An extract from The Brittle Riders: Book III by Bill McCormick.
Worlds can change on the tiniest thing. History, written by the winners, tends to edit out
the minutiae and record the broader stories. One item that historians would edit out happened now. Which is a shame, because without this event the rest would never have happened.
Nature called and it was Sland’s turn to answer. It was almost even-fall and they could
hear the survivors setting up camp on the shore. They’d decided to wait until breaklight to see who was alive and in charge and then figure out their next move.
Sland cared about none of this, although he was aware of it all. He just wanted to find a
quiet tree and loose his bowels. He walked a considerable distance from their camp, found a suitable tree and was just finishing with the last wiping leaf when he heard a harrumphing sound behind him. He slowly rose while pulling his pants up and turned. He was faced with a nice array of weapons, any one of which could kill him instantly. He finished buttoning up and realized that this might be his last moment on Arreti. If so he wanted to go out with a laugh. He stood as tall as he could, expanded his chest and bellowed.
“I am Sland, prince of the Temple of Azarep, blooded warrior of the Brittle Riders. I have
come to Kalindor to meet Quelnerom in ritual battle for the throne.”
Yep, that should be good for a laugh. He smiled as he gently stepped away from the
steaming pile and waited to be executed. Instead some of the weapons waggled for him to move forward and others waggled for him to put his hands above his head. He complied with both wagglings.
They did not remove his weapons. His gun was still holstered on his thigh and his sword
was still sheathed on his back. His many knives were still hidden all over his body. Not that he saw any way of using them without being killed instantly but he noted it since it was odd that he still had them.
They led him to the shore and into the middle of their makeshift camp. He could see they
were all wet and tired. They didn’t look good at all. Of course, being blown out of a perfectly good ship and then swimming a kay or so to shore will do that to a brand.
He assumed the reptiloid wearing more feathers and glitter than the rest was Quelnerom.
He was dry and reasonably unruffled so Sland figured he must have ridden in one of the boats he saw dragged up on shore. He’d only heard him described but this brand seemed to fit the description. One of his captors reeled off his bona fides as he’d given them and then they all stepped back a respectful distance.
Sland chuckled to himself. He sincerely doubted that Quelnerom would follow through
with anything other than having him killed where he stood. Well, it was fun while it lasted.
Quelnerom stood and stared at him.
“You carry a sword. Is it for decoration or can you use it?”
Sland was astounded. Geldish was going to kill him if he survived this.
“The sword has been blooded.”
Quelnerom nodded appreciatively. “Remove all your other weapons.”
Sland did as he was told and that took a bit. When he was done his gun, holster, and eight knives lay in a neat array to the side. The reptiloids looked as though it were a small’s illusion show as each knife appeared from a different place. He stepped back to the center of the group and looked at Quelnerom.
Quelnerom was handed a sword and he aimed it forward in the ritual salute. Sland, seeing no option, unsheathed his sword and crossed his with Quelnerom’s.
Quelnerom nodded and lunged.
Begin the story of The Brittle Riders with Book I here.