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Announcement: Blade of Betrayal, by Michael J. Bode

The Blade of BetrayalQSFer Michael J. Bode has a new queer fantasy book out:

For the last fifteen years, the once despotic Empire of Thrycea has flourished under the rule of its benevolent empress. The people are free and life-giving magic promises prosperity for all. A brutal regicide sends the the fledgling democracy into chaos and its enemies close in from every direction.

The Empress’s estranged son and sole heir, Torin, is forced to flee as his mother’s hidden enemies come after him as well. High above the seas, the floating city of Archea has encased itself in a magical barrier with no explanation. Old grudges return and an insidious enemy can force anyone to betray their allies.

The champions are outmatched at every turn and find themselves bit players in a long-running battle for absolute world domination.

Who are the Architects and what is their Grand Design?

Architects of the Grand Design Book 3


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Excerpt

Isik lay still on the bloodstained floor of the galley as the dying screams of sailors drowned out the gentle lapping of the waves below. In his younger days, the old necromancer might have put up a fight, might have marshaled his modest magics to raise the dead against the attacker. But it had been a long time since he tried to flex that kind of power.

Instead, he faked a heart attack and entered a death state.

As a coroner, Isik had seen his fair share of death. But when he stepped into the galley and took one look at the carnage of dead bodies and blood spatter from the lacerations that painted the hull, he panicked. He had seen enough death in Rivern and Dessim to fill his name-books a dozen times over. He wanted no more of it.

Nestled amid freshly slain corpses, he shut his eyes and stopped breathing. The Seawolf was miles from land, and there was nowhere to escape. If he was lucky, the killer would toss his corpse overboard, and he could maintain his death state long enough for the waves to wash him up on the shores of Barstea—or the shores of anywhere, really.

The screams were softer now, more distant.

This voyage was supposed to be the beginning of Isik’s retirement. Accompany the Empress Jessa on a routine state visit in Volkovia, where he would answer questions about local customs; perhaps visit some old colleagues in the training crypts and talk theory over pierogies and slaw; perhaps complain about the miserable winters there.

It was a popular misconception that necromancers had no fear of death. They had an abstract acceptance of the concept and an awareness of it certainly. But when Isik had come face-to-face with the Ancestors, he had choked the same as anyone. He wanted to live.

The last of the screaming had stopped. Blood dripped through the cracks in the ceiling onto his forehead; tracing his wrinkles, the droplets flowed down his brow.

Surely the empress or her consort, Soren, would have stopped the killer by now. They were like living gods, with enough theurgy between the two of them to command the respect of the Archeans.

What could I do that they could not? Isik wondered.

He heard the creak of footsteps on the steps of the galley. Surely he was being rescued.

A young man’s voice, familiar but twisted, said, “Don’t think I’ve forgotten about you, Isik.”

The steps came closer, splashing in the blood.

“Playing possum? I’m embarrassed for you. Although you’re no Pytheria, you had a reputation in your day. From what I understand, your exit from Volkovia wasn’t entirely voluntary. And look at all this raw material I’ve given you. There’s enough bodies to put on a full-scale musical…minus all the singing.”

Isik twitched back to life and picked himself up from the floor, several other bodies rising as he did, like puppets. His back and joints hurt. Two of the reanimated revenants had to help him stand. He scowled at the young man. “What are you?”

The teenaged boy was drenched in blood, his red-velvet finery completely soaked to his skin. He held a clean silver dagger in his hand and grinned. “You know me, Isik.”

More corpses lifted themselves off the floor and closed in around the bloody killer.

“You are a demon,” Isik said.

The demon chuckled. “No, Isik. I am Death.” As he spread his hands to his side, the bodies of Isik’s revenants flew back, pushed by invisible forces, leaving Isik alone.

Isik straightened his back, his fear transforming into outrage. “If I’m to see my final day, you will see yours. Ancestors, give me your strength…”

The Seawolf lurched in the water; lanterns flickered, and Isik placed his hands out in front of him for supplication.

The demon clapped. “That’s what I’m talking about. Show me some real magic.”

“…and with my final breath bring retribution.”

Isik exhaled softly. The wood of the hull began to blacken and rot. The stench of death filled the air as the bodies of the recently slain decomposed to brittle skeletons. Blotches of black mold spread across the floor like a carpet, and the wood softened beneath his feet.

The bloody demon tapped the point of his dagger to his temple. “I see what you did there. Not cool, old man.”

Water was already leaking in through the sides of the ship as the decrepit boards buckled.

The boy shrugged. “No matter. You can’t stop me. I’m free, and I’m going to kill the ones who should have died in Rivern. Every last one.”

He vanished from sight moments before the ocean broke through the decaying ship, crumbling it like parchment.

His last breath expended, Isik fell to his knees and prepared himself to meet the Ancestors.


Author Bio

Michael James Bode was born on Valentine’s Day and grew up in rural Indiana surrounded by woods and horses.

Bode received a degree in sociology from Indiana University. In the technological sector, he used computers to process natural language.

The Queen of Lies is Bode’s first novel. He has published a number of short stories and performed spoken word pieces. The daily life of the characters inhabiting fantasy worlds fascinates Bode, compelling him to explore the ways in which such people could carve places for themselves in worlds where the fantastical is commonplace. He currently lives in Atlanta, Georgia.

Website: http://www.mikebode.com

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