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Dowser 4 – excerpt

February 20, 2015

FIVE DAYS OF GIVEAWAYS START TOMORROW HERE AT 8 AM PST!!!!

Shadows (etc) ebook cover

How about an excerpt to tide us over until then?

*SPOILER ALERT for Dowser 1 – 3*

SHADOWS, MAPS, AND OTHER ANCIENT MAGIC

CHAPTER ONE

The blade was inches from my neck before I felt it. Thankfully, I had my blond curls clipped back today. Otherwise, I would have gotten an unwanted and unneeded haircut. I flung myself sideways, rolling over my shoulder and coming up on one knee to block the reverse strike with my jade knife.

The over-the-head blow glanced off my knife and was knocked to the side, but the force of it reverberated down my arm in a wash of pain. I slid back on the white stone floor even as I rolled forward onto the balls of my feet to step into my attacker. This close, his sword was all but useless.

Unfortunately, he was faster than me, or I would have managed to gut him.

Instead, he grabbed the wrist of my knife hand and twisted my arm up over my head, then around my back. This forced me to pivot away or have my shoulder dislocated. He pinned my knife hand, the wrist still painfully twisted between my shoulder blades. I had to rise up on my toes to lessen the pain of the hold.

“Branson!” I screeched, completely forgetting the formality with which I was to address the sword master of the dragons. “I was meditating.”

He brought his blade up to my neck. I managed to get my left hand around his wrist, but had to practically lay my head back against his shoulder to avoid having my throat slit.

“I don’t think you are capable of such, warrior’s daughter.” Branson’s voice was deep, his tone brusque. He was wearing traditional black training leathers, with a laced vest that left his well-muscled arms bare.

I twisted his wrist to try to get the blade away from my neck. His forearms were adorned with tattoos of water dragons, which I’d mistaken for snakes when I first met him.

I gained an inch.

The sword master hadn’t spoken directly to me for over a week after that display of ignorance. Drake — the fourteen-year-old apprentice to Chi Wen the far seer and adoptive son of Suanmi, the fire breather — had delighted in relaying Branson’s drills during my period of punishment.

“Are your fingernails green?” Branson asked now, completely bemused.

“Jade is the new black, baby,” I said. “You should see my toes.”

Then I kicked him in the head.

Well, first I twisted my own head quickly to the right, dropped underneath the blade at my neck, and spun away to face him again. Unfortunately, he was still holding on to my wrists, so my arms were now crossed in front of me. I threw all my weight backward. This off-balanced the sword master enough that he stumbled forward, letting me snap a kick between our crossed arms directly underneath his jaw. I had always loved having long legs.

Oh, yeah. Befuddlement of ancient beings was my new secret weapon.

Branson grunted, lost his hold on my wrists, and staggered back. My entire right leg went so numb that it wouldn’t actually take my full weight.

I’d been sitting cross-legged and eyes closed in the center of the dragon nexus when Branson attacked me. The circular room was supported by gilded columns, between which nine ornately carved doors were situated. Two archways stood across from each other, leading deeper into the nexus — to the residences of the guardian dragons, as well as the library and the training rooms.

Still listing to the left, I raised my knife before me as I faced off with the sword master.

I was wearing my standard uniform of printed T-shirt and jeans. And though my brand-new teal-with-white-piping Liz Fluevogs offset my black-and-white ‘UM — Element of Confusion’ top in an utterly cute way, I really needed to see about getting the shoes fitted with metal plates and toes. All the better to kick indestructible people in the head.

It was my day off from training and the bakery, so I really hadn’t expected to be attacked. But I was never without my jade knife, not since I’d found the large stone along the Fraser River outside Lillooet and hand carved it myself. I hadn’t even known I was an alchemist at the time, and therefore capable of creating magical objects. I’d just seen the stone and known it should be a knife — a knife imbued with so much of my magic now that no one could disarm me, not without knocking me out. Nor could anyone touch the knife without my permission without being burned by it.

Branson shook his dark head as if clearing it.

I smirked. I’d never managed to rattle him before.

He slowly raised his golden double-edged sword to answer my poised knife. His blade was a slimmer, longer version of the bejeweled broadsword that my father Yazi, the warrior of the guardians, wielded. Its pommel and hilt were utilitarian, though.

Branson had been in training for the mantel of the warrior before he’d been gravely wounded as a fledgling. No, dragons weren’t completely indestructible. Just don’t mention that to any of them. Occasionally, the sword master’s old wound showed up as a limp. Despite that, and the fact that he was at least a hundred years older than my three hundred and fifty year old father, I’d never knocked him off his feet.

“I’m not here for a lesson, sword master,” I said, struggling to remain polite — and to hide the fact that I still couldn’t feel my right leg. My wrist also felt severely sprained from being twisted harshly behind my back. “I await the treasure keeper.”

Branson grinned, but it did little to lighten his perpetually stern face. He had that same hint of Asian ancestry to his features that Drake did. I didn’t think he and the fledgling guardian were related, but I was far from an expert on dragon genealogy.

“Life is a lesson,” Branson said.

Ah, damn. Dragons only got all preachy right before they kicked my ass. Granted, I usually deserved an ass kicking — I attracted trouble almost as easily as I attracted or found magic. Except that dragon-inflicted bruises usually took a couple of days to heal, and I had a birthday party to go to tonight.

I narrowed my eyes at my trainer, causing all the overly golden hues of the room to blur together behind him. Dragons adored surrounding themselves with gold and jewels and art, and it was a little much sometimes. The heart of the dragon nexus was all gaudy Greek temple mixed with oriental motifs, though each door was carved in artwork that represented the specific territories of each guardian. The room was also saturated with guardian magic, hence me not tasting Branson’s magic as he approached.

The narrower my eyes got — I was working on my intimidation factor — the wider Branson’s grin grew. Indigo eyes, blond curls now falling out of my hair clip, and sun-kissed skin didn’t much help in that department. I was fairly certain it was my ample assets that made me less than imposing, though, since I was the spitting image of my father and he scared the crap out of everyone even while laughing. Actually, it was the absolute power that rolled off him when he laughed that was terrifying.

I’d narrowed my eyes too far. Now my eyelashes were making my vision fuzzy.

I sighed, opened my eyes, and gave my knife hand a roll. The overly stretched tendons and ligaments crunched, but then snapped back into their proper place.

That was better.

I smiled, extended my left hand forward to balance my right, and stepped sideways to circle Branson.

If he wanted a tussle, I was up for it. Bruises or no bruises.

The sword master lost his grin as he stepped opposite to me. He watched my every move, my every twitch, with deadly intent. I was never going to get the upper hand when he was focused like this.

I thought about flashing him to throw him off — and not just because I kept wondering how his sword-callused hands would feel sliding up my inner thighs. A totally inappropriate thought, yes. But then, I hadn’t had sex in way over a year. I hadn’t been kissed in ten months. Even my constant chocolate high couldn’t keep my serotonin levels up perpetually.

I decided against the flashing because I knew Branson would be utterly aghast — and might even refuse to be in the same room with me ever again. Plus, I wasn’t wearing my prettiest bra at the moment. It had been far too long since I’d had any reason to wear anything other than a serviceable sports bra.

Attempting to not massively broadcast my intent, I abruptly lunged forward, thrusting my knife for Branson’s heart.

Then, completely blindsided, I got shoulder checked by a small mountain.

This knocked me flying off my feet and cracked my head against one of the nine pillars that encircled the heart of the dragon nexus.

Remember the only way to reliably disarm me these days?

Yeah, knock me out.

So that happened.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. February 20, 2015 12:49 PM

    Can’t wait to read more 😊

  2. Dayna permalink
    February 20, 2015 5:10 PM

    Yay!! It’s almost here!!

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