“Warder: Changing Guard” Preview

Though edits haven’t yet been done on “Warder: Changing Guard”, I thought you all might like a brief preview of that project. So, here are the first few paragraphs of that fantasy novella:

She shook her head, trying to banish the fleeting sensation of energy rippling around the squat cottage before her. Kayley Enid shrugged her travel pack higher onto her thin shoulders, and gripped her gnarled walking staff tighter in her other hand. Inhaling deeply, she placed the tough soles of her comfortable traveling boots on the beginning of the winding cobblestoned path that led to the small abode. Weeds poked up from between the stones here and there, thickest where the manmade path branched off from the dirt track, which ran through the dense forest, and by the clearing in which the little house sat.

She drew the hood of her lightweight, white traveling cloak further over her eyes to block the glare of the sunlight as she looked at the house. Though it appeared a bit rundown—its thatch roof in need of some minor repairs, and the unpainted wooden shingles that covered its outer walls beginning to split and peel in places—the cottage managed to radiate power, and mystique. A river stone chimney poked up from the roof, devoid of smoke on the warm, late summer day. No sounds emanated from the dwelling. Nor did any fragrances of cooking food drift from it. The stillness, and silence lent the place the illusion of being empty. Yet, for some reason, Kayley knew beyond doubt that the man she had walked so far to see waited inside.

She followed the cobblestones to the point where they met the three solid-looking wooden stairs that led up to a wide front porch. After a brief hesitation, she ascended the steps. The change in sound as her boots left the stone, and trod upon wood, momentarily startled her in the oppressive silence. Taking another deep, steadying breath, she hung her head, thinking.

Should she really do this? If she turned back, she would have made the long journey for absolutely nothing. That would be worse than if he simply turned her away, spurning her offer.

Kayley tightened her grip on her walking staff. The corners of her mouth tugged down in a frown, angry with herself for having come so far, only to engage in second thoughts.
If he sent her away, at least she would have tried. She would do her utmost to convince him should he not accept quickly. Still, the thought of meeting the man caused her to move slowly. She felt as if her arm had turned to wood as she lifted her free hand to knock on the heavy door.

Rapping lightly on the wooden panel, Kayley held her breath. Would he answer? Would he be angry with her for intruding? Would he even speak with her, and allow her to present her offer to him?

Gentle footsteps sounded from the other side of the barrier. Kayley forced out her breath, trying to relax. She pushed her hood back, giving her head a quick shake in an attempt to settle her long, raven-black hair into a more natural arrangement. She glanced down, glad that she had taken care on the trail that day. Her soft, tan leather pants, and knee-high black boots were almost completely devoid of mud, and burrs.

She heard a series of clicks, and rattles as a number of latches and locks were unfastened on the other side of the door. After a moment of silence, the barrier swung open without a sound on well-oiled hinges. A tall, lean, pale-skinned, elderly man stood revealed. He wore dark pants, with matching boots, and a white tunic. Each piece fit him perfectly, and had been expertly stitched, and crafted. He gazed down at her from beneath wild eyebrows. When he spoke, his long white beard wagged.

Scott Harper

www.scottharper.net

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