Blood and mercy excerpt
Hope you enjoy this glimpse of Rih and the Banis capital from Blood and Mercy
One of the Athrolani guards rode up, raising the face of her helm to flash Rih a smile. “You promised to teach me that atlatl, and I’ve heard your training courts are rivaled only by the emperor’s gardens.”
Rih’s mouth curled. “I’d love to, though I fear once you get a taste of proper tea and fruit it might be impossible to pry you from your rooms.”
“I want to taste it all! I was on guard duty the night they brought out that candied stuff, it was gone by the time Jaik took over for me. Hardly blame them.”
Rih laughed. “You’ll have more than enough to try here, as long as you stay close to our wing. If we’ve a spare moment I’ll gladly show you the courts—I’ve only used those in the barracks and the Purple Throne, but I’ve been told those in the palace are stunning.”
“Purple Throne? That sounds more like a brothel than a place to train,” Curiel joked.
“Essentially. It’s where I was trained for marriage,” Rih explained, once Bimet had translated. Her gaze wandered past her friend to the building tucked against the palace.
“It’s there, if you have any interest in such things.”
Curiel shook her head. “My evenings are occupied by La-naket lately. Your pretty Banis horses aren’t the only thing he can ride—”
Rih rolled her eyes. She might have enjoyed a clever, vulgar joke as much as anyone, but the image Curiel’s words evoked was one she would rather not see. “As long as our afternoon is free, then, come find me.”
The wagon lurched onto the brick-laid main road and Rih glanced forward. As a soldier, she rode through the smaller military gates of RoBal countless times. Today they entered through the massive front gates.
Steeply sloped double walls ringed the city. Though rain washed much of the surface filth away, black blood and brown fluids still streaked the baked clay, draining from the bodies pinned along the top. Most were accused of theft or treason. Rih suppressed a shudder. She wondered how many were innocent. How many had been members of her rebellion? Did any confess under the interrogators' blades? Or were they simply dragged through the streets to die atop the heights?
Even the cold, damp air was rank with refuse. Here, the pervasive scent of fruit and clay veered closer to rot and muck. Opulence was a glimmer of dawn far ahead, over the teetering rooftops and haze of Sty-town. Steam drifted from vents set into the wall, exhaust from the massive churning spring that provided the force for opening and closing the double gates. For now, however, they stood open.
Bimet nudged her. “The herald says we meet with the Hand of the Emperor tomorrow, mid-morning. It’s an official audience. He received our message only yesterday.”
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