This is the opening of my current work in progress, The Weaver's Daughter. I hate that title, by the way. I might be open to suggestions.
“Well, look who decided to finally get up and make us a decent breakfast!” Garien’s small pig-like eyes glittered at Taniya as he sat at the table. Taniya looked him over with distaste.
“Look who forgot to bathe and wash his clothes…again,” she said quietly as she laid his plate of eggs and sausage in front of him. “Oh wait, I don’t have to look. I can smell it.”
He clapped a heavy hand on her arm, pinning her on the spot. Her pulse began to race with the usual fear. She warred with herself over the desire to squirm away, and met his gaze instead. Bright blue eyes clashed with muddy brown ones. “I would think that the smell of horse would be attractive to you,” he growled. “You spend enough time with them yourself.”
“I have no issue with the good, clean aroma of horse and hay. Add sweaty, dirty man into the mix and it suddenly becomes rank and foul.”
His grip on her arm tightened, and her fingers began to tingle as he cut off the blood flow to her hand. “Now listen here, Tiny. If you think we’re going to go easier on you because your mother is gone, you’re dead wrong.” She did not miss the slight emphasis on the word dead.
Chenyet hefted his bulky form into his seat in time to catch the last line of the conversation. He laughed coldly. “Establishing new house rules, already, brother?” He turned his gaze to Taniya. “Your mother protected you, you know. Can’t remember how many times she told father off for being too hard on you.”
Garien turned back to Taniya. “Now … what in the names of all the gods are you doing?” he asked, staring at the kitchen knife that she had leveled at him with her free hand.
“Do not think for a moment that I am weak and helpless without my mother,” she said in the same low, calm voice. “I am perfectly capable of protecting myself.”
“Taniya! Put the knife down. Garien, take your hand off her.” They both looked sheepishly up at Daret as he came into the room. Taniya quickly dropped her gaze to the floor. “I won’t have threats and violence at my table! You are not children any longer, and I hope I don’t have to tell you how to behave! That includes you, Chenyet.” He glanced at his younger son, who had speared a sausage off of Garien’s plate. Garien punched him hard on the arm.
“Eat your own food!” He grumbled, releasing Taniya’s arm reluctantly and tucking in to his breakfast. She shook her hand in an attempt to restore feeling to her aching fingers. Four red finger marks stood out on the white underside of her arm.
Chenyet chewed the stolen sausage and a look of satisfaction crossed his face. “Good to have a cook back in the kitchen. Thought I’d starve to death this last week, fending for myself. Now, get me some food!”
Silently, Taniya shuffled into the kitchen to prepare plates for Chenyet and Daret, as well as for Larto. The youngest of Daret’s sons was always a late riser, but Daret would make sure he was up soon. She heard a heavy step and sensed her stepfather’s presence behind her before he spoke.
“I don’t know what that was about, and I don’t care,” Daret’s tone was quiet, but far from gentle. “Do not threaten my sons again, or you will find yourself without a home or job. As soon as you finish serving breakfast, get to the stable. I’ll need everyone putting in extra energy to get the horses ready for the parade, and then you’ll have to get dressed to ride Kerenna.”
Taniya looked up, staring straight ahead. The kitchen blurred as silent tears tracked down her cheeks.
“You’re not the only one who has lost someone, Taniya. We may not have had the most affectionate relationship, but Irren was my wife and we all miss her. I’ve given you a week to yourself. The time for grief has passed. It’s time to move on and get to work.” She continued to stand, unmoving. “Did you hear me, girl? Dry those tears and pay attention to what you’re doing. Don’t you dare burn my eggs.”
He left then, and she quickly wiped her face on the kitchen towel she had thrown over her shoulder. A week. As if in that time, she could possibly pull the shattered pieces of her life together. She took a deep breath, as her mother had taught her to do to calm herself, but the memory of Irren’s gentle voice telling her to breathe sent a sob shuddering through her slight shoulders. She tried again, reaching deep inside herself for the strength that resided there, and this time the breath that she blew out was calm and steady. Daret is right, she thought. They had given her a week to grieve, more than she had expected. Now it was time to be strong. They might think of her as a slave in her own home, but she knew that deep inside, she was a warrior. Somehow, she would win this battle on her own.