Finding time to write is actually not that hard. Filigree has a decent schedule and, if I like, I can write whenever she is taking a nap. I don't always, but for all you who consider having babies and writing, and despair, take it from me: it's not as impossible as you think. Okay, but seriously, I want to give you a snippets post and go take a nap because I am falling asleep as I write this, so let's get this post written here before I lose your patience.
She drew up suddenly with clustering images crowding between her eyes and the bleak world around her, pictures of the bird’s-head on the pike and the bird’s-head on the man, pictures of the great tent into which she had gone, heart in her throat and a fanged smile on her lips, like the fox trotting into the wolf’s den. Candlelight had but barely dispelled the holy gloom: on low tables, denuded of all but spatters of blood, she had been brought into the presence of the gilt deities of the Higu. The bird’s head had looked upon them with reverence and reflection, but [she] had noted them at only a glance, bird-shaped, dog-shaped, flame-shaped, woman-shaped…then her eyes had run on round the perimeter of the enclosure, her skin prickling with the nearness of other things, things which the eyes could not see and the soul shrank from in fear.
“Either thou art a great liar,” said Touchlight, the soil and the roots of his parentage breaking through his cobbled tones, “or thou art an exceptionable woman.”
“For the sake of Hunlaw-gang,” she remarked glibly, “I hope I am the latter.”
With one man coughing his death-blood on the back of her neck, the other supporting himself on one good leg, [she] dragged herself clear of the mess. Her free hand found the head of the lamed soldier, bare, and she dug in her fingers to get purchase on his hair. She was rewarded with a bolstering earful of swearing as she hauled herself to her feet. Unexpectedly out of breath, she dropped her sword, took the man’s head in both hands, bent over it while he struggled in her grasp…
Don’t kill him, she thought wearily. One…two…three…
She brought her knee up into his face. With a grunt, the body jerked and slumped out of her hands.
“Thank you, Philip,” she gasped. Fumbling at her middle, she unlatched her sword-belt and let it slide, unheeded, to the floor. “Thank you. Thank you.” Her voice kept coming. In detached horror, she could not make it stop. Her hands were shaking. Her hands were bloody and shaking.
It might have been enchantment—it was uncanny. Of a sudden a wind came with a noise and rush through the place, hard enough to shake the trees into a tempest over the walls and whirl the fresh leaves over the seats and across the pavement. Akilina felt the hair on her body rise on end with a sensation of excitement and horror. There was a dual sound of whispering, rising silks as gentlemen on every hand rose up from the benches, their faces turned toward the doors. Her heartbeat slowed, stilled, drubbed rhythmically through her body like the beating of the waves on the shore.
Good Lord of all and God my God, protect me.
The doors were heaved aside: the fullness of the wind banked down the rostrum, pivoting on its invisible wings and clipping, lifting the mailed coins of Akilina’s veil. Their ringing was a small, hollow sound under the wind. She felt her eyes widen as if to swallow up the sight of the two figures in the doorway—and almost at once she felt a stab of disappointed rage when she saw the man was not the Devil for whom she waited. Who he was, she did not know. She did not recognize him. He was tall and finely built, lean yet broader at the shoulders than he was at the hip, fair-haired and of the arrogant, noble countenance known to the people of the Honours. He was not one of the Cubs, of that she was certain at a glance: he had not the colourless eye, that sneer which was of second nature, that lightness of limb and aura which tread down the solid matter of nature like beetles underfoot. Yet he was of importance, for upon his arm he bore none other than the She-Wolf.
Her, Akilina would have known the whole moon over, though she had never seen her before. Rumour fell short and upon its face before the woman’s feet. In the sweltering air of summer she wore a billowing, unkilted gown of white silk, weightily trimmed in flashing samite, which the wind made sport with and frothed round her frame like the breakers of the sea. That frame, for all that she had borne, was undiminished in its splendour, quite as tall and straight as the gentleman beside her, both graceful and fertile in shape. Her hair was unadorned, long and loose and loam-coloured, weaving round and framing a face which hurt with its beauty and made one hate it with a passion. She walked with the gentle swing of one accustomed to horseback, she looked round on the homage of the lords of the Honours as one accustomed to their praise.
Akilina leaned back in her chair and folded one leg over the other. Albeit beautiful, what was the She-Wolf to her? It was not the Devil’s paramour she had come to duel with, but the Devil himself. Her heart beat quickly again, and now it was flooded with an angry heat. Had he come? If she found he had sent the She-Wolf in his place, not deeming her worthy of his notice, she would teach him she was such a foe with which to reckon.
Suddenly the woman stopped, throwing up one hand; the gentleman beside her halted mid-step. They were half the rostrum from Akilina. The wind had dropped. The heavy silence was profound. Had they felt her rage?
“Well?” said the voice of the Devil at her elbow. “You have called us. We have come.”