The Lily Cafe is thrilled to present author Richie Billing and his soon-to-be released fantasy novel Pariah’s Lament!
Title: Pariah’s Lament
Author: Richie Billing
Publisher: Of Metal and Magic Publishing
Publication date: March 17, 2021
“So often it’s the forgotten who possess the power to change the world.”
When an attempt is made on the life of Ashara, Keeper of Yurr, his young, hapless advisor Edvar must uncover and stop those behind it. With enemies in the capital city and the belligerent Tesh, Keeper of neighbouring kingdom Karrabar stirring trouble in the Borderlands, can Edvar hold together Ashara’s brittle reign?
The troubles ripple throughout Yurr, affecting an ancient race of people known as the Amast, who in their time of utmost need, turn to pariah Isy for salvation. Rejected by society, kith and kin, can Isy guide the Amast to safety during the greatest turmoil Yurr has known since the War of the Damned?
An epic underdog’s story, Pariah’s Lament delivers action, adventure, romance and original fantasy. Fans of Joe Abercrombie and George RR Martin will appreciate the gritty realism and vivid battle scenes of Pariah’s Lament, yet at times it possesses a humorous touch akin to the works of James Barclay and Nicholas Eames.
And for those who adore the charismatic characters of Brandon Sanderson and Patrick Rothfuss, you’ll find a cast that will whisk you away on a journey of discovery, intrigue, friendship and love.
Advance praise for Pariah’s Lament
“The story was perfectly paced and I was so wrapped up, wanting to know how it was going to end that I read the entire thing in one go.” Worlds Unlike Our Own
“There is a glorious balance of elements in Pariah’s Lament. You have deep political intrigue, strong, engaging characters, humour in even the darkest moments, and dynamic pulse-quickening action.” Bookends and Bagends
“Masterful world-building, top-notch political manoeuvring, and all the classic elements that make epic fantasy so amazing.“ The Book Suite Book Blog
“Other than Brandon Sanderson, Billing has written my favourite battle scenes where they’re epic and grand.” Sarah Lillian Book Blog
“With themes of vengeance, betrayal, and unity, Pariah’s Lament made for an exciting and adventurous read.“ Bookish Beyond Book Blog
“Billing shrewdly delves into the very relatable, human need to actualize and belong.” Mark Brooks, Author
“Couldn’t put this down… compelling characters and really vivid worldbuilding.” C.T. O’Mahony, Author
“Billing has a knack for writing descriptions that can make readers feel like they’re walking in the character’s shoes.” Anna Civolani, Editor
EDVAR STEPPED OUT of the shadows and into brilliant tricolor light. The morning sun flooded through the stained-glass windows of the Chamber of Assembly and onto the round, well-polished oak table where the Keeper’s Council conducted its affairs. He was the last to arrive.
After the tumultuous night he’d had, getting out of bed had proven a struggle. Sleep had beckoned to him like the prettiest courtesan in the tavern and all his throbbing head had wanted to do was rest in her comfortable bosom. But what sleep he’d gotten had been fitful and he’d awoken with an ill feeling in his stomach. The cause of that, he knew, was not the bang to his head, nor the cut to his arm, but the prospect of this very meeting.
Edvar briefly met Mara’s gaze. She’d changed clothing in the few hours since their last encounter, wearing a long, seaweed-colored skirt, tight to her legs, with a matching velvet cloak. Her role on the Council was to oversee security and policing. She would do anything to deflect the scrutiny onto others, namely him.
Next to her sat Levanwe, something of a permanent fixture in the keep having served Ashara’s mother, Alysa, too. Unlike Mara, she was more prone to a smile and appeared almost innocent with her cropped white hair and small, crooked stature. Edvar knew it masked a wicked and merciless side. Levanwe was regarded as something of an oracle when it came to trade and commerce, over which she presided.
General Malfan sat beside her. Stout as a barrel and about as tall as one too, the balding old man marched wherever he went, the bushy grey moustache that dominated his face bouncing with his strides. Unsurprisingly, he presided over the military.
Opposite Malfan sat Niskima, glaring at Edvar with her hook of a nose almost pointing at the ceiling. She was a woman who took great pleasure in looking down at others, something she had ample opportunity to do with control over the realm’s agriculture.
Rakar sat next to her, his eyes fixed on Edvar as the young councilor made his way to the table.
“My apologies for the tardiness. It’s been a… rough night,” Edvar said, taking his seat beside the treasurer.
“It’s been a rough night for all of us, yet we made it in good time,” Mara said, words cold as the bottom of the Green Deep.
“Quite. Sleep is unimportant in such times, Edvar,” Levanewe said.
Let me sit down at least, Edvar thought as he poured himself a cup of watered wine. It was going to be a long morning.
Rakar began. “The attack on the Keeper is, I’m sure you’ll agree, a deeply disturbing incident, and serious questions must be asked as to how it happened.”
A few glances Edvar’s way. He hid his clenched jaw with a feigned sip of wine. Ashara’s security was his responsibility, as well as intelligence generally. The last thing he needed was to be preached to, though it was to be expected. The assassin was right. The old liked to lord over the young, this lot in particular. They seized any opportunity to pounce upon his inexperiences and naiveties. Not once had they extended the olive branch.
Rakar went on.
“From what I understand, the assassin managed to get onto the roof of the Royal Tower, murdered those standing guard, and climbed down to the Keeper’s balcony.”
“How in Soria did he get onto the roof?” asked Malfan, voice much deeper than expected for such a small fellow.
“She,” corrected Rakar. “It’s a question we’re still trying to answer,” Rakar said, half-glancing at Edvar.
“Did she reveal anything in your interrogations?” Edvar asked, looking at Rakar, then at Mara.
“Little,” Mara said. “After I used the meat grinder on her hands, she fell unconscious.”
Mara’s use of the meat grinder was renowned. Nearly everybody spoke after they’d had a finger or two ruined. And she forced them to watch, pinning open their eyelids if necessary. That was the worst part, Edvar imagined.
“Can we please hold off on the torture?” Edvar said. “We need her alive—she’s the only one who can help us identify who’s behind this.”
“And what do you propose instead? Because whatever method you tried last night achieved nothing,” Mara spat.
Anger rumbled in Edvar’s chest. He did all he could to keep it there. He didn’t want to say something he’d regret, not when he was supposed to be keeping tabs on them for Ashara. He broke his gaze with Mara and took another sip of wine.
“Thank you for your efforts, Mara,” Rakar said. “Please let us know how today’s interrogations fare.”
The others murmured their thanks too. Malfan looked like a dog with a lamb shank, moustache bobbing as he nodded. Edvar kept silent.
“Edvar, what have you learned of the attack? How did the assassin breach the keep’s walls?” Levanwe asked.
“I hate to say it, but you assured us you had things covered. What in Soria happened?” Malfan added.
“I’m still trying to ascertain what exactly occurred. Unfortunately, my questioning of the assassin didn’t lead to anything, but I would speak to her again today, if there is anything left of her.”
Mara stiffened, and for a heartbeat, her eyes flicked to Rakar.
“What of all these informants you boast of? Have they not uncovered anything?” Niskima asked, words hacking at him like a butcher’s cleaver.
“I have every one of them seeking clues. This morning the questioning of all the keep’s staff will begin. I fear somebody helped the assassin get inside the keep.”
“Did you not make these checks before?” Malfan asked.
“Of course. I informed you of my progress at our last meeting. Did you not read my report?”
Silence answered. Edvar knew the thoughts swirling around each of their minds. He is unfit for this job. Useless. A mere child. Edvar swallowed another hot coal of anger.
“Who could be behind this?” Rakar put the question to everyone. Not a hint of his demeanor suggested he had anything to do with it, his face etched with grief.
“Tesh of Karrabar is the obvious suspect,” Niskima said. Levanwe sounded her agreement.
“He has sought nothing but war since he took power,” Malfan said.
“Why treat for peace then?” Rakar asked.
“A smokescreen, to knock us off-guard, make us an easier foe. If he removes Ashara then he’s free to invade,” Malfan said.
“He’s certainly the likeliest option. What of other suspects?” Edvar said. Once more, silence fell. Eyes met eyes.
“We could speculate all day. The information we possess is scant at best,” Rakar said. “Until all of the facts are clear, we must not act. We must continue to probe our contacts for information and see what comes to light.”
All nodded and made noises of consent.
“Edvar, what security measures are now in place?” Rakar asked. “We must ensure no further harm befalls our Keeper. Lock him in his room and wrap him in plates of steel if you must.” At the mention of ‘harm’, his voice wavered with emotion.
“I have twice as many soldiers guarding his tower. Twenty of the finest archers upon the ramparts, a quad of crossbowmen stationed on the balcony, and the watch upon the battlements has been doubled. It would take a small army to get to him.”
“Good. That is all we can do. Defend while we uncover the truth. I’d be grateful if you could send me a report on your added defenses,” Rakar said in a dismissive tone akin to a father addressing his son.
Something inside Edvar’s weary head snapped. “Do you not trust me, Rakar?”
“I did not say that.”
“You implied it. Indeed, you all seem to think it was me that was behind this, judging from your attitudes.”
“The Keeper’s safety isn‘t our responsibility. It’s yours,” Mara said.
“Questions have to be asked,” Levanwe said, that sinister edge flashing in her eyes.
“Well, I have questions of my own, starting with you, Rakar. Why were you the first into the interrogation room? I don’t think I’ve ever seen you within half a mile of that tower.”
“Our Keeper nearly died, and still might, no thanks to you,” Mara spat.
The verbal jab proved one too many. Edvar hurled his cup across the room, spraying Levanwe. Tuts and gasps erupted around the table. Cheeks burning with rage, Edvar stormed from the room. The force with which he slammed the door behind him stirred a rattle from the armor of the surprised guards outside.
Excerpted from Pariah’s Lament by Richie Billing, Copyright © 2021 by Of Metal and Magic Publishing.
About Richie Billing:
Richie Billing writes fantasy fiction, historical fiction and stories of a darker nature. His short fiction has been published by, amongst others, Kzine, TANSTAAFL Press, Bewildering Stories, Liquid Imagination, The Magazine of History & Fiction, Aether and Ichor, and Far Horizons.
He co-hosts the podcast The Fantasy Writers’ Toolshed, a venture inspired by the requests of readers of his acclaimed book, A Fantasy Writers’ Handbook. Most nights you can find him up into the early hours scribbling away or watching the NBA. Find out more at .
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The author of this book, Richie Billing, retains all rights to the excerpt published above, which may not be copied, reproduced, modified, sold, or distributed without the author’s express permission. To contact Richie Billing to request permission to utilize the above excerpts, please send your inquiry to Kat via the Contact page.
Thank you so much, Richie!