For my stop on the blog tour for Empire’s Reckoning, organised by Rachel’s Random Resources, I have an extract from the book.
Sorley, the protagonist and narrator of Empire’s Reckoning, is a musician as well as a toscaire, an envoy. He is awaiting an examination to allow him to join the ranks of the scáeli’en – the bards. In this scene, he is preparing for part of that examination.
I wrote notes on the meeting, and ate a solitary meal. Then I crossed the fort to a long, low building, the scent of wood shavings rich in my nostrils as soon as I opened the door. A man looked up from the bench where he was planing a board. “Lord Sorley. I just checked that yew I offered you. It’s ready. Do you remember where it is?”
“I do,” I said, and went through to the storeroom, where wood dried on racks. Yew was bow-wood, but when I’d come to the carpenter some days before, explaining my need, he’d offered me several pieces.
I hadn’t heard, officially, that I would sit my scáeli’s exams in the late summer or early autumn, but I had to presume I would. As part of demonstrating my skills, I was required to construct a new ladhar, beginning with seasoned, uncut boards, a process that took several months.
The carpenter had been happy to make space in the workshop for me and lend me tools as I needed them. He’d been at the soldiers’ commons several times when I’d gone with Druise to play of an evening, and he liked music. I took one piece off the rack and carried back to a bench. I’d brought the ladhar I used most often with me, as a template. I’d built it, too, at the Ti’ach; I’d built several, over the years. I enjoyed the precise work, and the smell and feel of the wood as I cut and shaped it, but it all took a lot of time. My master’s instrument — for that was what it would be — should be finished to a very high standard. Often they included ornamentation, in silver or gold or sometimes jewels, but that wasn’t possible now. Or was it? I had money; toscairen were paid well enough. I would have to talk to the metalworkers, I thought. Then I turned my mind to the measurements: I couldn’t get this wrong.
Hours later, I put the pieces I had cut into a chest, and locked it. I couldn’t risk them being accidentally lost, or used for another purpose. I cleaned the tools, and returned them to their drawers, and then I picked up the broom. “Leave it, Lord Sorley,” the carpenter said.
“Not a chance,” I said, and swept up the shavings and sawdust I’d created. The carpenter grinned appreciatively.
“I watched you working,” he said. “You can have a job here any time you want.” I handed him the record book I had to keep, for him to sign.
“But all I can build is a ladhar,” I said. “Not much use to you.”
“You’d soon learn,” he teased.
About the Book
For 13 years, Sorley has taught music alongside the man he loves, war and betrayal nearly forgotten. But behind their calm and ordered life, there are hidden truths. When a young girl’s question demands an answer, does he break the most important oath he has ever sworn by lying – or tell the truth, risking the destruction of both his family and a fragile political alliance?
Empire’s Reckoning asks if love – of country, of an individual, of family – can be enough to leave behind the expectations of history and culture, and to chart a way to peace.