Vincent is one of our incredible student authors who finished his first novel at our 2014 Publishing Academy summer program. We’re so excited to present a very special sneak peek of his book, The Eight Swords, to be published at our author launch in September!
The Eight Swords
By Vincent P
Chapter 1: The King’s Piece
Be careful, the captain had said.
Be careful of what? Jeiy thought as he descended the gangplank onto the dock. Traders and merchants bustled around him as he made his way to the end of the dock. A small shack stood slightly off to his right. A tall, gaunt man with greying hair stepped out.
“Welcome, traveler!” he boomed, his voice not matching his body. “Please come with me so I can sign you in.” Jeiy followed the man over to a desk that stood next to the shack.
“What is your business here?” he asked, opening a book on the table and dipping a feather into the inkwell that was sitting next to it.
“I’m here to explore the fabled ruins of the Areci Mountains.”
The man squinted at him. “So you’re a looter?” The words came out with a disapproving, almost angry tone.
“I prefer the word adventurer,” Jeiy replied, returning the man’s cold gaze.
The man looked away and scribbled something in the book. “And where do you hail from?”
“The sovereign states.”
“Well, that is evident,” the man said, nodding towards Jeiy’s bronze skin and jet-black hair. “More specifically, where are you from? What port?”
“That is none of your business.”
The man’s cold gaze was back. “Weapons are not allowed inside the castle walls,” the man said, gesturing toward the long sword on Jeiy’s back and the two short swords at his sides.
“I don’t plan on entering the city walls.”
The man opened his mouth to speak, but Jeiy cut him off. “Where can I find a currency exchange? I’ve heard these Tereches have no value here.”
The main straightened up and gave Jeiy a look of distaste. “Nine docks down, to the right. It’s a domed building with sandstone walls.”
Jeiy nodded, gave a half smile and walked off. It’s best I keep my business to myself, I guess, he thought to himself. These southerners mistrust foreigners enough as it is.
The city walls stretched as far as the eye could see. The weathered grey stone shot up ten times higher than even the tallest man. Every hundred yards, it seemed, lean towers rose into the sky. Each was rimmed with carved stone that reached to the chests of the men who stood guard on them. The currency exchange sat next to a large gate. A ramp with a gradual slope lead to the iron portcullis which were, at the moment, open, allowing the traders into the city. the exchange itself had a round domed roof decorated with gold rods that were inlaid into the roof, reaching from the start of the curve and meeting at the top.
Jeiy opened the door. A bell rang as he entered the dimly lit building. The lobby area was small and the air was heavy. The smell of incense drifted in from somewhere. Iron bars protected the teller, who was sitting behind a desk, counting a stack of coins. When he heard the bell ring, he raised his eyes.
“Hello,” he said in a heavy eastern accent. “Welcome to the King’s Mint. How may I help you today?”
“The King works here?” Jeiy asked, walking to the counter.
“Then why call it the King’s Mint?”
“That’s just its name,” the teller answered. “Now, how may I help you?”
“I need whatever kind of currency you southern folk use. In exchange for these,” Jeiy said, grabbing the pouch that hung at his side and opening it so the man could see the iron Tereches he carried.
“Ah, I see,” the teller said, reaching his hand through the half circle hole in the iron bars. “I’ll get you what you need.”
Jeiy handed him the bag. The teller reached under his desk and brought up a large box that jingled when he put it down. Jeiy watched the man as he poured his coins onto a scale and wrote down a number.
“So what are you doing in the city?” the teller asked, opening the box.
“I’m here to visit my sister,” Jeiy lied. “She just had her first child and I’m here to meet him.”
The teller smirked and raised an eyebrow while counting out coins from the box, asking, “Do they bring long swords to birthday parties in the sovereign states?” Jeiy shrugged.
“My guess is you’re here for - *ahem* - shadier dealings, yes?”
Jeiy said nothing.
“If that is indeed true, then you’d best keep some of these Tereches. They’re used in the black market here.”
“Thanks for the advice,” Jeiy said, grabbing the newly filled pouch.
“Be careful, traveler,” the teller said as Jeiy turned to leave, “There are secrets and dangers in this city you would be best to avoid. FInish your business here quickly, and go.”
Jeiy smiled, “Danger is what I came here seeking.”
The teller just shook his head as Jeiy left.