Wednesday, 25 August 2010

News: Read an Excerpt from Firebrand by Gillian Philip!

Thanks to Strident Publishing, I have the prologue from Rebel Angels: Firebrand for you to read. It's out now in the UK, and here's what it's about:

It is the last decade of the sixteenth century: a time of religious wars in the full-mortal world. But the Sithe are at peace, hidden behind the Veil that protects their world until their queen, Kate NicNiven, determines to destroy it. Seth MacGregor is the half-feral son of a Sithe nobleman. When his father is assassinated, and Seth is exiled with his brother Conal to the full-mortal world, they vow not only to survive, but to return to reclaim their fortress and save the Veil. But even the Veil s power cannot protect the brothers when the brutal witch-hunts begin...



Rebel Angels
Book One

Firebrand


by Gillian Philip

Published by
Strident Publishing Ltd
info@stridentpublishing.co.uk
www.stridentpublishing.co.uk

© Gillian Philip 2010

The author has asserted her moral right under
the Design, Patents and copyright Act, 1988
to be identified as the Author of this Work.

A catalogue record for this book is
available from the British Library.

ISBN 978-1-905537-19-8


Gillian Philip was born in Glasgow and has been writing all her life, starting with short but frenetic novels about Captain Scarlet and The Man From UNCLE (having massive crushes on both). She has worked as a barmaid, theatre usherette, record store assistant, radio presenter, typesetter, and political assistant to a parliamentary candidate. While living in Barbados, where her steadiest job was as a singer in an Irish bar, she took up writing professionally, and wrote many short stories for women’s magazines. In 2001 she moved back to Scotland, and now lives in Morayshire with husband Ian, twins Lucy and Jamie, Cluny the Labrador, psycho cats The Ghost and The Darkness, and four nervous fish.


----------


This dabbling with the other world
is a perilous undertaking.
And I have risked a glamour which can
only be exorcised by fire, by cold iron.
Catherine Czerkawska
The Secret Commonwealth



The courtyard stinks of animals and muck and human waste. And wasted humans, I can’t help thinking, because beneath the stench and the louring sunset sky lies the taint of death, like a stain that can’t be shifted. My brother isn’t the first to die here, and he won’t be the last.
I rub my filthy arm across my nose, and then across my eyes because they’re blurred and I can’t see properly. Then I shut them altogether and curl up against the parapet. I want to be a hundred miles away, but what use would I be to Conal then? Anyway, the hideous weight of the crossbow in my arms can’t be ignored. I hate crossbows, I always have: a horrible weapon, brutal and distant, and I’ve never liked to touch them or even look at them. It’s as if I was born knowing I’ve an appointment with one that I’m not going to want to keep.
I sniff and rub my eyes again, wishing I could be more of a man, wishing I wasn’t so afraid. I’m sixteen years old, more than old enough to kill and die, a lot older than I was when I watched my father die, hacked almost to bits and still scrabbling for a last breath. His death couldn’t be avoided and neither can this one. What’s the point of premature grief?
My eyes jerk open. A clattering rattle of wheels on flagstones, and I glance over my shoulder. This is a good vantage point, but I’ll likely be seen as soon as I fire, and I’ll have to be fast to get down the tower walls and away. I can’t think about that, not now. The mob that so far has been muted, only muttering with the day’s excitement, now raise their voices as one, turning as if by black magic into a single howling beast. I make myself look. And I gasp.
That isn’t my brother, it can’t be. That is not Cù Chaorach, Hound of the Sheep, Father of his Clann. He’s never been so thin. His face is half-blackened and bloody, his hair is gone, sheared roughly off. His shirt is ripped and frayed and through the gashes in the linen I can see the bloody marks of a lash on his back.
Oh, no. No. The girl is with Conal. She can’t be any older than me, and she’s taken a few beatings too, poor cow. I’ve never seen such bruised terror in a human face, and she is weeping uncontrollably. Their hands are bound but Conal’s shoulder is pressed hard against hers, and when they’re yanked apart and thrust down from the cart, he quickly recovers his footing and presses close to her once more. There’s a dark stain on her filthy grey shift: she’s wet herself. And my brother, the great noble fool, is all concern for her, when she’s one of them, and in slightly altered circumstances she’d have been howling at him with the rest of the mob.
He turns his face to hers, his lips move. It’s all rubbish, probably. He’s telling her it’ll be over quickly, she needn’t be scared. The liar.
Gods, Conal, you’re going to want me to fire twice. Do I have time?
I can’t do this alone, I was never any use without him. I can’t stop myself calling out to him.
~ Conal!
Conal goes very still, but he doesn’t look up. As he whispers to the girl once more a smile spreads across his wounded face, a smile of pure happiness.
~ Seth!
‘Look at the warlock, he’s grinning!’ Something flies out of the crowd and strikes Conal’s cheekbone, making him stagger. ‘Happy, scum? You’ll be seeing your Master soon!’
‘Aye, not soon enough!’ Raucous laughter. ‘See if he smiles when he’s burning!’
‘The Satan-spawn won’t smile when he’s burning in Hell!’
Hatred rushes over me in such a hot violent tide I’m dizzy with it. It’s the tail-end of the sixteenth century, for gods’ sake: when do these people plan to evolve?
My fingers tighten on the crossbow. Then I can feel his mind inside mine, soothing, reassuring, the way it’s been since I was a feral snarling infant and he tamed me.
~ Murlainn. Little brother. Don’t lose your focus!
~ Conal, I can’t fire twice! I haven’t time!
~ Yes, you have. Don’t panic. Turning his face briefly to the girl, Conal manages to kiss her hacked and shorn scalp before she is yanked away and hauled up onto the pile of firewood.
~ She’s nothing to us. She’s one of them!
Conal’s head angles very slightly upwards, as if he’d like to look right at me and give me a real piece of his mind. I see the flicker of a smile.
~ She has a name, Seth.
I don’t want to know. I don’t want to know her damned name. I’m here for Conal.
~ Catriona. Her name’s Catriona. His eyes almost find mine across the hazy dusk, and he half-smiles. And with that he knows I’ll do it. He must have known I’d do it anyway. I’d do anything for him.
He’s dragged up behind her and bound to the same stake, ropes tightened around them both. He strains his fingers enough to touch the girl’s, and he’s speaking to her again, but I doubt she can hear him above the noise of the baying crowd. The pale-eyed priest steps forward, robes billowing, a black crow hungry for carrion. He stays in the long shadow of the courtyard wall; I notice that. Smiling, he raises his bible.
~ Be calm, Seth. Hands steady, both eyes open, remember.
~ Conal, I…
~ I love you, little brother. I’ll see you again, I promise.
Oh, no, we’ll never meet again. I stare down at the priest, his ringing declamations of hatred raised above the yells of the mob. Not in that devil’s heaven. It doesn’t exist, and worse, there’s no hell for him to go to after he’s died screaming at my hands.
That’s my promise, Cù Chaorach.
But I don’t let Conal hear it. I block it coldly away, because he wouldn’t approve, even now. My hands are steady now; my hatred helps a lot. I’m glad I don’t have time to shoot the priest as well. A bolt to the heart would be too fast.
~ I love you, Cù Chaorach. I’m sorry.
~ I’m glad you’re here. Don’t be sorry. Be quick.
I roll onto my stomach. I won’t be seen; I do have time. No one’s looking upwards toward my hiding place, no one wants to miss a moment of the spectacle. Probably they’ll take a while to realise what’s happened in the confusion. I may hate crossbows but I’m good with them: he taught me himself. I can get in two shots. I can reload, fire, and still get away. Yes.
I level my gaze and aim. The girl first, so she’ll know nothing, and so Conal will know I’ve done it and be pleased with me.
And then, Conal. My brother, my friend, my Captain. My father in every way that ever mattered. Oh, please, you nonexistent gods, please give me the strength.
Two men step from behind the priest, blazing torches held high.
That’s it. I blink away the sweat and the tears and the terror. And my mind is as cold as my heart as I tighten my finger on the trigger.

3 comments:

Becky said...

I LOVE this book!

girlsinthestacks.com said...

This SO sounds like a book I would devour in one night!!!

Keren David said...

Such a great book..and I don't usually like fantasy.