Today is it to win an ebook copy of The Jester’s Apprentice! Every day this week I’ve posted a simple trivia question related to the book with cheats. So for #SampleSunday, I’m posting the second chapter of Jester’s with an easy question (answer found in the chapter). To enter, follow the instructions right after the post! You can read the first chapter by clicking here.
The question: What precious item do the thieves take from Philippa?
And the sample:
Edric kept a wary eye open and his hand on the hilt of his sword as they made their way along the dirt path, knowing they would make a good target for highwaymen. Philippa rode alongside him, unconcerned with that. She worried more about the household she had left behind after the previous night’s events.
“You’re unusually quiet,” Edric said, eyes still straight ahead. “Are you nervous?”
“Not for the road ahead.” Philippa turned, but the manor was well behind them. “I’m worried for my household. I overheard a couple of servants talking…what if the fire wasn’t an accident?”
“We surveyed the damage and found no evidence of arson, nor of a stranger poking around your barn. They’re safe.”
Philippa checked his violet eye and satisfied Edric was sincere, tried to relax and focus on something lighter.
A hawk called out above them, and as Philippa tipped her head up to admire it, an object zinged passed her. She whipped her head in the direction of the woods, two dark figures shadowed in the trees, one aiming an arrow at her forehead. The party halted, Edric’s witching eye locked on the archer who shifted uncomfortably under his gaze. The other man stood casually surveying the group.
“Not the wealthiest wedding party we’ve seen,” he remarked to his comrade, “but they’ll do.” He sauntered up to Philippa, his small frame coming into full view. He smiled, a goatee hiding his lips, and bowed regally. “Sorry for the intrusion, my lady. This won’t take long.”
Philippa’s eyes narrowed, irritated by his smile. First, a fire during her wedding feast and now a robbery! He held out a gloved hand and helped her dismount. Edric watched him, keeping the archer in the background, poised to push Philippa out of the way if necessary. Philippa wore nothing of major consequence for this very reason and so handed over the trifling few pieces of silver she carried with her. The thief smirked, bowing before moving on to her attendant, Sibbe. Philippa turned to see Edric’s reaction, his face set menacingly on the archer who managed to keep his arrow fixed anyway. After collecting the few trinkets they carried, the leader slung a leather satchel over his arm and came around near Philippa again.
“Thank you for your generosity,” he said, his eyes dipping from Philippa’s face down her neck. “You have no idea how this helps us.” He lifted Philippa’s hand, slipping her wedding ring off of her finger, raising his eyes to her glare as he kissed her fingertips. Philippa wrenched her hand away, her nostrils flaring. The man winked at Edric whose expression had turned to stone.
Philippa snorted as he took a final bow and they disappeared into the trees, the archer taking a final look behind him at Edric. Edric helped Philippa mount her pony again and the party moved ahead at a faster pace, going on almost as if nothing had happened.
“Why didn’t you stop them?” Philippa said, her face flushed from the heat. “You carry that sword as if you would use it and then you just stand there while that fool robs us!”
“Why would I risk harming us all to stop them from taking a few possessions?”
“They stole my wedding ring! Your mother’s ring.”
“I’m sure she would agree it’s not worth dying for.”
Philippa pursed her lips. Edric watched her from the corner of his eye. She would be even more upset once she realized the thieves had probably pillaged the cart carrying all of her precious possessions.
* * *
They arrived at Edric’s manor by the afternoon. Philippa’s undergarments clung to her wet skin and she couldn’t wait to jump off of her pony and straighten her legs. Edric dismounted, passing the reins to a servant who waited outside for them. While he spoke to the anxious looking attendant, Philippa rode away from the manor, surveying her new home. Edric had spoken of it, but she had not actually seen the building with her own eyes. It was as sad as he had described it. Blackened stones formed a box without much ornament, a conical dovecote and barn flanking the structure. It reminded her of the now dilapidated barn at Ainsley, which she would have to have rebuilt for the new tenants. Trees surrounded the edge of the manor property and Philippa could smell sheep wandering in a nearby field.
Edric held out his hands to help her dismount. “I’m afraid the inside is a bit shabby and lacking in comforts as well,” he said as if reading her mind.
Philippa followed him through the wooden doors into the main hall. “I didn’t think we needed much ceremony after yesterday,” he said, his long black hair blowing out behind him as he walked. “I figured we could do with having a quiet meal today.”
“Did my things arrive?” Philippa said, looking at a servant directly who immediately shifted her gaze to Edric.
“We’ll discuss that later,” he said, ignoring Philippa’s squeak of protest. “I have some business to attend to.” He kissed her forehead, but when he pulled away his eyes were hard and his face tight. “Hawis will help you settle in and feed you. We take dinner early. Do as you please until then.” Edric smiled, though Philippa thought it looked a tad forced. Something unhappy was on his mind and she doubted it had to do with her missing trunks.
Edric turned a moment to watch Philippa walk away. His heart pounded faster, eager to finish his business and get on with their life together.
He met his man, Sperling, in the backyard under an ash tree with sprawling boughs. Edric thought if trees could talk, this one would. The few spare moments he’d had since taking the manor he’d spent there.
Sperling grinned, planting his weight under its shade, his torso rivaling the tree’s trunk. “The Conqueror hath returned.”
Edric smiled and joined him. “Some conquest. There was no battle.” He involuntarily felt for his sword, which he’d removed already.
“How much better the reward, then. No scars, no losses. Just the enjoyment of living.”
“Do you have any news?”
Sperling shrugged. It seemed his master never had time or patience for his small talk. “Everything’s running just as beautifully as when you left.”
Sperling rubbed his bald head. “None, sir.”
Edric frowned. “It’s been weeks now.”
“You always say patience-”
“It’s not a virtue if you’re waiting when you should act.” Edric rubbed his forehead, thinking of the strange message he’d found in his wife’s belongings. And the barn burning. Not that it had anything to do with his own business but it was odd timing.
“I think you should give it a little more time, sir. Taking off with a new wife in the wings might look odd.”
“I don’t care if I look odd.” Edric leaned his back against the tree and closed his weary eyes. “But you’re probably right. I’ll give him another fortnight.”
Sperling nodded. “Spend some time with your wife, sir. At least make things appear normal.”
Edric glanced at him with his violet eye. Sperling resisted looking away.
“Speaking of which,” Edric said, suppressing a smile. “I hear we have a situation regarding the cart carrying my wife’s belongings.”
Sperling frowned. “Dangerous business traveling these days.”
“More dangerous when my beloved loses her entire dowry and then some in one swift move.”
“Good thing you took robbery into consideration beforehand, sir.”
“Good thing, indeed. She’ll still be unhappy, but not quite so much when she starts unpacking.”
Sperling laughed, a deep, raspy sound buried in his lungs. “Good, sir. Now, if it pleases you, I’ve got some things to tend to before the day is up.” Sperling bowed and headed toward the stables, relieved to escape his master’s stare.
Edric looked up into the sky and smiled, guessing he’d frightened Sperling away. He hoped his man was right and a fortnight would not be too late.
After resting and eating, Philippa spent the afternoon exploring the house and grounds near the manor to distract herself from thoughts of her missing trunks. Edric owned quite a bit of land and she wished to survey her new domain. She’d lived in the same household for nine years and the jolt of switching to new territory both exhilarated and overwhelmed her. After a swift check of the interior, she realized she had a lot of work ahead of her. Edric had barely furnished the private chambers, and he did not seem to own any items for special occasions. Fortunately, her dowry traveled with her along with all the things she’d inherited and acquired before and after her first husband’s death. Or, at least, she hoped she still had those things. Hawis immediately deferred to Philippa. In fact, she seemed relieved to have a woman running the house.
They did eat early as Edric promised. He’d greeted Philippa but other than that didn’t seem to notice her while he stuffed boiled meat and cabbage into his mouth. She ate quietly, sweeping her eyes over and over the bare walls, imagining what they might talk about or what songs they might sing or tales they might tell if Edric ever stopped eating. She had a sinking feeling she’d be alone after they ate so she thought of activities she might do then.
“Did you tour the house and grounds?” Edric said, wiping his mouth on his sleeve.
“Just the house.” Philippa sighed. “I have a lot of work to do.” Inside, her heart danced at the thought of transforming the cold interior into a welcoming abode.
“What do you think of Wolf Manor?”
“Is that what you call it?”
“Do you think it suits?”
Philippa thought of the tall grass in back waving with the breeze, the large ash tree with its boughs reaching out with shade, and the wildflowers crawling around the manor. “Not at all.”
Edric sat back in his chair and examined her. “Why don’t you like it?”
“It’s too menacing. The environment is friendly, not foreboding as one would think with such a name.”
“You don’t see the charcoal exterior as forbidding?”
“Houses burn sometimes. It’s hardly an omen.”
The thin brow over Edric’s violet eye crooked up in an almost perfect ‘V.’ “I assume you say that knowing the stories surrounding this haunt?”
Philippa shrugged. “It was still just a fire.” She saw the flames consuming her barn in her mind’s eye. Just another fire.
Satisfied, Edric licked his lips. “Perhaps it’s called Wolf Manor on purpose then. To ward off intruders.”
“Or to sound masculine and heroic.”
Edric smirked. “What do you say to a proper tour of these masculine and heroic grounds tomorrow?”
“I’d like that very much.” Philippa’s eyes sparkled.
“Good. We can do that once you’ve had time to unpack.”
Philippa’s head shot up. Edric smiled, and scooped up the last of his meat. “You didn’t think I’d allow all of your personal effects to just vanish into thin air, did you?”
Philippa grinned, crossed the length of the table and fell into his lap. He looked surprised at first then tightened his arms around her waist. “How did you save our belongings?”
Edric shrugged. “Simple. The cart sent ahead of us carried some old trunks filled with rocks and dirt. The real cart stocked with your most valued possessions was carried a little later and by a different way. I’m afraid this doesn’t help with your trinkets.” His eyes glinted. “I suppose I could hunt the thieves down and hope they haven’t pawned them off yet.”
“I don’t even miss them – the jewels, I mean.”
“Ah…so you did fancy the charming outlaw. I thought as much.”
“No, you’re wrong. I preferred the archer.” She swung her head, gold tendrils falling around her neck. “The fact that he stood his ground with your witching stare impressed me.”
Edric followed the curve of her cheekbone with a finger, tapping the point of her chin. He pinched it between his fingers, sinking his lips into Philippa’s.
“I’m still keeping my bow beside the bed,” Philippa said, pressing her hand against his mouth. “I’m used to having it on hand. I feel safer that way.” She had started keeping it in her room after receiving threatening letters once her husband died.
Edric kissed her fingertips. “Then we’ll both be ready for attack. I keep a blade in arm’s reach at all times.” He pulled up his bunched tunic, exposing a dagger tucked into his belt.
“You’re always well-armed.”
Philippa narrowed her eyes. She got the feeling he was more well-prepared for the inevitable. She just didn’t know why he would be waiting for a fight. They locked foreheads, Philippa shifting her gaze from his green eye to his violet eye.
“I think I’ve bewitched you enough.” Edric pushed Philippa off his lap, grabbing her hands and dragging her to their chamber.
Philippa awoke in the middle of the night with a start. She held her breath listening, but all she heard was Edric’s breath in her ear. She glanced in the direction of her bow, not even able to make out the silhouette and shut her eyes again. The barn burning and the robbery had just set her on edge. She focused on Edric’s breathing, his body resting next to her. Then she thought of the dagger in his belt and the knife he’d slipped under his pillow. Maybe he wasn’t resting as comfortably as he sounded.
To enter and win your ebook copy of Jester’s, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a comment with the following info:
- Your answer
- And preferred ebook format: Kindle, EPUB, or PDF
Everyone who answers correctly, wins!
Thanks to everyone who participated this week! It’s been fun and I hope you all enjoyed it too. Happy reading!