Follow a wild take on Alexander The Great in EMPIRE OF DUST!
Eleanor Herman made a huge impression last year with her debut novel Legacy of Kings, a historical fantasy that takes on the breathtaking rule of young conqueror Alexander the Great. Now her Blood of Gods and Royals series continues with the second book, Empire of Dust!
To celebrate the continuation of this intense, fantastical series, Epic Reads is offering up the first four chapter of the novel prior to its summer release date. Take a look!
Leaves rustling. Branches creaking.
The tinkle of tiny bells and cymbals creeps toward her on the wind. Olympias—queen of Macedon, mother of Prince Regent Alexander—knows she is close.
She keeps walking through the trees of the sacred trail—where horses are forbidden—even though her legs ache and a dull pain in her lower back throbs from long hours in the saddle. She needs answers.
Finally, she sees the sacred oak in the clearing ahead, a tree that was already ancient when Troy burned. Its weighty lower limbs, thick as a man’s body, rest on the ground, gray and gnarled, before curling up again.
The afternoon air is thick and warm, and a trickle of sweat drips down her neck. Her long, silver-blond hair has come undone, wisps blowing into her face as they did so often when she was young and preferred to wear it loose.
An eternity ago, on just such a summer afternoon full of birdsong and sunshine, she lay with him here, wrapped in his strong arms under these wide, whispering boughs. Then her heart was alive with love, and she truly believed she could feel the presence of the goddess who was said to dwell within the tree. Now her pulse is no more than a beating drum, counting the hours, months, years that have been lost. The emptiness of her life eats at her organs like the arsenic she has feared ever since she became queen. For all know that arsenic is the king of poisons, the poison of kings. And queens.
She feels the unquenchable hunger rising in her blood again, the insistent need for something—anything—to stop the torment. Watching as flames consumed the potter’s house three days ago—hearing the screams of the family as her guards dragged them outside—satisfied her need for action for a few beautiful hours…but then the bright, warm blaze of vengeance quickly turned cold as ashes.
Frustration gnawing at her, she pushes her way into the sanctuary of the branches. The world under the tree is like a spacious villa, with countless rooms on many floors—long-empty—divided by diaphanous curtains of green. Golden light pours through dozens of windowlike partings. She approaches the trunk and runs a hand over the rough edges of the lumpy bark. How many warriors joining hands would it take to surround the trunk? Twelve? Fifteen?
A man’s voice startles her and she inhales sharply. “I received your message, my queen.”
Lord Bastian steps out from behind the trunk and gives her a mocking bow—not quite low enough and far too fast. She lets herself take in the burning dark eyes and tall form, a bit sorry he isn’t wearing the black leather uniform and horned helmet of an Aesarian Lord, although his mulberry-colored tunic shows off his lean muscles. His dark hair hangs in thick waves to his shoulders.
Olympias fingers the dagger in her cloak pocket and feels the sharpness of its tip. “You survived the battle,” she says archly. “My guards told me that my son performed brilliantly as general.”
The scar on Bastian’s cheek twitches a bit, puckering. “Yes. It was an impressive performance. Still, I don’t know that Alexander would have won if the girl hadn’t helped him.”
Olympias should be grateful to the wretch for saving Alexander’s life, but all she can feel is a bright, hard anger pulsing through her veins. “My messengers have brought me stories that Katerina used a catapult to shoot amphorae full of scorpions and snakes at your army. That she unleashed the hellion—”
Bastian winces and waves a hand to stop her. “Speak no more of the battle,” he says, taking a step toward her. “The Lords have been humiliated. Despite our superior numbers, despite the fact that we are the best fighting force in the world, we were vanquished by a boy leading an untested army—and a girl tossing pots.”
He steps even closer, and she can feel his breath on her forehead. “Where have you been the past few days?” he asks. “Our spies say you left the palace before the battle.”
Her heart beats faster as he nears. It’s not just that he’s young and handsome and slender while her husband, King Philip, is middle-aged, stocky, and missing an eye. What draws her irresistibly to this Lord is the sense of danger that wafts about him like an Egyptian perfume. Intoxicating.
This man knows no loyalty—he is capable of doing anything, killing anyone. Even her. He’s already tried once.
Empire of Dust hits bookshelves on June 28, 2016. You can pre-order it now via Amazon.