When I'm too tired to revise properly, I've been playing with my new book. It's called the The Exiled Elf Prince. Ashetan, as he will be soon named, and Ereq, his reluctant ally, already have wormed their way into my heart. For fun, I thought I'd throw up the first couple of pages here.
Bitter sand filled the elf’s mouth. He couldn’t lift his newly-shorn head, so he tongued aside his grainy meal. More sand bit into the raw place on his chest, and he forced himself onto his back to face the full assault of the sun. It beat down as if it craved his flesh as fuel.
The world was impossibly bright. He slitted his eyes open, letting his long, white lashes give what meager shade they would, and he looked up into the most immense span of sky he’d ever seen. It was his impetus to stir. He drew his body painfully upright, and, still squinting, looked first one way and then the other. Windswept sand rolled from him in every direction, cresting into hills and dropping into valleys. He sniffed, but found nothing. Water was either too deep to smell, or the Spelltakers had stolen his heightened senses as well. Instant vulnerability wrapped him like his missing cloak, putting a cold fear into his heart not even the relentless sun could warm.
With his gaze on the heat-obscured horizon, one of his hands scrabbled at his belt and found his bone knife. He didn’t like to admit his relief that as custom decreed, he’d been given one weapon. After all, this punishment was not about death. Next to exile, death could hardly be considered punishment to a dishonored immortal.
Still, he thought ruefully, what is one blade against whatever vile creatures scrape life from this barren land? Distance was the greatest, most effective defense, but he’d been given no bow. Perhaps, then, the enemies of his father did wish him to die.
“Perhaps, then,” he said, his voice as small as a star in the sky, “This place will soon fulfill their wish.”
He rolled over onto his knees, knelt for a moment to honor the overwhelming intensity of the sun, and pushed himself to his feet. Generally possessed of a loping, easy stride, he stumbled slowly into his new life.
There was little to see but the dizzying immensity of sand. He didn’t lift his head as he walked. Instead, he put his gaze on his bare feet. With every step he sank past the hot veneer of sand into cooler depths, and though the grains agonized his scraped and beaten soles, he waded onward.
Because his eyes were on his feet and his mind on his various hurts, he did not sense the snake until he had almost stepped on it. The sleepy, golden ribbon, nearly invisible against the sand, lifted its head. Dual lids slid back to reveal flat, soulless eyes.
“I be friend,” the elf whispered. “Or at least not adversary.”
The snake’s black tongue flicked in response. The elf tried not to flinch, which he sensed the snake would regard as invitation to strike, but stood his ground. The ploy didn’t work. As quick as the undertow beneath the winter surf at King’s Cliff, the snake cut the distance between them.
Just as quick, the elf leapt back. But the sand slowed him the fraction to give gain to the snake. Its fangs sank into the elf’s ankle, and he cried out as fresh, sharp agony filled his veins. He grasped the clinging snake and ripped it from the wound, crying out again. His thin voice did not return to him from the hot air.
This is rough, but does it make you want to read on?