Have we got exciting news for you!?! We are thrilled to welcome Bradley Beaulieu back to the Gollancz Blog to share with you an exclusive offer for those of you who pre-order the incredible new book in the Shattered Sands series. Weve also got an exciting sneak peek at the first chapter of A Veil of Spears.
A Veil of Spears releases March 22nd from Gollancz. In order to help spread the word about this latest exciting installment in the series, I’m offering a pre-order incentive!
From now until March 23, 2018, if you pre-order a copy of A Veil of Spears, anywhere in the world, whether its in electronic, physical, or audio formats, I will send you free stuff.
Where can you find the book?
- In the UK, you can order from Amazon UK, Waterstones, WH Smith, or Orion Books
- In the US, you can order from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Penguin Random House, or your local indy bookstore
- Audio are available via Audible.comand Orion/Gollancz Audio
- And any other place I’ve neglected to add
- Basically, if you buy it on or before March 23rd, 2018, you’re good
What do you get for pre-ordering? You get your choice of one of my new novellas set in the Shattered Sands world:
- The Doors at Dusk and Dawn
- The Tattered Prince and the Demon Veiled
- In the Village Where Brightwine Flows
How do you enter? Just fill in the information on my website and click send. On receipt, I’ll send you a coupon code for the Quillings Store to download a free electronic copy of your choice of novella in EPUB, MOBI, and PDF formats. Click here to visit my website and fill in the form.
Thank you to all of you who pre-order! I very much appreciate your faith in me and the book.
Continue scrolling to read the first chapter of A Veil of Spears.
Çeda knelt in a cavern beside a pool of water, deep beneath the des- ert’s surface. The cavern’s darkness enveloped her, as did the chill air. It smelled clean here, unsullied, a place that might have remained hidden
throughout all the history of the Kings of Sharakhai, perhaps longer.
In her hands she held a thick, golden bracelet. She turned it over, again and again, feeling its weight, touching the oval stone, roughing her skin against the intricate designs worked into the gold.
“Speak to me,” she said. “This time, speak to me.” The echoes went on and on.
The bracelet had once belonged to King Mesut, the Jackal King, but now it served as an indictment of all the Kings and even of the gods them- selves. It was not the band itself that provided evidence of their treachery, but the onyx stone. Even now she could feel the souls of the seventeen dead asirim within it, clamoring for freedom, pleading for their release. Çeda was desperate to give it to them, but after six weeks of trying she still had no idea how.
On the night of the great battle in King’s Harbor, Mesut had summoned them forth as wights and set them against Çeda and Sehid-Alaz, the King of the thirteenth tribe, the crowned asir who had kissed her and set her on this strange new path. It had been a desperate moment, but she’d managed to sever Mesut’s hand and take the golden band from him. She’d pleaded with the ghostly souls to take their revenge against Mesut, and they’d answered, descending on Mesut like buzzards. Each rake of their terrible claws had brought them exultation, a taste of their long-awaited revenge, but the joy had been short-lived. No sooner had Mesut succumbed to his wounds than they’d been drawn back into their prison and chained once more. The trick to freeing them had eluded her ever since.
“By your grace,” Çeda whispered to the goddess, Nalamae.
Cleaving open her mother’s flame-shaped locket, she took out the last of her adichara petals. Her mouth watered at the floral scent, and when she placed it beneath her tongue, the mineral taste rushed through her. It warmed her limbs, drove away the cold humidity of the cavern in a way that a fire never could. Clipping the locket closed, she breathed deeply, closed her eyes, and welcomed the sensations that came.
She felt the asir, Kerim, somewhere high above her. He was outside the cavern, roaming among the rocks, she guessed. He seemed reticent, as if he were hiding his thoughts and emotions from her. He didn’t like the bracelet. He’d told her so. She could feel the revulsion within him, though whether it was from the constant reminder of his own fate, or concern for the souls trapped within, she couldn’t say.
Opening her mind further, she beckoned the souls nearer. When they retreated, she searched for the onyx’s boundaries, tried to define them in some way so that she might learn more about the souls within. But as it had every other time she’d done this, the gemstone felt unknowable—a star in the sky, well beyond the ken of mortal man. When she’d taken petals in the past, in or near Sharakhai, she could always sense the blooming fields and the asirim below, trapped in their sandy graves. Even now she could feel them, far, far to the west of the cavern where she and Kerim now hid. She’d thought by using the petals she would feel the asirim in the onyx. She’d hoped to be able to puzzle out its secrets, to use the asirim’s shared bond to free them from their prison or, failing that, simply speak with them as she did with Kerim. To no avail. She’d been rebuffed over and over again. Not once in the weeks following the great battle in King’s Harbor had she felt nearer to her goal.
“Speak,” she said, that lone word echoing in the cave. “But one word, and I’ll know this is not a lost cause.”
Her only reply was a miasma of anguish, fear, confusion, and hatred. The same as always.
Her concentration was broken, as it was so often of late, by the growls and yapping of wolves. She was tempted to simply let it go on, but when the sound became more fierce, and she felt panic emanating from Kerim, she pulled away from the souls in the bracelet.
“Forgive me,” she whispered, and rushed up the winding tunnel toward the sun.
She was out of breath by the time she reached the cavern’s entrance where, spread before her in a protective fan, were her pack of maned wolves. They’d placed themselves between Kerim and the entrance to Çeda’s cave. Directly before Kerim’s crouched form was Mist, a white wolf, hunkered low, ears laid back, teeth bared as a deep growl issued from her throat. She was the very wolf Çeda had stumbled across with Emre on her first trip to the blooming fields, the very wolf that had healed Çeda and led her here so she could re- cover from her wounds and decide what to do next.
“Kerim!” Çeda said as she approached.
Kerim didn’t acknowledge her. He was staring at Mist, his jaundiced eyes wild and nervous, as if he couldn’t understand how he’d come to be here. His disorientation had been getting worse the longer they hid from the Kings’ forces.
Kerim, back away.
As she came near, the maned wolves closed ranks, blocking her path. The largest among them, the scarred one she’d named Thorn, was padding behind Kerim. Though the pack tried to stop her, Çeda pushed her way through them, then charged at Thorn, waving her arms as the wolf darted toward Kerim, silent, teeth bared.
Kerim turned, arms raised, just in time for Thorn to claw him, to tear at his shriveled, blackened skin. Kerim could have killed him with one blow—the asirim were inhumanly strong—but he didn’t. He backed away, warding off Thorn’s advances with arms and hands spread wide. But the danger was far from over. While she’d been focused on Thorn, Mist had pad- ded to Çeda’s left, clearing a path to Kerim.
“Back!” Çeda cried, putting herself between Kerim and the white wolf.
Mist’s eyes flicked between Kerim and Çeda, but she obeyed, and Çeda ran to stop Thorn.
Kerim wailed, his bloodshot eyes wild with fear. He swung wildly, an- grily, at Thorn. Çeda heard a thud as Kerim’s fist struck the wolf’s massive head. Thorn was the largest among the wolves—with his long legs, his head was higher than Çeda’s—yet he was flung aside by the force of that blow. It brought on a fierce yelp and a renewed fury that drove the entire pack to close in. Their heads were low, growls rumbling from between their bared teeth. They’d listened to Çeda until now, but with Kerim’s attack on their leader, they were ready to excise this hated member from their pack once and for all.
Çeda pulled at Thorn’s black mane. “Leave him alone!”
But Thorn rounded on her and charged. Jaws snapping, he caught her wrist. She managed to snatch her hand away, but caught several deep gashes while doing so. She stumbled backward and fell as Thorn advanced, snapping at her ankles as she tried to kick him. He’d just managed to clamp his jaw over her calf when a blur of ivory flew in.
Her leg was freed as Mist and Thorn growled, grappled, and rolled in the sand. The other wolves looked on, their eyes intense as they studied the two wolves locked in battle. It grew so fierce Çeda thought they would kill each other, but when Kerim turned and began sprinting over the sand away from them, the wolves finally disengaged.
In moments, all their growling and yipping and yowling stopped. They panted, wary but content in Kerim’s absence. Thorn was the most animated among them, alternating looks between Çeda and Mist, but then he loped off, heading into the shade of the rocky overhang near the cave entrance, where he dropped down and watched, as if daring any to come near and challenge him, Çeda included.
Mist padded closer to Çeda and licked the blood welling from her wounds. They immediately felt better, just same to the puncture wounds along Çeda’s calf while Çeda raked her fingers through Mist’s cloudy mane. “Thank you,” she said, then limped after Kerim. She followed the footsteps and the trail of black blood left over the sand, weaving her way between the sentinel-like pillars of rock. She found him a quarter-league away, sitting cross-legged between the dunes, knees hugged to his chest like a child lost in the desert.
She crouched by his side, careful not to touch him but close enough that he could feel her warmth. “You don’t have to stay.” She waved her arm to the dunes. “You can go, flee into the desert. Surely, somewhere in the Great Mother you might find peace.”
She didn’t want Kerim to go. Not truly. She wanted to free him or, failing that, find a way for him to have his revenge on the Kings, and how could she do either of those things if he left? But his misery was so great she had to try. His only response was to swivel his head and stare at her left wrist, where Mesut’s thick gold band rested. Çeda felt the souls in the onyx gemstone, though muted, as they always were in the sunlight. As if he couldn’t bear to think about them any longer, Kerim lifted his gaze to meet hers, a silent plea, and then looked to the sword at her side. Her ebon blade. She put her hand on the pommel, knowing that he’d contemplated this, his final release, since leaving Sharakhai.
“I will give it to you, if that’s what you wish.”
Kerim opened his mouth to speak. A long wheeze came out. He swal- lowed and tried again. “I . . .” he said, the lone word coming out in one long rasp. “I would . . .”
She stood and with clear intent laid her hand over the leather grip of River’s Daughter. “This?”
Çeda’s heart pounded loud in her ears. She didn’t wish to be alone out here, nor did she wish to end a life that might help others to win their free- dom, but she meant what she’d said. No one deserved a life like Kerim’s.
And yet . . .
“You must say it, Kerim.” She licked her lips, praying he would say no. “I can’t do it unless you say it.”
Kerim stood, the blackened skin of his forehead wrinkling. “I . . .” he said again, but then he turned sharply to his left, and Çeda followed his gaze.
Beyond a dozen clutches of standing stones, she saw it, a sleek ship, lateen sails cutting a line across the horizon—a royal yacht, from the looks of it. It was not headed directly toward them, but a crewman atop the vulture’s nest might see them at any moment.
She crouched, pulling Kerim down with her. Her fingers became sticky with the dark, drying blood on his arm.
He looked at the blood, lifted his gaze to the ship in the distance, then regarded Çeda once more. “I cannot leave you.”
She was tempted to ask if he was certain, only her relief was so great she couldn’t find the words. “Come,” she told him. “We shouldn’t linger.”
As they headed low and fast toward the cave where the pack had gathered in the shade, she felt Kerim’s worry growing. He’d managed to resist the Kings’ call thus far, but could he if a Maiden were close and summoned him, or worse, a King? Ahead, Mist was digging in the sand, most likely for a lizard to eat, or to give to Çeda, but stopped when Çeda came near. Her ears perked and her head lifted. Perhaps sensing worry in Çeda even as Çeda felt it in Kerim, Mist returned to the shade of the rocks and lay beside them.
A pack once more, they huddled close, while in the distance the yacht drifted across the horizon. It adjusted course once, and Çeda thought they’d been spotted but, thank the gods, it merely continued in a straight line.
When the sails were nearly lost, Çeda breathed easier, but Mist was still tense. She gave a soft yip, staring at the rocks above them, then huffed and nipped at Çeda’s wrist. Wary, Çeda stood and, silent as a scarab, climbed the rocks, gained their flattened top, and crawled to the far lip.
On the sand below, a hundred paces distant, three skiffs huddled behind a cluster of stones. Three women and a man with a long, sandy beard stood nearby. They watched the horizon, where the tips of the yacht’s masts could still be seen, wavering in the heat.
Four to man three skiffs? Çeda thought. There must be more crew.
The typical minimum was two to a skiff, but given how much gear she saw inside the hulls, likely a dozen had come. The footprints she saw heading away from the ships confirmed her fears.
She’d grown out of practice with feeling for the hearts of those around her. She tried now, clumsily, and realized too late there were others nearby, some working their way around the bulk of the rock she lay upon—
“Stand,” came a voice behind her. “Slowly.”
She stood and turned to find a woman and a man only a few paces away, both holding shamshirs. Çeda lifted her hands in peace as the stiff wind tugged at their amber thawbs. Their faces were hidden by the veils of their turbans, but Çeda recognized contempt when she saw it.
“Your sword,” the woman said. “Carefully.” She wore a black turban with thread-of-gold embroidered throughout. The small coins adorning the fringes clinked softly in the wind.
“I am not yours to command,” Çeda said, lowering her hands until they were loose at her sides.
“Fool girl,” the man said, stepping forward, ready to poke her chest with the tip of his shamshir—a warning meant to draw a bit of blood if Çeda re- fused to comply. He did it sloppily, betting she’d be cowed, but in this he was sadly mistaken. Before his blade could touch her she spun and slid alongside the path of his swing. He tried to recover, but she was inside his guard now and moving quickly. As he pulled his shamshir back, she gripped the blade near the hilt with one hand, his wrist with the other, and followed his movement. She guided the sword back and up, twisting beneath it and controlling him so that his body effectively blocked any advance by his female companion.
She had more than enough leverage to snap his wrist or dislocate his arm, but she merely flipped him over his extended arm, taking his sword from him in the process.
The woman advanced with a good deal more prudence, but Çeda wasted no time. Gripping the shamshir with both hands, she beat the woman’s initial swing up, dodged when the expected downward swing came, and brought her shamshir down across the woman’s sword with a mighty two-handed chop. The woman lost her grip on it, and the sword clanged loudly against the stone. Things were escalating far too quickly, but when the woman made the foolish decision to reach for her lost sword, Çeda had no choice but to hold the man’s shamshir against her throat. Thankfully, she took it no further,
choosing instead to stand and back away, hands raised.
Without taking her eyes from them, Çeda crouched and picked up the fallen blade. “Who are you?”
It was the woman who answered. “You’ve no right to come on our land, steal our water, and ask us questions.”
After considering that for a moment, Çeda said, “You’re right.” She flipped both swords, one in either hand, so that she held them by the blade, then held them out. The woman accepted hers cautiously; the man leaned forward and snatched his angrily.
Neither, thankfully, advanced on her.
Çeda pulled the veil from her face and bowed her head to the woman. “My name is Verrain, and I’ve come from Sharakhai. I lost my skiff to slipsand two weeks ago and have been here ever since, hoping . . .” She waved in the direction of the skiffs beyond the rocks. “Well, hoping someone might come.” Kerim was in the cavern, his fear for Çeda spiking. By Rhia’s grace, remain silent, she bade him. Hide deep in the cavern unless the need is great. He was poised to howl, to come bursting forth from the tunnel’s entrance. If that were to happen, blood would flow, and it likely wouldn’t stop until many had fed the sands with their lives.
The woman’s brows pinched in a frown, but then something caught her attention, and her eyes drifted down toward the cavern’s entrance. Çeda risked a glance back. Just entering the swath of shade were a dozen men and women, dressed in similarly pale thawbs and black turbans. A few, like the woman, wore turbans with coins woven into the fabric. Others wore conical helms with patterned scrollwork and a curtain of chainmail along the sides and back. They’d heard the clash of steel, no doubt. Now they’d spotted the wolves and were watching them warily. A few were drawing bows from their backs and stringing them. Three had broken away and were making their way toward the top of the rocks, but when the woman in the thread-of-gold tur- ban held up her hand, they stopped and waited.
Kerim, praise the gods, remained silent as the woman regarded Çeda levelly, thankfully with more curiosity than enmity.
“And the wolves?” she asked.
“They were here when I arrived. We’ve been sharing the water.” “Then you won’t mind if we kill a few?”
“I’d rather you didn’t.”
The woman considered for several heartbeats before she too removed her veil. Staring back at Çeda was a stern, weatherworn face with blue tattoos marking her cheeks, forehead, and nose. She sheathed her sword and motioned the man to do the same. She kept her right hand on the hilt of her shamshir, however, a warning that in the desert, trust was a commodity bought with truths.
“How does a Blade Maiden find herself in the lands of Tribe Salmük?” “I’m no Maiden.” A simple enough statement, and true. “I stole both the dress and the blade.”
“The Maidens are hardly in the business of misplacing their dresses, and even less of losing their blades.”
“True, but nor do they complain much when their blood has fed the Great Mother.”
The woman’s eyebrows rose as she glanced at the man beside her. “You expect me to believe you killed a Blade Maiden?”
“I do.” Çeda watched carefully for their reactions, especially the woman’s. Çeda had two choices for how to proceed: either to mark herself as an enemy of the Kings or not. Depending on the loyalties of Tribe Salmük, or at least the band gathered around her, she might be choosing wrongly, but she sus- pected not—the way the woman had reacted to her claim of killing a Maiden had smacked of being impressed.
“Perhaps by now,” Çeda went on, “word of a battle in Sharakhai has reached your tents. I took part in it. I fought the Maidens and the Kings.”
The woman jutted her chin toward the horizon, where the yacht had disappeared. “That ship was searching for you, then?”
Çeda nodded. “They’ve been chasing me for weeks.”
The tattoos at the corners of the woman’s eyes pinched as she took in Çeda anew. “You’re a scarab?”
A scarab of the Moonless Host, she meant, a soldier in the fight to bring down the Kings. “No,” Çeda replied, “but our interests align.”
As the woman turned to the man, something changed below. Thorn emit- ted a low growl, and was moving toward the nearest of the desert folk, a man who held a bow with an arrow nocked and sighted. Çeda whistled sharply, urgently, and thankfully Thorn went silent and slinked away.
The woman took this in, one eyebrow raised. “They were here when you arrived, you said?”
Çeda shrugged. “We’ve come to an accord.”
Now both her eyebrows rose, and she laughed. “I daresay!” She weighed up Çeda for a moment. “You’ll remain here.” And with that she headed down along the sloped stone, motioning the man to follow.
When they reached the other desert folk, they spoke together for a time, softly enough that the strong wind hid their conversation despite the adichara petal Çeda had taken. The woman was doing most of the talking. Now and again some of them would look up toward her. The man at one point gestic- ulated wildly to the north—the place where Tribe Salmük was gathered, per- haps? When the conversation died, the woman waved Çeda to approach, and Çeda made her way down to the level stone beyond the cavern entrance, her heart pounding so strongly it was sending Kerim’s fear to new heights.
Stay, Çeda said as calmly as she could manage. All is well.
She heard his soft moan from the cavern’s entrance, but luckily no one else did, mixing as it did with the sigh of the wind.
When Çeda came to a stop before the gathered tribesman, the woman clasped her hands before her and bowed her head, a gesture of peace in the desert, a gesture Çeda quickly mirrored. “My name is Beril,” she said, “and you are welcome in our lands. Our shaikh is only a day’s sail distant. I hope you’ll come to speak with him.” She looked Çeda up and down. “I suspect you could use the food, and we could use tales of the city.”
“A trade, then?” Çeda asked.
The woman named Beril tilted her head in acknowledgment, but not without a wry smile. “A trade.”
Çeda couldn’t remain out here with a pack of wolves and live on lizards and beetles forever. Accepting Beril’s offer would mean that she would be parted from Kerim, at least temporarily, but it couldn’t be helped. She’d spent these weeks in the desert waiting for the dust to settle in the city, using that time to learn more about Mesut’s bracelet to free the souls within, but the time had come to move on. She had to return to Sharakhai, and soon. There was so much to do, not the least of which was learning more about the bonds that chained the asirim. In Kerim she had found one who could resist the call of the Kings. Might she find more? Might she be able to help them break their bonds once and for all? It must be so. They’d been weakening for centuries; she just had to find a way to exploit it.
And there was the silver trove to consider, the thing she felt certain her mother had gone to find the night before she’d been captured and killed by the Kings. Dardzada, her foster father, had thought it a mirage. In the end, her mother had too, but Çeda would know the truth of it. She had to try to retrace her mother’s steps on Tauriyat that night.
Lastly, there were the Blade Maidens. She needed allies. And what better way to gain them than by turning one of the Kings’ greatest strengths to her advantage? There was Zaïde, but the time had come to try to gain more, to convince others outside the thirteenth tribe that the Kings’ story—of the asirim being holy warriors who’d sacrificed themselves on the night of Beht Ihman—had always been a grand, sickening ruse.
Still, this was no easy decision. Would Beril’s shaikh be friend or foe? In her time with the Blade Maidens she’d learned much of Shaikh Hişam, the leader of Tribe Salmük these past thirty years. He was petty and fought the neighboring tribes fiercely, wielding his control over access to the trading paths to Malasan like a cudgel. Still, he had no great love for the Kings of Sharakhai. He likely wouldn’t turn her in for ransom, not without hearing her tale and weighing what she might have to offer his tribe. He might even supply her with a skiff.
“Very well,” Çeda said, “I will gather my things.”
And so Çeda did. The desert folk went to the underground cavern and filled bladders with water. Kerim, blessedly, had retreated deep into the dark- ness. She could feel his long-quieted anger awakening once more, as if the presence of strangers had rekindled that most inescapable part of being an asir: hunger for the blood of mortal man.
You’ve held it at bay for this long, she told him. It will keep a while longer.
Stay where you are, Kerim, but be ready to follow once we’ve left.
Soon Çeda was led to the skiffs hidden among the rocks. The wolves followed her for a time, Mist padding ahead of the others, yipping and jumping occasionally as if she wanted to play. Çeda knew that wasn’t it, though. Of course it wasn’t.
Çeda scrubbed the fur behind the wolf’s ears, then knelt and hugged her, digging her fingers deep into Mist’s gray mane. “We’ll see one another again,” she said, kissing the wolf on the muzzle. Then she whispered, “Thank you for saving me.”
They left soon after, sailing away across the sand, Mist watching long after the other wolves had peeled away. Soon she had shrunk into the distance, becoming lost altogether as clusters of rocks intervened. They sailed for the entire day, the crew strangely silent. They watched the horizon intently, wary of the royal yacht perhaps, or rival tribes.
“I’ve heard tales of Hişam,” Çeda said as they ate flatbread laced with onion and leek. “They’ve all said he’s a good man, a just leader.”
Everyone in the skiff stiffened, sending sly glances at one another; all but Beril, who held Çeda’s eye with a steady gaze. “Hişam is dead.”
Çeda felt as if the sands were shifting beneath her feet. “My tears for your loss,” she said, making sure to meet every grim eye turned toward her. Hişam was childless, which might have put the succession of the tribe in question. Did that explain their tenseness? “Who leads your tribe now?”
“You’ll see soon enough,” Beril replied.
From that point on, the tone of the voyage shifted. Çeda no longer felt like a guest, nor even an interloper on their lands, but a prisoner. Her imme- diate thought was to run or to fight if necessary—with Kerim, who followed a good distance behind the skiffs, she stood a good chance. But if she were to survive out here in the desert, she needed to know more about the tribes. She would see this man, this shaikh, and see what he was about.
Near nightfall, a cluster of ships seemed to lift along the horizon. They’d gathered by a large outcropping of stone that looked like a chipped axehead sticking out of the sand. As they came closer, groupings of tents were re- vealed. Three horses were tied to stakes near the largest ship. People moved about. A fire blazed at the center of the camp.
As their skiff approached, Beril motioned to Çeda’s belt. “I’ll take your sword until you’ve spoken with our shaikh.”
The others watched, ready. What could Çeda do? She’d known they would ask, and yet the idea of giving up River’s Daughter, the very symbol of a Blade Maiden, so repulsed her she considered challenging Beril to take it from her. But the shaikh had no reason to do her harm. If she were careful she should be able to gain his trust, a thing that would be impossible were she to resist. So she slipped the sword from her belt, scabbard and all, and handed it to Beril, who nodded sharply, relief clear on her hardened face.
After they’d anchored near the larger ships, Beril entered one of the largest of the tents near the fire, taking Çeda’s sword with her. After a time, she stepped out, waved, and Çeda was led toward the tent, accompanied by four of the desert folk. None had hands on weapons, but they watched Çeda carefully from the corners of their eyes.
Many took note of her arrival: men, women, and children, some prepar- ing food, others working the ships. Most stared with mistrust in their eyes. Those who hadn’t noticed Çeda, or weren’t interested in the new arrival, seemed joyless, burdened, even in the menial tasks of mixing dough for flat- bread, grooming horses, or tending to the ships.
“When did your most gracious lord, Hişam, die?” Çeda asked. It was the only explanation she could think of for the strange mood.
The man walking by her side did not reply, he merely led Çeda, along with the others, toward the large tent.
All around them, the hands at work seemed to slow. All eyes turned to her. In the desert, she felt Kerim—a spike of fear burned suddenly inside his heart, mere moments before a hulking mass lumbered out of the tent. He was a beast of a man. A head and a half taller than Çeda. Arms like haunches of meat. Legs like tree trunks. He wore black armor that might once have been fine but was now nicked, rusted in places, torn near one shoulder so that it hung not-quite-right on his meaty frame. His black hair was matted to his forehead and cheeks, framing humorless, deep-set eyes that gave him the look of one of the terrible hyenas, the black laughers, that roamed the desert.
She knew now why the tribe had acted the way it did, and why fear now filled Kerim’s heart.
For Onur, the Feasting King, the King of Spears, stood before her, grin- ning as if he’d just found his next meal.
© Bradley Beaulieu, A Veil of Spears, 2018