Your webmistress and writer is currently under the weather. It appears that not only did my family return from California, but so too did some microbes. The kiddo is ill, and now, after spending two days with him, I am ill. Currently forcing myself to drink some godawful protein drink, because I’m not hungry but need some kind of nutrition, and lounging, coughing, and sputtering here in my armchair.

In the mean time, I’m back in the Nithings, writing some of my favorite parts of the book again (ah, my editing process… slash, slash, burn, bleed, light afire… rewrite). I liked this bit, but I’ve always been a fan of scenes where heroes get cool schwag.

“I gave Emry a gift,” Nesme said. “I figured you should have one as well. Gem, too. But I think you possess greater powers of deduction than you might imagine.”

Cora hated making decisions. She felt the weight of it on her now, like a thumb pressed to the middle of her forehead. What would Nesme think of her if she were to choose something small and simple, like the silver pocketwatch on the second shelf? It didn’t look to tell time in any numerical system she knew, but it was fascinating. Or perhaps she should select the wind instrument, the one made of mahogany with silver filigree down its sides; surely Emry could teach her how to play…

But no, there was something else. As she looked and looked, it continued to hold her attention, to wrest her gaze back to it: it wasn’t that she wanted the gun, exactly, it was only that she could not ignore it. About a half larger than her father’s guns, this was a pistol of an older pedigree, from perhaps a hundred years past; she had read enough books to recognize it. It would be difficult to fire, and not good at close range, but still…

Before she could think further, she picked it up. It was heavy, and cool to her fingers. The weapon was composed of curves, not lines, and every detail had been attended to, from the embossed barrel, to the ivory inlaid grips. She squinted, trying to make out the design, and her heart skipped as she recognized it.

“Stags,” said Nesme, surprised. “The symbol of House Grey, is it not?”

“Yes, but how did you—”

Nesme turned to Cora. Hea was close to her, but nearly a head taller, heas dark eyes rimmed in white lashes as hea stared down into her face.

“Not all of us choose to leave everything behind,” the Sib said, reaching out and touching Cora’s cheek. Heas hands were soft, the skin slightly papery. As hea reached out the cloth from heas robe fell down to heas elbow, revealing an intricate tattoo that ran from wrist to elbow and, presumably, further. The design was a stag with magnificent horns that intertwined up the Sib’s arm, dotted every now and then with a black flower or star.

“I, too, was born into House Grey,” said Nesme, and Cora thought hea sounded sad, almost regretful. “This gun… it did not come with me, no, but with another of my kin, another of our houses.”

Nesme’s voice cracked, and Cora looked up into heas eyes.  She regretted her decision immediately. “You—you’re crying… I don’t have to take it, I—”

“No, no—I cry because, Coralie dear, I see parts of your path before you. Steps you must take. You choose a weapon of war, a weapon of death. You can feel the storm coming, too.”

Pyle's Dueling PiratesMalvin’s hands were at his neck again, the man’s hot breath reeking of wine and the stench of something Sylvan thought to be illness—a lingering, pungent odor. But there wasn’t much time to categorize scents at the moment, as he saw sparkles of light dancing before his eyes and the clammy fingers pressed harder at his neck. Breathing was becoming impossible.

He couldn’t make it look like there had been a struggle—but he couldn’t very well let Malvin kill him. The old Captain may have outnumbered him by a few decades, but Sylvan thought he would have made up for his lack of experience with brute force.

“You made the wrong choice, DeLoire,” growled the Captain. His eyes were bloodshot, tears streaming down his rugged face, and down into his grizzled mustache. “I can’t… let you live…”

Sylvan felt panic for the first time in his life. His knife was gone—his guns were out of reach. And Malvin was winning. A few more moments, and his brain would begin shutting down. Already his thoughts were moving too slowly, churning down to a stop.

That smell again. Spicy, almost fecal.

As the world threatened to close in on him again, Sylvan reached up his hand to Malvin’s chest. The man had been caught unawares in his bedchamber, and was wearing no shirt. Skin to skin, palm to breast.

Malvin’s eyes shot open, and his grip loosened. He tried to roll of of Sylvan, but he seemed attached at his hand.

Sylvan could feel the man’s heart beating in his chest. Tha-thump, tha-thump, tha-thump…

“Gods alive,” wheezed Malvin. “Seidcrafter… you… you bring death.”

“Only to those who ask,” Sylvan said. He flexed his fingers, as the heart began to slow under his palm. He could swear he actually held it for a moment, the chambers slick under his fingers, the veins and arteries pulsing and quivering in his grasp. Then, a voice in his head, a command: Stop.

Tha-thump… tha-thump… tha-thump…tha-