Saturday, January 12, 2013

Excerpt for Gritty Fantasy Romance "Disciple"

Today's Blog Tour stop is the first book in L. Blankenship's Disciple series. This book is described as a gritty fantasy romance and is soon to be followed up by Disciple Part II on April 1, 2013. I'll be hosting another stop for Disciple Part I on the 25th, so check back here for an interview with the dashing prince of this tale! Until then, be sure to check out Disciple Part I on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo among other places!

The saints favor her, else-wise a peasant girl like Kate Carpenter would never be apprenticed to the kingdom’s master healer. But her patron saint also marks her ready for the duty of tending to a mission that must cross the ice-bound mountains. Their little kingdom faces invasion by a vast empire and desperately needs allies; across the snow-filled pass, through the deathly thin air, is a country that’s held off the empire and may be willing to lend an army.

Kate knows about frostbite and the everyday injuries of wilderness travel. She can heal those.

She’s not ready for the attentions of a ne’er-do-well knight and the kingdom’s only prince, though.

And she isn’t ready for the monsters that harry them night and day, picking off their archers first, wearing the party to exhaustion, pushing Kate beyond the limits her healing abilities.

She must keep them alive, or her blood will be on the snow too.


Snow still fell when Ilya shook me awake in the middle of the night. The patter of flakes on the overhead tarp blended with anxious whispers and sharp coughs. A pony puffed nearby and hooves shifted.

“Ulf says stay close,” Ilya whispered in my ear. “Get the bedroll off and flat so nobody trips. Careful of Acorn, he’s right here.”

I blinked and rubbed at my eyes and a whiskery horse nose nudged my cheek. Acorn shifted away as I struggled out of my bedroll and to my feet. I put my arm over his neck for balance as I kicked the heavy blanket off and tried to spread it flat. Puck snorted, close by too.

The fire, half sheltered by our tarp lean-to, had lowered to glowing coals. Ulf and Sir Kiefan stood on the far side with their backs to it, one with bow and nocked arrow, the other with sword in hand. Kiefan asked something of the woodsman and he muttered a reply. Beyond them, the black forest waited, crusted by a layer of snow that glowed blue when moonlight fought through thin patches of the clouds. Tumbling flakes kept up a quiet patter as we all fell silent, even the ponies.

Fear drove off the lethargy of waking so late, but there was nothing to see in the clusters of squat pine trees and thickets. Ulf and Kiefan moved a few steps apart, tense and alert. I wanted to ask what was wrong.

Lantern eyes lit up beyond the fire, paced by, and vanished. A shape moved across a snow-laden pine branch. That coughing sound came again, from the moving shadow, and it was answered from behind me.

Ilya, holding Acorn’s bridle beside me, whispered, “Mother Love, we’re surrounded.”

I sidled closer to the middle of the tarp, though it meant letting go of the solid mass of the pony. Ther Boristan stood holding Puck. A few steps out from that side of the lean-to, Bjorn faced the forest with bow and arrow ready. Beyond him, another pair of eyes caught the light.

“I could stoke up the fire,” Ilya raised his voice to a murmur.

Ulf answered, as he was closest. “They’re not afraid of fire. Whatever you do, stay together. Stand and fight.”

I looked over Puck’s rump, and Sir Anders stood watch on that last side with his sword in hand. A snow-covered bush there offered a clear backdrop for the form that stalked across it. The lamia were perhaps the size of a hunting hound, if bulkier in the shoulders. Their tails ran long and hairless, and lashed like a cat’s.

I felt around in the dark mass of bedrolls and found my medicine bag. With it on, I was a little more useful. I’d taken my dagger off for the night, but I’d be little help with it.

A bit of wind drove the snowflakes in my face for a moment, then they fell back. The lamia stalked their circle around our smaller circle and coughed to each other in little patterns. Snow slowed its pace, and the moonlight strengthened. I watched along with Ulf and Ilya and Acorn, all of us shifting on our feet.

The lamia went still and silent. Ulf’s bow rose as he drew his arrow halfway.

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