You can check out some sample chapters HERE.
(You can find Chapter 1 HERE.)
The clamminess of the dagger’s hilt itched Drinith’s palm as she waited behind the door for the man coming to murder her. She felt none of the readiness Gelasin had claimed to see in her. Stripped of her mail shirt, her tunic felt flimsy. Her heart leapt wildly at every swoop and swoon of the wind beyond the palace.
Another young woman with a cloud of red and gold hair, her living reflection, lay in her bed, creating an eerie sense of disembodiment. The candlelight made the cyan gem shine like a star against the green-black night of her forehead. A sheet of red silk molded around her sprawled body, drawing the eye with its vulnerable nakedness. Beneath the massive pillows, however, the girl held an axe.
How could her handmaid, Jarma, display such remarkable calm knowing all the while an assassin drew near? She had disguised herself as Drinith so that the assassin would assume it was she who lay in the bed. If only Drinith could check her nerves as easily her friend and quell the flutter in the pit of her stomach. If she failed this test, both of their lives would be forfeit. It would have been easier to face the assassin alone.
This scheme was the height of folly. She should have never agreed to it.
But it was too late now to send Jarma away. The bright yellow light spilling through the long windows had already darkened to the burnt orange gloom of a Crevast night. The assassin could arrive at any moment.
Her whole body reverberated with the urgent throbbing of her heart. She needed to calm down. She practiced her moves—her dance, as Gelasin dubbed it.
Something flickered in the corner of her eye; a pair of curved shadows bit into the stripe of light beneath the doorway before it disappeared. She held her breath as the handle silently rotated downward. She stepped back as the door gently swung open with nary a creak. Her heart thumped so loudly in the silence an absurd panic gripped her lest her would-be murderer should hear as he drifted into the room with all the softness of a shadow. Hunched and cowled, he raised a stiletto in his left hand, its needle-like blade pointing downward, ready to strike the sleeping girl.
The multiple shifting shadows of the dagger cast by the encircling candles crept up the blood-red silk to close on Jarma’s chest like the hooked fingers of a massive claw. Still feigning repose, she shifted slightly, sighing softly. If Drinith didn’t strike now, it would be the last sound her friend ever made. Tightening her damp grip on her knife, she plunged forward.
Alerted by her soft intake of breath, the assassin swerved around. His knife flicked upward as he swallowed the gap between them in a single precise leap. He stabbed twice with the whole force of his body where her torso should have been, but she had already swerved clear. He swept the blade after her, but she had stepped inside its arc and clamped her arm over his elbow. She had no time to savor the chagrin, briefly betrayed by the candlelight, on his blue-black face. His second dagger flicked out at her from beneath his arm like a striking snake, but she was ready for it. He yowled as she drove her knife through his hand, impaling it into his forearm, forcing him to drop his weapon. Her blade had penetrated deeper than she had intended; she had only meant to cripple his hand. She yanked her knife free and drove it at his neck, chasing the moment of victory Quiescat had foreseen. The assassin slapped at her with his wounded hand. He twisted clear and jammed his knee into her stomach. Winded, she lost hold of his arm, but she fastened onto it again before it could slip free. Bright pain jabbed her side. Ignoring his bloody slaps, she stabbed his arm three times, cracking bone, snapping the tip of her blade. She threw herself upon him with a violent roar. Her dagger made a loud crunch as it rammed into his chest. As he flopped back, the blade pulled her forward and she toppled with him. The floor slammed her blade deeper, sinking it all the way to the hilt. She rolled off him as Jarma dropped her axe on him. Blood spurted from the assassin’s neck as his severed head rolled across the floor. It came to a stop at an awkward angle, gazing up at Drinith in bewilderment until the last vestige of life drained away.
Warm blood greased Drinith’s tunic. She assumed it was all her assailant’s until a sharp pain in her side reminded her otherwise.
Fatal Shadow is available for pre-order on Amazon.
Seven assassins, foiled by the watchfulness of the princess’s retinue, had previously failed to kill Drinith of Kaplar. Now, somewhere in the palace of her host, the Aether Emperor, an eighth crept unchecked toward her bedchamber. In a premonition, Quiescat had seen the man flitting between shadows in dimly lit corridors as he moved inexorably nearer her door, his bland, blue-black countenance rigid with concentration, the blade of his dagger as black and cruel as his purpose. Quiescat had already witnessed every blow of the impending struggle. He had seen her standing blood-spattered over the corpse of her would-be killer. But the vision gave Quiescat little comfort. The child he had raised from a baby was about to face a consummate killer in single combat, and the exiled Oracle of Godsdoor could do nothing but wait and pray his prescience proved true.
Slouched in his seat, wringing his sweaty hands, he stared at the dragon amber tiles covering the bedroom floor. He was only vaguely aware of the Crevast, the void between worlds, howling for his attention beyond the long glass windows. The aging warrior, Gelasin, couldn’t be ignored so easily. Quiescat kept glancing up at that tense knot of bone and sinew wrapped in drum-tight green-black skin and battered armor. His lean mouth always verged on an insolent smile, owing to the rugged, matte black scars in his cheeks where his honor tattoos should have been. Leaning against the wall, his arms folded, he appeared to be the very embodiment of smug indifference.
“How can you stay so damnably calm?” Quiescat whispered. “Our princess’s life is in danger.”
Gelasin arched an amused eyebrow. “I have faith in you,” he said with a whiff of sarcasm. “And I’ve faith in her. She must prove to her prospective subjects and allies that her right to rule extends beyond an accident of birth. Thanks to you, she’s ready for the assassin’s every move. She faces more of a dance than a battle.”
Quiescat snorted. “Don’t thank me. I never should have agreed to this escapade.”
Gelasin’s eyes narrowed. “You’re not questioning your vision, are you?”
“No.” Quiescat massaged the aching stiffness in the back of his neck. He knew his prevision was true.
Unfolding his arms, Gelasin straightened. “Are you certain she’s safe this time? The sequence of moves I worked out with her is specific to the attack you described, down to the wielding hand the assassin favors. She’s not wearing her mail shirt precisely because, according to your vision, it was an unnecessary burden. If you’re wrong…” He gripped the hilt of his sheathed dagger and stared at the door. His whole body compressed as if ready to pounce toward it.
The sudden tension in his demeanor tempted a smile from Quiescat. The renegade, having so often pooh-poohed his misgivings in the past, now turned to him for reassurance. “She will win. The vision is certain.”
Relaxing, Gelasin folded his arms and rested back against the wall, but he kept glancing at the door. “It wasn’t just symbolic or something?”
“It wasn’t allegorical,” Quiescat said wearily. He missed the ambiguity of cryptic dreams, but such things were the poetry of youth. His prophetic glimpses had turned prosaic long ago. Since Godsdoor’s fall, his visions had become limited to fixed points nailed into a dark and uncertain future. After tonight, only one would remain: the moment of his death. It, too, drew close. He had replayed it so many times, it no longer inspired fear, but only a gnawing sense of loss and failure. He could see nothing beyond it. It might be a blessing. Never mind the recovery of her throne; the odds were stacked against Drinith’s very survival, and he didn’t want to contemplate her death.
Could his prophetic insight fail? Could she die tonight? Prescience was a fickle gift, prone to misinterpretation. No, he couldn’t be mistaken. She still lived in his final vision. Unless her presence was an illusion, a trick of some kind, the sort Fate loved to play.
Gelasin pursed his lips. “She’s not alone. Jarma’s in there with her. Between the two of them… you saw Drinith kill him.”
Quiescat winced, nodded.
“I slew my first man when I was fourteen,” Gelasin said. “Drinith’s almost nineteen.”
Quiescat shook his head in disgust. “I’m nearly fifty and I’ve never killed anyone.” That is, not in hand-to-hand combat. Quiescat had caused far more deaths than the warrior ever had or would. His prognostications had divided families, started wars, pitted kingdoms and empires against each other. Yes, his words had possessed the power to kill until the tyrant Magian the Infinite had driven him from his temple.
Gelasin gestured with his forefinger and thumb at the pits in his cheeks. He smiled. In the dull light, they became two jagged black holes in his face. “You didn’t get what once adorned these cheeks until you had killed in the service of the Emperor of Kaplar.”
When Quiescat first encountered Gelasin, the warrior had scorned that same emperor. He had deigned to join Drinith’s retinue only because his detestation of Magian eclipsed even his hatred of her father, Hemrath. The subsequent years as her protector had inspired a change of heart, a nostalgia for the life he had forsaken, and a fierce loyalty to the heir of his former liege. It made his reckless urgency to thrust her in harm’s way even more infuriating.
The fault didn’t lie with Gelasin. He acted according to his nature. Quiescat could have stopped this. He should have. He still could.
“I weary of this,” he declared, slapping his hands on the armrests.
A sudden clamor from the neighboring bedchamber transfixed him mid-rise. His fingers dug into the padded leather, but he remained frozen in a pained hunch, terrified that anything he did, no matter how slight, might sabotage his vision as his princess fought for her life.
Fatal Shadow is available for pre-order on Amazon.
Read Chapter 2 HERE.
I feel like a pirate lowering my flag of convenience and hoisting the Jolly Roger! Below are the two new covers for A Bright Power Rising and The Unconquered Sun. They have a much more epic fantasy feel!
The ebooks are already available on Amazon and Kobo with the new versions appearing on the other stores in a couple of days. The paperbacks are to follow soon.
It is three years and seven months since I began work on this series. For all those years, on the rare occasions I posted about this series, I’ve spoken about it in code, not even referring to the books by name. (To be fair, many of those names changed multiple times.) There’s a long road ahead for me, mountains of story to climb. But the first milestone in this journey is very close and I’m more excited by this book than anything I’ve written in the past.
Finally, I’m in a postion to share with you some of the details. This book follows on almost nineteen years after the events of the short story No Escape. If you haven’t read it, I strongly suggest you do. You can download it for free at the moment.
Long ago, magic cracked apart the world and suspended great continents between two suns. But the ebb and flow of human history continues. Trade and war cross the void on dragon wings. Great empires rise and topple…
As the rightful heir to one such fallen state, Drinith has known only exile, dashed hope, and constant threat. She has so far eluded the murderous intentions of the tyrant Magian the Infinite thanks to the prophetic visions of the oracle, Quiescat, but his power is failing. All he can glimpse in the future now is his own death.
An assassin’s blade forces her into a desperate gamble. She takes her one final chance to secure the ally she so desperately needs. But at the end of her journey, she’ll find deceit, betrayal, and murder. And she’ll learn Magian isn’t the only threat to her people.
Fatal Shadow is the first of six books in the Champions of Fate epic fantasy series for those readers who enjoy fast-paced action, intriguing characters, and imaginative world-building.
The ebook is available on Amazon for preorder HERE. It will be published on 22nd February 2021.
I’m sending this as a warning for those who have the paperbacks of A Bright Power Rising and maybe want to complete the set or like the old covers but never got around to buying them.
Those covers will be changing (I like to think for the better). I’ll reveal them soon, but in the meantime, you have only have until 23rd October to buy paperbacks with the old covers guaranteed. After that, the paperbacks won’t be available at all on Amazon for several days while the new covers go through the review process for the new versions.
Edit: This issue has since been resolved, thankfully.
Hi all. Just a quick warning that some of my books appear to be currently duplicated on the site. I priced them the same as all the other stores. Three of them are free (No Escape, The Fate Healer and The Parting Gift) while one of them (The Murder Seat) is at €0.99. The duplicates are at €5.33.
While I certainly think they might be worth that :), I have never charged that much for them. I’ve sent a query to Kobo about this and hopefully, this situation will be resolved soon. In the meantime, here are the correct links:
Last week a lot later than I had intended, I finally sent Book 1 to my editors. I had planned to send it just before my holidays in august but some valuable comments arrived just too late for me to process properly and I decided to finalise the fifth draft after I came back. I hate delays. It makes me feel like I’m swimming in molasses. However, there was no point rushing these things and making snap decisions I’d regret later. After this last draft, I’m satisfied that it’s ready to go. I found myself quibbling over smaller and smaller details.
All in all, it’s about six months since I started the 2nd draft. Hopefully, Book 2 will go faster. Things with respect to Covid restrictions have eased here somewhat. My daughter has gone back to school which pretty much gives me the mornings to work. My office moved upstairs out of the kitchen just in time for our puppy to figure out how to get on the kitchen table if the chairs are left a little out from it. She’s a good dog but she would have seen my computer set up as an exciting range of chew toys.
I had already gone about halfway through the 2nd draft of Book 2 in between revisions of Book 1. However, I need to refamiliarise myself with what I’ve done. Plus, I may have a surprise traitor on my hands from Book 1 (It was certainly a surprise when I thought of it) so I need to work that into the story.
So, we’ve been in lockdown since mid-March. My wife works from home from my old desk so I’m working on one half of the kitchen table. I get up early before my wife and daughter to fit in a few quiet hours to get some writing done and fit in what I can throughout the rest of the day.
I finished that alien short story the end of March. It came in at 45k words so I guess it’s not a short story any longer. I wrote a fourth story which I initially thought might be as an epilogue but is probably a separate story.
I then did another draft of a fantasy short story which I’ve been working on for several years. I’m still not happy with it, but the current draft is a big improvement on the last one. I’ll tinker at again at another time.
I also started editing the first book of my six book fantasy. Draft 2 took until the end of April. Draft 3 took about two weeks. I enjoyed Draft 2. I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the first draft. Draft 3 was less fun. It was staring at the individual strokes of an impressionist painting. Stare close enough and the structure disappears, the dots lose their meaning. I was glad to get to the end and send it off to my beta readers.
Anyway, on to Book 2. I have a feeling that parts of this one will take a lot more work, but maybe I’ll be pleasantly surprised. *crosses fingers*