To celebrate the release of my new book, here’s an excerpt from it to whet your appetites. The passage starts with King Curillian speaking to Lancoir, his Captain of Guards…
‘I know you are not in favour of this mission, Lancoir, but I will undertake it nonetheless. I ask no armist to come with me, and no pressed armist – you least of all – will I suffer in my company. Whoever comes, we must be few. We cannot carry war into the mountains with any hope. We will neither overmaster the harracks nor lay waste their cold citadel. Rather, it is as shadows and thieves we must go. With stealth we will penetrate their stronghold and steal the captive back. Therefore, there is no risk of the casualties you fear. But make your decision swiftly: either stay here with the main cohort, or come with my volunteers.’
Curillian went straight to bed then, letting no task come between him and sleep. Lancoir instead went and reviewed his kit. Roujeark went with him, seeing him as the more likely source of answers. They joined the rest of the King’s Cohort in the lodge that had been made available to them. It was a wooden structure built into a bank of earth, so discrete that you hardly noticed it until you were right outside. A carved wooden doorway gave onto a wide hallway running back into the earth. The hall was filled with a long wooden table at which the Royal Guards reclined in shirtsleeves. In their king’s absence all had evidently been washed and well-fed, judging by the aromatic steam filling the air and the well-scraped bowls littering the table. Arms and armour had been piled to one side, and some of the guard had already taken to their beds in curtained niches cut into the walls. Overhead, the ceiling was a mass of tree-roots which had somehow been twined into wonderful patterns.
The happy banter died away almost immediately as Lancoir stomped in. Fists clenched, he took in the scene with a scowl and the armists’ jests died on their lips. They knew the Captain of the Guard well enough to know when he was angry. Lancoir looked as if he might speak, and the armists braced themselves, but then he stalked off down the hall. Gradually the conversations resumed once he was past, and Roujeark felt the atmosphere recover as he followed the angry captain. Lancoir went right to the far end and sought out his own gear. Roujeark watched as the captain’s anger seeped out in kit slammed down, weapons slotted resoundingly into scabbards and knots tied unnecessarily tight, the rope positively whistling and cracking in his hands. Some of the guards nearby were already asleep, but one or two were wakened and made nervous by their captain’s ire.
‘What are harracks?’ Roujeark ventured to ask at last. Lancoir continued sorting his gear, but eventually answered.
‘Harracks…’ he snapped, but too loud, startling several others. He fixed each with a furious glare that made them turn away and mentally block up their ears. ‘Harracks,’ he repeated more softly, but hardly with less venom, ‘are squat little bastards who live in the mountains that spawned them. They’re so at home in stone that they’re practically made of the stuff. Some say they’re born of the stone itself. They’re tougher than dwarves, slow-moving but ridiculously hard to kill. They blunt blades and smash shields. It’s like trying to fight the mountains themselves. You’ve probably never heard of them, because the only time they’ve ventured down into the lowlands they’ve exposed weaknesses and been beaten, but get them in the mountains, around plenty of rock, and they thrive on it like elves in trees. That’s why we’ve never taken them on at home, nor tried to flush them out, and that’s why we shouldn’t be trying now.’ He thumped his backpack in frustration. Roujeark could tell that eavesdropping was still going on by the way some of the prone guards nearby jumped slightly in their feigned sleep.
Lancoir gripped his bag like he was going to rip the leather apart with his bare hands, but then slowly he relaxed.
‘I just don’t understand why he’s doing it,’ he said quietly, almost to himself. He was quiet for a moment. His next words were dropped so low that Roujeark had to lean in to pick them out. ‘I’ve seen him impulsive before, we all know his quick-fire instincts on what’s right, but never have I seen him risk so much for so little reason.’
Roujeark tried to mollify his wound-up companion. ‘You heard the queen, Lancoir; all the great men of the world are on the move, converging for this tournament. Do you really want to miss out on that, or not even find out what’s at stake?’
The captain was silent for a long time, eyes boring holes into his pack.
‘No,’ he conceded, muttering at the ground. ‘We should be there.’ Then suddenly he reached out and seized Roujeark’s tunic and growled like a bear. ‘But mark my words, Roujeark, nothing this big happens without trouble. The greater the prize, the greater the price.’
Rite of Passage is Book 2 in the Oron Amular trilogy. It picks up where Book 1, The Call of the Mountain, left off. To follow Curillian, Lancoir and Roujeark in their quest for the lost Mountain of Oron Amular, get your copy today.