As part of the Fairy Tale Day celebration, I am offering a sneak peek of The Elven Spymaster's Thief (Elves of Eldarlan #1). The setting is the palace gymnasium and Illeron (the spymaster) is training while Avril watches.
Whispier’s movements were like music, fluid, beautiful, and powerful. His opponent was less graceful but no less deadly. The pair moved back and forth across the massive space with a series of sharp cracks as their weapons met again and again as they danced.
Thrice the size of the entrance hall, the high walls of the expansive room boasted floor-to-ceiling windows that sent long patterns of light across the floor. At the base of the windows, an array of potted trees, bushes, and plants clustered close to the walls as though for protection from the violence in the center.
I snorted to myself. I didn’t know what it was about elves and green things, but the whole palace was peppered with potted plants. Lilies in the corridor, ferns in the bed chambers, and cacti in the kitchen, I was running into displaced plants everywhere I turned.
I glanced at the pair of combatants again. They appeared uninclined to pause any time soon.
To stave off my boredom, I leisurely wandered along the only windowless wall in the room. Clubs, ropes, weights, and other equipment hung along the perimeter. I picked up a selection of balls from a bin. Small enough to fit in the palm of my hand, they felt of equal weight. Giving one of them a tentative toss, I launched it into the air in a controlled arc. Perfect. I grinned in delight. Picking a bit of wall between a stack of towels and a wooden bench, I settled on the floor and crossed my legs.
Launching the first ball into the air, I took great pleasure in the graceful arch. The second followed it. Soon I had five balls whirling through the air, seeming to move like magic from one hand to the other in a dancing arch of colors.
The rhythmic strikes of the smooth round spheres in my hands soothed my frayed nerves. And once my hands fell into a pattern, I could almost convince my mind to calm.
“What are you doing?” Whispier demanded.
I lost my rhythm and faltered in the pattern. Balls scattered in all directions. Despite my efforts, I only managed to catch three. The yellow one bounced twice and then rolled toward the far wall. The remaining one, a bright green, rolled directly over to bump into the spymaster’s bare foot.
When had he removed his shoes? For some reason, I couldn’t reconcile naked toes with the vicious spymaster I knew him to be.
“Juggling.” I lifted my chin defiantly. If he was going to ignore me, I intended to entertain myself. “Surely you have heard of it. It is a human trick of hurling objects through the air without magic.”
He picked up the wayward ball and studied it.
“Are we finished?” The huge blond elf asked. A flicker of uncertainty passed across his face as he glanced from me to Whispier and back.
Whispier dismissed the elf with a wave of his hand. “Tomorrow.”
The man nodded and left.
“An intriguing choice of occupation.”
I snorted. “Not that you offered me much alternative.”
He tossed the ball into the bin that it had come from and reached over my head for a towel.
“So, elves do sweat when they exert themselves,” I observed without moving. “I always wondered.”
He stilled with the towel to his face. Then, slowly he lowered it to eye me. “What did you think we did?”
I shrugged. “Not sweat. It seems so base for such an elevated species.”
For a moment, his face froze. Then, he abruptly turned away.
Without really thinking through the consequences, I threw the red ball at his retreating back. It bounced harmlessly off his left shoulder.
He came to a halt but didn’t turn.
I threw the second ball, this one blue. It struck the middle of his back.
He let his head fall back, and he glanced at the ceiling as though pleading for patience from a higher power.
Determined to get more of a reaction, I whipped the last ball at his head, a purple one.