Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Wrong Sword, Chapter 1

I wouldn't ask anyone to buy a book blind. Especially not my first. So-
Here's the first chapter.
Don't say I never give you anything.

Chapter One: The Previous Owner

   The king stumbled down the tunnel, trailing blood. He had ridden for three days without stopping, and he could barely stand. His queen was dead. So were his sorcerer, and his best friend, and most of his capital city. His own son was hunting him, with traitors and foreign mercenaries. His dreams of uniting the land again under one pax, one law, were dead as Alexander.
   Sometimes, it sucked to be the king.
   His sword whined and muttered as he dragged himself forward, begging him not to sheathe it, to wield it once again for justice. Of course, it was the sword that had gotten him into this mess in the first place. It had taken him out of the stables, made him king, given him the power to do any bloody stupid thing he liked. A giant circular table! A Perilous Seat that only the pure could sit in! A Britannia-wide manhunt for a four-hundred year old cup! What had he been thinking?
   And the sword was still making it hard for him. The prince, his appalling son, had enough pure meanness to force the sword into obedience, no matter how the sword itself felt about it. That was the one thing the king could not allow. So instead of expiring peacefully on a couch of shimmering samite, surrounded by weeping damosels, he was limping down a Welsh burial mound, leaking fluids, hoping desperately that he'd get there before—
   "Hello, Your Highness."
   It was Hwyll son of Kaw, a nasty piece of work who loved knives and hated soap. The king had disliked Hwyll even before the knight had gone all Ostrogoth and woven those shark's teeth into his beard. And behind Hwyll, filling the rocky shore between the tunnel mouth and the lake, were a dozen private military contractors. Saxons, by the look of them.
   "Why, Hwyll, what are you doing down here? Come for the waters?"
   "Hand it over, Your Highness." Hwyll extended his hand.
   The king smiled to himself. His son might have a spirit strong enough to master the sword, but Hwyll? The knight was a dead man, and he didn't even know it.
   "You want it? Here!" The king tossed the sword into the air. Hwyll caught it, hilt-first.
   And screamed.
   He staggered backward, then shook the sword as though it were red-hot grease clinging to his skin. He screamed again, fell to his knees, and with a final whimper, shoved it point-first into the cavern floor. The blade cut into the bedrock like cheese, sparks flying everywhere, squealing against the stone.
   Hwyll collapsed, twitching. The Saxons backed away, making witch signs and muttering charms. Bloody pagans.
   The king limped to the sword and grabbed the hilt. Strength poured into him, and he pulled it effortlessly from the stone. He twirled it casually in front of himself, once, twice.
   "Right, then," said Arthur, for the very last time. "Who's next?"

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