When I found out an Aussie grimdark author that hails from the own back yard of my youth on the central coast of New South Wales, Australia, to say I was excited was an understatement. Through a quick reach-out over Facebook, I've been lucky enough to grab an excerpt from Duncan Lay's The Bloody Quarrel: The Complete Edition, a collection of all five episodes of his Bloody Quarrel series. Check it out below!
Excerpt from Chapter 18 of The Bloody Quarrel by Duncan Lay
Fallon watched as the hood was yanked off Kemal’s head and the bruised Kottermani Prince blinked at the sudden light. He let the Prince look around him, see the chair he was tied to was the only furniture in the room and it sat in the middle of a huge dried bloodstain. He grudgingly admired the way the Prince did not react to that, merely staring at Fallon coldly.
They had hooded him and then hustled him through the backstreets until they reached the Moneylenders’ Guildhouse. Most of the villagers had returned to the castle then, leaving just Fallon, his friends and a handful of others to keep a careful watch. Fallon had thought about killing the wounded Kottermani guards, so no word could reach Kemal’s people of what had happened but could not bring himself to slaughter helpless, wounded men.
Fallon said nothing, wanting Kemal to feel the tension and fear in the air, let his imagination go to work. After all, he had been a pampered Prince, used to his every whim being obeyed. This had to be making him uncomfortable. Finally, Kemal could obviously take it no longer.
“Release me, return me to my people immediately and I might be able to overlook what you have done,” he snarled.
Fallon smiled down at the Prince, his arms folded across his chest. There was no humour there. Even if this was not the man who had attacked Baltimore and carried off their families, he could get them back.
“Don’t you realise what you have done?” Kemal demanded. “You think this is clever? I know what you have done. Your Prince Cavan has been pretending to be with me against his father when all the time he was with King Aidan. But fooling my agents will avail you all nothing. Harm me and my father will take this country apart. We would have left one of your own to sit on the throne and able to make some decisions. But that chance is slipping away with every heartbeat you hold me.”
“You are the one who has been fooled, Prince Kemal,” Fallon said harshly. “Your men have been meeting with the agents of Prince Swane. Prince Cavan is dead.”
“You fool,” Kemal scoffed. “I know the evidence of my own eyes. I embraced Prince Cavan not a day ago!”
“That was Swane, made to look like his brother with the use of dark magic,” Fallon said. “You think you are in control of Gaelland? It is an even bigger trap than the one you walked in to with me.”
Kemal just sneered at him. “Why should I believe anything you say? You have already proved yourself to be a liar.”
Fallon whistled and Caley trotted in.
“This is my dog and she hates Kottermanis. You can be her dinner if you like,” he told Kemal.
The Prince watched Caley warily as the dog caught the smell of him and began to growl, thick, vicious noises that made the hair on the back of the neck rise.
“She’ll tear you into pieces,” Fallon warned. “Tell us what we want to know and I’ll call her off.”
“Let her do her worst,” Kemal invited.
Fallon brought Caley a little closer but she would not go within three paces of the Kottermani. She hated him, that was plain enough from the way she was growling and snarling, her lips pulled back and teeth bared. But she seemed to be more concerned with protecting Fallon from Kemal than attacking the Kottermani. He sighed. It had been worth a try but she was not the sort of dog to attack anyone.
“I wouldn’t want her to be poisoned by you,” he told the Prince, then whistled Caley away. She slunk out, still growling.
“What now? What else do you plan to threaten me with?” Kemal asked mockingly.
Fallon pulled the bloody quarrel out of his pouch and held it before Kemal’s wary eyes. “This is the quarrel I used to kill Prince Cavan,” he said. “He was not only my Prince, he was a friend. I was tricked into killing him by King Aidan. Now I pretend to stand by Swane in public because King Aidan has promised he will get our families back from you if we do.”
Fallon caught the flicker in Kemal’s eyes and stepped in closer, holding the bloody quarrel under Kemal’s nose.
You know all about that, don’t you?” he said softly. “You were the one who led the attack on Baltimore and carried our families away. Why?”
Kemal looked up at him, eyes glittering hatred. “This is about your families? You fools, they will die in the most terrible ways imaginable after what you have done to me.” Kemal raised his voice, shouting his next words out. “You think to use me as some counter to get their release? You will only buy their deaths. Rather than release your families in exchange for me, they will start to skin your children alive until you beg to hand me back. How long do you think you can defy my father while the screams of your sons and daughters echo in your ears? I will make sure they work on Bridgit first. Her screams will haunt you for the rest of—”
That was enough. Fallon felt a red mist descend.
He stepped in and began to punch Kemal, snapping the Kottermani’s head back with the force of the first blow and whipping the blows in from left and right, rocking the Prince from side to side, trying to beat away his own anger and the Prince’s arrogance.
“Stop it! You’ll bloody kill him!” Gallagher and Devlin grabbed him and dragged him backwards.
Fallon fought them for a few heartbeats then subsided, wincing at the pain in his knuckles. But, looking at Kemal, that was nothing.
The Prince raised his head slowly, blood oozing from his nose, from his mashed lip and from a cut on his left cheekbone. His left eye was already swelling shut and he spat again, a frothy mixture of blood that landed on the floor.
“Get control of yourself you stupid bogger! We need him alive!” Devlin growled.
“You heard the bastard! He took our families! And he bloody knows Bridgit’s name! How does he know her name, eh? He must have seen her. Maybe he’s already killed her!” Fallon snarled.
“They have to be still alive, or why else is he threatening us?” Gallagher said reasonably.
Kemal looked up at them. “Anything you do to me will be paid back on them ten-fold,” he said, his voice thick with blood. “I will tell you nothing. Release me.”
“He won’t talk eh? We’ll see about that,” Fallon said. “Brendan, give me your hammer.”
Kemal watched them as Fallon brandished the huge hammer, with its head still stained black with blood, and brown with other things none of them wanted to think about.
“You are just trying to scare me. You dare not hit me with that, for it would kill me,” Kemal said.
“He’s right,” Gallagher whispered. “He’s not like those thieves that you bluffed back in Killarney to get answers for Prince Cavan.”
“Who says I’m bluffing?” Fallon asked. “Brendan, take off his left boot.”
The big smith looked at him uncertainly but Fallon gave him a shove. “This is for Nola and the kids. This is for all of them,” he hissed.
Brendan pulled off Kemal’s left boot and held the Prince’s leg immobile, foot on the floor, just as he would do a horse for shoeing.
“Are you going to talk to us about our families?” Fallon demanded.
“Go and rut yourself,” Kemal told him furiously.
Fallon hefted the hammer and swung it down, crushing Kemal’s two smallest toes.
The Prince screamed and writhed on the chair, his eyes bulging and the tendons on his neck and arms standing out. A thin line of bloody spittle dribbled from his lips, landing in his lap. His chest heaved as if he had run for miles and it looked like he had bitten into his already cut lip.
“Are you ready to talk now?” Fallon asked him.
He locked eyes with Kemal and was astonished to see no give there. The Prince’s eyes were full of pain but all that was behind there was anger.
“I will give you nothing!” he spat.
Fallon swung the hammer up and crushed the other three toes.
Kemal shrieked with pain, eyes screwed shut, breathing in short, hard gasps. Fallon glanced down to see the ruin of the man’s toes. They were a mixture of blood and flesh, the skin torn away and pieces of bone poking through.
“Ready to talk now?” Fallon repeated.
Kemal’s eyes snapped open and Fallon saw the fury and the agony in there.
“I will never talk to you, bastard! Nothing will stop me peeling the skin from your body. The rest of you, I shall let you live if you deliver both Fallon and I to my ship right now!”
Fallon tapped Brendan on the shoulder. “Get his other boot off,” he said.
Kemal tried to fight but, tied to his chair and in the face of Brendan’s huge strength, he stood no chance.
“Do what you want to me. I will give you nothing!” Kemal raged.
“Let’s see if you still talk like that when we break every finger on your hand, burn your body and start cutting off your prick, one inch at a time,” Fallon said coldly.
“My answer will still be the same,” Kemal spat a mixture of blood onto Fallon’s boots.
“And I will keep hurting you until you beg to tell me everything!” Fallon swung the hammer up again. Kemal glared at him, nothing but anger and hatred in his gaze. Not even a scrap of fear.
Fallon let the hammer drop and stepped away.
“Maybe we can use Sister Rosaleen, the way she got into the mind of Swane’s servant that time?” Gallagher suggested.
Fallon shook his head. “We don’t just need what’s in his head. We need him to be ours, so he gives our families back. By the time he gives in to us, there’ll be nothing left of him. We need to try something else. Get Padraig.”
They waited while the old wizard was fetched from below, watching the Prince battle the agony of his crushed toes. Fallon felt nothing.
“Aroaril, what are you doing?” Padraig gasped. “Have you gone mad?”
“I am mad,” Fallon agreed. “And sick to death of every bastard tricking me and using me.”
“What do you want? I will not use magic to hurt this man,” Padraig warned.
“Even though he took Bridgit? Even though he threatened to make her screams last an eternity?”
“Even so,” Padraig drew himself up. “I will not sink to that.”
Fallon grabbed his shoulder. “Well, I will. But luckily we need you to do something different,” he said.
“He wants to use our families against us. Well, let us use his family against him. Let’s see if he is so brave if his wife and children are here, hot irons close to their eyes,” Fallon said viciously.
Kemal’s head snapped up and his voice took on a ragged edge.
“I invite you to try,” he said. “You will never get close to them. They will kill you.”
“Fallon, we are going to steal his wife and children?” Padraig asked in horror.
“This is the only way!” Fallon told them. “We won’t hurt them, unless he makes us. It is all down to him.” Yet even as he said that, he knew it was a lie. He would break this man and nothing was going to stop him. “I know what to do. They will be watching the land. We shall come from the sea. And this is how we shall do it—”
“Taking women and children from their beds? Fallon, are you truly sure of this?” Gallagher asked.
Fallon looked around at his friends. “They took our families that way. And with his wife and any children in our hands, he will do what we say.” He glared around at them and, one by one, they all nodded.
“Let’s do this,” Devlin said.
“Aye. I am in,” Brendan agreed.
They looked back at Kemal, who sneered at them. “You will be begging for mercy soon enough. Mercy that will not come if you go near my ships!” he cried.
“Let’s do it,” Gallagher said.
* * *
Duncan Lay is the fantasy author of the trilogy "The Dragon Sword Histories" — The Wounded Guardian, The Radiant Child, and The Risen Queen. He is also a layout designer and headline writer at the Sunday Telegraph. You can find Duncan over at http://www.duncanlay.
You can check out the complete edition of The Bloody Quarrel on Kindle, below.
If you'd prefer hard copy, head on over to Galaxy Bookstore to pick up the first trilogy in one gritty volume. Click on Galaxy Bookstore's logo below to head straight over to their Sydney-based store!