My name is Duncan Lay and I'm the author of the Australian best-selling fantasy trilogies, The Dragon Sword Histories and the Empire Of Bones. I am now with Momentum Books (Pan Macmillan) and my new series, The Last Quarrel is out in eBook and print. Book 2, The Bloody Quarrel, is coming out in December 2015/Jan 2016 in eBook and will be in print later in 2016. Head over to my website, www.duncanlay.com for more!
Sunday, October 7, 2012
DVD EXTRAS I
Readers of my original series know that, often, there are
scenes and/or characters that are cut out of early drafts. Sometimes these are
removed because they are not working, sometimes because their sub-plot is
slowing down the action and sometimes because I need to get back under my
180,000 word limit!
Now, when you buy a DVD, you get to see extra scenes that
were left on the cutting room floor.
Here, you get the DVD extras from Bridge Of Swords. These
scenes may give you some extra insight into characters, or you may well judge
that it was a good thing I cut them out!
HUW AND RHIANNON
city of Cridianton, the capital of Forland, was impressive. It was meant to be.
It said to everyone, this is the pre-eminent country, the biggest and most
powerful in the world.
Huw, it was stunning. It looked like something out of the stories his father
had told him when he was a boy, stories of elven cities.
course the stone used was grey, rather than white, and the towers were squat
and powerful, rather than tall and beautiful. The practical part of him knew
much of it would be filthy and miserable, crowded streets and misery, hunger
and rats. But the romantic within him thrilled at the sight of the colourful
flags snapping from the top of the city walls.
Once a year, King Ward allowed
performers to try out for his court’s amusement. Ward and his court were
insatiable for entertainment and they quickly became bored with seeing the same
thing. Those singers, dancers, jugglers, clowns and bards who angered the
Forlish King were lucky if they escaped with their skins intact - but those who
pleased him left the court after a year with their pockets full of gold. And,
better yet, they were assured of work at every town in Forland. Every minor
nobleman and rich merchant wanted to see an entertainer who had delighted their
king. Huw estimated he could return home within two years with enough money
that he could pay for labourers to take over his father’s farm, as well as
build himself the finest house in the village.
of those heading for Crondon were hopefuls like himself, while others were
those looking to prey on them or profit from them. Up ahead was a long, mostly
good-natured queue of those looking to get inside the gate. The guards were
speaking to all before they could enter, which was taking time but Huw was not
worried. The trials were not until tomorrow and he was in no hurry. There was
so much to look at! Stalls had been set up at the side of the road and it
seemed to be turning into a fair.
the road, a young juggler was performing for a small crowd, sending three small
painted wooden tops soaring high into the air before catching them. Huw stopped
also, partly through interest, partly because he could see the nervous sweat on
the man’s face, see the way he was snatching at the wooden tops as they went
past, rather than letting them drop smoothly into his hand. He tried to will
the man to stop while he was ahead. The juggler was tall and good-looking, blue
eyes beneath a shock of blond hair, a cheeky smile and a square jaw. Huw knew
looks should make no difference to talent but the sad fact was, people liked
their entertainers to be handsome or beautiful.
reflected enviously that if he looked like that, he would have more than a
small crowd around him. But he knew enough to stop while they still wanted
more. There were a dozen people watching him, and if the juggler finished with
a flourish and a smile, he might get half a dozen coppers, and the same in
now for the finale, I shall attempt four!’ the juggler called confidently, and
Huw groaned inwardly. He had seen many entertainers performing at Forlish inns
these past few weeks - and at least three jugglers who were far better.
is my helper?’ the juggler shouted, oblivious to Huw’s concern.
small child stepped forwards, a fourth top, this one painted red, in his hand.
throw it to me!’
could see what as going to happen long before it did, but there was nothing he
could do to stop it. He just had to watch, wincing, as the last top was thrown
clumsily to the juggler. The man reached out for it, lost his rhythm and the
tops went in all directions, the last one - predictably - landing squarely on
juggler staggered a little as the crowd roared with laughter and then turned as
one and walked away, looking for more entertainment. The small boy gaped at the
wreckage, then was tugged away by his mother.
I have more tricks, spectacular shows that will amaze even our great King
Ward!‘ the juggler called, but jeers followed his claim and the people moved
away even faster.
moved also, but to help the juggler, who had slumped to the ground, rubbing his
let me get these,’ Huw offered as he gathered up the fallen tops.
thanks to you,’ the juggler gasped. `Now, if you could but bring the crowd
almost had them. It was just the child as a helper. It was a good touch,
bringing with it laughter and support from the crowd but it meant the act
failed, where an older child might have given you the better conclusion to the
show,’ Huw handed over the tops.
sound like you are a performer also …’ the juggler’s voice tailed off as he
glimpsed the lyre in its protective case slung across Huw’s back.
will also be performing for King Ward,’ Huw admitted.
that is wonderful! We shall win contracts together!’ the juggler said with a
smile. `I am Bertwald, from Browns Brook. And you?’
I have travelled widely but I ever heard of that village. Where is that? Balian
it‘s in the Vales,’ Huw said proudly, now collecting the rest of Bertwald’s
props. Then he noticed the juggler was not helping him, was just staring
Vales? But where’s your beard?’ he asked dumbly.
chuckled. `We don’t all wear beards and shag sheep in the Vales! We have a
proud history of song, and heroic tales…’ He trailed off, horribly aware that Bertwald
was neither laughing or smiling, and seemed to have no interest whatsoever in
the history of the Vales in song.
Velsh? And to think I was actually considering travelling to the capital with
why not? What’s wrong with travelling with me?’
you mad? King Ward will throw a stinking Velshman out of Crondon before he even
gets the chance to open his mouth! And anyone who travels with them would get
the same fate,’ he declared, hurriedly packing the last of his props. `I want
nothing to do with a filthy Velshman. Stay clear of me!’
gaped at him. Bertwald had seemed pleasant enough, if lacking in talent. Where
had this come from?
you’re smarter than the average Velsh oaf you’ll turn around and go back to
whatever shit village you crawled out from,’ Bertwald continued. `But stay away
you have it wrong, but we can still travel together. I just won’t tell them I’m
Velsh,’ Huw offered with a smile, although the words of his father Earwen were
flooding into his head, about always being proud of where you came from.
away from me!’ Bertwald pushed him hard in the chest and Huw staggered
backwards, falling down but twisting at the last moment so he did not land on
his precious lyre. He sprang to his feet and checked it anyway, then brushed
the grass and leaves from his cloak angrily. The juggler was hurrying away and
he knew he should go after the man, throw him down to the ground and repay him
for his rudeness and that push. In his village, if you were pushed over, you
came up swinging fists. At the very least he should tell him a few facts of
life, about how unwise it was to be rude towards helpful strangers, and how the
Velsh were not strange barbarians who were overly affectionate to sheep but his
feet would not move after Bertwald and, worse, the words to say that would not
come to him. It was not because he lacked for words, he made his living from
them. But a combination of shock and fear stilled his tongue. Not fear for
himself, he told himself loudly, but more of causing a scene. How many of the
other people here would think the same as this juggler? If he began an argument
about the honour of the Vales, would the people listen or would they side with
the handsome Forlish juggler?
watched Bertwald scamper away, still staring darkly at him, and made sure there
was no stains on his clothes instead. He swirled his cloak around for a final
check and wondered if it might not be better to pretend he was from some
isolated Forlish village. After all, if Ward did hate the Velsh, perhaps
discretion would be the better part of valour. Impress the Forlish King first,
then when he had won a contract to perform there, reveal where he came from -
and then none could doubt he was a proud Velshman, he told himself. That would
be the smart thing to do.
by his own logic, he walked across to join the growing queue of hopefuls being
interviewed by a pair of men in court clothes, flanked by a squad of bored
way there! Make way!’ the call came up from behind and craned his head, trying
to see what was coming up the road - then wished he hadn’t. It was a long line
of people - men, women and even children, filthy and dressed in rags. But the
real horror was the way they were tied together, rope halters around the necks,
even around the necks of the youngest, boys and girls no older than ten
summers. Huw watched, his mouth sagging open, as they were driven along the
road by a score of armoured riders with whips, who were not afraid to use them.
slacking there! We didn’t keep you alive just to let you lie down now!‘ the
leader roared, plying the whip on a pair of stragglers.
was outraged to see one of them was a young girl. He glanced around, expecting
everyone else to be as disgusted, but heads hardly raised, from the queue of
hopefuls to the many stallholders, farmers and merchants going about their
usual business. Or, if they did, they merely looked then went on with whatever
it was they were doing.
first instinct was to rush over, to protect the women and children being herded
down the road into the capital like animals. No, worse than animals, for the
sheep, cattle and goats he had seen go past him that day had been well-fed,
cared for. But he found his feet were frozen to the spot. The cruelty, the
anger, on the faces of the guards told him they would not listen to reasoned
argument about the nature of freedom. Still he knew it was the right thing. He
had to do something, say something. His father would never have
let such a sight go past.
have to stand up for what you believe in, or you will end up living your life
on your knees. And that is no way for a man to spend his days,’ Earwen often
could imagine what his father would do. He would pull one of those arrogant
riders off their horse, take their sword and free the prisoners. Anyone who
tried to stop him would be cut down. But Huw could not move. All the riders
looked huge in their armour, and all carried long daggers and curved swords at
their belts, as well as the cruel whips. On horseback they seemed huge,
forbidding. Huw could not imagine wresting a sword from one of them, nor
freeing even the smallest prisoner.
are they?’ he managed to croak.
man in front, another bard by his costume, turned and looked, as if seeing them
for the first time.
pack of Balians for the slave markets. They bring back a string or two of them
every week. They make good slaves, once they have had the nonsense whipped out
of them. They should realise that Forland is their ruler. They should be happy
to be slaves to the greatest country in the worldI’
felt sick. The line of Balians passed close by, and he watched each face in
horror, seeing their pain, their exhaustion, the fear and dread etched into
every line. The ropes had rubbed red wounds around wrists and necks, while
their feet were torn and bloody from the road. One young man, no older than
himself, had a dozen vicious weals across his shoulders as well. Even as Huw
watched, a rider slashed down with his whip, opening another wound across the
man’s upper back.
looked up angrily - and wished he hadn’t. He locked eyes with the slaver, who
leered at him.
the look of that one, do you?’ he winked. `I promise not to damage his pretty
face. That’s what you’re looking for, after all, isn’t it?’
and afraid, Huw looked away.
and see the slave markets tomorrow. They’ll be for sale soon. But bring your
purses - prime Balian slaves like these are hard to find!’ the rider called,
widening his sales pitch to everyone within earshot.
lying,’ the bard in front said quietly. `The market’s choked with slaves from
every part of the continent. The strong ones will fetch a gold piece, the
young, good-looking women double that, but the rest can be had for a few
silvers. The King should be ordering the army to kill more of them, rather than
take slaves. It’s wrecking the whole economy. Even the beggars can afford a
slave these days!’
realised the man expected him to be sympathetic but it was all he could do not
to vomit. In the Vales, every man was free and the thought of owning slaves was
as repugnant as sleeping with the sheep. And the Forlish called them
barbarians! He knew what the right thing to do was. He should walk away from
here, go back to where the air was clean, the people honest and no man was
another’s slave. It was what his father would do and he could almost hear
Earwen’s voice telling him to do exactly that.
yet … he had known the Forlish were corrupt and greedy, had known their army
was rarely at home but instead was ever widening the lands King Ward could call
his own. He had known and he had still come here, because this was his dream.
Only here could he truly become a bard, only here could he earn the money he
needed to look after his parents. If he returned now, he could walk away with a
clean conscience but he would have to give up the lyre, have to become a
farmer. Every sacrifice his father had made would be worthless. Everyone in the
village would nod their heads, declare knowledgeably that they knew this would
happen all along. This was what came of having impossible dreams. Velshmen did
not become bards, they became farmers or miners. He would forever be laughed
at, forever have to live with the thought he had failed.
is only for a year. I shall walk away by then, he told himself. And, perhaps, he could earn enough
money to purchase slaves which he could set free. Walking away would not help
those poor people, he told himself, warming to the task, but staying and making
so much gold that he could release them would save them.
seized upon that idea like a man dying of thirst reaching for a cup of water.
It would be better if he stayed, he could do more good that way, he decided. It
took courage to walk away, but even more to stay and do something about the
much better about the decision, he straightened his shoulders and rejoined the
queue. The last of the tortured Balians were moving through the city gates now
and the slavers were disappearing from sight with them. From the reaction of
the crowd, the horrific little scene might never have happened. That did shake
Huw’s determination to stay, a little. If these people could ignore what was
being done to women and even children, what else would he discover behind the
city walls? Something deep inside his gut was telling him he should go, that to
stay was a betrayal of everything his father had taught him. But his head was
in control and, after all he had gone through to get here, he had no intention