Snake in the Grass
Hero's Sword Vol. 4
Middle Grade Fantasy Adventure
March 2, 2015
Amazon | Goodreads
Things are getting interesting at Tanner Middle School. The only official candidate for student council president is Jaycee’s nemesis, Trina Poppelman. Plus there’s a new girl in school. At first glance, she looks like she’d fit right in with the cheerleaders, but Jaycee senses something different about her.
Things are getting interesting in Mallory, too. Lady Starla is expecting an Imperial envoy to discuss new taxes. She plans to oppose the measure and asks Lyla to stand by her side in a show of support. However, when the envoy goes missing, the situation becomes a lot more serious than a proposed tax increase.
In this fourth installment of the Hero’s Sword series, Lyla and Roger hit the road to find a missing envoy before Starla pays the ultimate price for his disappearance. Along the way, Jaycee learns that winning isn’t always the end-game result.
Character: Roger Woodbridge
Tell us a little about yourself
Certainly. My name is Roger Woodbridge. I am the chief steward on the estate of Mallory. That means I handle the day-to-day affairs of the estate, making sure the staff of the manor do their jobs, handling minor problems--small things that don't require Lady Caval's attention. I also act as a kind of mentor, if you will, to Lyla Stormbringer. She is a fine young woman, but she has much to learn about herself.
What's the biggest challenge for you?
I suppose balancing the needs of the estate with the needs of the people. Sometimes they are the same. But often while it might be more convenient to sweep things aside and focus on what is best for Mallory's position in the Empire, that doesn't always translate into what is best for people. Truth is often inconvenient, but is usually the best course of action. Add to that the fact that Lyla needs my guidance. As I said before, she's a fine young woman. But she is often hesitant. She needs someone to encourage and support her. I guess that person is me.
You lost your own daughter when she was young. How does that affect your relationship with Lyla?
There is no doubt Lyla is a, well, surrogate daughter to me. I wish for her all the things I would want for my own child: success, confidence, happiness. I think it deepens the relationship a steward has with a hero. Other stewards can just send their heroes on a quest and leave them alone. But I want to help Lyla--and protect her, I guess. At least as much as I can. I think she appreciates the efforts. Or at least I hope she does. She appears to be fond of me, as well.
Tell us something about yourself that we don't necessarily know.
I like working with wood, carving things. It helps me relax.
What is your goal in the story?
To protect Mallory and Lady Caval, first and foremost. This is my home. I have served the Caval family for years, as did my father before me. I have a great amount of loyalty to the family, perhaps more even than to the Empire as a whole (after all, I don't know the Emperor personally). Second, to shepherd Lyla on her quest--and I don't just mean the problem at hand, although that's important, too.
What can we expect from the story?
Adventure, of course. Danger. But also loyalty and truth. And the lesson that it is important to know who you are--and stay true to that person.
An hour later, our Imperial guest had still not arrived. We’d all just been picking at the food, excellent though it was. I threw aside my napkin and stood. “Well, it’s time. If I may borrow a horse, my lady, I’ll set out immediately.”
“You will do no such thing,” Roger said, also standing. “You may have to ride for several hours on the High Road, and it will be dark by then. No one, no matter who she is, should be traveling alone at night. I will go with you. Give me a few minutes, and I will also round up some men to accompany us on the search. My lady.” He laid a hand on Starla’s shoulder and hurried out of the dining room, beckoning me to follow.
“Where do you think he went?” I followed Roger to the courtyard, where he waved to a passing servant.
“I don’t know, but I’m worried. Look, a storm is rolling in.” He pointed to a massive gray cloud bank that was darkening the sky. “I need six men, armed, saddled, and ready to ride, and I need them as fast as possible,” he said to the servant.
“Get my horse ready. I’ll be right back.” I ran up the manor steps and made a beeline for my room. There was no way I was heading out without my sword and bow. I grabbed them from the corner where I’d left them and made it back to the courtyard in record time.
Roger had been busy, hustling people along. Six men were mounted, weapons at hand, ready to ride out. Roger held the reins for two more horses. “Are you ready? Good. Let’s get this search—”
“Whose horse is that?” One of the mounted men pointed toward the road entrance to the courtyard.
I looked up. A chestnut-colored horse, without a rider, wandered toward us. I could see it was saddled and wore a saddle blanket made of dark cloth with what looked like gold trim. I ran toward it.
The animal stopped as I grabbed the trailing reins. I wasn’t an expert on horses, but this looked like a well-bred animal, something a noble would ride. The blanket was indeed trimmed in gold and made of dark purple cloth, brushed to the softness of velvet. I recognized the Imperial crest in the corner.
“Only an official messenger, or a member of the Imperial court, would use a blanket with that crest.” Roger had come up behind me, and he examined the blanket. “This is an expensive saddle and tack, too. I would guess this is our envoy’s horse.”
About the Author
Mary Sutton has been making up stories, and creating her own endings for other people’s stories, for as long as she can remember. After ten years, she decided that making things up was far more satisfying than writing software manuals, and took the jump into fiction.
She writes the HERO’S SWORD middle-grade fantasy series as M.E. Sutton and finds a lot of inspiration in the lives of her own kids. A lifelong mystery fan, she also writes crime fiction, including THE LAUREL HIGHLANDS MYSTERIES, under the pen name Liz Milliron. Her short fiction has been published at Uppagus.com, Mystericale.com (Fall 2013), and in LUCKY CHARMS: 12 CRIME TALES (December 2013).