The new fantasy adventure book by Rebecca Shelley will be out in a few weeks. We’re developing the cover now and would love some feedback. Here are the two options at this point. Which one do you like best?
A ragged street boy named Brian snatches a cursed blade that thrusts him into a bloody war of succession. The blade carries a dark magic that makes Brian a dangerous fighter, but in the process it takes control of his mind and spirit. He finds he must choose between his own freedom and the power to save his friends.
Ebon Blade is for a slightly more mature age group than The Smartboys Club. We suggest ages 12 and up. Contains fantasy violence.
Ebon Blade (sneak peek)
Brian heard voices in the forest. The assassins had returned. He tensed. He couldn’t make out what they were saying, but he recognized their cries of anger when they found the bodies of their dead companions.
They searched for Cinaed harder afterward. From the sounds, Brian pictured them thrashing through the snow, checking under every tree. Looking for any sign.
Minutes passed. Then Brian heard the thump of their boots overhead as they entered the stand of pines. Cinaed remained asleep, breathing softly.
“Maybe he’s hiding under that pile of logs,” one of the men said. “Lift them up and let’s see.” The sound of swords pulled from sheaths rang in the air.
Brian lunged for Cinaed’s sword and picked it up, but it felt heavy and awkward in his hands.
A man’s weapon.
Someone grunted from above, and the roof shivered, sending a thin dust of snow onto Brian’s head. Brian set the sword down and grabbed the dirk from Cinaed’s sheath.
The man grunted again. “It’s frozen in place.”
“Try another one.”
The roof shivered again, and bits of frozen mud and wood rained to the floor.
Brian shook the debris out of his eyes and clutched the dirk. It tingled in his shaking hands. He edged over to Cinaed and nudged him with his foot. Cinaed didn’t respond.
“Give it up. The whole thing’s frozen down. Not even a rabbit could get under there.” One of the men gave an angry kick to the smaller log that covered the entrance. The log skittered away, and a shaft of sunlight knifed into the gloom.
“Not even a rabbit, huh?” The men laughed. “Let’s get him.”
“Cinaed!” Brian cried, kicking Cinaed hard in the side. Cinaed grunted and rolled over just as the first man started down the ladder.
The tingling in Brian’s hand increased to a painful pricking, and the dirk jerked forward, dragging Brian with it. Before Brian could cry out in surprise, or the man could use his sword to defend himself, the dirk sank into the man’s chest, piercing his heart.
The dirk pulled free, and blood spurted over Brian’s hand. A white hot blade of fire burned through Brian. The dirk spun Brian out of the way as the man fell to the cabin floor dead.
Cinaed grabbed his sword, crawled to the wall beside the fireplace, and pulled himself up on his good leg.
The dirk forced Brian into a crouch, waiting for the next man down the ladder.
Instead of a person, an arrow zipped through the hole and impaled the ground next to Brian’s foot.
Red tinged the edges of Brian’s vision, and the dirk threw Brian into a backwards roll. He came to his knees in the far corner between the bed and the wall. The next arrow hit the mound of dirt that was the bed right in front of Brian’s face. Brian winced. He had the bed to shield him, but Cinaed stood out in the open. If the men noticed him by the fireplace, they’d shoot him for sure.
“You’ll never hit me,” Brian screamed, standing up and drawing their attention. “If you want to kill me, you’ll have to come down here.”
Two more arrows zipped through the hole. Brian ducked, and the arrows thunked in to the dirt wall behind him.
“Missed again,” Brian yelled. “You’ll run out of arrows eventually.” He hoped that was true.
One of the men jumped into the hole, sword ready and swinging, followed by a second and the third.
The fiery burn from the dirk increased, seeping through Brian’s body. The red at the edges of his vision spread across his eyes. He gasped.
His body lurched forward, spinning and stabbing. He could see nothing but the blood-red light that covered his eyes. His body burned while it jumped and kicked, twisted and sliced. He screamed in pain at the fire from the dirk that consumed him.
“Brian!” He heard Cinaed’s shout as if from a far distance. “Brian, drop the dirk.”
Brian’s hand spasmed, and the dirk fell from his fingers. His vision went black, and the fire left him. He fell to his knees, shaking, gasping in pain. Though the fire had died, he felt blistered and burned all through his insides.
Someone touched his shoulder. He jerked away, fumbling to find the dirk again. The men. Their swords. He had to fight. He couldn’t see.
“It’s all right. It’s over.” Cinaed’s voice soothed him. “The assassins are dead. By the heavens, you nearly killed me as well.”
“I . . . I killed them?”
“Shhh. No.” Cinaed said. “Not you. The dirk.”