Destiny's Conflict, second sneak preview

Here, unveiled, the second sneak preview of the upcoming volume, Destiny’s Conflict.

Please take note: this is DRAFT and not finished copy. The author’s copyright remains in force - you are encourage to share a LINK to this site for others to view it/but not to copy it elsewhere.

Enjoy (it’s a longer preview to pay back the frustration of total silence and a long wait) however - the itch won’t be entirely scratched, prepare to gnash teeth!!!

***

But Tarens’ patience eventually won the saturnine fellow’s effusive excitement. ‘The uncanny singer? Oh, aye! I’ve kent him. Walks the sheer rim atop Thunder Ridge. You’ll know when you hear him. Besides chills at the nape, the pure sound’s belike to drive a wrongdoing man to religion.’

Extricated with delicacy, the three travelers distanced themselves from the trapper’s curious inquiries.

‘Do you know this place, Thunder Ridge?’ Cosach asked, chin raised as he breasted a dwarf stand of the firs, and disgruntled to become even farther uprooted from his home turf.

Puffing, Dakar labored to answer. ‘If that’s the common name for the scarp the Paravians called the Tiendarion? Yes. This could pose a difficulty. The spur parallels the backbone of the Storlains, buckled to chaos where subduction pressure rams into the plain of West Halla. If Arithon’s there, the approach will be difficult.’

The chieftain’s response was a half drawn sword, slammed back in the sheath with a warning clash. ‘Don’t try that excuse to light out again!’

‘Forget running,’ the spellbinder grumbled. ‘The terrain will pump a man’s lungs like a bellows and dash out his brains on a misstep.’

A fortnight later, wheezing in thin, frigid air at high altitude, the three searchers huddled around the spluttering rags of a campfire under the looming face of the Tiendarion. A razor silhouette, the naked rock reared up behind, a jagged obsidian rip in night sky, dusted with silvery veils of lit cirrus and stars like sequins in shot silk. Ettinmere settlement lay twenty leagues southward and west as the crow flew. Well inside the range of a Sighted shaman, even where rifts swirled the flux into eddies that hampered an orderly scrying. Dakar took no chances. He fashioned individual constructs of lead, inset with black tourmaline, pyrite and hematite.

‘For grounding energy,’ he explained, then enhanced the mineral amulets with charms against Cosach’s skeptical derision. ‘Would you have the shamans Sight blinded or not? Stay angry, and no subtle working can mask you. If not worse, you’ll become a ripe target for iyats.’

Honest warning, since hot flares of electromagnetics drew plagues of fiends like a magnet. The instablilty also scrambled clan instincts enough to disrupt Cosach’s talent skill for the hunt. Pinched cross by the dearth of meat on the spit, the clan chieftain kept the spellbinder under his thumb and aired his plan to greet his liege on his own.

‘That could be a mistake,’ Tarens cautioned, ahead of the Mad Prophet’s leap to exploit the unfair advantage. ‘His Grace hates the onus of titled formality.’

‘Well, too bad. Tradition says crown princes bend their stiff knees to cement our fealty. If his Grace balks, for the risk to my people, I’ll challenge his delinquent pride, throw him over my knee and flat thrash him.’ The caithdein jabbed his stick at the coals with contempt. ‘You’ve said yourself he’s a dainty, wee snip. More nerve than brains, if he thumbs his nose at the man with the heftier sword arm!’

‘Do you think?’ Tarens slapped off the live sparks flurried into his mantle. ‘Pithless as Arithon may seem at first glance, he has the brute will that wrecks mountains.’

Dakar murmured, tucked like a browbeaten turtle into his cowled cloak, ‘You want a royal ally? Be well advised. Curb your resentment and listen.’

‘I should play craven to let you slink off?’ Cosach dug in his heels, roweled past sense by Dakar’s backhand cleverness.

Tarens chose to keep his own counsel. Turned into his blankets, he tossed, chafed sleepless by Earl Jieret’s unsettled instincts. The graphic record of Arithon’s feral nerves in the aftermath of a past, prolonged hunt through Daon Ramon forepromised a temperament dicey as a cornered adder’s. Cosach’s overconfidence would trample diplomacy, against unimaginably volatile stakes. The same apprehension, and more, fed the Mad Prophet’s anxiety. Yet he remained snugged in his bed roll, lips sealed, when Tarens arose in stealth and scaled the path to Thunder Ridge on his own.

Dawn found the former crofter cresting the notch to the sheer, pleated rampart of rock that gouged the sky like a curtainwall. Ruddied by the glow of new morning, he was closest when Athera’s titled masterbard made his appearance and started to sing.

A slight, tousled figure cut against livid sky, he walked the jagged crest of the ridge, shaping his art as he went. The crystalline clarity of his voice woke a searing restlessness in all things living. The fierce urge seized hold: to follow his presence and dance to his paean of exultation. With joyful abandon to quicken the blood, the bard wove desire to pique the voracious appetite of energy sprites.

And the fiends came, irresistably drawn, darting unseen from cleft rock, and whisking through the crabbed tangles of dwarfed firs. They spun out of the wind as small eddies and errant breezes. Impulsive wisps, they flocked to his lure, pocked shimmers and flecks packed into a gyrating halo that tousled his hair and tweaked at his clothing. Drawn by their hunger, tethered in rapt fascination, they became pared down and netted in shadow, their chaotic energy sealed into bands snugly fitted to his clever fingers.

Iyat thos Tarens tracked at short distance. Dakar’s amulet kept the masterbard oblivious, as though naught existed beyond sky and mountains, and the focus sustaining high art. He bound the summoned iyats into thrall until both hands glittered with the uncanny fruit of his gathering.

Then the driving thrust of his enchantment changed. Faced tipped back, Arithon added the exquisite cadence of ancient Paravian. The lyric shaped yearning, a cry of desperate loneliness beyond the human surcease of tears.

To witness a man’s private heartstrings laid bare became a violation. Braced as though to deliver a death blow, Tarens stirred to interrupt. His movement snapped the bard’s concentration.
Arithon’s melody checked in midphrase. He spun, alarmed, and sighted the crofter. Shocked recognition rebounded to horror. Frantic, he clawed at his shirt front as though to rip something offensive away.

His distress unfurled through the flux, translated by Jieret’s uncanny connection. Tarens exclaimed, ‘No harm’s done!’ Launched forward, he caged Arithon’s wrist before what seemed a plain copper button tore free.

‘Rest easy! The Ettinmere shamans are blinded.’ Staggered a step backwards by murderous fight, Tarens talked. ‘My safety’s secure. If not, you’d have noticed my presence before this.’

Yet Arithon resisted with dauntless ferocity. ‘Show me proof!’

Tarens let go. Palms empty, he opened his collar and hooked out the string that hung Dakar’s worked talisman. The frigid wind seared his naked throat, while Arithon surveyed the construct.

‘Who led you to find me?’ Brusque as an interrogation, ‘What did you promise to buy a signature line of protection?’

Which ugly disclosure caught Tarens off guard. ‘Signature?’

Arithon looked exasperated. ‘Your Name is wound into that working! Count on the fact you won’t keep any secrets from the use of whoever created it.’

Which attack was a feint to cover evasion. Tarens regrouped. Steadied by Jieret’s infallible insight, he answered the muffled panic directly. ‘You’re not alone! I know why you can’t leave. The enemies who test your defenses are dangerous, and I’ve come to help heal the persistent rifts in your memory.’

Not disarmed by relief, Arithon lashed out with the viciousness of the caged tiger, ‘Who else has taken a prying interest?’

Lies would not serve. Before Tarens mustered the poise to confess, Cosach’s intrusive answer rebounded out of the cleft leading up to the heights.

‘The Caithdein of Rathain, first of all!’ Still hidden from view in his breathless ascent, the High Earl pursued his headlong reproach. ‘Should we need to chase after your coattails, your Grace? While you dawdle amid the wilds of Melhalla, the realm is being winnowed by a True Sect purge. The Hatchet commands a veteran warhost. The same that shed the lifeblood of Havish’s finest, and whose sacrifice set you free with your life. Shall your own be abandoned to backlash reprisal for this willful forfeit of your oathsworn legacy?’

If Arithon had seemed strained before, his hardened demeanor lost every vestige of the kindness the crofter remembered. ‘You seek entitlement for wholesale slaughter?’ He added, ‘Don’t expect the fools with the weapons to die if you cut them down with their sons not yet grown to maturity. You can’t sow a legacy of meaningful joy if you widow their brides in response to a misguided canon.’

‘We are speaking of clan survival!’ snapped Cosach, his tousled belligerence arrived with frothed rage at the rim.

‘Is there any difference?’ Arithon cracked. ‘What is any war, after all, but the abject surrender of hope! A craven rejection of human grace, with righteous mass murder ennobled in place of inspired imagination?’ Against scorching rebuttal, he mocked, ‘The stubborn mind never looks for alternatives. Why play with cat and mouse rhetoric since you’ve come to drag the chained bear to the mastiff’s pit?’

‘Singed fur’s bound to fly, anyway.’ Stung past reason, Cosach hurtled into the fray. ‘Let’s rip for the juggular and see who gets flayed.’

Arithon’s lip curled. ‘Perhaps I prefer to skulk like the cur before strutting your puppet’s parade in the royal arena.’ Inimical green eyes raked back over the crofter. ‘Were you willing bait or the sadly duped gambit?’

Caught out in conspiracy, Iyat thos Tarens squared off. ‘I know you prefer to spare others from risk in your company. But your liegeman’s fate is not detached, and I came only for friendship.’

The jet eyebrows rose, beneath tangled black hair. ‘Ath wept! Did Earl Jieret not share the way he met his death? No! A sane man would gag before repeating that recipe for fatal sentiment.’

But sensible choice to back down remained thwarted by Cosach’s armed bulk in the path of retreat.

‘The agog audience, amazed by disgust for the freak?’ Arithon’s brutal regard swept the stalwart s’Valerient descendant before him, dismissed the bristle of weapons, the scraped leathers, and even the seams of hard travel stamped into a countenance weathered lifelong in the wilds. ‘I prefer obscurity,’ declared the Teir’s’Ffalenn.

Cosach shredded the flummery. ‘Well, this isn’t a puppetshow drama. The plight of the kingdom can’t spare you the luxury!’

The second that followed stretched beyond silence. Stymied where record and hearsay fell short, the caithdein found ironclad duty no match for the diminutive impact of the royal heir in the flesh.

Head tipped back, his rough shirt unadorned as an Ettinman without an upright claim to family or property, Rathain’s titled crown prince returned, fullbore, his unsettling interest. ‘As the latest chip off a rock-headed lineage, don’t tumble for the romantic idea I’ll sit for a coronation.’

Cosach anchored his sword belt with a hooked thumb and glared downwards with blood in his eye. ‘The Fellowship Sorcerers might flinch, themselves, given the chorus mob of armed factions in full cry after your head.’

‘Bow to the pressure, or else stand up and slaughter a starry eyed horde of fanatics?’ Arithon rejected equivocation. ‘No. My refusal to Asandir stays in force.’

Cosach bristled. ‘My office could declare you unfit!’

‘Disown me!’ quipped Arithon in fierce delight. ‘A pity I’m still the last of my lineage.’ Maddening as the gadfly, he stung, ‘An accursed thorn in the craw, since you’re here, true steel at the ready! Or why haven’t the Seven bestirred themselves to snatch my infant ward from the insular bosom of Ettinmere settlement?’

Tarens roared first. ‘Don’t take the bait, Cosach! Your liege snaps worst when he’s pinned by his short hairs. Always, his viciousness is a bluff to defend his bare arsed embarrassment.’ Then, quick as balm on a wound, he addressed the Teir’s’Ffalenn’s anguish point blank. ‘Creative invention did not fall short! They all survived, the women and children you spared from the True Sect’s execution by fire at Torwent. I accompanied them on foot to Fiaduwynne, where their petition placed them under the High King’s protection.’

Arithon glanced away, not fast enough. Face averted, he admitted to Tarens, ‘You had earned my regard far and long before this.’ But the stiff reproach was capitulation. Fist to heart, Rathain’s sanctioned crown prince acknowledged his caithdein at last, though not yet from his knees in a formal acceptance of fealty. ‘Given your effort to find me, Lord Cosach, the courtesy’s owed. I am listening.’

Yet there, hardwon truce met strategic disaster: a dislodged rock clattered down the cliff face as a second arrival, masked by furtive spellcraft, gained the ridgetop ten paces behind Arithon’s back.

The blindsided royal quarry did not spin to denounce the latest unwelcome intrusion. Fixated on Cosach instead, Arithon caught the brazen lack of surprise, shocking beside the genuine gasp as Tarens identified the rearguard stalker.

The Mad Prophet had taken desperate steps: razed of unkempt hair and frizzy beard, the fishbelly hue of his shorn skin was nicked repeatedly with angry scabs. Exposed beyond quarter, his shrinking advance might have trodden a pitfall scaffolded over with eggshells.

But the fateful thunderclap of recongnition did not break the electrified stillness.

Arithon’s caustic temperament failed to explode into just accusations. His oblique strike instead leapfrogged civil courtesy without facing the rearguard arrival. ‘You would be the spellbinder who crafted the wardings to foil the Ettinmere shamans?’

Dakar shuffled his feet. ‘The working is mine.’ Sweating through jellied nerves, he admitted, ‘We all carry a talisman. Need I broach the necessity? We have you surrounded to veil this encounter from a more perilous adversary. You must be aware. Your doings draw fatal attention from worse than Ettinmere’s watchers.’

‘By all means, let’s not forget the Koriathain.’ Arithon’s expression stayed undismayed, stripped of the least honest nuance to vouchsafe equinimity or winnow the poison of vengeful satire. ‘I’m meant to trust your honeyed promise of a full restoration of memory? Then grant me surety. Deliver the name of the woman whose love sold me out to the sisterhood.’

Dakar choked, his mooncalf features drained to translucent ice. ‘I can’t.’ Suicidally terrified, nonetheless he sealed his courageous refusal. ‘To tell you would override your given word. And break the secrecy of a sacred covenant, once sworn between the two of you.’

Whatever Arithon expected to hear, that retort shattered his poise.

Tarens thrust forward, in time to quash Cosach’s brutal bid to wring the miscall for advantage. ‘If you daren’t rely upon anyone else, you might lean on the one friend you know. At least weigh in the sterling assurance of High Earl Jieret’s better intentions.’

A straw hope appeal, ancient friendship salved nothing. Arithon’s brittle sanguinity cracked. Aghast, stunned by horror, he spun at last and beheld the fat spellbinder: the traitor whose pinched face also mirrored the stark desolation of an unspeakable grief. No words might soften the appalled remebrance of the backstabbing reverse, inflicted under the pitiless sun of yet another flawless spring morning…


(end)

originally posted by Gill

How cruel! I had just reconciled myself to a long wait for the next book and now the snippet has awoken my urgent desire to read Destiny… How can I bear to wait any longer? Reread the earlier books? Decisions, decisions…

originally posted by Clansman

that…was…AWESOME!!!

I know, that word is overused, but the hints at things and the outright leads to other happenings are wonderful!

I'm in the midst of re-reading now, in the middle of Peril's Gate, and will finish the rest by Christmas (I read these books ssssllllooooowwwwwllllyyy).

Gill, just do the reread. You know you want to.

originally posted by Walt

Oh mistress of prose, how deliciously cruel your bite!

I must echo Clansman on his thoughts. This promises to better yet. I will attempt to remain humbly patient… for the next snippet!

originally posted by Jeff

Thank you.

I was just thinking last night that it was time for another full re-read of the series to date, and this clinched it :smiley:

originally posted by Mark Stephen Kominski

*Sets aside the makeshift instruments, reads, and smiles*

originally posted by Annette

That was a very interesting snippet! Thanks Janny. :smiley:

originally posted by Sleo

Ah, so lovely! I join the chorus for the book!

originally posted by Sleo

And 2nd sneak peek? Did I miss the first one?

originally posted by Annette

First sneak preview was last year, Cosach was having a bad day, Tarens is no wren and Elaira was being elusive. But the sneak peek is not hiding, you have just forgotten you saw it Sleo.

originally posted by Auna

I definitely enjoyed the snippet, grinning like a mad fool when I saw it available and still purring in contentment even though that last paragraph shredded my heart.

Of course I really want the whole book and series done yesterday, but snippets help stem the rage of coiled impatience.

originally posted by Jeff

The best part of this snippet (to me) is the introduction to an area previously unrevealed. The anticipation is heightened by the introduction of a new Power that inhabits the Ettinmere settlement. The remoteness and difficult access reveal at least one reason the settlement did not fall during the uprising.

It's kind of painful to think of Rathain once again ravaged by a warhost.

originally posted by David Cornelson

Thank you Janny.

originally posted by Paige Madison

Janny, I sense another masterpiece in the works here! I will wait as patiently as possible for Destiny's Conflict. Thank you for the preview.

originally posted by Sleo

@Jeff = very painful, indeed, to think of that ravaging warhost!

originally posted by brenna billing

Coming out of lurkdom to say very much enjoyed the snippet, am now waiting even more impatiently for the book!

originally posted by Mark Stephen Kominski

Had to read it again. As one would expect, still not sure I got all the details…

originally posted by Katrina

It seems I finished reading the "Initiate's Trial" just in time to be teased mercilessly with this sneak peak. I suspect this tale will be a grand a feast if this tasty morsel of writing is any indication.

So, I shall dally away my time and await the next book's release with all the patience of a child prowling the kitchen for a fresh baked sweet.

originally posted by Mark Stephen Kominski

*Grins*

Hope your cupboards, pantry and fridge are locked down tight…we're still a ways away!