Today, I'm touring my cover artist and friend, Sarah-Jane Lehoux, for her Sevy book series as part of her blog tour. Read on, and leave a comment for her for a chance to win a copy of Thief!
Synopsis: Happily Ever After Doesn't Come Without a Price
In the crumbling city of Eloria, there are two indisputable facts. First, everyone has a dream. Secret, seemingly unattainable, altogether irresistible, it is the kind of dream that aches and, at times, burns. For most, it will forever remain a teasing enigma, but there are those for whom dreams grow into obsession. Which brings us to the second indisputable fact: everyone has a price. Protestations of morality have little meaning when confronted with the all-consuming passion of the soul. Better judgment is pushed aside for the chance to obtain the unobtainable. The only question remaining is just how much a person is willing to sacrifice in order to get what they want.
“A wooden sword?”
“Safer this way. You don’t get a real one until I’m sure you can handle it,” Revik replied.
“What do you take me for? I can handle the real thing.” She threw the sword onto the ground and kicked some dirt over it for good measure.
“Pick it up, princess, and let’s get started. If it makes you feel any better I’m using a wooden one too.”
Sevy pouted. After days of hounding Jarro, reminding him of his promise, he finally asked Revik to train her. And now this? As soon as it looked as though they were going to start taking her seriously, they went and gave her a toy? A dozen curses deluged her mind and she was about to tell Revik exactly what she thought about him and his stupid sword.
Soft laughter interrupted her tirade before it could begin. Jarro and Irea were seated across the courtyard under the shade of the lone tree, sharing a bottle of wine. He purred into her ear and from Irea’s giggles, she obviously liked what she heard.
Sevy narrowed her eyes and scooped the sword up, pointing it at Revik. “Let’s go.”Revik bowed. “Attack.”
With a yell, Sevy charged, swinging vertically, aiming for his head. Revik blocked her attack. She slashed at him again, but he parried her strike and then thrust his sword forward. The tip touched her stomach.
“Now you’re dead,” he said, smirking. “Attack.”
This time, she tried to come at him from the side. Once again he parried the blow then swung down. The edge of his sword glanced against her left thigh.
“And now you have no legs.”
“This is stupid!”
“No, you’re stupid.”
She scoffed then took a swipe at him when she thought he wasn’t looking. He clamped onto her wrist with one hand and, with the other, bashed his sword right smack on the top of her head. “Nobody likes a sneak, my dear.”
“Revik,” Jarro called. “Play nice!”
“Yes, Mother. Fine. We’ll start with the basics. This, Sevy, is a sword. You use it to kill things.”
“Can we just get on with this?” Sevy sighed.
“In a hurry, are you? Have someplace you’d rather be? I can certainly think of a few places I’d rather be, and let me assure you they involve a lot less moaning, and a lot more wine and topless women. Well, maybe a little moaning. But stop trying to distract me with all your talk of moaning, naked women. You’re the one who wanted to learn how to fight after all.”
“You are the strangest man I’ve ever met.”
“First things first. Your posture is horrible. Stand like so. Back straight. But not rigid. No, no, no!”
It took a while before Sevy positioned herself the way Revik was, and even longer before she held the sword as he wanted her to. Then he started on footwork.
“Step step forward. Step step back. Like this. See?”
“Are we fighting or dancing? Can’t we just skip to the part where I stab you?”
He laughed. “Here, let’s try this. Hold your sword like so.” He repositioned her with both hands on the hilt of her sword so that she held it parallel to her body. “Now if I thrust forward like this, simply push my blade away. Perfect. Let’s try that again.”
Slowly, Revik went through various blocking methods, and Sevy thought she was catching on quickly. It was much easier than learning how to read, that was for sure. And despite his teasing, Revik was an excellent teacher and he didn’t mind having to repeat himself whenever she started to struggle. Her biggest problem, he told her, was her impatience, which would lead to fatal mistakes in a real battle.
“Don’t just look for the easy win.” He gave her a whack to her side that left her breathless. “You’re leaving yourself wide open. Come on now. Don’t just stand there like an idiot.”
“Well, that hurt!”
“Good. It’s supposed to.”
Which was worse: Jarro’s sympathetic chuckle or Irea’s mocking laughter? It was hard to tell.
With a sigh, she thrust at him half-heartedly. He parried, but she was able to block his counter attack. A bit amazed with herself, she thrust again with more force.
“Nice! Now faster.”
She nodded and came at him again, her movements becoming more fluid with each pass. Revik taunted her, calling her a sissy and a milksop until she was goaded enough to call him names back. That helped to liven things up and Sevy relaxed into the rhythm of the fight.
“Looking good, sweetheart!” Jarro said, and she grinned over at him, but was humbled when Revik took advantage of her distraction.
The white sun of summer crowned the sky and focused its rays on the combatants below. The sweat and the heat only heightened Sevy’s exhilaration as though she were siphoning energy from the sun itself. She stripped to her undershirt, no longer shamed by her body. It wasn’t skinny or childlike. It was lean and wiry. Powerful. The bruises spreading from Revik’s hits were marks of valour.
She was ecstatic that Jarro was watching her, cheering her on and shouting out warnings, instead of paying that snooty elf more undeserved compliments. When Revik called a time out to get a ladle of water from the well, Sevy ran to Jarro for more direct encouragement. “How am I doing?”
“Fantastic!” He handed her his glass of wine. “You’re a natural.”
“Not bad, girl, but don’t get too cocky. Revik’s going easy on you.” Irea leaned her head to rest on Jarro’s chest. She lifted her hand and twirled her fingers through his hair. Sevy was suddenly reminded of the sewer troll possessively guarding its food.
And just like that, she was once again an awkward child, her confidence secreted away like the sun behind the clouds. She turned from them, grumbling.
“Hurry up,” Revik said. “Let’s go again.”
He laughed. “Try not to sound too eager. I’m going to attack. Defend yourself.”
He swung horizontally to cut her across the waist; she countered with difficulty. They went back and forth for a while, but the fun was gone. Revik grew impatient with her lackluster swings and doubled his insults, which did help rally her spirits somewhat. She pressed forward, backing Revik up. For a moment, Sevy actually thought she was winning. But, as Irea had said, he was just going easy on her, and as soon as he grew bored with her advances, he parried her strike and deftly leapt over her head, landing behind her. Before she could face him, he kicked her in the back and sent her sprawling onto the ground.
Irea’s boisterous laugh crackled off the courtyard walls like the sound of ice breaking in the spring thaw.
“No fair,” Sevy groaned, spitting the dirt out of her mouth.
“Nothing in the rules against it.”
“Not so rough, Revik,” Jarro called at the same time Irea shouted, “Good one!” Sevy cursed her under her breath.
“I heard that,” Revik said, not attempting to hide his merriment. He leaned in and whispered, “And I agree.”
Sevy couldn’t help but slip a smile. At least her nerves weren’t the only ones that Irea gnawed upon. She’d seen Irea and Revik butt heads on more than one occasion, usually instigated by one of Irea’s snide, borderline bigoted comments, always said out of Jarro’s earshot, of course. Sevy dusted her clothes off and picked up her sword.
“That’s the spirit, Sevy. Show ‘em what a stubborn little beastie you are!”
“Is that supposed to be a compliment?”
He came at her. She deflected his blow and then swung her sword low. He countered and thrust forward. She was expecting this and instead of trying to parry, she jumped to the side then grabbed his arm, pulling him off balance. As he stumbled, she swung and he just barely avoided her blow.
She smiled and looked to Jarro for acknowledgment. Her face fell when she saw that, at that moment in time, there was nothing in Jarro’s world but soft red hair and full red lips. Irea winked at Sevy before deepening the kiss, practically climbing on top of him right then and there.
“Hey! Pay attention!” Revik yelled.
She may not have been a dark elf, but Sevy’s eyes flashed with fire just as brightly as any of theirs. Anger boiled over inside of her and she rushed at Revik with a roar.
Their blades clashed together. They were face to face, Sevy straining to force Revik’s sword away, Revik laughing at the abrupt change in her demeanor. “Well, aren’t you just a little hellion?”
“Go bugger yourself!” she snarled, though the remark wasn’t really directed at him.
Revik shifted his weight forward onto his left leg and, with his right, kicked Sevy in the shin, causing her to falter. She crashed to the ground and managed to roll away just before his sword came down upon her. Eyes narrowed, she rushed up at him, butting her head into his side. He fell back a few steps then pushed her off.
“I guess you’re the type who has to learn the hard way, huh? You really think you can get one up on me on your first day?”
“Shut up and fight!”
“Sure. Whatever you say.”
Three seconds. That’s how long it took for Revik to knock the sword from her hands and strike her not one, but five times, each hit more brutal than the last. Finally, he struck across her legs, rendering them useless. She lay broken on the ground, panting into her arms, waiting for the stinging to subside.
Revik sat down beside her and patted her back. “Good job today.”
“No, really. A valiant effort for a beginner. But tomorrow, what say we go somewhere the witch can’t watch? The stench of her dirty gash was distracting. Hey, Jarro,” he said, raising his voice. “Didn’t our little girl do wonderful today?”
Jarro was suddenly beside her, helping her to her feet as she wheezed with laughter and pain.
“Extremely. I’m impressed. I honestly thought Revik would have crippled you by now.”
“I think this deserves a celebration, don’t you? Booze at the Heart. Wait, no. Let’s go across the river and get you one of those fancy drinks all the sophisticated ladies rave about. Jarro’s buying.”
“Don’t play the miser now, my friend, this was…”
Good excerpt, huh? Love a well-written fight!Sevy ignored their teasing exchange as she glanced over to the tree where Irea still sat, lips pursed in a sour pucker. Sevy blew her a kiss before threading one arm through Jarro’s and the other through Revik’s. While the three of them strolled off together, Irea was left alone, forgotten and muttering.
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