Excerpt from Gail Z. Martin's THE SWORN + Giveaway


Once again this year, I've accepted to be part of Gail Z. Martin's Days of the Dead blog tour. Follow this link to learn more about all the goodies available! Martin is the author of The Summoner (Canada, USA, Europe), The Blood King (Canada, USA, Europe), Dark Haven(Canada, USA, Europe), and Dark Lady's Chosen (Canada, USA, Europe)

An exclusive extract of the forthcoming The Sworn (Canada, USA, Europe) will follow, but I also have an autographed Advance Reading Copy up for grabs!

The rules are the same as usual. You need to send an email at reviews@(no-spam)gryphonwood.net with the header "SWORN." Remember to remove the "no spam" thingy.

Second, your email must contain your full mailing address (that's snail mail!), otherwise your message will be deleted.

Lastly, multiple entries will disqualify whoever sends them. And please include your screen name and the message boards that you frequent using it, if you do hang out on a particular MB.

Good luck to all the participants!

Enjoy!
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“I fail to see how this is any of our concern.” Astasia leaned back in her chair, letting her long, chestnut-colored hair fall across her shoulders, spilling down over full breasts barely hidden by her revealing neckline. The vayash moru’s pale skin was a sharp contrast to the deep burgundy of her gown. Astasia met Jonmarc’s eyes with a look that combined both seduction and malice.

“It’s your concern because you’re the Blood Council, dammit!” Jonmarc glared at Astasia. Once, being the only mortal in a room of vayash moru might have tempered his comments. Now, a year after he had come to Dark Haven as its lord, he had fought and bled for its residents, living and undead. The insurrection he’d quelled that winter had set him directly against two of the
Blood Council’s members, Uri and Astasia, at peril of his life. He still had a scar from two puncture wounds at the base of his throat, where Malesh, one of Uri’s renegade vayash moru, had tried unsuccessfully to kill him. Surviving that attack had made Jonmarc a legend, as had returning alive from making Istra’s Bargain, a pledge to forfeit his soul in exchange for the death of his enemy. Having stared down both the goddess and Malesh, Jonmarc found his fear of the undead was considerably diminished.

“My brood has no quarrel with the Durim,” Astasia said blithely.

“Then you are a fool.” Riqua wheeled on Astasia. “The Dark Gift is no protection against their torches. They hunted me when I lived, and I hid from them when I was first brought across. No more. I will fight.” In life, Riqua had been the wife of a wealthy merchant, and that sensibility still served her. She was a handsome woman in her mid-fifties, with upswept, dark blonde hair. Her gown was of the most current fashion favorable at court, and the expensive jewelry that glittered at her throat and on her wrists were a testimony that undeath had been favorable for building wealth.

“Of late, you seem ready to battle anyone,” Astasia purred.

Riqua’s scorn was evident on her face. “I’m not ashamed that my brood fought alongside Lord Gabriel’s to defeat Malesh. We preserved the Truce with mortals to protect ourselves. I paid a price for that; half my brood was destroyed in the fighting. You might not have dirtied your hands with battle, but I recognized many of your brood among those who fought for Malesh.”

“So?” Astasia pouted. “It’s the way of things. Uri’s fledge started the war. Mine just played along. Immortality without conflict is….boring.”

“You brought our kind to the edge of destruction because you were bored?” Riqua hissed. “You were a stupid, empty-headed whore in life and you haven’t learned anything in death to improve on that.”

Astasia started from her seat, and Jonmarc thought she might attack Riqua, but just then, Gabriel rose to his feet. He fixed Astasia with a cold glare, and she sat down. She’s afraid of him, Jonmarc thought, suppressing a smile. He knew just how formidable Gabriel could be. Astasia might be willful and utterly self-centered, but if she recognized Gabriel’s power, she wasn’t quite as stupid as Riqua supposed.

“One war is behind us,” Gabriel said. When he was certain Astasia was silenced, he turned his gaze toward the other members of the Blood Council, the ruling body whose word was law to the vayash moru in much of the Winter Kingdoms. “Now, another threat has risen. The question is: What will we do about it?”

Gabriel’s cold gaze went first to the Council’s chairman, Rafe. Though dead for centuries, Rafe still had the look of a priest or scholar. He had the ebony skin of an Eastmark noble, and eyes that were almost black. Although he’d been in his early thirties when he’d been brought across, his hair had grayed early to a sand color. “You’re certain the Durim are behind this?”

“Does being dead affect your hearing?” Jonmarc growled. “I just took a strike force of vayash moru and mortals into the caves to burn out a group of Durim. It took a mage and a hell of a fight to get out of there in one piece. They were draining vayash moru and slaughtering vyrkin. I’ve got a manor house full of vayash moru and vyrkin refugees. The war has already started.”

“You’re good at burning things, aren’t you?” Uri tented his fingers over his chest. He had the olive skin and dark features of a Trevath or Nargi native, and even centuries after his death, he still had the air of a card sharp and two-skrivven hustler.

Jonmarc met his eyes. “When I have to be. Yes.”

Uri made a show of sighing, a completely artificial gesture since he no longer had to breathe. “As much as it pains me, I actually agree with you for once.” Uri toyed with the heavy gold rings on his fingers. “The Durim’s threat is real. Like Riqua, I also remember when the followers of Shanthadura drove us from our homes and then, from our crypts. I have no desire to see their ilk return to power.” His expression darkened. “It was plague that brought them to the fore, long ago. Lady knows, I have no love for the Crone priests, but they are nothing compared to the Durim.” He leaned forward, looking past Astasia toward Rafe. “We must do something.”

Rafe frowned. “What would you have us do? We’ve only barely restored the Truce. The people of Dark Haven may suffer the Lord of Dark Haven to lead his guards against other mortals, but if we begin to strike the living, they’ll all turn against us.”

“Leave the Durim to Jonmarc and King Staden’s men,” Gabriel countered. “Our own kind needs our help. Riqua and I have been funneling supplies and funds to help the Ghost Carriage.” He met Uri’s dark eyes. “Kolin has led dozens of vayash moru and vyrkin out of Nargi and Trevath to safety in Dark Haven. As plague spreads, the need becomes more desperate. Even in those areas where the Durim have not yet gained power, as the mortals die with the plague, they fear and hate us because we’re untouched. And the burnings begin.”

A shadow seemed to pass over Uri’s face. For once, all bluster was gone. “Unlike Jonmarc, I did not get out of Nargi alive. I swore I would never return.”

“You’ve done business there, through intermediaries,” Gabriel replied. “Kolin needs money, horses, safe houses. He needs connections who have no love for either the Crone priests or the Durim.”

Uri gave a short, sharp laugh. “Honor among thieves, is that what you’re expecting?” His eyes darkened. “There are a few of my associates who have their own reasons to wish to see the Durim become nothing but a bad memory. The Crone priests are bad enough.

“To a point, fear is profitable. It keeps order. But when people are terrified, they stop spending money, stop hiring whores, stop betting their gold. Bad for business.” Uri touched the heavy gold bracelets that hung from his wrist. “I have names I can give Kolin, and I can change his skrivven to Nargi coin. But he should remember that my contacts have no love for me—or him—because he is vayash moru. They tolerate me because I make them a profit. They will help Kolin only so long as it protects their interests.”

“Thank you,” Gabriel said. “It’s gotten bad enough that even a dimonn’s bargain looks good.”

Uri clapped his hands and gave a deep belly laugh. “Is that what you think of me? A dimonn’s bargain. That’s rich. I’ll take that as a compliment.”

“I see no benefit in bringing more vayash moru into our territory,” Astasia said. She could be beautiful when she wished. Her looks and body had brought her wealth and position as a consort to rich old men, until one of her suitors brought her across to make her a more permanent possession. Like Uri, it was rumored that she had eventually destroyed her maker. Jonmarc looked at her pale blue eyes, and did not doubt that she was capable of anything to preserve her interests.

“Will these newcomers respect the Council? Must we take them into our broods, knowing nothing about their makers? Will Old Ones arise to challenge us?” She crossed her arms across her bosom. “What’s in it for us? The mortals in Dark Haven tolerated us—before Malesh’s war—better than in many places. They put up with us because they know they still outnumber us. If they fear that we’re growing in strength, will they still observe the Truce? Maybe not—and maybe they’re right to doubt. There is, after all, only so much blood to go around.”

“Astasia is correct that as new vayash moru come to Dark Haven, the Council must be the ultimate law, “ Gabriel said. Jonmarc noticed that Gabriel avoided looking at Astasia directly.

“It would be best if we could replenish our broods by accepting refugee vayash moru instead of turning mortals,” Riqua said. From her expression, Jonmarc guessed that it galled Riqua to agree with Astasia in any way. “Both methods have risks. Without broods of sufficient strength, we lack the strength to hold our seats on the Council. Turning mortals—given the situation—could lead to reprisals. But accepting strangers into our broods can be dangerous, even if we know their makers. Our power over our broods must be ruthless, and absolute. Otherwise, some of these newcomers will see an opportunity to better their station at our expense.”

“Then you see my point.” Astasia’s voice was a cool purr.

“Much as it pains me, on this, we agree in principle even if our means may differ,” Riqua replied.

“With the Durim’s power growing, you’ll also need to keep a close eye on your broods,” Jonmarc said. “The Durim are opportunists. They’ll go after lone vayash moru who make an easy target . They’ve also been going after the mortal families of the vayash moru.”

“What do you propose?” Rafe asked. There was an edge to his voice.

Jonmarc kept his expression neutral. “Secure your day crypts. Alert your mortal family members and arm them so they can protect themselves. Your people are at risk if their families can be used against them. Don’t take unnecessary risks.”

Rafe leaned forward. “We’re predators. We don’t hide.” His eye teeth showed plainly, something Jonmarc knew was intentional.

He met Rafe’s eyes. Jonmarc knew it disquieted Rafe that the vayash moru could not use his glamour or compulsion against Jonmarc’s natural resistance. “Until we defeat the Durim, you can hide or you can burn. It’s your choice.”

1 commentaires:

Robbie said...

I'm sorry but Gail Z. Martin is a terrible writer and I don't understand why you would agree to help her sell books.