Today I have a special treat for you all: an excerpt from the new fantasy novel Precipice: Act One of the A Show for the Gods Series by Anthony DeRouen! I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did.
Chapter 16 – Spring the Trap
Danika scrutinized the milling crowd below for signs of her mysterious man in brown. Hundreds packed within the dusty streets of the Hathant Market, filling the humid air with noise and heavy drum music. The varying degrees of their dark, ashy skin stood in contrast with their green, blue and red djellabas or kaftans. Those from across the sea wore burnished head wraps and scarves, keeping a noticeable distance from the locals. Danika marked the visitors of Ferran in their lavish red décor and gaudy jewelry.
They surveyed the fruit stands, the spice racks, the stands of fresh meat, the bakers, the herbalists, even the peddlers. Nothing appeared out of place, with no sign of her man.
Suwash’s contact could have chosen any of the surrounding streets; the same boisterous scene was everywhere. Four streets, all crammed with people, ran parallel to Rotus Street, where Danika watched and waited along with a score of plain-clothed soldiers.
She stood on the rooftop of Varna’s Embroidery & Materials, a trendy shop Danika frequented on occasion. She pulled her hand off the flaking white plaster and brushed the flakes to the ground. Its arching cutouts and blue shutters mimicked those of many other shops in the Hathant market.
The farther one traveled out of Hathant Market, the more commonplace the setting became, although Medainshel was a modern city unto itself. The shop’s white plastered walls had turned ashen in a few places from its long years under the relentless
Plaster laborers carried buckets and brushes walking over the rooftops nearby. Danika’s men who stood upon the roofs found what little cover they could behind the metallic railing along the ledges.
She chose this building since the rooftop’s ledge stood directly across from the arranged meeting place. Despite the enormous burden of responsibility on her shoulders, Danika was not alone in this fight. She commanded a host of soldiers trained to defend their land using whatever means necessary, and they always caught their man, one way or another. Even if she had to employ the full might of her battalions stationed within the sprawling capitol, Danika had the resolve to find the persons responsible for the Lenasia village attack and punish them.
She would put the squeeze on every snitch, weasel, bully, bandit and hoodlum in the city. If someone had answers, Danika would hunt them down and make them sing until their throats grew parched.
Hundreds of people were below; Danika could only imagine what else she might be missing.
How many plots existed against Ahnar? How many people wished to do harm to her beloved city?
How infested had the streets of Medainshel become under her watch?
Danika quickly derailed her spiraling thought process, refocusing her attention on the boisterous street below. The colorful headscarves and sun hats didn’t make things easier either. Danika had very little information to rely on: slick look, medium build, straight hair, dust cloak. She prayed to the heavens that he would show himself before reaching Suwash.
Danika diverted her vision left. The wide dusty street ended a few hundred paces away, melding into the Maret pier. People of all colors and ages packed Medainshel’s northeastern harbor; customers, tourists, sailors, fishermen, merchants, and ship hands; Matheran, Prystan, Sanuran. Everyone shopped at the Hathant market. Fishing vessels both large and small swayed against the gentle blue currents. Danika could hear a steady drum beat from below, through the din of commotion. Shop owners screamed out their wares, raucous laughter from the taverns and barkeeps drifted up and down the block.
Her people were everywhere; at the docks, near the fish and
crab stores, across from where Suwash sat outside a boisterous tavern, on rooftops across and adjacent to Danika’s perch.
Danika angled the spyglass back to Suwash. His posture
seemed comfortable, with legs crossed, and his head resting on a crooked arm over the chair. She wondered if anyone felt a knot in their stomach or a quickening of their heartbeat. Danika excelled during tense moments such as these, even if she felt nervous.
“Too much activity around him,” Danika said. “I can’t see anything beyond his chair longer than a moment.” She handed Mara the spyglass. “I’m heading down for a closer look. Keep an eye on him from up here. If anything happens, give the signal.”
At street level, Danika quickly discovered she could see even less. Realizing her error in judgment, she made her way across the busy street, angling her approach near the corner store where Suwash lounged and waited. She blocked out the deafening raucous of a hundred shouts and voices all blaring at once. Danika explored a crate of green apples while maintaining eye contact with Suwash, who noticed the general.
Angered shouts turned Danika around. Two men near the center of the road exchanged a series of curses and shaking fists. Danika recognized one as a merchant who sold bowstrings and fletchings beside the fruit stand.
She glanced at Suwash before striding towards the arguing men. “What is going on here?” she bellowed above the tumult, physically separating the men. “One of you better speak, and quickly!”
The merchant jabbed an accusing finger at the other man. “He pocketed four strings and didn’t pay!”
“I paid!” the buyer argued, offering a half-filled pouch as evidence. Danika watched silently. “How did I get this if I didn’t pay?”
“Anyone could have given you that pouch. That means nothing! Now you owe me six gold coins. Pay me!”
Danika gritted her teeth and forced the buyer away. “That’s enough, you two. Not any closer.”
The buyer cast Danika a threatening glare, as he loomed closer.
“Who are you to interfere, woman? Are you working for him?” He swatted Danika’s hand away. “Do not touch me lest I
leave a blemish on that pretty face of yours.”
Danika gestured up the road. “I think you should leave, sir. And do not return.” She motioned again for him to leave, and he reluctantly disappeared into the crowd. Danika’s current mission was the only reason she let him go. Otherwise, he would have found himself in very hot water.
“But he owes me gold, General!” the merchant pleaded, his hands out begging.
“You will get your gold,” Danika growled, urging the merchant back towards his shop. “Now leave it be. If he returns, call the guard.”
After the merchant cooled off, Danika reimbursed him for the lost sale using what coins she had floating in her pocket.
High above the city, Danika’s soldiers kept their eyes trained on Suwash. Mara spotted a hooded figure appearing beside him through her spyglass. She moved the spyglass to Danika’s position, and saw that the General’s back was turned away from the target. Mara hissed through clenched teeth.
“I see him,” Mara said, repositioning her glass. “He’s coming up behind the woman in the wide-brimmed hat, across the street.” Mara pointed with her free hand. “Do you see him, Thevo?” She handed him the instrument. After a few moments, he nodded, then handed back the glass.
“He’s reached Suwash,” he confirmed.
“Faron has them,” said Thevo, standing on Mara’s left, watching the events transpire below. “He’s making his way towards the corner. Where is Danika? I don’t see her.”
Thevo pointed to where Danika stood, talking with a nearby merchant. Whatever they were discussing seemed intense, and took all of Danika’s attention. The man pulled back his hood, revealing slicked-back hair. He was of a moderate build, with no cape, and wore a light brown tunic over dark trousers, just as Suwash had described him. He stood over Suwash, blocking Mara’s view of their discussion. Unfortunately, nobody was close enough to listen.
“What’s going on? I can’t see anything,” Thevo muttered bitterly. Mara leaned to her right, no use. Thevo slapped the ledge in frustration.
“Suwash handed him the map,” she said, angling her chin over the ledge. “I just saw the hand-off. We have to get down there!
Someone alert Danika, the exchange has happened.”
“They’re gone.” Thevo flashed Mara a look of surprise before double-checking himself.
The seat left vacant, Suwash and his friend were gone. Faron lay on his side less than four paces away, blood streaming from his
nose and mouth. The backs of two men entered a narrow alley between the tavern and the bowyer across the short expanse.
Running a frustrated hand through her black hair, Danika left the merchant’s shop to check on Suwash, only to find his chair empty.
A small crowd had gathered around Faron’s unconscious body. Danika raced for the corner store, shouting for people to make room. She skidded to a halt beside him, her right hand cradling the side of his face. Within a split moment, Danika expelled a thread of healing energy into his body and found his wound: a blunt force strike to his head with a small device, maybe a pipe or staff. More importantly, Faron would live.
Adjusting from her crouched position, Danika motioned wildly for everyone to converge on the market and find Suwash. Soldiers passed signals from rooftop to rooftop, and those posted across the street began moving stealthily along the walls, keeping a close eye on the escaping pair below. Danika led Thevo across the bustling street. Mara and Faron stayed behind, in case the agent double-backed.
“They are in the alley, and we’re taking him down. Dyllt and Thefi are literally standing over them. Salbador is taking the long way around, just in case we miss him. Mara will hold this corner to ensure he doesn’t double back.” She bounded to her feet and motioned for Thevo and Louin to follow. “We’re not losing our guest. Not today!”
About the Book
Precipice is an epic fantasy adventure revolving around Danika and Kiruna Del Ray, two sisters born with unique mystical abilities who must retrieve a stolen book of magic before its power can be harnessed for evil. Together, they must battle to overcome an array of obstacles impeding their quarry, arising not just from the enemy, but also from allies who secretly work against them. Precipice is the first thrilling act in the A Show for the Gods series.
Author website: http://anthonyderouen.com
About the Author
Anthony DeRouen was born and raised in Redwood City, California. Anthony began writing short stories and fan fiction in 2008. He has published one novel and written two others in the A Show for the Gods series: Precipice, Diviner, and End of Dreams.
A growing passion for online role-playing games introduced Anthony to the world of fan fiction where he compiled numerous stories and articles for his fellow guildmates to enjoy.
In 2009 while drafting a fantasy article for a friend’s gaming website he fell love with the concept of a battle healer who defends a country not her own against sinister forces bent on releasing a terrible power. A number of plot lines were developed along with how the world would appear at the height of its economical and political strength in the beginning, and then deteriorate as events unfolded.
When Anthony is not writing, he’s playing MMO’s such as Guild Wars 2, training for obstacle course runs, or supporting his son’s Boy Scout troop #819.