Here's an extract from Sebastien de Castell's Traitor's Blade, courtesy of the folks at Jo Fletcher Books. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.
Here's the blurb:
Falcio is the first Cantor of the Greatcoats. Trained in the fighting arts and the laws of Tristia, the Greatcoats are travelling Magisters upholding King’s Law. They are heroes. Or at least they were, until they stood aside while the Dukes took the kingdom, and impaled their King’s head on a spike. Now Tristia is on the verge of collapse and the barbarians are sniffing at the borders. The Dukes bring chaos to the land, while the Greatcoats are scattered far and wide, reviled as traitors, their legendary coats in tatters. All they have left are the promises they made to King Paelis, to carry out one final mission. But if they have any hope of fulfilling the King’s dream, the divided Greatcoats must reunite, or they will also have to stand aside as they watch their world burn…
He kicked his horse and took off down the street, Brasti following behind. I looked back at the dead men on the ground and wondered how long the Greatcoats could last before we became what people said we were: Trattari.
The second worst feeling in the world happens when your body dis- covers that yet again it’s about to get into a fight for its life. Muscles start to clench, you start to sweat, you start to smell (luckily, nobody ever notices that at the time) and your stomach sinks down to your nether regions.
But the first worst feeling in the world is when your body realises the fight is over. Your muscles start to give out, your head throbs, you keep sweating and – oh yes, you notice the smell. Last but not least, you realise there’s a crossbow bolt sticking out of your thigh. It was the crossbow bolt that finally forced me to stop.
‘It’s going to have to come out,’ Brasti said sagely, looking down from the rooftop where he was scouting for the constables.
I could have killed him, but that would require asking my body to repeat the whole cycle again and, frankly, I smelled bad enough as it was. We had found ourselves a decent alleyway with two exits to hole up in for a breather. The horses didn’t like trying to race around corners on cobbled streets, and we needed to deal with my leg.
Kest looked at me. ‘Punch-pull-slap?’
I sighed. It hurt. ‘I don’t suppose we have time to find a doctor, do we?’
Brasti climbed back down from the roof of the building. ‘They’re doing a house-to-house. The men don’t look all that eager to find us, but the head guy – the senior constable, the one who shot you – is pushing them hard. It’s only going to be a matter of minutes before they get to this alley.’
Damn. ‘Punch-pull-slap,’ I said, already dreading it. ‘But make it hard this time, Brasti.’
Kest poured water on the wound, making me whistle through my teeth.
‘Just don’t scream this time,’ Brasti said. ‘We’re trying to avoid being caught.’
While I prayed to Saint Zaghev-who-sings-for-tears to come down just this one time and meet my good friend Brasti, Kest got a firm grip on the shaft and then nodded at Brasti.
The three of us invented ‘punch-pull-slap’ some time ago. One of the things you discover after you’ve been wounded enough times is that the body really only keeps track of one source of pain at a time. So, for example, if your tooth hurts and someone pokes you in the stomach, your body momentarily forgets about the tooth.
So the way this is supposed to work is like this: Brasti punches me in the face, Kest pulls the arrow out of my leg and then Brasti slaps me so hard my brain never has time to register the bolt and therefore I don’t scream at the top of my lungs.
I screamed at the top of my lungs.
‘Shhh! You need to keep quiet, Falcio,’ Brasti said, leaning in and wagging a finger at me. ‘They might hear that. You need to toughen up.’
‘I told you to hit me hard!’ I said, watching the stars form in my vision.
‘I hit you as hard as I could from that angle. Kest was in the way.’
‘You hit like a girl.’
Kest stopped bandaging my leg and said, ‘Almost a third of King Paelis’ Greatcoats were women. You trained most of them. Didn’t they hit hard enough?’
It was a fair point, but I wasn’t in the mood for semantics. ‘They hit like angry bloody Saints. Brasti hits like a girl,’ I grumbled, holding onto the end of the bandage while Kest padded the wound.
‘So I suppose we’re off to Baern, then?’ Brasti asked.
I pushed myself up. The leg felt a lot better with the bandage on tight: a throbbing pain instead of a burning one. ‘It’s that or stay here and try to teach you how to not hit like a girl.’
‘Falcio, if you say that again, I’ll punch you myself,’ Kest said.
‘It’s just a phrase, “you hit like a girl.” Everyone says it. It’s funny.’
He handed me back my rapier. ‘No,’ he said, ‘it just sounds absurd.’ ‘It’s funny because it’s absurd,’ I replied.
Brasti slapped me on the back. ‘Don’t pay him any mind, Falcio. He lost his sense of humour the day he learned to swing a sword.’
Oddly, since Brasti had no way of knowing it, he was absolutely right.