While we wait for the publishing wheels to turn, here's a peek at the pre-edit opening pages...
The early December wind caught the hood of her elven cape, whipping her hair loose. Kam captured her dark locks in one hand, tied them with a thin, black scarf, and pulled the woolen hood back into place. She glanced over her shoulder and wrapped the cloak more securely around her slender figure. The village streets stood deserted, as folks settled in their homes for supper and a snug evening out of Elvenrude's chill night air. The scent of wood smoke drifted from chimneys. The yellow warmth of the alehouse's lanterns was only a few feet away.
She took a deep breath, opened the heavy oak door of Keiley's Pub, and stepped inside. The smell of ale and mead was strong, the lights dim. A few couples talked quietly. The merriment from other groups seemed measured by the number of empty ale mugs on the table.
Keeping her head down, Kam made her way to a back table. Her entry stirred little interest, the drab disguise making her inconspicuous, just another villager ending a long work day with a pint of brew—or in her case, hot berry wine.
Kam's eyes itched, and she resisted the urge to rub them. She'd bought a pair of brown contacts in New Orleans two weeks ago—as soon as Captain Brunic proposed this assignment. Her dark hair might have passed casual scrutiny, but not the intense blue eyes. They were distinctive to her aristocratic Ryndel family and made blending into the pub's clientele of commoners and crossbreeds problematic. She'd put the lenses in before coming through the magic portal this evening from her current home in New Orleans.
A barmaid took her order, returned with her drink, and Kam leaned back to watch and listen to the tavern gossip. Two tables were of particular interest. A group of three auburn-haired male elves near the front conversed in low tones. Their hair and dark eyes identified them as crossbreeds or duchaen as they were calling themselves now. The name derived from an ancient Elfish word meaning birthright, a reference to their struggle for equality.
Her attention was drawn by raised voices from the second table much closer to her. An interesting mixture of companions, and at least one of them had indulged in too much ale, his voice a little louder, less controlled. She leaned forward, took a sip of her drink, and strained to hear their conversation.
"No offense. But I'm not sure I want to get involved with the duchaen." The speaker was a pale-haired elf, a common laborer, with his back to her. "Things aren't that bad for us. What are you planning?"
Her hand tightened on the mug, waiting for the answer. This might be the what she'd been searching for.
***TO BE CONTINUED DECEMBER 25***