The Children of the Seventh Son
Excerpt: A riot in Constantinople
By Scott Bury
Andrina returned to the inner courtyard then, carrying a large bundle in one hand and dragging something else behind her in the other. It scraped along the stone floor, adding an irritating note to the clamour from beyond the villa’s walls. “Papa!” she panted, before dropping her burdens with a clamour.
Javor knelt in front of her. “Your armour, Papa,” she panted. She held his steel helmet in the crook of her arm. The bundle was his lamellar cuirass, greaves and arm protectors. But she had not brought several other essential items.
It must have taken all her strength to carry it here.
“Mauricius!” Javor called, loosening his great-grandfather’s dagger in the scabbard he always wore on his side. “Take care of Andrina.”
“I want to help you, papa,” Andrina said before Mauricius swept her into his arms and passed her to one of the slaves he had brought. She struggled until she slipped out of the slave’s arms.
Javor put his hand on her shoulder. “You can help me by staying here with the others and showing them how to be brave. Adam,” he called to his oldest son, “you help your mother stay calm.” Adam nodded and went to Calanthe, who had collapsed back onto her couch. He hugged her and wriggled to find a place to sit on her lap.
Javor picked up his helmet and the armour that his daughter had dragged in and nodded at Gaetan, who followed him to his study in the very centre of the domus. There, he quickly took out the rest of his armour. He pulled on the felt cap that went between his head and the helmet. Gaetan, flinching at every sound from the front gate, helped him with the cuirass and arm braces, then held his long sword as Javor fastened his greaves.
Taking the sheathed sword in his left hand, Javor strode down the corridor to the front courtyard. He took a firm stance in front of the little lemon tree as the pressure on the gate splintered the thick board that, held in place by iron brackets, formed a secure lock.
With a final sickening crack, the gate burst open. A group of young men in ragged tunics, shock on their faces, stood just beyond it.
“Rich man,” said the one in front. He grinned, a gap black in his teeth. He had thick black hair and blood on his cheek, dully illuminated by a flaming torch held by the young man beside him.
“I do not want to kill any of you,” Javor announced in a firm, steady voice. “But if you take one more step, I will.” He drew the long sword with a ringing sound. Under his shirt, Preyatel’s vibration decreased to a dull tickle against his chest.
The gap-toothed man stepped inside, grinning. He raised a heavy wooden club. “There are many of us, rich man,” he said, and spat at Javor’s feet. “Let us take what we want and maybe we will not kill you.” The other men behind him stepped closer, too, but not as far as their leader.
The lead man’s eyes flicked to a vase with gold leaf on its edges, sitting in a little alcove on the wall. “Take that,” he said, and a thin teenaged boy behind him ran up and grabbed it. “What are you going to do about that, rich man?” the leader teased.
Javor moved his right foot behind him, presenting a narrow target to the mob. He scanned them. A number held blazing torches, others pikes, heavy clubs or knives. None of them looked like former legionnaires.
What does a former legionnaire look like?
Shut up, brain.
The leader barked a laugh. “I knew it. Didn’t I tell you, boys? These rich men have no balls. That’s why I father all their children!” Behind him, some of the others laughed.
“Take the vase,” Javor said. “Go home. No one else needs to die tonight.”
The leader laughed, and the followers behind him echoed.
Javor stepped closer. If he leaned forward, he could sever the leader’s head. “One warning. You cannot harm me.” Preyatel thrummed against his chest in agreement. “But I can hurt you. If I have to, I will kill you. But I do not want to.”
The leader laughed again. Preyatel leaped under Javor’s shirt, hot as the torch in the hand of the man beside the leader.
Fast as flame, the leader swung his club at Javor’s head. But faster was Javor’s sword into the man’s neck. His amulet vibrated, filling his head with a keening song. Blood spurted, covering Javor’s face and cuirass. Before he could control it, his sword found its way into two of the men with torches. It sang a death song as Javor followed, dancing into the mob, led by the blade and the amulet’s direction.
When he halted in the middle of the street, the mob streamed away down the side alleys. Javor drew his breath slowly, calmly, his sword comfortable in his grip. Light from two sputtering torches on the cobblestones illuminated one side of a single face, trembling before him. Overhead, the moon filtered through smoke.
“Please,” said the half-face. The cheek below the wide eye glistened wetly.
“Go. Tell the others,” Javor said, shaking his sword.
The eye blinked, then vanished. Javor heard slapping footfalls fade into the distance.
About this book
The Children of the Seventh Son is the second novel in the Dark Age series, which began with The Bones of the Earth.
The year 600 of the Christian Era is the darkest time of the Dark Age. Young Javor the Sklavene has settled in Constantinople, the last bastion of civilization against dark forces that have shattered the Western Roman Empire.
Wielding two special weapons made from the Bones of the Earth, Javor has become the favourite monster-killer of the secret Gnostic Order. As his young family grows, he is sent to distant, exotic lands to eliminate threats and learn more about why the earth is intent on destroying humanity.
Every mission seems to bring more questions than answers—until he finds the greatest danger comes not from forces from beneath the surface of the world, but from the very civilization he has been defending.
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About the author
Scott Bury can’t stay in one genre. After a 20-year career in journalism, he turned to writing fiction. “Sam, the Strawb Part,” a children’s story, came out in 2011, with all the proceeds going to an autism charity. Next was a paranormal short story for grown-ups, “Dark Clouds.”
The Bones of the Earth, a historical fantasy, came out in 2012. It was followed in 2013 with One Shade of Red, an erotic romance.
He has several mysteries and thrillers, including Torn Roots, Palm Trees & Snowflakes and Wildfire.
Scott’s articles have been published in newspapers and magazines in Canada, the US, UK and Australia.
He has two mighty sons, two pesky cats and a loving wife who puts up with a lot. He lives in Ottawa, Ontario.
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