Note! The publishing date of this book is currently unknown.
Book 5 in the Amra Thetys series.
Don't get noticed.
That's the first thing the world taught me about survival. When I was very young, and my father was very drunk, I'd hide, silent and still, in the muck under the shack we inhabited. There I listened to his stone fists pummel my mother. He would not have pulled his punches for me; he barely did when he was sober. I wouldn't have survived him in a drunken rage.
My mother didn't either, in the end.
He didn't notice me that last night, until I slammed the scaling knife into his back, once I’d decided to be silent, but no longer still.
When I was a little less young, stealing on the streets of Bellarius, I learned how to slip through crowds unnoticed, dipping pockets and pilfering stalls and shops. Getting caught meant a beating at the very least, and being beaten to death by an angry mob if my luck was completely out. I learned to be a shadow and a whisper.
And then the Purge began.
They hunted us gutter children down, death squads backed by an archmage. All my hard-won expertise at skulking stealth, at passing unnoticed was a shabby joke in the face of that. One night, chased by Blacksleeves through the alleys and across the rooftops of the Girdle, my luck finally ran out.
The big scar, the one that nearly took my left eye, was from a wild swing of the Blackseeve's dirk that I just wasn't quick enough to dodge. The others that he put on my face as he sat on my chest were according to some pattern only he understood.
He didn't notice me get an arm free. He didn't notice me get my hand on the little stiletto I kept strapped to my thigh. He was too engrossed in what he was doing to my face.
He noticed when I opened up his neck, though.
That's when the world taught me the second thing: Sometimes you can't hide. Eventually you get noticed. Then you have to run. So I stowed away on a ship bound for, I found out when we reached it, Lucernis.
Now, a half-dozen splinters of a mad goddess are after me. I can't hide from them, and they'll catch up to me, sooner or later, wherever I run.
But I know what to do when you can't run, and you can't hide. The world didn't teach it to me. I discovered it inside me a long, long time ago.
When you can't run and you can't hide, when something relentless and unstoppable is hunting you, when something is destroying the people and the things you care about, you stick a blade in it.
And then you watch it bleed out, to make sure it's well and truly dead.
I never wanted a war. Maybe I have no chance. But I've always been outnumbered and overpowered, and if the Eightfold Bitch's Blades think they'll have me, then by all the dead gods, I have only one thing to say to them:
Not if I get you first.
Michael McClung was born in San Antonio, Texas, but now putters around Southeast Asia. He has had the requisite number of odd jobs expected of a speculative fiction author, including soldier, book store manager, and bowling alley pin boy. His first book, the Sword & Sorcery novel "Thagoth," won the Del Rey Digital first novel competition in 2002 and was published by Random House in 2003.
The first four novels of his self-published Sword & Sorcery series "The Amra Thetys Chronicles" will be re-released by Ragnarok Publications in 2015.
In his spare time, Michael enjoys kickball, brooding and picking scabs.