I was supposed to finish this book last winter but a lot of things like illness got in the way so it’s still not done, but getting there.
In the meantime, I will share an excerpt to show the folks who have been patiently waiting (and those who have been quite rightfully bugging the hell out of me for new chapters and release info) a tiny bit of insight into the main protagonist of this book. I appreciate comments and feedback as usual. WP editor screws up my nice indents, so you will have to excuse me there.
Here it comes:
“Master Rogatus is here to give you the report you requested, your majesty.”
“Send him in,” Thalios said. Silence fell upon the air as the imperial physician walked in with slow, even steps. The man stood tall and firm despite his advanced years. Devoid of the weariness of the others, his eyes alight and alive, as if the long march through rough lands had been a pleasant walk in the woods for him.
Thalios didn’t need to ask the question, Rogatus’ gaze told him as much. “Lord Liberius is doing well so far, your majesty. I removed the arrow and treated the wound. It was quite deep but not bad enough to lame his leg. Now we must wait and pray it doesn’t fester.”
“Many thanks, Master Rogatus.” The physician’s eyes were calm but Thalios didn’t miss the hint of concern they held. Men who survived the arrows died from the festering wounds more often than not. He said nothing else, giving a slight nod. Rogatus held his gaze for a moment, then gave a bow and walked out with the same slow, calculated steps. The man’s presence was so strong, Thalios felt like a weight lifted from the air when he walked out of the tent. It was getting dark in the tent, with the sun sinking beyond the horizon.
“Pass the word to all the commanders to get their men ready to march at dawn. I doubt the battle will come to us tomorrow, it’s time we go to it.”
A silent supper followed the quick council. Mathen’s scouts didn’t return, Thalios and his advisors didn’t know what to make of it. Agros thought Anseth was being craven and refusing to come out of hiding. Valkar said Anseth may be plotting a surprise attack. Mathen speculated the men might have deserted, for the tension of uncertainty and the word about half of the army missing wore everyone’s nerves thin. Everyone made a different assumption, but in the end there was even more uncertainty than before, souring their moods.
Thalios went to bed early but sleep didn’t come. He got out of his tent to get some fresh air and walked towards the palisades facing the hills with a band of guards in tow. Countless stars twinkled from horizon to horizon in the moonless night. The night air was not crisp as it was in the mountain passes, only a little less sultry than midday. In another time and another place he would have enjoyed watching the stars.
“Go out into the desert and watch the myriad of divine lanterns in the sky, for their beauty shines brighter than your feeble lamps” one poet had written in a long forgotten age. He was from the bygone desert kingdom in the south where Xil Dhara stood today. The kingdom had crumbled away many centuries ago, names of its kings erased from the memory of men, but the words of the poet were still remembered today.
That many stars in the sky, that many leagues away from civilization, made one question his place in the world, even under the strain of the impending battle. The words inspired by the endless field of stars above would live on, even after the Empire itself became history. No empire ever lasted longer than the wisdom of the poets. Why then am I fighting? Who will remember my name after five hundred years?
Everything seemed so meaningless and paltry all of a sudden, under the unnumbered stars shining there in the black firmament since the dawn of time long before men walked on earth. The moment froze right then and there, shorter than the blink of an eye, when the dreadful battle cries tore through the stillness of the night and the enemy arrows fell upon the camp like a hailstorm.