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Honeyed Words
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Honeyed Words

4.4 19
by J. A. Pitts
 

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Sarah Beauhall is a blacksmith, has a night job as a props manager for a low-budget movie, and spends her free time fighting in a medieval reenactment group. Her world falls apart when she discovers that dragons are real and live among us as shapeshifters; in fact, it is they who have been the secret masters of our world from time immemorial. On top of all this, it

Overview

Sarah Beauhall is a blacksmith, has a night job as a props manager for a low-budget movie, and spends her free time fighting in a medieval reenactment group. Her world falls apart when she discovers that dragons are real and live among us as shapeshifters; in fact, it is they who have been the secret masters of our world from time immemorial. On top of all this, it appears that Sarah has managed to reforge an ancient sword that everyone suddenly wants...and those who don't want the weapon want Sarah to take on her destiny and become humanity's saviour.

As Sarah tries to make her way in this new world, she discovers just how little she knows of reality. Fairies and dwarves and giants abound, the fault line of the Pacific Northwest is rife with ancient Norse magic. Odin himself appears with ravens at his side and cryptic advice for the fledgling heroine. And the cherry on the sundae? The discovery that Sarah's girlfriend is from a family that has been battling these forces for generations and they look to Sarah as their last best hope.

What's a girl to do when the powers of the world decide that you're responsible for cleaning up the magical mess?

Honeyed Words is the second book in J. A. Pitts' Sarah Beauhall series.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

Honeyed Words kept me completely enthralled from beginning to end. J. A. Pitts delivers a groundbreaking urban fantasy!” —Diana Rowland, author of Secrets of the Demon

“A fast-moving, action-packed story… Sarah Beauhall is half girl, half warrior, and all attitude.” —Louise Marley, author of The Singers of Nevya on Black Blade Blues

“Endlessly entertaining. A colliding mix of action and ancient myth--yet sexy with a dash of tongue-in-cheek humor. Not to be missed!” —Barb and J.C. Hendee, authors of the Noble Dead Saga on Black Blade Blues

“Pitts brings Norse mythology into the modern world in this amusing debut…there's enough entertainment and romantic tension to keep readers interested in the planned sequels.” —Publishers Weekly on Black Blade Blues

“Dark urban fantasy with some clever touches that should appeal to urban fantasy fans.” —Kirkus Reviews on Black Blade Blues

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780765364104
Publisher:
Tom Doherty Associates
Publication date:
05/22/2012
Series:
Sarah Beauhall Series , #2
Pages:
400
Sales rank:
711,005
Product dimensions:
4.10(w) x 6.70(h) x 1.30(d)

Read an Excerpt

Honeyed Words


By J. A. Pitts

Tom Doherty Associates

Copyright © 2011 John A. Pitts
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4299-7605-3


CHAPTER 1

Jimmy Cornett, the leader of Black Briar, paced the length of the room, eleven long strides before turning and making the return trip. In his left hand he carried a highball glass with three fingers of Glenlivet single-malt scotch but had not taken the first sip.

His world had gotten a helluva lot more complicated these last six months. Running the farm and Black Briar was full-time work. He loved the reenactment and the swordplay, but until this spring, that's what it had been: play. When the dragon attacked the farm with choppers full of trolls and giants, the thin veneer of it all slid right off the cracker.

His sister, Katie, had a better handle on it all. He'd always discounted her beliefs, nodding and patting her on the head. But they were definitely the children of their parents, and the secret world of dragons and myth should not have come as such a surprise to him. Of course, they had been rather vague on the whole "dragons will attack your farm in helicopters" aspect of it all.

He felt a tightening in his chest as he thought back to the battle just a few months earlier. Black Briar had been prepared, sort of. They'd trained for the various reenactment wars around the country. They were good, a well-considered mercenary house on the fringes of the stalwart Society kingdoms. While the Society of Creative Anachronism did things right, down to the linen shirts and hand-sewn boots, real steel weapons and man-to-man combat, nothing prepared them for fifteen-feet-tall giants, hordes of trolls, and a fucking dragon.

They may have come through okay, if not for that damn drake. Killed his best riders: Susan and Maggie. Mangled Maggie and burned Susan to the ground. So many fallen that long black night.

His wife, Deidre, still wasn't home from the rehab center where she'd been recovering from the injuries she'd sustained. There was a damn good chance she'd never walk again.

Sarah had kept the dragon busy, let him rescue Deidre after the giants had broken through their defenses. But part of him blamed Sarah for all of this going down the way it had. Sure, she didn't really understand that the sword she had reforged was the legendary Gram. Hell, only Katie had thought it possible, and even he'd laughed at her. It wasn't until the dragon had kidnapped his baby sister, along with Sarah's blacksmith master, Julie Hendrickson, that Jimmy had accepted the truth. All the crazy shit his parents had told him. All the history and stories were really true.

Didn't mean he had to like it.

And he wasn't alone. He had friends — friends who knew the truth about the world.

Stuart and Gunther sat on either side of a small table, each ensconced in a large leather wingback chair. They hadn't waited and were sipping their scotch while Jimmy gathered his thoughts.

The room was filled with cabinets and display cases, bookshelves and weapons racks, which held a smattering of items: swords, tomes, scrolls, cups, necklaces, and trinkets. The northern wall was dominated by a huge world map.

Jimmy's grandparents had commissioned the map from dwarven artisans in the early twentieth century, but it was based on a much older one, only known by rumor and hearsay. Each continent was laid out in meticulous detail. Political demarcations were absent, but geographical locations were noted in abundance. Remarkable about the map were the tiny lights that glowed from spots on every continent. Most were major cities; they'd figured those out early on. Some were obviously deep in ancient mountain ranges, and two were mysteriously in the middle of an ocean — one in the Atlantic and one in what is now called the Sea of Japan.

These lights, these pinpoints glowing in the shadows of the room, represented the dragons that ruled the world. Jimmy had first seen the map when he was nine. He remembered that day like many children remember the day they learn Santa Claus isn't real or that their parents are human and fallible. He didn't understand the ramifications of this knowledge at first, not even after his parents had disappeared. It took Sarah, Gram, and that damn dragon, Jean-Paul Duchamp, for the truth of the world to finally become clear.

He'd been in his room in a tent made from blankets, pillows, and a couple of ski poles. He had his flashlight and was reading comic books way past his bedtime. It was late, close to midnight, when he heard a commotion outside. An odd warbling sound echoed through the house. Jimmy scrambled out of the tent and jerked the bedroom door open. Katie was screaming, and his father was rushing toward the front door, pulling a leather harness across his shoulders and settling a long sword into the attached sheath.

"Dad?" Jimmy called. His father paused at the door, his face grim. "Go help your mother," he said, then turned without even waiting to see if he complied. The front screen slammed with a bang that startled him.

He turned to the sounds of Katie's cries. His mother came down the hallway carrying his screaming two-year-old sister in her arms.

"Come on, Jim. Hurry." She waved at him, cradling Katie to her chest.

At the end, near the library, there was an open panel, one he'd never noticed before. She sat Katie on the ground. "Take her hand," she said to him, holding out her own. Katie loved Jimmy, and leaned into him, quieting.

"Don't make any noise," his mother said before kissing him quickly on the forehead. "I'll come get you when it's safe. Go down the stairs. We won't be able to hear Katie there."

"But, Mom. What's going on?" He was horrified. They'd never acted like this. "Where's Dad going?"

She knelt down and cupped her hand against his cheek. "He's going to protect us," she said. "I need to go help him. Can you be strong for me, James?"

When she called him James, he knew it was serious. He swallowed hard and nodded. "I'll keep Katie safe."

She smiled at him, which filled him with warmth. "You are brave and strong."

"Me, too," Katie piped up.

Their mother smiled worriedly and kissed her on the cheek. "Yes, popkin. You are brave and true. Now, go." She shooed them onto the dark landing. "Just go to the first bend. It's seventy-three steps. You'll be safe there."

The door shut with a quiet click. Jimmy pulled the penlight from his pocket and strained to see down into the void.

"Come on," he whispered.

"It's dark," Katie whined. "I don't like it."

"We'll be safe." He squeezed her hand as they crept down into the unknown.

He counted the seventy-three steps and stopped at the first bend. He sat down, his back against the wall, and pulled Katie into his lap. She snuggled up against him and whimpered quietly.

"I'm gonna turn the light off," he said, stroking her hair. "Save the batteries."

"I want Momma."

"She'll be back soon," he said and clicked off the light.

As his eyes adjusted, he could make out a glow coming from below.

"Pretty," Katie said, slipping from his lap.

"Katie, wait." She scooted down the stairs on her bottom, one riser at a time, and he followed, holding his breath. Where the stairs ended they found a room full of treasures, lit by the glowing dragon lights.

He'd found out later that a group of refugees from Vancouver had stumbled onto the farm, harried and wounded, triggering some sort of alarm. His father had come to the strangers' aid, helping fight off a giant and getting mostly dwarves, along with a few humans, into the barn before the sun rose.

It was later, days after this incident, that his father had accompanied him down to the bunker and explained to his son the meaning of the map.

It held hundreds of lights. Some glowed brightly, while others flickered and waned. Only one had grown dark in recent memory. Jimmy pulled his thoughts back to the present and paused in his pacing. He dragged his finger along the bottom frame of the map and stared upward. The map rose from just three feet off the ground to near the ceiling, putting the light for Vancouver out of his reach.

Gunther and Stuart had the best view of the map, sitting a dozen feet away, against the opposite wall. The first time they'd seen the map, three days after Jimmy received the news of his parents' disappearance, they had commented on how much the map reminded them of the night sky.

"So damn many," Stuart growled when no one had spoken. "The bastards feed off us like maggots. It's about time we began to do something about it."

Gunther winced and sipped his scotch.

Jimmy turned, his face flushed with anger. "And what do you propose?" he said, sweeping his right arm to encompass the entire map. "Do you honestly think they'd sit idly by while we ..." He paused, struggling to keep his anger in check. "We can't just hunt them down. This isn't the Middle Ages. They're practically immortal, have learned to adapt in ways we can only guess at. They don't even look like dragons most of the time. They control multinational corporations and some entire countries, for god's sake. Hell, I wouldn't put it past one of them to use nukes if push came to shove." He looked between the two men, feeling the desperation crawling in his belly. "Most of us don't even know they exist. Can you imagine what the common man would think if he learned we weren't at the top of the food chain?"

Gunther sat his glass on the table, took up his cane, and struggled to his feet. They watched him, saying nothing. The vivid memory of Gunther being smashed to the ground by a giant's cudgel was still too fresh in their minds.

"You overestimate their power," Gunther said, stepping toward the map and pointing at Vancouver with the head of his cane. "They've ruled us for so long that we've forgotten ourselves."

"Amen," Stuart said from his seat. He'd worn his anger on his vest since the spring. Since they'd lost so many friends in the battle with the dragon, Duchamp, and his minions.

Gunther nodded. "We were part of an event that has not happened in written history. Not since St. George have we even heard rumors of a human destroying one of them. Now one of our very own has stepped into legend."

Jimmy flicked his hand toward Gunther and barked, "Bah. We were lucky."

"Were we?" Stuart yelped. "We lost twenty-seven good people. You think that's lucky?"

Gunther leaned on his cane with both hands firmly covering the worked bull's-head handle. "I grieve as you do," he said, turning to his friend. "But this is nothing compared to the wholesale slaughter in the Dark Ages. Entire villages wasted, broad swathes of countryside slaughtered in the great migration."

Stuart growled low in his throat. "So says your order," he finally voiced. "There's proof of the Black Plague, you know."

Gunther sighed and glanced at Jimmy.

"Plague, famine, war, and worse," Jimmy said, his voice even. "My father explained it to me as well. One does not discount the existence of the other."

"We've read all the notes Jim's parents left us and have researched on our own over the last thirteen years," Gunther offered. "Nothing prepared us for Sarah."

They fell silent at that. Jimmy turned, facing the map, his eyes falling on Iceland, the last place anyone had seen his parents. Gunther watched the two of them — friends and compatriots — slowly turning his head from one man to the other, waiting for the thunderheads that had been brewing for weeks.

"Deidre will be home soon," he said. Jimmy nodded once and took a deep drink.

"About damn time," Stuart said. "Black Briar is too quiet without her around to keep us all in line."

Jimmy snorted a quiet laugh. "She's worried no one needs her."

Stuart leaned back into the thick leather chair, his anger visibly fading. "Tell her that we miss her and that if she doesn't get back here soon, we're gonna let Gunther start using her kitchen."

Then it was Gunther's turn to laugh. "I will not risk that woman's wrath," he said. "I'll go up against giants and dragons, but Deidre scares the hell out of me."

Jimmy nodded once, a smile on his face for the first time in a long while. "She is my light and my life."

Each man lapsed into quiet contemplation, sipping his scotch. The anger in the room had finally begun to dissipate.

After a few minutes, Gunther shuffled back to his chair and sat down with a grunt. "But we need to discuss Sarah," he said. "We have to figure out who she is."

They each nodded but said nothing, waiting for the other to bring up the subject of the fiery smith.

Jimmy's phone buzzed with an incoming text message. "In case you were wondering," he said, shaking his head, "Katie and Sarah are at the Blain crossing into Canada. Katie says they will be in Vancouver in just under an hour." He paused, glancing up quickly.

"What?" Stuart asked.

"Well," Jimmy said, clearing his throat. "She also says that Sarah is hot."

They all laughed.

Jimmy slipped his phone into his pocket. "That sister of mine sure can pick 'em."

"Aye," Gunther agreed. "First Melanie, now Sarah."

"Oh, she's dated more than those two," Jimmy said, running both hands through his hair. "Drove me and Deidre crazy in high school. The drama and the angst of teenage love."

Stuart picked up the crystal decanter and poured himself another scotch. "Love ain't nothing but drama and angst," he said. "Been burned myself one time too many."

"I've been lucky," Jimmy said. "Deidre is the best thing that ever happened to me."

"Hear, hear," Gunther said, raising his glass.

Jimmy retrieved his glass and stepped toward them. Stuart stood, and the three of them held their glasses high.

"To the women in our lives," Gunther said, clinking his glass against first Stuart's, and then Jimmy's. "May they always find their way home to us."

They drank, draining their glasses. Stuart lowered his glass and performed the sign of the cross. After a moment, they set their glasses on the table and Stuart picked up the decanter once again.

"Now, about Sarah," he said, pouring a strong dash into each glass. "Who is this girl? What do we really know about her?"

Jimmy went back to pacing, but Gunther stepped over to the map, following a series of lights that filled Central Europe like a cluster of stars.

"Maybe she's one of the two ancient lines of gods — Æsir, Odin's crew, maybe, or one of the older lot, the Vanir," Stuart suggested.

"Doubtful," Jimmy said, striding to a case and pulling down a sheaf of papers. "According to the records my father uncovered in Reykjavík, the dragons have a covenant to kill all of them on sight."

"Sure," Stuart said. "But how do we know when we find one of the elder gods? Can the wyrms really tell the difference?"

"According to Markús Magnússon," Jimmy said, pulling a page from the middle of the stack and setting the rest down on a glass case filled with golden armbands and torques, "in 1288, the last known of the Vanir had been killed by a young dragon in Düsseldorf. She was only an infant, but he describes her as a glowing child, with hair like spun gold and a laugh that would quiet the meanest heart."

"Who does he think she was?" Stuart asked.

"Freya ...," Gunther replied, not turning from the map, "... is the last we know to be reborn. The dragons have feared their return for as long as the monks and scribes have kept hidden records."

Jimmy and Stuart exchanged a glance.

"My order," Gunther continued, "kept records of each Æsir or Vanir that was reborn, and their inevitable demise at the tooth and claw of one of the drakes."

"And," Jimmy continued, placing the parchment back on the pile with the others, "Sarah has met at least two dragons in her life, and neither of them thought she was an elder god returned to exact her vengeance."

"Well," Gunther said with a grim chuckle. "We don't know what Jean-Paul Duchamp believed, may his carcass rot in hell."

"True enough," Jimmy said. "But this Frederick Sawyer in Portland has seen her on multiple occasions, and all he's tried to do is invest in that movie company she works with ... oh, and buy the sword."

The three of them looked to the left, to the black blade that hung from a coatrack by the blood-encrusted leather rigging Sarah had worn into battle with the dragon.

"I think that is the key," Gunther said, turning from the map and limping toward the sword. "This blade is the crux of things."

"Gram," Stuart breathed. "How did she come by it, much less wield it?"

"Katie says she bought it at an auction a few years ago. Some estate sale where the original owners had both died. Kids were selling off everything since they lived in Florida."

"Quite the coincidence there, Jim. Don't you think?" Stuart asked.

Gunther stood in front of the coatrack and examined the sword. "Völsung," he pronounced finally.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from Honeyed Words by J. A. Pitts. Copyright © 2011 John A. Pitts. Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

J. A. PITTS is a graduate of the Oregon Coast Writers Workshops and holds degrees in English and Library Science. Honeyed Words is the sequel to Pitt's first novel Black Blade Blues.

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Honeyed Words 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 19 reviews.
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Wonderful storyline. Very well written. An original plot. Well thought out story. The author really did his research one the area and the myth and history about the dragons etc...fast read. A real page turner. Very strong realistic characters.
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Wolfsmith More than 1 year ago
The Good. I liked the book. You should get it if urban fantasy is your thing. Also the cover art is great. The Bad. What's up with the cheap formatting? Did Tor or B&N decide to create their ebook using a copy of the book saved on wordpad? B&N is charging ten bucks, so where is the nice chapter fonts and dragon pictures the hardcover version has? Another gripe is the crazy amount of margin the book is formatted with. Depending on your settings you still have either 45%,35%, or 25% of your screen used for margins! I'm not saying this is going to make you stop reading the book, but the care taken in the presentation and the little things extras that are present in the physical version would enhance the reading experience.
harstan More than 1 year ago
Blacksmith Sarah Beauhall struggles with acceptance of what she has learned about the world since she reforged a sword that turned out to be magical. Denial will not work when dragons and other fantasy species are genuine instead of just the imagination of authors, filmmakers and the medieval reenactment community. Sarah knows her mission from those in charge is to cleanse the magic (see Black Blade Blues). She observes Skella and Gletts watching her, which she hypothesizes has to do with her recent save the world task. Greedy dwarves hired the pair as they seek more power. Sarah and her BFF Katie attend a concert only the dwarves attempt to abduct the singer whose blood they need to amplify their magic. Her preference is to stay out of this scenario, but that is not an option as Sarah begins her latest save the world rescue mission that has her aligned with her enemies. This entertaining Beauhall urban fantasy is a fast-paced thriller though it not quite as fresh as the first book Black Blade Blues. The key to the tale is the reluctant heroine who prefers her quests to remain in enactments and theater and not in the real world. The rest of the characters are underdeveloped even the dwarves (think of Time Bandits) as the roles of the rest of the cast is to force the protagonist into reaction mode. Fans will enjoy Sarah strong and hesitant as she copes poorly as she battles with otherworldly essences. Harriet Klausner
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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