R.A. Salvatore - Tor/Forge Blog
Close
post-featured-image

Spring Into eBook Sales: March 2023!

“March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb.” or so sayeth the sages of yore regarding March weather. Not so with our eBook deals. We’ve got a whole pride of lion-tier eBook deals! For the rest of March, we’re proud to present great books at steep discounts in digital format 😎

Check it out!


Unconquerable SunImage Placeholder of - 70 by Kate Elliott — $2.99

Princess Sun has finally come of age. Growing up in the shadow of her mother, Eirene, has been no easy task. The legendary queen-marshal did what everyone thought impossible: expel the invaders and build Chaonia into a magnificent republic, one to be respected—and feared. But the cutthroat ambassador corps and conniving noble houses have never ceased to scheme—and they have plans that need Sun to be removed as heir, or better yet, dead. To survive, the princess must rely on her wits and companions: her biggest rival, her secret lover, and a dangerous prisoner of war. Take the brilliance and cunning courage of Princess Leia—add in a dazzling futuristic setting where pop culture and propaganda are one and the same—and hold on tight.

kindle-1 nook-1 ebooks-1 google play-1 ibooks2 17 kobo-1


Attack SurfacePoster Placeholder of - 67 by Cory Doctorow — $2.99

Most days, Masha Maximow was sure she’d chosen the winning side. In her day job as a counterterrorism wizard for an transnational cybersecurity firm, she made the hacks that allowed repressive regimes to spy on dissidents, and manipulate their every move. The perks were fantastic, and the pay was obscene. Just for fun, and to piss off her masters, Masha sometimes used her mad skills to help those same troublemakers evade detection, if their cause was just. It was a dangerous game and a hell of a rush. But seriously self-destructive. And unsustainable. When her targets were strangers in faraway police states, it was easy to compartmentalize, to ignore the collateral damage of murder, rape, and torture. But when it hits close to home, and the hacks and exploits she’s devised are directed at her friends and family, Masha realizes she has to choose. And whatever choice she makes, someone is going to get hurt.

kindle-2 nook-2 ebooks-2 google play-2 ibooks2 69 kobo-2


Deadmen WalkingPlaceholder of  -59 by Sherrilyn Kenyon — $3.99

Deadmen tell their tales . . .To catch evil, it takes evil. Enter Devyl Bane– an ancient dark warlord returned to the human realm as one of the most notorious pirates in the New World. A man of many secrets, Bane makes a pact with Thorn– an immortal charged with securing the worst creations the ancient gods ever released into our world. Those powers have been imprisoned for eons behind enchanted gates . . . gates that are beginning to buckle. At Thorn’s behest, Bane takes command of a crew of Deadmen and, together, they are humanity’s last hope to restore the gates and return the damned to their hell realms. But things are never so simple….

kindle-3 nook-3 ebooks-3 google play-3 kobo-3


A Queen in HidingImage Place holder  of - 19 by Sarah Kozloff — $3.99

Orphaned, exiled and hunted, Cerulia, Princess of Weirandale, must master the magic that is her birthright, become a ruthless guerilla fighter, and transform into the queen she is destined to be. But to do it she must win the favor of the spirits who play in mortal affairs, assemble an unlikely group of rebels, and wrest the throne from a corrupt aristocracy whose rot has spread throughout her kingdom.

kindle-4 nook-4 ebooks-4 google play-4 kobo-4


ImagerPlace holder  of - 62 by L.E. Modesitt, Jr. — $3.99

Rhennthyl, son of a leading wool merchant in L’Excelsis, the capital of Solidar, has his entire life transformed when his master patron is killed in a flash fire, and Rhenn discovers he is an imager–-one of the few in the entire world of Terahnar who can visualize things and make them real.

kindle-5 nook-5 ebooks-5 google play-5 kobo-5


Vallista by Steven Brust — $2.99

Vlad Taltos is an Easterner—an underprivileged human in an Empire of tall, powerful, long-lived Dragaerans. He made a career for himself in House Jhereg, the Dragaeran clan in charge of the Empire’s organized crime. But the day came when the Jhereg wanted Vlad dead, and he’s been on the run ever since. He has plenty of friends among the Dragaeran highborn, including an undead wizard and a god or two. But as long as the Jhereg have a price on his head, Vlad’s life is…messy. Meanwhile, for years, Vlad’s path has been repeatedly crossed by Devera, a small Dragaeran girl of indeterminate powers who turns up at the oddest moments in his life. Now Devera has appeared again—to lead Vlad into a mysterious, seemingly empty manor overlooking the Great Sea.

kindle-6 nook-6 ebooks-6 google play-6 kobo-6


Empire Games by Charlie Stross — $3.99

The year is 2020. It’s seventeen years since the Revolution overthrew the last king of the New British Empire, and the newly-reconstituted North American Commonwealth is developing rapidly, on course to defeat the French and bring democracy to a troubled world. But Miriam Burgeson, commissioner in charge of the shadowy Ministry of Intertemporal Research and Intelligence—the paratime espionage agency tasked with catalyzing the Commonwealth’s great leap forward—has a problem. For years, she’s warned everyone: “The Americans are coming.” Now their drones arrive in the middle of a succession crisis. In another timeline, the U.S. has recruited Miriam’s own estranged daughter to spy across timelines in order to bring down any remaining world-walkers who might threaten national security. Two nuclear superpowers are set on a collision course. Two increasingly desperate paratime espionage agencies try to find a solution to the first contact problem that doesn’t result in a nuclear holocaust. And two women—a mother and her long-lost daughter—are about to find themselves on opposite sides of the confrontation.

kindle-7 nook-7 ebooks-7 google play-7 kobo-7


Dragonslayer by Duncan M. Hamilton — $3.99

With the dragons believed dead, the kingdom had no more need for dragonslayers. Drunk, disgraced, and all but forgotten, Guillot has long since left his days of heroism behind him. As forgotten places are disturbed in the quest for power, and things long dormant awaken, the kingdom finds itself in need of a dragonslayer once again, and Guillot is the only one left…

kindle-8 nook-8 ebooks-8 google play-8 kobo-8


Dancer’s Lament by Ian C. Esslemont — $3.99

Ian C. Esslemont’s prequel trilogy takes readers deeper into the politics and intrigue of the New York Times bestselling Malazan Empire. The first book of the Path to Ascendancy trilogy, Dancer’s Lament, focuses on the genesis of the empire and features Dancer, the skilled assassin, who, alongside the mage Kellanved, would found the Malazan empire.

kindle-9 nook-9 ebooks-9 google play-9 kobo-9


Child of a Mad Godimage alt text by R.A. Salvatore — $3.99

When Aoleyn loses her parents, she is left to fend for herself among a tribe of vicious barbarians. Bound by rigid traditions, she dreams of escaping to the world beyond her mountain home. The only hope for achieving the kind of freedom she searches for is to learn how to wield the mysterious power used by the tribe’s coven known as the Song of Usgar. Thankfully, Aoleyn may be the strongest witch to have ever lived, but magic comes at price. Not only has her abilities caught the eye of the brutish warlord that leads the tribe, but the demon of the mountain hunts all who wield the Coven’s power, and Aoleyn’s talent has made her a beacon in the night.

kindle-10 nook-10 ebooks-10 google play-10 kobo-10


Without Honoralt image text by David Hagberg — $3.99

When Aoleyn loses her parents, she is left to fend for herself among a tribe of vicious barbarians. Bound by rigid traditions, she dreams of escaping to the world beyond her mountain home. The only hope for achieving the kind of freedom she searches for is to learn how to wield the mysterious power used by the tribe’s coven known as the Song of Usgar. Thankfully, Aoleyn may be the strongest witch to have ever lived, but magic comes at price. Not only has her abilities caught the eye of the brutish warlord that leads the tribe, but the demon of the mountain hunts all who wield the Coven’s power, and Aoleyn’s talent has made her a beacon in the night.

kindle-11 nook-11 ebooks-11 google play-11 kobo-11

post-featured-image

A Fond Farewell—Series We’re Saying Goodbye to in 2020

A Fond Farewell—Series We’re Saying Goodbye to in 2020

Everything ends eventually, and that is (sadly) true for several Tor series in 2020. This year marks the conclusion of some of our flagship sagas, as well as one epic fantasy that we’re releasing in a four-month sprint (bingebingebinge)! So, if you want to make sure you’re all caught up, here’s a list of everything ending in 2020. But don’t worry, we’ve got plenty of new and ongoing series to take you well into 2020—and beyond!

Placeholder of  -77Heart of Black Ice– The Nicci Chronicles –Terry Goodkind 

Taken captive by their enemies, King Grieve, Lila, and Bannon are about to discover the terrifying force that threatens to bring destruction to the Old World. The Norukai, barbarian raiders and slavers, have been gathering an immense fleet among the inhospitably rocky islands that make up their home and are poised to launch their final and most deadly war.

ON SALE NOW!

 

Image Placeholder of - 38Song of the Risen God– The Coven Series – R.A. Salvatore 

The once forgotten Xoconai empire has declared war upon the humans west of the mountains, and only a small band of heroes stand in the way of the God Emperor’s grasp of power. But not all hope is lost. Far away, an ancient tomb is uncovered with the power to stop the onslaught of coming empire and, possibly, reshape the very world itself.

ON SALE NOW!

 

Poster Placeholder of - 90Servant of the Crown– Dragonslayer Trilogy – Duncan M. Hamilton 

A swordsman and a dragon make an unlikely pair as they team up to defeat the Prince Bishop. This trilogy started just a year ago, so if you haven’t gotten hooked yet, now is the time to dive in. Come for the swordplay and magic, stay for the compelling characters searching for meaning in their lives.

ON SALE: 03/10/2020

 

Image Place holder  of - 23The Poet King– The Harp and Ring Sequence – Ilana C. Myer 

The nation of Tamryllin has a new ruler, who proclaims himself the first Poet King despite not all in court supporting the regime change. Meanwhile, a civil war rages in a distant land, and former Court Poet Lin Amaristoth gathers allies old and new to return to Tamryllin in time to stop the coronation.

ON SALE: 03/24/2020

 

Place holder  of - 62Last Emperox – The Interdependency – John Scalzi 

The collapse of The Flow, the interstellar pathway between the planets of the Interdependency, has accelerated. Entire star systems are becoming cut off from the rest of human civilization. Emperox Grayland II has finally wrested control of her empire from her enemies, but “control” is a slippery thing, and the forces opposing her rule will make a final, desperate push to topple her from her throne.

ON SALE: 04/14/2020

 

Queen – The Sibyl’s War Series  Timothy Zahn

Nicole Hammond was just trying to survive on the streets of Philadelphia, then she and her partner Bungie were abducted by a race of mysterious moth-like aliens and taken to a strange ship called the Fyrantha.

ON SALE: 04/14/2020

 

 

The Cerulean Queen– The Nine Realms Series – Sarah Kozloff 

 The series that starts AND ends in 2020! Perfect for binging, this is an epic fantasy that’s part kick-ass Disney princess and part Game of Thrones. The exiled Princess Cerulia of Weirandale was raised in obscurity. She has no resources, no army, nothing that can help her against her enemies—except their gods.

ON SALE: 04/21/2020

 

Critical Point – The Cas Russell Series – S.L. Huang 

When a demolitions expert targets math-genius mercenary Cas Russell and her friends, the hidden conspiracy behind her past starts to reappear. The past, present, and future collide in a race to save one of her dearest friends.

ON SALE: 04/28/2020

 

 

 The Shadow Commission – The Dark Arts Trilogy – David Mack

In The Shadow Commission we jump forward almost another decade from the events in the previous Dark Arts novel, The Iron Codex. Now it’s November 1963, and Cade and Anja have been living in hiding, training new mages. But when President Kennedy is assassinated, a series of murders whose victims are all magicians forces Cade and Anja to learn how to fight back against the sinister cabal known as the Shadow Commission.

ON SALE: 06/9/2020

 

The Unconquered City – Chronicles of Ghadid – K.A. Doore 

Seven years after the Siege — a time when the hungry dead had risen — elite assassin Illi Basbowen must find the source of the monstrous guul that travel across the dunes. How much can she sacrifice to protect everything she knows from devastation?

ON SALE: 06/16/2020

 

 

In the Kingdom of All Tomorrows – Eirlandia – Stephen R. Lawhead 

Conor mac Ardan is now clan chief of the Darini. Tara’s Hill has become a haven and refuge for all those who were made homeless by the barbarian Scálda. But when a large fleet of the Scalda’s Black Ships arrives, Conor must join Eirlandia’s lords to defeat the monsters. And so begins a final battle to win the soul of a nation.

ON SALE: 07/14/2020

 

The Last Uncharted Sky – The Risen Kingdoms Series – Curtis Craddock 

Isabelle and Jean-Claude undertake an airship expedition to recover a fabled treasure and claim a hitherto undiscovered craton for l’Empire Celeste, but the ship is sabotaged by an enemy agent and Jean-Claude is separated from the expedition. Meanwhile, a royal conspiracy threatens to undo the entire realm.

ON SALE: 08/11/2020

 

Breath by Breath – Step by Step Series – Morgan Llywelyn 

The residents of Sycamore River emerge from nuclear war caused by the Change and its effects on technology. As they try to rebuild their shattered lives, they discover the Change continues and that for some, the air has become lethally toxic.

ON SALE: 08/25/2020

 


The Hellion – Malus Domestica 
S.A. Hunt 

Robin Martine has destroyed witches all across the country, and now makes her way to the deserts of rural Texas where a dangerous gang leader wields an iron fist over his wife and daughter. Robin vows to protect these Latina women from harm, but may be underestimating how powerful Santiago Valenzuela is… and how his shapeshifting powers may pose a threat to everyone Robin holds dear.

ON SALE: 09/15/2020

post-featured-image

Excerpt: Song of the Risen God by R. A. Salvatore

Placeholder of amazon -17 Placeholder of bn -58 Poster Placeholder of booksamillion- 6 ibooks2 69 indiebound

Placeholder of  -84

Song of the Risen God is the climatic conclusion to the thrilling Coven Trilogy from New York Times bestselling author, R. A. Salvatore.

War has come to Fireach Speur.

The once forgotten Xoconai empire has declared war upon the humans west of the mountains, and their first target are the people of Loch Beag. Lead by the peerless general, Tzatzini, all that stands in the way of the God Emperor’s grasp of power is Aoelyn, Talmadge, and their few remaining allies.

But not all hope is lost. Far away from Fireach Speuer, an ancient tomb is uncovered by Brother Thaddeus of the Abellican Church. Within it is the power to stop the onslaught of coming empire and, possibly, reshape the very world itself.

Song of the Risen God will be available on January 28. Please enjoy the following excerpt.

The March of Light

The summer sun blazed off the golden domes of the recovered xoconai city. The work continued, but most of the repairs were nearing completion and the sheer beauty of the place had been restored.

Tuolonatl stood down by the lake and the new docks being built on the eastern side of the mountain fissure, looking across the wide waters, contemplating the best ways to move her large army. They needed to march soon, she knew, for more and more warriors kept streaming in over the peaks of Tzatzini, the great mountain that shadowed the valley and city of Otontotomi. The lake could supply this burgeoning place, but the xoconai were running out of room.

Tuolonatl had learned enough of the immediate region about the lake and the rivers running from it to know that the hot sun would not hinder their passage. Once that area had been a great and barren desert and summer travel would have been difficult, but no more.

The question, of course, was where and how far? What conquests awaited them, what resistance might they find? Even Pixquicauh, with his divination, even Scathmizzane himself, in those rare moments when he appeared among them, offered little insight beyond the immediate area.

So Tuolonatl was pleased indeed that morning when word came to her that Ataquixt, her prime scout, had at last returned.

He came right down to the docks to meet with her, and the two rowed out onto the lake in a small boat to privately discuss his findings.

“We will find weeks of empty travel,” he told her. “Lands untamed and mostly uninhabited, with more goblins than the human children of Cizinfozza. But not enough of either to slow us.”

“Or to make the journey worth the trouble,” Tuolonatl finished.

“The fleeing humans made it,” said Ataquixt. “I followed them all the way to a small village. I think it was a celebration, where the humans who hunt these wilderness lands come together before the season begins in full.”

“How many?”

“Around an equal number to the hundred refugees from this land.”

“We will not need much of an army, then,” said the woman. “We could hard ride a group of mundunugu and take the place swiftly.”

“I moved beyond that small village,” Ataquixt said. “I found high ground that I could survey, further to the east.”

Tuolonatl cocked her head and stared him expectantly. She could tell from his voice that he was saving the best news for last.

“I saw the lights of other villages across the plains and along the lower foothills of more mountains,” the scout explained. “More and more villages further and further to the east.”

“Enough to sustain an army of a hundred thousand?”

“I cannot say, and because I cannot speak the language of these humans, I cannot know if my suspicion is correct, but I believe that the true nations of the humans lie even further to the east, and what I saw was much like Skithivale and Hashenvalley, or Romaja to the south.”

Tuolonatl leaned back in the boat, digesting that. North of the great cities of Tonoloya lay the northern valleys Ataquixt had just referenced. These were the northern borderlands of Tonoloya, full of independent-minded xoconai who held allegiance to Scathmizzane and to one or another of the city sovereigns nearest their regions only for practical purposes. They were farmers and hunters and vintners and needed the trade with the greater cities.

Romaja, to the south, was even wilder and less populated, and with fewer interactions with the southern sovereigns of Tonoloya. Why should the humans be any different in their social constructs, she wondered? In every kingdom, every nation, every group, there were always some who preferred the less tamed lands, who sought space above convenience, and who preferred the dangers of the wilderness to the suffocating rules of the tamed lands.

“You did not see the eastern sea?” she asked.

“I saw mountains in the south, running east beyond my sight,” Ataquixt answered. “Great and tall mountains, as tall as Tzatzini and more. My journey to the east, like that of the refugees I pursued, was mostly on the waterways, and the water flowed swiftly, with few falls or rapids. An easy journey with my cuetzpali hunting for me, may Scathmizzane forever bless that fine mount. The journey back was more difficult and took me twice as long—nearly six weeks of riding, dawn to dusk.”

“A thousand miles?

“Half again, and I do not believe that I was anywhere near the eastern sea. The boundaries of the land beyond Tonoloya are immense, my leader. Vast lands.”

Tuolonatl sighed and rubbed her face, not thrilled at all by the report. Moving an army through civilized lands was far easier than across the wilderness, even if every week brought battles. How could she feed an army the size of the one leaving Otontotomi without fields of grain and cities with huge storerooms to conquer along the way?

“It would seem that the children of Scathmizzane and the children of Cizinfozza were separated by more than the mountain wall of Teotl Tenamitl,” she said.

“The rumored great cities of them, if they exist, then yes,” Ataquixt agreed.

Tuolonatl looked to the west, to the towering mountain range the xoconai called Teotl Tenamitl, God’s Parapet. She had thought that range the dividing line of the world, with the xoconai to the west, the humans to the east, and while that might be true, she had never imagined that those lands to the east were so much larger than the basin of Tonoloya, a strip of fertile land from the mountains to the western sea that was only a few hundred miles of ground east to west, and perhaps thrice that north to south. How many Tonoloya-sized journeys would they have to undertake before they even looked upon the rumored great cities of the humans?

“We must go to the great pyramid and tell this to Pixquicauh,” she told Ataquixt. “Let us hope that he has the ear of Scathmizzane this day, that we can find guidance. I would not lose the whole of the summer in empty wilderness.”

“Will we even march?” the scout dared to ask.

That had Tuolonatl looking to the east, the seemingly endless east. She nodded her head, though. Whatever surprises the land beyond the conquered plateau might hold, whatever trials they might face in their long journey, whatever years might pass in their conquests, she understood the will of Scathmizzane.

The god would see the sun rise over his kingdom from the beaches of the eastern sea and would see it set behind his kingdom from the beaches of the western sea.

Of that, she had no doubt.

“He is still providing valuable information?” Tuolonatl asked High Priest Pixquicauh, when she caught up to him on a high balcony in the main temple of Otontotomi. She had expected that, by this point, Pixquicauh would have executed the human she had captured on the mountainside, but there he was, in a chamber below them in this very temple, hanging from his hooks in front of a golden mirror. Curiously, the room was filled with other augurs, all staring into mirrors of their own.

“He has no valuable information for us,” Pixquicauh said. “His knowledge of any lands beyond this plateau is weaker than our own. It would seem that he and these other Cizinfozza spawn typically spent the entirety of their lives in their miserable little villages. This one, Egard, though the nephew of a chieftain—”

“Chieftain?” Tuolonatl interrupted.

“A sovereign of his tribe,” the augur explained. “This one knew the northwestern face of the mountain and the few villages immediately beneath it, along the lake. Nothing more. He had never seen the desert that is now a lake from anywhere but the high peaks of Tzatzini.”

“Yet he lives.”

“Because he does possess one thing of value to us: he speaks the language of the humans.”

“These humans,” Tuolonatl replied. “I am slow to believe that the language found here in this place is common throughout the lands to the east.”

“Why?”

Tuolonatl couldn’t see much expression in Pixquicauh’s face, of course, since most of it was covered by an embedded skull, but she was fairly sure that her remark had shaken the augur.

“My scout has returned from his travels behind the escaping humans.”

“Only now? More than two months?”

“More than a thousand miles of wilderness each way, and even the lands he came upon were full of no more than small and scattered villages. It is a vast world east of us, high priest.”

Pixquicauh nodded slowly, digesting the information, and Tuolonatl recognized the same doubts within him as she had known when Ataquixt had reported to her. How were they going to march an army of a hundred thousand warriors, perhaps even more, across thousands of miles of wilderness?

“You have learned the language of the humans from this one?” she asked at length.

Pixquicauh nodded. “Much of it. It is easy with the mirrors.”

Tuolonatl didn’t hide her confusion.

“His mirror reflects to the others,” the augur explained. “When they look into their mirrors, they look into the mind of Egard, where his every thought is translated to them. In but a few lessons, every one of them will speak enough of the human language to interrogate a child of Cizinfozza.”

“I should like to learn this language.”

“Of course.” He gave her a sly look, a grin under the skull’s teeth, and narrowed clever eyes behind the empty bone sockets. “If the God King orders it of me.”

“And where is the Glorious Gold?” Tuolonatl asked. “I have seen neither Scathmizzane nor his dragon in many days.”

“He will come forth soon. Otontotomi is nearly to its full shining beauty. He is up on the mountain with the other humans. I know not why, or what is so important to him up there, but I share this warning with you: bring no harm to the human women dancing about the crystal obelisk. I thought to bring one in to question, as I have done with this wretch, but the God King would not hear of it. He needs them—all of them.”

“Xoconai females will not suffice?”

The high priest shrugged. “We will march soon, of course,” he told her. “The lands to the east might be vast, but there is no amount of ground that will save the children of Cizinfozza. We will reach the eastern sea.”

“I would like to learn their language before that march,” Tuolonatl pressed.

Again, the augur shrugged and grinned.

“A tactical necessity,” the warrior woman insisted. “I do not think the God King will be pleased to have his army delayed because his high priest was afraid to make an easy decision.”

That took the smile from his face, she saw, and was glad.

“They are nearly done this day,” he said grumpily. “I will have a mirror in there for you tomorrow.”

“And one for Ataquixt,” she instructed. “If my most skilled and trusted scout is versed in the human tongue, he will be far more valuable to us all.”

A hard stare took a long time to turn into an agreeing nod, but it came at length, and Tuolonatl left the great temple feeling that she had won that round.

More than a week passed before Tuolonatl glimpsed the God King again. Scathmizzane, in giant form, rode his dragon Kithkukulikhan down from the great mountain Tzatzini, across the city, and down to the docks in the east, where Tuolonatl had gone with Pixquicauh at the old augur’s bidding.

The dragon settled down in the water—it had been a lake monster for many generations before Loch Beag had been drained—and Scathmizzane shrank down to the size of a large xoconai as the beast swam for the dock, moving close enough for the God King to easily step onto the wharf to join his high priest and his cochcal.

“It is time to begin our journey,” Scathmizzane told them. He looked around at the many boats that had been assembled, many carried down from the lake villages on the rim of the chasm but some newly built by the industrious xoconai.

“We can ferry a thousand at a time across the lake,” Tuolonatl told him.

“That is good,” he congratulated. “But unnecessary.” He looked to Pixquicauh. “You have brought the two mirrors?”

The old augur looked around and nodded to some other priests, who scurried to retrieve the mirrors, the one from the top of the great temple and the one Scathmizzane had given to Pixquicauh for his personal use, the same one he had used to torment the captured human named Egard.

“These are the purest gold,” the God King explained to Tuolonatl. “It lessens the risk.”

The risk? the woman mouthed under her breath, but she dared not ask aloud.

“This is your favored man?” Scathmizzane asked her, indicating the young and tall xoconai by Tuolonatl’s side.

“Ataquixt, God King,” she said, pushing Ataquixt forward.

“You are a fine mundunugu, I am told,” Scathmizzane said to the man, who kept his gaze deferentially to the ground.

“Do you think you can guide Kithkukulikhan with your steady hand?” Scathmizzane asked him, drawing several gasps from those around, including one from Tuolonatl.

Ataquixt’s gaze rose quickly, the mundunugu staring into the eyes of Glorious Gold. “I . . . I . . .” poor Ataquixt muttered, surely overwhelmed.

“We will see,” Scathmizzane said and, turning to the water, called for the dragon.

“Two augurs,” the God King instructed Pixquicauh, “and the mirror from atop Otontotomi. Fear not, we will replace the mirror presently, and if Kithkukulikhan eats the augurs and this young warrior, they will be replaced.”

Pixquicauh glanced back and motioned to two of the priests, young men both, bidding them to bring forward the desired golden mirror. Both hesitated, staring out at the dragon with clear trepidation, but Ataquixt’s chuckle mocked them, especially when Glorious Gold joined in.

Scathmizzane guided Ataquixt to the appropriate spot on the dragon’s huge back, then helped the priests to settle behind him. “Guide Kithkukulikhan to the spot where the fleeing children of Cizinfozza left the lakeshore,” he instructed Ataquixt. Then, to the two augurs, he said, “And there, set the mirror aiming back to this spot. Recite your prayer to the rising and setting sun. Catch the rays of the rising sun and redirect them to us back here on this dock.”

Away went the dragon, half of it in the water, half above, propelled by the snakelike body and the small, beating wings.

“Bring your mirror, Pixquicauh,” Scathmizzane told the high priest. “And you,” he said to Tuolonatl, “use that mirror to track the reflection of Kithkukulikhan.”

None of them understood what this might be about, but neither were they about to question their god. The second mirror was brought forth and set on the edge of the dock. Tuolonatl stood before it, just a bit to the side, directing the priests to turn it a bit left, then right, so that she could see the reflection of the dragon, which by then was nearing the spot far across the lake.

She couldn’t make out the movements, exactly, as the three xoconai debarked the giant mount and the dragon started away. The woman told the priests to turn the mirror to follow.

“No, watch your chosen scout in the reflection,” Scathmizzane instructed, and the mirror was quickly realigned.

“What do you see?”

“Flickers of the mirror, nothing more,” the woman replied. “They are far away, my Glorious Gold.”

“Look deeper,” Scathmizzane told her. “Let yourself flow into the mirror more fully. Trust in the image.”

Tuolonatl stared at the distant image and, to her surprise, it did seem to grow a bit in the mirror. She knew that the trio and the other mirror were too far away for this to be possible, but she could indeed see them, moving about, the augurs flanking the golden sheet, Ataquixt behind them, directing.

They grew bigger still when their mirror was turned correctly, catching the light of the rising sun and turning it back so that the glare became intense in the mirror before Tuolonatl.

So intense! A bright flash, blinding, washing away all other sights.

No, there they were again, the woman thought, looking at Ataquixt over the top edge of the mirror he had taken across the lake. So large now, and appearing so near! Tuolonatl felt as if she could reach out and touch—

The woman gasped and spun about.

She was across the lake, standing with the shocked trio of Ataquixt and the two augurs. Looking back the other way, she saw clearly the fissure of the ixnecia and the distant, tiny boats and their swaying masts, the docks, the Glorious Gold, Scathmizzane.

A flash in the mirror across the way became one in the mirror beside her, and then Pixquicauh was there.

“Glorious Gold,” he muttered repeatedly, shaking his head and seeming fully overcome with awe and shock.

“He comes!” Ataquixt said then, pointing out over the lake, and the others turned to see Kithkukulikhan flying toward them, with Scathmizzane, once more a giant, riding the dragon. He flew right up to them, hovering above them, towering above them.

“This is how we will move the legions,” Scathmizzane explained to them. “Flash-steps—we will cover a hundred miles a day, easily. And those trailing will erect pyramids, one facing behind, one forward, each with a mirror to keep this magical trail open to us. Go back now the way you came, Tuolonatl. Get the boats laden with supplies and sailing at once. Get my warriors and their cuetzpali to the docks and through the mirrors.

“Go back now the way you came, Pixquicauh,” Scathmizzane continued. “Gather the augurs and twenty-two more mirrors that we can begin a dozen points of flash-step travel. Quickly, before the sun climbs too high.”

“How many, God King?” Tuolonatl dared to ask.

“A hundred legions,” he answered.

The woman tried to quickly calculate how long that would take, given a thousand warriors in each legion.

“Only in the sunlight?”

“The sunlight is your mount,” Scathmizzane explained. “For now. There are other ways, but the sunlight will be enough at this time.”

More calculations swirled about the commander’s thoughts. She would have to get the mirrors across as quickly as possible, then send twelve lines in orderly flash-stepping. They would have to move in fast march to keep the bank area clear. They would have to take more mirrors ahead for a second hop, and a third. Would the most efficient process involve twelve on either side of the intended step or a line of mirrors allowing the warriors to frog-hop along, stretching the lines?

She tried to consider the logistics in light of this new and remarkable magic, and more than once shook her head, dismissing this arrangement or that.

“You will discern the best way, great Tuolonatl,” Scathmizzane said to her, drawing her from her contemplation and causing a gasp of embarrassment.

“This is why I chose you as cochcal,” the Glorious Gold told her. “You will find the best arrangement of the mirrors, and you will keep the mundunugu and the macana marching, or perhaps rafting, when the mirrors are not enough, when the sun cannot be caught to give passage. A hundred miles a day.”

Tuolonatl nodded subserviently. There was no room in Glorious Gold’s tone for her to argue or question or perform any less than had been demanded. Still, she had no idea of how they might accomplish this. Even going as fast as they could, it would take many hours to simply get the legions flash-stepping to the next spot, and many hours more if they lessened the mirror portals. She could get her mundunugu to sprint forward spot to spot with fresh cuetzpali, even a total of a hundred miles in a day, but that, too, would be no easy task.

“I give you one more gift to complete your task,” Scathmizzane said, as if reading her confusion and doubts. “I, upon Kithkukulikhan, will fly the mirrors and their handlers, a dozen at a time, to the next point in line.”

The woman nodded, the process becoming clear, the task seeming suddenly far less daunting.

“A hundred miles a day,” Glorious Gold reiterated. “Go assemble my legions. Fill their packs, bring the supplies. The children of Cizinfozza will find no rest, and the nation of Tonoloya will see the sun climb from the eastern sea and sink into the western sea each night for its sleep.”

“Yes, Glorious Gold,” Tuolonatl said, and bowed. She could hardly catch her breath. In only two weeks, they would come to the small village Ataquixt had scouted. How much longer, she wondered, would pass before she stood on the beaches of the eastern sea?

And what carnage would a hundred fierce xoconai legions leave in their wake?

Copyright © 2020 by R. A. Salvatore

Order Your Copy

Poster Placeholder of amazon- 88 Image Placeholder of bn- 63 Place holder  of booksamillion- 58 ibooks2 83 indiebound bottom

post-featured-image

New Releases: 1/29

Happy New Release Day! Here’s what went on sale today.

Reckoning of Fallen Gods by R. A. Salvatore

Placeholder of  -93The winds of change are blowing upon Fireach Speur. Aoelyn risked her life to save the trader Talmadge and it cost her everything that is dear to her, but Talmadge survived and can’t forget the amazing woman that killed a god.

Little do they realize, war is coming to the mountain. Far to the west, a fallen empire stirs. One that sees a solar eclipse as a call to war. Their empire once dominated the known world and they want it back.

NEW IN PAPERBACK

Tides of the Titans by Thoraiya Dyer

Poster Placeholder of - 19Courtier, explorer, thief: Leaper is a man of many skills, but none of his talents satisfy the yearning in his heart for the Queen of Airakland, the ruler of a thunder-clashed kingdom.

Their affair is cut too short, however, when she is murdered. But who was the assassin? A political rival? The jealous king? Or, perhaps, the god of thunder who oversees them all?

Distraught, Leaper vows revenge, but little does he realize that his mission will lead him away from his forest home, across the vast floodplains, and to the edges of time and myth itself.

post-featured-image

Excerpt: Reckoning of Fallen Gods by R. A. Salvatore

amazons bns booksamillions ibooks2 77 indiebounds

Image Placeholder of - 17The winds of change are blowing upon Fireach Speur. Aoelyn risked her life to save the trader Talmadge and it cost her everything that is dear to her, but Talmadge survived and can’t forget the amazing woman that killed a god.

Little do they realize, war is coming to the mountain. Far to the west, a fallen empire stirs. One that sees a solar eclipse as a call to war. Their empire once dominated the known world and they want it back.

Reckoning of Fallen Gods will be available on January 29. Please enjoy this excerpt. 

7

More than two-score mountain goblins milled about in a mob, brandishing their crude spears and clubs in all directions. They were not of the same tribe. Some were the remnants of a fight with the Usgar, others had lived not on Fireach Speuer, but in other mountains near to Loch Beag, or in dark holes deep underground.

But they had all come to this place, all compelled by voices in their heads, and all at the same time: the morning following the red moon.

They didn’t know why. They didn’t know how. But none could ignore the compulsion. They had been called, and so they had come as fast as they could. Now that they had arrived, however, those inner voices were no more, and they found themselves in a red stone valley almost completely encircled by high cliffs and crowded by other mountain goblins they did not know. Soon after, the howling had begun, all around them, yipping and melodic choruses singing words they did not know. The songs and cries echoed off the stone walls, surrounding the gathered goblins, closing in on them. They backed against each other for support, unsure and afraid.
Forms appeared atop the cliffs, but only briefly, rushing about. Graceful forms, leaner than the mountain goblins, the humanoids more resembled men, and yet did not, and seemed to be something else. The mountain goblins tightened their defensive formation, glancing about nervously, expecting spears to rain down upon them. There was only one way out of this box canyon, a narrow trail between high walls that could be easily turned into a slaughter zone.

Ropes came flying over the cliffs, bound at the top and winding down to the ground, and lines of those lean humanoids followed quickly, flipping about on the ropes with practiced ease, and rappelling down into the canyon. Wearing overlapping flaps of dark green and golden-brown armor, the newcomers looked down as they rappelled, showing their bright faces to the group below. Others came over the ledge riding lizards, slowly picking their way down the nearly sheer cliffs, sitting way back in their saddles that they wouldn’t overbalance and flip their sticky-footed mounts from the cliff side.

On one especially large lizard came two riders, the driver in front and a passenger dressed in black, wearing a mask made of a huge vulture’s skull.

All about the canyon floor, mountain goblins looked to each other with surprise, and more than a few nodded in recognition. To the humans on the other side of the mountains, the mountain goblins were also known as the sidhe, but that was a misnomer, a misunderstanding of the name, which had been coined by the humans not for the mountain goblins, but for these graceful, bright-faced humanoids now filtering down the cliffs.

But that was all long ago, eons ago, before the fossa had come to Fireach Speuer, even, and the mountain goblins had little knowledge, only folklore, of these strange-looking humanoids, with their bright red, huge and flat noses, and bright patches of blue or white on the cheeks beside.

The mountain goblins, no strangers to warfare, did understand, however, that these approaching humanoids could have simply rained rocks and spears upon them. If these newcomers had wanted a battle, it would have been a simple slaughter. Yet, they were coming down.

And so gracefully. They slid to the ground on their ropes, landing lightly and turning about. The last down were the lizard riders, the last of them the driver carrying the black-robed one, and as the others settled about the edge of the canyon floor, he alone approached the gathered mob.

Scores of crude spears were leveled at him, but he seemed unconcerned. “My cousins,” he said in the mountain goblin language, and in a voice that echoed throughout the canyon, a voice that every mountain goblin in that canyon knew well, for it was indeed the same voice that had sounded within their heads compelling them to come to this place.

The spears and clubs lowered.

Skath-mi-Zahn, the God-King of the Xoconai, was neither a god nor a king, but a child, a young xoconai. Descended from a long line of God-Kings, the youngster had never seen the outside of his pyramidal temple, and his only interactions happened with the augurs who tended him, and the supplicants they occasionally brought before him.

This day, like all days, the God-King sat on his throne, a beautiful and elegant golden seat, polished and shining. Perched on the precious chair, atop a marble dais in the center of the voluminous, shining, beautiful circular room, he waited. He had become quite adept at waiting.

All about the floor of the room, in their black robes and animal skull condoral masks, a bevy of xoconai augurs swept across the room, and several others swept the other way, crossing through doors, parchments under their arms, attendants in tow, going about their business without acknowledging Skath-mi-Zahn. This was normal; the augurs only ever acknowledged the child God-King when they needed something from him—a signature on a decree, a formal recitation of an edict they had crafted for him—or on those much rarer occasions when Skath-mi-Zahn demanded something of them (something the clever old augurs would inevitably mold to fit their own desires).

The bustle in the great chamber of the xoconai city was unusual this day, with an air of urgency rarely seen. The augurs, so practiced in their ways, so mundane in their daily rituals, rushed about with eagerness and determination, but the God-King, so insulated and caught within the dullness that had been trained into his mind, hardly noticed.

He knew not what time it was—time was hardly a concept that occurred to the God-King, who spent his days and nights inside and had rarely glimpsed the sky—when an augur, who was titled and so named Pixquicauh, or High Priest of the Xoconai, entered and moved up to the base of the throne to address him directly.

He waited patiently, but Pixquicauh did not immediately speak. A second black-robed, skull-faced augur shambled up to stand beside the first, then another, and another. Five more, ten more, and soon, it seemed as if all the augurs of the great temple stood there before Skath-mi-Zahn.

“A momentous day, God-King,” Pixquicauh said behind his condor skull condoral.

“Speak!” the God-King commanded in a petulant voice, one full of frustrations so profound that the young servant, who thought himself a god, could not begin to comprehend.

“The sun was eaten this day. Vomited anew, for us,” said Pixquicauh, with great gravity and drama in his voice, a triumphant roar that made the naïve God-King think he should understand that something was important here.

“Vomited?” the young xoconai God-King asked, crinkling his face with disgust. “To me, why would you tell such a disgusting thing?”

Behind the grayish condoral, Pixquicauh sighed. “By the mouth of Kithkukulikahn shall the Shining Orb of Skath-mi-Zane’s day be taken. Kithkukulikahn, God-King. Your dragon.”

“My . . . dragon?” The child knew that his face was full of trepidation, but he couldn’t help it. He had been taught every day for his entire young life about who he was and about the glories of his previous life, when he had ridden a great winged serpent and conquered the world. He believed the stories, of course—it was all that he knew—but those lessons put such tales of heroism and brilliance far in the past, and spoke of any return to glory only far in the future.

“Let it be told that Kithkukulikahn is returned, oh Glorious Gold,” Pixquicauh insisted. “Tonalli was taken, the fiery orb of light returned. The light of day was taken, the light of day returned. It is the time.”

“The time?”

As one, the gathering of augurs turned about to face a door at the far end of the chamber. It swung open, and two more of the temple augurs entered the room, flanking a third augur in black robes, but one, the only one, who was not wearing a condoral.

The God-King sucked in his breath at the sight, for it was forbidden for any to approach him without wearing the appropriate death-mask!

But his loyal augurs ushered this one—this very old one, he realized— up to the throne.

The God-King stood, and all the augurs fell to their knees immediately.

Even the newcomer, the stranger with the old face bared to his god, knelt.

Skath-mi-Zahn leaned forward. “Stand,” he ordered, and all of the augurs began to rise.

“No!” he shouted. “No! No! No!” And they all fell back to their knees. “Just this one. Stand!”

The newcomer rose shakily on his old legs.

“Where is your death-mask?” Skath-mi-Zahn demanded.

The impertinent old xoconai snorted.

“He is of the old scrolls, Glorious Gold,” Pixquicauh explained, though it was hardly an explanation to the child pretender, who didn’t even know what the “old scrolls” might mean.

It didn’t bother him much, though, because Skath-mi-Zahn believed that he was going to have some fun soon enough. Sometimes when he ordered sacrifices, he was allowed to sever the head, slowly, easing the serrated knife back and forth while the victim wailed, then gurgled. He thought it very funny. In the case of this old and impudent augur, he would insist upon wielding the jagged knife.

“Upon my glory, you stare, without a death-mask,” Skath-mi-Zahn said. “You must die.”

The old, old augur wheezed and coughed in what Skath-mi-Zahn came to realize was a mocking laugh. The youngster started to squeal, demanding immediate execution, but none of the others rose. Wearing a sinister smile, the old augur said, “I am the Last Augur of Darkness, as was foretold. Through my line, my ancestors, my temple wall—and only there—were the signs remembered.”

“You wear no condoral!” the God-King screeched.

“I approach naked, as was foretold,” the Last Augur of Darkness replied. “For this day have my visions come to be. My eyes alone foresaw this day, my words alone warned. This day, through the unshaken faith of my line, when Cizinfozza, guardian of Teotl Tenamitl, has thinned to nothingness. When Kithkukulikahn then arose to tell us of the great happening by eating Tonalli. Days ago, my heart heard the departure of the evil beast. The dark fiend who slept upon the Teotl Tenamitl to watch over the flood and hold fast the land with the power of dead souls is no more. By mine eyes did I see, by my temple wall did I know, and so, forth I sent my mundunugu scouts.”

Skath-mi-Zahn swallowed hard, confused, and more than a little afraid. This augur wasn’t shying from him, wasn’t intimidated by him. For all the lessons and all the compliments and all the claims of his power, the child understood something, or feared it at least: his power rested fully upon others obeying him.

This one wasn’t.

“Kneel!” he commanded.

The old, old augur, the proclaimed Last Augur of Darkness, did not. “Scouts, you claim. What did they find?” Skath-mi-Zahn screamed, because he did not know what else to scream.

“They have not returned,” came the naked-faced xoconai’s calm reply. “But we do not need them. We have been shown. Your dragon ate the sun.”

“My dragon will eat you!” The God-King turned to Pixquicauh. “I want him to be killed! Now!”

“Glorious Gold, it is not the time,” Pixquicauh dared to reply, and dared to rise. “I say and so it has been told. There is one more thing we must do.”

“Must?”

“To confirm the words of the son of Bayan, who is the Last Augur of Darkness.”

Skath-mi-Zahn sputtered, having no idea of what Pixquicauh was babbling about.

“The signs have come to be,” Pixquicauh explained. “Glorious Gold, your beauty will shine greater than all who have worn the throne before you. But you must take up Tezacuit.”

“The Golden Rod?”

He knew of what Pixquicauh was speaking. In a dark room within the catacombs of the great temple, surrounded by the open tombs of the line of Skath-mi-Zahn, was a second throne, a dark and ugly seat carved of obsidian. Skath-mi-Zahn had only seen the place once, and that was years before, but he would never forget the sight. Or the feeling of that cold dungeon. For the black throne glowed, or un-glowed, he thought, casting an aura of dusty blackness that reduced even the largest torches to pinpricks of light.

Just enough to see the red veins shot through the seat—the veins of all the God-Kings, the blood of Skath-mi-Zahn—and the brilliant reflection of the throne’s deadly trap. For yes, set within that seat was a bejeweled golden rod, Tezacuit, a scepter which protruded between the legs of anyone seated upon the throne like some glorious and erect cock. A weapon, the God-King remembered then, that would strike mortally at any who dared sit upon the obsidian throne.

“Take it up?” he asked under his breath, having no idea what that might mean.

“Rise!” the Last Augur of Darkness commanded.
“You do not . . .” Skath-mi-Zahn started to argue.
But Pixquicauh intervened, seconding the call with a resounding, “Rise!” The gathering of black-robed augurs stood up and parted, forming a double line, and Pixquicauh ushered the God-King between them, the procacious, unmasked old augur following close behind.

“Cizinfozza has gone,” the augur said to his commander, a warrior, or macana, so named for the war clubs they typically carried, fabulous flat-barreled bats of greenish brown, streaked with fine silver veins and lined with the teeth of giant lizards.

“They are his smelly children,” the disgusted warrior replied, indicating the growing camp of the gathered mountain goblins, now some hundred strong. “The goblin god’s stench remains.”

The augur gave a low growl behind his condoral. It was true enough, to some extent, and he, too, could hardly hide his contempt for these bastard creatures, though he constantly reminded himself that they were created, according to xoconai lore, because their own god demanded that his children love the children of Cizinfozza, and so improve their pathetic bloodline with that of the xoconai. The goblins were the children of the demon god, and so should be killed, but these creatures, which the xoconai called xelquiza, or half-bloods, were a more complicated lot. For they were descended of goblins, and descended of xoconai.

Children of Skath-mi-Zahn.

Children, too, of Cizinfozza.

“Our mercy would be shown in killing them,” said the macana.

“Our wisdom would be shown in letting the humans do it,” the augur replied. “The xelquiza know the passes about Teotl Tenamitl and many have navigated Tzatzini. Their hatred of the humans is more than our own. Let them lead the way. Let them be destroyed while destroying our enemies, that they may be of some value to we who made them stronger.”

“When?” the macana demanded. “More we will need to guard them than we would to guard against humans, or great cats, or bears, or the black-winged totot. They will kill us if they can.”

“They will not.”

“They will, augur.”

The augur shook his head, but let it go. “Tonalli was eaten and vomited. The Glorious Gold will rouse and gather the armies of Tonoloya. Soon. Soon.”

“Before the snows?”

The augur did not answer, other than to stare hard. The snows were already beginning in some of the higher passes, after all.

The macana didn’t seem pleased, but he let it go at that.

Later that afternoon, they learned that more xelquiza had been rounded up by other xoconai far to the south. These intended shock troops were already marching north to the foothills to join with the augurs here.

The augur and the macana together looked to the wall of mountains they called Teotl Tenamitl, hoping the scouts of the Last Augur of Darkness, an old xoconai they had thought mad not so long ago, would soon return. No, not the actual scouts, actually, for the journey from the mountain they called Tzatzini to this place would take weeks.

But the xoconai knew how to pass the words much more quickly, shout to shout, or using smoke signals and reflections of the sun off polished golden surfaces. Their spies were scattered about those mountains from time untold, replaced every two seasons.

The augur and the macana looked back the other way, to the west and the wide basin that led to the sea where the fiery orb of Tonalli extinguished its fires and slept each night, toward the great cities of their people, though none could be seen from this particular area.

Word would pass through those cities, from sovereign to sovereign to their xoconai constituents, east to west.

That word, that call, would bring the armies from the west, to follow in the steps of these leading xelquiza forces, the steps that would take the xoconai back home.

It would be a glorious day.

Who knew how many thousands of seasons had passed since the golden scepter had been placed in this stone? It was beyond the ancestral memories of the oldest xoconai bloodlines, beyond the chants, prayers, and visions of the augurs, even the Last Augur of Darkness.

In this dark and rarely visited place beneath the great pyramid, set in the obsidian stone, amidst the eternal lava dust that stole the glow of torches, the golden scepter named Tezacuit was not held by chains or ridges. It simply was, as if it had grown from the seat of the throne, protruding as solidly as if it was part of the stone itself.

Many had tried to take it, tugging futilely. The strongest xoconai macana had grasped the scepter and pulled until their arms and backs ached, or until, it was told, the scepter had tired of them, and so had melted them to ash.

Only a century before, a sovereign of a great city, emboldened by the landslide of a vote that had placed her upon her seat of governorship, had thought herself the embodiment and so had grasped Tezacuit, and had been reduced to bone, then to ash, before her devoted officers. That event had thrown xoconai society into turmoil, for how could so many have voted so wrongly?

In the more distant past, wars had been fought among the xoconai nations over the scepter. In the dark days of Tumult, ten thousand xoconai had died in or about this very temple, as sovereigns vied for the prize.

Yet, here it remained, unbothered, divine, beyond them.

The augurs formed a circle about the dais. Pixquicauh and the old augur flanked the young God-King as he approached.

Even in the muted torchlight, the scepter shone. No dust could touch it— never did it need to be polished.

“Sit,” Pixquicauh ordered the God-King.

The child looked at him, suddenly very afraid.

“What if we are wrong?” he asked, barely able to get the words out. “Then Tezacuit will eat you,” the Last Augur of Darkness told him, and nothing in the old one’s tone suggested that he was speaking in jest. Both the God-King and Pixquicauh stared in horror at the unmasked old augur of the line of Bayan.

“It is true” was all that he would say to those expressions.

“But we are not wrong, God-King,” Pixquicauh prompted, but there was no missing the doubt in his voice.

“We are not wrong. It has been told,” agreed the old augur, with full confidence. For it was he, and he alone, with knowledge passed from his great grandsire, who had foretold the event. He alone was the “we” of whom Pixquicauh spoke.

“You do it, then,” the God-King insisted.

The old augur wheezed out a laugh. “Whether the prophecy is right or wrong, any but the Glorious Gold who grasp Tezacuit will fail, and will be consumed,” he replied.

“Then I shall make you do it . . .” the child began to demand.

“God-King,” Pixquicauh interrupted, and when young Skath-mi-Zahn snapped around to regard him, the high priest motioned to the obsidian throne. “Sit.”

“It will kill me!” the child cried and hesitated.

But the old augur took hold of him and hoisted him up, dragging him over to the seat. The high priest reflexively grabbed the old augur to stop him.

“You doubt?” the Last Augur of Darkness accused, and all about the dais, the xoconai augurs gasped behind their condorals, and Pixquicauh fell back, shaken, and began to pray.

The old augur dropped the child into the seat, his legs straddling the scepter far too short for his feet to come anywhere near the floor.

“Now is the time,” the Last Augur of Darkness told the God-King. “Now is the Cuowitay, the Day of the Xoconai. It is said and it has been told.”

The child stared at him.

“Grasp it!” the old augur yelled, so suddenly and so forcefully that poor Skath-mi-Zahn had the scepter in both hands before he even consciously registered his own movements. A horrified look came over him and he pulled back, trying to let go.

But he could not, and arcs of blue lightning began to crackle about his fingers and shoot up his arms. He screamed—how he screamed!—and he thrashed, but the scepter would not let go.

A great wind howled through the underground chamber, blowing out the torches and scattering the black lava dust. But the dungeon did not go dark, far from it, for Tezacuit began to glow, bright white flames swirling about it, over Skath-mi-Zane’s child hands.

He screamed louder, though whether in horror or agony, the gathered priests could not tell.

The white flames grew, climbing up his arms, but his screaming changed to singing, a most beautiful song, its light notes full of promise and hope.

As one, the augurs shielded their eyes from the blinding light and heat as the white flames climbed higher, engulfing the child, growing.

The fires came alive. They leaped away from the God-King, reigniting the torches.

And on the obsidian throne sat no child, but a xoconai man, a tall and glorious xoconai, his head framed in hair made of sunshine, his nose the brightest red, lined by blue so brilliant that it would shame a crisp autumn sky, and that framed by white purer and more profound than the midwinter snow on the peaks of Teotl Tenamitl. These were more than mere colors, it seemed, as if the being’s face itself was the personification of those hues, in brilliance unmatched.

No more was the golden scepter, Tezacuit, set in the chair, and the hole where it had been, if there ever was a hole, was healed, the seat simply a plane of polished, unblemished, shining obsidian, with no sign that it had ever been anything else.

The beautiful creature held the last notes of his song, and they hung in the air for a long while after he had stopped singing.

He turned to face the high priest, who fell to his knees and prostrated himself, shaking uncontrollably, as did all the others in the chamber, even the stubborn and proud old augur of the line of Bayan.

“Who am I?” the being demanded.

“Skath-mi-Zahn!” Pixquicauh cried, and others followed. “Scathmizzane!” the true xoconai God-King corrected, changing the inflection and emphasis of the name. “Rise!” he ordered, and the augurs climbed to their feet.

The God-King stood up and motioned for the high priest to come to him. Pixquicauh moved slowly, so obviously terrified and awestricken.

“You did not believe this day of prophecy,” Scathmizzane said.

“I did, Glorious Gold!” he shrieked, falling to his knees and dropping his masked face into his hands in shame.

“You tried to stop the Last Augur of Darkness from placing the child I was onto the throne,” Scathmizzane said simply, and Pixquicauh wailed.

“Only you knew,” Scathmizzane said, looking to the old augur, who stood perfectly at ease.

“They said and it has been told,” he replied with confidence. Scathmizzane lowered the end of his golden scepter under the downfacing condoral of the high priest, and without effort, he used only that to lift the xoconai to his feet, then tilted his face so that he could look into his eyes.

A wave of the God-King’s hand sent Pixquicauh’s condoral and black robes flying away.

The God-King kissed the high priest. And held the kiss. Pixquicauh groaned and moaned in undeniable, almost unimaginable, ecstasy. It went on and on, and the others in the chamber stared and gasped, and cried at the beauty, and prayed they would one day know such divine joy.

But the timbre of those orgasmic moans shifted, became cries, became shrieks.

And the high priest’s face and form seemed to shrink, as if all the fluid in his body was being taken from him, shriveling him into a desiccated husk. And it continued, and his skin began to peel and shrivel, and roll apart to flow, too, into the mouth of Scathmizzane.

White bone showed in patches all about the naked form of the xoconai high priest, then more still, emerging from the melting flesh.

When he was just a skeleton, Scathmizzane relented and pulled away, and the high priest, somehow not yet dead, clattered about as if in confusion, waving his bone arms, and turning his bare skull this way and that, his eyeballs, the only thing left of him that wasn’t bone, searching desperately.

Then he fell apart, a pile of bones, and two bulging eyes—eyes remaining as if to forever look upon the error of his doubts.

But no! For Scathmizzane waved Tezacuit and summoned the skull of the high priest to his grasp. He turned to the old augur and bade him to come forward.

Without the slightest hesitation in his step, the old augur walked up, and accepted the kiss of Scathmizzane.

And he knew divine joy. On and on it went, but when it stopped, when the God-King pulled back, the augur remained intact. Scathmizzane’s glory had not melted him.

Scathmizzane smiled and nodded, but then, so suddenly that none could even follow the movement, the God-King shoved the skull of the high priest against the face of the old augur, whose arms went straight out to the sides, shaking in agony, grasping helplessly at the air.

And he screamed as if the fires of Tonalli itself were burning within him.

Then it was over, so quickly, and the old augur still stood, except that now he wore the bone mask and bulging, fleshless eyes of the dead man.

No, no mask, he realized, and so did the others, for it was fused to him, surely.

This was his face now.

“No more are you the Last Augur of Darkness,” Scathmizzane proclaimed. “Now you are the First Augur of the Light. I name you Pixquicauh, High Priest of Scathmizzane.”

“It is said and so it has been told,” the new Pixquicauh recited obediently, and there was strength in his voice, power beyond anything he had ever before known.

Scathmizzane stared at him for a few long heartbeats. “You know what to do,” the God-King prompted.

Pixquicauh spun about to address the whole of the gathering, and they saw that the jaw of his fused xoconai condoral did not move when he spoke, though his undead, bulging eyes did roll to scan them as he commanded.

“Go!” he told them. “Tell the sovereigns of Cuowitay. Gather the armies.”

Copyright © 2019

Order Your Copy

Poster Placeholder of amazon- 66 Poster Placeholder of bn- 15 Place holder  of booksamillion- 58 ibooks2 52 indiebound

post-featured-image

Epic Fantasy Reads for Winter

It’s February, and that means it’s still winter. Sigh. Whether there’s snow on the ground or not, this is usually when the unrelenting cold really starts to get to us. What’s our solution to winter blues? Settle in with a good fantasy read, a cup of hot cocoa, and Fireplace for Your Home on Netflix, since most of us don’t have fireplaces. Add in a warm blanket and it’s practically heaven! What are you reading to this winter?

An Alchemy of Masques and Mirrors by Curtis Craddock

Image Placeholder of - 77 Palace intrigue, a fierce and intelligent princess, a loyal and crafty musketeer, airships…Curtis Craddock’s debut epic fantasy is a perfect book to hide under a blanket with this winter! Part traditional fantasy, part swashbuckling adventure, Brandon Sanderson called it “a great read”, An Alchemy of Masques and Mirrors is bound to spice things up as the snow falls.

The Tiger’s Daughter by K. Arsenault Rivera

Place holder  of - 6 If you want to spent your short winter days and long winter nights with a pair of badass women, try The Tiger’s Daughter. Follow the adventures of the infamous Qorin warrior Barsalayaa Shefali and her best friend, the divine warrior empress O Shizuka as they try to save their respective lands from a truly insidious evil.

Death’s Mistress by Terry Goodkind

Image Place holder  of - 62Book One of Terry Goodkind’s Nicci Chronicles, an epic new series focused on a fan-favorite character from the Sword of Truth series, is full of sorcery, treachery and blood and is sure to go with your hot beverage of choice. Even better, once you’ve finished Death’s Mistress you can pick up the sequel, Shroud of Eternitywithout having to wait.

The Midnight Front by David Mack

Placeholder of  -79 Sometimes the only way to get through winter is to embrace the dark and cold. There’s no better way to do that than with the first book in David Mack’s Dark Arts series. Set during World War II, The Midnight Front introduces a new front to the conflict: a magickal one. Even heroes will make a pact with the devil if it can help defeat the Nazis and their sorcerers.

Miranda and Caliban by Jacqueline Carey

Poster Placeholder of - 23 Maybe you’re looking for fantasy with a more classical feeling this winter. If so, we recommend Miranda and Caliban, Jacqueline Carey’s lyrical retelling of Shakespeare’s The Tempest. While Shakespeare focused his tale around Prospero, the arrogant, iconic magus, Carey chooses to tell the tale from a different perspective: that of Miranda and Caliban, as they grow up together and forge a bond that endures despite knowing the relationship is both doomed and forbidden.

Child of a Mad God by R.A. Salvatore

If you prefer character-driven stories when you’re reading in front of (we hope) a cozy fire this winter, then how about R. A. Salvatore’s Child of a Mad God? Meet Aoleyn, a young woman who’s lost her family and must fend for herself among a tribe that does everything it can to beat her down. Instead of bowing to tradition, Aoleyn fights back with everything she has–including magic that both protects her and makes her a target for those around her.

The Mongrel Mage by L.E. Modesitt, Jr.

Are you a fan of binge watching? How about binge reading? If so, maybe try L. E. Modesitt, Jr. His latest book in the Saga of Recluce starts a brand new story arc, introducing Beltur, a man fleeing from a powerful white mage as he attempts to uncover his own power. The best part is the huge backlist of titles set on the world of Recluce, featuring 19 titles so far and multiple spin-off series. Modesitt’s immense world will keep you entertained not just for the rest of winter, but possibly the rest of the year!

post-featured-image

New Releases: 2/6/18

Happy New Release Day! Here’s what went on sale today.

Child of a Mad God by R. A. Salvatore

Placeholder of  -27 When Aoleyn loses her parents, she is left to fend for herself among a tribe of vicious barbarians. Bound by rigid traditions, she dreams of escaping to the world beyond her mountain home.

The only hope for achieving the kind of freedom she searches for is to learn how to wield the mysterious power used by the tribe’s coven known as the Song of Usgar. Thankfully, Aoleyn may be the strongest witch to have ever lived, but magic comes at price. Not only has her abilities caught the eye of the brutish warlord that leads the tribe, but the demon of the mountain hunts all who wield the Coven’s power, and Aoleyn’s talent has made her a beacon in the night.

Semiosis by Sue Burke

Place holder  of - 36 Human survival hinges on an bizarre alliance in Semiosis, a character driven science fiction novel of first contact by debut author Sue Burke.

Colonists from Earth wanted the perfect home, but they’ll have to survive on the one they found. They don’t realize another life form watches…and waits…

Only mutual communication can forge an alliance with the planet’s sentient species and prove that humans are more than tools.

NEW IN PAPERBACK:

Tut: My Epic Battle to Save the World by P.J. Hoover

Image Place holder  of - 76 Meet Tut! He used to rule Egypt. Now he’s stuck in middle school.

Having defeated his evil uncle and the Cult of Set, who tried to send him to the afterlife, the perpetually fourteen-year-old King Tut is looking forward to a relaxing summer vacation. But then Tut discovers that his brother Gilgamesh has been captured by the Egyptian god Apep, Lord of Chaos. Gil helped to vanquish Apep thousands of years ago, and now Apep is back for vengeance.

It’s up to Tut and his friends, Tia and Henry, to find Gil and stop Apep before he succeeds in his scheme to swallow the sun and plunge the world into darkness forever….

 

NEW IN MANGA:

Arifureta: From Commonplace to World’s Strongest (Light Novel) Vol. 1 Story by Ryo Shirakome; Art by Takaya-ki

Perfect Blue: Complete Metamorphosis Written by Yoshikazu Takeuchi

post-featured-image

On the Road: Tor/Forge Author Events in February

Tor/Forge authors are on the road in February! See who is coming to a city near you this month.

Sue Burke, Semiosis

Poster Placeholder of - 29

Tuesday, February 6
Volumes Bookcafé
Chicago, IL
7:00 PM

Thursday, February 8
Anderson’s Bookshop
Naperville, IL
7:00 PM

Susan Dennard, Sightwitch

Place holder  of - 57

Saturday, February 17
Barnes & Noble
Bensalem, PA
2:00 PM
Also with Elise Kova.

Monday, February 19
Interabang Books
Dallas, TX
7:00 PM

Tuesday, February 20
Book People
Austin, TX
7:00 PM

Wednesday, February 21
Changing Hands Bookstore
Tempe, AZ
6:00 PM

Matt Goldman, Gone to Dust

Placeholder of  -93

Tuesday, February 13
Plymouth Library
Plymouth, MN
7:00 PM
Books provided by Once Upon a Crime.

R.A. Salvatore, Child of a Mad God

Image Placeholder of - 1

Tuesday, February 6
Barnes & Noble
Huntington Beach, CA
7:00 PM

Friday, February 9
Mysterious Galaxy
San Diego, CA
7:30 PM

post-featured-image

Excerpt: Child of a Mad God by R. A. Salvatore

amazons bns booksamillions ibooks2 4 indiebounds

Image Placeholder of - 28 From R. A. Salvatore, the legendary creator of Drizzt Do’Urden, comes the start of a brand new epic journey.

When Aoelyn loses her parents, she is left to fend for herself among a tribe of vicious barbarians. Bound by rigid traditions, she dreams of escaping to the world beyond her mountain home.

The only hope for achieving the kind of freedom she searches for is to learn how to wield the mysterious power used by the tribe’s coven known as the Song of Usgar. Thankfully, Aoelyn may be the strongest witch to have ever lived, but magic comes at price. Not only has her abilities caught the eye of the brutish warlord that leads the tribe, but the demon of the mountain hunts all who wield the Coven’s power, and Aoelyn’s talent has made her a beacon in the night.

Child of a Mad God will be available February 6th. Please enjoy this excerpt!

Prologue

The moon called it forth, the summons of blood. Long and sleek and low to the ground, the fossa crept across the underground crawl space, some areas with no more than a foot of clearance. The demon creature felt every jag and bump in the stones, for it had little fur left on its six-foot-long body, with only occasional tufts across its reddish, angry skin of welts and boils. Its tail extended back three feet, perfectly straight, and was flattened and hardened, with its edges scraped keen like a scythe.

It walked on four padded paws, moving catlike, killing claws retracted, and perfectly silent, save the occasional scrape of that hard tail on stone.

The demon creature came through the narrow and rolling crawl space into a taller corridor, and there it paused and inhaled, smelling the scent of life on the mountain, and hearing the song of the mountain’s magic, a sensation that drove the beast mad with hatred.

So many months, it was trapped in its lair of murder, in the darkness, that maddening song echoing about the stones. But it could not go out and kill the singers. It could not release its rage upon an animal, or a man, or a sidhe. For under the light of the sun, or the stars, or the normal moon, the song was too strong, and would drive the fossa back into the cave.

But not tonight. Tonight, the moon was red, the Blood Moon, and so the fossa could come forth.

And taste blood.

And devour magic.

And silence the singers.

Faster it loped, through the corridor and into the small cave, then to the mouth, and there the fossa paused and looked up to the night sky, to the huge full moon, hanging red.

Promising food.

What would it kill this night? What creature’s bones would add to the litter of the deep den beyond the long crawl? What singer’s throat would crush beneath the press of its maw?

It came out into the open air, under the red moon. Hunger called it to the hunt.

Perhaps a deer. Perhaps a bear, or a warthog, or a great roc, or a giant mountain ram, or one of the ugly sidhe humanoids. None of them gave the demon fossa pause. None could stand against its savagery. None, though, were savory, and gave the demon the pleasure it truly desired.

A sensation froze the creature just outside its bone-littered cave. At first, the vibration drifted on the night breeze as just a tingling, teasing and tickling, but then those sparks became something more, something that stung, something unpleasant. The creature let forth a feral growl that reverberated about the mountain stones, a warning, a protest, against the painful intrusion, the maddening resonance of magic.

And that was the rub—not the pain, for the fossa was ever in pain, but the vibration of magic, an incessant burr the creature could not scratch away.

How the demon fossa hated magic! The song of it played as an endless voice, a pervasive and incessant ringing, just a single, maddening note in its ears and vibrating throughout the creature’s body with a singular message: murder.

But the growling stopped very quickly.

The fossa sensed the pulse of magic.

A human was out on the mountain this night, under the Blood Moon. And that human carried magic, and that magic had been called and so it was singing now.

The demon fossa set off, silent as the shadows. The animals of Fireach Speuer could rest easy this Blood Moon night.

Aye, for the fossa’s favorite meal was served.

Ravines did not slow it, nor high slabs of stone, for the creature traversed ledges with sure-footed eased and could leap straight up a score of feet, two score, and with claws that could catch hold in the stone as readily as a cat might climb a tree.

Down the mountainside it went, down and around to the west, where the plateau rolled out wide before it and the red moon reflected in the waters of the great lake, far below. There was no pause to take in the grand vista, though, for the song grew louder and more focused as the fossa neared.

So much louder, then, and the fossa slowed.

Over one rise went the fossa, through a tangle of trees and into the brush at the edge of a field of chokeberry bushes. There the creature hunched and watched and waited.

The man came over an angled stone across the way. He carried a long spear, its tip glowing with magical energies, singing brilliantly. He moved down slowly into the low brush and stepped his way to the middle of the patch.

He was hunting, the fossa understood. He was hunting the demon fossa.

He was a fool.

The man stood amidst the chokeberry bushes and whispered something the creature could not understand, but the sounds gave the fossa pause. It hunched further and from the concealment of the taller brush scanned all around, ensuring that this one was alone.

The human spoke again, is if not alone, but the fossa saw no others.

There were no others.

The fossa issued a low growl, then silently circled as the man turned toward the sound.

The man sniffed. He could smell the demon and the demon fossa could smell his fear.

The man set himself, that horrid, magical spear tip forward, toward the place where the fossa had growled, as if expecting a charge.

But the fossa wasn’t there anymore, there upwind from the human so that he could still smell its lingering scent. No, the fossa was already across the way, watching the human from behind.

The breeze gusted, the chokeberries shivered, and the human shifted left and right, but with his focus still to the spot where the fossa had been.

Belly to the ground, the fossa moved, gaining speed, readying a killing leap.

But somehow the human knew! And he spun about, that spear flashing across!

The fossa burst from the chokeberries and cut fast to the right, then back across to the left, too swiftly for the man to keep up with his lumbering sweeps. The spear tip chased, but could not catch up, and right by the man rushed the fossa, and out the other way.

But as the creature passed, its tail, a sword of bone, slashed across to take the man’s legs out from under him, and to take the man’s feet from his legs.

A short distance away, the fossa skidded to a stop and spun about, to see the man struggling to his knees, bringing his spear around defensively. He seemed excited, elated even, ready for battle, and he moved as if to stand.

The fool didn’t even know.

Only when he extended his leg as if to stand did he scream out in pain and then—and oh, it sounded as the sweetest music of all to the fossa!—in fear. Only then, the fossa understood, did the human even realize that he had no feet, that both of his legs had been severed at the ankles!

The human looked all about frantically, even reached for a severed foot, sitting atop a nearby chokeberry bush.

Amused now, the demon fossa watched the human regain some measure of courage, stubbornly using his spear for balance as he forced himself to his knees. Then he took up his spear in both hands and shouted a challenge.

The fossa calmly stalked a perimeter about him. Time was not on the human’s side, not with his lifeblood pouring from his severed ankles.

The man spoke again, as if in conversation with some unseen other human. “My daughter will not be shamed!” he yelled.

The fossa stalked before him and stood staring.

“Come on!” the human yelled, waving his spear.

The fossa sat down and let him bleed.

But then he hugged his spear, that crystalline tip glowing with magic, and whispered again, as if to the spear, and the magic intensified suddenly, the song assailing the demon creature, particularly so, for it was a song of warmth and healing! The human closed his eyes and seemed to bask in that healing.

The fossa ran to the side. It could smell the lessening of the blood flow; it could hear the song of healing magic.

“Where are you?” the human cried, seeming stronger again, invigorated, healed somewhat.

“Coward!” he taunted, or tried to, for the word came out with a giant exhale as the demon fossa slammed into his back, its fangs closing fast onto the back of his neck. The fossa knew that he wanted to turn and strike, but knew, too, that its fangs had cracked through the neckbone, that the human’s body would no longer answer commands.

Down they went together, the fossa smashing him down face-first through the chokeberries.

The fossa didn’t finish him. Not then. It would drag the human to its lair and eat him slowly, while he was alive.

But first . . . that spear! The magical crystal!

The fossa released the human’s shattered neck and sprang for the spear, its powerful maw clamping on the spear tip, cracking it, shattering it.

And the demon knew that it was not alone, that the human had indeed not been alone. For through this magical spear tip, there loomed a spiritual connection to another human, the true singer of the magic!

And she was there, in the spirit realm, joined to the man in his hunt.

And the fossa heard her song and felt her trying to strengthen the flow of magic into the doomed man who lay in the chokeberries.

But the fossa was more than a physical being. So much more. And the spirit world was its truest domain.

Into the darkness it went, and it found her.

And it knew her then: Elara.

She tried to flee, to send her spirit flying back to her own corporeal form far away. But the spirit of the fossa saw her and followed her.

She could not escape.

The fossa couldn’t bite her neck or her mortal coil at all, of course, but it didn’t have to. It could eat her soul. It could shatter her mind!

This kill was less substantial, perhaps, but to the fossa proved far more satisfying.

To its surprise, the magic singer spun back and returned to the man, and found him there, and he, her.

And the fossa found them both, their spirits huddled, embracing as the demon closed.

And it knew him then, too: Fionlagh.

The human spirits drew comfort from each other, but the fossa was amused, knowing such comfort a fleeting thing. The demon creature mocked them as it dragged its victim to the dark hole in the dark cave. It watched them as it consumed the man’s corporeal body, watched his spirit flitter away.

The woman’s spirit flew away, but it could not escape, the fossa knew.

It sat in its hole, atop a pile of bones, the torn carcass before it. But part of the demon creature went with the woman, too, back to her tent, where she lay on her back, staring blankly, seeing only darkness, her magic consumed, her life force diminished, her mind shattered by the horror.

The horror.

 

Copyright © 2018 by R. A. Salvatore

Order Your Copy

Image Placeholder of amazon- 25 Place holder  of bn- 53 Image Placeholder of booksamillion- 10 ibooks2 14 indiebound

The owner of this website has made a commitment to accessibility and inclusion, please report any problems that you encounter using the contact form on this website. This site uses the WP ADA Compliance Check plugin to enhance accessibility.