The war is over. The enemy's won. Now it's time to fight back.
For generations, the people of Jia - a land where magic has long since faded from the world, clinging on in only a few rare individuals - have been protected from the northern Egril hordes by their warrior caste, but their enemy has not been idle. They have rediscovered magic and use it to launch an overwhelming surprise attack. An invasion has begun.
And in moments, the war is over. Resistance is quashed. Kings and city leaders are barricaded in their homes awaiting banishment and execution, the warriors are massacred, and a helpless people submit to the brutality of Egril rule.
Jia's heroes have failed it. They are all gone. And yet...there is still hope. Soon the fate of the kingdom will fall into the hands of a schoolboy terrorist, a crippled Shulka warrior and his wheelchair-bound son, a single mother desperate enough to do anything she can to protect her baby...and Tinnstra, disgraced daughter of the Shulka's greatest leader, who now lies dead by Egril hands.
A brand new epic fantasy: gritty and modern featuring a unique ensemble of characters who will lead a revolution against their overlords.
Perfect for listeners of Brent Weeks, Brandon Sanderson, and Peter V. Brett
Release date: August 8, 2019
Publisher: Orion Publishing Group
Print pages: 496
* BingeBooks earns revenue from qualifying purchases as an Amazon Associate as well as from other retail partners.
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We Are The Dead
Tinnstra held the knife in her shaking hand. It was a small blade, easily stolen from the armoury, made of the best Rizon steel and razor sharp. Perfect for what she needed to do. Perfect for her little wrist, her small vein.
She sat in her room at the Kotege. It wasn’t much, barely enough space for the single cot she was sitting on, a small writing table and chair by the window, and a fireplace, stacked with wood despite the summer heat. She told herself it was the temperature that made the perspiration run down her back, but that was a lie. It was the fear. It was the fear that made her hands shake. It was the fear that made suicide her only option, her only way out. The irony wasn’t lost on her: the girl afraid to die was about to kill herself.
It was quiet outside. The evening meal was over, and most students would be studying or catching up on much-needed sleep. On a normal night, that’s what Tinnstra would be doing as well, but this wasn’t a normal night.
When Tinnstra arrived at the Kotege three years earlier, she’d never expected things would end this way. After all, boys and girls from only the best Shulka families were brought there from the age of sixteen to be trained, and Tinnstra came from the best family of all. Her father and mother and her three brothers had all graduated with its highest honours and gone on to distinguished military careers. No one had thought Tinnstra would be any different. No one had thought she was a coward.
Now there is no escape from the truth. No more pretence.
She looked down at her forearm. She knew where to cut – the Kotege had taught her that. Knowledge of human anatomy made better killers. Straight from the top of her forearm down to her wrist. It would hurt a little, but not for long. She’d pass out from blood loss before the pain got too bad.
A bell chimed the hour. There was no more time. They would be coming for her. She tightened her grip on the knife and tried to steady her hand.
The letter to her father lay on the table. Apologising, begging his forgiveness. He was on his way to Gundan in the north with the rest of her clan to fight the Egril. Maybe he was already there. By the time he learned of her death, Tinnstra would be nothing but ashes. She knew it would break his heart, but better that than disgrace his name. No father should have me for a daughter.
A sob racked her shoulders as she pressed the knife against her skin. Not yet. Soon. If only she wasn’t so scared. She didn’t want to die. There just wasn’t another way out. Not that she could see.
Her heart pounded. Sweat stung her eyes and she did her best to blink it away, concentrating on trying to hold her trembling hand still. It would hurt more if she wasn’t precise. And take longer to bleed out. She didn’t want that. It had to be quick, painless, over.
The knife was cold against her skin, its edge sharp. All she had to do was push down and the blade would do its work. End it all. Just push and cut. And yet she couldn’t make her hand do anything.
Her stomach lurched. Bile rose, burning her throat. She swallowed it back down, cursing her weakness. She had to do this. It was all she had left, her only path. She couldn’t fail, not at this, too.
The rap on her door made her jump. ‘Cadet Tinnstra, it’s time.’ A man’s voice. Not one she recognised. One of the general’s guards. She didn’t reply. Hope fluttered for a moment that he might think her gone and leave her to do what she had to do.
He knocked again. ‘Come on. The old man’s waiting.’
There was no time to cut her wrist now. She moved the knife to her heart, placed the tip against her breast. Death would be instantaneous. There would be no saving her. No last-minute dash to the infirmary – not even if the Shulka kicked her door down. She closed her eyes. Took another breath. Time to die.
The guard knocked again. ‘Open the door, Cadet.’
She gripped the knife with both hands, but the shakes only got worse. Tears ran down her face. She couldn’t do it. She had to do it. Just push. By the Four Gods, push. End it all, you stupid fucking coward.
The guard banged on the door. ‘Stop pissing about. I won’t ask again.’
Tinnstra dropped the knife. It clattered on the stone floor. ‘I’m coming.’
She rolled down her sleeve, wiped her eyes and put on her cadet’s tunic: dark black with silver buttons, all done up as per regulations, and brushed down. At least she looked smart, if nothing else. She might be the worst cadet, but she knew how to dress. There was no hiding the fact she’d been crying, though.
She sighed, unlocked the door, opened it. The general’s guard stood in the doorway, looking as if he were one second away from putting his boot through the door. His breastplate was buffed so bright she could see her red, sore eyes gazing back. His helmet, with the blue plume running down the centre, identified him as Clan Mizu. Not her father’s clan. Not her clan. She didn’t know if that was a good thing or not.
‘Come on. You’re late.’
Tinnstra didn’t move. She was too scared even to do that.
In the end, he reached in, grabbed her arm and dragged her out. He got her moving down the corridor with a shove and a grunt of disgust. Tinnstra knew how he felt. She felt disgusted, too. She thought of that small, perfect knife lying on her bedroom floor and wished she’d had the courage to use it. Too late now. Another chance gone.
They walked to the main stairs and went down, passing cadets returning to their rooms. She avoided all eye contact but knew they watched her, could hear the whispers. They all knew. Everyone knew.
The general’s office was in the east wing. One long walk of shame. Tinnstra’s cheeks burned the whole way, her legs so unsteady she was sure she was going to fall.
They passed through the central atrium with its long windows overlooking the parade ground. During the day, there would be at least one company of cadets in full battle armour out there, practising the Shulka’s legendary phalanx formation: shields interlocked to form an impregnable wall, six-foot spears bristling outwards in a deadly hedge. They would move as one, forward, always forward. Two steps. Thrust. Two steps. Thrust. Organised. Efficient. Deadly. There was a reason why, for seven hundred years, no enemy had ever defeated the Shulka in battle. They were trained to be invincible. The best of the best. The bravest of the brave.
No wonder Tinnstra didn’t fit in.
But am I wrong? Just because I don’t want to die in some stupid battle? My life has got to be worth something. She glanced back at the guard. Why didn’t he have the same fears? She knew the Shulka prayer, the vow they all took. It made no sense to her. We are the dead indeed. Well, I’m not. I want to live. No wonder she couldn’t kill herself.
Two guards in full armour stood sentry outside the general’s office. Sword on hip. Spear in hand. Eyes straight ahead.
The door opened. Now there was no escape.
‘Go on,’ said her guard. ‘Best get it done.’ She looked up at him, saw the sadness in his eyes. Maybe he had a daughter of his own. Probably praying she’d not turn out like Tinnstra. It was a Shulka’s worst fear as a parent: to have a coward for a child.
She entered the general’s office, wanting to be sick, struggling to breathe.
General Harka sat behind his desk, hands crossed. He was alone, thank the Four Gods. He watched her enter, saw her flinch when the door shut behind her. There was no smile, no greeting, no acknowledgement that she’d known him all her life. In that room, he wasn’t her father’s closest friend. He wasn’t her godfather. He was the commanding officer of the Kotege.
And he scared the life out of her.
His hair was tied back into a queue and folded into a topknot, as was the style for Shulka, accentuating his sharp cheekbones. A candle burned on his desk, yet the light didn’t find his face. Only his eyes glittered, but it was as if he were looking straight through her.
His office was simple. A banner hung on one wall – green with the sigil of the crossed spears of his clan, Inaren. His sword hung from a hook on the other wall. Designed to be wielded single-handed, the blade was some thirty inches in length, double-edged but best used to thrust at close range. A Shulka’s spear was his or her primary weapon. A sword was for the wet-work done when you looked someone in the eye, in the madness that came after a phalanx had crushed the life out of their enemies and only the mopping up remained. Harka’s helmet, gold to denote his rank of general with a green plume for his clan, sat on a table.
There was a map underneath the helmet; old, used, battle-worn. Jia took up most of the southern part of the continent, but to the north lay Egril, their old enemy. Only the fortress at Gundan separated us from them. She thought she could see bloodstains on it, covering part of the barbarians’ territory. Fitting, really. There were no other landmarks – the Egril didn’t welcome visitors or ambassadors. The Egril didn’t care for trade. They only wanted what could be stolen. They only liked to kill.
A thousand years ago, when they still had all the magic of the world, the Jians had built the fortress across the pass at Gundan, stopping the Egril raids with thirty-foot-high walls and leaving them to kill each other instead.
Tinnstra came to attention in front of Harka’s desk, eyes straight ahead, gaze skimming the top of his head, looking at nothing. At least she could do that well. He didn’t tell her to sit or stand at ease. Nothing to make her comfortable. She didn’t even deserve that.
He shuffled some paper on his desk though he didn’t need to read her report. He knew already. Everyone knew. ‘Cadet Tinnstra of Clan Rizon.’
‘Yes, sir.’ She squeaked the words out and prayed for the strength to hear what the general had to say.
‘The first Shulka came from Clan Rizon,’ said the general. ‘Created to protect Jia once magic was lost from the land.’
‘Yes, sir.’ Her father had told her all the stories, all the myths, from the moment she was born. Of magic lost. Of how Gods became men, before becoming warriors. Today, magic only existed in the hands of a few mages who were as rare as snow on a summer’s day. That’s why the Shulka were needed.
‘A proud house with a proud tradition,’ the general continued.
‘Yes, sir.’ They were the king’s favourites. The ones always called first to battle.
‘Many, myself included, consider your father to be the finest living Shulka in the world today.’
‘Yes, sir.’ He was a legend, worshipped by all. People’s eyes lit up when they heard Grim Dagen’s name. Songs were sung of his exploits. Children pretended to be him when they played Shulka with wooden swords. Her father was everyone’s hero.
‘Your brothers all graduated from the Kotege with the highest honours.’
‘Yes, sir.’ They were perfection. Hard enough having a famous father, let alone trying to follow in her brothers’ footsteps. Sometimes Tinnstra questioned how she could be related to Beris, Jonas or Somon. They were so like their father and mother, and so unlike her in every way.
‘So, you can imagine how embarrassing that makes this situation for all of us.’ He paused, shuffled some more paper. ‘For me.’
‘Yes, sir.’ Tinnstra knew what was going to happen. Get it over with. Just say the words. Please. The knife waited. She could still save her father the shame.
Harka chewed on his lips as if he didn’t like the taste of what he had to say. Tinnstra couldn’t blame him. ‘It’s normal to be scared. Everyone is. It makes us human. But the training here at the Kotege is supposed to help you move past that fear.’
‘Technically, you are one of our best cadets – with a sword and at Shulikan.’ He pinched the bridge of his nose. ‘But mastering the moves is no use if you’re too scared to fight a real opponent.’
‘Yes, sir.’ By the Four Gods, did she know that only too well. She’d been taught the fighting stances by Grim Dagen himself. It was just a shame he couldn’t give her his courage as well as his skill. Would her father have dedicated all those hours to her if he’d known she was a coward?
Harka looked at her, eyes full of disapproval. As used to that look as she was, it still hurt. She knew she should say more, explain herself, but she didn’t have the courage even for that.
‘Do you want to tell me what happened?’
The air caught in Tinnstra’s throat. Harka had been there, had seen what she’d done. Everyone had. She didn’t want to talk about it.
‘The men we were fighting … I saw the look in their eyes, the swords in their hands. I knew … I knew they wanted to kill me … and I got scared. I didn’t want to be hurt or die. And I knew if I stayed there, if I fought …’ She faltered as tears sprang to her eyes. ‘It was different from being in training, from any practice bout I’ve ever fought. I know I should’ve done better, been stronger. I know I should’ve believed in myself, but I—’
‘You abandoned your comrades and put their lives at risk.’
‘Yes, sir.’ Tinnstra felt sick. Talking about it brought it all back – the sand, the blood, the cries, the dead. She prayed Harka would say no more, but, like so many of her prayers, it went unanswered.
Harka sighed. ‘We don’t put students in the arena because we enjoy it or for entertainment. We do it out of necessity. We have enemies to the north who would see us dead or enslaved,’ said Harka. ‘The arena is the closest we can come to recreating the realities of war, to show what it is like to put your life on the line for your comrades, your clan and your country.’
Tinnstra nodded. She’d experienced that sensation well enough.
‘The Egril have always hated us. Generations ago, they loathed us for our magic. They thought we were like Gods, and this they could not allow. But back then, we were able to build cities with a wave of our hands, fly through the air like birds, light a fire with a click of our fingers, fill our tables with food with just a thought. And we batted them away like irritating flies.’ Harka paused for a moment, watching Tinnstra for a reaction. ‘That hatred didn’t disappear once magic left these lands. Now it’s the responsibility of the Shulka, drawn from the noblest families, to defend all Jians and keep our land free. Those men and women who stand on Gundan’s walls have stopped death and destruction raining down on us for generations.’
‘It was bad enough when we fought random tribes, but this new Egril emperor – Raaku – has done the impossible and unified them all. Right now, camped one mile from Gundan, is the largest army we’ve ever faced. Reports put the numbers at tens of thousands.’
Tinnstra choked. ‘But that’s impossible—’
‘No. No, I’m afraid it’s not. The Egril are rattling their clubs, promising to kill us all. Your father is on his way there now with the whole of your clan to join Clan Huska. Ten thousand Shulka to face perhaps five times that number. Every single man and woman at Gundan must do their part. We can’t have anyone … run away when the time comes to fight.’
Tinnstra remained silent. She could only think of her father, her mother, her brothers, facing thousands of Egril. They will win. They have to. The Shulka always win. But … She wanted to cry. She wanted to be sick. She wanted to run and hide. Hide until it was all over, and they returned safe and sound.
Harka moved the papers around. ‘Out of respect for your father and your family, and as your godfather, I’m willing to give you one more chance – against the wishes of the other teachers, I must admit – as long as you can assure me that you’ll deal with your weakness. Are you able to promise me this incident won’t happen again?’
Tinnstra stopped breathing. All she had to do was say, ‘Yes, sir.’ Tell a small lie. But she knew it would only buy her respite for a short period. Then she’d be here again.
Truth was, the fear had always been there, bubbling away. She had hidden it well, almost convincing herself it didn’t exist. But there had been no hiding that day. Not from herself or from the hundreds of spectators gathered to observe.
She’d dropped her spear and shield and run for her life, breaking the phalanx, putting her friends’ lives at risk. All because she didn’t want to die.
Better she got it over with. Put an end to all their misery. She would never be what they wanted her to be – what she’d been born to be.
He looked up, shook his head, looked down again. Found a piece of paper, picked up a quill, dipped it in ink and signed his name across the bottom. He blew on the ink, placed the paper back on his desk, looked at it once more, then back at her. ‘Cadet Tinnstra of Clan Rizon, by the powers invested in me, I’m expelling you from the Kotege. There is a supply wagon leaving for Aisair in the morning. You can make your own way from there to your family home at Gambril. Your clan will, no doubt, take matters further.’
‘What will they do?’ asked Tinnstra. A single tear ran down her cheek.
‘You’ll be disowned,’ replied Harka. ‘Only Shulka may be part of a clan. You are not and never will be one of us now.’
‘What will I be?’
‘Nothing.’ Harka’s voice was cold as death. He held out the paper. ‘Dismissed.’
Tinnstra stared at him, stared at the paper in his hand. If she took it, her life was over. All she had left was the knife in her room – but even that was a lie. She knew she didn’t have the courage to kill herself.
‘Tinnstra,’ said Harka, his tone softening. His duty done, he was her godfather once more. ‘Take the paper. It’s for the best. It might not feel like it now but, one day, you’ll look back and see this was the moment you were set free.’
‘You can do whatever you want now. Not what your father dictates or what your clan expects. You have a role to play in this world. Take this opportunity to find out what it is. Start living your life.’
Tinnstra took the paper. ‘Thank you, sir.’ She went to salute, realised she didn’t have to any more, and so smiled awkwardly instead and sniffed back another tear.
Outside the office, she stopped in the hallway, suddenly lost in a place that had been her home for three years. She didn’t know what she felt – confused, scared, relieved. It was done. She was out. She’d never have to pick up a sword again. Or stand in a phalanx.
And it was true, what Harka said – she could go anywhere. Not back to Gambril, though. Perhaps she’d return there one day when she knew her father, her family, would be there, but not now. I can go anywhere. Where no one knows who I am. Where I can be ordinary. Anonymous. I wouldn’t be Grim Dagen’s daughter. I’d just be me.
She smiled. That was a beautiful thought. Maybe that was it. She wasn’t a coward. She just wasn’t a Shulka. She glanced over at the guards, still like statues, emotionless warriors. That was the difference. She had feelings. She wanted experiences. She wanted to do things, make something of herself. She didn’t want to be a mindless killer.
The weight disappeared from her shoulders. Tinnstra set off for her room, almost floating. The sooner she was gone, the better. It was time to leave all the Shulka behind and get lost somewhere else. She was free. For the first time in her life, she was free. Thank the Four Gods.
No more hiding in the shadows not wanting to be noticed. Wherever she went next, she’d find out who she really—
The world exploded.
Dren was having the time of his life.
It was late. He should’ve been asleep, getting some rest before a hard day on the boat, fishing with his father, uncle and cousin. But fuck that. His dad called it ‘doing the right thing’. ‘Being sensible.’ Yeah, right. There was plenty of time for that when he was older. But right now? Dren had things to do. Mischief to make.
He sprinted along the rooftops, jumping the small dividing walls between buildings, scooting around the water towers, heart pounding, blood roaring. Feeling alive.
His cousin, Quist, followed on his heels, keeping up for a change. Dren grinned. Sleep could wait. They would both be knackered tomorrow, but he didn’t care. Nor that they would be scolded by their fathers. Trouble was, those old men had forgotten what it was like to be young. They were too busy working to remember what fun was.
Dren loved running the roofs. Loved the freedom to move about the city unseen. Up there, he felt like the king of the world instead of some fisherman’s son. Up there, he wasn’t anyone’s serf. He was a shadow, flitting past unheard and up to no bloody good.
The sliver of moon provided a little light – not that Dren needed it. This was his city. Dirty, sweaty Kiyosun. He’d lived here all his life and, apart from working on his dad’s fishing boat, he’d never left the city walls, not even to explore the mountains north of the city. Why would he? Everything he needed was in Kiyosun. Everything anyone needed was in Kiyosun. The port city was squeezed onto a spit of land at Jia’s southernmost point and the docks, built over the deepest natural harbour in the country, worked twenty-four hours a day, with ships arriving from Meigore, Chongore and Dornway, bringing in everything from olive oil and wine to the fine silks all the rich women loved.
There were good pickings down at the docks if you were quick enough. Especially if you were clever enough not to overdo it. Take too much and you pissed people off to the point where they might try to stop you. Keep it small and no one could be bothered. Only idiots got caught stealing; only fools got their hands cut off for thieving. And Dren was neither.
Some said they’d forced enough buildings into Kiyosun to fill twice the available land, and Dren could believe it. When you’re surrounded by water on three sides, you have to make do with what you’ve got, so everyone was packed in tight together. The buildings were squashed in rows along narrow licks of streets that were always rammed full of people. It took hours to walk from one side of the city to the other. Even late at night the streets were crowded. That’s why the roofs were better for moving around. No one got in his way.
Even if someone was up there, having a drink or putting out the washing, they’d not stop him. They might give him a look to say he was mad or tell him to piss off, but none of that mattered. Dren would already be long gone. And, of course, he always had that little knife on his belt if things went south.
They approached the building’s edge at speed. The six-foot gap to the next row stretched over a thirty-foot drop to the street, but Dren didn’t slow down. Didn’t hesitate. He powered straight ahead, pushing himself to run faster. It was a small jump onto the end wall and he launched himself up and over.
He loved this moment, suspended in the air, all but flying. Most people didn’t have the nerve, the guts, the balls, to do a jump like that. But Dren wasn’t scared of anything. It was all about the danger. The thrill. It made him feel bloody fantastic.
Too soon, his feet touched down on the opposite wall, then a little bounce and he was onto the roof, dropping into a roll, slowing his momentum before skipping back onto his feet.
Just like that. Easy.
He turned to watch Quist. His cousin’s eyes were wide and bright in the moonlight, full of fear, but he jumped all the same, legs and arms flailing as he cleared the gap. Say one thing for his cousin, he was always up for it.
His landing wasn’t as graceful as Dren’s – more of a crash and a tumble – but it didn’t matter how you landed just as long as you did.
‘That doesn’t get any easier,’ said Quist, puffing out his cheeks.
‘You need to lose some weight,’ teased Dren, even though his cousin was whip-thin. No one grew fat hauling nets on a fishing boat all day long.
‘Can’t we go and get a drink somewhere? It’s fucking hot out tonight and I’d rather not be sweating my balls off, running about up here.’
Dren slapped his cousin on the shoulder. ‘It’s Kiyosun. It’s always fucking hot. At least it’s cooler up here than it is down there.’ He spread his arms wide. ‘Feel the fucking breeze. You can breathe.’
‘I can breathe well enough in a tavern, thank you very much,’ grumbled Quist, but he got to his feet all the same. ‘Sasha was asking after you.’
Dren’s ears picked up. ‘Was she?’
Quist grinned. ‘She was.’
‘She said she’d be working at Old Man Hasster’s inn if we fancied dropping by for a drink.’
Dren chewed his lip at the thought of a drink with Sasha. She was beautiful. The most beautiful girl in all of Kiyosun. Just thinking about her made his heart race.
‘It’s only a few streets away,’ said Quist.
Dren glanced along the rooftops, his mind tracing the route to Old Man Hasster’s place. Sasha would be serving drinks out front, getting plenty of laughs from the punters as the men fought for her attention. She could have whoever she wanted. But she wanted him. Well, he thought she did, at least.
Quist watched him, waiting to see if he was going to give in to temptation. Dren laughed. He was a smart lad. He knew just the right hook to dangle. Well, fuck that, too. ‘We can go and see her after we’ve visited the Shulka. We’ll have a tale to tell then.’
Quist shook his head. ‘I’ll say this one last time – this is a stupid fucking idea.’
Dren wrapped his arm around his cousin’s neck, pulling him close. ‘This idea is going to make us famous.’
Quist freed himself. ‘I don’t want to be famous. I don’t want the Shulka knocking on my door with their swords out, ready to chop my head off.’
‘Relax. That won’t happen,’ said Dren. ‘Just think about how you’re going to feel when everyone’s talking about what we’ve done! We’ll be the ones who made fools of the Shulka.’
Quist still wasn’t convinced. ‘You do realise they are the best fighters in the world, don’t you?’
‘No one’s beaten them in battle. Ever.’
‘I know that, too.’
‘And they all carry swords and spears and enjoy killing people. People like you and me. Especially if they think we’ve shown them disrespect.’
Dren nodded again. ‘And I know they take half what we earn in tax so they can go and play soldiers all day long. “The price of keeping us safe” and all that bollocks. Arrogant bastards. And we’re supposed to get down on our knees and bloody bow as they walk past, otherwise they might cut our heads off. They think they’re better than us just because they were born into the right fucking family.’ Dren spat over the side. ‘Well, they’re not – and we’re going to show them what we really think. I might only be the son of a fisherman but I’m just as good as they are.’
‘All right, all right,’ said Quist. ‘Enough. I’m in. I told you I was. Just don’t give me another lecture on the rights and wrongs of the Shulka. It’s bad enough our fathers go on about it. The world is what it is.’
‘Got your breath back?’ asked Dren with a wink. ‘Ready to go?’
They set off again, feet flying across the flat roofs, jumping the gaps, moving on to the next building, the next row, heading west. They passed Dren’s home, and he grinned. His parents were asleep in bed, thinking he was next door.
Sweat ran down his back, sticking his shirt to his skin. Quist was right. It was fucking hot. No stopping, though. It’d rain soon, anyway, so there wasn’t time to waste. One big summer storm might fill up the city’s water towers, but it would also ruin Dren’s plan.
They crossed the last building and there it was – the Shulka barracks. They ducked down behind the end wall and peered over to make sure no one had spotted them, but – of course – no one had. It was all clear.
The barracks on the west side of the city were only three streets away from Dren’s home, too close for his liking. Three ships were moored at the small military dock, in case some pirate was dumb enough to try their luck on passing trade.
Beyond the docks were rows of housing, the stables and a parade ground. Dren’s father had said that over a thousand men and women were stationed there – the black-plumed bastards of Clan Huska. For a city short on space, the barracks took up a large chunk of what there was. Typical of the fucking Shulka. Let everyone else live like rats while they lorded it up.
A wall separated the barracks from the city but, like everywhere else in Kiyosun, the road running alongside was narrow enough to jump if you were of a mind to. Plenty of dark shadows for Dren and Quist to work in.
‘It looks quiet,’ whispered Quist.
‘I told you – most of them have gone up north. Some trouble with the Egril again,’ replied Dren.
‘Bloody goat fuckers.’ Quist spat. ‘You seen all the Egril refugees around town? You can’t go two yards without tripping over one of them. We should chuck them into the ocean. Help them move on. There’s not enough room in Kiyosun for them all. Definitely not enough water.’
Dren ignored him. Quist liked having a moan as much as their fathers d
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