Extract from Aidan Harte's IRENICON

Here's an extract from Aidan Harte's Irenicon, courtesy of the folks at Jo Fletcher Books. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.

Here's the blurb:

The river Irenicon was blasted through the middle of Rasenna in 1347 and now it is a permanent reminder to the feuding factions that nothing can stand in the way of the Concordian Empire. The artificial river, created overnight by Concordian engineers using the Wave, runs uphill. But the Wave is both weapon and mystery; not even the Concordians know how the river became conscious – and hostile.

But times are changing. Concordian engineer Captain Giovanni is ordered to bridge the Irenicon – not to reunite the sundered city, but to aid Concord’s mighty armies, for the engineers have their sights set firmly on world domination and Rasenna is in their way.

Sofia Scaglieri will soon be seventeen, when she will become Contessa of Rasenna, but her inheritance is tainted: she can see no way of stopping the ancient culture of vendetta which divides her city. What she can’t understand is why Giovanni is trying so hard to stop the feuding, or why he is prepared to risk his life, not just with her people, but also with the lethal water spirits – the buio – that infest the Irenicon.

Times are changing. And only the young Contessa and the enemy engineer Giovanni understand they have to change too, if they are to survive the coming devastation – for Concord is about to unleash the Wave again…


Etruria was wrong: the Concordian Empire did possess a heart, of sorts. It was this unsleeping place of grease-pumping clockwork pis- tons. The final dome crowning the Molè Bernoulli had been dubbed the engine room by ordinary engineers such as Captain Giovanni, although ordinary engineers were rarely privileged to see it—or, indeed, to be personally briefed by the Apprentices. Giovanni did not rejoice to be so favored, for he knew it was a curse.

Giovanni wore sober black like every other engineer. Only the Apprentices wore the long colored vestments of the supplanted car- dinals. Even so, the Third and Second Apprentices were shades in the darkness. Only the First Apprentice was entitled to wear the true color, a red so vivid that it seemed to emanate from a burning interior.

“Rasenna?” said Giovanni.

“You think the posting beneath you?”

“No, my lord.”

“We are all heirs to Girolamo Bernoulli. You are not special.”

“I know that, my lord.”

“Captain, I will not dissemble. You’re a disappointment.” The First Apprentice raised his hands as if he had been interrupted, though Giovanni kept his head lowered, letting his unruly dark hair hide his eyes as he struggled to control the restless muscles of his broad face.

“You showed promise once. You performed a service that shall be remembered, once. Since then?”

“I follow orders.”

“Oh, you have an engineer’s obedience; no one questions that. We question your enthusiasm.”

A man’s voice behind Giovanni said, “Rasenna’s ambassador is waiting, my Lord.”

“Let him wait, General!” the First Apprentice snapped.

He was tall, and his sorrowful face had severe high cheeks and a tragic composure disturbed by neither joy nor wrath. He spread his arms, letting his long sleeves fall open, and looked on Giovanni. “Captain, as different as they were, your father and grandfather had something in common: conviction. Show some. Be an engineer or be a traitor. Do not be lukewarm. Nature abhors it. We abhor it.”

“Yes, my Lord.”

“We would advise you to make Rasenna fear you, but we suspect you are too lukewarm to do even that. We shall see to it.”

Giovanni looked up suddenly.

The First Apprentice was pleased to have pierced his feigned apathy. “The Rasenneisi ambassador expects to deliver our message. He will be our message.”

“Please, my Lord, it’s unnecessary—”

“I am the First Apprentice of Concord, Girolamo Bernoulli’s true heir. Do not lecture me on necessity.”

“Forgive me,” Giovanni said quickly.

The First Apprentice nodded, though whether satisfied or just signaling silence, Giovanni could not tell.

“Rasenna no longer matters, but it appears destined always to stand in our way, if now only in a physical sense. Its position is key in the coming campaign. It must be ready before we send the Twelfth Legion south. You have the State’s resources at your disposal. If cooperation requires soldiers, send for them.”

“That won’t be—”


Giovanni looked down and said nothing.

“Well, we shall see. If we expected your work to be difficult, we would send someone who had our fullest confidence. Possibilities outweigh the certainties of this world, but some things we may count upon: towers fall, smoke rises, and Rasenneisi quarrel. Use them. If you fail, it won’t be your delicate conscience to suffer, but Rasenna. Send up the ambassador on your way out. We dismiss you.”

Giovanni didn’t move. He was looking at his hands, remember- ing what deeds they’d done in Bernoulli’s name.

“You may go, Captain,” the First Apprentice repeated. “They’ve suffered enough,” Giovanni said quietly.

“Suffered enough?”

At the far end of the engine room there was a screech of chalk as the other Apprentices stopped their work.

“Suffered enough?” The First Apprentice repeated the queer word pairing, and his colleagues in the dark chuckled.

Giovanni lifted his eyes to meet the First Apprentice’s—a small act taking great effort.

“Oh, Captain,” the First Apprentice said wistfully, “there is no limit.”


It was a curiously unpleasant smile for an angel. The statue’s colossal body glowed in the intersecting shafts of light. Bowing to read the Low Etruscan motto inscribed in the base, the ambassador was covered by its shadow. “Eadem mutata resurgo,” he mumbled, and translated, “Although changed, I shall arise the same.”

Valentino was pleased to display his erudition, if only to himself. He was far from home and did not belong. He had been abandoned in the great hall of soaring pillars. The pillar in the center was thicker than the others and made of glass that was dappled inside with pale green fugitive gleamings. Did every ambassador receive this treatment or just Rasenna’s? In their place he would do the same, so he could not resent it. Much.

He looked around while using his sleeve to rub the chains of office that stubbornly refused to shine. He was still glad his father had appointed him. The old fool had agreed only when persuaded that the prestige outweighed the danger. The problem as ever was money—another bad year, and Rasenna could not raise its tribute. Such fuss over such a small problem, with such an obvious solution. He would beg. The Empire had larger concerns than one insignificant town.

Valentino retreated from the colossus. In a gleaming breast-plate he was pleased to find not some unremarkable boy looking back but an elegant young diplomat. He passed a happy minute admiring his dignity, growing confident. Whatever they called themselves in their vulgar dialect, the Apprentices were Concord’s elite just as the Morello were Rasenna’s. Ultimately, they spoke the same language.

A distant large sound of great metal plates scraping off each other made Valentino scurry back into the shadow of the colossus. They would discover him there, lost in aesthetic reverence. His gaze was drawn up the column to a point of pure white in the distant darkness. The great dome seemed large as Heaven, and something was falling fast, emitting a whine that grew louder by the second. He yelped as the column began filling with water, the level rising to meet the star. The large coffin-shaped capsule cushioned on the water came to a stop. Valentino expected an Apprentice to emerge, not yet another engineer functionary, but he masked his annoyance with a smile and began his speech: “Just admiring—”

The engineer broke free of the old soldier flanking him and grabbed Valentino’s outstretched arm. “Ride from Concord tonight,” he whispered fiercely.

“I don’t understand—”

“Say you must return to Rasenna. An emergency. Say anything. You don’t belong here.”

Valentino snatched his arm away. “I came to see the Apprentices. I shall not leave before that meeting.”

A heavy hand on his shoulder. “Ambassador,” the general said, “the Apprentices are waiting. You have your orders, Captain. Give Doctor Bardini my regards.”

Giovanni looked on helplessly as the ambassador was led away. Valentino gave the colossus a parting glance, discerning too late that it was smiling derisively.

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