It's been a while since I posted any kind of excerpt, and I thought it was high time to break that streak. Here's a piece of the beginning of the novella (or so) I've just started, Nesting Instinct - about a blind investigator assigned to discover who stole a highly coveted dragon's egg ...
"Cinny," I called, "tell me what has been disturbed."
She scampered over, her footsteps slowing as she circled the nest. "Almost nothing. There are no drag-marks or bootprints in the sand." Her voice quavered with nerves.
I caught a whiff of perfume, a lingering trace: lilac, rose, jasmine - and something odd and citrus that did not immediately register. "Almost nothing is not nothing."
"The indent around the egg is - no, there are little gouges in the sand, but whoever moved it must have been very careful."
"And very strong," I agreed. "What sort of gouges?"
Cinny described the nest to me, including the other two eggs: ivory and mottled pale blue. I measured them with my hands - they would have come up to my shoulder and certainly dwarfed Cinny, who was a half-head shorter than most women. The faint traces of passage in the sand were not distinct enough to suggest shoe or step, and might in any case have come from authorized visitors.
"Kehler lime," I murmured.
"Ilwen?" Cinny wondered. Even after I signed her writ of freedom, it had taken almost a year to train her out of the habit of calling me mistress. Two years later, she thought nothing of it.
"The last scent of the perfume. Let's inspect the elevator," I said.
She took my arm and walked me across the sands. I was surprised to feel a quiver in my ankles. I had taken important cases before in three years working with the captain of the guard, but nothing like this, and I worried what the consequences would be for failure. And a missing dragon? It would almost certainly be a dead dragon, if not recovered. Would there be ransom? What was a dragon worth? A hundred times more than any slave.
"Ilwen?" Cinny leaned in close, her breath tickling my ear. "What if someone stole the egg to keep it?"
I shook my head. "The imperials would never allow someone not of the emperor's choosing to bond with a dragon. It would upset the balance of power - and anyone with enough knowledge of dragons to accomplish this theft would know as much."
"Never allow? But once the bond is formed ..." Cinny trailed off. "They'd kill them both over politics?" Her voice muffled; she had turned her head to look behind her. "The Mother would allow it?"
"Politics is more important than you imagine. It shouldn't be -" I had felt her protest "- but there's no way to escape it. The Mother has a great deal of influence, especially since Nerina fell ill … but I do not think she could protect a thief, even if she chose."
"None of this is right," Cinny whispered.
It astonished me how a girl who had been born a slave could have such faith in the world. "We will do our best to make it right," I said.