Late Friday night, I uploaded Questioner’s Shadow to Amazon, and Barnes and Noble. Smashwords followed on Saturday. The paper edition will be right along in a couple weeks, if all goes well, and I’ll have a package that includes a PDF, ePub and mobi edition at Drivethru Fiction once the paper edition is done (I make the PDF from the paper edition).
Questioner’s Shadow is NOT a sequel to Shattered (that is the upcoming book Fragments), but is instead the start of a whole new series called Lords of Genova. The reasons for this are explained in this previous post.
To give you a taste of the book, here’s the first scene of Questioner’s Shadow.
In his service to the Empire, Petyr had seen any number of dead bodies. Most often, they had a bullet through the skull or a knife wound in the belly. He’d never seen anything like the body of the woman that hung naked from the trunk of a tree in front of him.
A pair of iron spikes held it there, driven through the body just above her breasts and just below her shoulders. A third spike protruded from her gaping mouth.
The spikes weren’t the source of the bile that threatened to erupt from his stomach. The woman seemed young, perhaps sixteen or seventeen. Her hair, dark but not quite black, fell mostly down onto her shoulders, framing high cheekbones that had once supported her eyes, and would still, but for the fact that her killer had removed her eyes leaving empty sockets.
That wasn’t all. Whatever monster had done this to the young woman had managed to pull her arms off.
Petyr had to turn away. He bent over and took a few deep breaths. They seemed to help for a moment, but the bile wouldn’t stay down. The contents of his stomach emptied onto the forest floor.
He heard footsteps coming toward him, but he didn’t turn around. He pulled a handkerchief from his pocket and started wiping at his mouth. I wish I had some water.
“Are you all right, Petyr?” Alec asked from behind him.
No. “I’m fine.”
Petyr finished wiping his mouth, stood up, and checked his clothes to make sure he hadn’t splashed vomit on them. When he was satisfied they were clean, he wrapped up the handkerchief as best he could so the contents of his stomach were safely inside, then turned back to face the body.
“Whoever she was,” Alec said, “I can’t imagine what she did to deserve this.”
Petyr looked at Alec. His friend’s face was pale. Apparently Alec has never seen anything to compare, either.
“She didn’t do anything to deserve this, Alec. Some of the towns on the edge of the Empire have some brutal forms of justice, but this, the Empire wouldn’t tolerate.”
“How would you know, Petyr?”
How would I know? He didn’t have an answer for Alec.
“Well, I’m going back to the carriage,” said Alec.
Petyr looked away from his friend and back to the woman on the tree. His stomach still felt uneasy, but it had quieted. For better or worse, he was getting used to the sight.
“Go on,” he said. “I’ll be right along.”
Alec turned and left. His footsteps, muffled in the soft loam of the forest, soon faded to nothingness.
Petyr moved within arm’s reach of the woman’s corpse. Blood stains descended from her wounds and empty eye sockets, the blood long washed away in the rain.
What color eyes did she have?
Her cheeks were thin and hollow, but the ghost of fullness lingered. Her nose sloped down to a petite point. From the tightness of her belly, it was clear she’d never borne children.
Petyr examined the stumps where her arms had been. The flesh ran ragged around the wounds. The holes in her chest were larger than the spikes rammed through them, the skin around the edges torn. His first impression was accurate. Her arms had been pulled off, not cut or sawn or chopped. Who would, or even could, do such a thing?
Something odd struck him. The body didn’t smell. No hint of putrefaction lingered in the air. He could smell the dampness of the forest, the aroma of the blackroot trees, the cloying scent of the moss that seemed to cover everything, but the stink of death was curiously absent. Judging by the lack of fresh blood, the body had hung from the tree long enough it should have started to decompose. It should have been ripe, crawling with bugs. But other than the wounds and the stains, it looked like a fresh kill.
He shuddered. Something or someone committed evil here. He could feel it. Something so vile, even the agents of decay wouldn’t touch the body.
He walked back to the carriage with careful steps, avoiding the shrubs and dead branches that lay across the path. Alec had already climbed up to the driver’s bench and had his head bowed down, studiously watching the pair of horses as they fidgeted in their harness. They apparently didn’t like waiting anywhere near that horror. Petyr wondered if they smelled something he couldn’t.
“Alec,” he said as he approached. “What’s the nearest town?”
“Dunsriver, I think. We passed it earlier today.”
“Take us back there.”
“Why? If we go back, we won’t make Rocktree by nightfall.”
“We’re not going to Rocktree, Alec.”
Alec jumped down from the driver’s bench and confronted Petyr. “What do you mean we’re not going to Rocktree? We have to keep moving.”
Petyr sighed. Alec was right. They couldn’t afford to linger, not with the Empire on their trail. On my trail. Is this really any of my business, anyway? If I just went on to Rocktree, who would know besides Alec? He looked at his friend. Alec wouldn’t tell anyone. If I stay and put this town to Question, the Tribune will most definitely hear.
But the vision of the girl on the tree haunted him. He had to know the truth. It wasn’t just his job.
“It’s who I am, Alec. I have to find the truth of this. I promise, no more than a day or two. It shouldn’t take long.”
They stood staring at each other for a few more moments, before Alec turned away without saying anything more and climbed back onto the bench.
Petyr opened the door of the carriage, stepped up and in, then shut the door behind him. He took a seat on the hard bench, its velvet covered cushion long since compacted to a layer that felt more like stone than anything else.
As the carriage started to move, he had a mind to lean out and tell Alec to keep on to Rocktree, but the vision of the woman’s body still haunted him. No matter how close his pursuers, he couldn’t let a crime like that go.
Instead of reversing his decision, he leaned back and worked at committing everything he’d observed to memory.
A threat existed here, and it was his job as Lord Questioner to root it out. Even if I am no longer a Lord Questioner.
Again, links to the right, or on the book page.