So, over on my facebook page, I promised people Chapter One if we got to a certain number of likes. And amazingly, during big A MATTER OF FATE sale (still going on until tonight at Amazon and Barnes & Noble!) and the fantastic giveaway over at Natasha Is A Junkie’s blog (which you must read, because it’s such a great book blog–also, she’s got an exclusive excerpt from AMOH up right now!), we got there. WOW!
Before I give you the opening to the second book of Chloe’s story in the Fate series, I want to mention a new challenge to my readers and fans! Once we get to 1000 likes over on fb, I’ll write an exclusive scene from any character other than Chloe’s POV that takes place during A MATTER OF FATE, before, or the few months in between AMOF and A MATTER OF HEART. I’ll put up a poll to vote on and see which person you guys want to hear from. This could be from Jonah or Kellan, but you’ve also got a ton of other people to pick from, like . . . Karl, Moira, Cora, Raul, Alex, Giuliana, Iolani, Astrid, Kiah, Zthane, Meg, Lizzie, Graham, Callie, Abigail, Noel . . . All have back stories that I’ve actually thought about. Ha! Sound good?
Okay, I give you . . . the beginning of A MATTER OF HEART!
(now the fine print–subject to slight changes as this is prior to official printing)
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But . . . I’m only eighteen. You expect me to do that
This is what I want to say, or rather shout out-loud, but I’m pretty sure that excuse would go over as well as somebody tossing a bag of kittens over a waterfall. Plus, I’m pretty new at this whole Council thing and don’t even know if I’m allowed to agree or disagree when it comes to matters such as these. I’ve been to all of four meetings so far, but until today, they were sedate enough that I’d fallen asleep in one.
I know I ought to be more involved, considering people acted like I was the second coming in the midst of her grand debut into Magical society, but it’s a lot to take in, being responsible for trillions of beings on six different planes of existence. I’d even go as far to say it’s totally overwhelming. I suppose, back when I used to imagine what it’d be like when I was a seated member, I expected serious debates. Strong convictions. Moral righteousness yet fair decisions. And those things are
present during meetings, but when the topics are whether or not a river ought to be diverted or dried up or a forest fire needs to be started to help promote new tree growth, the shine of being in charge of the universe wears off pretty quickly.
In the last month, I haven’t been asked to do anything further than introduce myself and give a short speech, written by my Intellectual father to replace the
one I’d agonized over a good three days prior. Since then, I’ve sat in a surprisingly comfortable chair and listened for hours to Council members of varying tiers and crafts drone on about matters that affect their various planes of existence. I voted when asked, but as it’s done electronically, that doesn’t even require my voice.
These meetings only exacerbate my feelings of inadequacy about joining the Council so early. Most Magicals, once eighteen, spend two years at the University of Annar taking tailored classes suited to honing their crafts and then another two years as an apprentice under a seasoned Magical before going to work, let alone joining the Council. But I hadn’t been afforded that luxury. I was told that, five days after I graduated high school, I was to report to my first official meeting in Karnach, the gorgeous and imposing rotunda which houses not only the assembly rooms but all Council member offices. I would be allowed a single class per semester, totaling four over two years if my schedule permitted, but there would be no internship.
Which is unfair and, the more I think about it, fairly irresponsible of the rest of the Council, considering I’m one of their big guns—a Creator, one of only two currently in existence.
Speaking of . . . nearby, Kleeshawnall Rushfire lets loose a round of his typical snorting/coughing sounds which act as nails on a chalkboard for those of us seated by him. Afterwards, he pulls out a crusty handkerchief to wipe a gob of far-too chunky phlegm from his chin. I try not to cringe, but man, is it hard.
After shoving said handkerchief back into his shirt pocket, the ancient Faerie barks out, ignoring the heated debate I really ought to be paying closer attention to, especially as it concerns me, “What does it take to get something other than sludge in my coffee cup?”
The Elf next to me, a Storyteller named Etienne Miscanthus, attempts to smother his burgeoning laughter. He’s been pretty nice to me so far, which has been really comforting as my seat is nowhere near anyone I know. As for myself, I worry that my face shows the perverse fascination I have towards Rushfire.
“Jackals! All of them,” the Creator who once might’ve been my mentor comments loudly. Spittle decorates his wiry beard and moustache. Then his rheumy eyes swivel towards me. “You’ll see, missy.” He thrusts a cup adorned with a bright yellow happy face, a bullet hole bleeding out on top, in my direction and shakes it until coffee splatters down his shirt. “Give ’em an inch, they’ll take a mile. Ask me to do them favors, do they, and give me this . . . this . . .” He pulls the cup back so he can peer within. “Shit, is what it is!” He slams it back down on his table. “I repeat, what does it take to get a decent cup of coffee around here?”
Etienne bursts into full-fledged laughter. In front of us, an extremely good looking Goblin only a couple years older than me turns and stares, equally horrified and amused. Rushfire sneers at them, snarls “whippersnappers,” which only serves to incite another round of laughter, and then promptly falls asleep.
Behavior like this highlights why I’m the one who’s going to be tasked with overseeing an atoll’s destruction on the Goblin plane rather than Rushfire. He’s old, nearly senile, and extraordinarily nasty. So, I get why my name’s being thrown around.
But it doesn’t make it any easier to accept.
“This is ridiculous,” a familiar voice argues. I search the crowded assembly until I find Astrid Lotus, the Council’s lead Seer. She is standing, hands planted on her desk. Somehow, even though she’s not moving, the dozens of metal bangles she always wears clack together loud enough to rise above the arguing. “We shouldn’t even be thinking about sending out an eighteen-year-old to do such a feat before she has a few years under her belt!”
“The atoll no longer serves its area any purpose,” a sour looking Dwarf named Endolff Strikertree counters. He’s standing on his chair; all he needs is a toga and his Marc Antony act will be complete. “What’s your objection, Lotus?”
The bracelets jingle as Astrid rights herself. I’m struck by her Elvin beauty, much like before when I met her last year after my parents forced me to visit in an effort to get me back on whatever track they thought I needed to be on. “No other Council members are ever asked to do complex tasks within their first few years. And yet, we suddenly break tradition and expect Chloe to do so simply because she’s a Creator?”
Another voice rises above the mix. “She’ll do it if told so.”
This one I know all too well. It’s the same voice I’ve heard all my life, reminding me how I better live up to my responsibilities or I’ll embarrass the family for, I don’t know, centuries or something. I find my father, still seated, open books spread across his desk. He pushes his glasses up his nose without even sparing me a glance.
“Noel, whether or not that is the case,” Astrid says, “I’m shocked that, as an Intellectual, you’re ignoring how this goes against our bylaws and traditions.”
He glares at her. I dig that she glares right back.
“I absolutely agree that this atoll needs to be dealt with; there’s no doubt about that. But it must be Rushfire, not Chloe.” Her eyes find mine. They’re soft and sympathetic, which surprises me despite her gentleness at our last meeting. “At least, not yet.”
At the mention of his name, Kleeshawnall Rushfire releases a deafening rip of a snore. The Goblin in front of me—I think his name is Mac?—bursts into laughter once more, as does the Storyteller. In fact, they’re both laughing so hard they’re practically crying. Several other people nearby are also cracking up, but the rest of the Council seems to be merely exasperated over Rushfire’s apparent lack of interest in the matter.
“Honestly, Lotus,” Endolff Strikertree barks. He motions towards the slumbering Faerie. “You want to entrust my plane to the hands of—”
“Don’t say it,” Astrid warns. “Kleeshawnall Rushfire has served this Council for nearly two hundred years. He deserves your respect.”
The man in question snores again, this time adding a bit of drool to the phlegm in his beard.
Try as he might, Strikertree can’t hide his disgust as he regards Rushfire. “Lilywhite will be fine. The Guard assigned to her can walk her through what she needs to do.” His dark eyes find me; they’re so piercing, I fight the urge to shrink in my seat.
You’re first tier
, a little voice in my mind whispers. It’s Caleb, an old friend from California who also happens to be my secret Conscience. Never show your fear; they’ll eat you alive if you do.
Challenge accepted. I stare right back at the Dwarf, hoping he sees a girl ready for anything, even though I’m quaking in my Uggs.
My attempts must be successful, because he looks away first. “She’s been under the Guard’s care for nearly a year anyway.”
Thanks, dude, for reminding everyone I had to be babysat for my entire senior year of high school back on the Human plane. Like it isn’t humiliating enough that I’m the youngest person in the room and they’re debating whether or not I’m seasoned enough to work.
“Graystone will oversee the mission, despite the terrain,” Strikertree continues. “They have a good enough working relationship—his presence ought to make her feel more comfortable.”
I try not to roll my eyes before I search through the crowd. Karl Graystone smirks back at me before rolling his own eyes. I start to wave hi, fighting back a giggle, but then reflect that a Girl in Charge, sophisticated and ready for whatever Fate and/or the Council dishes out to her, might not do that with everyone watching, even if it’s at someone she practically considers her brother.
Working relationship, indeed.
Astrid tries her best to argue against me going out and wreaking destruction on my very first Council mission, but in the end, her voice is amongst the minority.
As the meeting ends, the Elf next to me leans over and grins. “Welcome to the glory that is the Council, pumpkin.”
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A MATTER OF HEART will be out on June 25, 2013 via Cerulean Books on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Stay tuned later this month for an opportunity to win a copy of AMOH!