Wednesday 29 April 2015

Red Sister - The Prologue

I have a new trilogy on the go. Here's the prologue.

It is important, when killing a nun, to ensure that you bring an army of sufficient size. For Sister Thorn of the Sweet Mercy convent Lano Tacsis brought two hundred men.

From the forward aspect of the convent you can see both the northern ice and the southern, but the finer view is out across the plateau and over the narrow lands. On a clear day the coast may be glimpsed, the Sea of Marn a suggestion in blue.
            At some point in an achingly long history a people, now lost to knowledge, had built one thousand and twenty-four pillars on the plateau, Corinthian giants thicker than a thousand-year oak, taller than a long-pine. A forest of stone without order or pattern, covering the level ground from flank to flank such that no spot upon it lay more than twenty yards from a pillar. Sister Thorn waited amid this forest, alone and seeking her centre.
            Lano’s men began to spread out between the columns. Thorn could neither see nor hear her foe approach, but she knew their disposition. She had watched earlier as they snaked up the west trail from Styx Valley, three and four abreast, Pelarthi mercenaries from the ice margins, furs of the white bear and the snow-wolf over their leathers, some with scraps of chainmail about them, ancient and dark or bright as new, depending on their luck. Many bore spears, some swords, one man in five carried a short-bow of recurved horn. Tall men in the main, fair-haired, beards short or plaited, the women with lines of blue paint across their cheeks and foreheads like the rays of a cold sun.
           Here’s a moment. All the world and more has rushed eternity’s length to reach this beat of your heart, screaming down the years. And if you let it, the universe, without drawing breath, will press itself through this fractured second and race to the next, on into a new eternity. Everything that is, the echoes of everything that ever was, the roots of all that will ever be, must pass through this moment that you own. Your only task is to give it pause – to make it notice.
            Thorn stood without motion, for only when you are truly still can you be the centre. She stood without sound, for only silent can you listen. She stood without fear, for only the fearless can understand their peril.
            Hers the stillness of the forest, rooted restlessness, oak slow, pine quick, a seething patience. Hers the stillness of ice walls that face the sea, clear and deep, blue secrets held cold against the truth of the world, a patience of eons stacked against a sudden fall. Hers the stillness of a sorrow-born babe unmoving in its crib. And of the mother, frozen in her discovery, fleeting and forever.
            Thorn held a silence that had grown old before first she saw the world’s light. A quietude passed down generations, the peace that bids us watch the dawn, an unspoken alliance with wave and flame that lets both take all speech from tongues and sets us standing before the water’s surge and swell, or witness to fire’s consuming dance of joy. Hers the silence of rejection, of a child’s hurt, mute, unknowing, a scar upon the years to come. Hers the unvoiced everything of first love, tongue-tied, ineloquent, the refusal to sully so sharp and golden a feeling with anything so blunt as words.
Thorn waited. Fearless as flowers, bright, fragile, open to the sky. Brave as only those who’ve lost can be.
             Voices reached her, the Pelarthi calling out to each other as they lost sight of their numbers in the broken spaces of the plateau. Cries rang across the level ground, echoing from the pillars, a multitude of footfalls, growing closer. Thorn rolled her shoulders beneath black-skin armour, she tightened the fingers of each hand about the sharp weight of a throwing star, her breathing calm, heart racing.
            “In this place the dead watch me,” she breathed. A shout broke out close at hand, figures glimpsed between two pillars, flitting across the gap. Many figures. “I am a weapon in service to the Ark. Those who come against me will know despair.” Her voice rose along with the tension that always presaged a fight, a buzzing tingle along her cheekbones, tightness in her throat, a sense of being both deep within her own body, and above and around it at the same time.
            The first of the Pelarthi jogged into view, and seeing her, stumbled to a halt. A young man, beardless though hard-eyed beneath the iron of his helm. More crowded in behind him, spilling out into the killing ground.
            The Red Sister tilted her head to acknowledge them.

            Then it began.


  1. You really know how to tease your readers! Looking forward for the new trilogy. And I have to complete and read all of Red Queen's War trilogy first (The Liar's Key is almost up for grabs)!

  2. Rock out with that review. I want to read this book, but sigh my TBR is ridiculous. Maybe I can get this on for a book club or something.

  3. This is *so* good...

  4. Thoughts on the prologue: excellent use of anaphora; vivid imagery; a cinematic vignette; foreshadows intrigue; opening two sentences snare the reader—and the last succinctly portends an ominous snare snapping shut in the story. All in all, a dark, bloody-good, stellar prologue worthy of Jorg's creator.

  5. Not enough bad ass ladies in the world, looking forward to this one.

  6. Will this be in the same apocalyptic version of Earth that Jorg lives in?Because when she said that the dead watch her, it seemed quite similar to how Jorg is haunted by the dead (ghosts of his family and people he has killed or failed). Obviously we (the readers) don't know much more about the character or the world, but with the reference to 'the dead' the world seems similar (although, the character could of course be saying the thing about the dead in a poetic way).

    1. There's a link right at the top that should answer your question (& more!)

  7. Damn, this is good. Can't wait. I love how your ideas keep flowing, and you don't take 6y long pause.

    Also, I have something to say (that youtube video you posted on Twitter made me want to give my own of how your book influenced me). It's long, so yeah ... Skip it if it's too much hassle.
    I have a case of depression. Ever since teenage years. Been to a shrink, got the pills, moved away from my parents ... the whole shebang. I've been trying to write since I was 14, but first I had to do it in a way my parents wouldn't find out (because writing never gets you anywhere, so you better get your head out of that ditch - and even if my mom is a passionate reader, which makes it kind of contradiction, but hey ... I moved out because of stuff like this). But after I started living on my own, I always had 2 jobs + roomies and very little time of my own. You probably know about the feeling of the world crushing you, no matter where you turn or what you do, you can not get a break. Been off the pills, back on the pills, off the pills, and now I'm again on the pills. Just to get through the frikin day.
    There are couple of authors and movies and games that make me want to get through the day, week, year, just so I could experience them. And while I enjoy reading and fangirl all around at those points, your books are the ones that not only give me the strength to get through the day, so I can read more, but actually give me the energy to FACE the world. Because in your books there is always this personal fight of a character AGAINST the world. It's not just happening and plot, it is downright A PERSON versus THE WORLD and everything it throws at you.
    On one hand you've got Jorg, and that is me whenever I face something that sends other people screaming. And I'm just standing there: do whatever you want, I'm already in hell, you can't possibly do worse than my head does to me every day. (actually, I once scared away a big, twitchy mugger away with my: "Seriously, this is a hard as you can squeeze my forearm?") And Jorg has that never-give-up, "I shall break before I bend", and sometimes it really gives me the strength to face the day and everything it'll dump on me.
    Then you've got Jal, who is this cotton wrapped prince and expects to get whatever he wants and just sees the world differently, with so many more options. And that too gives me will to get out and face the day, perhaps I shall discover and see something I didn't before. I shall observe people and perhaps I will learn some special trick. The world could be interesting. There isn't only one path, and even if there is, you need TO SEARCH out in case there are some well hidden.
    Then you have Snorri, who is just broken inside, but his shell remains the same and he is my inspiration in a sad sort of way. That I will still function somehow like my normal self (even if I don't really know what that is), connect with people, even though my mind can be a black hole.

    So, from a fan who doesn't just read but LEARNS how to face the day with your books, thank you. I am in the cluster-fuck of the month (new job, old job, roomies partying through the weekend when it's my only time to really have a rest, trying to move to the new apartment with minimum income, my Mom's health problems, not having time to sit down in peace and write, and my head just offering really stupid and unhelpful solutions), so I started reading my favourite scenes from Prince of Thorns again and I think I'm ready to get up again tomorrow and try all over again.

    1. I've never suffered from depression, but I've seen a lot of it close up from the outside.

      People find the strength/inspiration to battle their demons from many sources, and I'm very glad that my characters have been part of yours. It's a great compliment to hear that there's enough truth in them to serve in that capacity - thanks for telling me.

  8. Hi Mark! One question that is nattering at me, emperor of thorns had the pope talking about a trip to the sisters of mercy, a convent with a checkered past. Nona is brought to this same convent but red sister is a different world and had the same name. Is this just coincidence?

    1. It would be fun if it wasn't but it probably is, yes.