Sorrow Part 10: The City of Eagles is now available from Musa Publishing. Here is a brief synopsis and an excerpt.
“The fall of a general, the rise of a slave.”
An uneasy peace has descended over the World Apparent. The Winter Realm and the Old Kingdom are recovering from the cataclysmic events of the Twelfth Reconquest, while in the south, the Djanki and the Sharib retreat to lick their wounds from the battle at Temple Rock. To the east, the divided Empire of Temeria is nearing the end of a long civil war, in which rival Generals have fought like mad dogs to seize the long-vacant Imperial Throne.
Felipe, the Knight of Occido, wanders the wilderness in search of Sorrow. Battered and exhausted, even his dreams are plagued by his hated grand master, Fulk, urging him ever on to find the child. Hasan, The City of Eagles, is under siege while its leader General Saqr is consumed by madness and despair. While others lose hope Saqr’s loyal secretary, the slave Hoshea, is determined to prevent the city from falling – by any means necessary.
From the battlements of the Tusk, the highest tower of the donjon guarding the outer gates of the city, Hoshea watched with quiet joy as the besieging army disintegrated. The councillors standing next to him and the soldiers manning the walls observed the miracle in silence
Only he knew what had happened. General Anma had been assassinated in her tent by his creature. The knight of the Winter Realm should have died, since no worldly medicine could seal up his wounds, but Hoshea’s sorcery had breathed new life and strength into him. A mockery of life, true, derived from the darkest of dark arts, but even a mockery was sufficient. The golem that was once Jean de Riparia would be far away by now, following the second of the commands Hoshea had whispered into his ear.
The army mustered by the late Empress was a feudal host, drawn together by the lesser generals and satraps that held lands from Anma in exchange for military service. Only her powerful personality and success in battle had held the disparate host together, and the discovery of her headless corpse had almost immediately led to chaos.
On being told the shocking news of Anma’s murder, every one of her sub-commanders had laid claim to leadership of the army and the Imperial Crown with it. A heated row had ensued, accusation and counter-accusation, followed by the inevitable drawing of daggers, and a bloody brawl erupted between the contending officers and their bodyguards outside Anma’s tent. Her corpse had been laid out on a blanket nearby and during the fight was trampled on and spattered with blood.
“Thus ends the reign of the Empress Anma. May it be long forgotten,” murmured Hoshea, breaking the silence on the battlements.
“Look there!” cried Samshi, pointing to a part of the enemy camp where men could be seen uprooting their tents and streaming away from their posts, ignoring the shouts and blows of their officers. One enraged sergeant rode into the middle of a group of mutinous troopers and lashed at them with his vine rod; in response they dragged him from the saddle and repaid the compliment with the butts of their spears. Violence and confusion also reigned in other parts of the camp. The brawl around Anma’s tent broke up, the surviving combatants swearing vengeance.
“Commander Samshi,” said Hoshea in a tone of calm authority, “take your horse out in force and disperse the rabble outside. Bring me as many officers as you can, alive.”
Samshi bowed and hurried away. The High Priest turned to upbraid Hoshea, his leathery face mottled with rage, but was not given a chance to speak.
“I have heard enough from you, old man,” said Hoshea, and spoke words of incantation. The priest’s eyes opened wide in terror and disbelief as the Maker’s cold hands squeezed his heart. He took a step towards Hoshea, feebly lifting his staff as if he meant to strike, and a ghastly rattling noise sounded in the back of his throat.
Knowing that the eyes of everyone nearby were on him, Hoshea placed his hand against the priest’s shallow chest and pushed him off the parapet. The man was dead before he hit the cobbles far below, but Hoshea meant to make an impression. If the people of Hasan would not be ruled by common sense, they would have to be ruled through fear.
He had now used the dark arts to resurrect one man and kill another. Sorcery was becoming a dangerous habit.