Welcome to the Monday Morsel feature, where I share short extracts from the first draft of my adult epic fantasy/fantasy romance, In the Company of the Dead.
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‘You will go to them?’ Sir Janun spoke as soon as the door closed, sealing them in privacy.
‘Should I not?’ Lyram challenged him to produce some argument against that course of action.
‘You are the king’s cousin, a powerful political bargaining piece by any measure, and the heir to Duke Aharris, who would surely pay dear to have you returned whole. You are also the kingdom’s foremost military commander. You have value in many respects, and could be used against us in a multitude of ways. One could argue it’s treason to allow you to do this thing.’
‘None of those things will help me sleep at night.’
‘You don’t sleep at night anyway,’ Everard said. ‘None of that has anything to do with your conscience. You just want a way out of the misery you’ve tried to escape at the bottom of a bottle.’
Lyram tightened his fingers on the brandy glass, then very deliberately set it down out of harm’s way. ‘My reasons are my own. This is my choice, and you can’t stop me.’
‘My soldiers will, if I order them to.’ The castellan stood, an unexpected stern expression hardening his features.
‘Your soldiers won’t let you, if they know,’ Everard added. ‘They adore you, and won’t place their lives before yours.’
Lyram surged to his feet, jostling the table so the brandy slopped over the rim of the glass. ‘Do I need to lock the pair of you in here until it’s done?’
The door banged open, startling him so much he jumped as badly as Everard and Janun. Ellaeva stood in the doorway, her hand on her sword, her face set in the grim expression of Death’s left hand preparing to dispense justice. Not even a hint of the lonely, burdened girl remained in her visage – only the uncompromising granite her job demanded.
‘You will not go,’ she said, her voice brusque and dismissive. ‘If I have to take steps to keep you here, I will. Don’t think you can cross Ahura and get away with it.’
Sir Janun's eyebrows shot up. Everard, privy to the knowledge of the Rahmyrrin and his threat to Lyram’s life, settled back against the wall with a smug look on his face.
‘There are women and children here, lives that might be saved if I surrender myself. How can one life be worth more than the lives of hundreds?’
‘When hundreds more, thousands even, hang on the fate of that one. You are my charge, and my responsibility, and they are not. I am sorry, but that is the way it has to be.’
Of course; she was a creature of logic, and no appeal to the heart would ever sway her. ‘You wouldn’t.’
‘Don’t tempt me,’ she said. ‘You can go.’
She pointed at Sir Janun, and he hastened from the room like it wasn’t his own castle. His gaze never left that pointing finger, as though she might choose to strike him down on a whim.
Ellaeva shoved the door closed behind the castellan, and his footsteps receded into the distance. She fixed Lyram with a glare chill enough to raise frost. ‘Don’t make the mistake of thinking your personal desires are more important to me than the sacred trust given to me by my goddess. I am charged to keep you safe, and out of the Rahmyrrin’s clutches, and that is what I will do.’
‘This siege has nothing to do with the Rahymyrrin.’
‘No? I will believe that when a dragon lays down in the field with a sheep.’
‘I gather they didn’t give you a heart in the temple.’ Bitter anger spilled out with the words.
Ellaeva met his gaze unflinching, but her brow pinched, and she blinked a few times in quick succession. ‘A heart is not a pre-requisite for the role.’
She spun on her heel, yanking the door open with unnecessary force, and departed in a billow of black robes. The door slammed behind her, with the finality of a closing tomb.
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Thanks for dropping by! Don't forget, this is a first draft, and as such won't be perfect. If you like what you read, and are so inclined, show your support by leaving a comment. I am currently 65% of the way through the first draft of In the Company of the Dead. If you'd like to sample more of my writing, check out my novella Confronting the Demon, or any of my free short stories.
If this is your first visit to Monday Morsels, find others in the series by clicking on the ‘Monday morsel’ tag, or go to the first installment.
More about In the Company of the Dead:
Lyram already crossed a prince, and now he finds himself on the brink of crossing a god.
Son of a duke and second in line for the throne, Lyram is exiled to a lonely castle after assaulting the crown prince. When a hostile army arrives to besiege the castle, he believes the prince wants him removed – permanently.
As though answering their prayers, Ellaeva, the Battle Priestess of the death goddess, arrives unexpectedly. But she has not come to break the siege. Instead, she is in pursuit of a necromancer of the evil god of decay. When misfortune after misfortune befalls the beleaguered defenders, Lyram realises the necromancer is hidden within the walls, sabotaging the very defence.
Against the backdrop of clashing gods, Lyram must fight to save himself from the political machinations of his prince, and the dread plans of a necromancer. But as the siege lengthens, he realises the greatest threat may come from another quarter — a woman sworn body and soul to a god tempts him to pay a terrible price.