Khantara is a Haanta conqueror, meant to wage war and rule over the enemy nation of Thellis, but after vanquishing Thellis and occupying a construction of a Haanta outpost, he meets Anelta, a woman enslaved by her own people bearing a brand of servitude on her neck. Khantara contrives to save her from a cruel home and bring her to the refuge his people can provide, but how can he do so successfully when the eyes of Thellis are upon him?
Khantara could bear the sight of the woman standing before the dreadful home no longer. He must try to assist and console her, if she would accept his company, but as he separated from the shadows and walked toward her, he was stopped by the sight of a strange brand on the side of her neck. The Thellisian symbol for ‘marked’ was burned into her flesh, and though it could not answer for the exchange he had just witnessed, it could explain her bare feet and poor dress. He was aware of Thellisian slaves and thought her to be one, but her missing restraints, upright figure and elegant hands told him otherwise. He found, however, other features to excite his curiosity: a braid of thick hair so long as to sweep the backs of her thighs was his chief delight; blue-green eyes and a tinge of colour in her cheeks were his other concerns. He made a slow approach as she wiped her tears, and he bowed to her to gain her attention and convey his gentle civility.
In between her quiet sobs, the woman felt herself being overcome by a shadow. She looked up to discover an immense creature standing before her and inclining his head in her direction. She looked about her to see if there was someone behind her who deserved such propriety, but there was no one in the vicinity excepting herself and the giant. Astonished by such gallantry, she greeted him with the same forthcoming gesture and quickly dispatched all of her remaining tears. A Haanta, she thought, here. But what can he want with me? was the question that plagued her for some minutes when the giant remained in silence. She blushed first in a glow of animation to welcome so immense, so unspoken and so unexpected a creature, but all her happiness soon became embarrassment; he must have overheard her conversation and had now come to question the conflict. She lowered her head, touched the brand on her neck, and waited for a reproof with downcast eyes, but no such reproof came; he remarked her with a thoughtful expression and said nothing. She thought perhaps that Haanta custom called for her to speak first, though she knew not what was proprietous to say. She fidgeted with her hands, shifted in place, and began with, “Have you lost your way, sir?” in an expectant tone, hoping that the giant could understand the Thellisian language.
Khantara made a momentary smile and his eyes were aglow to see her features brighten. “No,” was his soft answer.
The woman stepped back, struck by the resonation of his low voice. He spoke to her: the creature of majesty, the dark mountain cloaked in shadow with nighthawks adorning his shoulders spoke to her. Her breath quickened, her mouth curled into a wider smile, her heart filled with the warmth of wonder, but soon fancies of her own inadequacy returned. He could not be here for her, for who was she but a marked woman? He must be here for someone else. His presence was too good of a mistake, and though she wished that he were here on her account by some means of providential intervention, she would not deceive herself only to be disappointed. “Have you come here on your way to town?” she said in a small voice. “If you are uncertain of the way there, I can show you, sir. But I can only lead you as far as the marketplace.”
Khantara only smiled.
Presently she added, “I’m not permitted to go to town, but I can point out the way from the edge of the markets if you need a guide.”
The giant did not answer. He was observing her uneasy motions, long swaying braid, thin figure and scarred neck. He stepped closer to her to judge her reaction, and to his contentment, she did not retract from him. He hummed in deliberation and narrowed his gaze.
I am a small woman of moderate consequence who writes many, many literary fantasy books involving giants, romance, and chocolate. I'm a rather boring woman in life, but that only gives me permission to be more interesting on the page. I'm meant to be read and not seen anyway. I am also excessively sarcastic, but never serious, and I do my utmost to be as quiet and polite as possible when being forced to leave the commons. I adore people, but am not fond of the public. Such is an author's burden: to be a hermit and a crone, blessed with all the joys of unquietness.
Paper Crane Books
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