So this time I am treating you to a teaser excerpt from my upcoming release, sequel to THE PRINCE’S MAN, titled (probably) USURPER’S LEGACY.
This is from the prologue, which gives us the climactic scene from the end of the previous book from the villain’s point of view…
The high voice cut through the crackle and hiss of the burning hall. Mykel spun towards it and saw the one piece of good fortune left to him. When the beam fell, Lady Risada had been forced back from the dais and now stood, wavering on unsteady feet amidst tumbled chairs, two rows over. Mykel smiled. Small compensation, but at least one of Halnashead’s spies would not leave the hall alive. He raised his sword.
“I don’t think so.”
The voice came from right beside him—just before a chair crashed against his shoulder, knocking him off balance. One of its legs caught him along the side of the head and stars sparkled across his vision. The breath that whooshed out of his body was replaced by smoke as he inhaled, and he coughed it back up even as he lashed out at his attacker. His sword swung through empty space as something smacked into the back of one knee, felling him.
He landed in a tangle amidst fallen chairs and smouldering greenery. Heat seared his lungs as he struggled to regain his breath. If he didn’t escape the hall soon he would die, yet he still found his focus drawn to Lady Risada, on her knees now and so tantalizingly close.
A tiny feminine figure knelt down beside Risada and pried her fist open, extracting a ring of keys. Straightening up, the small woman threw the keys, sending them flying through the air to arc over the conflagration obscuring the dais.
Whoever it was, she’d just provided Chalice with the means of rescuing the shackled members of the royal family. Teeth gritted, Mykel lurched to his feet, determined to finish both women. He finally recognised his assailant from her petite form: Betha Fontmaness, a lesser noble who had confounded his plans once before. She turned to face him.
“Come on!” she encouraged, beckoning. Mykel hesitated. Was she stupid? He was twice her size and armed, yet she showed no fear. A frisson of alarm shivered through his body; was she a magic user? He had no defence against the vile art.
Yet how could she be? She was Tyr-enese through and through; it could not be!
Giving himself a shake, Mykel resumed his attack. Though still wary he could not possibly see how two unarmed women might escape his wrath.
He swung his sword, only to have the irksome female duck beneath it again and come up close beside him. Something in her hand glittered with reflected flames. Mykel was too slow to avoid her dagger thrust and the tip scored a stinging trace along his ribcage. Infuriated, he jerked his arm backward, elbow connecting solidly with the side of Betha’s head. She swayed with the force of the blow and staggered, but did not fall. Spinning round, Mykel grabbed her hand, grappling for the dagger. He twisted her wrist hard, feeling the fragile bones break, and still she did not let go.
Was she not human, after all?
She glared defiantly at him and kneed him in the groin.
Agony erupted through Mykel’s body and he doubled over, hugging himself. He was barely aware when Betha shoved him over, and by the time he came back to himself he was alone, blinded by smoke and choking. Through watering eyes he stared at his reddening skin and somewhere in the back of his mind, some speck of an urge to live whipped him into a crawl. With little idea of direction he followed a jumbled line of chairs, hoping it might lead to an exit. A bright point of light darted near and the skin on Mykel’s nose started to blister. He recoiled from the tiny elemental. Magic! His heart raced, and he bit back a cry. Reaching for his sword, he realised he’d dropped it.
Just as he was convinced he was to die, the salamander shot away and Mykel resumed his struggle, scrambling on hands and knees, burying his nose and mouth as well he could in the folds of his uniform jacket. He coughed incessantly, and his skin felt ready to crisp and shrivel like a hog on a spit.
A waft of clean air shocked him and he froze for an instant. Blazing ivy dropped across his back, driving him to his feet as he shed the smouldering jacket. Another gust of fresh air drew him to a staggering run and he burst out of the Great Hall as it collapsed behind him. He fell to his knees.
“Are you hurt? Can you move?”
Questions pummelled ears still ringing with the sizzle and clamour of the inferno. Hands grasped his arms, pulling him further from the intense heat of the burning building. Someone threw a bucket of water over him and he gasped with shock, but in the next second drew a sweet breath of relief as his skin cooled.
“Who are you? Who were you with?”
He shook his head. Staying mute seemed the safest option for now. Glad that he’d shed the telltale black and silver uniform jacket, he might blend more easily with the general crowd, at least until he knew who had taken charge. He assumed it would be the royal family. On the other hand, the nobles had been divided in the lead up to the coup, some acquiescing only as a result of intimidation, whilst others had been openly supportive of the pretender. In the aftermath, political turmoil was sure to ensue.
“I’m fine, really,” he muttered as he lurched to his feet, shrugging off the eager helping hands. “I need to find someone.”
Clutching his arms over his wet shirt and starting to shiver, he stumbled away. Blinking repeatedly, trying to clear his smoke-blurred vision, he veered suddenly to his left to avoid a cluster of highborns kneeling around the unconscious figure of Lady Risada. Much to Mykel’s chagrin she was alive, and there was nothing he could do about that vexing state of affairs. He ducked his head and skirted a huddled group of servants, keeping line of sight on Risada and scanning the area for the Lady Betha. He had no wish to walk into her again; his balls still throbbed from their last encounter.
He clasped his arms even tighter around himself when he spotted her, seated on the ground near Risada’s feet. She was deep in conversation with another woman, and Mykel frowned as she gesticulated expressively, showing no sign of injury to her arm. He could have sworn he’d broken her wrist, and to see her apparently shrug off the harm he’d thought he’d inflicted irked him even further.
He bowed his head and kept moving, heading for the stables.
The stable yard was in uproar. Many of those who had supported Hensar were plainly eager to put distance between themselves and the palace until the rubble settled. Lads scurried to and fro, tacking up horses and presenting them for mounting; so many that in no way could the riders be certain of ending up with the right mount. That suited Mykel just fine. He grabbed the reins of a passing horse and swung into the saddle before the boy could protest. Setting his heels to the beast’s sides, he escaped the palace grounds along with the fleeing nobles.
Mykel glanced back over his shoulder at the smoke rising from within the palace grounds. Prince Halnashead and his family might have regained rule of Tyr-en, but their troubles were far from over, and Mykel vowed to ensure that it stayed that way for a very long time to come.