This scene is getting a facelift!
For a revised and up-to-date version of this excerpt, check back April 19th! Or just read on, you rebel, you.
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His whole form seemed to solidify on the spot. He swallowed hard and tried to avert his gaze. He couldn’t.
Her gray-green eyes were like the Xagimn Ocean. Her fair complexion seemed to glow in the firelight. A light breeze fluttered through her soft, golden hair.
Since he had first seen her sparkling smile, Jaranin had adored her. They had always been good friends, never more. Still… whenever she sat close to him, offered him the slightest smile, wrinkled her nose when she laughed—shivers would tickle his spine. Whenever anyone mentioned her name, he would either grin or blush profusely. And lately, it’d been getting worse. Now, even if she spoke a word to him, his mouth would grow clumsy. She made him so nervous it made him ill. But he felt that if she asked him, he could move mountains for her.
Either that or he’d completely lose his wits. Like now, for instance, as he nearly tripped himself as he was gaping at her.
With a little start and stammer, Jaranin extricated his robe and continued. “…Standing beside the messenger was his wife,” Jaranin swallowed, still unable to take his eyes off Isalaina, “Áthel.”
Jaranin forced his gaze away, but his thoughts were still focused on her light a beam of light. Was she enjoying the story? Did she approve?
One more glance couldn’t hurt.
Isalaina’s eyes sparkled in the firelight, glittering with tears and filled with apprehension. The gentle orange flames of the bonfire caressed her lightly-tanned complexion.
“…And he swore, as she stared at him with a mixture of pride and trepidation, that she had never before looked as beautiful as now,” Jaranin continued.
Worried he’d completely forget his place in the story the next time, Jaranin hurriedly completed his tale. He told of the final battle of Ánari, how the walls fell to the wicked dark forces, but how many inhabitants of the city escaped. The walls were torn down, but never its spirit, he concluded.
“This is why we celebrate the city of Ánari. For though the city once fell, there may come a day when Lexirous’s visions of Evil shall be destroyed. And in those days, all people of Amboron will live in peace and truth, just as they did in the Ancientest Age.”
No one seemed to notice Jaranin’s haste. As soon as he finished with a flourish and a bow, the spectators erupted into applause.
It wasn’t until most of the patrons had finally moved onto the feasting table, however, that Jaranin finally saw her.
Isalaina was still in her seat, the firelight making her golden hair appear to glow. She and Elun had been chatting while the others patrons mobbed Jaranin. As soon as they noticed Jaranin watching them, Elun and Isalaina both looked up, smiling. Isalaina waved.
“Thank you very much,” Jaranin said to the last of his well-wishers before meandering toward the bench.
“You were exceptional tonight, Jaranin.” Isalaina gushed. There was a notably vacant spot between her and Elun, which Jaranin gratefully took.
“Why thank you,” Jaranin smirked. “Though I think I would have liked my performance a whole lot better if I hadn’t nearly tripped over my robe…” He paused, recalling that she’d warned him about that before the performance. “You were right,” he added soberly. “I should’ve let you hem it.” He’d be sure to do so next year.
Isalaina just waved it off with a sigh. “It wasn’t important. I hardly even noticed. I was too busy crying by that point. The story was beautiful; I loved it.”
“And didn’t you say his entrance was superb, Is?” Elun chortled. “Didn’t you say that? Go on, tell him. I won’t mind if you say it again.” He elbowed Jaranin’s ribcage, grinning. Isalaina laughed.
“All right, all right! Nothing caused us bodily injury,” Jaranin admitted as he ruffled Elun’s hair. “This time.”
Elun struck a pose of hurt, but all three giggled. After the laughter, however, Elun hopped up. “Well, I don’t know about you two, but I’m half famished to starvation.” He clapped his hands and rubbed them together. “So if you need me, I’ll be showing Will how to talk with your mouth chock-full without choking.”
“Be sure he knows about the ‘not choking’ part!” Isalaina called as Elun was scampering toward the tables.
Jaranin and Isalaina shook their heads as they watched their friend go.
“He’s an odd one…” Jaranin chuckled.
“Thus why the three of us get along so well,” Isalaina countered with a smile.
They sat in silence for a few minutes. Jaranin fidgeted in his seat, struggling to think of something to say. “Think you’ll win the archery competition this year?”
“Naturally. I’m aiming for third year in a row.” Isalaina raised her head proudly. “I’ve been practicing hard.”
“It shows. Last I saw, you were hitting bullseyes every time.”
She smirked. “Well, I can’t have someone else strutting about with my title. I might even beat my record this year!” She nudged him playfully, “That is, as long as you don’t gnaw your knuckles right behind me.”
“I’ll try to be more composed this year,” Jaranin swore solemnly, properly scolded.
They shared a chuckle.
Excerpt from The Victor’s Blade; all content subject to change.
For Him, to Him