Benjamin Sperduto

Fantasy, Horror, & Science Fiction Author

Month: April 2017

Mirona’s Law Available Now!

The day is finally here! Mirona’s Law is available now in Amazon Kindle format. The paperback version should be following soon, so I’ll be sure to make an announcement when it’s available.

As the second book in the Chronicles of Rostogov series, Mirona’s Law picks up roughly one month after the events of The Walls of Dalgorod. Much of the action takes place in the city of Dalgorod as its leading families vie for political power, but the story also sprawls far beyond the city walls to reveal some of the ancient land’s darkest secrets.

Mirona’s Law also provides a completely new perspective on Rostogov by taking readers deeper into the Krovwood, the vast forest sprawling across the northernmost reaches of the realm, and exploring the culture of its inhabitants, the Idanlucht. Fans of The Walls of Dalgorod will know the Idanlucht better by the name Rostogovians have given them: the Dikarie.

As a teaser, here’s a special sneak peek at the opening pages of Mirona’s Law:

***

The southerner screamed when Cáel grabbed his hair and pressed the scian’s obsidian blade against his throat. A quick slash cut through the thin layer of muscle and sliced his windpipe open. Air hissed out from the wound before the blood gushed forth, pouring down the southerner’s face. His shrieking gave way to choked gasps as his lungs frantically pumped their remaining wind into the cold morning air.

A woman knelt beside the southerner’s suspended body, catching his blood in a trencher carved out of tree bark. She muttered incantations under her breath, mixing together the tongues of tribes both living and forgotten. Though young for a cailleach, she went about her grisly work with a practiced confidence.

Cáel stepped back from the dangling southerner. Most of the tribe had gathered to observe the ceremony, crowding in all around their saeglonn and the cailleach. A dreadful silence hung over their encampment, as if the forest itself dared not disturb the sacred ritual.

After the southerner’s blood filled the trencher, the cailleach stood and held it aloft for all the assembled tribesmen to see.

“We make this offering to you, Mother of Our Blood,” she said. “A token of our faithfulness, and a promise to be fulfilled. Accept our humble service, and give us your blessing.”

She stepped toward Cáel and extended the trencher to him. Faint wisps of steam rose from the dark liquid inside. He raised the bloody blade.

“May the Mother claim what is hers by right,” he said as he dipped the scian into the blood.

A chill swept over his skin. The cailleach blinked twice. Between the blinks, Cáel saw something different in her eyes, a presence that vanished as quickly as it appeared.

He pulled the scian out of the trencher. Not a trace of blood remained on its black blade.

The cailleach smiled wide enough to bare her pointed canines.

“Our Mother is with us!”

The tribesmen gathered around them cheered, thrusting their weapons into the air and howling in anticipation of shedding Rostogovian blood.

Cáel knelt before the cailleach as she dipped her fingers into the blood.

“Go now with our Mother’s blessing, Cáel, son of Nuadha, Saeglonn of the Idanlucht.”

She painted a symbol on his face with the southerner’s blood.

“May her fury guide your killing hand.”

When she finished, Cáel rose and turned to the crowd surrounding them.

“Make ready, brothers and sisters! Tonight we bathe in the blood of Rostogov!”

Another cheer went up, this one much louder. Cáel let them revel for a few moments before giving the signal to break camp and march to the edge of the forest. The Rostogovians would be waiting for them there, several thousand strong and supported by cavalry, but the southerners remained ignorant of the Idanlucht’s strength. Cáel’s carefully placed patrols intercepted every scouting party, and the morning’s heavy fog promised to help conceal his overall strategy.

The She-Wolf herself had made the long journey from Dalgorod to lead the campaign. If she fell in battle, the kneeling lords of Rostogov might well turn on each other, just as they did in the days of Cáel’s youth. With no one to coordinate the northern defenses, the Idanlucht would finally be free to retake the lands stolen from their ancestors so long ago. After generations of humiliation and defeat, vengeance was finally close at hand.

Their encampment stood about a mile inside the lightly wooded outskirts of the forest. Although the camp gave the impression of a single, unified force, every Idanlucht warrior recognized the distinct boundaries between the prominent tribes. Cáel’s Scathfaile tribe occupied the core of the encampment, serving as a barrier between the others. The Ilarcrobs camped on the northeast side of the Scathfailes, far from their longtime enemies, the Morbeithirs, who took up position on the opposite side to the southwest. Situated to the northwest, the Finnbrans made sure the rivals remained separated. Several small clans of tribeless warriors filled in the rest of the area surrounding the Scathfaile encampment. While the túathaches acknowledged Cáel’s authority as saeglonn and obeyed his commands, their tribes remained wary of one another.

The warband numbered around four thousand fighters in all. Cáel wished he could have rallied more to his cause, but the Cattridirean tribe of the eastern forest, so seldom united under a single túathach who might be amenable to such an alliance, proved intractable. It remained an impressive force nonetheless, certainly larger than any Idanlucht warband in living memory. Every man and woman there had some fighting experience, though not as part of such a large force. Most of their experience came from raiding settlements south of the forest and fighting the poorly equipped militias that defended them.

Cáel found Fiachra waiting for him outside his hut. Túathach of the Ilarcrobs, Fiachra came from a long line of proud warriors. His father and grandfather before him won great renown fighting the Rostogovians, and many tribal elders expected that he would be the one to unite the tribes once more. It came as a great shock, then, when Cáel bested him in single combat to assert his dominance over the Ilarcrob tribe. The last and most powerful of the túathaches to bend the knee, Fiachra proved a natural choice for Cáel’s deisred, the first among the subordinate túathaches and principal advisor to the saeglonn in all military and political matters.

Tall and muscular, Fiachra wore his long black hair in the traditional fashion among Finnbran warriors, braided into a single, ropy cord that hung down past his shoulders. He bowed his head slightly when Cáel approached.

“Saeglonn.”

All around them, warriors gathered their weapons and donned their armor. Once dressed for battle, they made their way to the southern edge of the encampment. Organization remained loose, with most of the warriors staying close to their kin and trusted friends. Family rivalries within the tribes ran deep, making it impossible for Cáel to reorganize his warband into a more structured fighting force. As much as he despised the Rostogovians, he greatly admired their military organization.

He glanced up at Fiachra.

“Walk with me.”

The deisred fell in beside him and the two followed the steady stream of men marching southward. Cáel waited to speak until Fiachra betrayed a sign of impatience, which manifested this time as a poorly stifled sigh.

“The southerners will expect us to come in strength.”

Fiachra grunted. “They will break, Saeglonn.”

A large group of warriors overtook them and called out Cáel’s name as they went past. Cáel slapped his fist against his chest in response, which made them shout with approval. Clad in hardened animal hides and armed with their wooden clolorgs, their fearsome appearance was sure to terrify the southerners.

But they were not gathering to attack a poorly defended village. Cáel wondered how many of such raids ended at the first sight of a well-armed garrison force.

“Some of them, maybe,” he said. “But not the She-Wolf. Not the Iron Bear.”

Fiachra scowled. “It makes no matter. Even they cannot stand against so many.”

Cáel stopped. Fiachra took another two steps before halting to look back at him.

“What does my deisred advise, then?”

Fiachra measured his reply, perhaps wondering whether or not the question was a trick to make him look foolish. Had he not been genuinely interested in the deisred’s opinion, Cáel might have enjoyed his discomfort.

“We must hit them fast, find some way to get behind them and cut them off.”

Cáel nodded. “Agreed. But what about their horsemen?”

Fiachra shrugged. “We have spears. If they charge us, we can—”

“They won’t. The horsemen will wait until we’re fighting, then run us down from behind and drive us into their army’s steel.”

“What then?”

Cáel surveyed the encampment. The thick fog showed no signs of dissipating anytime soon. Even on the open field beyond the forest, visibility would be severely limited. The southerners might even have difficulty making out the tree line from the far side of the field, leaving them slow to react to the warband’s movements.

“Have the Morbeithirs take position at the forefront. Tell them I’ve given them the honor of breaking the horsemen.”

Fiachra glared down at him. “Saeglonn, you promised me that my people would draw first blood.”

Cáel smiled.

“Promised” is a strong word.

“I have a better gift for you,” he said. “You will help me strike the killing blow. Gather your fighters to the right of the Morbeithirs, but keep well clear of them. I’ll place the Scathfailes to their left.”

The formation would leave significant gaps in their ranks. Fiachra bit his lower lip, plainly uncomfortable with the proposal. He had enough fighting experience to know that if the Rostogovian cavalry penetrated their lines, then the battle promised to end swiftly and bloodily.

“Bring the túathaches and their kinfolk to me when you’ve finished. When it begins, we must act as one.”

Fiachra went back to scowling. “Saeglonn, I don’t think it’s wise to—”

“That will be all, Deisred.”

Cáel glanced down at Fiachra’s clenched fists. He placed his hand over the clolorg dangling from his belt. “Unless you’d care to revisit what’s already been settled?”

He glared at Fiachra, his gaze stern and unblinking. Although the deisred outweighed him by several stones, Cáel knew a tiny, nagging sting of doubt festered in Fiachra’s mind. He waited for it to come to the surface, watched for the faint quavering of the eyelids that always accompanied the realization.

The doubt gave way to shame, and Fiachra looked away. “No, Saeglonn.”

“Good,” Cáel said. “Then carry my words to the túathaches before they think to strike out on their own.”

Fiachra nodded curtly and strode off, leaving Cáel standing near the edge of the encampment. He joined the horde of warriors marching southward and soon disappeared into the fog. Cáel wondered how frightened the southerners would be to see them emerge from the fog, weapons raised as they screamed for blood.

The thought made him smile.

But not so much as the image of a panicked Rostogovian driving a spear into Fiachra’s chest.

***

Mirona’s Law is available now on Amazon. If you enjoy this second installment of the Chronicles of Rostogov, be sure to take a few moments and leave a review on the Amazon page. If you missed the first book, The Walls of Dalgorod, now is a perfect time to get started! The first installment is available in both ebook and paperback format.

Mirona’s Law is Almost Here!

It’s hard to believe, but the big day is almost here! Mirona’s Law will finally be available this Tuesday (April 18).

As the second book in the Chronicles of Rostogov series, Mirona’s Law picks up roughly one month after the events of The Walls of Dalgorod. Much of the action takes place in the city of Dalgorod as its leading families vie for political power, but the story also sprawls far beyond the city walls to reveal some of the ancient land’s darkest secrets.

The ebook version will be available on April 18, with the paperback following shortly afterward. Here’s a special sneak peak at the cover:

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