Hello readers! You may recall I’m raising money through Extra Life to support Seattle Children’s Hospital. It’s an amazing charity event and I’m happy to be involved again.
As an incentive for donating, at the $600 mark, I promised I would release a never-before-seen scene from the sequel to The God Catcher that I didn’t write. Back when the Sundering series was being planned, I was originally asked to pitch a story with a human main character. Being less than a week out from giving birth and missing my Brimstone Angels already, I didn’t have any brilliant new characters in mind. But I did have the main character from my first novel, Lady Tennora Hedare.
I pitched the book. I got partway through an outline before I realized it wasn’t what I wanted to write and I got my tieflings back. But before then, I got stuck enough that I decided to write the following scene to shake things loose. This takes place about seven years after The God Catcher, so some things have definitely changed.
Well north of the earthmote and some moments before its crash, Lady Tennora Hedare poured a pot of tea into three delicate cups, trying to ignore the half-orc stewing in the corner of her sitting room, and calculating how to get her aunt to leave as quickly as possible. Without, she thought, setting the tea pot back down on its trivet, Aunt Aowena realizing she was being rushed out.
“You could go,” the Lady Hedare said to her niece. “I hear the Nandars are throwing a charming little picnic on the near hillside. You might still make it.”
Tennora added a lump of sugar to her tea while she composed herself. Yes, she imagined saying, I’ll go to the earthmote crash. So you should leave.
But the Lady Hedare would ask after her niece, would drop hints to other families that Tennora had enjoyed this or that son’s company. Besides, Tennora didn’t like lying.
“It’s quite a ways,” she said. “I can’t very well ask the earthmote to wait on me. Besides,” she added, bringing the cup to her mouth, “it’s Rhukal’s betrothed throwing the thing. I don’t know her well enough to put her out.”
“Of course,” Aowena all but sighed—the pity all for Lord Rhukal Nandar’s newly unavailable state. She took her cup and shook her head sadly. “And you’d make such a fuss bringing a bodyguard.” She whispered the word as if it were something shameful, and gave Tennora a very pointed look.
Tennora did not have to look over at Veron, standing in the corner, to know he had heard and was pretending he hadn’t. She did not need to look to see the half-orc had almost certainly stiffened at what Aowena had managed to say without saying.
She kept not-looking. If she looked, then Aowena would charge ahead and start saying all sorts of things in as many words. Then Tennora would surely say something biting about how what she did with her life was none of Aowena’s business, and shortly after every noble family in Waterdeep would hear about it, and half of them would cut her out without a second thought.
Luckily, Tennora thought, there are a hundred other things for her to criticize.
“A pity,” she said, cheerfully falling on her sword, “I do think they’d all love my new dress.” She smoothed the skirt of it, a construction of fine, dark blue wool best described in one word: “plain.” The sleeves were snug, the collar modest, and the only ornament a brooch pinned to her hip.
“Do you?” Aowena said. She sipped her tea thoughtfully. “Perhaps we should visit the dressmaker together.”
“Oh I think it’s lovely,” Tennora’s younger cousin piped up eagerly. “And it suits you so—especially the color.” Aowena glared at the girl and she added, “But you could get away with such a more daring style, I suppose?” Lady Siamorphe Hedare was all of fifteen years—sweet, eager, and still utterly guileless. That she’d made it this far without becoming as conniving as her brothers and sister was a small miracle in Tennora’s eyes.
Tennora often wondered if the Lady Hedare had thought through the implications of naming her second daughter after the goddess of nobility—particularly when the Hedares’ title had been purchased off the bad fortunes of a much older family by Tennora’s great-grandfather. “The divine right to rule” could be considered stretched a little thin in their case.
“Well, not too daring,” Aowena said. “The time for flounces and plunging bodices is before your quarter century.” Siamorphe blushed at the mistake.
“Yes, Sia,” Tennora said, fighting to keep the edge in her voice from being too blunt. “After that you’re just an old maid with a sagging figure.”
Veron’s snort of laughter visibly startled the Lady Hedare, whose leap from the settee set both her cup and saucer rattling and her piled ringlets shivering. Veron covered with a cough, but Aowena’s eyes kept darting to the bodyguard in the corner. Tennora plucked a cake from the tray and offered another to Sia.
“I don’t know how you can eat those things.”
“Well I have to prop up my sagging figure somehow,” Tennora replied, and it was worth it to get a smile out of Sia.
“Nor make such sport,” Aowena said. “You are uncomfortably close to thirty and your prospects aren’t getting any better. If you aren’t going to watch the earthmote fall, at least consider heading to one of the clubs after? All sorts of fine young men will be there.”
“I’d hate to show up uninvited.”
“Tennora,” her aunt said sharply, “can you at least pretend you care about your family? Do you want us to go the way of the Khearens and the Mairgreaves?”
“Of course not,” Tennora said mildly. “Such a blessing you have four children to carry on the name of House Hedare.” She sipped her tea. “Not to mention their dozen second or third cousins. There’s no need to worry about our line dying out.”
Aowena folded her hands in her lap, as if she were imagining squeezing her niece’s neck. “And what sort of example are you setting for Siamorphe?” She dropped her voice. “Swanning about on that vulgar woman’s errands, dressed like a dowager and bringing that monster with you as if you were about to be swarmed by barbarians at every corner. Honestly. How much do you think we can ignore? How much do you think your suitors can ignore?”
Tennora narrowed her eyes, and she felt her cheeks flush with temper. She could redirect her aunt’s disapproval to the drapes or the quality of her cook or the fact she’d left her hair unbound. But all the words the Lady Hedare was willing to say would still be boiling in her thoughts. She glanced at Sia, who was staring at her lap as if she wished she might dissolve away. Tennora pursed her mouth and tried to keep the worst words in.
Very deliberately, she picked up her teacup. “I would say that Nazra Mrays is a well-placed member of society, and a very good person to be acquainted with.” With Nazra’s guidance, Tennora had transformed the sum left to her by her parents’ passing into a tidy amount that meant she didn’t have to touch her aunt and uncle’s coin. Though it was also Nazra’s hand that had steered Tennora into a position that necessitated a bodyguard.
“She’s common,” her aunt said.
And a Masked Lord, Tennora added. Oh, how tempting it would be to throw that in Aowena’s face, that the common, vulgar investor was actually one of Waterdeep’s secretive ruling elite. Unfortunately, such things were sacrosanct.
“I would also hope,” she said, her temper abating not a bit, “that Sia dress as is most comfortable and flattering.” She turned to her cousin. “It is a good lesson to learn early that no matter what House Phulbrinter’s girls are donning, use your own eyes. It is never pretty to be hunched over, hiding from your own body. If that means lace and gods’ eyes, enjoy. If it means a sack and breeches, the same.” Sia smiled, her eyes adoring.
“And lastly,” she started, her tongue sharper than a shiv.
“Tennora,” Veron cautioned.
“Lady Tennora!” Aowena cried. Shocked, she turned on her niece. “Are you going to let a servant speak to you like that?”
A crash of crockery came from the kitchens before Tennora could answer. Her attention jerked toward the door to the pantry before her eyes found Veron’s. The cook had gone home for the day, the maid and the doorjack had begged off to watch the earthmote crash. No one was left to dally in the kitchens.
Tennora’s dagger was well concealed by the brooch and the plain dress’s skirts. But as she stood, Veron held up a hand that she should stay, already stalking toward the portal, reaching for his own dagger as he did. Her eyes followed him and stayed on the door that shut behind him, her hands ready to pull the throwing stars she had tucked beneath the cushion beside her.
More crockery crashing to the ground. And an entirely familiar, entirely unwelcome yelp.
Tennora caught herself before she cursed aloud. She turned and gave her aunt and cousin a pleasant smile. “Give me just a moment. Do have a cake.”
She hurried through the pantry to the kitchen beyond and found Veron standing over the shards of an empty milk jug and a spry man with dark eyes and a scar across his chin. The man looked up at Tennora and gave her a wolfish grin.
“Sovann,” Tennora snapped. “Hrast it.”
“Got your carvestars.” He winked at her. “Gonna tell your guard dog to let me up or you want to find them yourself?”
“He fell,” Veron said tersely.
Tennora grabbed the thief by the arm and hauled him to his feet. “How many godsbedamned times do I have to tell you to go by the front door?”
“Maybe once more?” he said cheekily. Tennora shoved him off.
“I’m putting an acid trap in, just for you. Give me the carvestars.”
Sovann took a small, flat package out from his doublet. “Got word for you too,” he said, handing them over. “And I’ll even give it to you free: House Mandarth’s chatelaine’s who you’re looking for.”
Tennora cringed. “Ah, gods. Nazra won’t like that.”
Sovann gave her another wolfish grin. “Ah, duchess, coming from you? Every word’s sweetness.”
Tennora smiled back. “Try these: Get. Out.”
Sia stood in the doorway, holding the sugar pot and staring at Sovann with wide eyes. “I . . . Mother wants to know if you have ground sugar instead of lumps.”
Oh I’ll bet she did, Tennora thought. “Just the lumps.” She glared at Sovann who was giving her cousin an entirely too appraising look. “Thank you for the delivery. I’m sure they’re fine indeed. Would you like to see yourself out, or shall Goodman Angalen escort you?”
Sovann looked up at Veron, with a frozen smile. “I’ll be all right.” He gave both noblewomen a little bow, winked at Veron, and slipped back out the door. Veron shot Tennora a dark look. Not now, she mouthed.
“Come along,” she said to Sia, who was still staring after the absent thief.
“Is that man your lover?” she hissed to Tennora.
“No,” Tennora said shortly. “And I would appreciate your not bringing that notion up to Aunt Aowena.”
“She wouldn’t like him,” Sia agreed. “He’s far too . . . interesting.”
“He’s a cad,” Tennora said. “Put him right out of mind.” Else, she thought, he will get under your skin and it will take a year to realize he’s just amused by the idea of winning a noble girl’s heart.
And the rest of your stlarning life, she thought, steering Sia back into the sitting room, convincing him he never won you at all.
“Everything all right?” Aowena asked.
“A delivery man, come in the wrong door,” Tennora said. All she wanted in that moment was some peace and quiet, and she was never going to get it with Aowena around.
“Do you know,” she said, “I think I’ve been a bit hasty? Perhaps I should try to make it by one of the clubs this afternoon. The Saddle, perhaps, for some dancing?”
“Oh, I do think you’d do better at the Circle of Flames,” her aunt said, standing. “Lady Tesper says her sons frequent the place all the time.” She smiled indulgently. “So it must be nice.”
Tennora nodded and wondered if her aunt were devious enough to try and marry her off to one of the Lords Tesper with their enormous gambling debts, draining her own funds and sending her scurrying back to House Hedare’s villa.
“Come along, Siamorphe. Let’s leave Cousin Tennora to her preparations. Unless”—she stopped and considered her niece—“you would like some help choosing something . . . more fetching to wear?”
“The fuchsia silk you sent for my birthday will be quite perfect I think,” Tennora said. “Shall I have Veron see you home?”
“No, no,” Aowena said, clasping a hand to her bosom. “That’s not necessary. We’ll see ourselves out.” She kissed Tennora on both cheeks and swept out the door, dragging her daughter behind and carefully skirting the space around Veron.
“Goodbye, Cousin,” Sia said, grinning no doubt with the knowledge of their shared secret. They left and Veron shut the door behind them.
“Why in the world did you offer my escort?” Veron asked. “What would you have done if she’d said yes?”
“Died of shock,” Tennora replied. “Pull the bell for the housemaid, would you? If she has to put her own cloak on she might get trapped in it.”
From Tennora’s window, the earthmote sat just above the edge of the city, it’s lower edge disappearing behind spires and towers and the Waterdeep wall. As it approached the ground alongside the road out of Waterdeep, it’s size became more and more certain—a behemoth. Tennora imagined nobles staking out spots along the new hill overlooking the harbor.
“Tennora,” Veron said behind her, “why is Sovann bringing you carvestars?”
She sighed. “I haven’t the faintest idea. I told him I didn’t need a delivery and I’ve told him a hundred times to stop picking the stlarning lock. I meant it about the acid trap—oh!” A terrible thought occurred to her. “You don’t suppose he has a key do you?”
Something between irritation and alarm crossed Veron’s features. “Did you give him a key?” he asked, managing to keep neither out of his voice.
“Why would you ask me that?” Tennora said. “I didn’t live here the last time I would have considered giving him a key to anywhere. If he’s got one, it wasn’t my doing.”
Veron considered the door to the kitchens a moment, as if he were wishing he’d shaken down the thief, maybe scared him for good measure. Tennora had told him a hundred times not to do that as well. He took another cup from the tea service and poured himself some, before taking a seat on the settee.
“I’m sorry about Aowena,” she said, for perhaps the hundredth time of her own. “She’s so horrible. I hate that I can’t tell her that. I hate that I can’t tell her to stop coming or to shut up about . . . well everything really. But especially you. You don’t deserve that.”
“I know.” He set the teacup down on the table, the porcelain seeming fragile as a soap bubble in his great hands. “You didn’t actually answer my question,” he said quietly. “Why is Sovann bringing you carvestars?”
“Oh.” Tennora winced, wishing he were mad about Sovann. “I lost two,” she said off-handedly.
Veron wouldn’t look at her. “Where?”
“House Nandar. I went looking for some documents. They’re up to their ears in—”
“Watching Gods, Tennora.”
“Nestrix was with me. It was fine.”
“You’ll forgive me if that doesn’t make me feel any better.” He leaned back on the settee and ran a hand through his hair. “If you lost carvestars, you were throwing them. If you were throwing them, it was at someone who was trying to hurt you—”
“I’m not made of candyglass.”
“That hardly makes a difference when there’re swords involved!”
“This is what I do,” Tennora said.
“And making sure you don’t get hurt is what I’m supposed to do.”
“Well next time, be home when I need to break into House Nandar.” She sat on the arm of the settee. “Or maybe we quit this stupid show and stop acting like you’re my bodyguard.”
Veron’s smile quirked around his protruding teeth. “That would probably make your aunt die of shock,” he said. “But if you think it will stop me from worrying—”
“Are you worrying, or are you jealous I went with Nestrix and not you?”
“Nestrix,” he said, “is not someone I trust to keep a cool head skulking around. Would you have needed those carvestars if she weren’t with you?”
Tennora smoothed her skirt over one knee. “Oh, fair.”
Veron snickered and with one arm swept Tennora from the arm of the settee so that she landed across his lap. She yelped and laughed and caught him around the neck to slow her fall. How long since that rainy night when she’d realized quite suddenly that the half-orc bounty hunter might be sweet on her and more importantly that she was quite fond of him? A few fumbled invitations to sit down for tea and then every bit of manner and coyness fell away—that wasn’t what Tennora wanted or needed, and not a game Veron knew how to play anyway.
Since she’d bought the tallhouse, since she’d moved from the tenement known as The God Catcher on the near side of the Market, she and Veron had lived together, though hardly anyone knew the extent of their relationship for certain. There were rumors, but they were thought fanciful enough that not even Aowena countenanced them.
Tennora cupped his cheek and kissed him, the edge of his protruding lower teeth brushing her cheek in a way that only felt like home. There was nothing she wanted so much as to make it plain how dearly she loved him, to any and all, but all their days together the issue was one thing that strained their love: Veron could not stand the idea that Tennora might lose her place, her contacts, her very world, all because she loved a lowly half-orc.
Year by year, Tennora cared less and less about everything else.
Veron brushed her hair behind her ear. “It’s what you do,” he agreed. “And I worry.” He kissed her again. “Harpers or Masked Lords or just Nazra?”
“Harpers and Nazra,” Tennora said. “And Masked Lords, once they find out, which I can’t decide if Master Zawad will be grateful or annoyed at the intervention. It’s smuggling. Again—but someone’s sending weapons east.” She blew out a breath. “I have to go to The Saddle. Come with me?”
Veron gave her a dark look. “I thought that was to get rid of her.”
“It was. But she’ll check, and I intend to put her off for so much longer. And I also need to see about House Mandarth and their chatelaine and I’m certain I’ll find Irabelle there. I’ll be quick,” she promised. “And then maybe we can come home and have a quiet evenfeast?”
“Can you resist the lure of House Mandarth’s smuggling ventures?” he teased.
“You could very easily make me a better offer,” she pointed out. “I do have this sagging figure I need help propping up, after all.”
Veron snorted and pulled her closer. “Well, when you put it like that.”
She kissed him again, one hand to his cheek, but as they parted a spark as long as her little finger leapt from her palm.
Veron winced. “This stlarning dress,” he said. “Wool makes such a nuisance of itself.”
Tennora smiled uneasily but her pulse was suddenly racing. “Dry air,” she said, even though that wasn’t it.
“Get it off you later.” His smile fell. “Are you all right?”
Tennora shook her head, not sure of how to explain the sudden flood of otherness that had jumped along her veins, like a spell but bigger, more powerful, more sudden. For a moment she had felt as if she’d never turned from spell-casting, never traded her staff for carvestars. “It was a red spark,” she said, a little dazed.
Veron closed her hand in his. “Magic?”
“I guess,” she said, looking at her hand. ” I haven’t touched my spellbook in tendays.” There was hardly any point, after all. Tennora had studied to be a wizard, but never had the knack for much beyond cantrips. Veron frowned.
A knock at the door and the couple parted, swiftly, guiltily, which only annoyed Tennora. A dark-haired man in carefully ordinary clothing stepped in and gave her a carefully respectful bow, even if his gray eyes held nothing but irritation.
“Master Zawad wants to see you, your ladyship,” he said. “Now.”
What was the book about? Well it was still about an internment camp for Chosen. But Tam Zawad, the High Harper of Waterdeep, would have been the one snatched, as he was a minor Chosen of Selune. And little Siamorphe Hedare would have been snatched too–because she was in the wrong place? No, because she was a major Chosen of Selune. Tennora would have sought out Vescaras and Daranna and they would have figured out where Tam was and gotten there, while she and Veron dealt with their weird relationship and Nestrix continued to be awesome.
The trouble was…where did this go as a series? I felt like I was going to be forced by circumstances to kill Veron so Tennora wouldn’t settle down and make me write “mommy adventurer.” Their story is way more interesting if I could pick it up between 1480 and 1484 DR, frankly.
And so that is the tale of The God Catcher sequel that wasn’t.