Aren’t I just a lucky guy? 🙂 Thanks to the generosity of Deborah and Tad, I have an extract of Tad Williams’ third novel in the Shadowmarch Series for you! The extract will be at the top of the blog for the whole of today and the whole weekend, so make sure you spread the word!
As you may probably have heard by now, Shadowrise will be 2 books; Tad spread the news on Facebook a while ago and it has been confirmed by Pat over at his Hotlist, but before you start hissing and spitting, don’t worry – we wont have to wait too long to read the book that will finish the series! Shadowheart will be along shortly! 🙂
Here’s the extract:
Barrick supposed that more than half a tennight had passed since Gyir and Vansen had fallen and he had escaped the demigod Jikuyin’s twisted underground kingdom. It was always hard to guess at time’s passage in the endless Shadowline twilight, but he knew he had slept more than half a dozen times – those long, heavy, but somehow enervating sleeps that were almost all he ever had here. Kerneia had come and gone in the outside world while they had been held underground – Barrick knew that because it had been the monstrous Jikuyin’s intention to celebrate the earth lord’s day by sacrificing Barrick and the others. Since he knew that he and the others had left Southmarch in Ondekamene to fight the fairy armies, that meant he had not seen his home in over a quarter of a year. What could have happened in so much time? Had the fairies reached it? Was his sister Briony under siege?
For perhaps the first time since that terrible day at Kolkan’s Field, Barrick Eddon could plainly see the divide in his own thoughts: he still felt a mysterious, almost slavish loyalty to the terrifying warrior woman who had plucked him from the field and sent him across the Shadowline (although he still could not remember why, or what she had charged him with) but at the same time he knew now that the dark lady was Yasammez the Porcupine, war-scourge of the Qar, single-minded in her hatred of all Sunlanders…Barrick’s own people. If the Qar were now laying siege to Southmarch, if his sister and the rest of the inhabitants were in danger, or even murdered, it was by that lady’s pale and deadly hand.
And now he had inherited a second mission for Yasammez and the Qar. He could not recall the first, which she had given him the day she spared him on the battlefield: it felt as though Yasammez had poured it into him like oil into a jug, then pushed the stopper in so tight that he himself could not take it out. The other mission he had accepted solely on the word of her chief servant Gyir, who had sworn it was for the good of humans as well as fairies, shortly before the faceless fairy had sacrificed his life for Barrick’s. So now that he was finally free, instead of doing what any sensible creature would do (which would be to make his way as swiftly as possible to the borders of the Shadowlands and back into the light of the sun) Barrick was instead plunging deeper and deeper into this land of mists and madness.
Mists, he could not help noticing, which appeared to be returning. The world had grown colder since the bird had flown away and curls of the stuff were now rising from the ground. Barrick seemed to be sitting in a field of swaying, ghostly grass; in a few moments the mist would be as high as his head. Barrick didn’t like that thought, so he scrambled onto his feet.
The fog was thickening along the ground, swirling around the trunks of the gray trees like water – even climbing the trunks themselves. Soon the mist would be everywhere, below and above. Where was that cursed bird? How could he simply fly off and leave a companion this way – what kind of loyalty was that? When was he coming back?
Is he even going to come back?
The thought was a cold fist clutching his heart in mid-beat. The old bird had not made a pledge to Gyir as Barrick had. Skurn cared little for the desires of either the Sunlanders or the Qar — little for anything, in fact, except cramming his belly with the disgusting things he liked to eat. Perhaps the raven had suddenly decided he was wasting its time here.
His voice seemed weak, fluttering out like an arrow from a broken string and disappearing into the eternal, murky evening. “Curse you, you foul bird, where are you?” He heard the anger in his voice and thought better of it. “Come back, Skurn, please! I’ll…I’ll let you sleep under my shirt.” He had forbidden this before when the weather had turned cold: the thought of having that stinking old carrion-bird and whatever lived in its feathers against his chest had been enough to make his skin crawl and he had told the raven so – told him very sternly.
Now, though, Barrick was beginning to regret his bad temper.
Alone. It was a thought he had not dwelt on, for fear of it overwhelming him. He had spent his entire childhood as half of “the twins,” an entity his father and older brother and the servants had spoken of as though they were not two children but one tremendously difficult, two-headed child. And the twins had also been surrounded at nearly all times by servants and courtiers, so much so that they had been desperate to escape and find time alone; much of Barrick Eddon’s childhood had been spent trying to find hiding places where he and Briony could escape and be alone. Just now, though, a crowded castle seemed like a beautiful dream.
“Skurn?” It suddenly occurred to him that perhaps shouting his solitude was not the best idea. They had met almost no other creatures in the past days of travel, but that had been largely because Jikuyin and his hungry army of servants had emptied the area of anything bigger than a field mouse for miles in all directions. But he was far from the demigod’s diggings now…
Barrick shivered again. He knew he should stay in one place, but the mist was rising and he kept thinking he saw signs of movement in the swirling distance, as though some of the pearly white strands moved not by the pressure of the wind but through some choice of their own.
The breeze quickened, chilled. A mournful whisper seemed to pass through the leaves above his head. Barrick clutched the spearhead by its broken haft and began to walk.
The mist limited his vision, but he was able to walk without too much stumbling, although from time to time he had to test with his spear to make sure a dark place in the undergrowth at his feet was not a hole into which he might step and wrench his ankle. But the path before him seemed surprisingly clear, easier to travel by far than the choked and tangling way of the past hours. It only occurred to him after he had traveled a few hundred paces that he was no longer choosing a path, he was following one: because the way was clear, he walked where he was led.
And what if someone…or something…wants me to do just that…?
The question and its implication had only just sunk in when something darted past the edge of his sight. He whirled, but now the space between the trees was empty except for a tendril of mist swirling in the breeze of his own movement; as he turned back something the color of fog flitted across the path in the distance before him, but was gone too quickly for him to make out its shape.
He stopped. Hands trembling, he raised the pitted head of his spear. Things were definitely moving in the mist between the farthest trees, shapes tall as men but pale and maddeningly hard to see. The whisper passed over him again, sounding now less like the wordless voice of the wind and more like the hissing of some incomprehensible, breathy language.
A rustle behind him, the dimmest, softest pad of footfall on leaf — Barrick spun, and for a moment saw a thing that made no sense: the figure was nearly as tall as a man but crooked as a mandrake root, wrapped from head to foot like a royal corpse in threads and tatters white as the mist – perhaps it even was the mist, he thought in superstitious horror, taking on some vaguely human shape. In places the mist-wrappings did not quite cover, and what was beneath them bulged and oozed a shiny gray-black. Although it had no visible eyes the apparition seemed to see Barrick well enough; an instant after he saw it the pale thing vanished back into the mist beside the path. More whispers floated past and echoed above his head. Barrick wheeled toward the front again, fearing to be surrounded, but for the moment the creatures of tangled thread had dropped back into the shrouding fog.
Silkins. That was what the bird had called them, and he had named this poisonous place Silky Wood…
Hope you enjoyed that, I know I did! 🙂
You can pre-order your copies of Shadowrise at the following links: