Tuesday 28 February 2012

Miriam Newman: 'The King's Daughter'


Born to a dying queen and an ambitious king, Tarabenthia is heir to the crown of Alcinia.  Yet when the idyll of her childhood ends she will defy her father, tipping the balance in a world poised on the brink of destruction and leaving history to judge whether she is heroine or harlot.

In a time of war, what would you surrender in the name of love?

There was only one direction I could look and that was down the road where we had just come.  Now someone else was coming straight up the middle so that people scattered like chickens.  A young, unhelmeted Omani trooper was riding down that road on a fine long-legged gray horse, bawling in a voice which did not doubt its own authority.  Though I couldn’t hear the words, I knew what he was saying—troops were coming and he wanted the way cleared NOW.

 I couldn’t clear the road.  I was chained in it and knew my peril.  There was a
curve in that road and by the time they saw me, it would be too late.  My only hope was
that Frado would unfasten the manacles and push me off the road and for a fraction of
a second I actually thought he might do it, if only to avoid trouble with the Army.  He
got free of a woman who had been throwing melons at his head when she ran for her
life and came back beside me, but he was still in a fury and it was only to punch me
in the face.

I heard the gray horse score the cobblestones, launching into a full charge.
Sparks flew where his metal shoes beat on the stones as he came like evil incarnate,
ears pinned and teeth bared, head snaking as he went straight for Frado.  Fat as he was,
Frado could by no means get over the wall on my side of the street and started to
trundle to the other side and, with that, the horse was on him.  He was obviously a
well-trained cavalry mount and I thought the rider meant to let him savage his target.  
But at the last moment the trooper swung his horse just enough to clear Frado, jerked
his foot from the stirrup and kicked the slaver squarely in the back at a speed just under
that of a battle charge.  The force was so great that it picked up that mountain of a man
like a doll and deposited him face down near the opposite side of the street.
My vision had taken on the preternatural sharpness that precedes seeing nothing
and I saw in heart-stopping detail the first of what seemed like a hundred horses coming
around the curve at a fast canter.  If I had been in better condition, I would have
wondered why a number like that was coming at such speed through a country at peace,
but just then I was in no condition to care.  I lay there like something thrown on the
midden heap.

That point man didn’t have the job, though, because he was slow or stupid.  I
heard the noise of his horse coming back and saw a boy no older than myself with a
shining mane of chestnut hair already dropping from his trotting mount and running
towards me with the horse close behind.  With no time to spare, he clucked his horse
over me in the position a war horse takes to shield a fallen rider, dropped the reins
and threw himself on top of me.  He was protecting me with his body, arms curled
over my head, pulling my face into his chest, so I saw little of what followed, but I
heard it:  the tremendous din of all those horseshoes, riders cursing, horses snorting
in surprise, and the squealing and kicking of the horse over top of us.  That boy was
holding me like a lover and I could feel from his involuntary shudders that he was
inches from death, but he never moved and neither did his horse.  The troopers didn’t
want to kill their own man and horses listen to each other better than they do to us, so
between the efforts of riders and the violence of the gray horse trying to save his rider
the line shifted and passed and I was still alive.


Pat McDermott said...

Wonderful excerpt filled with vivid descriptions. It leaves me concerned for the heroine's fate and wanting to enjoy more of Ms. Newman's evocative writing.

Miriam Newman said...

Thank you, Pat, and thanks to Lindsay for featuring my book on her blog today. The King's Daughter just became available in print while the sequel, Heart of the Earth, is presently on Kindle. They can both be found on my web site www.miriamnewman.com.

Lindsay Townsend said...

I wish you much success with both these titles. As Pat says, Miriam, your writing is evocative and richly emotional - I was desperate by the end of the excerpt to know what happens next!

Jen Black said...

I wouldn't like to be your heroine! The story sounds exciting and I wish you good luck with it,