Threads of a patchwork king, unpicked by the eyrie’s wind.
Sorrow Part 14: The Eagle’s Slumber, the latest in the epic fantasy series is now available for pre-order from Musa Publishing and due for release on Friday 21 March 2014. Here is the blurb and an excerpt.
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.
Colken’s mercenaries sign up to Hoshea’s army as it marches on the High Bloods to attack their ruined fortress, The Eagle’s Slumber. Meanwhile, the High Bloods are distracted by the fulfilment of a prophecy. Bail, with Sorrow’s help, has found their sacred relic, The Heartstones, and so must be crowned as their new king. But not everybody is convinced, and while his coronation descends into squabbling amongst the clans, war looms.
Bail endured a scratchy uncomfortable night, haunted by bad dreams that felt like prophecies. All through the long hours of darkness he kept the Heartstones clasped tight to his chest, knowing his life depended on it. And on Sorrow, but the boy was nowhere to be seen. He had vanished when the clan stopped to bed down for the night, and Bail’s unsettled mind imagined him drifting through the pitch-black woods like a wraith, silently communing with all manner of ghouls and dark spirits.
He was jerked awake at the crack of dawn by the torturous bellowing of the bull horns and opened his eyes to see Sadaf standing over him. For a moment he thought the man meant to murder him, but then saw he held Bail’s cloak and crown. The hard lines of Sadaf’s lugubrious face split into a simpering grin, and he went down on one knee to offer the makeshift regalia at arm’s length.
“I liked you better when you despised me,” said Bail, wincing as his stiff joints cracked and complained. After taking a few gulps of fresh morning air, he took the crown and steeled himself to play the king.
The clan moved a little quicker this time, for all could sense they were close to the half-legendary Eagle’s Slumber and were eager to see the sacred place. The sun was high in the sky before Sorrow reappeared, trotting out of the woods with his cloak wrapped tight around him. He ran to Bail’s shield-bearers, cupping his hands over his mouth to be heard above the din of horns and chanting.
“The woods are full of High Bloods, warriors, and their families!” he shouted. “I tracked them all night. The nearest are less than two miles away, to the south-east.”
Amkur Beg heard him and limped forward with surprising speed to grab the boy’s arm. “How did they look?” he demanded, briefly dropping his mask of deference. “Did any of their warriors have paint on their faces? Did they carry their knives naked, or sheathed?”
“They did not look dressed for war,” replied Sorrow, gently disengaging his arm. “But they are moving fast and will catch up with us very soon.”
Amkur’s face creased into a hideous grimace, and he turned to shout orders at his kin. Almost immediately, the bull-horns and the chanting died away, and the clan sprang from a stately walk into a gallop. The unwieldy clan banner dropped into the dust, as did the horns, and for a moment, Bail thought he too might be dumped onto the ground. Instead, his shield-bearers picked up their pace without any apparent effort, and he found himself clinging to the rim of his shield with one hand and holding his crown in place with the other.
It was in this undignified position he first saw the Slumber, a mighty spur of rock surging up from the eastern flank of the nearest mountain. Much of the crest of the spur was taken up by a wide plateau, nestling in the shadow of a taller peak with layers of snow and ice crystals glistening at its summit. The remains of early morning mist clung to the spur, hiding much of the crest, but Bail could glimpse a number of decaying walls and stone buildings. These were perched on artificial mounds of soil and rock, much like baronial keeps back in the Winter Realm, but here the mounds were arranged into neat squares piled on top of each other, like the steps of a ladder.
The frantic pace of the clan slowed for a moment as each member broke stride to gaze in awe at the Slumber. Then the sound of bull-horns sounded faintly behind them, and Amkur’s cracked, harsh voice jolted them back into a run.
“Quickly! Quickly, now!” he shouted. “They are almost upon us!”