Here's an excerpt from Gloria's first scene in the book. Available for free sampling at Smashwords:
Gloria Digbone was in her study high in the west wall of the keep of
. Still dressed for
the field in belted green tunic and riding breeches, she sat motionless, a
small neat figure, almost lost behind her great wide desk. She had short,
boyish red hair and, though rising forty, her small fine features still made up
a very pretty face. The problem she’d set out on the single page that occupied
her desk could find no ready solution in her mind. She got up, opened the
leaded window behind her chair, and looked out over the Sanin estuary while
continuing to mull things over. Under plucked brows, her eyes were deepest
brown, and gaze calm and flat. It was a look that she’d cultivated over the
years of power, so that even her closest advisors found her inner workings
quite inscrutable. Sanintowne
Gloria never tired of the sight of the river. Beyond the sandstone curtain wall, the steely waters lapped the jutting promontory upon which her fortress was built. The estuary glittered in the verdant arms of quiet pastures and, where the tides never reached, there were golden beaches upon which the white hulls of fishing boats rested under a leaning thicket of masts. If only momentarily, it made her feel so fortunate that her father had installed her here in the Castle as the ruler of Mizar. It had been sixteen years since he had seized power after returning from the much bigger neighbouring land to the east, the Iron Realm of Izar. After establishing her as Mistress, her father had set out for the strange new world he frequented. On this occasion, he took with him her baby half-sister with whose care Gloria had been charged, all too briefly, during his visit to the Iron Realm.
Her father, no man greater in sorcery, nor in guile or craft, obsessed as he was with the innovations of this strange new world, of course, had returned often in those first couple of years to instruct her and the state’s artisans and builders in those newly discovered ways. Each time he would stay for several weeks to launch certain carefully chosen projects, be they military or civil, all ultimately designed to intensify the grip of Gloria’s regime. But her father’s visits all too soon became less frequent, and now there had been neither sight nor sign of him for nigh on fourteen years.
In his extended absence, a rebellion had stirred in the Seven Towns in the east of the land. At first, Gloria had believed that the people there had grown jealous, largely deprived of many of the good things installed in the towns and villages of the west. But no promises or attempts to mollify them had proved to be successful. She had begun to accept that they were driven by a hatred that could not be assuaged by improvement of their lot. Historically, they looked eastwards to Izar. During the centuries in which Mizar (or Izar Minor) had been a protectorate of the Iron Realm, they had enjoyed favour and privilege among the whole populace. That had changed with her rule, triggered by a blinding spell flashed from her father’s fingertips. Gloria allowed herself a small, if malicious, smile at thoughts of a mad Izarian King left impotent within the seat of his former power, the rigid system of featly to him binding his lords to new policies whispered from behind the throne. Central among these decrees was that of non-intervention in the affairs of Mizar.
As a consequence, all the present internal difficulties could be settled by the application of brute force. But Captain Starr had raided the east last summer, being stopped by the rebels on the outskirts of the first major town, Acamar. On the way, atrocities perpetrated throughout the valley of the
in the name of order and enlightenment had only intensified opposition. Long
and messy oppression would only further galvanise the rebels’ hatred. A short
and decisive battle to annihilate their means to resist would serve better to
bring them to their senses. Guns and powder would do it. Starr could draw them
out their Seven Towns with one final, albeit reluctantly sanctioned, campaign
of brutality on the surrounding rural areas. Yet, though she had enough
gunpowder to deal with the insurgents, the legacy of her father’s actions in
the north, in Shaula, meant that Gloria had to keep back her precious stock as
a deterrent to the unforgiving Queen Ellen. Eridanus River
If only Gloria’s father would return, for however briefly, her plight would surely force him into giving her the secret of gunpowder or, more precisely, how to obtain the main ingredient – nitre. Her alchemists had worked long and hard to establish the nature and proportions of the constituents. Charcoal and sulphur were easily got, but nitre was proving impossible. Every time she greeted a returning expedition on the banks of the Sanin the answer was always the same, and she was now of the firm opinion that nitre simply did not exist in her world; rather, it could only be manufactured by some invention her father had discovered in the mysterious world in which he had chosen to hide.
But time was pressing now. The terrorists of the east could not be defeated unless they were to be wasted with the very deterrent to Shaula. And if the Queen of that icy realm ever found out that Gloria had no capacity to make more gunpowder then Mizar would be at the mercy of her ravaging hoards. That was why the latest overture from Queen Ellen, laden as it was with deceit and danger, would have to be considered. That, however, would only postpone the inevitable. The best way would be for her father to return with the means of dealing with the mess he’d created. Some, even in her own elite, said Morgan was dead, but in her heart Gloria knew differently. If only she could draw him home. A gentle knock on the door broke her thoughts.
A long excerpt. However Gloria is not only looking for an answer to these problems but also is searching for love. She finds it in a most unlikely place.
Best wishes Saul.