As promised, a snippet.
High Priest Felix d’Artion, everybody
The Hollow Living – Sample
Copyright Sarah Carraway 2013
Felix crunched snow angrily underneath his boots as he left through the kitchen entrance of the castle, his fine cape dragging the surface of the wet earth and ruining the fine velvet. He had been in such a hurry to get some fresh air that he had nearly thrown away every precaution, including gloves. He now walked with his hands stuffed into his jerkin, trying to keep warm but afraid to go retrieve a pair of gloves from his room for fear that Pharun would be there, ready with an apology that would somehow make Felix forgive him. Or, worse, he would have no apology at all. He would only have a smile and a candid manner that would leave Felix feeling like he was the boorish, irrational one.
Not now, he couldn’t put up with it. He had to take a few moments of air and stewed in his justified anger as a swollen purple bruise blossomed across his jar like a grotesque bloom.
The servants avoided him. Ever since he had arrived at the castle, the only servant who had dared address him was Jhauril. Even thinking about Pharun’s personal servant made Felix’s blood boil. Jhauril. There was someone he hated more than most people in the wretched country combined. That horrible little spiteful orcblood guttersnipe…!
“Felix, I’m glad to have found you,”
“Guttersnipe!” Felix exclaimed aloud, not even entirely sure of to whom he was talking. He reached out, as if blind, and gripped the coat of the person in front of them. He touched fur and velvet, a combination that could have adorned the chest of anyone.
“That is how my father would address me, in my younger days.” Meridith said. He was tall enough that he had to look down at the priest. “How did you know?”
Felix blushed hotly, releasing the baron’s coat and falling back a pace, just enough to put some room in between them. “Of course I didn’t, forgive me; I am not myself at the moment.”
“It looks like I’m not the only body you have run into today,” Meridith touched the bruise on Felix’s jaw and watched him wince. “You might want to watch where you are going, sir.”
“I will bear that in mind,” Felix felt his patience getting shorter with each passing moment. “To what may I attribute your address, your lordship?”
“We had some slaves arrive at the gate today that are up for sale. I noticed your lack of a personal man…”
“Thank you,” Felix’s reply was cold, clipped. “I have no need of a personal slave.”
“I think you would find a personal man very liberating,” Meridith said. “It would relieve you of the bulk of Jhauril’s services, at least when Pharun isn’t around… which seems to be often, these days.”
Felix licked his lips. The offer was more than tempting. “I don’t have the money…”
“Oh, I’m certain Pharun would be happy to pay your bill.” Meridith took Felix’s hand insistently. “You need someone here who is in your corner, someone not involved in this political mess that can give you companionship.”
Felix sighed, allowing himself to be led out to the courtyard. “I’m not making any promises. I seem to be growing less and less fond of people and doubt I could find someone I am willing to tolerate.”
Meridith ignored him. When they arrived in the courtyard Felix could see the slavers standing close by the gate accepting refreshment from the castle servants. The master of house, the head servant who was in charge of all the slaves as well as the other servants, was busy making selections and arguing prices with one of their number. Felix had attended a few slave auctions in his lifetime, but he generally did not care for them and would have no idea how to pick a good one if his life depended on it.
However, this situation was already entirely different from an auction. For instance, no one was shouting prices in his ear while he tried to move through a crowd in order to get to the other side and buy some bread. This was more intimate, and the slaves were of far better quality. They were clean and their hair had been brushed and braided. Some were perfumed, a few had their faces painted – their market was clear.
Felix found his eyes wandering over the line of slaves towards a particular boy at the end. Most of the slaves had dark hair and pale skin, save for this one. He had skin that was just a few shades paler than Felix’s, and his hair was of the same color. Felix walked down the line until he was standing right in front of the boy, who had his head down. Having no idea of how to handle the situation, Felix found himself saying, “Hello there”.
The boy’s head rose slowly, and Felix could see his eyes were blue. Their gazes met very briefly, and recognition flashed across the boy’s face before he dropped his head again.
Felix knew he had seen the child before. He racked his brain as he grabbed the boy’s chin and lifted it again, staring at him, trying to remember.
“What is your name?” he demanded.
The boy licked his lips and whispered, “Sterling.”