So! I have a new book in the works, and this one is going to be like the Dragonriders of Skala series that I did with Pauline Creeden, except this one is set in medieval Italy and I’m doing it all myself.
I even have a little bit of the cover:
The first chapter (soon to be the second chapter) of Assassin’s Blade (title subject to change without notice)!
Chapter 1 (or 2)
“The greatest day of your life, they say,” Fia hissed into the wind, leaning forward on her dragon’s back. “It’s going to be the greatest day of your life.”
Ryelleth looked over her shoulder at Fia as if concerned, sparks flying up from her breath. Fia leaned aside and they blew past her face.
“The greatest day of his life, sure,” she told Ryelleth. “What will Carmenlo get when he marries me? He gets my earnings, gets my body – and he gets you, my sweet dragon. And what do I get? I get penned up in some fine household with my body spitting out babies while he’s off flying around … flying around with you.”
Furious, Fia tapped Ryelleth’s neck. “Fire!” she called, and the dragon spit out a gout of flame that lit the air but gave her no satisfaction.
Today Fia was to her sponsalia, the ceremony in which she’d formally be engaged to Carmelo. Fia couldn’t take any joy in the flight of her garnet dragon as she usually did. Aloft on dragonback, Fia generally loved the air of heaven in her hair as Ryelleth’s wings, wide as the sails of ships, hummed in the wind. Below, Fiorenza lay under them with a patchwork of red tile roofs, the streets below them curving in on themselves like an inescapable labyrinth.
Ryelleth grumbled low in her throat, cocking her head to glance back to Fia, concerned. She patted her dragon’s garnet scales with her fire-singed glove. At the sight of those golden eyes, Fia suddenly had to work to maintain her composure though her head ached and her heart hurt.
This meeting had hung over her like a thundercloud for weeks, and she’d been sick with dread ever since her papa had announced it.
Ryelleth’s garnet scales gleamed like jewels below Fia’s gloved hands, and sparks wreathed the old dragon’s face. Ryelleth had been a war dragon whose owner had died in combat. Fia had rehabilitated the old dragon, had worked with her since she was eleven years old. The old dragon had recovered, and Fia had retired her from war work. They’d worked together, ferrying people between the cities, for almost five years now. Ry was such a good dragon, so calm and steady –
Fia took a deep breath. Don’t think of that. Not now.
And now her father’s tower loomed up in the heart of Fiorenza as Ryelleth came winging in for the landing.
Ryelleth came in slowly, backwinging above the top of the tower where the dragon roosted, what Fia called her aeyrie. Hot air blew up from her wings, as well as dust from the top of the tower, and the dragon trotted a few steps on her landing, her talons striking up sparks on the stone.
Fia undid her sashes and slid down her dragon to the ground, ducking as her dragon’s great wings stormed shut overhead.
Ryelleth usually went straight to the water trough to drink. This time, however, with a concerned groan, the great dragon brought her head down to Fia. Heat shimmering around Ry’s face as she nudged Fia’s arm in a sympathetic gesture.
Fia burst into tears.
She had been holding back her feelings all morning, but that sweet gesture from her old friend was too much. Fia’s heart was too full of what was to come. “Oh, my old friend, my dear friend,” she sobbed, patting Ryelleth’s mailed head with her gloved hands.
Ryelleth gazed at her with those great golden eyes, then nudged her gently again, a loving gesture.
“Don’t, I can’t, I just can’t. It’s not your fault.” Fia’s words were broken as she clung to her dragon’s face, not caring if her sleeves were singed.
Ry nuzzled her again, which was like being nuzzled by a hot stove.
Fia took a deep breath, fought for control. She leaned back and looked into her dragon’s eyes. They’d worked together for so many years. She thought of how devoted they were to each other – all those long days on dragonback, the winds of heaven blowing through her hair – her sweet dragon protecting her, caring for her, just as Fia had protected and cared for her for ten years, after she’d taken over Ry’s care.
“I won’t give you up,” she said. “I swear to you I will not.” She knew she was late, but she had to compose herself, and just have a moment with her dragon.
“I know, honey,” Fia said, as her dragon rubbed her head against her, nearly knocking her off her feet. “Don’t do that, girl, I can’t afford to catch on fire right now. I gotta go.”
By the blessed Virgin, she did not want to go to her sponsalia, but she didn’t have a choice. She blew a kiss to her dragon, who stooped down to drink. Ryelleth’s vat of water was nearly dry. Hells, she’d have to get that filled again when this was done.
A low, covered doorway stood at the top of the tower. Fia ducked through this into the dark, spiraling stairway that would take her from the tower down through the rest of her father’s house.
Fia rushed down the stairs, nearly blind in the darkness.
The stairway opened into the second story of the house, where the bedrooms were.
“Sissy!” her sister Bice shouted.
Fia jumped, startled, and grabbed the wall so she wouldn’t fall down the stairs. “What?” Fia cried, coming out of the stairwell
Bice popped out their communal bedroom. Behind Bice, Fia could see her younger sisters and brother all leaning out of the open casement to watching some excitement in the streets below.
From out in the narrow streets, somebody shouted, “That’s what your mother said last night!” followed by a roar of laughter. The next moment came a scream, then fighting.
Fia frowned at the sound.
“The Pacini brothers are fighting again,” Bice explained, rolling her eyes like a typical jaded fourteen year old.
“All this city does is fight itself,” Fia growled, half to herself. “Endless fighting. It has turned upon itself for decades, eating at itself from the inside out.”
“Er, all right,” Bice said. “Come on, Daddy’s waiting for you. Aren’t you going to change?” Bice tapped Fia’s scorched gloves.
“Absolutely not,” Fia said.
“What happened to your gloves?”
“Ry sneezed unexpectedly yesterday. I barely got out of the way in time.”
Bice grimaced. “Ow. But you should change. I don’t want you to get in trouble.” The sisters clipped down the stone steps, side by side.
Fia rubbed at the black soot on her gloves though she knew it wouldn’t come off. “I’ve got to fly Father to Siena immediately after this. I don’t have time to change.”
Bice rolled her eyes. “Enjoy your lecture.”
“Pfft. Babbi won’t lecture me now,” Fia grumbled.
“No, of course not,” Bice said, “but he will later, all the way to Siena.”
Fia sighed an especially gusty sigh as she hurried out to the courtyard where the sponsalia was taking place.
She hated when her little sister was right.
Fia paused just outside the stone arch that led into the garden, taking deep breaths to calm her thudding heart.
Bice grabbed her gloved hand. “I’m praying to the saints for you,” she said.
Fia gently squeezed her hand. “Thanks, sis.” They hugged.
Fia thought of the money she was saving from her ferrying work. She was trying to save enough to make sure that none of her sisters would have to marry – that they could stay single and childless and live a life of their own choosing. Fia wasn’t sure if it would work – but she worked so hard in hopes that she could give her sisters that chance that she would be denied.