1992 was the year I created Jael and Eadmund. And 1992 was the last time I saw U2 in concert. And this weekend, I finally saw U2 again, and in two weeks, I come to the end of Jael and Eadmund’s long journey. Feels kind of fitting really.
I’m getting so excited about the launch – I really want to know what you all think! – so here’s a little excerpt to wet your whistle. I tried to find a non-spoilery one for those of you who aren’t Vale of the Gods ready, but in the end, I decided, nah, just get reading. You don’t have long!
PS: Quick programming note… I’ve changed the spelling of Dala, to Daala. I’ll be retroactively fixing this is in all the books soon, just in case you wonder ‘who the heck is that?’
Spinning around suddenly, Jael saw Fyr watching her from the end of the bed. It was becoming less shocking to see the raven now. More comforting. ‘Thanks to you,’ she mumbled, turning away to pull her swordbelt out from under the bed. ‘Thanks to you, I don’t have to feel like Thorgils today.’ And sitting up, she came face to face with a woman standing in the corner by her bed, draped in a shimmering black cloak, her long white hair almost touching the ground.
Daala, Mother of the Tuuran Gods.
She had come to Jael the night of the barsk attack, warned her then.
Daala stepped towards the bed. ‘What happened yesterday…’ Her distress gave her voice a heaviness, a weight she had not felt in centuries. If ever. ‘It was a change, Jael. For all of us. We must protect ourselves now. My gods, Vidar’s… we must hide.’
Jael, wondered if she was dreaming. She moved her right hand to Toothpick’s pommel, wanting to feel some certainty in what she was seeing. ‘I… you saved me. Us. You helped. You protected us against Draguta.’
‘As Fyr?’ Daala barely blinked. ‘I did what I could in the moment, and so did Edela. Her and the Book of Aurea, which, thankfully, has had enough answers up until now.’
Jael frowned, worried for her grandmother. ‘Won’t Draguta try again? To take it?’
Daala clasped her hands in front of her cloak. ‘Draguta no longer feels constrained. She has much that makes her powerful in her own right. Perhaps she has no need to fear the Book of Aurea any longer?’
‘But how do we stop her, then? She’s going to pick us off, one by one, isn’t she? Until there’s just me standing.’
‘She wants you, yes. You are the symbol of all that she despises. You and Eadmund. Because you are ours. Our weapons. She will pit you against each other until one of you kills the other. Then she will claim victory. Victory over the gods, the Furycks, and Osterland. We will all be hers.’
Jael’s mouth hung open in surprise. ‘You see this happening?’
‘That is what Draguta believes will happen.’
‘I have no magic,’ Jael tried. ‘No way to stop her. My sword…’
Hearing a noise, Daala spun towards the tent flap, and when she turned back, Jael could see that her face had softened. ‘There came a time when I realised that to save everyone, I had to kill my husband.’
‘It was something I avoided for longer than I should have,’ Daala admitted. ‘I had heard the rumours, seen some of the evidence myself, but I was not prepared to face it. I hid from my fate for a time, but eventually, I killed Raemus. I had no choice. His love for me had corrupted him. His obsession with the Darkness had destroyed him. Killing him was the only way to save everyone else.’
‘But Eadmund isn’t corrupt. He’s bound to Draguta, a prisoner. We can help him. I don’t have to kill him.’
Daala held out a hand, helping Jael to her feet. ‘That may be so. For your sake, Jael, I hope it is. But I came to tell you how it feels to be faced with that very choice. Your husband or your people? Who will you save? When the time comes, who will you save?’ She watched Jael’s eyes working hard to avoid hers, worrying for a moment that Jael Furyck was not who they had always believed she would become. ‘Eadmund is lost. Perhaps you will find him again? Perhaps his sister will? Or it may be that he is Draguta’s forever. Time will tell, Jael. I will be with you until the end. I will not retreat from this fight, and nor can you. Not now.’
Jael shivered, seeing the times Eadmund had looked straight through her; the memories of him with Evaine; the nights in Eirik’s hot pool; sitting outside Ketil’s, listening to Thorgils’ terrible jokes.
Closing her eyes, she tried to hold onto the image of his smiling face, and when she opened them, Aleksander was there, light streaming through the tent opening.
‘Jael? Are you alright?’
She stared at him, her memories slipping away.
Just as Daala had.
She nodded quickly. ‘I am.’