#SPFBO Saturday : Excerpt from Hall of Bones (The Brotherhood of the Eagle #1) by Tim Hardie

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As part of the SPFBO Competition each weekend I am hoping to post guest blog posts inviting authors taking part in the competition to visit my blog to either write an article, discuss covers, take part in an interview or post an excerpt or teaser for their work.  If you’d like to pay me a visit then don’t forget to leave me a comment (*ahem* if you’ve left me a comment and I haven’t replied feel free to nudge me) 😀

This weekend I’m really pleased to welcome back to my blog Tim Hardie, author of Hall of Bones, the first book in The Brotherhood of the Eagle series.  Hall of Bones is one of the submissions allocated to Lynnsbooks/The Critiquing Chemist.  I recently interviewed Tim and you can find the questions and answers here and today I’m posting an excerpt from Hall of Bones.

By way of background here’s the description for Hall of Bones:

In the remote land of Laskar the seven ruling clans have vied with each other for power for over a century. The son of the Reavesburg Clan Chief, Rothgar, has been groomed all his life for a role supporting his elder brother, Jorik, in leading their kingdom when their father’s time finally comes to an end.

However, the rulers of their greatest rivals, the Vorund Clan, are in the grip of something older and far darker. They have been conquered by evil, a remnant from the time when the gods warred with one another and the world of Amuran collapsed into the Fallen Age.

Tim very kindly provided me with two excellent pieces but I’ve chosen a scene from Chapter 11 which is an action scene featuring Rothgar Kolfinnarson, a young and inexperienced warrior.  Rothgar finds himself forced to duel with longstanding rival, a character called Gautarr Falrufson, for the right to lead their clan.  This is an excellent teaser, I loved it, and it ends in a way that is guaranteed to leave you wanting more.  Take a look:

HoBs

***

The courtyard of Ulfkell’s Keep was deathly silent, although there was a great crowd of onlookers gathered around the large circle chalked on the ground to mark out the boundary for the contest.  There were no rowdy shouts of encouragement as I stepped forward.  Somewhere, someone was sobbing.  Looking up I spied Desta, her long dark hair soaked through by the rain, plastering it to her head.  Etta stood by her, a bony hand resting on Desta’s shoulder, her face almost hidden beneath a dark hood.  I swallowed.  This was not a crowd looking forward to a fight: they were mourners at my funeral.  Well, at least I had a good turnout.

The rain would be a problem.  The heavy downpour had appeared from nowhere, rolling in from the sea and soaking everything.  The cobbles of the courtyard were slick and treacherous underfoot, the water already washing away the hastily-drawn lines of the combat circle.  I rolled my shoulders as I felt the annoying rain dripping down my collar and into my chainmail armour.  I would soon have more pressing concerns as Gautarr strode into the circle to a subdued cheer.  Beaded droplets of water gathered on the banded steel armour he wore and speckled his grey beard.  Ragnar handed him his helmet and he pushed it firmly onto his head.

“Come on, boy.  No one wants to stand around in this weather longer than they have to.”  He looked at the onlookers, expecting some response from his joke.  Other than Audwin laughing half-heartedly there was some faint coughing in the crowd and Desta’s muffled sobs.  Gautarr might have won the vote at the clan moot but out here, surrounded by the people of Reavesburg, it was clear he had little support.  Despite being their favourite it was also obvious no one thought I stood a chance.

“Just remember what I taught you,” muttered Olfridor quietly as he handed me my helmet.  “Gautarr’s blows will be powerful but a sword is faster.  Use your speed to your advantage and there might well be a twist in this tale, son.”  I nodded, the raindrops pattering dully on the surface of my helm as I stepped into the circle.

Gautarr took a few steps forwards, until we were close to one another in the middle of the ring.  Here, the grey curtain of rain hid the onlookers from sight, as if the two of us were alone in the courtyard.  Ragnar’s stifled shout of support for his father registered on the limit of my hearing, as if he’d been calling from the docks rather than a few feet away.  I realised it mattered little if hundreds watched me die.  All my focus was drawn towards the powerfully-built man before me.  Gautarr’s body was packed with hard muscle.  He’d been fighting the Vorund Clan before I was born, and if age had taken some of his speed he’d lost none of his strength or experience.  The hot anger I felt in the Great Hall had long since melted away, replaced by an odd sense of detachment.  Only one of us would leave this circle alive.  I concentrated on the task in hand, embracing the risk of death just as I had on the beach in Noln.  Olfridor Halfhand had trained me to be a warrior: death was just an occupational hazard, after all.  Gautarr’s expression changed as he looked down on me, the big man a head taller.  He had expected to see cowardice and fear in his opponent; now all he saw was determination.

“You meet your fate well, boy,” he said.  “I’ve got to respect you for that.  There’s no dishonour in walking away from a fight you can’t win.”

“Alright.  You can walk away if you want, old man.  I won’t hold it against you.”

Gautarr chuckled.  “I gave you every chance, lad.”  He raised his axe, planted his feet and moved forwards, swinging the heavy weapon round with both hands in a wide arc.

I watched the axe whistling towards my head, cutting through the rain and leaving a trail of spray behind it.  The whole move seemed to take an absurdly long time, easily allowing me to step out of harm’s way.  Raising my shield, I swung my own sword, cutting at Gautarr’s side before he could recover from his stroke.  The man grunted with effort as he changed the direction of his attack, parrying my blow and replying with one of his own.  I blocked with my shield, feeling the impact of the blow as it numbed my forearm and sent a jolt of pain up into my shoulder.  Gautarr pressed on, hammering at my defences, forcing me back, step by step.

My sword darted out, hissing through the rain, missing Gautarr’s body by a hair’s breadth.  Gautarr’s eyes went wide, stark white orbs in the shadow of his helmet.  I cut back again, forcing the older warrior to duck to one side as my blade whistled past his head.  It gave me a chance to go on the attack but Gautarr blocked my next strike with the shaft of his great axe.  I tried to slide my sword down its length to shear away Gautarr’s fingers, remembering how effective that move had been at Noln.  Gautarr was wise to the trick, pulling away sharply.  I staggered forwards, carried on by my own momentum and cursed as my legs were swept from under me by the axe shaft.  I heard a sharp communal intake of breath from the hidden crowd as I rolled with the blow, metal scraping harshly on the slick cobbles.  I found my feet and whirled round to face Gautarr as he bore down on me once more.

I felt a sharp pain stab from my ankle, running up the length of my left leg and into my hip – the fight was aggravating my injury from Noln.  I clenched my teeth and pushed it from my mind as I met Gautarr head on and we clashed in a flurry of blows.  Suddenly my sword locked with the head of Gautarr’s axe.  We stared for a moment, the older man’s face fixed with a fierce grin, as we tested each other’s strength.  My wrist began to ache as I clung on grimly.  I had a knife tucked into my belt – little use against this brute of a man if I allowed him to disarm me.  Without warning I stepped in closer, slamming my shield into the warrior, sending him reeling backwards.  I was aware of a distant throbbing in my leg as I slashed my freed sword left and right, watching as Gautarr lazily parried each blow.  Then I lurched to one side as my left foot skidded on the wet ground, crying out involuntarily with the pain.

“Now that’s unfortunate,” hissed Gautarr, taking a step back to allow a pause in the fight.  “It’s not always the last battle that kills you.  An injury picked up another time can come back to bite you, if your body’s not strong enough.  That’s the difference between seasoned wood and a sapling, I guess.”  I breathed in deeply and watched Gautarr’s chest heaving.  The man was taking this opportunity to draw breath, riling me as he tried to gather his own strength.

“How poetic,” I snarled, springing forward, aware even as I did so that I was now having to favour my right leg.  I raised my sword and brought it crashing down.  Gautarr was faster than I expected, and I cut through clean air, my blade jarring in my hand as it sent up sparks from the damp courtyard stones.  Gautarr jabbed at me with the butt of his axe, the point of the shaft finding its way through my defences and cracking me in my ribs as I struggled to recover my position.  I pushed the pain aside as I swept my sword round, trying to retake the initiative.

Gautarr was a canny opponent.  He allowed me to press forward, blocking my blows and forcing me to come on towards him.  The effort was taking its toll and I realised I was now limping with each step, my breathing ragged, ribs burning with pain.  Suddenly the pattern changed, Gautarr whirling his great axe about his head and hammering my shield and sword with heavy blows, too fast for me to even think of a counter-attack.  I gasped, my mind racing, as I tried to move back quickly enough to take myself out of the warrior’s range.  I needed time to think and catch my breath – Gautarr allowed me no such luxury.

I took another step and without warning my weakened leg gave way under me, sending me crashing down hard onto my back on the stones, winded and gasping for air.  The force of the impact jarred my sword from my hand and I watched, despairing, as it clattered out of reach and Gautarr loomed above me.  My hand scrabbled for the knife in my belt but my foe was unrelenting, blows hammering down on my shield and causing me to cry out in fury as I realised the inevitability of my fate.  Finally, Gautarr hooked the head of his axe onto the rim of my shield and with a great shout he pulled hard, splitting the straps holding it in place.  He sent my shield bouncing off into the crowd and followed through with a kick to my stomach, breaking the knife I clutched desperately in my hand, leaving me sprawled, face down, on the wet cobbles.  All the air was gone from my body.  I could no more find the strength to raise myself than pick up Ulfkell’s Keep, so I waited for the final blow that would end the contest.

**Ends**

Don’t you just love it – if you’d like to find out more here are a few links you can follow:

About the Author:

THTim Hardie grew up in the seaside town of Southport during the 1970s and 1980s. This was before anyone had even heard of the internet and Dungeons & Dragons was cutting edge. Living in a house where every available wall was given over to bookshelves, he discovered fantasy writers like JRR Tolkien, Michael Moorcock, Ursula Le Guin, Alan Garner, Stephen Donaldson and Susan Cooper. Those stories led him into the science fiction worlds created by Frank Herbert, Philip K Dick, Arthur C Clarke and HP Lovecraft.

After training to become a lawyer Tim lived in London for three years before moving to Yorkshire in 1999, where he has worked ever since in a variety of legal, commercial, financial and management roles. His writing began as a hobby in his early twenties and has gradually grown into something else that now threatens to derail his promising career.

Tim writes epic fantasy that will appeal to fans of Joe Abercrombie, John Gwynne and Robin Hobb.

Twitter: timhardieauthor

One Response to “#SPFBO Saturday : Excerpt from Hall of Bones (The Brotherhood of the Eagle #1) by Tim Hardie”

  1. Tammy

    Awesome excerpt and it ended at the perfect time😁 Thanks for sharing.

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