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Author's note:

Thank you for clicking! THE SAND PRINCE is a completed novel and the first in my fantasy series, THE DEMON DOOR. The sequel will be out in May of this year. I hope you enjoy exploring the worlds of Mistra and Eriis, and if you enjoy the first few chapters, you'll consider purchasing the book. I will be happy to respond to any questions and  comments.

Let us begin," said the Duke. "Talk to me of this wench. Is she fair? And if she is not, is her father a wealthy man?"

"The family has much land, and the girl is....young."

The Duke smiled, his teeth straight and white in a face darkened by many long rides on his great horse, Mammoth.

"You may send for them."

-The Claiming of the Duke, pg 5

Malloy Dos Capeheart, Little Gorda Press (out of print)

Mistra City

Greenleaf Gate, va'Everly Residence

The Great Gorda River swung south out of the mountains and, having expended its energy on the downhill trip, turned itself into the Flat Gorda. Despite its new name it was actually at its widest, exchanging the cold peaks for the calmer midlands. With the great walls of the Guardhouse high above, you would need a good boat and the better part of an afternoon to cross the Fla Gorda, and hopefully a pole or a net, because the fish were fat and the water clean. After passing though farms and fields, the river turned east and changed its name again, this time to the Little Gorda. At this point you could exchange your boat for a pair of boots, because even at its outskirts, Mistra's builders had loved their bridges. Once inside Mistra City proper, it branched out in every direction, mostly little brother and sister canals seeking to rejoin each other on the road to the sea, but a few finally gave up, either too shallow or too narrow to find their way. If you kept your boots, you'd need them to follow the track of one such nameless canal past the Greenleaf Gate. If you were looking for a leaf or something green you'd best look elsewhere because there was nothing to see but the damp backs of buildings, slimy retaining walls, aged cobbles and one huge wrought iron gate. The lights from the house it protected were dim and distant at the top of a winding path.

At the bottom of the path and much closer to the canal than she would have liked, Lelet va'Everley—Lelly to her friends—was having what those friends referred to as a "High Snit."

On a normal evening, her driver gathered her at the front door, which, if she wasn't wrong, was the exact purpose of a front door. So why, she asked herself again, had she been rerouted to the Greenleaf Gate? She couldn't even remember the last time she'd come this way. Certainly the maid had been supremely apologetic in relaying his last minute change of plans, but Per would have to answer for this. The smell, for one thing. And there was mud on her shoes—her white shoes. She held her wrap up out of the dirt—that would be all she needed, stains and who knows what on silk, she'd have to ask Father for a new one. Maybe she'd do that anyway. . .

She thought she heard the moaning gasp of water brakes some distance away in the damp darkness. 'Crying brakes are happy brakes', she'd heard Per say that often enough, along with a million other little sayings—'A horse can tell,' for instance. Tell what? she'd always wondered. That she was going to be late and with dirty shoes and the smell of canal rot in her hair? And she was almost out of cigarettes—less than half a stack left. She abhorred the habit of twisting off the lit end and saving the rest for later but it was better than running out. She tucked the stub end neatly into the shiny little metal pocket.

She definitely heard a horse snort. It sounded annoyed.

"Finally." She continued composing her little outraged speech, and plucked up the hem of her white silk dress. "How many of us will have mud on our gowns tonight, Per? Is that what is done now, Per?" Spattered with mud wasn't festive but she was hoping it might turn out to be funny, particularly if Per tried to argue with her. Everyone would be wearing white tonight for the Quarter Moons party, but she imagined she'd be the only one with muddy satin slippers, white, black, and brown.

The trap had stopped well out of sight. She hissed between her teeth.
"By the Veil, Per, you'll have to carry me on your back." She peered through the murk. Outside the half circle of smudgy torchlight at the back gate, it was quite dark. She took a step. Something breathed quietly in the darkness. Was that the horse? She took another step, two more, and walked into a wall. The wall moved, and before she could scream she found herself looking at her own feet, as she had been swung over a shoulder. One of her shoes lay shining and dainty on the muddy stones.

"Don't scream, wench. It will go worse for you."

Instantly she screamed long and loud, echoing between the leaning brick walls.

Did he just call me a wench?

She heard the wall? Person? Kidnapper? mutter something she couldn't understand—something about a Duke? He began to half-run into the dark alleyway, bouncing her head off his back. Her screams attracted the attention only of the rats.

My shoe! Someone will find it. She kicked off the other and tore at her dress, shredding the stiff little white satin roses from the fragile bodice. She could see them like stars on the black path, receding into the darkness.

She smelled the horse before she saw it, and struggled to twist around and face her captor.

"Please" she said quietly. "My family has money. You must know that. Whatever you've been paid, they will pay more. Just set me down and I'll walk away. No one will know. Let me go."

In response, the dark figure lifted her over the side of a cart. She felt herself falling as if from a great height. He is tall. She thought. He won't let me go.

Her head struck the side of the cart as she landed and then it got very dark and quiet.

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