Hello, gorgeous! September seems to be a popular month for blog tour stops. This has been an exciting couple weeks of meeting new authors, so I’m here to introduce you to another one! Meet L. Blankenship, author of Disciple. Today’s post is an excerpt from Blankenship’s latest novel, so sit back and enjoy!
Kate fought for her place as a healer in the war’s front lines. Serving her homeland has been her goal since her magical gifts earned her a coveted apprenticeship with the kingdom’s greatest healer. She believes she’s prepared.
But nothing’s simple when defending a besieged capital city — or her heart.
She loves the prince, who means to protect her even though his duties as a knight keep him on the battlements, fighting the enemy’s monstrous army.
Kate’s husband is the one who checks on her, lingers over dinner, and slowly but surely charms her. She’s all too aware that her beloved prince threatened to kill him if he touches her.
As the enemy thunders against the city walls, the kingdom needs more from Kate than just her healing magic. All disciples must put aside their tangled feelings and stand in the homeland’s defense.
Kate believed she’s ready for a war. She isn’t.
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Excerpt from Disciple, Part III
(Final preparations for the war are underway, and Saint Aleksandr has been tutoring Anders on shape-shifting. They were waiting for Kate to arrive before Anders tries it again.)
“Horse-sense,” Saint Aleks said. “Will you try smell, or hearing?”
Anders stroked Nipper’s neck, close by his head. “Hearing. It’s coming easier to me now.”
“That would be interesting,” I agreed.
The horse’s ears twitched, as if uncertain about this. Anders’ hand slowed in its petting and his eyes closed as he focused his attention. I felt a faint ripple as his kir twisted into a charm. The little knot wasn’t strong enough for me to pinpoint, but I knew it was nearby. Curious, I wished I could touch his hand and see its structure, but it would be rude to interrupt.
Saint Aleksandr leaned close to my ear and whispered, “Whatever happens, don’t laugh. He likely doesn’t know.”
That piqued my curiosity even further. Being so close, I felt a tiny echo as Anders called Nipper’s kir-patterns and the horse shifted, puffed out a breath. Small movement tugged my eyes back to Anders’ ear, and the bit of a point developing at the top. I drew a sharp breath and held it. The point lengthened and his ear cupped around into a leaf shape, just like Nipper’s. Even acquired a bit of velvety grey dapple, I could see when it swiveled outward.
I covered my open-mouthed grin with my hand, and was glad I did because he opened his eyes. Fighting the grin down wasn’t easy, but I twisted it into a pursed mouth and tried to look skeptical.
Anders tipped his head, ears twitching again. “Quit gossiping and get back to work, you two!”
The stable boys’ shoveling re-started, at the other end of the barn.
“Is it well knotted?” Saint Aleks asked. “Not trying to unravel?”
Anders nodded. “I found another place to tie it to me, last I tried this. Seems sturdier now.”
Saint Aleks nodded and reached, silently asking. Anders took his hand from Nipper to clasp the saint’s and have his work checked.
“Good. Very good, after only — half a dozen tries? See what you’ve done.” The saint put fingers to his own ear.
Anders did the same, and laughed. I finally let the giggle burble up and covered my mouth with my palm to hide it. Pointing at me, he said, “You were hiding something, I knew. Shit, these really are horse ears.” He covered both with his hands.
“They’re even grey,” I said. And looked soft as Nipper’s.
He shot his horse a sidelong glare. “How is it I didn’t notice?”
“Because they are correct. When the charm is true and well rooted, the form is as the function requires. Thus, there is nothing unnatural about it. Remember how they feel, the acuity and the sense of location. Those will help you shape the charm without the horse for reference.”
Anders lowered his hands and let the ears track for a moment, listening.
I had a sudden urge to touch them, but fought it back. I whispered, “How far can you hear?”
He whispered too. “The guards in the gatehouse are talking, but I can’t make out the words. Two in the house. One’s watching the approach, I think. That must be his boots on the stone. The shovels scraping are loud. And I know just where all the horses are in their stalls.”
The gatehouse was outside and across thirty feet or so of space. As it was a nice day, the gatehouse door stood open when the guards were inside.
“If he masters the smelling as well, will he have a horse’s nose?” I asked.
Saint Aleks nodded. “Add the eyes and the teeth and he’ll be a horse-minotaur. The sum of a creature is more than its parts, but one must master the parts. It may look strange — shape-shifting is a less common skill, as kir goes — but it’s a fine road to take.”