This week, on Work-In-Progress Wednesdays, I have an excerpt from Pathway of the Moon. In this selection, Leo arrives at the Ishtralian camp with Alrian and Deira in tow, and he’s greeted by his nemesis, Ishtralian leader Kiarhsu Kashal.

~~~

LEO stared at Kiarhsu Kashal for a long moment. How long had it been since he’d last seen the man? Not long enough. Eternity wouldn’t be long enough. His magic snarled inside og him. Reacting to the other man’s presence, no doubt. Even after all this time, it still did that.

“You got my message.” Kiarhsu glanced at Amadeira and Alrian with a snaky smile. “And who are these lovely women? I don’t recall asking you to bring a tribute in return for your pardon and welcome home.”

As if he’d have brought one even if Kiarhsu had demanded it. His hands clenched tighter on the reins. “My ward and my wife. Not a tribute, I’m afraid.”

“I didn’t realize you’d taken a wife. Or a ward.”

“There are many things you don’t know, Kashal.”

“True.” Kiarhsu waved to a boy nearby. “Kestrel will feed and water your mounts. You and I have some catching up to do. Bring your women.”

Alrian made a low noise somewhere between a snarl and a hiss. Leo shot her a warning look. She’d dragged him into this mess. She could play by his rules now so they wouldn’t be executed outright for being spies. She gave him a mulish frown, but she didn’t say anything or act out.

“She objects to being called your woman?”

Leo looked back to Kiarhsu to find him staring at Alrian with a bemused smile. Not good. He’d seen that look before. It just meant Kiarhsu was mulling over the newest bit of information for a way to use it. “My ward isn’t accustomed to our lifestyle. She’s still learning. I had to give her more freedom than I usually would in Kier. You know how the chapter there is.”

Kiarhsu’s upper lip curled. “Yes. Soft.”

“Precisely. I’m sure she’ll fall in line with some time in this place under my strict discipline. A little time on a tight leash will whip her into shape.” His gut twisted even as he said the words. They sounded like something his father would say. He wanted to wash out his mouth, but he knew it wouldn’t wash away the sense that he was dirty.

“I’m sure it will.” Kiarhsu’s sharp gaze landed on him, pierced through him.

Leo dismounted and went to help Amadeira down from her horse. He probably shouldn’t show any public affection toward her, but he couldn’t help it. He needed her near so he could be sure she was safe. He’d hoped she wouldn’t be here at all, but now that she was exposed, the protectiveness welled up so strongly that he had to resist the urge to hide her away behind him until he could lock her in whatever tent they were confined to.

“A little attached, aren’t we? Newly-wed?”

“Yes.”

“No marks?”

“They didn’t end up in an obvious place for us.”

“Ah. Well, marks or no, you know no one will take her without your permission. There’s no need to worry for her safety with the men in camp.”

“I’m well-aware of their respect for the property of others, and that doesn’t worry me.” It did, but he wasn’t about to let Kiarhsu know that. Bad enough that the man knew any of his weaknesses without giving him another.

Kiarhsu smirked. “Then why are you attached at the hip in public like this? Makes you seem weak. No self-respecting Ishtralian man clings to his wife’s skirts.”

Amadeira’s grip on him tightened, and Alrian’s hand went to her hip where her sword had hung. But he had that packed away now. If they were attacked, his powers were the only ones likely to keep them all alive. Kiarhsu noted both movements with a wry smile. “You give your ward weapons, I see. But not your wife. Interesting.”

Leo gritted his teeth. “Can we please go inside? I’d like to sit down and talk in private.”

“I’m sure you would. The trip was tiring, I take it?”

“Very.”

“Well, this way, then.” Kiarhsu gestured for him to go first.

“After you. It’s been a while.”

“Surely not so long that you’ve forgotten the way to your family’s cabin?”

Leo eyed him. He wouldn’t forget the way to that place for as long as he lived. And the glint in Kiarhsu’s eye told him the other man knew it too. He shouldered his pack with a smile. “Of course not. Is that where we’re staying?”

“I thought it would be best if you did. It hasn’t been occupied since you left. A pity your mother couldn’t come too. Is she too frail for commune life?”

“Afraid so.” Leo took Amadeira’s hand in his and tugged her forward. “Well, let’s go then.” Might as well get this over with sooner rather than later.

~~~

That’s it for this week, everyone. Have something you’d like to share? Feel free to leave it in the comments below! I’d love to hear about whatever you’re currently working on too.

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