Monday, 12 May 2014

Monday Morsel: Clandestine Activity - An Excerpt from In the Company of the Dead

Welcome to the Monday Morsel feature, where I share short excerpts from the first draft of my adult epic fantasy/fantasy romance, In the Company of the Dead

* * *

Lyram tied off the laces of a black linen shirt. Ellaeva lay in the bed, asleep; so deeply asleep, thanks to a concoction he obtained from Leinahre, that it would be some time before she woke.

He left the clan sword where it lay on his writing desk, amongst a scatter of unfinished and lately unimportant paperwork. Where he was going, he didn’t want to be recognised. He settled his dagger on his hip, though, and dropped another in one of his half-boots. A sack lay next to his sword, and he picked it up and slung it over his shoulder.

Galdron and the guards searched for the missing bodies, but none of them turned up. No one had seen them, or anyone moving them, or anything else amiss. How did someone move with such unnoticed ease in a castle this tiny? The answer worried him: the necromancer belonged here. Someone trusted, and where they belonged, and so he went unremarked. Just another castle resident going about his business.

That truth spurred him to action. The sooner he surrendered himself, the sooner the siege ended, and the sooner the castle reopened. Either the inhabitants would leave, or the necromancer. At the very least, the necromancer would no longer have cause to use the stolen bodies for his nefarious purposes.

He pulled the door shut behind him with care. Everard had instructions not to disturb them, but his aide might still lurk nearby, in case of a late night call for assistance, and he didn’t wish to be seen – or stopped.

Shadows filled the stairwell. He descended as quickly as he dared, supporting himself against the stone wall and feeling out each step with a foot. The soft soles made only a gentle scuffing on the stone as he descended lightly on his feet.

The bottom doorway lay open to the courtyard. He hesitated in the mouth of the stairwell, scouting the courtyard. If Everard saw him here, not all would be lost, but he preferred his aide thought him in his room until the morning, when it would be too late to stop him.

Something moved near the well room. Everard, or someone else about in the night, he didn’t know. He cut right, away from the shadow, and ducked immediately into the stairwell to the walls. The sack bounced against his shoulder as he trotted up.

Guards patrolled the walls, but he’d set the routine, and knew it well. The shadow of the gatehouse afforded him some cover while he knelt and pulled a grappling hook and rope from the sack, together with an oilskin. Then he stripped off his clothes, wrapped them in the oilskin, and stowed everything back in the sack. A short length of rope allowed him to tie the sack about his waist, and then he shouldered the coiled rope with grapple.

Then he waited, the cool night air pebbling his naked skin.

A guard appeared, and he started counting. The man emerged from the darkness and walked past, disappearing down the wall. On this moonless night, only a short section of the wall was visible. Right on cue, another guard appeared, and then another.

When the third one had passed, before he was even out of sight, Lyram dashed from concealment and dropped to his knees beside the crenels. Glancing furtively at the guard still in view, and counting under his breath, he secured the hook on the wall, testing its grip with a few short tugs.

The last guard had vanished from sight now. A few moments, that was all, and the next would appear.

He climbed atop the crenels, and began climbing down the outside of the wall. Soot darkened the grapple, so that no light would reflect from the metal. The dark grey rope played out between his hands as he descended the wall. Above, the muffled footsteps of a guard approached. Lyram held his breath, but the steps passed by and disappeared into the dark.

The water of the moat slapped gently against the castle stones. Lyram grimaced, and peered at it between his feet. Nothing for it.

* * *

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, and In the Company of the Dead will be available in the future. I've temporarily had to shelve it while I work on Stalking the Demon, the sequel to Confronting the Demon. If you'd like to sample more of my writing, check out the free short stories available on this site.

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.

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A M Guynes-Annikka Woods said...

I haven't been finding many stories that drew me in lately, but all of these snippets make me want to watch more and more for the release date for this story. I know it's a first draft, but I will enjoy seeing the journey to final draft for this book.

Ciara Ballintyne said...

Thank you! I'm so glad. They are only a first draft, but that was what I wanted to share - the journey. Brandon Sanderson actually put the entire first draft of one of his books online!

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