Thursday, 1 August 2013

Teaser Time: "Rebel's Daughter"

Much to my chagrin, I'm one of those writers. Writers who can have as many as ten projects on the go without finishing any of them. Incidentally, I have so many WIPs that when I hit writer's block with one, there's always another waiting in the wings.

Rebel's Daughter is one such story. I got the idea for it a few years ago, typed up a short synopsis and opening scene, then abandoned it to continue work on Ice Roses. But this book is one close to my heart, drawing on my Eastern European heritage and childhood obsession with the movie Anastasia (which, if you haven't seen, you MUST SEE IT NOW). Like many other authors, I've wondered what it would be like to be a princess exiled because of who she was. I've wondered what it would be like to be a young woman surrounded by a bloodthirsty revolution, targeted because of my birth.

But, perhaps because of my eccentricity, I then started wondering what it'd be like to be the revolutionary who ruined the life of that princess. What would drive someone to do that? The image of a young girl revolutionary took form in my mind.

Hence, Anya, my main character, was born. She's by no means perfect, but I love her and can't wait to write more of her story.

Here's that opening scene I wrote so long ago, now edited and part of a completed first chapter! Hooray! Hope you enjoy this tiny peek into the darker side of my brain. ;)

Rebel's Daughter: The Firebird Trilogy Book One



Synopsis

Twelve years ago, the rebellion that tried to overthrow the Russak monarchy ended, and with it everything Anya knew. Her father, the head of the revolutionaries, became the most hated man in Russak. With his young daughter in tow, he fled the country.

But unrest still reigns. After her father’s death, Anya receives a visit from a childhood friend, the son of her father's co-conspirator. He wants them to continue their fathers’ legacy and lead the common people out of the ashes. Anya wants revenge against those who ruined her life and drove her beloved father into an early grave.

To help conduct the conspiracy, Anya goes undercover in the royal palace, working as a maid in order to gather information to pass on to the revolutionaries. But after one of the nobles involved is discovered and executed, rumours begin to circle of a traitor in their midst—someone playing both sides. Someone with the power to destroy the revolution before it even begins.

As tension builds, Anya also befriends the prince and princess of the nation. But their very birth spells them out for death, and when the time comes for the revolution to strike, Anya must make a choice—

Between legacy and love, father and friendship, past and future. The choice she makes will not only affect the fate of her country, but that of the entire world.

Part One


The Shadows Beckon

Chapter One: Shadows of Yesterday

Her name was Anya Kerachova, and she feared little. Not the bears or wolves that stalked the deep, dark forests of her home country, nor the beady-eyed thieves of the city streets.

The only thing that made her knees shudder and shake was darkness. The kind that wraps around one's soul and squeezes so tightly you feel lightheaded. The kind that hides behind a handsome face or friendly smile—the kind that is nearly impossible to kill.

And now it was standing on her doorstep, staring past her shoulder into her home.

“Hello, Anya,” it said. “May I come in?”

She gripped the door handle. “Go away. Do svidaniva.”

The darkness cocked its head, its lips curved down. “Is that what you say to an old friend?”

Anya curled her fingers into the door frame, determined not to show her fear. Outside, the wind screamed and scattered the blowing snow, and inside her bones tingled with dread. But she pressed her lips together and narrowed her gaze at the tall, bundled figure before her. She would not let him in. “You are no friend of mine.”

“Then why do you keep the door still open?”

“Because if I close it, I cannot see you,” she said. And if there was one thing Papa had driven into her before life had fled his body, it had been to trust little, and never turn your gaze from an enemy. If she could not see him, she could not know what he did.

He chuckled. “I thought it perhaps had to do with my charm.”

Anya forced the laugh through her mouth, though she felt sick to her stomach. He had as much charm as a bear. “Go away,” she said.

“Or what? Do you know witcheries to force me to your will?”

Her hand flew to the pendant at her neck. “You know I do not practice such things.”

He laughed again, and heat pushed against her tongue. She swallowed it back down. She would not give him the satisfaction of seeing her crack.

“Then you cannot make me move.”

Anya’s eyes flew to the city street. The lamps flickered, illuminating the hulking shadows of the guards on patrol. One hovered across the street, his eyes on her house.

“Curse you,” she hissed, and grabbing his arm, dragged him into her home.

Her stomach coiled. She had let him in.

He stood there in his dripping furs, grinning and sweeping the snow from his body. It hit the ground and sizzled in the heat from the crackling hearth. “I'm surprised you remember me,” he said.

“You have your father’s ugly nose.”

His hand flew to his face, then he lowered his arm with a scowl. “You have your father’s bad attitude.”

She crossed her arms. “What do you want, Ilya?” she spat. His name burned like coals.

“The same thing your father wanted. The Phoenix Rising.”

Chills prickled along the fine hairs of her arms. Khotkin stirred from his sleep before the fire, raising his head to growl at the stranger who trailed shadows in his wake.

Anya shook her head. “You are insane.” She kept her voice level, calm, pretending she spoke to someone she might interview for the newspaper. Pretending.

Ilya shrugged out of his furs, dumping them on the ground. Khotkin bared his teeth, struggling to rise. Anya crossed the floor to kneel by her dog, running her fingers through his thick, curly coat. “It’s all right, boy,” she crooned, though she wished to scoop him into her arms and bury her face in his fur. But even he could not save her from the past.

The Phoenix Rising.

Ilya crouched beside her, cold radiating from his body. He stared into the flickering flames, his dark eyes glowing like embers.

“It’s been twelve years,” she said, her voice breaking the quiet that had descended. The quiet that threatened the invasion of dark thoughts, of shattered resolve. “Too long to start—” She broke off, choked by a swarm of images. She pushed them back, her stomach vaulting with nausea. To start all that again.

Ilya pursed his lips, a furrow digging into his brow. “So you would abandon all your father lived for?”

“He died for it, too,” she said. Khotkin nosed her hand, his tongue rough and wet against her fingers.

“I heard. I’m sorry.”

She shot him a glare. He bullied his way into her home, then had the nerve to treat her like they were friends?

He returned the look with a cocked eyebrow, his head tilted to the side. “Your father would say yes.”

She winced, turned to stare at the photo on the mantle Papa had insisted they have taken before he died. For years he had shunned photographs or portraits, living in fear of being discovered by those who had driven him and his daughter from Russak. But after learning he was dying, he’d wanted something for his only child to remember him by. “When you look at it,” he’d said, “remember me.” And Russak.

Anya stared at her thin, frowning likeness, studied her father’s gruff, bearded face—and the Russakin carpet hanging in the background. The same carpet that now draped over the wall above the hearth, telling the tale of Vasilisa the Beautiful—a woman far braver than she.

A woman who would not have abandoned Russak in its time of greatest need.

“I’m not my father,” she said.

“You’re like him in many ways.” Ilya slid his hand over hers.

She yanked her hand out from under his touch, her fingers digging into Khotkin’s side. Khotkin whined in protest. Jerking to her feet, she paced the floor. “Why now?” she asked at last, spreading out her hands, her knuckles cold from Ilya’s fingertips.

Ilya drew his long legs to his chin, resting his head on his knees. “After you and your father fled Russak, the monarchists dug out nearly every single revolutionary and executed them.” Firelight played across his hawkish features. “Including my father.”

Anya’s steps faltered. She remembered the dark, joking man who had always stuffed her mouth with sweets. But Ilya was not the type of person to show vulnerability to; he could wield feelings as a weapon as well as he could use a sword. So instead she gave a curt nod, her braid slapping against her spine.

Ilya’s lips thinned, but he continued. “Many of us were too frightened to try again for years. But times are no easier now than they were then, and the peasants are only growing poorer, the workers more disgruntled. And the Tsar continues to use his money foolishly.”

“What makes you think you’ll succeed this time?” she asked. Unbidden, she saw before her the lineup of dead corpses after the Tsarik Riot—the wide, glazed eyes of her childhood friends. The same pain she had bottled that day and hoped never to feel again swept through her. She trained her gaze on the flames once more, praying they might burn away the tears threatening to fall.

“The knowledge that something has to happen soon.” His voice was quiet, assured. “If we don’t plan a revolution carefully, a true bloodbath may occur—and Russak may never recover. We may only be a few wolves against a bear, but when wolves band together, bears will fall.”

Anya shuddered despite herself.

Ilya rose, creeping up behind her. “Anya,” he whispered, his breath tickling the back of her neck, the heat of his hands hovering over her shoulders. “The monarchy drove your father to an early grave. It killed your friends, took your mother, stole your childhood. What are you waiting for?”

Mother. Oh, Mother—kind, tender-hearted, devout mother. Anya’s fingers clutched the pendant at her neck, the gold biting into her palm. Wind battered against her windows, rattling the glass. The snow glowed in the darkness, resembling fluffed white feathers. And the darkness. Thick, oozing, seeping between the cracks in her soul.

Ilya settled his hands on her shoulders, his fingers pressing into her skin. “Anya?”

She started, sweeping herself away from him. She had to save herself from the stirrings in her breast. “Get out.”

His expression hardened. “I know you want this.”

“You know nothing!” But her voice wheedled.


He smirked, sat down beside Khotkin. The dog growled weakly. “I’ll give you time to realize what you already know,” he said, covering his yawn with the back of his hand. “In the meanwhile, I will sleep here. Unless you wish me to divulge your true identity to the street guards.”