AWD would like to welcome author Michelle Franklin as our guest for today's tour!
Michelle has a wonderful prologue to share from her book The Commander and the Den Asaan Rautu, the first book in the Haanta series. Learn more about the series at Michelle's site.
Blurb: In a desperate attempt to save her homeland, one commander makes an alliance that will change her life and her kingdom forever.
When Frewyn's last line of defense falls, Boudicca MacDaede, leader of the Frewyn armed forces, enlists the assistance of Den Asaan Rautu, one of the Haanta giants from the islands to the far north. After winning a war, spending a year fighting by her side, Rautu is called back to his people but finds it impossible to leave without the woman he has come to love. Now he must find a way to make her his mate while fending off an impending attack against his people that threatens to break them apart forever.
From the prologue:
|Original cover lineart by Twisk|
At the far end of the garrison, the captain found a peculiar creature lurking within one of the holding cells. She eyed it with circumspection, having little idea what it was, but when she neared, she observed that it was a Haanta, one of the mysterious giants from the islands to the far north. She had never before seen one of the reticent giants, but his violet and black eyes, his mauve-grey skin, his white hair and immense stature suggested that he must be a Haanta. The rings and shells adoring his molded locks, the foreign symbols inked into his forearm, his embroidered war kilt, and the heap of various pelts adorning his back and shoulders gave him an appealing and distinguishing air. Though his expression was stern, his features made him almost handsome, his wide maw, high cheekbones and proud nose balanced his reproachful countenance. His body was a work of exertion: his muscles were large and well-formed, his arms and back were gifted with overpowering might, his skin was scarred, and his hands were thick and calloused. Here was a creature of majesty, and the captain found a consolation in seeing the giant at such a time. She supposed he must be a Haanta of some consequence to be so decorated, but before she could ask his abilities with a weapon, the attentive mountain spoke.
“You are holding those incorrectly, woman,” the giant said, gesturing toward the blades dangling from her hands.
He spoke and the captain felt a ripple of sound resonate through her from his low and commanding voice. “I believe I’ve been taught well enough to use them effectively,” she said to the giant as he turned away. “Do you have some claim to the marks on your arm or are they merely for show?”
Her remarks caught his consideration and his violet eyes tapered with growing dislike. He was at least dejected in his solitude, and now she had come to ruin his isolation and compel him to speak when he would otherwise be enjoying silence. He pressed his immense body against the bars of the cell in hopes of intimidating her, but the captain remained complacent and unaffected by his display.
“Leave me, woman,” he bellowed at her.
“I fear a cannot do that just now. I might need your help, should you wish to give it.”
He groaned and turned aside. “I will not assist you.”
“It is rather a shame you won’t. I was going to offer you your freedom.”
The giant turned back and looked at her with hesitation. He studied her form and face and her apparent composure despite the battle ensuing beyond the armoury walls. Her wide shoulders, her high carriage, her half-smile all proposed collectedness, but the pleading look in her dark eyes had told him there was much she feared regardless of her outward tranquility. He made her no answer and continued his investigation of the odd woman.
“I have little doubt of your eventually freeing yourself, creature,” she said. “But by the time you should do so, this outpost will be overrun with Galleisians. If you help us now, I will open that door and give you a weapon.”
“And if I use the opportunity to kill you and leave?” the giant said in a tone half-serious half-arch.
“I have never known warriors to be dishonourable. Should you prove me wrong, we will all be dead anyway. There is nothing so ugly as reneging a promise, wouldn’t you agree?”
The giant clenched his teeth and looked down. “I would,” he murmured.
“If you agree to help us maintain our borders, I will disregard the reason for your imprisonment and allow you to return to your home in secrecy.” She turned over one of her swords and offered it to him.
The giant gaped at the small blade with a reluctant expression. She had sworn him liberation, but he was tentative to follow or fight for a nation other than his own when he had been a leader once himself. He lifted his hand momentarily to accept, but soon dropped it again to further consider her offer. He could escape if he wished; their meager contrivances could not hold him for long should he truly wish his independence, but the weight of his transgression had plagued him and he hadn’t made nor would make an attempt to free himself. He looked at her again, perceiving the determination in her manner, and then looked at the hilt of the blade. His hand ached to hold it and gravitated toward it with unconscious movements. He was silent in his deliberation, but in the work of an instant, the deal was done; the giant conceded, and he would be freed from confinement and armed so that he may save Frewyn’s borders.
The captain swiped at the lock on the cell door and the rusted bolt fell to the ground, releasing the giant from his cell. He stood out from his cramped confinement, stretched his massive arms, and neared with heavy footfalls.
He tightened his clasp around the weapon in his hand, calming at the feeling of his place being reclaimed. “I will win this battle for you,” he declared.
“I daresay you shall,” she said smilingly.
They exchanged a look of understanding and rushed out of the garrison, remaining close to one another while lunging toward the rampant assault.