Hi everyone – sorry for forgetting to post an update last week.
Winter has really hit hard, now, here in Tasmania. I’m sitting in my library with a duvet around my shoulders as I type.
I’m ploughing on with The Red Queen’s Gambit, the fourth and final installment of Wonderlust. After charging through the first four chapters, it’s been a bit bogged down, but… slow and steady, as they say.
Anyway, enjoy a sample passage:
The great doors opened and they entered. Alyson blinked in surprise.
She had expected that they would be ushered into a huge throne room. Instead, while the room she found herself in was indeed on the large size, it looked more like a bedroom than a throne room. A rather forbidding bedroom, perhaps, but a bedroom all the same.
The walls, floor and ceiling were fashioned from the same black stone as the rest of the castle, but the effect was softened somewhat by rich tapestries of red, gold and black hanging on the wall. Thick rugs were spread on the floor. An enormous four-poster bed, hung with curtains of crimson and black, stood against one wall. Candles burned in sconces and in tall candelabra spaced about the room, filling the room with yellow light. More light danced from the fire that burned in a huge place.
Yet, despite all that, the room scarcely felt warm at all. Alyson felt the warmth of the fire, the rugs shielded her feet from the stone floor, but none of it quite disguised the chill that permeated the room like an icy whisper. She shivered, feeling gooseflesh rise on her arms and legs.
She realized that she could sense the source of the cold as easily as if she closed her eyes and turned her face to the sun. It was the same chill that reached its frigid tentacles through every stone. Right here in this room, she suddenly knew, was the icy heart of the castle.
She was sitting in a huge, throne-like chair near the fire. The high back of the chair almost hid her into deep shadow. Still, Alyson knew her immediately by her crown, its cruel, thorny spikes all a-glitter. Her eyes glittered, too, in the deep shadows of her silhouetted face, although even the light of the fire did nothing to alleviate their frosty glare.
The Queen rose from her seat with the cold gracefulness of winter wind. She was wearing a long gown of red and black silk, worked with motifs of roses entwined with thorns. Her dress had angular, flared shoulders and a high collar that rose behind her head. The neckline plunged down her front, exposing pale white skin and the swell of her surprisingly ample breasts. A belt of gold cinched her tiny waist. Her shining black hair was swept into an elaborate coiffure.
She was exceedingly tall and slender, yet, thought Alyson, cold and hard and brittle, like a stalagmite made of ice.
She stood silently, watching Alyson, while an Arctic silence grew. The only sound was the crackle of the fire.
Finally, the Queen spoke, in a voice like winter.
“Bring her closer.”
Amik nudged Alyson in the back, prodding her forward. Alyson took a few faltering steps forward, until she was standing on a space of the floor where there were no rugs, only bare stone. Amik’s prodding stopped. It seemed that was as far as she was expected to go. Alyson waited in trepidation, shivering a little – although whether from the chill seeping from the stones into her bare feet, or from the Queen’s frigid stare.
“Bind her. Use the spreader bar. Then leave us.”