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Sunday, June 17, 2012

Excerpt: Cephrael's Hand by @melissagmcphail


Title: Cephrael's Hand

Author: Melissa McPhail
Website: Click HERE.
Twitter: @melissagmcphail

Synopsis: "All things are composed of patterns..." And within the pattern of the realm of Alorin, three strands must cross:

In Alorin...three hundred years after the genocidal Adept Wars, the realm is dying, and the blessed Adept race dies with it. One man holds the secret to reverting this decline: Bjorn van Gelderan, a dangerous and enigmatic man whose shocking betrayal three centuries past earned him a traitor's brand. It is the Adept Vestal Raine D'Lacourte's mission to learn what Bjorn knows in the hope of salvaging his race. But first he'll have to find him...

In the kingdom of Dannym...the young Prince Ean val Lorian faces a tenuous future as the last living heir to the coveted Eagle Throne. When his blood-brother is slain during a failed assassination, Ean embarks on a desperate hunt for the man responsible. Yet his advisors have their own agendas, and his quest for vengeance leads him ever deeper into a sinuous plot masterminded by a mysterious and powerful man, the one they call First Lord...

In the Nadori desert...tormented by the missing pieces of his life, a soldier named Trell heads off to uncover the truth of his shadowed past. But when disaster places him in the debt of Wildlings sworn to the First Lord, Trell begins to suspect a deadlier, darker secret motivating them.



Excerpt


Trell’s horse snorted and shifted beneath him as a gust of hot wind surged up from the desert valley, flattening the sparse grass that grew like wisps of hair between jagged, sun-scorched rocks. The wind brought with it the smell of heat, baked earth and sand, and a gnawing apprehension that was as unwelcome as it was strange.

Trell turned in the saddle and focused grey eyes on the ridge at his back. The view was not unlike that of another ridge, this one lording over the rushing, charcoal waters of the River Cry; a lonesome ridge where he and his best friend had held off the entire Veneisean army with little more than fifty men. That was near two moons ago, however. Now his friend Graeme was dead, the Emir’s forces occupied Raku Oasis, and Trell was a celebrated hero.

Gentling his stallion with a pat on the neck, Trell looked back to the view of the desert valley and the creatures flying above its vast sea of dunes—sleek, golden creatures with hides like molten bronze. He squinted at them beneath the duck-billed brim of a dun cap, which was making a valiant attempt to shade his eyes from the sun. But this was the M’Nador desert; the sands were as bright as the day, the blue sky was as parched as the land, and there was an ever-present glare that made a man’s eyes tired before their time.

If only you were here to see this, Graeme… Trell thought as he gazed, captivated, at the gilded beasts soaring high above the sands. They flew with sublime grace, their enormous shadows floating across the dunes in unworldly silence. Trell was amazed at the breadth of their wingspan, at the golden-fire hue of their hides and the way their scales glinted in the long rays of the afternoon, sparkling so brightly as to leave spots before his eyes. And are Nadori soldiers standing upon the walls of Taj al’Jahana on the far side of the Sand Sea watching you also? he wondered. Surely my enemies are no less entranced than I. Though no doubt the Nadoriin would be working feverishly to find a means of destroying the creatures rather than appreciating them for their mystique and purity.

Sundragons.

They’d been summoned back from the cold, dark corners of the realm by the Emir’s Mage, summoned to do his bidding and eager to please—if the stories were true—in exchange for their reprieve.

“Ghastly things, aren’t they?” a familiar voice commented from behind.

Trell glanced over his shoulder to find his friend Ware reining in his stallion. Ware was a tall Agasi who lost no height sitting the saddle of his lean desert horse. He was darkly bearded and generally hairy, but his blue eyes displayed an intelligence Trell had found common in men of the Empire; the Agasi were an educated people, be them prince, blacksmith or sellsword.

Looking past Ware, Trell noted that the rest of his men had descended the ridge and were dismounting now, a dozen Converted in all. Soon it would be time.

“They’re beautiful,” Trell answered, turning back to the distant dragons with a look of appreciation on his sharp-featured face. “I wish Graeme could have seen them.”

Ware grunted skeptically and flicked at a horsefly with his reins. “I don’t know. They’re fierce creatures. Sheik Am’aal was nearly bitten by one of the things when he got too close to its tail. The creature snapped its head around with the speed of a striking viper, and if it weren’t for the Sheik’s agility at ducking—no doubt from all those arrows he’s made a habit of avoiding—he’d have made the beast a tasty snack.”

“Reasons not to get too curious, I suppose,” Trell commented. He’d never cared for Sheik Am’aal. The man was a consummate philanderer; all those arrows he’d avoided tended to be from well and rightly-offended husbands. “A fierce beauty then,” Trell conceded, “but beauty nonetheless.”

Wearing a look of curiosity mixed with amusement, Ware broke into a crooked grin. “What are you doing among us lowbreeds, Trell of the Tides? You ought to be composing poetry in a white tower somewhere, you and your ‘beauty’ this and ‘glorious’ that and general high-minded musings—oh, don’t think I’m criticizing you,” Ware added, noting Trell’s faintly indignant look. “Not a one of us would challenge your tactical brains, but you seem to me a learned man, a man of philosophy, not one of blunt violence and greed like so many of these Converted,” and he jerked his head toward the company of mercenaries chatting rakishly behind him.

Hearing this, said men offered scatological culinary recommendations, to which Ware returned his ideas of what they could do with their suggestions. It was a friendly exchange.

Ignoring the banter, Trell allowed a slight smile. I do, do I? It was no secret that he remembered nothing of his past prior to awaking in the Emir’s palace five years ago, and friends and acquaintances alike were often sharing their opinions of his origins—sometimes in jest, sometimes in sincerity. Trell didn’t mind either way. On a rare occasion, someone made a comment that almost triggered a memory, and he lived for those almost moments—yearned for them every waking minute, in fact.

Ware was watching him with a keen look in his blue eyes, as if Trell was far more intriguing than Sundragons. “You could’ve been a nobleman’s son sent from Tregarion or Calgaryn to study abroad, but there was tragedy, and you wound up here.”

Trell smiled ruefully. “Triad cities, those two. But am I from a Triad kingdom, do you think?” He turned to Ware with a hint of torment in his grey eyes, a look he sported often when pondering his mysterious past. “The Emir likes to say I floated in from the Fire Sea, a gift from the Wind God,” and he threw up his hands with a flourish in imitation of their supreme leader. “Even if it is true, the Fire Sea borders many kingdoms, Ware. I’ve the same dark hair and coloring as that Barian Stormborn of the Forsaken Lands, and the height and features like those merchants you and I dealt with in Kroth. Some say I even have the look of your own blood, Agasi—a moonchild.”

“Just so,” Ware admitted with his eyes pinned on his younger friend. “You could be any of these, Trell of the Tides.”

No one knew exactly where Trell’s nickname had originated. ‘Man of the Tides’ was what the Emir’s men had called Trell until he woke from the fever that had nearly claimed his life, remembering little more than his given name. After that, they’d tacked on ‘Trell’ to humor him.

“But I think you’re right—about the Triad that is,” Trell concluded. “I do as the Emir asks of me, but while I’ve never lost sleep over battling Nadori infidels, some part of me cringes at fighting the men of Dannym or Veneisea, as if I know I’m slaughtering my own blood.” Unthinking, Trell’s hand found its way to the sword at his hip, a sleek blade with an eagle-carved silver hilt and a sapphire pommelstone, a brilliant cut gem whose clarity and vibrant color made even the Bemothi traders envious. The sword was his only possession, his only connection to the life he’d once led, and though it was merely another mystery, Trell considered himself blessed to have it.



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