I haven’t had much time to write lately, largely due to this being our busiest time of year at work, the need to go Christmas shopping, and my husband’s fight with a power tool on our daughter’s first birthday early last month – he lost Round 1 and had to have an op to repair tendons on his foot, but it looks like he’ll win in the end. I manage to save my sanity by slipping in a few paragraphs of Wizard of Ends whenever I have a chance, although that’s not nearly as often as I would like.
What follows is especially for the readers who contacted me to say how much you enjoyed the first two Wizard of Ends books – a pre-publication extract from Book 3: Mountains of Eclador, which I’m about halfway through writing. I hope you enjoy it!
Wizard of Ends, Book 3: Mountains of Eclador
Queen Narraki Dragonsbane examined her reflection in the mirror, pleased with her appearance. Despite the exhaustion caused by being cursed, the dark rings under her eyes were barely noticeable with the make-up Shohanna, her strawberry blonde maid-in-waiting, had applied. Her black hair was as silky as ever, shining in the morning sunlight that streamed through the open window, and her bright green eyes shone, giving her the appearance of being fully alert – which she wasn’t. How could she be, with the insomnia caused by her worry for her husband, King Lanaran Dragonsbane?
Lanaran had gone off to rescue a friend in need, however, and King Axim would not have hesitated either if Lanaran had been the one to be abducted. Still, Narraki wished Lanaran had sent his soldiers alone, which was funny in a sense, since his willingness to lay down his life for his friends was one of the many things she loved about him.
Shohanna entered the royal bedchamber with clean linen and proceeded to change the bedding. Narraki studied the girl. She was seventeen years old, sentenced to be a servant for six months for the crime of stealing costume jewellery. Narraki had noticed how terrified Shohanna was and had taken pity on her and insisted she take over as her maid-in-waiting for the duration of her sentence – like most other petty criminals, the girl had chosen not to spend her sentence in the castle dungeons. Nervousness had made her clumsy for her first few days, but she had soon realised that the Queen of Ends was not going to treat her like a criminal, despite her sentence. It was a pity that most citizens of Ends reviled servants so much; there were times one could be too loyal to one’s kingdom, Narraki thought.
A knock came at the door, and Narraki called, “Enter.”
A kitchen maid entered with breakfast – a silver tray holding fresh strawberries and cream, with a glass of goat’s milk to wash it down. She greeted the queen, then placed the tray on the balcony table and left.
Narraki stared at it for a few moments. “I’m not very hungry. Why don’t you have it?”
Shohanna looked up, her eyes wide. “I-I couldn’t. It’s intended for the Queen of-”
“But the Queen of Ends does not want it. Or should it go to waste?”
Shohanna finished with the bed and fixed watery blue eyes on Narraki. “If you don’t eat, even the make-up won’t work tomorrow.” She looked down, blushing. “I’m sorry, My Queen. I didn’t mean-”
“I know.” Narraki sighed and went to sit at the table. She gazed over the balcony’s white marble walls at the luscious castle gardens and sighed again. “I’m just not very hungry. Worry does that to me.” A few moments of silence passed, with Shohanna twiddling her thumbs, her eyes constantly darting between the floor and queen. “Does it do that to you too? Take away your appetite?”
Shohanna’s eyes widened again, her expression revealing that she wasn’t used to being asked for her opinion. She shuffled her feet. “Sometimes, yes.”
Narraki nodded, then looked down at her food, pushed back the plate and stood up. “I’m going to take a walk in the gardens. I wouldn’t object if you cleaned off the plate before you took it down to the kitchens.”
She turned to leave the room as the door burst open and Arku, the mousy haired, stick-thin royal messenger, flew across the room and skidded to a halt before her, panting and wild-eyed.
Narraki scowled. “What is the meaning of this? Do you have no respect for my privacy?”
“My Queen!” Arku gushed. “I bring news too urgent to worry with manners! As I speak, an army rides for Ends!”
Narraki’s eyes narrowed. “An army? What army?”
“A united army, My Queen. King Lokar Ivydancer of Cinnadid and King Romlin Swocat of Taquessa have joined forces.”
Cold fear swept through the queen. “For what purpose?” she asked, though she already knew the answer.
“To seize the Kingdom of Ends, My Queen.”
Arku glanced out of the balcony door, as if expecting to see the enemy army already entering the city.
“When will it arrive?” Narraki asked.
“It will reach the castle shortly before sundown tomorrow, My Queen.”
Narraki clenched her teeth. “Why was I not notified sooner?”
“They were only spotted by a border patrol a mere hour ago, My Queen. Kealmonn thinks they used magic to hide themselves.”
Kealmonn, the balding chief advisor, should have been the one to give her the news. She knew he disliked dealing with a woman, but that was his problem; she would not tolerate insubordination at a time like this, when it seemed war was upon them – and with so little time to prepare.
She led the way to the war room, where she knew Kealmonn would be waiting. “Why now? Why attack us now, after so long? I thought they learnt their lesson the last time they tried to seize Ends.”
Arku said, “With King Lanaran and Captain Amkesh away indefinitely, and King Axim unavailable to order the soldiers of Storher to lend aid, they must believe Ends to be an easy target, ripe for the taking.”
“Then King Axim’s abductors only wanted him out of the way, so Ends will have no support.” Narraki began pacing, her hands clasped behind her back. “They must have known he would go after Axim. A devious plan.”
“End is defenceless, My Queen,” Arku said. “There is nothing we can do.”
Narraki’s jaw grew taut and she spun to face him. “We will see about that.”