It’s day three of the David Rae takeover, and I’m so excited to reveal this exclusive sneak peak of Crowbait, the third book in The Sun Thief Trilogy!
In the Garden of Jackals
When you arrived I was waiting for you. How angry you were, there in the garden of Jackals. You were surprised to see me, why? Did you not think I would be here? I am everywhere.
You rushed to her side. She lay there broken, and yet almost perfect. Her long dark hair covered her face. Her robe spread out and covering her limbs.
“It is too late,” you said. “I am too late.” As if it could be otherwise.
I said nothing while you cried and moved to touch her. It seemed as if you were afraid to see her body. I do not blame you. I have seen it. I have seen everything. You steel your nerve and brush her hair back. It is not pretty, her skull has been smashed in the fall. You shrink back.
Do not blame yourself. What did you think you would find? Did you think you would hold her in your arms? One last kiss? There is only blood and pulp.
“I am sorry,” I tell you. And you turn to me. You do not shout, and for that I am glad. Who knows what your calls would bring. There are worse things than Jackals.
Worse for you. You cannot bring yourself to speak. Should I speak for you? Should I say the words that you cannot. But you find your voice. Keeping it low you hiss. “You could have saved her.”
I will not deny it. I could have, but I did not. His words roll towards me like mist. “You could have saved her.”
I breathe the night air. In the darkness I see the stars in the heaven above. There is no moon. Around us I see the pinprick light of the eyes of beasts.
“I cannot leave her here,” you say. Now you touch her robes. “I cannot let the jackals take her.”
You are angry, but you are right. She is your daughter afterall.
“I can do this for her at least.” You have brought a mat. You lay it down beside her and roll her gently on to the cloth. Now her hair has fallen back. You wrap the cloth over her so that you can no longer see. I listen to your sobs. I know how much you loved her.
“She was happy,” I whisper to you. “For a while she was happy.”
You nod, but cannot say anything. I place a hand upon your back. Do you take comfort from it? You do not shake me away.
“This is your fault,” you say. “You could have saved them. You could have saved my daughter.”
I do not know what to say? It is true. And so I say nothing. Instead I open my cloak and hold forth what I had hidden. “I saved this.”
A child cries in the darkness. No not darkness. The infant shines with the faintest of glows. She is alive. You turn and stare. Your eyes are wide. “How…”
I do not say how, that is not what you want to know. “She is your granddaughter. She is alive. What will you do with her?”
It is a test. Will you pass? I can see the shadows of your thoughts flicker behind your eyes. What will you choose?
“How is this possible?” you say again. You open your arms and reach to hold her as you held her only a few hours before. Up there at the point of justice in the Tower. You held her and then passed her to Kong. Still I let you take her from me. She is yours now, yours and his.
“What will become of her?” you ask, as if that is up to me. As if I should tell you all that will happen in a child’s lifetime.
“You should dig two graves,” I say. You have brought a shovel to bury your daughter.
“Two graves? But she is not dead.”
“Two graves. Make a small one for the child, but make it shallow. When they come to look, they will think the jackals have dug up her body and taken her.”
I can see you want to ask me more, but instead you hand me the child back and begin to dig. I had forgotten how strong you are. You dig quickly with sharp cutting thrusts into the soil and lift out clumps of bone and mud.
“How many people have died here?” You ask me. I can hear the reproach in your voice.
“You blame me?”
“Did you not make this world?”
Are you right? Am I to blame for the horrors of this world.
“I think you are responsible for many of these bones.” I tell you.
You look up from digging. “Did you not make me? And Vatu?”
You think to blame me for all of this. How cowardly.
“I have made many things.”
You grunt and return to your digging. When you have dug a hole higher than your waist, you stop. You clamber out and move next to the body. I can see how reluctant you are. It is too late now to change things. She is dead.
“You could have saved her?” you say again.
“I did,” I reply, “I saved her from this.” And I gesture around, indicating the darkness. You spit on to the upturned earth. I can see anger knot inside you. Do you not wish to be free of the dark?
Anger is useful, you take your anger and with it you steel yourself to cast your daughter into the pit you made. It is a lie, a red rag that you can cover your thoughts with. In a mindless rage you drag the corpse to the edge of the grave and let it, let her, slide in. And then your rage fails you and you fall to your knees weeping. As you should. I let you cry for a while. I should let you cry forever, but eventually you stop.
“Now dig the other grave,” I tell you. How heartless of me. But it must be done. You dig the hole for your granddaughter. It is only a few shovel widths wide. You dig it down to the depth of your knees. And then I tell you to stop.
“No deeper. If you dig deeper the jackals will not dig it up.”
“They won’t dig it up if there is nothing in it anyway.” You say.
“Here,” I reply and hand you a cloth covered in blood.
“The smell of blood will attract them.”
But they are already here. I can hear their cackling call and see the light of their eyes. They are padding just out of sight, but close very close. They are crunching on old bones. I wonder if they will attack us. But they wait. They know they will find something to eat soon. There is always something for them in the garden. Justice keeps them well fed. They will wait until we are gone.
You take the cloth from me and place it in the hole then push the soil down over it, and press it flat with your shovel.
“Now the other one,” I say. I am cruel but it must be done. There are somethings that must be faced.
“I cannot,” you say. But you find the strength. You let the earth drop from your shovel onto your daughter’s body. It makes a thudding sound as it lands on the matting she is wrapped in.
“If she had never met him, she would still be alive,” you say. “He is to blame for this. I will kill him.”
“Is he not already dead,” I ask and think of his body hanging from a dark gibbet above us. You cannot kill him. “Besides it is not his fault any more than it your fault for having a child.”
“I protected her,” you say. “I kept her secret.”
You do not understand what I am trying to tell you. The grave is filled, both graves are filled. Now it seems it is time to leave. You cannot do it. You cannot walk away.
“Would you have me say something? Words of comfort, a blessing?”
“From the darkness to the light.” The words of heresy.
You flinch when I say them but I see that they comfort you nonetheless.
“Has she truly gone? Has she really escaped?”
“Yes, that is my promise.”
You look and I know what you wish to ask.
“Not yet,” I tell you. “But soon.”
“It has been ages,” you say. “Age after age, life after life. When?”
“Not yet but soon.”
I still have the child. Would you like to hold it one last time? You shake your head.
“Let me just look at her.” And so I draw the cover from her and hold her. The faintest of glows.
“She is beautiful.”
“Yes,” I agree. I have made so much beauty even in this world.
You do not ask where I will take her. If you did I would not answer. And where I take her you cannot follow. I will give you more reason yet to hate me.
“She will be safe,” I tell you. “For a while at least.”
“She was safe, for a while too.”
“And then what?”
I turn to go and do not answer. You shout after me. Cursing. But I am not listening And I will not smite you down.
I don’t know about you, but I am so excited to read Crowbait! The Sun Thief Trilogy is such a unique fantasy world, so rich in meaning. I’m going to read Crowman and Crowtower again in preparation for Crowbait’s release.
Thank you so much to David Rae for taking over my blog and posting this extract. You are torturing me, David – when can I read more?