If anybody is still reading, following or otherwise connected with this account and with this story, I thought you might like to know that I have begun the process of totally rewriting The Kerikan Lord with a view to publishing it. This is no small task. The first draft, posted here on Fiction Press, was almost 280,000 words. So far I have wrangled 10,000 into the second draft.

If you want to be kept informed of when/if the work is published, or if you want to volunteer as a beta reader, you can email kerikanlord .

Here's a small taste:

There were voices on the winds. The land breathed with an uneasy rattle. There were whispers of corrupt politicians, murder amongst the holy orders, and the fading of the knights and old kings. The warriors of the songs were slipping from memory. Jorn the Bowman had died in a snow-filled ditch, they said, and left unburied for weeks as the travellers who passed him took his body for that of an old, sad beggar. Silus the Minor had been robbed and beaten to death behind a tavern while the local bard told the tale of him inside. The city streets murmured carelessly. There was no need for those old heroes any longer. Steel was no use against crooked tongues and silver coins.

One legend had survived the long decay. The Iron Band was still mentioned in the corners of courtyards, and the words carried a reverence that hid a private belief that the group was the last of the ancient heroes. The stories of the Iron Band were told over bitter alcohol in the taverns to remind those desolate folks of all that had been good in the world, and all that had been done to protect that good. The Iron Band helped those who needed help. They killed those who needed to be killed. They had been seen all across the land, and they never asked for coin, though they took it when it was offered.

The wind changed. The voices carried fear on their tongues. Even the Iron Band was fading, tarnishing. The villages to the north had seen the Band, but their leader was not with them. Talin Karaethos had vanished, his horse left in the road, dead. The wind cried for him.

There were stories that he had never returned from the Devil King's realm. Some said they had seen him carried away into the clouds on the back of a dragon. Those who did not believe in dragons or devils said he was dead. The old soldiers in the taverns grumbled that he had lost his honour, fallen to his knees, and been swept up by the underworld of the southern cities, where the ghosts of those he had killed haunted his waking and sleeping.

Those who were still tormented by the local bandits, the ravenous monsters, and incurable pains were the ones who shook their heads as they heard the news, and wondered who would help them now.

( . . . )

As the wagons rolled in to Assim Har at the western edge of the city, and crawled, groaning, up to the bronze gates, the dog sniffed around in a pile of bones for a tasty morsel. Rousseux jerked on the leash.

"Stop your scrounging," he growled. He shaded his eyes against the sun as he studied the auction papers, trying to read Crombie's scrawled notes in the margin. One listing was circled heavily, with an arrow to the rumours. Rousseux frowned as he read, wishing he had remembered his glasses. He could make out a few words: Lord, north, mad. He gave up with a sigh, fanned himself with the papers, and tried to make the most of the small square of shade available. Crombie finally reappeared, with their own small wagon safely stowed. He had pulled his hat down low. He reached down and ruffled the dog's ears briefly.

Rousseux pushed the auction list at him. "What on earth does this mess say?" he demanded.

"They found him up north, just walking along the road and covered in a mess of blood," Crombie said. "He spouted some gibberish and then stopped talking at all. He's a big bastard. They thought he looked tough, so they threw him into the ring at one of those backyard shows to make up an extra round. He killed everything they had. They ran him until they ran out of shit to throw at him. He just doesn't stop."

"He doesn't stop," Rousseux echoed flatly, unimpressed. "What sort of drugs was he taking?"

"They took him to Senn Mira a month later. Same thing happened. It's not drugs. It's him."

Rousseux sniffed. "What's this about a lord?"

Crombie shrugged. "Seems like the only sensible thing the man ever said to the bunch that grabbed him. They asked his name and he told them he was the Kerikan Lord. Whatever that is." He poked at the listing urgently. "This is the one, boss. If you don't buy another body at this sale, just buy this one. Trust me."

Rousseux didn't reply, but he didn't disagree either. For all his gruff faults, Crombie was a good judge of fighting stock and he had reliable information from his various scouts. Rousseux started in the direction of the main entrance to the auction yard, before Crombie stopped him.

"Boss, Lilyana is here," he said quietly. "She didn't see me, but she'll be looking for you, I'm sure."

"Yes, I'm sure," Rousseux said with a dry smile. "No doubt she would love to publicly humiliate me today." He fingered the heavy purse at his belt, savouring the weight of wealth that he had managed to scrape together. "I have enough, Crombie. All a man needs is enough."

"Good luck, boss," Crombie said, giving him a vague salute. "I'll be in the back."

Rousseux nodded and left him, the dog at his heels. As he showed his signet ring at the door, he took note of all of the other buyers who were coming in to the courtyard. Most were dressed far richer than he was, in silks and dyed muslins, dripping with jewels and gold. He spotted Lilyana's familiar silver coronet ahead of him and he resolved to stay out of her way if he could help it.

The courtyard was shaded with canopies and there was some respite from the sun, but the pit cast up a warmth, mixed with the smell of old blood and old sweat. The benches were full. More so than usual, Rousseux thought. He was not the only one who had heard about this unstoppable man. He found a spot high up where he could rest his back against the wall, and the dog crept under his feet to lie on the stone, panting in the heat.

The sale had already started, but they would be saving the best listings for later, when everybody would have taken advantage of the cool wine being passed around, and when purse strings would be looser. He watched a few of the listings go by. The two big spotted cats that they used to force a show of skills were particularly vicious today. The heat was bad, making them irritable and desperate.

"Rousseux, you beast." There was no mistaking her voice. "You didn't even come and sit with me. I'm offended."

"Lilyana, my dear," Rousseux said, standing to greet her. "A dreadful oversight on my part."

She settled herself beside him, drawing a veil over her face to shield her eyes from the sun, and she cast him a sideways glance. She smiled. "I am surprised to see you here. Everybody knows you have no money to spare. I'm amazed you even afforded the entry fee."

"I have a new patron," Rousseux said. "He's very keen for me to make an investment for him. I doubt even you could outbid me today."

"Oh, bold words," Lilyana said, smirking. "We shall see." Rousseux rubbed the dog's ears, trying not to give too much away. He hoped he really did have enough.