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Excerpt from Thorn Changer by Christy Reed
He pulled his cloak over his head, snapping the cord that fastened at the neck. He cast it to the ground as he turned and surveyed the group of soldiers that had appeared in the great hall behind him.
More than four-fifths of the men with the long jagged scars down the left side of their faces had made it back with him.
Most of them had wounds that, thanks to the power of the Iezo, would heal quickly.
All of them would be ready for battle within a week.
All of them were brainless fools.
The fabric tore under his boot as he ground the cloak into the stone. He’d failed. Again. Any other kingdom he’d gone against, the city had crumbled within days. But now he had been forced to flee, and not by a king, but by a mere scrap of a lad.
“Your bones will feed my dogs yet, whelp,” he muttered.
He should have brought more power, drove these soldiers harder. It wore them out faster, but they could recover. If these pathetic creatures could actually think for themselves, instead of merely being mounds of fleshy pawns, they would have spotted and attacked the minstrel themselves.
He smiled. But maybe the defeat was worth it this time. After all, he’d finally caught her. After Foaie had been trying to for so many years. Even Naircre hadn’t been able to find the girl. “They will be pleased,” he murmured, waving his hand behind him. “To your guard posts. Bar any intruders.”
He didn’t need to look behind him to know the soldiers moved as one. He could tell from the tramp of their boots that they turned and headed to the doors in unison, working their way through like water through a narrow stream. They would surround the wall, stopping intruders from entering. The captains would watch them from there. It was convenient that these brainless creatures didn’t need the same rest and nourishment those not under the Iezo’s power did.
He strode through the hall to the doors in the back. He shoved them open. The room behind was really more like a wide corridor than a room. Doors stood directly across from the ones he had just passed through, leading into Foaie’s private chambers. The walls here were shelves piled with scrolls. A small, lean man, his head shiny and hairless, sat behind a desk scratching letters onto parchment with a goose quill pen. Sodoma stomped up to him, slamming both hands down on the wood. “Where’s Foaie?”
The man looked up, and raised an eyebrow, his green eyes smirking. “In quite a temper, aren’t we? Are you sure you wouldn’t rather see him when you’ve figured out an excuse for this failure?”
He scowled. If there was someone he hated more than the idiot who sat on Miagulo’s throne, it was Jekgaul. “I asked where he was, scribe. I don’t need your nonsense.”
Jekgaul’s lip curled. “Very well. He is in there. Don’t expect him to be happy with your news though.”
Sodoma ignored him, giving the desk a vicious shove and almost upsetting the ink bottle as he strode toward the doors. He knocked, his fist making the doors sound hollow.
Even though he’d expected it, something still ran a cold knife through him when he heard the voice. He eased the door open, and scowled at Jekgaul’s smirk as he stepped inside.
The room itself wasn’t out of place in an old castle. Tapestries hung over the walls, depicting some old legends about the Beolkins. Some he recognized from the stories his sister used to tell him and his brother, hiding under the covers in her bed, trying not to hear the wails of his mother. Others he had slowly learned as he went through Beolki, destroying city after city. The furniture was all old and carved from mahogany and oak, good solid wood that lasts lifetimes after the carvers are dust in the earth.
It was the cloaked figure staring out the window that caused another shiver to run through his belly.
He fell to one knee, and bowed his head. “My liege, I am here.”
“Excellent,” the cloak rustled, as Foaie turned around. Sodoma swallowed, and forced himself to look up into the red eyes of his master.
Foaie smiled, his almost-transparent skin stretching around almost transparent teeth. His white hair fell to his waist, partly falling over his left cheek, the cheek Sodoma knew the Friiakans had burned the paw print off long ago. “Now, my general,” with a wave of his hand motioning him to rise, “what news of Mokayi?”
Sodoma got to his feet, a scowl taking over his face. “My lord, we were driven from the city. That accursed brat prince has gotten better in the game of war. Even with the dark hawks, we were powerless against the song.”
“Song?” Foaie raised a pure white eyebrow. “Mokayi had no minstrel. Our spy made sure of that. Didn’t you attack unawares?”
Sodoma scowled. “Yes, my lord. But somehow they sent word to the castle. A messenger was spotted by my men. The idiots must’ve let him escape.”
Foaie turned to the window. Sodoma bit his lip hard to keep from shouting. To keep it from quivering. The strange Friiakan was always the eeriest when he was angry. Unlike others, unlike his own father, Foaie would never explode. His anger was more like a cobra…swift, silent.
“It’s disappointing,” Foaie finally said, looking back at him. “I didn’t think you of all people would fail me so many times.”
Sodoma dropped to one knee, his head bowed. “It won’t happen again, Sire. Next time the prince and I meet, he’ll rue it to his grave.”
“If he doesn’t then meet it, if I know you correctly, Sodoma,” Foaie smiled at him.
Sodoma looked up, and grinned. “My lord knows the ways of his servant very well.” The Friiakan was right. If he had his way, there wouldn’t be enough left of the prince to feed the valley vultures.
“But, my lord, to make up for my blunder, I caught the lass.”
Foaie started, and then smiled. “Where is she?” he beckoned him to rise.
Sodoma did so, allowing himself a smile. Skey’s capture would more than make up for his blunders. “In your dungeons. Brainless lass walked right into my camp.”
Foaie smiled. “Guards.” Two soldiers, long scars running down their faces, entered. Foaie waved at them. “Fetch me the prisoner.”
The soldiers bowed, and went out. Foaie looked at Sodoma, interest in his eyes. “How did you manage to catch her? I admit, she managed to escape me only days ago.”
Sodoma smirked. “My Maenian father may have been a worthless drunk, but at least he taught me some of his magic.”
“Ah, yes,” Foaie almost purred. “I remember. The man who used to beat you, and starve you. The one Naircre saved you from.”
The bitter taste filled his mouth again. He could still feel the clammy coldness of his sister’s hands, see the glassy sheen of his mother’s glazed-over eyes… “Aye. He got what he deserved.”
A knock sounded. The taste faded, as Sodoma smiled. The guards were back with Skey. Foaie turned to the door, the tips of his canine teeth showing through his colorless lips. “Enter.”
The soldiers entered. One held a cloak in his hand. There was no sign of Skey.
Sodoma bit his lip. Either the disk was weakening, or something was terribly wrong.
Foaie frowned. “Well? Where is she?”
Sodoma snatched the cloak away. Orange glimmered on it, and a few sparkling flecks fell to the floor. “Confound it. She wiped the seal off. This is her cloak.”
Foaie folded his arms, and tapped his fingers against his arm. “Well, my general, it appears even with Naircre’s strength your magic is not omnipotent. Where do you suppose she is?”
Sodoma threw the cloak on the ground, and stomped on it. “The brat could be anywhere by now. With that skill of hers, she could have gone all the way to Friiakan or Mekai.”
“No, she couldn’t have. Not yet, anyway.”
Sodoma looked back at him. Why was Foaie smiling? Uneasiness pricked at his stomach again. “My lord?”
“Don’t think you were the only one working, Sodoma. I too have seen our elusive little friend. She is wounded, and her Arilian habits won’t let her survive in Beolki’s cold. She’ll be looking for a nice warm castle to hide away in until spring. And we both know what she’ll be posing as.”
Sodoma smiled slowly. Foaie returned it. “Yes, my general. I will send out my spies. Tell Gerto he will lead the army in your absence. Ready yourself. It’s time you did some treasure hunting. Starting with a visit to our dear friend Prince Kotua.”
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That's the end of Chapter Four Part Three. I hope you enjoyed it. For right now, Thorn Changer is available exclusively on Amazon. Feel free to share this excerpt, just please include all text between the asterisks (* * *), as well as a link to Thorn Changer's Amazon page. This will give your viewers a link to where they can purchase Thorn Changer if they're interested. Thanks.
Chapter Five Part One will be available on Monday.