a sample of today’s writing:
Lucia looked contemplatively at him for a moment, and then dipped a hand into her saddlebag, coming up a moment later with a glass jar, sealed at the lid with fabric and twine. She unwound the twine and lifted off the fabric. “Hold out your hand, Highness,” she said.
“Just Daniel,” he sighed, for what felt like the thousandth time, but extended a hand toward her, palm up. She took his wrist in one hand, as if to steady it, and then tapped a small palmful of the jar’s contents into his hand.
The jar, apparently, held a dark, moist earth, the color of brewed coffee. It smelled fresh, not dank like the soil he sometimes smelled in the palace greenhouses. “Close your hand around it,” Lucia instructed, and he did so, folding his fingers in and feeling the earth shift and deepen into his skin. It felt cool, but warmed as he held it, and after a moment he began to feel almost a pulsing in it, not his own heartbeat, but something different. He snapped his gaze up to Lucia, and found her smiling at him. “As I said,” she said, “it takes on a life of its own.”
She took a small handkerchief from her bag and held it out to him, and he carefully tipped the palmful of earth into its center. As he watched, she took one of the herb bunches she’d tied together and set it atop the pile of soil, then gathered the edges of the handkerchief together and bound it at the base of the bundle with wax thread. “There,” she said, and handed it to him.
Daniel blinked at him. “There, what?”
“There you go.” She smiled, but he stared at her in incomprehension.
“I don’t understand.”
Lucia put a hand on the handkerchief. “Think of it as a personalized good-luck charm,” she said. “Thyme for strength and courage, rue for a clear vision of the road ahead, horehound for health, aloe for protection and healing. All pressed to the earth of your love’s birthplace, held in her hands and in yours, and wrapped in her favor.”
Daniel looked down at it, touching the fabric of the handkerchief. Sure enough, a stylized E was embroidered onto one corner of the soft white fabric. “Thank you,” he said, feeling oddly touched.
Lucia chuckled, patting his harm fondly. “There’s no need to thank me,” she said. “It’s quite to my advantage that you be protected, Your Highness. Those Lada girls are the light of my heart. My Ella was quite taken with you, though she might have a bit of competition from her niece—Isi seems to like you.”
“She’s four,” he laughed.
“She comes from a long line of very affectionate ladies,” Lucia said, her dark eyes twinkling with amusement. “Fortunately, she also has a fairly short span of attention. She’ll move on to her next suitor fairly soon. This time last week, it was the baker in Castle Farthing when he gave her a frosted pastry.”
Daniel raised an amused brow. “Really?”
“Mm. She was quite convinced they’d be married. Raya had to gently remind her that she was a touch young for it.” Lucia smiled, but there was a hint of sadness to it. “I worry that we have quite a journey ahead,” she said softly, looking off into the distance, toward the mountain trail that would take them across the border and into Dolonde. “And I don’t know what we’ll find at its end.”
He glanced sharply at her. “You think they’ll be hurt?”
“I don’t know,” she said. “I raised a pair of fighters, for all they’ve both got Michaela’s heart and Raul’s mind. And Mistwood gives its daughters strength when they need it.” She looked down at the jar in her hands, and her voice was soft when she spoke again. “But they’re such a long, long way from home.”