Recently, I’ve found I needed to make a decision about a book I completed last year. It’s had some good responses from places where I submitted it, but… the problem is, it’s not a standalone and was never designed to be. This is a long story cut into three manageable sections Each section finishes on a minor closure, but they are designed to be read together.
I don’t know if this sort of thing is or isn’t good to market. I can keep making excuses as to why I put books on Amazon, but I don’t need to. My stories sell at pro level, and I can do with my novels whatever I like. To keep pushing part 1 onto the market would be a guarantee that the rest of the trilogy never sees the light of day. I’m keen to have the story out there, so I am going to put this on Amazon. It helps me write more, and writing more is what this business is about.
The bottom line is this: I enjoy it.
So. I’m hoping to have volume 1 up in November. At the left-hand side of this post, you’ll see the tentative covers. Here is the first page-and-a-half of the trilogy:
Somewhere not far from the edge of the plateau, where the goat-track snaked up the rock-strewn slope, the rain had turned to snow.
Cocooned in his cloak, his view restricted to the swaying back of the camel, Tandor had failed to notice until a gust of wind pelted icicles into his face.
He whipped off the hood and shook out his hair. The breeze, crackling with frost, smelled of his homeland. Oh, for a bath, to wash off the clinging dust, the stink of the prairie lands, of steam trains or the bane of his existence: this grumpy camel.
To his left, the escarpment descended into the land of Chevakia, its low hills and valleys bathed in murky twilight. To his right, the dying daylight touched the rocky crag that formed the edge of the southern plateau, a forbidding cliff face accessible only to those who knew the way.
Something flashed where the ragged rocks met the leaden sky. A tingle went up Tandor’s golden claw, pinching the skin where the metal rods met the stump of his arm. Icefire. Ruko?
He peered up, shielding his eyes against the snow. Golden threads of icefire betrayed the boy’s presence, flooding Tandor with feelings of relief, of urgency, of panic.
Wait, wait, Ruko, not so fast. Tell me what’s going on.
There was no answer, of course. Ruko spoke only in images, and Tandor needed to be close to the boy to catch those.
But Ruko’s emotions had spoken clearly enough. By the skylights, something had happened while he was away. He flicked the reins to jolt the camel into a faster pace. The animal grumbled and tossed its head, but did as it was told.
Ruko waited at a rocky outcrop to the left of the path, seated cross-legged in the snow. An ethereal form, his skin blue-marbled, his brooding eyes black as a lowsun night. His chest shimmered where his heart should be. A lock of hair hung, dark and lanky, over his forehead; he shook it away in an impatient gesture.
Tandor slid off the camel’s back.
He held out his two hands, one of flesh, the other a golden claw. Come.
Ruko rose, towering at least a head over Tandor.
By the skylights, did that boy ever stop growing? No, he was no longer a boy. While Tandor had been away, he had discarded his soft childish look for planes and angles. The boy glowered with resentment, but he obeyed Tandor’s summons as a servitor should. Just.
Ruko put his hand in Tandor’s. The intense cold of it made Tandor gasp, but he steeled himself and sent a jolt of icefire into Ruko’s arm.
The image of the two hands, the live one and the blue one, faded for a scene of chaos. Huge white and brown birds swooped down on the village, carrying Eagle Knights in their traditional red tunics and short-hair cloaks, the swords on their belts clearly visible. They jumped in the snow and ran to the houses, banged on doors, dragged out occupants. Adults, children.
‘Did they kill anyone?’
Ruko didn’t reply. There was anger in his eyes.
‘What, Ruko? What happened?’ All those children Tandor had saved. He thought Bordertown was a safe haven, no longer frequented by merchants, no longer of interest to the Eagle Knights.
Images flowed through Tandor’s mind. Snow under his feet as Ruko ran from the village, screams from women, shouts from men. Trees flashing past. Crossbow bolts thunking into wood. And later, the main square, empty, except for deep tracks in the snow and a single mitten. A young child’s.
Ruko’s shoulders slumped. There was a brief glimpse of the red-cheeked face of a girl, smiling. Shame. And grief.
Tandor pushed Ruko’s chin up. ‘No, Ruko, it’s not your fault.’
If anything, it was Tandor’s. He had left the boy alone; he couldn’t have done otherwise. He had needed to travel to Chevakia, and Ruko couldn’t leave the southern land. Across the border, where there was no icefire, Ruko would simply cease to exist.
Ruko batted Tandor’s hand away.
‘Being angry with me doesn’t help. What can I do about it?’
He felt Ruko’s fury. His screams for his girl dragged away by a Knight. His pounding on the Knight’s back with insubstantial fists. Without the presence of the master, a servitor was little more than a ghost.
Ruko reached for Tandor’s belt for the dagger and the Chevakian powder gun.
‘No – you’re not to go no killing anyone. Stay here. I’m going into town to see how many children they took.’ There had better be some left, because otherwise his plan was in tatters.
Tandor yanked the camel’s reins and swung himself back in the saddle. ‘Behave yourself.’ In case the order wasn’t enough, he let icefire crackle from his fingers. Golden strands snaked around Ruko’s legs and then into the snow.
Ruko glowered at him.
‘Behave, and you will get your revenge, I promise.’