A Task

The Wraith and the Wielder hits shelves on Tuesday, and we cannot get enough of talking about this book. It really is one of the greatest novels I’ve gotten to read in years, and I’m so excited for you all to have the opportunity to read it!

In case you missed it in our newsletter this week (have you signed up for that yet?), check out this awesome pre-release excerpt from the book!

 

The Wraith and the Wielder, AC Schafer

           At the end of the street, Merrith turned left down what was little more than a footpath worn through the spruce and mountain-ash. The path led back behind the second row of houses and hostels and ended at a dilapidated structure, too small to truly be a house and not quite bad enough to be a hovel. Merrith tended to think of it as a cottage. It was surrounded by a twisted wooden-slat fence and a yard full of weeds, at which Merrith sent a disgusted look as he trudged through the front gate—the top hinge of which was broken so the whole gate hung uselessly to the side. He reminded himself that he ought to fix it and wondered when he would have the time.

            His heavy boots thumped up the sagging steps and onto the front porch, careful to avoid the gap in the decking, left there by a rotted plank, as he shoved the door open. The door creaked and scraped across the floor.

            Inside the house, curls of pungent, yellow-tinted smoke wrapped around the ceiling rafters like charmed snakes. A man, not much older than Merrith, sat with his boots propped up on the edge of the kitchen table. He held a pipe, the source of the smoke, firmly clamped between his teeth, and wore a long jacket of gray wool with gleaming silver buttons over a suit of expensive black cloth and a shirt the color of dark wine.

            Merrith darted a glance around the room. It was a simple space with nothing worth stealing, neat and clean—he saw to that—but shabby all the same. Nothing seemed out of place, though he hadn’t expected it to be. The man wasn’t there to steal things.

            “What are you doing here?” Merrith fingered the knives in his belt, four of them. The etched steel hilts were warm beneath his fingertips. Each knife was perfectly weighted, their edges razor sharp. But he forced his hand away from them.

            There was nothing strictly in the man’s appearance to set Merrith on edge. The man was, in fact, handsome and well-built, besides being well-dressed. The smile he flashed around the stem of his pipe was charming and friendly, even as a stream of yellow smoke slid past his lips.

            “Well, good evening to you, Master Gyse,” he said in a voice that matched his appearance, even and pleasant with a very slight eastern accent.

            “What do you want?” Merrith asked.

            The man smiled again, but Merrith knew him far too well to see anything beyond teeth in that smile. “You’re still a rather blunt whelp, aren’t you? I was sure your father would have knocked some courtesy into that iron head of yours, but I hear he’s dead now. More’s the shame.” The man took another draw from his pipe and let his feet drop to the floor with a sound thud. “Sit down. We’ve matters to discuss.”

            “Get out of my house,” Merrith said through his teeth, still standing in the doorway as if his feet had become part of the threshold.

            “Is that what you call this place? I was hoping you didn’t actually live here.” The man cast a telling look around the room and a disparaging smile curled his lips. “Having a bit of trouble, are you? You know, you should’ve asked for help.” He paused again. “You didn’t actually think they’d believed you were dead, did you?”

            “Get out,” Merrith said again, louder, while he fought to control his voice.

            “I’ll go when I please. I’ve come a fair long way to talk to you.”

            Merrith felt a shiver run through him. Again his hand went to his knives. Although he knew he would not use them, their presence reassured him.

            The man took his pipe from between his teeth. “He has a task for you.”

            “I won’t have anything to do with you.”

            “Are you sure about that?” The man leaned forward and said with a sigh, “Very well. It’s such a pity though.”

            Merrith stared at him with blue eyes that had turned as hard as river stones.

            “Ah, you’ve guessed it, I see. That saves me the trouble of explaining it to you.”

            “I don’t know what you’re meaning.”

            “How are your brothers, Merrith? Training for the Riders now, I heard.”

            “Leave them alone—” he broke off, realizing his mistake.

            The man smiled, again charming, placating, as if he were being quite generous in allowing Merrith every chance to make things right. “I don’t want anything to do with them, but you know what a disgrace it would be if certain facts about you were to spread. Family matters are so important to a man’s character.” He shook his head, that smile still on his face. “It wouldn’t surprise me at all if they were expelled from the Riders.”

            “They’ve nothing to do with anything I’ve done,” Merrith snarled, taking a step forward and clenching his heavy fists. “You know that.”

            “And they shall continue to have nothing to do with it, if you aren’t so foolishly stupid as to refuse this trivial request.” He reached into his vest and took out a folded sheet of parchment. “It’s your choice, whelp. You have until the end of the week to comply, or….” He shrugged ominously and knocked his pipe out onto the floor as he leisurely rose from his seat. “Good eventide.”

            Merrith reached past him and snatched the parchment from the table. “What does it say?” he demanded as he shoved it toward the man.

            The man took the parchment, smoothing it seriously with one hand. A plain metal band set with a single black stone showed around his wrist as his cuff pulled back. “The Dyna Hani and her daughter are traveling—I’m sure you’ve heard of their arrival in town. Vrelis is keen to acquire an item that is in the possession of the young Belle Mikteth Hani.” He shook the parchment once and handed it to Merrith. “A key. There’s a picture drawn there, just for you. As I said, I’ll be back at the end of the week. Have it ready, if you please.” Without another word, and giving Merrith no time to say anything, he stepped around the younger man and left the cottage.

            Merrith drew a deep breath, once and then again, and tried to make the taut muscles in his broad shoulders relax. The sound of feet on the stairs made him stiffen again until he recognized to whom they belonged. He tucked the parchment beneath his shirt moments before those steps came through the still open door.

© Copyright AC Schafer, 2017

 

And don’t forget! If you’re in Gallup, NM and you just can’t wait to get your hands on a copy of this book, it will be available TOMORROW at the ArtsCrawl! Be there or be square! 
(check out our upcoming events page for more information)

 

Rani Divine
Associate Editor, etc.