Hi guys, we have Rowan Speedwell stopping by with her new re-release Bitterwood, we have a great excerpt and a fantastic giveaway, so check out the post and leave a comment to enter the giveaway! <3 ~Pixie~
Outrunning a winter storm in the north, Captain Faran of the King’s Guard leads his men and a young mage named Meric to shelter at Bitterwood Manor, the ancestral home of the Daenes. Faran and his troops have been searching for weeks for a mysterious, lion-like beast that reportedly haunts the uncharted northern woods. For Meric, finding that prophesied cat is a matter of life and death.
Though Faran is deeply focused on their mission, the enigmatic Joss Daene, Lord of Bitterwood, fascinates him. Strong and proud, Joss is everything Faran wants in a lover. More, if he were honest. But Joss belongs to Bitterwood, and Faran to his duty.
Together they will need to brave the oldest, darkest part of the Bitterwood in the coldest, deepest snows of winter to find the legendary cat. But time is running out—for Meric, for the kingdom, and for Faran and Joss’s fledgling love.
Daene or someone had taken time in Faran’s absence to strip Meric down to his shirt and roll him snugly up in a thick, warm-looking robe and blankets. The bed-curtains were drawn on three sides, the side nearest the fire left open. His clothes were folded and set neatly on a bench by the bed, his boots placed on the floor beneath. He was awake, though, and gave Faran a faint smile as he, Daene, and Eidar came back into the room.
“Well tended, as you see,” Meric said to Faran. “And quite nearly warm.”
“Not warm enough,” Eissa said sternly from his perch on the side of the bed.
Daene smiled indulgently, then said to his patient, “You’ll be warmer once you get something inside you. You’ve not been eating well enough.”
Stung, Faran objected, “He eats the same food as the rest of us!”
“But not enough. It does no good on the outside, milord mage.” He put the pitcher Senna had been messing with earlier on the hearth to warm, and then stood, unbuckling the brigandine he wore and pulling it over his head. Faran tried not to notice the way the linen shirt, compressed by the weight of the leather and steel, clung to his broad chest and slim hips. Then Daene set the brigandine on the wooden armor stand in the corner and shook out the linen so the shirt belled out over his hips. He hooked the baldric with his sword over a peg and then went to a chest set against the brick wall beside the fireplace and took out a quilted coat and put it on. It came to below his knees, and was a rich, warm red. A second quilted coat, in blue, came out and was tossed to Faran, who caught it with a blink. “You’re cold, and that mail isn’t making you warmer. You’re safe enough for now—it’s not likely the manor will be attacked in a snowstorm.”
“The manor hasn’t been attacked in years,” Eissa assured Meric. “People are afraid of Father’s temper.”
“And wisely so,” Daene said.
Gratefully, Faran unlaced the sides of the chain mail shirt he wore and took it off, followed by the heavy canvas gambeson. Beneath, his shirt was grimy with days’ worth of sweat.
Apparently the manor’s lord noticed his grimace, and opened the chest again, taking out a linen shirt like the one he was wearing and handing it to him. “Leave that one,” he said, “and we’ll have it washed. No sense in being uncomfortable.”
Was it his imagination, or did Daene watch him strip with the same interest as Faran had watched him? He flicked his eyes upward, but the lord of the manor had turned back to the hearth, lifting the pitcher and pouring the contents into a cup. He moved past Faran to sit on the bed beside Meric.
Faran pulled the borrowed shirt over his head. The linen smelled like lemongrass and some spice, clean and fresh. The quilted coat, too, smelled crisply clean, and was warm from the brickwork of the wall behind the chest. It was clever, the construction of the wall the hearth was built into: brick was just as fireproof as stone but transferred heat much more efficiently. The hearth itself shared a back wall and chimney with the one in the room outside, so even if the fire died, the room would still be warmed by the fireplace on the other side. A sensible arrangement for a cold climate.
“I’m grateful for your generosity in giving us shelter.” Faran knelt by the hearth to warm his hands while his host fed the contents of the cup to Meric. Eissa sat beside Meric on the bed, his arm behind his shoulders to support him.
“The day Bitterwood can’t shelter a paltry ten men . . .”
“Eleven,” Faran corrected.
“. . . ten, and a boy,” Daene said sharply. He eased Meric back onto the pillows and poured another cup from a clay jug on the table. “The day that happens, I’ll give it over to my son and be damned to it. Two or three days, no more, and the weather will clear so you can go about your business. Whatever it is.”
“No secret,” Faran said, only marginally untruthful. The mission was no secret, just the purpose behind it. He took the cup Daene handed him and sipped at it. It was merely cider, but spiced with a warm, tangy scent. “What taste is this?”
“Cinnamon. It’s a spice from the western islands. I discovered it when I was in the capital years ago and still have friends who’ll keep me well stocked. So what is your mission, then?”
“We’re hunting,” Meric said weakly.
“Shh,” both men said to him, then exchanged a wry glance. Meric chuckled.
“Hunting what?” Daene asked.
“Rumors, mostly,” Faran sighed. “Of a great golden beast that ravages the countryside, and a ferocious mage that either controls him or holds the key to capturing him.”
The fire popped in the sudden silence. Eidar and Daene shared glances. Eissa stared at Faran with his mouth open. “I take it you’ve heard of them, then?” Faran said wryly.
“Aye, you might say that. The beast, at least,” Daene said. “The golden cat is the family device. There have been tales of it in the Bitterwood since White Andurel’s time.”
“A myth, then?” Faran demanded, disappointed. He’d hoped this place would hold more answers than they had already.
“No,” Meric said. He struggled to sit up. Eissa put his arm around him again and held him. “It’s not a myth. It’s real.”
“Many have tried to hunt it,” Daene said neutrally, “and failed to find it. I doubt you’ll be any more successful in capturing its pelt.”
“I don’t want its pelt!” Meric said. “It cannot be injured—I won’t permit it! It must not be hurt!”
“Shh,” Eissa said urgently.
Daene walked over to the fireplace. Leaning an arm on the mantel, he said into the flames, “What need have you to hunt it, if not for sport or fame?”
“That,” Faran said, “is the business of my troop and my king.”
His host whirled around, his eyes hot. “What happens in the Bitterwood is my business, and as for your king . . .” He snorted in disdain.
Faran glanced hurriedly at Meric, who seemed amused. Relieved, he turned back to Daene. “Your tone treads close to treason, coming from a man who holds this fief from the king’s hand.”
“I hold this fief not by the will of that vile, buggering bastard Baliesta, but from the hand of White Andurel himself,” Daene shot back.
“You’re older than you look,” Faran said with a grin.
After a moment, Daene laughed unwillingly. “All right, then,” he said. “Not me personally. But the whole of the north was put into my ancestor’s care centuries ago, and the Daene family takes that charge seriously, no matter who sits the throne in Ildelion. Were we to be stripped of our lands and exiled, we would find our way back here and would take up the responsibility once again.” He folded his arms and regarded Faran levelly. “In the Old Tongue, ‘daene’ means ‘bitter.’ Once the whole north country was known as the Daenewood. The name came from us, not the other way around.”
Read more at: http://riptidepublishing.com/titles/bitterwood (just click the excerpt tab)
An unrepentant biblioholic, Rowan Speedwell spends half her time pretending to be a law librarian, half her time pretending to be a database manager, half her time pretending to be a fifteenth-century Aragonese noblewoman, half her time . . . wait a minute . . . Hmm. Well, one thing she doesn’t pretend to be is good at math. She is good at pretending, though.
In her copious spare time (hah) she does needlework, calligraphy and illumination, and makes jewelry. She has a master’s degree in history from the University of Chicago, is a member of the Society for Creative Anachronism, and lives in a Chicago suburb with the obligatory Writer’s Cat and way too many books.
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