Given the outstanding success of the launch party at SwanCon for Satima Flavell’s book ‘The Dagger of Dresnia’, we are going to run two excerpts from the novel over the next few days.
So, without further ado, here is the first:
Tammi wriggled in the saddle, clenched her thighs and loosened her grip on the reins, already wet with perspiration. Why did her hands always sweat when she was nervous? She surreptitiously wiped them on her gown, one at a time, and resumed her grip on the damp reins. Nearly there now; just this monstrous hill to conquer.
She looked up at their destination. Sutherven Castle, famous even on the continent for its huge size and strong fortifications. The view of its walls and towers from the wharf had been impressive enough, and as the party drew closer the strength and majesty of the structure became all the more apparent. ‘It’s one of the finest castles in the world,’ her mother had said. ‘You are very fortunate to be going to live there.’
Fortunate? Tammi wasn’t too sure about that. A momentous meeting awaited her beneath those well-guarded battlements. Prince Beverak! What would he be like? From his portrait he was handsome enough, but it was rumoured that he was prone to anger. She shivered at the thought. An angry husband was not a happy fate for any woman.
But she wasn’t ‘any woman’. She was a royal princess, destined since birth to marry a foreign prince and help cement relations and trade between their two countries.
She squared her shoulders and clenched her teeth to still her quivering lips.
It made no difference. She was still nervous.
Doctor Baradian stroked her arm lightly. Tammi flinched. She didn’t like Doctor Baradian’s touch. Not that he had ever taken any further liberties, and he was an extremely good physician, but something about his cold hands made her edgy. ‘Pardon, Doctor? My mind was gathering moonbeams.’
Doctor Baradian leaned closer. ‘I said it might be appropriate, my lady, for you to wave to the people who have come to see you and the other princesses.’
‘Oh, yes, Doctor, of course!’ Tammi raised a hand in greeting, turning right and left, acknowledging the curious gaze of the citizens who had braved the autumn chill to line the roadside. Occasional claps and cheers counterpointed the clip-clop of hooves on cobblestones, but by and large the crowd was silent. ‘They are not like our people,’ her mother had warned. ‘They’re a dour and cheerless lot, from what I’ve heard’.
And no wonder thought Tammi, with a climate like this. She shivered again, and not from nerves this time. Evening was closing in, and despite her felted woollen cloak lined with fox fur, she was cold. She turned towards the setting sun, to see only an angry red glow on lowering black clouds.
‘There must be a storm brewing,’ remarked Lady Chauvran, on her left. ‘They do say the weather this far north… Oops! Watch out!