16 August 2012

Excerpt Thursday: THE CROSS AND THE DRAGON by Kim Rendfeld

This week on Excerpt Thursday, we’re welcoming Kim Rendfeld. Her debut novel, The Cross and the Dragon, is a love story set in eighth-century Europe, spanning today’s Switzerland, Germany, France, and Spain. Join us Sunday, when Kim will be here to talk about her novel and offer an e-book compatible with Kindle or Nook to a lucky winner. Here is the blurb:

A tale of love in an era of war and blood feuds.

Francia, 778: Alda has never forgotten Ganelon’s vow of vengeance when she married his rival, Hruodland. Yet the jilted suitor’s malice is nothing compared to Alda’s premonition of disaster for her beloved, battle-scarred husband.

Although the army invading Hispania is the largest ever and King Charles has never lost a war, Alda cannot shake her anxiety. Determined to keep Hruodland from harm, even if it exposes her to danger, Alda gives him a charmed dragon amulet.

Is its magic enough to keep Alda’s worst fears from coming true—and protect her from Ganelon?

Inspired by legend and painstakingly researched, The Cross and the Dragon is a story of tenderness, sacrifice, lies, and revenge in the early years of Charlemagne’s reign.

**An Excerpt from The Cross and the Dragon**

This scene occurs the night before Hruodland leaves for the invasion of Hispania. Hruodland and Alda lie in a curtained bed, but Alda cannot sleep.

Suddenly, Hruodland’s body stiffened. His throat made a noise like a muffled scream. His breathing changed from deep and slow to shallow and quick. He sweated. He gasped and rolled on his back. He sounded as if he was struggling to get enough air into his lungs.

“Dearling?” he whispered. His voice startled her.

“Yes, Husband,” she said.

She could feel him turn toward her. She ran her fingers through his hair. She traced his ear, his neck, shoulder, chest. He held her tightly against his body, as if he was making sure she was real.

“Another nightmare?” she asked.

“It is but a dream.”

Alda remained silent, knowing he would tell her if she did not prod him.

“I dreamt I watched a man barely out of boyhood die,” Hruodland said, holding her closer. “He had perhaps seen fifteen winters. A Saxon arrow found him but did not land in his heart straight and true. And he screamed. He screamed for what seemed hours as the men tried to pull it out of him and stop the bleeding. And then I was that boy, screaming, and they could not stop the bleeding. That is when I awoke.”

Despite herself, Alda gasped, wondering if Hruodland’s nightmare was an omen.

As if he read her mind, he said, “It is but a dream. Something I saw during the war in Saxony. Nothing more.” He touched her cheek. “I need you to be cheerful when we leave.”

Alda swallowed. She decided not to tell him of her premonition again, but she could not just lie there and pretend to be cheerful. She had to do something to protect him, even if it meant leaving herself vulnerable to the Bretons or the thieves in the forest or Bishop Luc. What mattered most was that he came back.

“Husband, there is something I want you to take,” Alda said.

She rose from the bed, letting the blankets fall from her body, and swung her feet over the edge. Shivering, she drew back the curtain. A thick night candle on a table next to the bed illuminated the solar and sleeping women. What she wanted lay next to the candle.

She picked up her iron dragon and retreated to the warmth of the blankets. The curtain was still drawn back and allowed candlelight to enter. She draped the chain that held the amulet on Hruodland's neck.

“This will protect you,” she said.

Hruodland held it and stared at it in the candlelight. “But dearling,” he stammered, “this is a gift from your father. I cannot take this from you.”

“Husband, please,” she insisted, pressing it into his hand. “It will ease my fears if you take it.”

He gave her a tender smile. “I will give it back to you when I return.”

“The stone comes from the mountain where Siegfried slew the dragon,” she said.

The dragon’s blood had made Siegfried invulnerable, almost, except for where the linden leaf fell on his shoulder.

The Cross and the Dragon, published in e-book and print by Fireship Press, is available online at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. 

For more about Kim and her fiction, visit www.kimrendfeld.com.