When I looked back at that poll I took in July, I was shocked to find that you guys want to read more of my fiction. So, since I have been busy editing, I am answering your requests and posting an excerpt from my current work-in-progress, Out of the Curse.
Out of the Curse follows the story of Mar Zaehav, a teenage soldier with dragon wings who believes freedom is the greatest good. At this point in the story, she has temporarily joined an elite group of knights who are journeying across a large, inland sea. If you would like to read more about this novel, you can check it out by clicking on this link.
I chose this excerpt, even though it is from the middle of my novel, because it showcases several of my favorite characters who have not appeared in any other excerpts that I have posted on my blog and includes a small adventure during their sea voyage. However, this excerpt is not in its final form– for instance, I will be changing Amets’ weapon to quarterstaff and the details of elven magic.
Despite the much needed editing (does it ever end or is that only a myth?), I hope you can enjoy this scene!
Excerpt from Chapter 11 of Child of the Curse by Gabrielle Massman
“Dragons of the Sea”
“Get the swords! Get the swords!”
Raewas swung down from high up on the main mast. Slipping as he landed near us, Raewas pushed off the deck with one hand and continued his frantic scramble as he took off running. With his blue, silver hair whipping across his face, he lunged into the hold for his own weapon even as Amets leapt out before him.
“What in the name of all things holy?” Amets exclaimed as he flourished his massive blade.
Even as he spoke, my body tightened up, and a sharp hiss sliced the air near me. Gaevri’el tackled Baehur down just as a large turquoise head snapped the air where the freckled boy had stood. Rearing back in disgust, the serpent’s head swung back and forth and fangs protruded from its grim upper lip. The creature hissed at Gaevri’el, who was pulling Baehur to his feet, and then all twenty feet of the animal shot out of the water. With legs that looked more like flippers and wings not unlike mine, it circled around our mast once before letting out a piercing scream.
Drawing my sword, I stared at the creature; if only it would get closer, I could attack. Yet even as it sent out its second battle cry, Enoshaeh appeared from inside the kitchen and threw one of the kitchen knives. Flying straight upwards, the blade lodged deep into one of the creature’s eyes, and the green and blue scaled beast disappeared, plummeting into the ocean.
“Karlik! Get up here!” Shaeh yelled down into the hull, as she threw off her cooking apron and reached for her shield and her bag, completely ignoring her sword. “And bring a bow with you!”
Scaling the ladder with remarkable speed, Karlik emerged from the hatch with Raewas right behind him with his short sword in hand. “What was that clamor?”
“A sea dragon, I was just telling you,” Raewas interjected. “More will be coming soon; he got out his call before he was killed.”
Karlik nodded and seemed little affected by the news, but he began issuing orders immediately. “There is not telling when the next dragon will arrive; everyone have your weapons and be prepared. Baehur and Zaehav, aim for the eyes or underneath the limbs; there scales are softer there and there are none on the eyes. Perehdur, lock down the wheel so you can fight, but be ready to steer if need be. Gaevri’el, take this bow; you are the best shot of all of us. Shaeh, see if you have some potions which can be thrown long distance.”
Even as Karlik spoke, the sea began to boil. Around the boat, the waves grew larger. Tensing up, I held out Gaevri’el’s sword in front of me as I focused past the blade. Almost simultaneously, three lengthy sea dragons shot out of the sea. Pressing up off of the deck, I shot into the air with them and began to wonder if the rumor of dragons spitting fire was true.
One of the sea blue beasts opened its mouth, and I dodged toward the stern of the boat hoping that no fire would accompany the dragon’s action, but instead of flames, only a hiss escaped from the beast. Hoping the dragons could not spit fire, I dived toward the dragon’s left side with the intention of break its wing with Pedah. The creature snapped its fangs at my wings. Collapsing my wings into my side, I dropped and smashed into the dragon’s shoulders. Proceeding to roll over the back of the dragon, I frantically grabbed for the animal’s neck or any hand hold to keep me from falling. Sucking in my breath, I prepared to hit the water when suddenly my arms caught, hooking around the base of the sea dragon’s right wing.
I barely exhaled before the dragon jerked away from the ship.
The ocean creature bellowed as it darted away from the ship. With Pedah clenched in my right hand, I tried to get positioned so that I could strike a blow, but I was hanging in midair. It was all but impossible. My fingers slipped on the slick, smooth scales, as I tried to hoist myself up to have both arms around the dragon’s wing. When both arms finally supported me, I began to pull myself onto the dragon, but then the world spun. Tumbling across the dragon’s back, I flailed and somehow caught my left arm on the dragon’s other wing.
I had to act quickly on Karlik’s instructions before this beast threw me. Reaching up, I thrust my sword deep under the dragon’s wing. Gasping for breath, I slide out my sword, meaning to shove it in again, but I did not have time.
Screaming in pain, the dragon dived into the ocean in a last dying attempt to get me off. With a final gasp, I held my breath as it submerged me beneath the cold waves. The water swallowed my body; the ocean smothered light under a blanket of gray. Pulling me away from the dying dragon, the waves took control.
I had to get to the surface, but when I looked around for anything to pull me up, I saw I was not alone under the waves. There were many dragon bodies in this underworld, but only one dragon was dead.
Panicking, I began to pull and tug at the water hoping to reach the surface before the dragons which had been hiding underwater reached me, but I was too deep. These currents were too strong. Perhaps, I would have been able to make headway—except I had never swam before. Nakavar did not consider it essential to Livyahak training. Desperate to get to the surface, I suppressed a frightened choke which clenched up my chest as I opened up my wings to help me swim.
Sharp pain raced like lightning up my leg and I was tugged down deeper. At the same moment, I sucked water as my lungs refused to wait any longer for oxygen. As water burning through my lungs and pain shot up my leg, I shut my eyes rather than looking at the water dragon’s mouth around the flesh of my lower leg, and my chest convulsed desperately trying to get keep from taking in more water. I choked out the water I had sucked in, but only more entered into my lungs. I tried to swing Pedah down to free my leg, but I could not reach the sea dragon.
A vise like grip clenched my arm. I thought I opened my eyes, but I only saw dancing blackness. Yet I would hold onto my sword; I would not let it go. I would die with Pedah in my grip. Throbbing, dull agony built up in my scull, and there was no sharp pain from my leg. I could not remember where it had gone; I was not sure if I knew where I was. I tried to breathe, but I only got water. Where was the air? Is this what death felt like?
In my stupor, I did not even feel my body break the surface of the water.
“Breathe!” a sharp voice commanded, and a hard knock fell on my back. “Come on! Breathe!”
Another blow landed on my back. Water poured from my mouth, but I could not suck in air. Retching, I opened my eyes as I tried again to gain air. A little came, and I coughed out more of the water. I could almost breathe now, but I kept coughing even when no more water came.
“There you go. Are you with me now?”
Yanking my head around, I spotted Raewas at my side even as I realized his strong arm supported me while he treaded water for both of us. I could only stare; I could not stop coughing.
“Alright, you’re fine now. Can you float?”
Still gasping for breath, I tried to focus through my throbbing head. Float, float, he wanted me to float; I need to float. Letting go slowly, Raewas was careful to stay by my side, but I rotated onto my back. I started sinking, but then I remembered my wings. By slowly flapping my wings up and down, I keep afloat.
“Good then. I’ll be right back.”
I continued to cough and float as I watched him suddenly dive back down. With wide eyes, I watched the water around me start swirling with the dark red streams. For a moment, I forgot why the color red was significant, and then I froze in the water. When I started to sink again, I remembered to move my wings and arms to float, but I needed to go back into the blackness. Raewas was down there, and he had been down for far too long. Making sure my grip on my sword was firm, I took another gasping breath as I prepared to dive down under the waves, but as soon as I did, the clenching grip returned, and a voice stopped me.
“Stop that! You almost died; don’t go back down! What are you thinking? If want to get out of here alive, you need to fly both of us to the ship.”
Relieved to hear the voice, I let the breath I held go as I turned around to face the silver haired Mayimaem elf. Raewas was calmly treading water as he tightened his grip on my arm and eyed my face skeptically. So I had to get us out of here. I always had something to push off before flight, but now, there was nothing, and my head was spinning as if it was still filled with water.
“Come on, Mar,” Raewas spoke again with nothing but calmness in his voice. “I just killed the sea dragon closest to us, but we need to hurry if we want to get out of here. If you can’t fly, let me know, and I will try and swim us to the ship.”
Staring at Raewas, I watched as he maneuvered himself so that he was father under my shoulders, and he tightened his grip as he waited for me to at least try to fly. I took in a breath of air—I dared not waste any oxygen to respond—and began flapping my wings around me. The waves churned. I thought I was going to faint, but I could not. I would not. I had felt pain before. I would fly. I pushed harder as I panted. Finally, I broke the surface of the waves, but even in the air, my flight was less than smooth. Jerking up and down in the air, I struggled to make it to the ship which was slowly moving away with the wind. Though he was shorter than any of the other elves and barely as tall as me, Raewas’ thick, muscular frame was as heavier than I expected. As I caught up to the ship, dark stars threatened to take over my vision, and my head throbbed. When I finally passed over the desk, I pulled in my wings, letting myself and Raewas drop roughly to the deck.
I tumbled across the desk before I slammed into one of the crates which just minutes before Baehur and I had been fighting on. As I sprawled there, I realized how helpless I must look, and I forced myself to stand. With vengeance, the pain in my leg returned as I rose, and I refocused on breathing. Still panting and trying to get my brain to stop throbbing, I felt a gentler arm reach under mine. Weakly pushing away, I glared at Gaevri’el as I gasped, “I’m—fine… just give—me a sec—second…”
Gaevri’el stepped away, as requested, while I bent over and began to hack up water. While I tried to recover, I hear Baehur exclaim, “Cap’n, sir! Mar’s leg is bleedin’ pretty heavy right now. Shouldn’t ye do somethin’?”
“It’s bleeding, but it shouldn’t be too bad,” Raewas spoke up. “The teeth just penetrated superficially and they didn’t tear away a chunk of meat. I’m just glad that she was able to fly us up; I wouldn’t have been able to swim both of us to the ship fast enough with the blood drawing those dragons.”
Though I still coughed occasionally, I stood up straighter as I eyed Raewas; he had seemed so calm throughout the whole misadventure, and now he stood without even panting though he had been underwater for more than a few minutes to killed that sea dragon. As Perehdur walked over to me, I dully obeyed Perehdur when he told me to sit down on the crate.
Then I remembered the dragons; we were still at sea, still among the beast. “Gaevri’el, Captain Karlik! The dragons… they’re still out there… they’ll—“
“Easy, my lady.” Gaevri’el set his firm hand on my shoulder. “Look around; they cannot get to us. I had to wait until yourself and Raewas landed, but we are safe now.”
Glancing up, I looked around the ship; the white, blue light was now tinted with blazing orange. The ship sail in a ring of fire stretching from the surface to far above out heads. Now I noticed the heat from the blaze soaking into my cold, wet skin. So this was elf magic. I looked quickly at Gaevri’el, the only Eshaem elf, and he smiled. Lifting one hand, he waved it through the air and the fire responded with an extra rushing swirl of flame in the area he gestured to.
“Yes, my lady, the fire would be my work, my lady; the Good King has gifted many of his followers Magic abilities according to their race. The water dragons will not dare to breach the fire—they are as afraid of the flame as their fire breathing cousins are found of it.”
“Ah,” I muttered as I watched the wonder. Elves were truly a marvelous creation.
“I’m done; you can use the towel now.” A damp cloth landed on my lap, and I focused on Raewas who casually shook out his hair. He was not breathing hard. I was still struggling to breath, even now, and he must have stayed underwater for four or five times as long.
“Raewas, why—” I paused catch my breath as Perehdur touched my tender leg. “—aren’t you panting?”
Shrugging as he turned to me, Raewas responded as if everyone knew, “Mayimaem elves can breathe underwater; it is very natural.”
“No, at least, not really. I suppose the ability comes from Malekh like everything does, but every Mayimaem elf has it. Magic is more like—well, Malekh gives magic to only a few elves; like Gaevri’el… or Baehur.” Raewas suddenly grew grim, but then it passed, and he once again grinned and playfully shoved my shoulder. “You didn’t read that in your precious books, O Livyahak Scholar?”
“I suspect, Raewas, that Malekh will give a gift to you when we reach the Fort. You have not yet met our King in person, but I can promise you, son of Bythan, He is even more remarkable than you have heard.” The Captain nodded to Raewas, who shrugged, pretending not to care.
I stored the information away for later use before sending a glare down at Perehdur who suddenly clenched his binding on my leg. I was not allowed to think in peace for very long as Baehur soon rushed up to my side. “Are ye okay, Mar? I lost track of ye in the battle until ye fell into the water, an’ then I had to kill my dragon first. I’m sorry!”
“It is okay; I should have been able to handle it myself.”
“Well, maybe if you had not been so focused on your new found talent and your sword play, Baehur,” Raewas cut in with a mocking laugh, “Then you could have saved her.”
Before either Baehur or I could yell at Raewas, Perehdur tightened my bandage, and I yelped. Perehdur did not comment on my exclamation but eyed me with interest as he stood up. “In a week, your leg will be healed; the sea dragon only scrapped it with his teeth.”
“Thank you,” I nodded and stood up, deciding to ignore Raewas. I attempted to limit my limp as I walking across the deck, but my mind wandered back to the fight. I had killed a dragon without my wings. The venomous fangs on my wings were no longer my only weapon.