Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Page 99 -- The Witch Awakening by Karen Nilsen

Page 99 from The Witch Awakening
By Karen Nilsen
A Historical Fantasy
Copyright Notice: March 8, 2010, Karen Nilsen, All Rights Reserved

Book Description: The odor of burning flesh and the screams of those condemned to the flames disturb the dreams of young Safire of Long Marsh. Safire struggles to keep the curse of her psychic abilities secret, lest she be burned at the stake as a witch in her native land Cormalen. Forced to keep her talents hidden instead of learning how to use them, Safire is ill-prepared to face the evil that awaits her. When she meets the rebellious Merius of Landers, a nobleman determined to escape his overbearing father's influence, she finally finds someone who accepts her. But their romance interferes with court plots and family duty and ultimately leads Safire to confront the dark secrets of the House of Landers alone. What she finds there proves to be a test of her unusual gifts, a test that could free the soul of a haunted man--or end in her death.

“Prince Segar seems to like it."

"Royalty oft has a peculiar taste for the common. Just don't keep up the habit after you're through with him."

She gave an impatient shrug, putting the lid back on the rouge pot with a clatter. "Or he's through with me. You seem to forget that princes discard their mistresses, not the other way around."

"You're hardly his mistress, Eden, and thank God for it."

She looked at me oddly. "But I thought that's what you wanted--a royal mistress in the House of Landers. The influence the Landers could have through me . . ."

"Is exactly the kind of influence we don't want," I interrupted. "Having a royal mistress in the House is like having the most bountiful harvest in a fallow year. Everyone's jealous gaze would be fixed on the Landers, and some would try to seed our fields with salt. We never want to be the most favored at court--the most favored are the ones most likely to lose their heads when the winds of fortune shift. If he starts giving you jewels and having his minstrels write songs about you, I'll send you away to the Sarneth court. Do you understand?"

Eden nodded as she picked up a perfume bottle. "I suppose."

"I'd rather you'd never attracted his eye in the first place, but since you have, we might as well make use of it." I stepped forward and pulled out the letter she had given me yesterday. "Here, that reminds me. Put this back where you found it."

"Is it what I thought?"

"Yes, and worse. Our prince is bribing the poor Bishop for the secrets told him in confession."

Eden laughed. "I have no doubt he's learning much--about cheating for coppers and overindulging on watered wine. Who confesses to the Bishop but virtuous fools like Cyril?" She pulled the stopper out of the bottle and began to dab perfume on her bare shoulders and between her breasts.

The faint scent of roses filled the air. Rose water. I choked on the smell, remembering how Arilea would get up naked from our bed and go directly to the washstand where she kept a bottle of the stuff.

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