Blood & Tears, book 3 of the Icefire Trilogy is done! Just a proofread and minor edit to be done and then it will be available.
Here is a part of the first scene by way of a teaser:
It was well past midnight when the truck stopped at the gate of Sady’s house. Orsan got out of the seat next to the driver, walked around the side and opened the door for Sady, who let himself down, pulling the sides of his cloak together against the biting wind.
‘Thank you,’ he said to the driver.
‘My pleasure, Proctor. Get some rest. I’ll be back here tomorrow morning, as usual.’
Sady nodded. Thank the heavens for faithful staff.
He walked through the gate, where Orsan exchanged a few words with the young guard Farius. Then across the path flanked by meticulously-clipped bushes, up the steps to the front door.
The night was darker and even more quiet than normal. Low scudding clouds stopped any moonlight reaching the ground, and ever since the bell had rung, the people of the city kept indoors. For the first time in Sady’s memory, the famous street lights of Tiverius remained unlit.
The only light in the hall was the lamp that Lana lit every day after dark and that normally burned all night. By its flickering light, Sady turned to Orsan.
‘Any word from my house guests?’
Orsan shook his head and fixed him with an intense stare. ‘Sady, they can wait until morning. Get Lana to make you some soup and go to bed. I’ll be out at the gate if you need me.’ He gave a customary bow and left.
Sady couldn’t argue with Orsan’s reason. Soup sounded great. Bed even better, although he suspected that once he lay down, sleep would be the last thing that came to him.
After the skirmishes in the refugee camp, he had gone back to his office to deal with the polite unhappiness of the senators, and with the much more rude complaints of the citizens, who told him bluntly that they did not want this southern menace in their city. Mercy, could these people just explain to him what they would have done with all those refugees? Turn the trains around and send the poor wretches back to their ravaged country?
He took his cloak off in the hall, and with it, the stoic façade of strength. He let his shoulders sag and dragged his hands across his stubbled face. He didn’t think he’d ever been so tired in his life.
But even here, in the comfort of his house, he still saw the people on the platform. He saw the stack of bodies. A tangle of arms and legs, coated in indescribable filth. He saw the wretched survivors, with weeping sonorics wounds. He smelled the incredible stench. He saw the angry faces of the refugees in the camp. They only asked to have their dead relatives’ bodies returned to them to observe the proper rituals. They’d been robbed of all dignity, and clung onto what little they had left. But all those bodies would have to be burned to stop contamination. He didn’t look forward to dealing with the aftermath of this necessity. From what he understood, burning your dead amounted to sacrilege in the south; burying them was even worse. It made sense how the southerners left their dead for animals to eat, so that the people could eat the animals in turn. But you just couldn’t do a thing like that in Chevakia’s climate. Not to mention the uproar it would cause to the citizens of Tiverius.
Mercy. How could he possibly solve this?
Bed, Sady, go to bed.
But first, something to eat.
He walked into the kitchen where a single light burned against the back wall. The benches were empty and clean. A bowl of fruit stood in the middle of the table.
‘Hello? Lana?’ He expected to hear a voice from the pantry, I’m in here! Wait a moment. Do you want roccas or some soup?
Now that he came to think of it, he was more than hungry. It could be the reason why he felt so ill. He couldn’t even remember his last meal.
The pantry door was closed. The back door into the laundry was closed. The corridor to the servant quarter was dark.
That was strange. Lana was always here. He couldn’t imagine that she had gone to bed; she never did before he was home. But then again, it was very late, and he had told her repeatedly to go to bed if he was late. He was just… disappointed that she seemed to have taken his advice on this night, when he needed to talk to someone calm and sane.
He left the kitchen and knocked on the door to her private room. ‘Lana, I’m back.’ She would want to know; she would worry if he stayed out too long.
There was no reply.
Neither was there a sign of life from anywhere else. Him making this much noise should have brought out Serran, because he was responsible for the grounds, or the young Merni, because she was a gossip, and would make sure that she didn’t miss anything.
Where was everyone?
Sady walked into the dark living room, feeling stupid. Here he was, the great leader of the country, and he was unnerved by being alone. Unnerved by feeling so strange in his own house.
The living room window looked out onto the courtyard, where he could only see a stone bench lit by a lantern on the patio, a little island of light in the dark. There was a statue in the middle of the yard, of Eseldus han Chevonian, one of his great forefathers. Today, Eseldus was only a dark silhouette.
The windows in the guest wing to the right hand side of the courtyard were dark. The surgeons must have already gone home. He was relieved about that; Sady had no desire to become more intimately acquainted with women’s business than absolutely necessary.
He could still see the woman’s bruised and red-blotched abdomen. The thought made him shiver. He hoped she survived. He hoped the child survived. That would be one point of light in this misery. Mercy, he’d never thought that this was the way his house would ever see a baby.
He went back to the kitchen and scouted for some food, cringing at every noise he made. The clank of a plate on the stone bench, the rummaging in the cutlery, the rumble of pouring coal into the stove, the hiss of the flame under the kettle, it all sounded incredibly loud. He found some bread and a bit of goat’s cheese, which crumbled all over the bench when he cut it up into clumsy, too-thick slices.
He sat down and ate, listening to the silence of the house.
And the sounds of the day. The ringing of the bell. The yelling of the men in the camp. He didn’t understand their language, but he could feel the despair and anger in their words. It brought back many bad memories of his youth. Hundreds of people crammed into a cellar for days without food. The stink of too many bodies in a confined space. There had been that boy, a bit older than himself at the time, who projectile-vomited on those around him.
Sady could still smell it. He could still see the mother’s embarrassment, her despair. Her son was seriously ill with sonorics, and yet her immediate concern was the irritation of the people around her.
Sady could still hear her, and the boy’s muffled cries. And the ringing of the bell. He would never forget that. And today, the bell had rung again, after more than ten years of silence.
Somewhere in his mind, he registered that the water was boiling and probably had been for a while. Now, where did Lana put the teapot?
As he pushed up from the seat, there was an enormous crash at the back of the house, and the breaking of glass.