The Fish The Fighters and The Song-Girl
Sacred Band Series Book 9
by Janet & Chris Morris
Genre: Historical Fantasy Adventure
After the Battle of Meridian . . . New blood and old warriors face unforeseen challenges as one war ends in triumph and another conflict looms. Stories you'll love to hear again and stories you've been hoping to hear for the first time in a brand-new Sacred Band anthology that takes the Stepsons where they've never been before... Tales of risk and glory, past, present and future, among the Sacred Band of Stepsons cavalry in
The Fish the Fighter and the Song-girl, the latest Sacred Band novelized anthology, including the new title novella, 'The Fish the Fighters and the Song-girl.' Tempus and his Sacred Band won the battle of their dreams, but now the time has come to count the cost and face the consequences in fifteen tales, old and new, of the iconic Sacred Band of Stepsons, including the last six classic Sacred Band stories from the million-copy bestselling shared universe of Thieves' World® and nine new adventures available nowhere else.
Down beyond the White Foal Bridge later that evening, Straton tied his ghost horse outside the odd little house where his love, the necromant, made her home.
Ischade was waiting for him.
“Straton, what is it, what is it? Never fear… nothing can touch us here, no curses made for men, or by those once men, or those who would someday be men,” Ischade soothed, a dark pool of deepest night among her silks and her spells and her madness, which brought the two of them back together time after delirious time.
Eyes so black, hair like spiders’ webs but inky, skin softer than silk and a perfume he could never resist if his life depended on it. She let him put his big arms around her. So tiny was she, he never ceased wondering that such danger and such power could be contained in a package so delicate.
“What is it, Ischade? I’ll tell you…” His voice echoes in that little space where time forgets itself, where everything is other than it seems; in this house, larger within than without and sometimes full of creatures who live a different sort of life than his. But tonight is his night, their night, and long planned. So he can say what he wants and ask her what he wants:
“…Critias called for a healer today. You know what he’s like. He wouldn’t, unless he’s in dire need. And the Stepsons’ healer brought a fish to cure him. I fear for Crit as I’ve not before, not in all our battles. Something’s wrong… and not just with him. Sanctuary feels strange. Unfamiliar. You know how we fought, what we fought – what we won. You were with us. There on the battlefield. You saw the Theban goddess. She says the balance was restored. So what is this? Deserters wandering off the battleplain at the overlook, out of Meridian and into Sanctuary? Some not quite dead, but not really alive? Men, and women too – sleepers and dreamers? Ischade, my dreams are so unsettled…”
“Restless dead, my love, just released. Revenants. And dreamers, some of them caught for eons in Aškelon’s domain.” This ancient necromant has lived through millennia of men and gods and demons and worse. “On a trail blazed by the fated dead, all those Thebans whom the Riddler brought from Chaeronea. That path leads here, to Sanctuary. You know how high your commander reaches now. Vies with gods, he does. As for the balance, ask your Nikodemos: no balance stays restored forever. He and all his brothers of the misty isles, adepts of maat, dedicate their lives to restoring balance. Over and over again.”
“So she lied, this Theban goddess? This Harmony, who has Niko’s soul wrapped up?”
“She said the truth. You have heard the truth so little that when you do, you cannot believe your ears. The balance where the goddess lives, which matters to gods and demigods, has been restored. For how long? Only the Fates can say. Or powers greater than I. Other powers have other goals, other conflicts, and other needs. Powers such as the dream lord can and will upset celestial order. But Aškelon is gone now, and you and all your fighters paid the price. And pay it still. Some day another power may come to take his place. But not today. And your commander knows all this. So rest easy, Straton, here with me. Let fools kill fools and we will be the better for it. Dreams are unfettered? Well and good. Whose dreams will come true in Sanctuary? Do you care? Do I? If what the Riddler wants, and what you want, and even what your Critias wants, can be fulfilled, is that not enough for such as we? Here, now, with you and me, all is as it should be.”
He pulled back from an embrace so heady he couldn’t have said whether he was standing on his feet or lying in her bed or floating down the White Foal River, lost and dead. Her eyes in that white face seemed to swoop toward him, so close to his; he could feel her breath upon his cheek. “But, Ischade…”
“Straton, go you not against that goddess, Nikodemos’ immortal lover. She’ll protect her boy. She saved you once. Be careful. These imported troubles that the Riddler brought must play out. And catch yourself not up in warlords’ schemes and mortal plans for glory, and all will be well for thee and me.”
“And Critias? And the commander? And Niko?”
“And Critias,” sighed Ischade, as if granting a wish or casting a spell. “And perhaps your Riddler. But Nikodemos… he is on another path than mortal men do tread. Be you cautious, Straton. And ride the horse I gave thee, back to me and forth to them, and back again. And all can still be well with us, if we do not seek to reach beyond our grasp.”
“Ischade, you’re wiser than even Tempus.” Older,forcertain. “What should I tell the commander?” When she ‘thee’d’ him this way, danger always lay in wait.
“Hope he asks you nothing. If he does, say you will ask of me any favor he so wishes. And leave it so. And let the fires burn low, for mortal striving. Your commander reaches for yonder stars and gods do eye him. And there are more Fates in the wide worlds of men than those whom he has aided. So confusion will reign once more in Sanctuary. What, dear Straton, is the difference, to you and me?”
Since he couldn’t answer that, he lay back down atop her silks and velvets. There she clasped her hands behind his head and whispered of all they could do and all they could be together. She would protect him, as she could, and if she could, and even succor Critias, as he asked her.
More than that, this necromant, so wary, could not – or would not – promise.
Best selling author Janet Morris began writing in 1976 and has since published more than 30 novels, many co-authored with her husband Chris Morris or others. Most of her fiction work has been in the fantasy and science fiction genres, although she has also written historical and other novels. Morris has written, contributed to, or edited several book-length works of non-fiction, as well as papers and articles on nonlethal weapons, developmental military technology and other defense and national security topics.
Christopher Crosby Morris (born 1946) is an American author of fiction and non-fiction, as well as a lyricist, musical composer, and singer-songwriter. He is married to author Janet Morris. He is a defense policy and strategy analyst and a principal in M2 Technologies, Inc. He writes primarily as Chris Morris, but occasionally uses pseudonyms.
Together we breed Morgan horses. We consult with Morgan breeders to help them choose crosses to their stock to achieve a desired result.
We are also musicians; Janet plays bass guitar, Chris sings and plays guitar. We have an album on MCA records. Look for Christopher Crosby Morris on Soundcloud or N1M.com
Can you, for those who don't know you already, tell something about yourself and how you became an author?
Janet wrote her first novel, High Couch of Silistra in 1975; a friend sent it to an agent who chose to represent her; she had already written the second book in the Silistra Quartet and her agent told her not to disclose that until they finalized the contract for the first one. When the publisher learned of the others, Bantam Books bought the succeeding three. When the fourth book was published, the series already had four million copies in print. Suddenly Janet was a novelist specializing in environmental, gender, historical and political subjects. In the process, Chris started as her editor and ultimately a co-writer. Since then, she and Chris have co-authored many books.
Who is your hero and why?
Heraclitus of Ephesus, a pre-socratic philosopher, whose Cosmic Fragments foreshadow our knowledge of reality and how to perceive it. Among his precepts is the statement that change alone is unchanging. We’ve worked Heraclitus’ fragments in here and there throughout our books.
Which of your novels can you imagine being made into a movie?
All of them. We write cinematically, our books are vivid adventures we undertake without knowing the destination. I, the Sun, The Sacred Band, and Outpassage are particularly suited to film. TheThreshold Series is a feast of opportunities for today’s special effects creators.
What inspired you, to write theThe Fish the Fighters & the Song-girlbook?
The Fish the Fighters & the Song-girl is a Sacred Band retrospective bringing together excerpts and vignettes from obscure other writings, introducing new characters and completing a story circle in preparation for stories to come. The Band is bivouacked and trainees need to know enough history of their cadre to assume their roles in campaigns to come. One by one Sacred Band veterans step forward and address their comrades, telling of exploits past and are surprised when Tempus encounters mythical creatures inhabiting their meeting place.
Convince us why you feelThe Fish the Fighters and the Song-girlis a must read.
If you are new to the Band, The Fish the Fighters and the Song-girl will give you the orientation a new fighter would receive. Older fighters, and Tempus himself, step forward in an entirely new novella to teach new recruits how to prepare for the changes in their lives to come. In order to impart these lessons, the Band’s stalwarts share their experiences from battles past as well as their most recent death-match with the lord of dream, the cost in lives and honor exacted on that battlefield. As you hear these stories, you too might begin to wonder if you could measure up to the challenges these brave hearts will face.
Who designed your book covers?
Most of our covers, including The Fish the Fighters and the Song-girl, are realized by Roy Mauritsen, a gifted graphic artist.
Advice to writers?
As for advice to writers, here is all we know: write the story you want to read. Start at the beginning, go to the end, and stop. Seriously. From start to finish you must inhabit the construct in a manner that makes the reader choose to continue; if we as writers can’t feel what it’s like being there, our readers can’t either. Close your eyes, look at your feet where they are standing on the story’s ground; tell us what you see. Tell us what you hear. Ask at the end of each paragraph ‘what happens next?’. If you lose touch with it wait until you’re back inside it. Tell the story that comes to you, and from you, to us.