Shards of History: first chapter revealed!
Posted by World Weaver Press
Check out this exclusive reveal of the opening chapter of Shards of History by Rebecca Roland, coming August 21 as an ebook!
Shards of History
Malia ran her hands over the finished bowl, made in a deer’s effigy. It had taken her three tries to get the shape and balance right, to find the perfect cinnamon shade for the deer’s coat, to make the eyes sparkle with a hint of life. In the end, she’d used some of her own blood mixed with the paint. It was the finest piece she’d ever made, and loathe as she was to give it away, Enuwal deserved it. He had saved her life the summer before.
A hand fell on her shoulder. Malia juggled the bowl for an instant, then set it carefully on the packed dirt floor. Her heart thrummed in her throat.
“I called your name three times,” her husband Dalibor said. He sat beside her, a frown deepening the lines around his mouth and eyes. A few strands of dark hair escaped the long braid hanging down his back. Dirt smudged his deerskin breeches and tunic.
Malia wiped her hands on her plain cloth skirt, the one she always wore when working pottery, then moved to the hearth where a large kettle bubbled with stew. She stirred the pot, releasing the aroma of onions, husk tomatoes, beans, and the turkey Dalibor had caught that morning. It gave her time to think about what to say. Dalibor was in a bad mood again, a common occurrence ever since she’d mentioned she would be joining her mother for the trip to Enuwal’s village. This was a new facet to her husband, and she didn’t quite know what to do about it.
“You know my head is in the clouds half the time,” she said.
“Your head should be focused on lineages so you can take your mother’s place as clan mother.”
Malia clanged the wooden spoon against the pot harder than she’d intended. “We spent the better part of the day reviewing.” Wanting to change the subject, she said, “Any news from upriver?” The Big River had dropped over the past few days, and until the monsoons began, they had to rely on it for their crops.
“A couple of scouts finally came in. There aren’t any blockades upriver. Tuvin’s Falls have dwindled, so the problem must be outside the valley.”
Malia sat beside Dalibor. “Jeguduns?” The fierce winged creatures guarded the cliffs that lined the valley where Malia’s people, the Taakwa, lived. Her hand fiddled with the Jegudun feather hanging from a leather strap around her neck. It was well worn, handed down from one clan mother in training to the next. Her mother wore a necklace filled with feathers as befit a clan mother. They had all come from the same sable colored creature and had once shone like polished wood. Seasons upon seasons of use had dulled them.
“They’ve been more active than usual, although they haven’t threatened any villages.”
The Jeguduns ignored the Taakwa save when anybody tried to leave the valley. Then the creatures would attack and drive them back. They had lived like this for generations, ever since the war when the Jeguduns had slaughtered so many Taakwa.
Heaviness came over Malia as if her innards had all turned to stone. “Do you think the Jeguduns mean to attack us? Are they preparing for another war?”
“That is what some fear.”
A war would mean sending Dalibor to fight. And her younger brother Vedran, on the verge of becoming a man. She twisted the feather around the leather strap one way and then the other.
“So what happens next?”
Dalibor shrugged. “The men’s council will meet tomorrow. Most likely a group of men from several villages will try to find the source of the problem.”
“But that means trying to leave the valley.” Malia laid a hand on Dalibor’s shoulder. “That means facing Jeguduns.”
The harsh lines on Dalibor’s face softened. “There will be plenty of us. We’ll be fine.”
Malia nestled next to him until he put his arm around her and pulled her close. He smelled of sun-warmed grass and sweat, an altogether pleasant combination. She missed this, being close to him. This was what their first days together had been like, Dalibor coming to her at the end of the day, to the mud-brick home she’d built for the two of them. She hoped for more moments like this. But then the arguments had started, always over something petty like how she’d forgotten to tidy up because she’d been so involved in her pottery.
She studied the home she’d built for the two of them. Wooden shelves worn smooth by her hands gleamed along one wall, holding cooking utensils, extra clothes and blankets, Dalibor’s hunting gear, and her brushes. Outside the door of their second-level home, the cloudless sky deepened to late afternoon’s dark blue. Children’s laughter rose and fell, men’s voices spoke of the day’s work, and women called out to their families to come inside and eat. Thick walls protected them from the worst of the day’s heat, and a slight breeze stirred through, cooling Malia’s forehead.
Dalibor shifted, and she sat back. He picked up the deer bowl and studied it. “You spent a lot of time on this?”
“Yes.” Malia explained her trial and error with the first two bowls and how she found the perfect balance. The deer stood on four short, stout legs. Its back was open to allow water in, and a simple tilt of the bowl would cause water to pour from the deer’s mouth.
“You talk about it like a proud parent,” Dalibor said.
“I put a lot into it. So yes, I suppose I feel like a parent.”
“And what is it for exactly?”
Malia hesitated. Any mention of Enuwal seemed to upset Dalibor, but neither could she lie. “It’s for Enuwal.”
Dalibor’s face darkened. The afternoon light dimmed, and the voices of the villagers faded. “I thought your mother already gave him plenty—food, clothes. Why do you feel the need to give him more?”
She wanted to shake her head in exasperation. Instead, she sat very still. “He saved my life.”
“It’s been more than a year. Why now?”
“Because I’m traveling to Posalo with my mother in a few weeks. I can bring this to him.” It made sense to her. Why couldn’t Dalibor see it that way? “Why does this bother you?”
“Why does this bother me?” Dalibor rose to his feet, still holding the bowl.
Malia hastily stood. She wanted to snatch the bowl from his hands.
“It bothers me that you spend all this time on a bowl for a man who is not your husband.”
Malia’s illness had postponed their wedding. She had returned to Selu as soon as she could travel. Dalibor had seemed his usual self until she showed him the pottery she’d made during her recovery. Enuwal had encouraged her to resume that skill, and it had indeed done wonders for her—the walks to gather materials, the time her hands spent creating bowls and pitchers, and the satisfaction of accomplishing something on her own. But Dalibor had seen it as time spent far from him when she could have been regaining her strength on a trip back to Selu.
Try as she might, Malia couldn’t understand what she did to provoke Dalibor’s jealousy. It was acceptable for women to give gifts to whomever they chose. And she had a perfectly good reason for giving this bowl to Enuwal.
“Dalibor, there’s no need for you to be upset. I love you. And when I go to Posalo, my mother will be with me the entire time.” An idea came to her, and she wondered why she hadn’t thought of it earlier. “Why don’t you come with us? Then you can meet Enuwal, and you’ll know you have nothing to worry about.”
The moment yawned, filled with the fire crackling in the hearth. Malia shifted her weight from foot to foot, the floor holding warmth from the day. Her hair, twisted back in a bun, hung low on her neck, a few strands clinging to the light sweat there.
Dalibor said, “All right. I’ll go with you. You’ll give this bowl to Enuwal. And when we come back, you’ll concentrate on what you need to do to become clan mother. No more pottery. It takes up too much of your time.”
Couldn’t he see how she had been conceding to him when she didn’t need to? And he reciprocated by making demands. He had no right. “Have you forgotten your place? You can’t tell me what to do or not do.” Malia’s voice quivered with anger.
“You insult me with this,” he said, hefting the bowl. “I am the husband of the future clan mother. If people see things like this, they’ll think you don’t take your responsibilities seriously. Then nobody will take me seriously.”
Malia’s vision grew hazy, as if smoke filled the room. She blinked, and when her vision cleared, she saw Dalibor as if for the first time. He was more concerned with his place within the village than with their partnership. The realization sent a sharp pain through her.
She took a deep breath, then held out her hands. “Give me the bowl. Then you will go to your brother’s wife’s home tonight and sleep there. I don’t care what excuse you tell them for your being there, but you will not sleep here tonight.” When Dalibor didn’t move, she stepped forward, reaching for the bowl.
He took a step back, his face twisted in a snarl. He was going to destroy the bowl she’d made with her own blood. She rose on her toes, straining for it, but Dalibor grabbed her shoulder and held her in place. She struggled uselessly against his grip.
“Dalibor, don’t do it,” she said. “Don’t—”
He hurled the bowl at the hearth. It tumbled through the air, and Malia’s heart tumbled with it. Then it shattered against the wall, pieces and dust raining down.
She sank to her knees. All of that work, all of that beauty, gone in an instant. A trembling hand picked up a piece of the bowl. Her hand formed a fist around it until the jagged edges pressed into her palm and caused pinpricks of pain. She whirled and let the piece fly at Dalibor. It flew past his head to hit the wall behind him. Then she stood, opening her mouth to speak when Dalibor shoved her against the wall and caged her in between his arms. His eyes narrowed, and his warm breath washed over her. The muscles around his shoulders tensed as if he held himself from hitting her. Malia swallowed the lump in her throat. She wanted to look away, but she didn’t dare.
“You will not embarrass me,” Dalibor said. His calm tone belied the expression on his face.
Malia borrowed her mother’s authoritative tone, hoping it covered any quiver in her voice, and said, “You have truly forgotten your place now. I am your wife, and you will do as I say. And more importantly, I will be your clan mother one day. For threatening me, you could be exiled.”
One hand began to curl up, and for a moment she was sure he would strike her. And if he began, she did not think he would be able to stop. She would end up crushed like the bowl.
But then he lowered his arms and stepped back. “You’re right. I have forgotten my place. Forgive me, Malia.” But the tension in his jaw said otherwise, as did the undercurrent of anger in his voice. Dalibor spoke the words he thought Malia wanted to hear. It made her ill. She couldn’t erase from her mind the rage on his face only moments before or the certainty that he would hurt her.
Quietly, she gathered his clothes and hunting gear and wrapped them in his sleeping pallet. She brought the bundle to the door and hesitated. Setting his things outside would be the first step to ending their partnership. This was not what she’d imagined as she built this home. Hot tears rimmed her eyes. She also hadn’t imagined Dalibor treating her this way.
“Malia, what are you doing?”
She strained for any sign of warmth or regret in his voice but caught none. She let a few moments pass, waiting for him to tell her something more, something that might change her mind. Night had settled, and clouds scudding across the sky made the darkness sharper. An owl cried mournfully from the woods.
“What are you doing?” he asked again.
She took a fortifying breath and set his things outside on the ledge, glad the darkness hid the tears. “You are my husband no more.” Her own words pierced her like arrows.
Dalibor straightened. “I will appeal this with your mother.”
“Do what you must.” Her mother would side with her. She had to.
Dalibor ducked out the door. The familiar creak of the wooden ladder let her know he was climbing down.
She took the broom and began sweeping up the pieces of the bowl. Then sobs overcame her and she leaned on the wooden handle. “What have I done?” she asked the empty room.
Shards of History is available from ebook retailers August 21, 2012.
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Posted on August 14, 2012, in fantasy, new, World Weaver Press and tagged book news, emerging authors, fantasy, fiction, Rebecca Roland, Shards of History, World Weaver Press. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.