Giving Henry His Due
By Fantasy Author Sandy Lender
When Carrie, Gracen and Margay invited me to provide a guest article for today, they didn’t specify a topic. And I’ve written so many of these guest posts in preparation for my online tour this month that I wasn’t sure I had another fresh and exciting topic in me. Then poor Henry Bakerson peaked in on me and said, “You could stop neglecting me for a while.”
He’s got a very good point. For all the promotion and marketing I do for CHOICES MEANT FOR GODS, I rarely mention Henry. I let the hero Nigel Taiman have his own blog (at http://sandylender.blogspot.com). I talk about the heroine Chariss all the time. I put short stories with her wizard guardian Hrazon in my chapbook WHAT CHOICES WE MADE without ever making any mention of poor Henry. And he’s not chopped liver.
The guy is a solid, strong, bad-boy kind of character who saunters in on a wing and a prayer and throws a hitch in everybody’s giddyup (if you don’t mind me throwing a completely inappropriate analogy into the fantasy genre, here). When the reader meets Henry in chapter eighteen of CHOICES MEANT FOR GODS, she’s already heard of him and his raucous days with Nigel when they were younger lads drinking every bar in Arcana City dry and seeking “female companionship” in less-than-reputable places. So he shows up and tells some tall tales over too many ales and reveals that he’s got a contract to carry goods for the bad guy in the novel.
You can imagine what that leads to.
But Henry’s one of those ruffian-on-the-outside-good-guy-on-the-inside kind of characters that women are attracted to. He’s a kind ol’ fellow who teases little Kaylin Taiman and sends the miserly ol’ Godric Taiman into a much-needed tailspin. He gets Nigel into enough minor trouble, but keeps him out of any real trouble, if you know what I mean. Yet I forget to talk about this fabulous guy. I forget that he’s got important stuff to do in the subsequent books. I forget how dear he is to Chariss and to the matriarch of the Taiman family and to the folks who start to depend on him.
So this blog post is dedicated to Henry Bakerson. His decision to sell off his family’s bread-making business to go off to sea (which really was an escape from a young lady claiming to be “with child”) may have made him appear rash in the past, but his decision to stay on land and help an old friend in CHOICES MEANT FOR GODS proves he’s a trustworthy partner after all. Scoundrel…perhaps. But he’s a scoundrel with heart.
If you’d like to know more about Henry, or the heroine he languishes over, be sure to type up a question for me here. I’ll be checkin’ in to answer! And thank you to my hostesses for letting me give Henry some much-needed attention today. (Henry thanks you, too.) “Some days, I just want the dragon to win.”
Not even the gods noticed when Chariss was born with the mark of The Protector. Now she and her wizard guardian seek shelter from a mad sorcerer in a household not just full of secrets and false hope, but watched by the god who will unwittingly reveal her role in an impending war.
When an orphan sets aside a lifetime of running and fear to accept the responsibilities of guarding an arrogant deity, can she face the trials in the prophecies she uncovers? Will Nigel Taiman of her latest refuge dare to use his dragon heritage to bind her to his estate or to help her in her duty?
This is a romantic scene as Nigel Taiman and Amanda Chariss ride from the estate at Arcana to Arcana City. Her wizard guardian has already clued her in to the fact that Nigel wants to court her, and she's upset over it. The scene mentions the bear-like ryfel creature that nearly killed Nigel in the training arena...
Nigel frowned at her. Spurring his horse slightly, he reached out to take hold of Shadow’s bridle. Bringing them both to a stop, he turned in the saddle to face her.
“Hey!” she objected.
“Indeed. Have I done something to anger you?”
Her cheeks reddened with embarrassment.
“You’re staring at me.”
“By the gods, Woman. All right, I’ll look at your horse. ’Manda,” he said to Shadow, “what have I done that’s made you angry?”
“I’m not angry.”
“You’re not a liar,” he spoke to Chariss again.
“All right, so I’m a little angry. It will pass.”
“And you don’t want to tell me what it is?”
She couldn’t blame her reticence today on worry over Drake. She also couldn’t blame her health because she’d completely recovered from her telabyrinth poisoning. With Hrazon and The Master attending the summer festival, she couldn’t blame some sort of timidity at being ‘alone’ in the city. No, she had to take a deep breath and be honest with him. Considering the number of suitors she’d sent packing in the past few years, this should have been an easy thing to do again. It wasn’t. She sighed, closing her eyes as if she could make the scene disappear.
“Do you agree that you’re my friend?” she finally asked.
He watched her open her eyes then, realizing where the conversation must be going.
“Yes.” It was said with exasperation.
“And that I’m your friend?”
“And does that please you?”
He sighed, but didn’t get a chance to answer.
“You see, Nigel, it pleases me. I appreciate your kindness, and I would be disappointed if we hadn’t built such a…such a…”
“Friendship?” he retorted.
“Such a rapport.”
He rolled his eyes. “A fancier word with even less affection.”
“My stay at Arcana is much more pleasant because I have this relationship with you. But someone has tried to convince me that your…your…”
“Well…your opinion of our relationship might be somewhat different from mine.”
“’Manda, just say what you’re thinking. You won’t hurt my feelings.”
She looked miserable then. “I don’t want to say what I’m thinking.”
“No, that’s not good. Hrazon thinks you’re…Hrazon believes you spend time with me because…” She paused, searching for the words.
“Because I’m in love with you?”
She nearly fell backward. “Just blurt it out!”
He chuckled slightly. “This is uncomfortable, isn’t it? I’m sorry to embarrass you. This conversation would be better in a darkened corner of Arcana’s parlor. ’Manda, I’m not going to lie to you. Hrazon has every reason to believe I’m after his ward because I am. It’s no secret to anyone I enjoy your company. What, where are you…You’re the only woman I know who can scoot that far away on a saddle without falling off.”
“I don’t think you should say those things.”
“Aye,” he sighed, watching her fidget with Shadow’s reins. But he made a decision to press the matter. “I’m going to say them and get them out in the open. Then we can decide if you’re to die of embarrassment, or slap me across the face.”
She couldn’t help smiling, even though her heart beat as if it would burst through her bodice from the tension she felt.
“I enjoy being with you because you’re my perfect match,” he said. “Have you noticed that we agree on almost everything? And the few things we don’t agree on are intriguing to argue because you make them intriguing. There’s no one at that entire estate, The Master and every intelligent student combined, who can hold my attention as you do. None of them compare.
“I’m attracted to everything about you, including your compassion. Even now, when you’re on the verge of falling off a horse with embarrassment, your concern is for my feelings, not your own. Godric, who doesn’t deserve to wash your feet, who finds every excuse to correct you, gets your respect because you remind yourself that he’s your benefactor. Do you know what strength of character that shows? Do you know how it endears you to me to know you bite your tongue after his arrogant remarks to save my mother’s feelings?”
She merely nodded, her eyes cast down.
“And do you know how it endears you to me to know you would fight to the death for little Kaylin?”
She nodded again.
“And do you know how it endears you to me to know you instinctively threw yourself into healing spells to save my life?”
“You shouldn’t assume that means—”
“I remember sliding toward death that night, life spilling out of me, and poison seeping into me from that thing’s claws. But do you know what I remember most distinctly? I remember you commanding me not to bleed to death…and I remember your hands afterward. Once I was healed, once Master Rothahn became preoccupied with the dead ryfel, you crawled over to me and put your hands on me again, as if you had to be sure He’d done a good enough job of healing me. But you would’ve done it for any member of my family. I daresay you would’ve done it for any student in the school. And it’s because you care about others, and you want the best for everyone around you. And you’re the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen.”
The last comment caught her off guard. It didn’t seem to fit with the logical argument he tried to make.
“I fail to see how these things tell you you’re in love. Kaylin enjoys my company. Mia enjoys arguing with me. I saved Sorne’s life once. Does this mean they’re in love with me?”
“If love could be explained that easily, it wouldn’t be real.”
“But what makes you think it’s real now? If you can’t explain your feelings, how do you know you’re not misled?”
“How does the rose know to bloom in spring?”
“Oh, now that talk I’ve heard before. I didn’t believe it then, and I don’t think you should let yourself believe it now.”
“’Manda, I’m telling you the truth and I’m telling you what I know. If I’ve made you angry by falling in love with you, you’re just going to have to deal with it. Because you’re not currently interested in me, you have to give me time to change your mind.”
They were silent then; he waited for some sign that she wasn’t going to cast him aside, she waited for her heart to stop beating so loudly in her ears. As far as she was concerned, she was often a foolish girl, but her intentions at the beginning of this conversation were foolish beyond compare. She realized—with alarm—that the blood rushing through her veins, the lightheadedness, the excitement at getting to spend an afternoon with him, were all signs she had chosen to ignore.
Thank you, Sandy, for creating Mayhem in the Moonlight with us today! And thank you to Goddess Fish Promotions for inviting us to be a part of this tour, who promise "at the end of each week one commenter will be randomly drawn to win an autographed, hard cover, first edition" of Choices Meant For Gods. So be sure to leave a comment for Sandy!