Edits are underway for Savage and the first round of edits cut out almost 10 thousand words! Yikes! However, that’s good for you, because I’ll post all those lovely deleted scenes for you. For the next few days I will post the first chapter, which was cut.
Anleeh bowed low before the double throne, sweeping his cloak out to one side, displaying his most correct and courtly behavior. Eyes obediently on the floor, he raised his voice slightly to be sure they heard his next remark.
“How may I be of service, Majesties?” He bit off the last word. If his overly formal behavior hadn’t conveyed his anger, his tone did so.
“Anleeh, enough.” There was both resignation and anger in the High King’s voice.
Anleeh straightened. “Have I displeased you, my King?”
Rohaj, General of the Temple and Royal armies, standing just behind the High Queen’s throne, took a step forward. Anleeh looked at him.
“Do you threaten me, General?”
“Do you challenge the High King and High Queen?”
Anleeh glanced at the silent High Queen, squashing his guilt. “I have stated my position.”
“You stated nothing, you flew into a rage and stormed out of the room.” This uncharacteristically snide comment came from Sesah who stood in the shadows of the throne room at Anleeh’s left.
Anleeh’s anger swelled and he addressed his next comment directly to the red haired High King. “I am amazed how quickly my brothers have turned against me.”
The High King’s hands clenched into fists on the arms of his throne and each of the other men in the room stepped forward.
“Enough.” The High Queen’s quiet command froze them all.
Anleeh wondered if there would ever come a time when he would not respond to a command from her.
Regally, she rose, her long dress falling in thick folds to her feet, the long sleeves bound tightly down each arm. Atop her carefully styled tresses, the jewel-encrusted crown winked in the light that poured in from the windows set high in the walls.
“Anleeh, come with me.”
With a soft stroke to the High King’s clenched fist, the High Queen descended the steps. Anleeh waited for her to cross the chamber and then stepped aside, prepared to fall into step behind her, but the she halted beside him.
“You walk behind me no longer.” She held out her hand.
Anleeh took a deep breath and, as he released it, looked into the sky blue eyes of the High Queen. Eyes locked to hers he offered his arm.
Together, they made their way out of the Palace and across the courtyard to the stairs that led to the guard’s walk circling the inside of the wall. The steps were too narrow for them to walk together and so she preceded him, heavy skirts held up in ring-bedecked fingers.
She led them to a spot on the wall equidistant between two guard posts, ensuring privacy for their conversation. She leaned against the top of the wall, which was waist high when standing on the walk, on folded arms.
“I know why you object.”
Anleeh turned so that he too faced out, focusing on the view.
“Anleeh, I hope that you know what you are to me, what value you have to me.”
“I am the Queen’s man.” Though he was known for his quick wit and sometimes sarcastic manner, his words were sincere. For all that had happened in their world, his loyalty to the her had not changed.
“No.” The High Queen grasped his arm, turning him to face her. “You are my man, Cryessa’s man. Even when I had no name, that is who you were.”
Anleeh read the truth in her eyes. “Yes, Majesty.”
“Cryessa,” she reminded him.
He smiled. “That I still cannot bring myself to say, Priestess.” He used her old title, reminding them both what their relationship had once been.
“Very well, you may call me Priestess. But do not let the others hear, for they will all start too.” Anleeh grinned wider at having something his former brothers in slavery did not. As if she knew his thoughts, and Anleeh wondered if she didn’t, High Queen Cryessa rolled her eyes.
Cryessa brushed her hand down his arm in a friendly touch. Side by side they stood in companionable silence, looking out over the kingdom. For the first time in a thousand years it was united. The single greatest change that would save the people of this kingdom had been made, but there was still much work to be done.
“It is not without a heavy heart that I ask this of you.”
Gently detaching his arm from her grasp, Anleeh leaned against the wall once more. Cryessa slid one hand beneath his cloak to stroke his back.
“You are the only one who can do this, the only one I trust to do it.. That is why I ask.”
“There are others you could send.”
“There are, but I do not depend on them as I do you.”
“Send one of the other Zinahs.”
“Former Zinahs,” she reminded him.
“As you like, former Zinahs.”
His words were snatched away by a sudden gust; they fell silent as the air howled around them, each hearing their own thoughts in the wind.
“Please do not ask this of me.” His plea was snatched away by the dying wind, as if nature itself rejected those words from one such as he, a warrior and bright man of justice.
“Had I any other way, anyone else who could, I would not.”
“What if I…”
“You will not.”
“How? How do you know? How can you be sure?”
“I know you, in all ways and in all things, I know you.” She smiled and it was like the sun, pure and bright and steady. “I have faith in you.”