FIRE IN THE BLOOD EXCERPT:

Happy Thursday, readers!

There are now just 5 days until Fire in the Blood comes out! Are you excited? I’m so excited I’m getting headaches.

That also means there are just TWO DAYS left to enter the Fire in the Blood giveaway! Get your entries in–get your friends’ entries in. There are only 89 entries to go until the BIG PRIZE LEVEL unlocks. Which means more winners and one winner of an annotated version. All you have to do is write your favorite fictional ruler in a comment. Easy-peasy.

Okay: excerpt time.

Just like with The Adversary, I’m pleased to present to you a series of excerpts to get you ready for the big show. This time, instead of introducing you to the characters, I’m going to introduce you to what’s happening. (If you missed the last three, find them herehere and here.)

For this last excerpt, you get a peek at the great big happening of the book. The thing that has the capacity to shake up Cormyr if it’s not dealt with. So come meet Crown Prince Irvel…

***

On a hunt, Irvel had always thought of his companions as his brothers, linked in a shared goal, a shared excitement, a shared prize.

I have eight thousand brothers and sisters this day, he thought, throwing up his shield to ward off a blow. His horse was lost, somewhere in the chaos, his guardsmen fighting hard against the Sembians that had broken around their rear guard and attacked the royal command.

Spells flashed around him, steel scraped against shields, against armor. Sembian, Cormyrean, there was no dividing which soldier was shouting, screaming, dying. Irvel could only keep his concentration on the men before him, the blades seeking his throat, and the officers close by and guarding both him and Baerovus.

He ran the Sembian through and risked a glance at his son—still on horseback, his dun gelding prancing under him, still shooting arrow after arrow into the enemy line. At his side Vainrence and a trio of war wizards summoned terrible storms of magic, powerful enough to make the air thicken and crackle with energy. In the valley beyond, the Sembian army would regret allying with Risen Netheril.

Baerovus reached for another arrow, found Irvel’s eyes—

A globe of shadow struck Baerovus’s head, rocking him out of the saddle as it passed, hardly slowing. Baerovus’s eyes rolled back in his skull. One foot still tangled in the stirrup, he fell into the churning mud, boneless and slack.

Irvel shouted. Another soldier broke through the ranks of the Cormyrean defenders and struck him hard with a pike—missed his head, bruised and bloodied his shoulder through the mail shirt. Irvel turned to throw the fellow off—Baerovus, Baerovus, he had to get to his son. Lord Darclant Illance stood between them, catching the pike on his sword and thrusting it away.

“This way, Irvel,” he bellowed. “I’ll keep—”

A dagger to the throat cut him off—Irvel shouted a war cry and ran the soldier through, seeing his dark eyes widen as the blade breached him. He was younger even than Baerovus. He caught Darclant, who grasped his own throat, blood spilling through his fingers. A healing potion, Irvel thought, but there was no quiet place to administer it—and Baerovus might need it more.

“Back to the palace!” Vainrence shouted, his voice carrying through the chaos. Irvel spun—like an island in a storm of clashing bodies and rearing horses, the Lord Warder stood holding Baerovus’s slack body. “The boot- stick!” he shouted.

Still holding Darclant, Irvel reached down and slid the flat wooden stick from the edge of his boot with two fingers, just far enough to take hold of the top and snap it sharply down. The air around him and Lord Illance vanished as the Weave whined like the overdrawn strings of a fiddle about to break, drowning out the clash of swords, the shouts of soldiers, the folly of Cormyr.

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Extra Life Excerpt (and FIRE IN THE BLOOD updates!)

Happy Monday!

Here, readers, is your regularly scheduled Extra Life Excerpt, to help you decide who to vote for when it comes to who I play in this year’s 24-hour D&D game to benefit Children’s Miracle Network. Since a Havilar excerpt already lives on this blog, I’m skipping forward to Nestrix, the star of my first novel, The God Catcher.*  A vote for Nestrix will cost you $25, and will result in me being surly, abrupt, physically awkward and potentially finding some dragon-ish eye makeup for effect.

BUT FIRST, I want to remind you of a few awesome events coming up:

  • TOMORROW (10/7, 8-9 EST), I’ll be participating in a Google Hangout with the rest of the Sundering Six (R.A. Salvatore, Paul S. Kemp, Richard Lee Byers, Troy Denning, and Ed Greenwood). Come join in as we wrap up the Sundering right!
  • October 16th in Renton, WA (5pm-late), I’ll be at AFK Elixirs & Eatery in Renton, WA to celebrate the release of Fire in the Blood. This is a public event, so you are invited readers. There will be books for sale, a theme menu (Do you want to drink a Brimstone Angel? Or eat a plate of imp sliders?), and more D&D luminaries than you can shake a stick at. Also my Granma will be there, and she’s a hoot.
  • October 21st on the Internet! Mark your calendars: I’m doing a Reddit AMA! 
  • YOU HAVE FOUR (4) MORE DAYS TO ENTER THE FIRE IN THE BLOOD GIVEAWAY! Most popular answers for “Who is your favorite fictional ruler?” which you may crib off of: Lord Havelock, President Zaphoc Beeblebrox Vetinari & Bruenor Battlehammer. My answers, which you may totally steal: Sheshka, Queen of Stone, from Eberron; Cimorene and Mendanbar from The Enchanted Forest Chronicles; the Femputer from Futurama; and Queen Frostine from Candyland, because a part of me will always be six.

Now, excerpt:

***

Nestrix eased out of the doorway, step by careful step. Tennora followed, careful to shift her weight gently across the floorboards.

A pale but steady light suddenly illumined the room from the far corner.

The silhouettes of four people stood out against the faint, the edges of their weapons reflecting the dim light.

The light grew brighter, revealing two men carrying short axes, and a woman with a sling. The man farthest away—the owner, by his well-cut suit and expensive gloves—held two knives so sharp they could have cut Tennora’s gasp to ribbons.

“Well, well, well,” he said. “What a pretty pair of thieves. You picked the wrong shop to break into, my little magpies.”

“Run,” Nestrix growled and shoved Tennora away from the treasure room. She stumbled and scrambled toward the door.

Out of the darkness, a knife flew across Tennora’s path—just inches from her throat. Blind instinct seized her, and Tennora twisted away from the blade, falling back to the ground behind a display of tarnished silver. She landed hard on one hip and glanced up at the knife, quivering in the framework of a cabinet.

Nestrix still stood a few steps from the treasure room. Between the tables and cabinets, Tennora could make out three of the men advancing. She pulled herself to her knees and over the top of the silver display, readied her carvestar in a shaking hand.

Just as Nestrix’s dragonfear flooded the room.

Later, Tennora would wonder what had made the difference—before, had the dragonfear been an accident of Nestrix’s mood? Had she really been angry? Had she ever been angry before that night in the antiquary’s shop?

For out of nothing, terror bloomed in Tennora’s heart and she knew by the way the men froze stiff that it affected them as well. She risked a glance at Nestrix. She had drawn herself up like a striking serpent. Her fingernails seemed sharp as blades, her bared teeth iron, her dark hair violent whips. Tennora shook to the core of her heart, watching as something terrible climbed out of her friend’s skin—something that looked and sounded like Nestrix and not at all like Nestrix. Something that thundered and wailed like a windstorm with its very presence, and screamed for all of their blood.

“Who dares?” she said in a voice like the storm’s. “Who dares threaten me?”

Tennora squeezed her eyes shut. It is Nestrix, she told herself. This isn’t real. This is the dragonfear. Fight it, damnit. Fight it.

Trembling with adrenalin, she opened her eyes again and saw that the axmen were petrified where they stood. The slinger had collapsed.

The man with the knives clung to a post and watched Nestrix with astonishment plain on his face. But not fear, no. If he’d felt it, he’d mastered it as Tennora had.

“Do not interfere in my business,” Nestrix rumbled. “Flee, before—Ow!” She broke off as a knife caught her in the thigh. The dragonfear drained out of the room.

“Another player for the game?” the man with the knives said. He called to the others, “They seek to depose your master! Kill them!”

Tennora whipped the carvestar at the two axmen. It missed, but chimed against one’s axe, taking his attention off Nestrix. He swung around toward Tennora, with a wicked grin. So big he had to have ogre blood in him, he had little trouble wading over the displays. Tennora scuttled backward toward the door, fumbling for another carvestar.

Nestrix wrenched the blade from her leg and claimed it as her own—what little good it would do her against the axe, Tennora thought.

Her own attacker was closing in on her, his axe ready. Instead of the carvestar, she raised a hand.

Ziastayix,” she said and sent two bolts of silver speeding toward the massive axe wielder. Both struck him, and he ducked down behind a row of cabinets, having learned his lesson.

A bullet from the sling retorted. The glass pane of the cabinet behind her shattered, sending splinters of glass into her path, and Tennora let out a shriek of surprise. The axe man took his chance and rushed her.

The words of a spell rose up quickly in her mind. Instinctively they flowed out of her mouth as her hands reached toward the axeman.

The spell flew from Tennora’s hand, wobbling and spreading unevenly into a spider’s web. It hit the man with the axe, wrapping his free arm and sticking to a column. Tennora sprinted past him toward Nestrix.

The edge of the axe caught her jacket and tore through the quilting, nicking the skin beneath. A shallow cut, but gods, it burned.

And bled. She pressed her left hand to the wound and felt a trickle of blood seeping through her fingers.

The momentary distraction slowed her down, and the man in the well-cut suit was suddenly between her and Nestrix. Without thinking she threw the second carvestar.

It was utter luck that it caught him in the arm that held the knife. He cried out and clutched the wound. Tennora raised her hand and a fireball bloomed from it. She cringed away, but the blaze still caught the edge of her sleeve.

Fortunately, she saw as she smothered the burning cuff with her cloak, the bulk of it had swept over the man with the knives, charring his leathers and forcing him backward. He fell against one of the heavy iron cabinets, and it toppled over, pinning him. He did not get up. Heart in her throat, she sped past him to Nestrix.

Nestrix ducked the axe that swept toward her neck. It lodged instead in the wall. She darted forward with the stolen knife and caught the man just under his collarbone, plunging the knife up to its hilt. He screamed, and stumbled, trying to pull out the dagger. It wouldn’t budge, caught against bone or gristle.

Tennora fell back a step at the sight. Blood spurted from the wound. Nestrix rounded on her, eyes sharp. She grabbed Tennora’s arm and yanked her back into the doorway as another bullet whizzed past.

“There,” she said, pointing into the darkness. “Spell!”

Tennora obediently raised a shaking finger. “Ziastayix.” Two more bolts of silver shot across the room, briefly illuminating the woman with the sling, before slamming into her.

The axe man fell to the floor, still bleeding, still trying to pull the dagger free. Blood wheezed from his mouth. The knife was in his lung.

Nestrix looked down at him, a puzzled expression on her face. She reached down and wrenched the man’s head. His neck popped. His legs kicked once. Then he lay still and twisted.

“Oh gods,” Tennora said. She took another step back toward the exit.

The urn that had been on the iron cabinet caught under her feet and she fell backward over it.

Just as the blade of the broad-shouldered man’s axe sliced through the air where she had been. It came down instead on the handle of his fellow’s axe, snapping the haft. He hauled the heavy blade back up, and turned to Tennora, trapped on the ground.

Nestrix snarled—a hideous, animal sound—she picked up the broken half of the axe handle. With a roar, she tackled him, knocking him off his feet. The broken axe handle came down hard on his head, over and over again. Tennora scrambled to her feet. The man’s skull cracked with a sound too-like an egg’s shell. Blood spattered against the tarnished silver.

Tennora grasped Nestrix’s arm before the handle could come down again. “Come on!” she said. “While we have the chance!”

Nestrix looked up at her with an animal’s incomprehension, as if she didn’t know Tennora. As if she didn’t know why she should stop beating in the man’s head.

“He’s dead,” Tennora said, and her voice shook as she said it. She tugged hard on Nestrix’s arm until Nestrix dropped the club.

“I . . . ,” Nestrix said, hesitantly. “I don’t . . . We should go.”

“Yes!” Tennora said. “Now! Please!” She pulled Nestrix to her feet and grabbed the case with the mask.

They ran off into the night.

Donate to my Extra Life fund!

*$600 dollars of Extra Life Donations has unlocked a scene from The God Catcher sequel that wasn’t. It is forthcoming–have to wrap up some Fire in the Blood stuff this week so I can polish it up real quick.

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FIRE IN THE BLOOD Excerpt: Harpers Come to Cormyr

Happy Thursday, readers!

There are now just 11 days until Fire in the Blood comes out! (Possibly you are reading Rise of the King at the moment, so you’ll see this later. I can’t help you on the countdown in that case.)

Just like with The Adversary, i’m pleased to present to you a series of excerpts to get you ready for the big show. This time, instead of introducing you to the characters, I’m going to introduce you to what’s happening. (If you missed the last two, find them here and here.)

This time you get a glimpse of the Harpers! Yep, they’re in here too. I wanted to give you a scene where you got to find out all the reasons Dahl and Vescaras are heading to Cormyr, but it turned out to be terribly long. Suffice it to say, Brin’s current entanglements are the least of their worries.

***

“I cannot believe you told them I was your equerry,” Dahl Peredur muttered as the coster caravan crossed into the city of Suzail.

“What was I supposed to say?” Lord Vescaras Ammakyl replied. He nodded politely at the Purple Dragons who stood at the gates, already satisfied by the caravan master’s writs and permissions. “Your cover story was ridiculous.”

“I could be your business associate,” Dahl said irritably.
“Are you an expert on wine?”

“I know things about wine.”

The dark-skinned half-elf looked over at his colleague, one eyebrow raised.

“What’s the going price for a cask of aged Arrhenish? Why are the prices on last year’s Murlkan so high this year? Can we bring the cost of the Laumark down by ten tradebars? What’s the rain doing to grape yields for next year? When will we see more bottles of Zanzel? Shall I stop, or can you answer a one of those?”

Dahl scowled at the other Harper. “I could have learned all that on the road.”

“But you didn’t,” Vescaras pointed out. “So you’re an equerry.”

Dahl shut his eyes and told himself it wasn’t worth arguing with Vescaras over this. It would inevitably make this mission to Cormyr a nightmare— and it was already going to be rough. And then there was the side issue of Brin—none of the High Harpers of the Waterdhavian network had been pleased to find their Cormyrean handler was in the middle of a very high-profile political maelstrom that threatened to destroy everything he had built. Especially over something as selfish as which lovers he kept.

“No one wants to force him,” Tam Zawad, the High Harper of Waterdeep, had said. “But, Watching Gods, at least find out what he intends to do and get him to do it a little faster. If we’re going to lose all our high-level Cormyrean contacts in the middle of a war, alongside the low-levels, I want to know soon enough to tell the other network they’re on their own.”

Dahl rubbed his smooth-shaven chin—servants needed to look presentable, according to Lord Ammakyl—and sighed. He knew Brin well enough to be sure he didn’t have an answer. Too many pieces, too many people to let down, too many decisions he couldn’t unmake—and Havilar.

“How are you trading so well in the midst of a war?” Dahl asked. “Half of Cormyr is being pillaged as we speak, and you’re raking in coin.”

“People like to drink when the world’s on fire,” Vescaras said. “What else can they do?” A question for which Dahl didn’t have an answer.

“Lot of gossip last night,” Dahl said. “They say that Shade’s mad general has taken Arabel.”

“I heard it’s not fallen. Still just harried, maybe sieged. Lady Marsheena’s stirred up the Stonelands, make no mistake, and the surrounding villages are done for. If you still have it in your head to make for Harrowdale when we’re done here, I hope you’re ready to disguise yourself as a bugbear.”

Dahl blew out a nervous breath. His mother lived on a farm outside New Velar in Harrowdale, some six hundred miles north of Suzail. All of the intelligence he could set hands on said that Harrowdale was safe, an island in a storm of violence, protected by the elves of Myth Drannor. But Dahl wanted to be sure. Had to be sure.

“I’ll find a way,” Dahl said. There was enough to do in Suzail—things had time to change and he had time to worry about how he’d manage.

“A fair part of the gossip I heard had nothing to do with the war,” Vescaras said, as the carriage pulled away from the caravan and through the streets of Cormyr, heading toward Brin’s tallhouse. “If Brin’s managed nothing else, he’s given folks something to talk about.”

“How bad is it?”

Vescaras shrugged. “What you’d expect. Details about his bedroom activities no one would know. Speculation that he doesn’t have a mistress so much as he and the princess have a mistress. Lots of bizarre notions about bedding tieflings.”

“What?”

“Apparently, several gentlemen had it on good authority that it’s not only turned sideways, but also has teeth.”

Dahl looked pointedly out the window. “Ah.” He fidgeted with the collar of the shirt Vescaras had loaned him. “When will you get more bottles of . . . Zanzel, was it?”

“The way the rains are coming, all the grapes will mold, and we’ll be drowning in it next year,” Vescaras said as the carriage rolled to a stop. “Pity it tastes like bad cheese.”

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