Richard Morgan, not a new writer but a fairly new – and awesome – voice still in epic fantasy has put up an excerpt of his WiP on his blog.
He felt the change as soon as he stepped over the threshold of the croft. It came on like icy water, sprinkling across the nape of his neck and his shoulders.
He tilted his head a little to send the feeling away, traced a warding glyph in the air, like taking down a volume from a library shelf. Around him, the croft walls grew back to an enclosing height they likely hadn’t seen in decades. The boiling grey sky blacked out, replaced with damp smelling thatch overhead. A dull, reddish glow reached out to him from the hearth. Peat smoke stung his throat. He heard the hoarse whistle of breathing, the creak of……
A worn oak rocking chair, angled at the fireside, tilting gently back and forth. From where he stood, Ringil could not tell what was seated there, only that it was wrapped in a dark cloak and cowl.
The ward he’d chosen was burning down around him like some torched peasant’s hut. He felt the fresh exposure shiver through him. Reached for something stronger, cracked finger-bones etching it into the air.
“Yes – becoming quite adept at that, aren’t we.” It was a voice that creaked like the chair. Wheeze and rustle of seeming age, or maybe just the breathlessness at the end of laughing too hard at something. “Quite the master of the ikinri ‘ska these days.”
His fresh ward shattered apart, no better than the first – the chill of the Presence rushed in on him. The rocking chair jerked violently around, from no agency he could see. The thing it held was a corpse. The shrunken mounds it made within the wrap of the cloak were unmistakeable, the way it skewed awkwardly in the seat, as if blown there by the wind. The cowl was tipped forward like the muzzle of some huge dark worm, shrouding the face. One ivory-pallid hand gripped an armrest, flesh shrunk back from long, curving nails. The other arm lay in the thing’s lap, was covered by the way the cloak folded there.
Even as the chill blew through him, something about that fact was scratching for attention at the limen of his being.
His hand leapt up, across, closed on the hilt of the Ravensfriend where it jutted over his left shoulder.
“Oh, please,” creaked the voice. “Put that away, why don’t you. If I can break your wards like sticks for kindling, how hard do you think it’s going to be for me to break that dinky little sword of yours as well? You know, for an up-and-coming sorcerer, you show remarkably little breadth of response.”
Ringil let go the Ravensfriend, felt the pommel slip through his hands as the Kiriath-engineered scabbard sucked the handsbreadth of exposed blade back into itself. He eyed the slumped form before him and held down the repeated urge to shiver.
“Who are you?”
“And still he does not know me.” Abruptly, the corpse loomed to its feet, out of the chair as if tugged there by puppet’s strings. Ringil found himself face to face with the worm’s head cowl and the blank darkness it framed. He made himself stare back, but if there was a face in there, dead or alive, it didn’t show. The whispering voice seemed to come from everywhere at once, down from the eaves of the thatch, out of the crackle of the hearth, out of the air just behind his ear. “You did not know me at Trelayne’s Eastern Gate, when your destiny was laid out in terms you could understand; you did not know me at the river when the first of the cold legion gathered to you, and your passage to the dark gate began. I sent a whole shipload of corpses for you when you were finally ready. So tell me, Ringil Eskiath – how many times must I look out at you through the eyes of the dead before I am given my due?”
It fell in on him like the thatched roof coming down on his head. The cloak and cowl, the stylised placement of hands, one raised to the arm of the chair, the other gathered in the lap, holding-
“Oh, well done.” The corpse turned and shuffled away from him, back towards the hearth. “Took you long enough, didn’t it? Wouldn’t have thought it’d be so hard to recognise the Queen of the Dark Court when she comes calling. We are your ancestral gods, are we not?”
“Not by my choice,” he said starkly.
Read the rest here.
And check out book 2 in ,ass market paperback in October:
The Cold Commands
Land Fit for Heroes #2
By Richard Morgan
Fantasy: harder, faster, bloodier. The king of noir SF takes on Fantasy.
Ringil Eskiath, scarred wielder of the kiriath-forged broadsword Ravensfriend, is a man on the run – from his past and the family who have disowned him, from the slave trade magnates of Trelayne who want him dead and apparently from the dark gods themselves, who are taking an interest but making no more sense than they ever have.
Outlawed and exiled from his ancestral home in the north, Ringil has only one place left to turn – Yhelteth, city heart of the southern Empire, where perhaps he can seek asylum with the kiriath half-breed Archeth, former war comrade and now high-up advisor to the Emperor Jhiral Khimran II. But Archeth has problems of her own to contend with, as does her house guest, bodyguard and one time steppe nomad Egar the Dragonbane. And far from gaining the respite he seeks, Ringil will instead find himself implicated in fresh schemes and doubtful allegiances no safer than those he has left behind.
Old enemies are stirring, the old order is rotted through and crumbling and though no-one yet knows it, the city of Yhelteth is about to explode…