November first is a big day for a lot of people in the writing community, mostly because it marks the beginning of a month-long writing fest called NaNoWriMo, (myself included). But this time I'm even more excited, because I get to bring you an excerpt from Journey to Freedom (Warriors of Aralan #8), a cover reveal, and a release date!
This book is special to me because writing the first draft over a year ago felt like pulling teeth. It was one of the worst writing experiences I've ever had, and I was very, very close to scrapping it all and starting over more than once. But now I'm so glad I didn't. Somehow God made what I thought was going to be a truly awful mess into something beautiful, and now, thanks to Him, I'm ready to share it with the world.
I'd also like to mention that if you haven't read any of the previous Warriors of Aralan books, Journey to Freedom marks a sort of "new beginning," and can be read without reading any of the previous ones. Some of Josiah's lineage might be a tad confusing if you haven't (and obviously, in my highly biased opinion you should read them all, *wink wink*), but the main plot is not heavily dependent on the previous books, so if you like any of the things mentioned in the following synopsis, feel free to jump right in. :)
Josiah is a prince... albeit one that has just about had it with his hypocritical parents and grandparents, the ruling family of Aralan. Sure, he's not that much different than they are, really—but when they turn down a small country's plea for help in an oncoming war, Josiah is furious. A full one-eight of his blood comes from that country, and he can't believe his ears when they send the emissaries away without a promise of assistance. So he flees the castle, hires a cook to feed him in his travels, and breathes the free forest air for the first time in his twenty-one years of life. Sleeps on the ground for the first time in his life. And argues—constantly—with the most stubborn cook he's ever met in his life. Emma is not one to take orders quietly, despite coming from the poorest part of Freymont; a stark contrast with her sweet-tempered, eleven-year-old sister named Hadassah. Add in Josiah's crazy hermit uncle, a pair of mischievous identical twins, an unheard-of amount of sass, a war of epic proportions, and a betrayal or two—and you have a Journey to Freedom.
"So when does this crazy book come out?" you ask. The official release date is November 18th. Mark it on your calendar, folks, that's less than three weeks!
Now, for the excerpt!
The peachy hues of dawn were just beginning to streak the horizon to herald a new day as Josiah slumped in the saddle, gazing bleary-eyed at the spot between Archer’s ears as the horse plodded along. He had ridden all night through Freymont, because he had strayed from the only roads he was familiar with and gotten himself lost. Every time he decided that he would head one direction and come to the end of the city eventually, he was met by a dead end. It was like trying to find a clear path through a forest overgrown with brambles and vines—although technically speaking, Josiah was about as familiar with that pastime as he was finding his way out of Freymont.
To make matters worse, he had been pursued off and on throughout the night by searchers. Josiah straightened in the saddle and rolled his shoulders, wincing as his spine popped. The street he was on now looked much the same as the rest of the streets in Freymont: narrow, twisting, and lined alternately by houses and shops that kept him from seeing very far.
Ahead of him an early riser came out of a building, and Josiah pulled the hood of the cloak up and over his head. He wasn’t sure how well the common folk knew his face, so it didn’t hurt to be careful.
As he drew near to the mustached man, he received a cheery greeting. “Morning to you, sir.”
Josiah nodded politely, but didn’t stop. He had to find a way out of this labyrinth he called home. Just then a cry floated to him through the still morning air: “There he is! After him!”
Josiah twisted in his saddle to see, and groaned. Three of the mounted searchers were thundering down the street towards him, their green cloaks fluttering in the wind.
Josiah urged Archer into a gallop and leaned low against the horse’s neck. “C’mon, let ‘em eat our dust!” he whispered.
Archer was of the finest of Aralan’s breeding stock, and few horses could outrun him, but he was tired, and skittish by nature. For a while the chase went well, and Josiah went down streets he hadn’t yet explored in an effort to lose his pursuers. Soon the cobble that lined most of the roads disappeared altogether, and so did the shops. The remaining houses seemed to shrink lower and lower, until some of them resembled piles of boards more than anything.
Josiah realized that he had strayed into the poorest part of Freymont, and it concerned him. He’d heard stories about these people, but there was no time to figure out where he’d gone wrong, because the men on his tail were drawing closer.
Suddenly the dirt road took a sharp bend, and a filthy-looking child clothed in rags appeared right in front of him. The child screamed, Archer reared, and Josiah tumbled from the saddle. He scrambled for Archer’s reins, but the stallion’s eyes rolled white and he bolted, narrowly missing the child. Josiah had no chance of outrunning his pursuers without a mount, so he crossed the street and burst into the nearest house to hide.
A blonde young woman sat at a rickety table eating breakfast with a little girl, and both stared at him with open mouths.
“Hide me!” Josiah panted, frantically searching the one-room building for anywhere he could do just that.
The young woman reached for a broom with a sharpened handle. “No! Get out of here!”
Josiah came closer, cringing as the sound of horse’s hooves grew louder. “Please, just hide me, I’ll leave as soon as I can.” Suddenly his eyes fell on a trapdoor in the floor, and without asking if he could, he opened it and jumped inside. He heard the woman gasp, but then the little girl’s voice spoke up. “Don’t make him leave Emma, please! He looks different than the men around here.”
Josiah waited in tense silence, unable to see where he was hiding because only a small beam of light pierced the shadow from a hole in the trapdoor. Before he could hear what Emma’s reply was, the men pursuing stopped outside. He kicked himself mentally. They would see the dirt stirred up from where Archer had reared and he had fallen. Perhaps they would even see his footsteps leading to this very house.
“But Dassa, we don’t know him! What if—” Emma’s reply ended in a strangled gasp as the door was flung open so hard it slammed into the wall.
“Where is he?” a rough voice demanded.
Josiah was certain by now that he would be found. The two strangers had no reason not to tell the searchers where he was hidden. He would be taken back to the castle and kept under close watch, or imprisoned. The thought was unbearable, either way.
“Where is he?” the same rough voice repeated when he didn’t get an answer the first time. “His footsteps lead in here.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Emma’s voice replied, as calm as her fear would let it be.
Josiah’s heart skipped a beat in shocked wonder, then froze the next instant when the rough voice issued an order. “Search the house.”
Over the sound of the searchers turning everything upside down, Emma could be heard exclaiming, “This is ridiculous! Those footprints outside were made by my father!”
“Your father, eh?” Rough Voice returned, “Then where is he?”
“Outside.” It was plain that Emma was gaining confidence. “He left not long before you came—out the back door. He was going to sell some things at the market.”
Josiah heard heavy footsteps crossing the floor above his head, and then another door creaked open and an indignant voice exclaimed, “It’s cobble back here! How are we supposed to check for footprints when it’s cobble?”
Emma sounded just a bit smug. “Well you haven’t found anyone in here, have you? My story must be true. I’m telling you, my father made those footprints.”
Silence followed her words, and then Rough Voice heaved an annoyed sigh. “C’mon, let’s search the other nearby houses.”
After that, Josiah had to wait an eternity before he heard the sound of hooves again, signaling that the men had decided to move on. Suddenly he was blinded as the trapdoor was jerked open.
“Get out of our cellar! We hid you, now you hold up your end of the bargain and leave.”
Josiah coughed as dust filtered down and he climbed out just to be faced with the pointed end of the broom handle. He held up his hands when he saw Emma’s look of determination. “I’m not going to hurt you! I just wanted to say that your story was brilliant—but why didn’t they see the trapdoor?”
Emma cocked her head at the smaller figure at her side. “Dassa kicked dirt over it. Now get out of my house!”
“I’m going, I’m going!” Josiah fully intended to leave, but as soon as he stepped outside the door he saw another group of searchers starting down the street towards them. He ducked back inside swiftly. “On second thought, I think I’ll stay.”
“Oh, no you don’t,” Emma warned, and Josiah found the impromptu spear inches from his chest. “Get out!”
He could tell she meant business, but the clip-clop of hooves was growing closer and he had nowhere else to go. “There are men after me. I can’t be caught.”
“And why not? Did you murder someone?”
“No!” Josiah exclaimed, indignant that anyone would think such a thing. “Do I look like a murderer? Just let me hide, I haven’t done anything wrong.”
Emma opened her mouth to speak again, but Dassa tugged on her sleeve. “Let him stay, Emma, please! I believe him.”
Emma’s face wrinkled with the agony of making up her mind. “I wish you hadn’t said that,” she told the younger girl, blowing out an irritated sigh of indecision.
“She’s right, I should.” Josiah did his best to look innocent.
To his relief, Emma retracted the broom-spear. “Fine. But only until it’s clear.”
Coming to Amazon November 18th!
Welcome to Katelyn Buxton Books! I'm a Christian author and blogger, with a passion for writing stories that are not just enjoyable, but also lead people closer to Jesus. Feel free to look around, and enjoy your stay!