Sunday, December 22, 2013

Michelle Franklin's Tales from Frewen, Volume 2 - Excerpt and {Giveaway}

Read-Along: The Rat, Pt. 6

The cat charged, knocking the empty dish rack over, and out skittered the rat from the shadows, its leg wounded, its countenance vicious and unseemly, its hide matted, its ears crumpled, its teeth protruding. It hastened toward the giant, divagating as it ran, its injured leg making it impossible to run straight. The cat leapt after it, biting and clawing, the rat shrieked and swiped. It tried to run into the storeroom, but the cat caught it by the tail and, with a jolt, flung it into the air. It wriggled and turned, trying to right itself, that it might land on its feet, but the black metal of Rautu's blade flashed, the sword came down, and as edge of the sword touched the ground, the body of the rat fell one way, and the head another. The terrifying and ferocious creature was no more, lying dead at Martje's feet, and she nearly danced in triumph.

"Ha, ye bastard!" Martje exclaimed, in a fever of maniacal glee. "That's you done in, and you're sure never comin' back!" and it was under this charm of a resounding victory that she turned to the giant, nodded to him, and even smiled at him.

Never a friend to the cook, Rautu was horrified by her sudden admiration. He stepped back from her, in dread of her possibly embracing him, picked up the rat's body by the tail, bid Khaasta to take the head as a prize, and said, "Your rat is dead. The Tyfferym dark, Mhojhudenri."

"Aye, aye, a'right, monster," she humphed. "I'll bring it to you. Make the cat go outside with the head if he wants it, and don't touch anythin' with what you got in your hand."

The slab of Tyfferim dark was brought, Rautu accepted it with mild complacence, and as Martje handed it over, she said, "And remember, monster: you're not tellin' anyone I asked you for help and that's that."

"I do not need to tell anyone," said the giant, plucking the chocolate from her hands. He tucked the chocolate into his belt. "Your mate already knows."

Martje's nose curled and her brow furrowed. "How's that?"

Rautu pointed toward the yeoman's quarter entrance, and there, standing at the top of the steps, was Shayne, watching his wife, smiling to himself, and shaking his head.

"There's nothin' wrong with askin' for help, Martje," said Shayne, approaching her.

"Sure there is," Martje snuffed. "You don't mind askin' Tomas for help 'cause he's your partner and all--"

"But you gotta lower yourself and condescend and that to ask your enemy for help. I know. A real terrible thing, asking people for help. Then you gotta thank 'em for doin' the job right."

Shayne raised a brow and gave Martje a wry look, and Martje pouted and turned aside.

"I ain't thankin' the monster for nothin'. He got his chocolate outta me. He don't need nothin' else."

However pleased the giant was with his prize, he was still more gratified in Martje's capitulation. Watching her struggling against herself to surrender her integrity, lay by all reservations, and entreat him to help was all his sagacious elation. He grinned in spite of himself and marched outside, calling for Khaasta to join him, and he walked into the far field, glad that someone had seen Martje's concession, and wondering where on his heap of pelts his new prize should go.

Martje glunched and stamped her foot. It was unfair that the giant had got his way, but there was nothing to be done for it now, and Shayne was coming to embrace her and console her, and she must learn to forget that she ever conceded to ask for the giant for help, though he had performed his office so well.

"'Mon," said Shayne, in a soft accent, "let's clean up and get the tea made. I'm starvin' somethin' terrible."

"Aye," Martje moped.

Shayne touched his wife's shoulder and rubbed the top of her back. "There, there, aye? Wasn't so terrible to ask him, was it? He's not the mallacht, Martje."

This was a point to be vehemently refuted, but just then, Gaumhin and Brigdan entered from the field, the former carrying his Westren osprey, and the latter with his goshawk sitting on his shoulder.

"Oh, is it caught, then?" said Brigdan, glancing round the kitchen. "We were going to let our birds have some sport with it."

"Aye," said Gaumhin. "Mah gurl's been gaggin' for a hunt these few daes, aye? Sittin' in the mews, a-botherin' everaebodae."

"Aye, it's finished," said Shayne. "Den Asaan just walked out with it."

Martje's stared at her husband, her lips pursed, her expression furious, and Shayne looked repentant and made a nervous laugh.

"I suppose it is to be a secret as to who killed the rat," said Brigdan, smiling. "Very well. Gaumhin and I will promise not to say anything," but the damage had been done, for someone now knew that the giant had been allowed to kill it, and Martje sulked and went to the tea board, grumbling about how careless and useless husbands were.

"Think I'm sleepin' in the stables th'night," said Shayne.

"They are not so uncomfortable, master smith," said Brigdan. "You might find the hay loft very pleasant indeed. Vyrdin used to sleep there himself betimes when he was just training his horse. You might make a friend or two while there."

Shayne glanced at Martje, and then behind a raised hand, he whispered, "Don't mean no offense by it, but sleeping beside the nags'll be more peaceful than sleepin' beside the nagger."

"What's that, Shayne?" said Martje, in a sharp tone.

"Oh," Shayne hemmed, "nothin', Martje."

"Aye, sure thought so."

Brigdan and Gaumhin stifled a laugh, and Shayne stepped toward the basin and away from his wife.

"Does His Majesty know that the rat been killed?" Brigdan asked.

"Don't think so," said Shayne.

"I will gladly inform him, My Lord Regent," said Dobhin, who was passing in the hallway behind them.

Dobhin was on his way to the tailor and was walking beside Pastaddams, who was looking rather displeased, for the tailor had undergone a most frightful time with the baize that Her Majesty wanted, had seen some very horrible costumes at the Royal Theatre, and was very ready to sit at his sewing table and grumble to himself about the wrongs of the fashionable world.

"Absolute frights, every one of them," said Pastaddams, marching toward the tailor, speaking more to himself than he was to Dobhin. "How can they possibly think it acceptable to put that much frill at the bottom of so short a dress? What a job they have done, making themselves look ridiculous."

"Quite right, sir," said Dobhin, as they came to the tailor door. "I don't know what they would be at. Some of those colours were atrocious--"

"No, don't talk of it," Pastaddams cried, suddenly overcome, sinking under the power of his disgust. "Don't talk of it, Commander, I beg you." He passed a hand over his eyes and looked vexed. "It is too painful to consider that someone would dare sew puce next to evergreen."

"Indeed, sir. Quite a horror."

"Indeed it is. Such a mockery of hues, such a waste of fabrics--" The tailor stopped, closed his eyes, and inhaled. "I must stop thinking about it or I shall go mad. My needle and patterns will calm me."

He opened the door to the tailor, and where Dobhin entertained a hope of their catching the Majesties in the throes of violent passion, the king and queen were standing at the centre of the room, Alasdair adjusting his new jerkin, and Carrigh standing behind him.

"Oh, Your Majesty," said Pastaddams, with a polite bow to the king. "I see Her Majesty has finished the alterations. What an exquisite design it is, isn't it, Your Majesty?"

"It is a beautiful piece," Alasdair heartily agreed, looking down at his chest and passing his hand over the embroidery. "Did you see Carrigh's matching bodice? Here, my darling, show him."

He stood aside, brought Carrigh forward, and drew her to his side to show how their matching pieces fit together, the pattern at Alasdair's waist continuing at his wife's.

"It is uncommonly lovely, Your Majesty. And such a welcome sight after what I've seen just now. Puce and evergreen together. Would you believe it? I should not, if I were you, for I never thought any tailor in Frewyn capable of making such a blemish, a stain, a disgrace. Such scandalous pieces as never I saw..."

Pastaddams went on in the same style, drawing Carrigh's attention and leaving Alasdair to sidle Dobhin and say, in a whisper, "Were you hoping to catch us again?"

"Of course, Brennin," said Dobhin, with a wry smile. "I should have knocked if I didn't mean to catch you."

Alasdair gave him a flat look, and Dobhin was all sagacious self-assurance.

"I thought you should know, Brennin," said Dobhin presently, "that the rat has been caught and killed."

"That is a relief," Alasdair sighed. "Now we might all eat in peace again knowing that nothing has been gnawed on or walked over. And," colouring and looking demure, "I suppose I should thank you for detaining Pastaddams."

"No need to thank me, Brennin. It was frightfully easy. The man talks on forever about fabric and thread count. When I told him that the Frewyn Players just received their new costumes from a rival tailor, he demanded that we visit the theatre directly, that he might tell them all how shabby they look and see how shoddily the costumes were done. He was there above an hour, decrying the poor seams and slatternly hems and contemptible materials. I do believe he enjoyed it, despite how heated he is about it now, and I think he means to make them all new costumes. He says it would be an outrage to allow them to perform in such a scandalous wreck."

Alasdair smiled and studied Pastaddams in the height of his passion, raving about mismatched colours and the excessive use of sequins, which was always an unforgiveable offense, and wondered that the poor tailor did not contrive to have the creator of such unpardonable horrors assassinated at once. "I think he might be at this for some time," Alasdair smiled.

"Perhaps we should leave them to themselves and see how the Den Asaan is getting on with his new ornament."

Alasdair looked bemused. "Rautu killed it?"

"I saw him walking with its body slung over his shoulder as we came in from the theatre. He was looking rather pleased with himself."

"He must have done something to make Martje angry if you saw him smiling."

This was eagerly agreed to, and as Dobhin excused himself and turned into the hallway, the call for afternoon tea was made. Searle came, in all his anxious solicitation, to tell the king that the rat was gone, that the kitchen cleaned, and that toast on table.

"We'll be there shortly. Thank you, Searle," said Alasdair, and as everyone began to congregate in the kitchen, Alasdair thought to himself that he never had a morning more agreeably spent, and wondered if another rat could not be found, that he might be prevailed upon to suspend proceedings for the afternoon session in favour of spending a few more hours locked away in the tailor with his lovely wife.

About the book
Featuring appearances from thirty of the Haanta series' most beloved characters, Tales from Frewyn Volume Two pays tribute to the animals that inhabit the world of the Two Continents. From Mr Cluck, the rooster that refuses to crow, to Tuatha, the stubborn Westren longhorn, the series boasts a multitude of strange and wonderful creatures, including traveling mice, mischievous mares, vicious rats, and eloquent gulls. Join everyone in Khantara Ghaasta, the Diras Castle keep, and the far reaches of Westren and Haantaledhran in honouring their feathered companions and furred friends with this collection of their most daring and delightful episodes.

Buy the book at: Amazon | Barnes and Noble | iTunes | Smashwords

About the author 
Michelle Franklin is a small woman of moderate consequence who writes many, many books about giants, romance, and chocolate.

Follow the author at: Website | Facebook | Twitter

Giveaway is open internationally and ends on December 25, 2013. Winning entry will be verified prior to prize being awarded. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 or older to enter or have your parent enter for you. The winner will be chosen randomly via Rafflecopter and announced on the widget as well as emailed; they will have 48 hours to respond. Failure to respond will result in a new winner being selected. This giveaway is in no way associated with Facebook, Twitter, Rafflecopter, or any other entity unless otherwise specified. Number of eligible entries received determines odds of winning. Giveaway was organized by Paper Crane Books and sponsored by both the press and the author. Void where prohibited by law.

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  1. I loved this thank you.

  2. I enjoyed the excerpt and would love to learn more! I only wish I'd learned of this at book one.

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