The first of The Iron Warrior series finds the dour armsman Gristle beset by a force he has faced only once before in his life--love. Or call it lust. Whatever the young pony trainer Wynn excites in him, Gristle finds himself first succumbing, then regretting his own fierce emotions as his new lover disappears and he’s left to grapple with the consequences of being abandoned. Again. Here’s the first scene from the opening chapter of the book.
His eyes, hard as flint, surveyed the shipyards. There was no trace of his trainee Caylith. She was to practice walking on sand. Not in sand but skimming the surface, as a dragonfly hunts on water. Perhaps she was over there, hidden from his sight by shifting dunes, or there, where the currachs were moored, waiting for their voyage across the Sea of Éire. Yes, perhaps she had chosen her own symbol of escape to train alongside…
He began to walk toward the shimmering dunes that changed their contours even as he strode easily across the sand. His white-blond hair stirred around his face with the wind coming off the sea, and the sleeves of his dark deer-skin tunic rustled and slapped as they filled with wind, like currach sails made of stitched pelts.
Without slowing, the man turned his head slightly and regarded the young man slipping and plowing through the white sand. He turned his face again to the dunes. If the pony trainer Wynn wanted to talk with him, he had best keep up the pace. Or learn to walk properly.
Halfway to where the currachs rode their mooring ropes, the young man caught up to his quarry.
“Sir! Um, excuse me—”
Gristle stopped and turned to him, saying nothing at all.
“I was wondering if—that is, would ye, um—could we talk a few minutes?”
Gristle squatted easily in the sand, looking up, waiting for the young Welshman to speak. The smooth-faced lad was not bad to look at, the trainer decided, and so he waited and watched. Wynn’s hair was a tumble of gold-brown and russet, with sun-flecked highlights to match his wide eyes. He had a generous mouth that seemed eager to smile. Gristle remembered his throaty laugh the few times he had seen him and Caylith together with the ponies. He guessed the boy was twenty, twenty-one at the most. Half his own age. He decided that the boy’s sun-brown body, so unlike his own pale complexion, was a mute testimony to his life as a trainer of mountain ponies.
He was unaccountably drawn to the subtle gold of that skin, and so he felt his own steel-blue eyes soften a little.
Wynn seemed totally confounded by the older man’s silence. Gristle thought idly that he was ripe for training, starting at the most basic level. Still, he waited for the brindle-haired lad to choke out what he wanted to say.
“I know of ye, sir,” Wynn said at last. “Caylith has told me something of your training. She, ah, she tells me that ye’re an adept in the art of proper breathing.” Gristle’s chiseled mouth hardly moved when he spoke. He looked directly into the other’s eyes. “I am.”
“What I need to know, is—well, first of all, me name is Wynn. We met briefly in Lindum. I am bound for the land of the emigrants. I have arranged for about forty Welsh ponies to be transported in special boats. What I would like is to train wi’ye. Once we get there, and once we are settled, of course.”
“Is that all, Wynn?”
Gristle asked softly. “Why could your—ah, why could Caylith not teach you?”
“I think she could try. But I would rather learn from the best. And not just breathing. Sir…I would know how you walk through sand without a grain in your sandals.” He looked at Gristle’s well-oiled leather sandals. “And—and all the other ways of a warrior.”
“There are many ways of a warrior, lad.”
“Then I would learn them all. From the top man.” Gristle rose, and when Wynn stood also, he saw that the pony trainer was almost his height, a little over six feet. He might make a good sparring partner, Gristle thought. After intensive training, of course. The boy seemed to be all elbows and knees. “I will consider it,” he said in his usual laconic style. “As you say, after we are settled in the new land. In a real home.”
“Ie. I hardly hoped ye would agree. Thank ye.” He held out his large hand, and Gristle gripped it for a moment, noting the slight hesitation in Wynn’s grasp. This lad, he thought, is going through some kind of inner tumult. I feel it in his grasp. I see it in his eyes. Perhaps I represent some unspoken purpose in his life. I shall find out. “Then I shall see you on the other side.”
“The, um—the other side?” He seemed startled by the trainer’s words, and then he smiled.
“Of course. In the land of the currachs. Ffarwel.”
Gristle stood and watched Wynn struggle through the sand, up the hill to the high-water mark. His tunic, shorter than the style favored in this western part of Britannia, showed his muscular calves and part of his thighs. The strong legs of a rider. Once, when the lad stumbled a bit, the trainer caught sight of his well-formed ass, and his [groin] stirred under his own tunic. And then his mind snapped closed like a trap, catching only the quarry he was after at the moment—the hellion named Caylith, to whom he was unfortunately trothed as armsman. He strode with renewed purpose toward the currachs.
One lucky reader who comments on my blog will be randomly selected to win an e-book of Warrior, Ride Hard. Good luck!
Warrior, Ride Hard: http://www.bookstrand.com/warrior-ride-hard