Before Birth by Flame is released this fall, I’ll be giving you a sneak peek into the world of the book. Today, meet the main character of Birth By Flame, Garus.
It felt like my feet weren’t even touching the ground. The beautiful girl and I spun around the dance floor, the soft golden glow of candles and chandeliers filling the room. We danced on the lilting strains of strings and flutes as older men and women sat with goblets of liquor in their hands, watching and reminiscing of their youth.
I spun her around, her blue and gold dress fluttering around and her jewelry sparkling in the candlelight. She smiled at me and rested her head on my shoulder as we went back to swaying.
“I’m having such a wonderful time, Prince Garus.” she murmured.
“I am too, darling.” I said.
I felt a tap and looked over my shoulder. My friend and personal servant, Tasem, was standing behind me with a look of impatience.
I separated from the girl and kissed her hand. “I will be back, my sweet one.”
“I’ll wait for you, my lord.” she said as we left her in the middle of the dance floor.
“Who was she?” Tasem asked as we walked out of the hall and up a flight of stairs.
“The chancellor’s daughter.”
“What do you think of her?”
“She’s nice, I guess. She’s a good dancer.”
“You’re not that into her.”
“Well, now you just have to outdiplomacy her father.”
“Well, wish me luck. Yakad can be prickly even when he’s in a good mood.”
Tasem laughed and handed me two flat white sticks. “Here. Put your hair up. You look like a mess.”
I grabbed the sticks and put my shoulder-length red hair in a loose bun, tying it with a ribbon and pinning it in place with the sticks. I stopped and looked at Tasem with a small gesture. He nodded in approval and I smiled.
“So, where are we going?” I asked.
“Your father has to make his speech. He wants the rest of you up there with him.”
“Right.” I said, extending the vowel sound in a defeated tone. Tasem pulled aside a curtain. I stepped through it and took my seat next to my mother and younger brother.
My father was standing at the edge of the balcony. His coat was a deep violet with gold and silver woven into the collar and cuffs. A heavy circle of gold lay atop his short red hair and his grey eyes were narrowed in focus.
“Friends, I welcome you to this night of fun and wonder.” he began, his voice booming through the beautiful hall. The nobles and other big shots applauded.
I leaned on my hand, trying to stay focused on Dad’s speech. My eyes scanned the crowd, looking for something interesting to watch. I looked out and saw the chancellor’s daughter, sitting next to her father and looking like a perfectly proper young woman. She turned her head to look at me. Our eyes met and she looked down, smiling and blushing slightly. I smiled too. She’s such a nice girl, I thought.
A brief motion in the back of the hall caught my eye. I looked up and saw a man dressed in dark clothes and putting something into his coat pocket. He looked around the hall before walking swiftly towards the large ornate doors out to the rest of the palace.
I turned slightly and motioned for Tasem to come up behind me. He moved as close as possible without coming onto the balcony.
“Follow that man in black by the door.” I whispered.
“As you wish.” Tasem whispered back before sliding back into the shadows and down the stairwell.
I feigned attention to Dad’s speech while watching Tasem walk down and out of the hall. As Dad continued to speak, I kept my eye focused on the door, waiting for someone to come in.
Eventually, Dad finished talking and a round of applause masked my move down the stairs and across the hall. I got a few odd looks, but kept my focus on the doors, wondering what happened to Tasem and the other man.
I pushed aside the doors and saw the man in black throwing a punch at Tasem. His fist connected with his jaw and Tasem fell backwards, blood flying from his mouth as he slammed into the floor. The man took off running down the entryway to the outside.
I sprinted after him, closing the distance between me and the man who had just knocked out my best friend. When I was finally close enough, I leaped at him. We crashed to the ground. I put all my weight on his back, pushing the air out of his lungs. He squirmed underneath me as I tried to pull him up, fumbling for the pocket I’d seen him put something into. He flailed frantically, trying to knock me off his back.
I stood and flipped him over. He swung wildly at me, but I stayed out of the way of his strikes. I slipped in between his fists and slammed his head into the floor repeatedly. Eventually, his eyes started to roll back in his head and he fell out of consciousness. I opened his coat and started to dig around in his pockets.
As I felt a hard, stony chain in one of the pockets, I heard a loud clamor of footsteps behind me. I turned and saw about ten nobles led by my dad running toward me. Dad was furious.
“Garus, what do you think you are doing?” he bellowed as he and the group behind him slowed to a stop behind him.
I fished my hand into the pocket and pulled out a glittering necklace, heavy with diamonds.
The nobles gasped and began to mutter among themselves. A woman in a vibrant red dress ran forward and grabbed the necklace.
“Oh, thank you so much, Your Grace!” she exclaimed, pressing the necklace to her chest. I stood and gave her a reassuring smile. She bowed slightly before running back to the group. The nobles each gave me a small bow before starting to return to the ball.
Dad walked up to me, fuming and glaring at me. I shrank slightly, bracing for the impact.
“We’ll discuss this later.” he growled before turning on his heel and storming back to the hall.
I breathed a sigh of relief and ran over to help Tasem to his feet.