With the release day of A Shattered Empire, book 3 in the Sorcery Ascendant Sequence, FINALLY HERE, I have a sneaky-peek share.
This is an extract from A Shattered Empire by Mitchell Hogan which is published by Harper Voyager and available in all good book stores and online now. If you missed the first part, you can find it on the Voyager blog here.
AND NOW the prologue continues…
A woman in chains stood next to Radgir, a noble. She hadn’t been in bed like most others. Her fine dress was ripped and stained from her struggles, her curled red hair tangled. Her hands were trembling, and she was muttering. Radgir tilted his head to catch her words, but they remained indecipherable. He glanced around to see if there were any soldiers close by. There weren’t. Good.
Radgir reached up and squeezed the woman’s shoulder. She flinched
at his touch, quivering violently.
“Shh,” he whispered, and he gave another squeeze before dropping his hand to his side. “It’ll all be over soon.” It was the best he could manage under the circumstances. He sounded pathetic to his own ears.
“Do . . . do you think they’ll let some of us go? I didn’t do anything. Just talk, that’s all.”
Radgir swallowed the lump in his throat. “Perhaps.” Again he cursed inwardly at his deplorable response. “I’m sure they will, my lady. The God- Emperor is known for his leniency.”
At least he used to be.
The noblewoman sniffed, keeping her face downcast.
Radgir turned his attention to Preben, who said something to the soldier near him. They both laughed, then Preben dipped a pen in his ink bottle. The soldier and another of his fellows strode over to the first person in the line of prisoners, took the man by the arms, and half dragged, half hoisted him over to Preben’s table.
“Name?” asked Preben, voice carrying over the sudden hush in the courtyard.
The man mumbled too low to be heard.
Preben frowned and leaned forward. “Speak up, man! We don’t have all night.”
The man cleared his throat and raised his head, looking straight at Preben. “Sir Krugert of House Fruin- Dolandrar,” he said in a clear, loud voice.
“Ah yes, Krugert.” Preben looked through his papers until he found the one he wanted. He read for a few moments, then spoke.
“Sir Krugert, you are charged with high treason, inciting others to violence against the God- Emperor, failing to report acts of treason, and intimate relations with a goat. How do you plead?”
At the last charge, a few of the soldiers jeered, while Preben’s lips twisted with amusement.
“That’s a lie! They all are! What’s the meaning of this?” protested Krugert, red- faced. He struggled vainly against the soldiers holding his arms. “I demand to speak with the God- Emperor. He knows I’m loyal!”
Preben scowled and leaned forward. “If you were loyal, you wouldn’t be here!” he shouted, spittle flying across the table. He wiped at his book and parchment with a sleeve. “You demand to speak with him? Such arrogance.”
Krugert’s shoulders slumped as whatever reserves of strength he’d gathered seemed to fail him. “Do your worst, then,” he said. “Indryallans shouldn’t live this way. We’ve lost sight of what we were.”
“You deny it,” Preben said, “yet treasonous thoughts spill from your own tongue. I have no choice but to find you guilty. May the ancestors have mercy on you.” He gestured to the guards.
Krugert remained silent as he was hauled away. They manhandled him over to the Silent Companion and forced him to his knees. The guards twisted Krugert’s arms behind his back until he cried out in pain, and they bent his torso over so he faced the ground.
The Silent Companion stirred. He looked down at the man forced to kneel in front of him.
Radgir wanted to avert his gaze but couldn’t. He was transfixed by what he knew was about to happen.
Slowly, almost leisurely, the Silent Companion’s greatsword rose, then blurred into motion, slicing down into Krugert’s neck— and through. Gouts of blood spurted from the stump, leaving steaming strings across the stone.
Radgir heard someone whimper, only to realize he’d made the sound. Beside him, the noblewoman swooned and collapsed in a heap, while other prisoners cried out in shock and dismay.
The guards dragged Krugert’s headless corpse into a corner and dropped it unceremoniously. One went back for the head, grasping it by the hair. He threw it toward Krugert’s body, where it landed with a thump and rolled to a stop.
Radgir dragged his eyes from the grisly sight, his heart thudding in his chest. Brutality for brutality’s sake. There was no one here to witness this, no object lesson for onlookers to learn. It was a show of cruelty toward them in their final moments. Inhumanity. That was it. Only someone inhuman would order this.
He looked around to find Preben staring at him. Radgir straightened up and drew his shoulders back.
“Leave the woman for now,” Preben told the guards. “She’ll be no fun unless she’s conscious. Bring the old man.”
Without waiting for the guards, Radgir walked over to the table.
His legs wobbled, but he remained standing.
“Name?” asked Preben, following his little routine.
“Radgir of House Celespanna. Councillor of the First Circle. Beholden only to . . .” The God- Emperor? “ . . . to someone I don’t recognize anymore.”
“Guilty, then,” remarked Preben with a smile.
“You have no jurisdiction over me.”
“You’d be surprised what I have jurisdiction over. Tonight’s a special night. We’re cutting away the deadwood.”
Radgir sighed and tilted his head back in order to gaze one last time at the stars. As he did, he saw a figure at a third- floor window looking down at them. There was light behind the person, casting his face into shadow, but Radgir would know that silhouette anywhere: Kelhak. Watching how this played out.
Radgir shook his head. Don’t waste this moment, he thought. It was an especially fine night. He breathed in the air. Sweet and cold.
He barely felt himself being pulled over to the Silent Companion. Pain erupted in his arms, and he sank to his knees. He bent over. On the stone in front of him were gouts of glistening scarlet. Two booted feet to his left shifted, and the tip of a sword that had been resting on the ground rose out of his sight.
He closed his eyes and breathed a prayer to the ances—
To read on, check out Smash Dragons tomorrow for the next installment!