The folks at The Second Apocalypse have just posted an exclusive extract from R. Scott Bakker's forthcoming The Unholy Consult! It's a portion of the first chapter from the book and I'll have the pleasure of posting another extract on the Hotlist later this year!
Here's a little teaser:
Late Summer, 20 New Imperial Year (4123, Year-of-the-Tusk), the Demua Mountains.
“Nau-Cayûti...” one of the wretches croaked.
“Nau-Cayûti...” another rasped, rocking like a worm.
“Such a prizssse...”
Achamian rolled to his knees, coughed. Manacles clamped his neck, wrists, ankles. A circle of figures leaned close about him, black with confusion. Beyond, the world lurched with shadow and gold. A reeking breeze laved his naked back, pinched his gut and pulled vomit to his throat.
He convulsed with a different body, gagged about a string of burning spittle. Memories of a darkling flight crowded his eyes, claws hooked about his limbs, wings shearing hard air, a blasted landscape reeling out to the horizon.
“Such-such a prizsse...”
More memories came, like ice packed about his heart and lungs. His wife, Iëva, plundering his loins with wanton abandon. The Inchoroi, Aurang, cracking him from his sarcophagus, hauling him into the heavens. Golden bulkheads rearing from bastions of cruel stone, their surfaces stamped in endless, alien filigree...
Golgotterath, the Great Prince realized. He was in Min-Uroikas, the dread Ark-of-the-skies...
Which meant he was worse than dead.
“My father!” he cried, staring about witless. “My father will yield nothing for my return!”
“Return...” one of the wretches gasped.
“There is no return...” another added.
The Wizard gazed wildly about. Ten ancient men encircled him, their skin sucked tight about their ligaments, their eyes bleary with mucous and misery. They wagged their heads–some bald, some wisped with snow-white strands–as if trapped nodding at the surface of a long, nightmarish slumber. One chewed his own bottom lip, so that blood sheeted his chin.
At first he thought they sat huddled–but he quickly realized they possessed no limbs, that they had been bound like larva to cradle-like sconces of stone. And he understood that these ten men were Men no longer, but wheels in some kind of contrivance, arcane and abominable.
At once, the Great Prince realized who it was who truly scrutinized him–as well as who had betrayed him.
“My wife,” he groaned, testing the mettle of his chains for the first time. “Iëva!”
“Has committed...” one of the ancient mouths warbled.
“What was her price...” he coughed. “Tell me!”
“She sheeks only...” the bloody one bubbled.
“To save her soul...”
Laughter, thin and eerie, passed through the wretches, like the lash through the whip, one rising from the trailing of another.
The Great Prince cast his gaze beyond them, toward the gold-girdered walls. He saw hooded light rising across faraway structures, surfaces gleaming through darkness, stamped with infinite detail, packed into inexplicable forms. A sudden awareness of distance and dimension struck him...
Dizzy, gaping spaces.
He fell to his right elbow, so sudden was the vertigo. They floated, he realized. The ancient amputees had been arrayed across a platform of some kind–one rendered of the same unearthly metal as the Ark. He saw golden reliefs through the scuffs in the offal beneath him, warring figures, leering and inhuman. And the form, opposing S’s hooked about the arms of a V...
A shape no Son of the House Anasûrimbor could fail to recognize: the Shield of Sil.
They floated upward through some kind of shaft, one impossibly vast, a gullet broad enough to house the King-Temple whole. The Horns, Nau-Cayûti realized, remembering the tales told by the Nonmen, who had ransacked this place at the conclusion of their grievous war...
“A marvel...” one of the wretches croaked, a momentary light flaring and fading in his eyes.
“Is it not?”
They ascended what Siqu called the Toir’inskiri, the Grave-with-no-bottom...
“They made this...”
“To be their...”
The vast well that plumbed Golgotterath’s Northern Horn.
“It belongs to me...”
They climbed to the world’s most wicked summit, where none but the dead and the damned descended.
Rage, delirious and titanic, seized the old Wizard’s limbs and voice. He howled. He cast his naked body whole, wrenched and heaved with the strength and fury that had made him unconquerable on so many fields of battle.
But the Wretches only drooled and laughed, one after the other.
He drew his feet beneath him, squatted, strained roaring, until his limbs flushed and quivered. He hurled all his being...
The iron links creaked, but did not yield.
“You hath returned...”
“To the house...”
“From which you hath stolen...”
He slumped in dismay, gazed sneering at the wretches. Different faces worn into the same face by decrepitude. Different voices throttled into the same voice by senescence and age-old hatred. Ten Wretches, one ancient and malevolent soul.