Author Spotlight: Dave-Brendon de Burgh
I’m happy to introduce you to author Dave-Brendon de Burgh, author of Betrayal’s Shadows: Book One: Mahaelian Chronicle. Take a look below to find out more about his books, the man behind the book as well how to follow his work. He was also kind enough to send us an excerpt from Betrayal’s Shadows, so read on for a sneak peek.
Events are in motion that will test every man, woman and child – and a conflict is coming that will shake the kingdom to its very foundations. So begins the Mahaelian chronicle…
Brice sank and rose on an ocean of darkness lit by flashes of light and muted sounds.
The light began to slowly reveal the hint of a shape. Something was watching him, waiting for him to wake. The sounds became snatches of words, still distant and muted so that he couldn’t understand what was being said. Gradually, the shape sucked definition from the darkness and he saw a head and shoulders, backlit by a pooling grey.
After what seemed like an eternity, he felt pain like tiny fires sparking through his body. He groaned and twisted, instinctively wanting to move away from it, and he woke up in moonlit darkness.
He lay there for a moment, forcing himself to keep control and not begin panicking. His head hurt, as if someone was slowly, methodically punching the inside of his skull, and his mouth was dry. Thirsty. What had happened?
He gingerly reached up to feel his head, winced as his fingertips encountered a tender, swollen spot the size of an egg. He remembered now, and swore softly.
A Blade Knight struck down by an old man with a stick… It would have been hilarious if not for the fact that Brice had faced many opponents through the years, and none had ever bested him; men armed with better weapons – swords, pikes, staffs – had all fallen under his blade. That told Brice that there was something else at work here, something beyond the obvious.
He stared up at the thatch ceiling, eyes blind to the shadows that clung there as he began to focus on his breathing. The head-injury would be a definite liability if he couldn’t dampen the pain somehow.
And so, he tuned out every other sound – the crackle of a nearby fire, the distant rhythmic chirping of insects, the sighing of the wind – until all that he heard was his own breathing. Then he closed his eyes, releasing the tension in his body with each exhalation, breathing in calmness with every breath. Finally the pain lessened, bled away until it was a minor inconvenience and not a deadly distraction.
Opening his eyes, Brice glanced over his surroundings – lashed-together log walls, crude tables and chairs. He was lying on a reed mat, his head supported by a pillow of folded hide.
He pushed himself up on his elbows. He wasn’t wearing his armour anymore, but that didn’t surprise him. What did was the fact that the tribesmen had puzzled out how to remove it – they didn’t strike him as the kind of people that knew anything about armour.
Brice took a breath to prepare and then methodically pushed himself to his feet. A weight pushed against the inside of his shirt, moving with the momentum of his movements, and Brice felt a surge of relief pass through him. They hadn’t taken the Eye. He planted his feet firmly as he fought to steady himself, and then reached to clasp the jewel, feeling the chain to which it was attached bite gently into the skin of his neck. If he needed to, he’d be able to communicate with the king, but he didn’t want to – not when he was the only man left, as far as he knew. He would wait until he knew what the situation was before he reported to the king.
Taking that chance now would probably bring the Pit itself down upon Brice, considering what had happened; the only facts Brice had was that he had been captured, and that the rest of the Seventh Hilt was gone, possibly dead. He could speculate all he wanted, trying to figure out what had truly happened, but it wouldn’t help his situation any. He needed to get intelligence, find out exactly what had happened so that he could plan to wrest victory from this embarrassing failure. Besides, he didn’t want to be seen as the kind of general who ‘ran’ to the king at the slightest sign of adversity. He was a General, after all, and a Blade Knight.
Confident that he could maintain his balance and stay on his feet, Brice moved toward the opening in the hut’s wall. He moved as quietly as he could, placing his feet carefully before settling his weight, listening for the slightest sound. Thankfully the hut was empty except for him, and the exit seemed entirely unguarded.
Think. Priorities. He had been captured and had, at the very least, been separated from his men. He was most probably still in the same village, unless this island had more than one village. It was possible, but not likely, considering its size. Study your surroundings, look for exit points, anything that could serve as distractions, and avoid the most likely avenues of attack.
Stepping forward, Brice peered around the edge of the doorway. No guards. He scanned the scene outside, eyes darting as he built up the picture in his mind, and then ducked back into the shadows.
He was in the village, as he had thought, but it was deserted. Unless everyone was sleeping – and no one would go to sleep with one of their enemies dozing away in a hut mere yards away. The crackling of flames he had heard was coming from the central fire pit.
Where the hell was everyone?
Brice slipped outside.
By the look of the sky it was well into the night; the Plough winked at him from above the scarred face of the moon and Mahaelal’s Necklace was occupying its quadrant high up and to the east. He had been unconscious for hours.
The Blade Knights had discovered the village shortly before midday, and had the villagers rounded up scarcely an hour later.
Walking through the scattered huts, hands itching for a weapon, ears straining for any sound that would signal a threat, Brice discovered that he was the only knight in the village. He saw signs of the earlier melee against the tribe – patches of gleaming darkness that he knew to be blood – but no bodies. He knew they had to be somewhere. The knight that had been pierced by the spears and then hacked by knives could not have survived, and Segendra could not have survived that arrow to the throat, not when he had surely been denied immediate medical attention.
He almost missed it as the wind died down for a moment, but then he stopped, closed his eyes once more. He heard it then, the sound like the distant sighs of hundreds of throats – chanting.
The sound rose and fell, gaining volume for a moment and then growing louder, repeating the cycle again and again as if Brice were hearing some strange beast’s beating heart. He thought that the sound was coming from the north. It was possible that he was hearing the wind, though he had never heard a wind like that. Not even during the campaigns on the Storm Coast, six years before, where the wind had been as much of an enemy as the forces of the Gathering they had faced.
The longer he listened, the more he thought he was hearing actual words and phrases, even though he couldn’t understand them. Decided, Brice quickly searched the huts for anything useful and found a water skin and a staff that didn’t echo the tribe-leader’s in any way, but still made him recall it. When you didn’t have the weapons you trained with and used for decades, you made do with what you could find.
Brice took a sip from the water skin as he set off, swirling it around in his mouth before swallowing. The chanting, if that was what it was, took him through the village and into the clearing where the knights’ camp had been. He didn’t stop to check for weapons or armour – knights carried everything they needed with them and didn’t take the chance of leaving anything behind for someone else to snatch up and use against them. He reached the distant tree line a while later and paused in the shadow of a reaching, gnarled tree. Brice moved on, listening as he picked his way across the ground, paused again to listen. The sound was growing louder and he was now certain that it was chanting he was hearing.
He finally came to an open plain, the moonlight illuminating the silver sea of grass that stretched out before him. The land rolled away, like frozen waves, and Brice squinted at a darker line that cut through the grass at a perfectly straight angle.
He forced himself to pause again, forced himself to calm down. His mission was now one of reconnaissance and he needed to remain as calm as possible, no matter what he found at the end of that trail. A thought rose into his mind, unnerving him. Why did they leave me in a position to follow and find them?
Three hundred steady heartbeats later Brice was moving slowly up another grass-wave. He noticed that some tens of yards away, the air seemed darker. Darker as if something large stood against the night sky, blotting out the stars.
Corpsetouch surged across the skin of his arms and neck. Whatever it was, he had never seen anything like it before. It could be that the tribe had some kind of strange temple out here, but if that was the case, why didn’t the bright moonlight reveal something of its structure?
Brice lowered himself onto his stomach, pushing forward on elbows and knees, mouth clamped shut and eyes squinted against the itch-inducing touch of the tall grass. Finally he reached a point where the ground sloped downward, the grass becoming shorter and shorter until it disappeared altogether. There was bare soil ahead; his palm came down and he grimaced at its clamminess.
He scanned the open ground ahead. It was indeed bare of grass. In fact, Brice thought that nothing at all grew ahead of him. It seemed that the open patch was circular in shape but he couldn’t be sure, not from his low vantage. Shadowed depressions marked the ground and Brice wondered whether they were shallow pits that had been dug, or places where rocks or trees had been dug out.
Brice’s eyes rose, skipping across the soil, and he felt a chill settle upon him.
The tribe stood, arms linked at the elbows, swaying side to side with their heads thrown back, chanting those alien phrases over and over. And beyond them…
The blood drained from his face as he saw – as he felt – what was beyond them.
An oval of pure darkness hung in the air, twisted lines of what looked like grey-blue wire undulating from its round edges. The elder stood before the hole in the air, body swaying in time with the rest of the tribe, his reedy, high-pitched voice twisting above theirs as he chanted with them.
Brice watched, eyes widening, as one of his knights walked towards the black hole, head down, feet barely lifting from the ground. By the breadth of the man’s shoulders and the tail of hair at the nape of his neck it had to be Mar.
The tribe-leader raised his staff and began spinning it, slowly at first. That same unearthly wailing sound rose into the air, spreading through and around the chanting, binding the whole together into something that Brice now felt as an insistent, rhythmic pressure, as if a ghost were pushing against him again and again.
The captain reached the black oval and stopped. His head rose slowly as he looked at it, looked into it. The old man’s staff was spinning faster now, little more than a circular blur to Brice’s eyes, and the grey-blue wires, still undulating, moved towards Mar, reaching out for him.
Brice fought with all he had not to spring up and rush headlong into the tribal circle. He was alone, and had only a staff for a weapon. There was nothing he could do except keep watching, learn as much as he could, and then return with more knights. Brice thought he heard Mar try to say something, but the sound died away as the grey-blue wires draped over the captain, wrapping around his arms, legs, neck, head, and waist.
He watched Mar stiffen and hoped he would never have to face the kind of terror the captain had to be enduring now. And then, Mar was yanked into the dark, the movement so quick that Brice almost missed it. He stared, disbelieving.
Mar was gone.
The chanting immediately became a cry of jubilation that broke from every throat, except Brice’s. The tribesmen began jumping and dancing, hands thrown in the air, laughing and babbling in their alien tongue. Brice felt his heart break, but he bore down brutally, forcing his mind to accept what he had seen.
After driving himself to take a couple of calming breaths, he pushed himself back into the grass, not rising until he was well away from the site of the ritual.
It had been a ritual of some kind. He just hoped that, wherever the knights were – whether they were pulled into the dark sphere as Mar had been, or kept somewhere else by the tribesmen – they were still alive.
Brice finally rose and sprinted off through the darkness, not caring how much noise he made. He had to get back to the ship. Two hundred knights were still on-board the Current, and he would lead them here, against the tribesmen, and into the darkness itself if it meant rescuing Mar and the other knights.
THE MAN BEHIND THE BOOK
Dave de Burgh wanted to be an artist and speak French, but Fate saved him and pointed him in the direction of writing. He’s a bookseller, co-parent to three wonderful Pekingese ‘kids’, reads Speculative Fiction voraciously, and is the luckiest guy in the world because he has a blonde, blue-eyed woman in his life who supports his need to write and be crazy.
He lives in Pretoria, South Africa, and when he’s not writing he’s probably secretly laughing at cognitively challenged bookstore-customers. He’s on Blogger, Twitter, WordPress, Facebook and Instagram.
CONNECT WITH DAVE-BRENDON