Well, here we are.
The release for Of War and Ruin is going to be pushed back by 30 days to the 19th of January.
This isn’t a decision I make lightly, even though it’s only 30 days. I really wanted to get this book out for December 20th and I’ve pushed so hard to get that done (I’ve now written 87,000 words in the last 25 days. That’s a lot of words). And what’s more, I actually met all my writing targets and deadlines, but the story grew and needed more. Which means it takes longer to write.
It’s now looking as though Of War and Ruin will be right up there, word count wise, with the likes of Way of Kings, and Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson – it’s looking like 400-420k words. This increase in length is the core reason for the release being pushed back.
As a token of my appreciation for how amazing you all are, and how sorry I am, I’ve decided to give you a sneak preview and release the Prologue!
I hope you’re ready to jump back in!
Of War and Ruin
Easterlock – Earlywinter, Year 3081 After Doom
Captain Teera Linar folded her arms, dragging a lungful of frost-touched air in through her nostrils. Even armoured in her full plate she felt the sharp bite of the storm winds moving inland from the Lightning Coast. Above her, clouds of obsidian-black blanketed the sky, blocking out all but a few stray strands of pale moonlight. Shadows flickered along the battlements, soldiers moving about in the dim glow of the lanterns that hung from poles.
Easterlock was ringed by two walls, each fronted by a spike-filled trench that sank thirty feet into the ground. The city’s walls were manned night and day. Always ready, always waiting. The elves rarely strayed from the cover of Lynalion, and only ever in small numbers. But Easterlock was the first line to hold back the tide should that ever change.
A dense layer of fog coated the land that lay before the city’s outer walls, tendrils of grey snaking over the River Hurin, creeping ever closer. The river was almost six hundred feet wide, running from the mountains of Mar Dorul and outward into the Veloran Ocean. No bridges traversed its breadth, no fixed point of crossing – it wasn’t meant to be crossed.
On the other side of the river, the immense woodland of Lynalion rose through the thick fog, each tree climbing hundreds of feet, their branches sweeping outward, thick with leaves of dark green. The woodland was as vast as an ocean, stretching over a thousand miles around the foothills of Mar Dorul, hugging the coastline on the other side.
“It never gets any easier, does it?”
Teera turned at the sound of the familiar voice, nodding to Galow as the man ascended from the shadow-covered stairs and stepped into the light of the lantern that hung on a pole to Teera’s left. Galow was no taller than her, with a thick beard of black stippled with white and a helm strapped firmly under his chin. He wore a steel breastplate emblazoned with the black lion of Loria, a sword at his left hip. He too was a captain of the guard, though he was ten years Teera’s senior. He had been a captain when she had first arrived at Easterlock. She had only seen eighteen summers then. “Not when you never get any younger, old man. You’ve come from the inner wall?”
Galow nodded, casting his gaze out at the oozing layer of fog that crept across the ground before the city walls. “Aye, ‘tis quieter there than a funeral. I left Duris in charge. Thought you’d appreciate the company. How goes the watch?”
Before Teera could answer, a shiver ran the length of her spine, a faint sound touching her ears, like a whistle in the wind. She tilted her head sideways. “Did you hear that?”
“Hear what?” Galow asked, raising an eyebrow.
“I… I’m not sure. Something.” Teera unfolded her arms, stepping closer to the battlements, narrowing her gaze as she studied the creeping fog. She looked along the ramparts. Lanterns illuminated the length of the wall, spots of warm orange light stretching off into the distance until they were nothing but dim flecks, partly obscured by the silhouettes of the soldiers who huddled around them.
“The night’s playing tricks on you, Teera.” Galow laughed, clasping his hand on her shoulder.
“Maybe…” Teera continued to stare along the ramparts as she spoke, not bothering to shrug away Galow’s hand.
“It’s what this place does,” Galow said, leaning against the battlement, staring out at Lynalion in the distance. “Here.” Galow produced a small metal flask from within his cloak, taking a swig before passing it to Teera. “Something to warm the body and soothe the mind.”
Teera took the flask, raised the opening to her nose. The smell of the sharp spirit burned her nostrils. She knew the noxious liquid would do little to soothe her mind, but she would take every drop of warmth she could find. Lifting the flask to her lips, she took a long draught, relishing the burn as the spirit slid down her throat. She tilted her head back and let out a long sigh, watching her breath mist in the air.
“That stuff isn’t cheap, you know,” Galow said, laughing. He snatched the flask out of Teera’s hand, took another swig, then slid it back inside his coat.
“I know,” Teera said, smiling. “That’s why I drink yours…” Teera’s voice trailed off, the hair on her arms and neck standing on end as she saw one of the lanterns go out further along the wall. Her heart stopped. Had she just seen that or was the night truly playing tricks on her?
“What is it?” Galow asked, following her gaze into the distance. A sense of urgency picked up in his voice. “What are you looking at?” As though in direct response to Galow’s question, another light went out, another lantern snuffed. Then another, and another. “Did that just…”
“We need to sound the alarm!” Teera yelled, pulling at the horn that hung around her neck.
“Teera, hold on we need to—”
Teera whipped her head around at the sudden stop in Galow’s words. She found herself staring into her friend’s eyes as they bulged. Galow’s hands were clasped either side of his throat, his fingers wrapped around the shaft of an arrow that had punched through his neck from right to left. He stood there for a moment, surprise painting his face, blood pouring over his fumbling fingers, his lips moving but no sound escaping his throat. Then, he stumbled sideways, the surprise in his eyes supplanted by fear before they rolled to the back of his head and he fell from the ramparts.
Dread slithered through Teera’s veins, her blood turning to ice as she watched her friend fall into the darkness. She staggered, resting her hand against the battlements, steadying herself. Taking in a deep breath, she pulled the horn to her lips and blew as hard as her panicked lungs would allow.
A chorus of horns answered her call.
After a few moments, the deep, sonorous ringing of the city bells echoed through the night, joined by the sound of armoured boots as the city’s garrison mobilised. Thousands of soldiers emptied out into the streets, reacting to the alarm with an efficiency bred from repetition and time, flooding the ramparts of both the inner and outer walls.
Shouts and screams rang out all along the walls, lanterns going dark, soldiers plummeting to their deaths. Her mouth going dry, Teera pushed herself away from the battlements, standing to her full height as soldiers swarmed around her, bows gripped in their fists, swords at their hips, taking up their positions.
It took Teera a moment to gather herself, pushing the images of Galow from her mind. She cast her gaze over theflickering mass of torches that now filled the city and illuminated both the inner and outer walls.
“Steady!” A voice called in the night. “Hold your positions!”
Teera turned to see a tall man marching towards her. He had a face that looked as though it had been chiselled from rock, and a long black cloak with silver markings billowed behind him as he moved. “Captain Linar, report. What’s happening?”
“Exarch Dradkir.” Teera inclined her head, as was proper, shifting so some of the soldiers could take up position along the walls. “I…”
“Spit it out, Captain.”
“I don’t know, Exarch. Everything was quiet, and then… We’ve taken casualties from arrows. But visibility is too low to tell how many.”
The Exarch narrowed his eyes, held Teera’s gaze for a moment, then nodded. “Nock arrows!”
Dradkir strode over to the battlements, his eyes fixed on the fog-covered ground below. Teera didn’t have to look to know that more Battlemages had taken up position along the length of the wall.
Orbs of light burst into existence across the landscape at the base of the walls, floating off the ground, slicing through the thick fog, illuminating the night. Teera’s heart hammered against her ribs. Within moments, every inch of ground within a hundred feet of the city walls was bathed in white light as though it was mid-day. But there was nothing to be seen, no attackers, no army, only damp grass and shrubs.
The echoing clang of city bells pierced the heavy silence. But after a few moments, even the bells faded; the garrison was roused, the people sheltered.
Exarch Dradkir looked to Teera, but she was as perplexed as anyone else. She had seen the arrows. She had seen Galow fall to his death, blood spurting from his neck. She had seen the lights go out.
Both Dradkir and Teera turned at the sound of the soldier’s voice. It took a moment for Teera to realise what the man was pointing at, but then she saw it. On the ground below, standing at the edge of the orbs’ light, was an elf.
It was nearly impossible to gauge the elf’s size or build, but it wore a full suit of smooth-flowing golden plate that glittered in the light of the orbs, a red cloak knotted at its shoulders. The elf held a teardrop shaped shield in its left hand that stretched from its neck to its knees, a long shafted battleaxe in its right fist.
“What’s it doing?” one of the soldiers whispered.
“Waiting,” Dradkir answered, causing the soldier who had spoken to jolt upright, straighten his back, and stare ahead. “But the more prudent question is what is it waiting for?” Dradkir stared at the elf for a moment, casting a cursory glance further along the ground. No other elves stood in the light; Teera had already checked.
“Should we wait?” Teera asked, glancing towards Dradkir.
Dradkir held Teera’s gaze for a beat. Around him, the soldiers’ erratic breaths misted in the air, their eyes fixed on the elf, their hands twitching on their bowstrings. “This is not the time to wait and see, Captain Linar. Draw and loose!”
The sound of hundreds of arrows being loosed cut through the air, and Teera watched their flight, the light from the baldír on the ground below dispelling any shadows. Anticipation knotted in her gut. The hairs on the back of her neck pricked when she saw the arrows parting before the elf, splitting like water breaking against the bow of a ship. One after another they plunged into the ground around the elf, leaving it unscathed and unmoved.
Fear set like ice in her veins. She had witnessed the Spark being used countless times. She had grown up around it. She had been trained around it. But it had only ever been the mages who had wielded its power. She had seen the Battlemages rip holes through enemy lines, Healers set broken bones, Craftsmages build bridges in minutes. But she had never seen an enemy wield the power of the Spark. She had never had to face it in battle.
As Teera’s eyes remained fixed on the armoured elf, arrows studding the ground around it, more elves stepped from the fog-obscured darkness, their golden armour sparkling like stars in the white orb light. In a matter of moments, one became ten, became a hundred, became thousands.
Teera swallowed hard, her throat tightening. A shiver swept through her, starting in her chest then moving through her arms and legs, until even her fingers trembled. She could hear the shuffling of armoured feet around her, the mumbles and gasps.
“What are they waiting for?” Teera whispered, more to herself than anyone else but she saw Dradkir glance towards her, trepidation in his eyes. That worried her even more. She had never seen Dradkir so much as flinch. In fact, she had never seen any Battlemage show even the slightest hint of hesitancy.
Teera’s blood turned to ice.
She had heard that sound before, many times.
But she had never heard it come from behind enemy lines.
The air felt heavy. The night was still. Nothing but breaths and wingbeats. Then the world shook.
A blood-chilling roar ripped through the sky. Teera’s heart plunged into her stomach, her limbs stiffening. The dark erupted with a series of blazing flashes as orange-red fire poured over the ramparts, sweeping from east to west, snuffing out hundreds of lives in the blink of an eye.
It was only then Teera connected everything: why the elves had feigned the first assault and why they had waited. They were drawing us out, pulling us onto the walls.
All around her, soldiers scattered, screaming, shrieking, running for the stairs, knocking each other to their deaths. Teera stood rooted in place, her gaze fixed on the sky. There was no point in running. Two blazing orange eyes stared back at her, glistening in the light of the roaring fire as the great dragon plummeted, its jaws open wide. Wisps of flame formed in the creature’s gaping maw, flickering.
Taking a deep breath, Teera exhaled through her nose, then closed her eyes.
Heraya embrace me.