Today I have the wonderful opportunity to post a excerpt from the book On the Wheel by. I hope everyone enjoys! I appreciate being able to post this. Thank You Timandra for this opportunity!
On the Wheel
is out TODAY!
So go grab a copy!
ON THE WHEEL
by Timandra Whitecastle
The Merlin was a slender boat, fitted to sit ten people as rowing passengers, or fewer rowers but many crates and boxes of cargo. Nora overtook Owen and swam the last few meters toward the dark hull with burning arms, watching as Diaz threw his bundle with his swords over the side and hoisted himself over gracefully. He started moving toward Bashan, who sat, tiller in hand, grinning like a child about to be served cake.
“You stole the boat?” Diaz’s voice was rough, the jagged edges more pronounced than usual.
Nora’s heart fluttered. Diaz’s voice betrayed his emotions, and he was angry. Good. She swam alongside the boat and reached up to grasp the side. It was dry with salt, and she slipped back into the black water, cursing softly.
“I borrowed the boat,” Bashan explained. “I left the fisherman a gold piece where his boat stood. And when we’re on the other side, in Woodston, I’ll have someone take it back to him. In effect, I paid a lot more than I would have.”
“You stole the boat,” Diaz repeated. He then straightened as though remembering something, backed up, and stretched out a hand to Nora. She ignored it and scrabbled on board without his fucking help, thank you very much, groaning at the effort but biting her tongue. “And you took it without the mast?” Diaz asked. “Can you even sail? Can anyone of us?”
“Garreth’s worked on a boat before.”
Diaz turned his stare on Garreth, who was wrapped in a large fur, wriggling out of his wet trousers.
“That I have,” the old warrior admitted over his shoulder, buttocks white and sagging like the moon.
“And? What about currents and tidal changes? Do you know about them? And sandbanks?” Diaz’s eyebrows rose higher as he spoke. He turned back to Bashan. “How do you expect us to ever reach Woodston in one piece?”
“The boat’s got oars, Telen,” Bashan huffed. He turned his face into the wind from the open ocean, and his black hair whipped across his face. “We don’t need to know how to sail, or even need a mast. It’s two, maybe three miles across the sea to Woodston. We’ll row.”
“Two or three miles? In the dark?”
Nora chuckled. Someone else was being reckless for once.
Bashan turned back to grace Diaz with a scowl. He pointed past the boat’s prow. In the dark night, tiny orange specks of light gleamed on the opposite shore, lights still on in the streets and houses of Woodston.
“We know where we’re heading. Woodston’s right there. And we’ll be there in a few hours. Tomorrow we’ll have a full day’s rest in clean beds before we carry on to the Temple of the Wind. How does that sound?”
From the corner of her eye, Nora saw Diaz’s jawline tense. He raised his fists as though he’d march over to the tiller and punch Bashan or at least shake him hard. Nora held her breath, eyes straying to see what would happen while extending a helping hand to Owen, who passed her his bundle of books first. Her chest tightened as she looked over at the half-wight. Diaz opened his hands and clapped them over his face instead, steepling them over the bridge of his nose as though battling an oncoming headache.
“One cannot judge a man by actions alone,” he muttered to himself. He stalked over to one of the long benches, threw down his bundle, and sat to row, gripping the oar hard. Garreth had stripped of his sodden clothes and was pulling on a dry woolen shirt. He had stopped—bare midriff and all—to see how the argument between Bashan and Diaz would play out, but now he simply grunted and took his seat on the bench to the other side of Diaz.
“We’ll have an even draw,” was all the old warrior said.
Diaz’s face was unreadable. “Nora can rest in the prow while Shade and Owen row behind us.” He said it levelly, staring past Bashan’s grin.
“I am not resting.” Nora butted in. “I can row just as hard as Owen can.”
“Probably better,” Owen added.
“Probably.” Nora narrowed her eyes at her twin, who shrugged as if to say it was worth a try. He wanted to curl up in the high prow and read by the light of the small lantern that hung there. She could see it in the way he stroked the parcel in his hands.
“Just do as you’re told for once.” Bashan cut her short. “It’s bad luck to have women on board anyway. Ancient nautical wisdom, that. So shut up, and sit down.”
She did no such thing, but shoved her chin forward a little more and offered Shade a hand up alongside Owen. Bad luck, pah.
After about an hour, though, it turned out she was good luck, as they were in need of an extra rower. Shade, the desert’s son, was seasick, retching noisily over the side, feeding the fish. So Nora sat on his vacated bench behind Diaz and clutched the oar, pulling in time with the half-wight’s strong strokes. Exhaustion hungered to take her in its grip—it had been a long day—but like when tending the charcoal, she was kept awake by the exertion burning in her muscles. And heave. Night held them tight, and with it came the cold that whispered of the nearing winter. The chill bit her cheeks. The warmth of the last golden autumn days was nearly spent, and Nora’s breath rose before her like a mist. And heave. She kept her eyes to the front, fixed on the sinewy muscles lining Diaz’s back, outlined by the glow of the lantern, watching them work with gritted teeth. Not that his back was hard to look upon, but in her mind’s eye she saw Suranna’s hands caressing Diaz’s neck, sliding down to his shoulders, leaving red grazes when she scratched her nails down his back in possession. Nora closed her eyes against a different kind of burning sensation. And heave.
The sea wasn’t very rough. There was but little sound, except the water’s gentle lapping against the hull, the roll and splash of the oars, and the occasional gargle or moan from the prow where Shade lay huddled in his misery. Salt lined the air and crusted the creaking wood, though the oars were polished smooth by years of handling. And heave. Nora kept hold of that thought: how long was an average oar used? Did it depend on the kind of wood? On its durability? How capable the wood was of handling the strain of the rowing work and the corrosion of the saltwater? What kind of wood would it be? Oak for hardiness? She imagined she felt the gnarly grain of oak under her hands like the veins of a live thing, and while she had to stare at Diaz’s back, it helped to think of oak…yeah, oak, and not sex. It must help, right? Gods, please let it help. Just a little. And heave—
Diaz jerked his head to the side.
“Did you hear that?” he asked no one in particular.
Bashan straightened at the tiller. “Hear what?”
The rhythmic beat of the oars broke. Diaz paused his rowing and stared out across the blackness. Garreth glanced around, looking for potential threats. But there was only the sea and its soft licks as their oars ceased.
“Other boats following us?” Bashan asked, rubbing his eyes with a fist.
“If other boats were following us, they’d have surrounded us already.”
That was true, Nora thought. The sea was empty. No fishing boat had launched after them; none sailed over the water under the light of a full moon. Odd.
“It sounded like…a song I remember. From long ago.” Diaz spoke haltingly, soft and low. “How far to Woodston?”
Bashan narrowed his eyes on their destination. Since they had started rowing, the lights of Woodston had grown closer, dwindling in the lateness of the hour, but they still seemed a long way off. It was more than two or three miles, that much was clear. Bashan shrugged.
“No fucking clue,” he said truthfully. “You think the water can carry sound this far?”
Diaz didn’t answer but cocked his head as though listening. So Owen turned on his bench, massaging his neck and shoulders, to give a rough estimate. Nora sat back, spine cricking, shifting her numb butt on the wood. If no one else was rowing, she’d be damned if she would.
“I think,” Owen said, squinting into the dark, “we might need another—”
He gasped and flinched, swaying the boat slightly.
“Holy Father of Light, did you see that?” He pointed into the dark off the side of the boat.
Nora leaned over. “What?”
“There was a face!” Owen’s eyes were wide. “A face in the water.”
The hair on Nora’s forearms rose to meet her brother’s fright.
“You’re just seeing things,” Bashan said sharply.
Diaz rose, careless of the boat’s rocking. He took the swell and compensated, walking over to Owen and Garreth to peer out to where Owen had pointed.
“For fuck’s sake, Telen! Watch it!” Bashan shouted as the boat dipped to the side. “We’re not exactly on land here.”
Nora glanced back at the prince, and for a moment she thought he looked scared. His face was paler than usual, his lips pressed thinner. It occurred to her that maybe for all his princely training, Bashan had never learned to swim. She certainly hadn’t seen him do it. He had already been in the boat. Dry.
She was about to look back to where the commotion was when something bit her on the wrist. She slapped at it in reflex, thinking it a mosquito. But this far out? And it stung more like a wasp. She looked down, expecting to see a small red welt in the moonlight. A slim strand, like a single spider’s thread, lay across her wrist, catching the silver light. As thin as a hair. She reached to pull it off, but it tightened when she picked at it and her fingertips prickled as though nettle-burned. She shook them in the chill breeze, yanking her right hand to tear the slender shackle against the wood, but it held.
The breeze died abruptly, and in the utter silence that rang loudly in their ears, a howling wail erupted, a melancholy, dissonant sound that crawled over the skin and then under it.
“Gjalp,” Diaz breathed.
Owen’s eyes grew even wider. “Gjalp? That means…mermaids, doesn’t it? Neeze’s daughters of the sea?”
Something tugged at the strand insistently, unbalancing Nora. The nonsense of mermaids distracted her. She fumbled for the thin loop, trying to unlatch it from her wrist, but couldn’t. The stinging sensation spread, reaching deep into the flesh of her forearm. She groaned. Another tug, this time a sharp one, had her off her feet, thumping her ribs painfully against the ship’s low hull.
“Neeze wept, Noraya! Stay still!” Bashan commanded as the boat rocked under the impact, making Shade whimper in his corner.
“Can’t,” Nora wheezed and tried standing, fear overridden by anger. “There’s something around—”
Another strong tug, and with a shout of alarm, she toppled over the side of the boat, plunging into the dark cold below.
On the Wheel is out on March 16th, 2017, and you can pre-order it now to make sure you have your copy on the day it’s released. Or for more information around the upcoming release (and the BIG FAT DEAL surrounding it), you can sign up to Timandra’s email list through her website, or follow her on Twitter and Facebook.
On the Wheel by
The wheel turns. And on it, the steel’s blunt edge is ground down to a wickedly sharp blade. Who will wield it?
The blurb for On the Wheel:
Look, Nora, this isn’t about you. We know you’ve had your problems and struggles. We know they aren’t over. But Nora, this isn’t about you. This is more than villages and temples; more than kingdoms and empires. The whole world is at stake.
“But if this isn’t about me, why do I have to deal with it?”
It’s just the way the wheel is turning…
Maybe asking “What is the Living Blade?” is the wrong question. Maybe the question should be “Who?”
Who has it been?
Who will it be?
And besides, Nora, sometimes the very world itself is your problem. To be able to fix yourself, you have to fix the world first, don’t you?
Is the Living Blade real or just a legend?
With it… Prince Bashan could win back his kingdom.
Master Telen Diaz can free himself of the burden from his past.
Owen Smith sees a once-in-a-lifetime chance to gain untold knowledge.
… but for Noraya Smith, the Living Blade will bring nothing but suffering and sorrow.
“Realistic, character-driven fantasy that manages to both sever limbs and warm the heart.” – Kirkus Reviews