Today’s excerpt is drawn from Rise of the Corsair, and features a peak into the mind of a young Daniel Baccan whence he meets Damian Dannars for the first time. In this fated meeting, Daniel has just shared the tale of when he was stripped of lordship and cast out of his home, but not without a mandate from the Lion Throne.
It is the beginning of a journey that will lead the eldest son of the noble Baccan clan to the heights of the Corsair.
“What a sot your father was!” Damian exclaimed, slamming his mug down. The man was grinning ear to ear. “We are going to have to harden you, boy. Make a man out of you. I will not have that weak boy amongst my crew.”
Daniel slumped back in his chair, wondering why he shared the story from three seasons past. The dingy tavern in southern Dale was near full. The servants scuttled from table to table. None of the patrons had taken notice of him during his story, much as it was after. Agreeing to Damian’s farfetched plan had not stirred the slightest of interest. Small bloody mercies. ‘Tis madness in itself. Better that fewer know of this.
“You ever have a woman, boy? Did your oh so noble father give you coin for whores?”
Emily. Damian had stirred memories of the only girl Daniel ever cared for. The girl that his father thought he was too good for—who turned her into a whore to prove a point. Yes, I had a woman, but I will not open to you, Damian, or anyone else.
“As I thought, you have not my friend, we will have to change that!” Damian declared.
“I have, not that it is any of your concern,” Daniel rebuked. “What you need to know, Damian, is that I know my father and the king would keep me from my home the rest of days, all in the name of service. These lands are my home now, war-torn as they are. I am no fool. The imperium and theocracy will always be at each other’s throats. It may be that I would be on the side that holds dominion.”
A wide smile crept across Damian’s face. He grabbed at the skirt of a passing serving girl, demanding another pitcher of ale. The girl smiled slightly before skittering away. “Aye, you will do just fine.”
There was still so much more Daniel wanted to know. “How do you propose to do it?”
“It?” Damian asked. “In front of this lot? I would not deliver trade secrets into the hands of this rabble. Heh, none of those pious shites would ever wander this far south. Too much scum to stain their precious white silks. Yet I would rather fuck myself with a sword than lay it bear.”
“That can be arranged, you bastard.”
Four men stood by the table, garbed in boiled leather and chain mail. Their armour was a dirty, rugged brown, and their cloaks were black as pitch. Every one of them had scarred faces. The man who had spoken had a broken nose. They all looked down at Damian.
“Shall we go to my chambers?” Damian asked, smiling. “We can all fuck ourselves with steel.”
“You will answer for what you have done, cur!” The lead man shouted, punching Damian in the face. The other three drew swords. Daniel watched as Damian sat back upright, spitting out blood. Tavern patrons slammed down coin upon their tables, muttering curses before exiting. The serving girls wailed, hiding behind the bar. The bartender kept cleaning out pewter mugs, watching.
“Who have I wronged, you little shite?” Damian growled.
“The noble’s get has a foul tongue,” the lead man said. He took out a short-hilted dagger, pointing the blade at Damian. “I do not think you would say much of value. Shall I rip it out and spare the realm your lies?”
“Is that your prick?” Damian guffawed. “If you meant to use that, you would not have felt anything at all.”
“This is not a game, Damian Dannars!”
“I do not play games.”
The man growled, thrusting the dagger forth. Damian moved slightly to his left, then slammed down on the man’s wrist, seizing the falling dagger, and throwing it into the man’s throat.
Daniel bowled over the other three men, drawing his sword while they squirmed about. Regaining their feet, the men looked at him and Damian, who had his own steel out.
“Whatever your quarry with Damian, you will leave now,” Daniel declared, still not quite sure what he was doing. “One man’s blood is enough.”
“You must lose your western charms, dear Daniel,” Damian scoffed. “One man is as guilty as the other. I will see their blood run.”
The men seemed to be mutes, spreading out and knocking over tables, their steel out stretched.
“They would not have had peace,” Damian said, shrugging his shoulders.
Two of the swordsmen fell upon Damian. Daniel locked steel with the other. The man was of like height, and he felt his own steel being pushed back towards him. He was losing his feet. Instinctively, he moved to his side, swinging wildly, but he only met the man’s steel.
“Your master-at-arms trained you well,” Daniel grunted.
“Master-at-arms? Should have known you were like that bastard. You think every man who wields steel was born in some castle or manor? Noble pricks like you will never learn.”
The man suddenly backed off, before swinging his steel. Daniel met the cut, pushing forward and bringing his own steel down. The man parried, driving Daniel back; he tripped but held his steel up. His foe pushed down hard.
“Is that all you got, you well born shite?”
Daniel felt his foe’s blade press closer to his skin. He could taste the sharp edge of the blade. The man’s face was intense, sweat dripping down. Daniel wanted to summon the strength to move, but he could not find it. All those years training. To end my life in a tavern—
Prelude to Darkness will be available on August 17.