So here for your reading enjoyment are the first three pages of Elaina's Fate.
“Forgive them, Elaina. “ My younger sister Jodian curls her arm through mine as we stroll Bane’s packed dirt streets. It stinks of blood, grease, and manure piled upon filthy layers of fear and resentment. You can almost taste the bitterness. If Jodian notices, she ignores it as she does so many awful things. “They can’t help their jealousy.”
Emerald silk drapes from her ivory shoulders, complimenting her shining brown curls, her jade and gold eyes. As per antiquated Bane custom, her dress length brushes her ankles.
I pale against her beauty. I’m all sinews and straw hair. Where her dress emphasizes her looks, my skirts of midnight blue wash me out. My muscles strain at my sleeves in an embarrassingly masculine way, but I’m skinny everywhere else. My mouth is too small and grim, and my eyes are dull as Bane’s cloudy skies. I always resemble a scarecrow. Today I feel like a lampshade.
I don’t envy her loveliness. My sister is a treasure, and I won’t deny her perfection. Not today, not any day.
“I know,” But the villager’s derision often gets under my cowl. My work as the Master’s Assassin not only ensures the safety of my family, but theirs as well. Yet I am greeted with suspicion and disparaging glares. I can’t help my anger. “But it’s your birthday. Can’t they keep their dirty looks to themselves for once?”
Jodian shrugs. “They don’t know you as we do.”
True. They don’t know anything about me.
My name is Elaina. I spy and kill for Master Issac Smith. Bastard that he is, he’s kept my family sheltered and fed for the seven years I have been in his service. Of course it came with a price. Everything in the world of Phaeton comes with a price, but especially in the village of Bane.
Mind your souls and pray to the Energy you don’t end up here. This is where the Energy, the so-called ‘God’ puts spirits It can’t control, save, or rehabilitate. This is where the truly wicked find themselves. We are the fallen, and this is Hell.
“We should get manicures.” Jodian tosses her hair and smiles hard at the old woman who spits at my feet.
“If that is what you want.” I glare at the shrivelled bitch. She had the nerve to glare back. Perhaps she has forgotten fear in her age-addled brain. Perhaps I should re-educate her.
“Absolutely. I mean look at your hands.” Jodian emphasizes her point by bringing my clenched fist up to her critical eye.
My hands are scarred, dry and ugly to behold, and they always look dirty. Vanities such as manicures are not for the likes of me. Still, I let her drag me into Maxine’s. It’s her day, after all.
Jodian chooses pink nail polish, as I knew she would. I choose a flat black. It will blend better with—
“Really, Elaina?” My sister scowls at my practicality. “Why would you pick something so dull? Does everything you wear involve some kind of camouflage?”
“Fine,” I roll my eyes. “You choose then.”
I shouldn’t have said that. I watch, uneasy as her index finger dwells over pinks, purples and reds. All the prissy colours.
“This one.” I breathe a sigh of relief. Metallic Electric Blue is better than Grape Bubblegum whatever-the-hell she likes. “It matches your dress.”
When we arrange our skirts and sit in the leather chairs, I can’t help but hear the conversations going on in the back as my sister settles in beside me. They’re arguing about who will work on my nails.
“You’re the newest.”
“You do her. It’s your shop....” The whispers are harsh.
No one wants to serve me. It’s not as though I’m going to stab everyone if I’m not satisfied with my manicure. What would be the point of that?
“Maybe it’s because your hands are such a mess.” Jodian says. She’s trying to be playful, but the arm rest squeaks in her grip.
I stare at the black and white tiled floor, biting my lip, peeling chapped skin away with my teeth until I taste blood. “Maybe I should just kill them for being rude.” I’m not sure I’m joking.
Sudden silence. They hear us as well. The staff meeting ends, and Maxine herself shoves a young woman toward me, which earns the owner a look of such hatred I’m guessing I won’t be the one spilling blood. I’ll probably know by next week. Death is commonplace here.
For all her animosity toward Maxine, the woman attending me is nervous. She pushes my cuticles back with extra care, and trembles as she applies the polish. Sigh. Fear is tedious. There is no conversation, no sound but the occasional drip from the faucets.
In my day, in a different incarnation on Earth, in a country named Canada, we had no such thing as ‘manicures’. Nothing but trees and foliage. Naught but hard labour and harder men. My fingernails were cracked and bleeding from lye, splinters and other work related wounds. I didn’t leave the splendour of France only to become an unwilling slave to a dense husband in a frigid forest.
My marriages were short. My punishment is eternal. Such is the blessing of The Energy.
I’m so often alone; I have ample time to ponder my existence on the world of Phaeton. Everyone does, I imagine. Every time we are reborn, we are reminded why we are here, and that there will be no escape. Yet another gift from The Energy. The memories, the dreams.
Jodian knows the horrors she has done. She still speaks with an accent sometimes. Her voice is soft, but her words are abrupt and peppered with buzzing sounds. Your handz are zuch a mess. She was a German, and tells me that there was a great war, but speaks rarely of it because she is ashamed. I can’t imagine her being cruel, but she assures me she was.
A man bursts through the door, nearly slamming it off the hinges in his hurry, and everyone startles.
He narrows his eyes at the blubbering Maxine, her eyes are wide and bloodshot with terror. She recognizes one who wears the armor of the Elite Guard. He wears the silhouette of a howling wolf’s head on his breastplate and oversized shoulder pads painted blood red. His hand tightens on his sword.
he demands, no need for pleasantries. “She is here?”
I hope you enjoy it. I will remember to publish another excerpt soon.