on someone laying across the threshold.
“Papa!” she screamed.
“Thia,” arms grabbed hers, spinning her around. Father Philip looked at her, his face full of compassion and grief. “I can’t help him. His soul is with Keroys now. But I can save you.” He picked her up and placed her at the front of his saddle. Mounting the horse behind her, he took hold of the reins. “Hold on,” he told her.
She felt his legs urge the horse forward and it took off at a gallop. She held onto the pommel of the saddle with one hand. The other clenched Bran’s last gift tightly.