A short excerpt from my fantasy romance WiP, Sorceress Apprentice.
The cellar was dark.
Bryony sighed. What use would she be to Emeri if she couldn’t even go downstairs and grab a tincture if he needed it?
Squaring her shoulders, Bryony propped open the cellar door and took a lit candle with her. The narrow windows at the top of the cellar didn’t give nearly enough light for her liking. She lit the lanterns, all of them, and placed the candle by the marble chopping board before she began to search for the supplies.
A rustling noise caught her attention. She scanned the room. Nothing to see. She returned to finding the items but again the noise – a sort of slinking, almost slithering noise. Possibly behind the barrels. Bryony stepped back towards the stairs. Her breathing quickened as she tried to see what was down here. She knew how rats and mice sounded as they moved around in the dark and this sounded different – and larger. Who knew what strange creatures might be in the cellar! A shadow moved against the brick wall behind the apple crates and Bryony turned and ran.
She came flying out into the kitchen. Emeri had just put a kettle of water on to boil and Bryony caught at his sleeve without thinking. He gave her a quizzical look but she’d run up the stairs in such a panic it took her a moment to catch her breath.
“There’s something in the cellar! Some sort of creature.”
His flippant response drew her ire. “I’m not afraid of rats,” she told him, drawing back, arms akimbo. “Or spiders.”
“But you are afraid of the thing in the cellar?”
Bryony tipped her head. “I don’t what it is, and it doesn’t sound like a rat. It’s not…skittering. More sort of slithering. And it’s dark.” She swallowed back the humiliation and admitted, “I am a little afraid of the dark especially when there are things creeping about in it! Maybe it’s some sort of magical creature? I don’t know, maybe a rat got into a jar of something and now it’s part rat and part, part…snake!”
Emeri blinked slowly. “Just because I’m a sorcerer it doesn’t mean the house is full of magical creatures. Also I have never heard of a creature that is part rat and part snake – though I did know a wizard who was trying to create all sorts of inadvisable hybrids.”
He was missing the point.
“There’s something down there.”
“All right. I’ll go and see.” He grabbed the broom from where it stood near the larder door. At her questioning look he said, “If you say there’s something down there then I believe you, and I would rather be prepared.”
He went first, with Bryony following several steps behind. Down into the cellar they went, the candles still burning and, with Emeri here, she began to feel foolish.
“Where did you hear the noise?” he asked, keeping his voice low.
She pointed with one shaking finger. Emeri took a step forward – and something shot out from behind a barrel. Bryony jumped but Emeri laughed and dropped the broom. He crouched down.
“Hello, Clawdine. What are you doing down here, you silly cat?” He scooped her up, and she gave a mew.
Clawdine was a mostly black cat with emerald eyes and a patch of grey fur running from her chest to her belly. She twitched her tail, rubbing her head against Emeri’s hand as he stroked her. Not a monster. Bryony took a step forward.
“I didn’t know you had a cat.”
He had the decency to look embarrassed. “I forgot to mention her. In the warmer months she spends a lot of the daylight hours outdoors, chasing mice I suppose, so you wouldn’t have seen her when you visited yesterday. In winter she lives mostly by whichever fireplaces are lit. And all year round she enjoys lying all over the books when I’m trying to study and tripping everyone up in the kitchen. Don’t you, my darling? Yes, you do.”
This latter was addressed to Clawdine. It was a side of Emeri Bryony hadn’t seen before and it made her lips tug into a small smile.