Tuesday, 6 January 2009

Dark Enchantment - story 1: Dishonour

My new collection Dark Enchantment kicks off with Dishonour, a short, straightforward story which takes us back to the iron-age Eternal Empire of my novel Divine Torment. The plot: Surya is a young noblewoman with a crush on Lord General Mershen. Unfortunately civil war intervenes, Surya's family is on the losing side and the next time she sees him it's because the Emperor has sent Mershen to execute her. Then Surya shocks him by insisting she doesn't want to die a virgin...

He closed on her, his hand gripping her arm. ‘This is wrong,’ he rasped.

‘And what you’re going to do isn’t?’

He flinched. ‘Have it your way.’ Seizing her by the shoulders he whirled her sideways and slammed her against a pillar, nearly knocking the wind out of her. His hands were rough and determined; he tore straight through the fastenings of her robe and wrenched the cloth open, ripping the thinner material beneath to bare her breasts. Surya shut her eyes, shrinking back into herself; he was too big, too strong, too fierce. He smelled of sweat and horses. Under his armour he was all hard muscle and his thighs were crushing hers. His hands grabbed her soft little breasts like he wanted to squeeze the life from them.

I asked him for this, she told herself. I will bear it. I will endure it. It’s what I wanted.

He was panting hard through clenched teeth. This wasn’t even lust: it was anger. Anger at her for rejecting his honour, anger at an Emperor who would insist on such a task – and most of all anger at himself. Involuntarily she cried out as his fingers bit painfully into her flesh. Without warning he went still, one hand on her shoulder, one squashing her left breast, her nipple pinched between his fingers. With his head bowed over hers, he made a noise almost like a sob. Then, ‘Surya.’

She bit the inside of her lip to staunch the tears that were burning at the back of her eyes.

‘Do you really want this?’ he groaned.

She whimpered. Then he lifted her face to his and kissed her. His lips were dry and a little chapped, and there was no anger in them at all, just deep pain and a fervent, haunted desire. She shook beneath them, opening to him, dissolving as his kisses soaked into her. He tasted of wine and blood and exhaustion, but he was warm on her cold skin and she pressed trembling against him. A tear she had not held back slipped down over her cheek and he caught it on his thumb before brushing his lips across the planes of her face, as if he were tasting her skin.

‘Have you prayed to Tesub?’ he breathed, his mouth hot at her ear and throat.

‘Hhh?’ She was incapable of speech at that moment.

‘Ask her to accept your maiden sacrifice.’ He was pulling at the strapping of his breastplate. His words burned.

‘Ah.’ Of course; it was the ceremony for the wedding night: to offer one’s maidenhead to the goddess as a pure sacrifice. A woman who did not – oh gods he was kissing her throat now and her whole body was shaking with the heat of those kisses – any woman who didn’t risked dying impure and being rejected by the gods. Oh. The tears were back again, brimming in her eyes. ‘I don’t know the words.’

He pulled back momentarily to look her in the face. ‘Nor do I.’ He shrugged his breastplate off and laid it to the floor. ‘Think. You must have heard women talk.’

‘Yes.’ Think? She couldn’t think. His big strong hands were on his belt now, uncinching the kilt of straps that protected his thighs. There was blood all across his scraped knuckles. There was a green stain on the front of his tunic from the breastplate. She touched the fabric, feeling for his heartbeat beneath the padded linen. He grabbed her hand and pushed it down to his crotch. Beneath his tunic and calfskin breeches something surged hungrily to greet her.

Buy at Amazon UK - out Thursday! : Pre-order at Amazon US

Next excerpt on Thursday.


Charlotte Stein aka The Mighty Viper said...

It's going to be massive, I know it. Loved the book, loved this story, loved Cold Hands: Warm Heart best of all.

I've whacked up a review on Amazon, expressing these sentiments. Hope you like it!

Janine Ashbless said...

OMG Charlotte - what a wonderful review. I actually cried. (I don't cry for horrid reviews, no matter how bad. I just go up in suphurous flames.) THANK YOU!!

Everyone: please, if you read a book you like then put a positive well-written review up on Amazon: the author will want to kiss your feet.

Madeline Moore said...


Janine Ashbless said...

Thanks Madeline.

Charlotte Stein aka The Mighty Viper said...

I'm so glad you liked it, Janine! I just told it like it is, though. And not to get me some feet kissing, either!

Though if you could hire Brandon Routh to do the kissing, I might give in.