My newest book, Ashes of Heaven, is now on Kindle Scout. What's Kindle Scout, you say? It's a program Amazon has where they "crowd source" the question of whether they should publish and promote an ebook under their own imprint. "Scout" books are posted, people can read the first couple chapters, and "nominate" them. Books that get a lot of nominations are more likely to be chosen. So help me out here!
Go to the Kindle Scout page here and nominate my book. You can nominate up to three books at a time. If it's one of your three nominations when its one-month run ends, you will get a free copy if Amazon selects it, a week or more before it goes on sale to the general public.
The story itself is a retelling of Tristan and Isolde, with a twist. I've tried the difficult trifecta of remaining true to the original Celtic myth, setting it in something like the real Middle Ages, and avoiding the everyone-dies tragic ending. You'll have to decide for yourself if I succeeded!
The opening is below, to whet your appetite.
Return to C. Dale Brittain home page.
ASHES OF HEAVEN
The passenger stood by the railing, watching the shore slowly emerge from darkness as the eastern sky lightened from grey to yellow. A light breeze came up with the dawn, tugging at his cloak until he pulled it tighter around him. Behind him, the sailors emerged from the hold, yawning, and began unfurling the sails. It was too early for shouting or song, and they belayed the lines and raised the anchor in silence.
As the ship began to move, the water murmuring against its side, the passenger gestured toward the captain. The captain came to him at once. The man had paid enough that the voyage would have been worthwhile even without the cargo. He had been a model passenger, giving no trouble, never sick, eating the same hard biscuits as the crew without complaint, even though demanding better for the woman and little girl who accompanied him. But something about him always seemed to suggest that ferocity waited just beneath his good manners.
"Is this the coast of Cornwall?" the man asked, his voice soft with the accents of the south. His hair and eyes were black, his chin clean-shaven in the southern style, and his cloak of patterned silk, but a two-handed broadsword was strapped across his back, and his boots were heavily worn with long use. He, the woman, and the girl had come aboard with no more luggage than the clothes on their backs-and a heavy pouch of gold.
"This is still Bretagne," the captain answered. "We will cross to Cornwall tomorrow, and from there it will be on to Eire. The journey will be over in another week."
The man nodded, and when he seemed to have nothing more to say, the captain excused himself and went up to the prow. The water was foaming now along the sides of the ship, and the rigging hummed as the sun rose over the coast of Bretagne.
The passenger caught a flicker of motion from the corner of his eye and turned, quick as a cat, one hand already on the knife in his belt. But then he smiled, slipped the knife back, and beckoned. "Are you feeling better, Brangein?"
The little girl emerged from behind a coil of rope. Her curly hair was tangled, half hiding her bright black eyes. "Yes, I felt much better as soon as Isolde gave me the potion. But it's stuffy in the cabin. And I can hardly wait to see Eire."
"Only a few more days, little cousin. Another week is all, the captain tells me." He pulled her over to stand beside him, under a fold of his cloak. She was shivering; the early morning sun had done nothing yet to dispel the night's chill. "Is my sister still asleep?"
Brangein nodded. "I tried not to wake her." The two watched in silence for several minutes as the jagged black rocks of the coast slid by. At one point a line of standing stones marched across the thin grass of a headland and right down into the sea. Seabirds sailed overhead, their calls high and mournful.
Brangein went to the rail and put her head back to watch them. Their broad circles and the steady movement of the ship under her feet made her dizzy, but she did not look away, only clung to the railing until it was slippery under her hands. For a moment, looking straight up into the morning sky, she felt as though she had shaken free of ship and sea and might herself soar on the salt wind.
When her neck grew stiff and she looked down again, Isolde had emerged from the cabin and was standing beside her brother. She was nearly as tall as he was, black-haired like him, with the same suggestion of carefully restrained ferocity. She wore a necklace of silver besants and silver rings on all her fingers.
"I am sick of this ship, Morold," she said, though in a low voice, that none but they might hear. "Could you not have chosen some court closer than Eire?"
"Closer courts might be better informed of affairs in the south," he said with a shrug. "And we know the king of Eire is unmarried. A few more days, and you will never have to sail anywhere again."
"I like sailing," piped up Brangein, slipping back to Morold's side. "I like seeing new places."
"Eire will be new," he promised, and bent to give her a one-armed hug and tousle her hair.
Suddenly she pointed, her arm emerging from under his cloak. "Look at the castle!"
The castle emerged from behind a promontory, located on its own narrow bay. Not very wide but very tall, its towers rose toward the sky, far higher than the mast of the ship passing below. The castle walls were as black as the rocks of the coast, but the roofs were tiled in bright geometric patterns, red and blue and gold. Everything about it suggested newness, order, and harmony. Pennants snapped from the highest towers, and a faint line of smoke indicated that someone was cooking breakfast: something doubtless better than hard and stale biscuits.
"I like that castle," Brangein announced. "I want to live there." She leaned her chin on the rail, straining to see better, all thought forgotten of flying with the seabirds. Several boats floated in the bay, none of them rigged. She spotted no people, but two cows appeared beyond the far side of the castle and wandered off toward pasture.
"That is just a little country castle," said her cousin with a laugh. "We'll be living at the royal court in Eire. It will be much finer."
The captain had approached again. "That is the castle of Parmenie. If we had been an hour further along the coast at twilight yesterday, we might have anchored in its bay. Its lord is named Rivalin. Sometimes when we anchor there he buys goods from our cargo."
"Lord Rivalin of Parmenie," said Isolde, turning the words over thoughtfully and looking at her brother. "Is he married?"
"Not unless he has married very recently," the captain answered. "He has not been much at home the last year or two; the castle is maintained by his steward. The last I heard, Lord Rivalin had quarreled with his liege lord. He is a fiery young man by all accounts."
"You would not like that," said Morold with a wink for his sister. "A fiery man who quarrels with his liege lord? Impossible!"
Brangein did not listen to their conversation but continued to watch the distant castle until it disappeared behind another tall headland.