Well, I have new stuff! This is the WIP I will attempt to write between now and the end of the year.
I started this story in a much different form a couple of years ago during Holly Lisle's writing class. I've never been happy with it, or the magic system I devised, so I put it aside.
My intent had been to do the story that I posted a snippet of a few Friday's ago, but all of a sudden, everything fell into place for this one. I figured out how the magic should go, and where I went wrong on the previous book, which really doesn't look like the new one at all---different main characters altogether. Here's the first bit. Let me know if it's too info-dumpy.
The pounding at her door woke Marina from a heavy sleep. She rolled out of bed to the floor, landing on her feet and hands, silent as a cat. The long sleep had dulled her senses, and it took a moment for her to realize that the light coming through her bedroom window had the slant of late afternoon to it. She tested the feel, but Birthright did not warn her of danger.
Someone knocked again, sounding like metal against wood. Marina stood up and moved from her bedroom, down the hallway to the front door. She peered out one of the sidelights, and made a disgusted sound. Seón di Cambra stood on her front step using his walking cane on her door.
Marina opened the door. “What do you want, di Cambra?”
The prissy Empire man stepped inside. “You look like you just crawled out of bed, mi ama.”
“Astute observation,” she said. He, of course, looked as if he’d just come from the hands of his readyman.
“Late nights are for the young and foolish. Which you are not, usually.”
“Young? Or foolish?” she said dryly, showing him into her parlor. The dust was only a few millimeters thick. She made a mental note to speak with Ana, her maid, cook, and general factotum.
Di Cambra shrugged with that insouciance the citizens of the Kalibarran Empire did so well. He eyed one of the parlor chairs and whacked the upholstered seat with his jeweled cane. Dust rose in the air. He gave her a pained look.
Marina stepped into the hallway, opened the coat closet, and yanked out one of her cloaks. She threw that across the chair. Di Cambra gingerly seated himself on its billowing folds.
She dropped onto the horsehair loveseat opposite him, folded her hands, and waited.
As Marina knew he would, di Cambra fidgeted with his clothes and his cane, hoping she’d speak first. When she didn’t, he sighed.
“I am come from Chian, the Emperor’s advisor--”
“I know who Chian is, di Cambra. Get to the point.”
Di Cambra leaned back, eyes narrowing. “Tiberus.”
She stared at him. “The new continent. What does it have to do with me?”
“See, mi ama? Sometimes getting ‘to the point’, as you say, takes longer than the scenic route. You know that Kalibar has established some colonies in Tiberus?”
“And?” Marina asked.
He flicked her an irritated glance. “And, so, on to what is less well known. Kalibar has allowed some Morland citizenry to establish a colony in Tiberus.”
“My country has colonists in Tiberus?” Marina felt her eyebrows climbing.
Di Cambra cleared his throat. “Yes, well, Morland, as a subject of the Empire, has been granted some rights by the Emperor.”
Marina made a rude noise. “What you mean is that the Emperor can’t keep them out.”
He shrugged again, looking uncomfortable. “I am not privy to the Emperor’s thoughts. Except to say that he would like to retain your services.”
“The Emperor,” Marina repeated. “Would like to hire me.”
“Yes. He thinks you are uniquely suited to the problem at hand.”
“The Morlanders are missing, and the Emperor wants you to find out what happened to them.”
Marina felt a wave of irritation she could barely conceal. “How many?”
Di Cambra twirled his cane back and forth. “All of them.”
“All! How many is all?”
“One hundred eleven colonists in total.”
Marina sat back, stunned.
“You can see, being Morland’s finest Seeker, why the Emperor needs you.”
Marina already turned the problem over in her mind. One hundred eleven people missing. On a continent-sized wilderness. Oh, no problem at all.
Di Cambra reached inside his coat and pulled out a purse. He tossed it to her. Marina caught it by reflex.
“Get what you need. The Emperor’s pockets are deep for this one. Inside is his writ, carrying his seal. You’ll find that will open most doors for you. I’ve secured a berth for you on the Sea Sprite heading for New Cordonia at seven tomorrow morning. The ticket is in the purse.”
Marina looked up, protest in her eyes.
“When you arrive in New Cordonia, Governor Alhamba will be waiting. He’ll do a much better job of explaining things than I can.”
Di Cambra stood. Since the interview appeared to be over, Marina stood as well. She gave a slight shake of her head. Di Cambra had known she couldn’t say no. Marina preceded him down the hall and opened her front door.
He paused on the landing. “I know that I am speaking in the wind, but try to stay out of trouble, mi ama.”
She grimaced at him and he gave a slight chuckle before making his way down the steps. Marina felt the slightest bit of satisfaction that dust stained his superfine in the rear.
Apparently, the cloak had been dusty, too.