Hello everyone! Welcome to my stop on the Escapist Book Tours/Company. Unfortunately, life has been rather hectic and I was unable to finish this novel in time. But wait! Don’t go just yet! Below, you will find all the information you need about this book AND! a 3000 word excerpt! Thank you to L.L. Stephens for sending me a copy of this (from what I’ve read) intriguing and tense novel and to Escapist Book Company for putting this whole thing together. SECRETS SHEATHE SWORDS.
A fallen world is littered with the corpses of broken god-machines, and a sheltered angry youth is destined to reawaken their power. But to embody a god, Dorilian Sordaneon must first learn to be human.
Dorilian is blood-bound to the Rill, a quasi-living artifact that spans continents and empowers a privileged few to reap the riches of an entire civilization. Unfortunately, decades after seizing control of the remaining god-machines, those privileged few aren’t willing to give up their power—even if it means destroying the human bloodline to which the Rill is tethered.
(This is our attempt at a bit of fun. We ask our authors to come up with a few short, clever, possibly pop culture laden, descriptions of their books just to give a little taste of what’s to come for readers.)
He Ain’t Heavy (He’s My Brother) • Another Brick in the Wall, Part 1 • You Want a Battle, Here’s a War
Sordaneon by L.L. Stephens
Series: The Triempery Revelations
Genre: Epic Fantasy
Intended Age Group: Adult
Publisher: Forest Path Books
- Shown on Page (things clearly told to the reader):
- Child abuse
- Death during childbirth
- Premature birth
- Character death
- Alluded to (things only mentioned in passing or hinted at):
- Animal violence
Publisher Direct: https://forestpathbooks.com/catalogue/sordaneon/
Villas and gardens clung to the cliffsides overlooking the port at Tiris. With Sordan dominating the island, the towers of its shining Citadel rising above the mountain behind the town like a crown, the harbor attracted only small boats and the pleasure yachts of wealthy residents. From a terrace high on a jutting spur of rock between the town and a private beach, Daimonaeris lounged at the water’s edge of her swimming pool and watched those boats bobbing far below. Though she missed Mormantalorus, she enjoyed her privileged new life. As wife to the Sordaneon Hierarch’s Heir, she lived in perfect luxury—much as she had in her brother’s household—surrounded by servants she had brought with her and unfettered even by a husband’s presence. Dorilian had kept his word and never bothered her, not so much as an inquiry. For her part, she never knew for sure where he was, nor did she care. Turning over in the water, she swam to the other side and rose, water spilling from her hair and body as she stepped out of the pool. Two maidservants dashed forward with gauzy sheets to cover her nakedness.
Daimonaeris did not fear prying eyes. The estate was situated on high ground and approached on three sides by sheer cliffs and open lake. Only a towering Rill limb, soaring above the cliff face, was higher. Far out into the lake, another white limb raised above the water, but so distant as to be shrouded in haze, a faint blue suggestion.
After donning a robe, Daimonaeris took a glass of orange nectar from her maid and began to mentally organize her evening. She had brought a troupe of players from Mormantalorus to perform the latest work of a favorite playwright and had invited several of the local nobility to join her for the performance. There would be a lavish feast beforehand, as suited the occasion, and more feasting after. And games, of course, upon the lawn. She had heard of a man who owned a string of enormous two-legged lizards from the wastelands of Sansordan. He had trained them to carry people on their backs, and racing the creatures had become one of the island’s latest rages. She knew the man had arrived at the estate, because from time to time the distressed squeals of strange animals trumpeted nearby.
Though she had initially resisted her brother’s choice of a husband for her—having hoped for a man like Nammuor himself, handsome and tall, a man she might admire and love— Daimonaeris had come to terms with her lot. She might not like her juvenile husband, but she found much to like in being his wife. Dorilian put no limits on her expenses. Though he did not open his finances to her and she had been unable to ascertain the precise extent of his wealth, she could tell it might indeed be nearly as limitless as Nammuor had promised. The greatest fortune in the Triempery, her brother had said, and you will be positioned to spend it however you choose.
Her brother had left two days after her wedding, sailing back to Mormantalorus and his responsibilities as ruler of their homeland. Her heart ached sometimes, missing him and the protection he represented. Since childhood, he had been her guardian, her strong, golden champion upon whose broad shoulders she had been princess and queen. Nammuor was her only chosen partner for every dance, her consort for every state occasion. His throne child, he called her, for though but a child, she provided the legitimacy for his rule. Her country had not wished to see her wed to a foreign prince, but such was Nammuor’s command, and none dared oppose his plans. Sordan’s rulers are weak, he’d whispered to her one night in their private grotto, a cavern carved by a volcano and fed by the sea. Its dome was encrusted with glowing, omnivorous ferns, ones that feasted on tiny life forms lifted by air currents from hot, luminescent pools below. His eyes had glowed with the golden future he described to her. The Highborn Princes of Sordan have degenerated, bred with half-men to become half-men themselves. All we need do is plant the seed we wish to flower.
And so she was among them now, among half-men. Among people of bloodlines so tangled and confused that they lacked identity or even true history, whereas she could claim descent from the god Amynas through his son Ergeiron. Her Highborn forefathers had wrested the Citadel of Fire from the volcano that had claimed its lower levels, had made the City habitable and reclaimed Mormantalorus from the sea. Her people alone had kept their bloodlines pure: through isolation, through need, and through pride. Not for them the thoughtless coupling of animals, degenerate and indulgent. They were the Pure, the uncontaminated. Only sterilized slaves were allowed into the Citadel to serve their pleasure, and any child of a slave was a slave itself. Slaves were educated, well-treated, well-used—and they belonged to the god-sired rulers of the land. But here in Sordan, even the god-born had become half-men and coupled with lesser blood.
A woman ran up from the house, her fair hair shining beneath a servant’s snood. “My Lady Archessa.” She dropped to both knees before her. “Your husband has arrived.”
Daimonaeris, at first, could not believe she had heard correctly. The word was not one generally heard in her household. At her back, her three young maidservants froze in confusion, perhaps similarly stunned.
“Prince Dorilian and several companions,” the woman said. “Six, including the Heir of Teremar and the younger heir of Suddekar. He says he will be here for the night.”
Not if I have anything to say about it! Gathering the long draping of her robe over one arm, she swept from the terrace in search of her boy spouse. He was easily found. Dorilian waited in the entrance hall, still wearing travel clothes, his companions but for Legon having already dispersed to rooms the chamberlain had provided.
“What are you doing here?” she demanded.
“I’d forgotten how pleasant this villa is.” He walked past her and ignored the implication that his arrival required explanation. He stopped at gold-crowned pillars leading toward a broad terrace looking over the town. The blue sky and lake framed him with disturbing clarity.
She noted something different about him, something new—or unveiled. He held himself taller. But he was still shorter than she, still as common, and still looked upon her with a half-man’s base-colored eyes.
“I won’t have you and your friends ruining my party.”
Dorilian smiled. “A party? I said we would go to parties together.”
She blanched. The last thing she wanted was for her husband to start playing the part. “It’s a play, by a writer you wouldn’t like.”
“I will sleep through it. As for your guests, believe me when I say that I shall be your crowning achievement—unless you prefer I not announce my presence, so that they might treat me like the stable boy you think I should be.”
“Don’t be crass.”
He stared at her coldly. “Don’t you be stupid. I know you’re not.”
Tossing her wet hair back from her shoulders, she stared at her irate husband. She hated him for reminding her she could not deny him that status. It was also true that once her guests knew he was in residence, she would be inundated with requests for his appearance. The greater humiliation would be if she could not produce him.
I hope he behaves himself. Dorilian’s reputation for not observing social proprieties was legendary. But worse than that was the way he looked at her, his gaze approving the way her filmy robe clung to her body’s curves. She had seen that gaze in men before, but never in him. Please don’t let him want to sleep with me, she prayed. She was a virgin still, a condition Nammuor had warned her to preserve until the time was right. Just the thought of Dorilian’s hands on her body made her stomach turn. As she angled away from him to hide her reaction, she glimpsed the abrupt way his facial muscles clenched, betraying that he had noted it.
“I need to get ready.” She left him there, framed by pillars and sky, his coldness pouring over her as if it could douse the same fire that hers had doused in him.
The garden of the villa at Tiris had not yet divested itself of lingering traces of sweetgrass torch smoke and the aroma of lizard droppings wafting up from the lawn below. If Dorilian had not already resolved that he would leave the place after but one night, the stench would have persuaded him. He couldn’t decide which had been worse: accompanying Daimonaeris to the villa’s banquet hall to play the part of her husband when they both knew he would never be one in other than name, or the drama he’d been forced to watch—about a virtuous Staubaun woman who chose to die rather than wed the powerful chieftain of a primitive people who had conquered her city. That woman had arranged for her servants and Staubaun lover to sacrifice their lives also, thus following her into virtue. He had turned to Daimonaeris without smiling and whispered, “There is your other option.”
Unfortunately, he had little hope she would take up the suggestion. She’d ultimately been pleased because his appearance greatly enhanced her event. Even the noblest residents of Tiris could not have hoped to meet Sordan’s Heir under any other circumstance, and they had been suitably awed the entire evening. Though Tiflan and Deleus had later engaged in some lively discussion of the play, bestowing it with the pretense of respectability, Dorilian resented having his name attached to it. He was even less happy when Daimonaeris insisted he accompany her to the lawn for games. Appalled by the sight of giant lizards cavorting across the grass of his villa, human jockeys clinging to the creatures’ necks as guests bet upon the beasts, he had stayed only long enough to let it be said that he had been there. Though Daimonaeris, wearing a gown of indigo silk and a necklace of firestones about her lovely throat, had hissed for him to stay, he refused.
“I’ll be embarrassed!” She stood fists tight at her sides, her beautiful eyes hot with rage at the attention they were drawing.
“I already am!” He fervently wished that he had not given her this estate. Just steps away, Tiflan and Legon were exchanging a spate of lizard jokes, with more certain to come.
“You’re a horrible husband—”
“Good! I never wanted to be an admirable one—or one at all, for that matter!” He left her to her happily shrieking guests and tables piled high with delicacies cooled by ice statues, each more extravagant than the next.
Now, in the gray light of morning, those statues were only memories, the lumps of their glory melting among the shrubbery where servants had thrown them. Only two servants had risen to attend the Heir and his friends as they broke the fast at a small table set near the terrace edge, looking out over the lake. Legon sipped from a cup of strong tea, his attitude watchful. Only Tiflan and Tutto knew for certain why they were there or why they had come to Tiris instead of riding directly to Rhondda.
“I know we didn’t come prepared to find a party, but it was fun.” Deleus was the first to break the silence they shared. Of course, half of the Suddekan prince’s fun had come from being mistaken for Dorilian, whom he resembled. Though he and his cousin had been dressed very differently, the evening was sure to result in rumors that Dorilian had placed bets upon the lizards.
Tiflan and Legon, in fact, considered the creatures the high point of the visit.
“I took my biggest winning when the green-nosed beast crapped in the lily-pool.” Tiflan had only to point to the evidence.
“A low-risk wager,” Legon countered. “The creatures crap indiscriminately. The blue-toed one I bet on crapped on a lady’s lap.”
“Did I ever tell you how lizards lose weight?”
Legon met Tiflan’s broad grin without a smile. “They shed their scales.”
All of them wore travel clothes now, plain tan cotton and leathers for the road. Dorilian had earlier ordered the bodyguard out of bed and their horses readied.
The sun rose above the horizon and spilled rosy light across the lake like a carpet down an aisle. Brilliant sparks danced along the stream of tea the pretty servant girl was pouring. The young men smiled at her, and she shyly smiled back before realizing her error and ducking her head, flustered at the Highborn presence, perhaps mistaking which one was her mistress’s husband. Light now gilded all their faces. Dorilian rose from the table. His friends rose with him, their gazes following his inland, toward the heather-shrouded hills where mist still clung to the gorges and sunlight painted the single Rill structure with blue and rose.
They heard it first, a deep low thrum, followed quickly by another slightly higher pitched, then another higher still. Spacial displacement, contained. A sound familiar to many, but one which this town had never heard. The last note, a gentle whine, pierced the morning as a brilliant spear of light, massive beyond most human experience of such things, erupted within the pylon ring before vanishing into pinpoint nothingness across the lake, faster than the eye could see. The Mormantaloran serving girl dropped her pot and it shattered, splashing hot liquid across the flagstones and the boots of the young men.
“Rill!” Her cry alerted the other servants, who, bleary-eyed from staying up through the night, stumbled out from the villa in confusion. In the town below, people could be seen running from their houses, turning and pointing.
The Entity had spoken.
“Take them all and imprison them wherever you choose, so long as it is deep and inescapable. Remand them to Rhodhur, for all I care.”
Even for Chyralane, Denizen of Phaer, the statement was venomous. By wishing the Sordaneons into the custody of Khelds, she was as much as consigning them to death. Her audience, assembled over the course of a full day from those domains with access to the Rill, filled the audience chamber of Permephedon’s Archhalia.
Marc Frederick refused to answer the provocation. He had just journeyed for hours, was wet and disheveled, and had not bothered to change from the elegant clothing he had worn to his son’s betrothal celebration in Merath. A regal crown glinted in bright points on his dark, bedraggled head. He simply sat on the throne, chin in hand, and listened as the detritus of thirty-five years of his nobles’ freehandedness in the Sordan domains came crashing to an end on the Archhalia’s floor.
The ambassador from Trongor rolled his eyes at Chyralane’s demand. “Imprisoning your Sordaneons would be easy, if they could be taken, but of course they can’t be. They are in Sordan.”
A noteworthy reminder. The island city had never truly been invaded. Marc Frederick had captured Labran at Permephedon and then pressured Deben into allowing Esseran troops to occupy his domain in exchange for his father’s life. Expanding that presence would be precarious if the populace perceived that Essera was trying to unseat or kill their Highborn rulers.
We cannot let it come to an invasion. That would create too deep a breach, an insurmountable wall. And the risk of losing the Sordaneons in the ensuing conflict would be unacceptable.
The Leur’s Ring burned on his finger, alerting him to dangerous swells in the emotional sea of nobles and dignitaries: the dominating currents were vengeful, self interested, with little hope of being turned.
From beside Marc Frederick, the Epoptean Psilant Quirin raised his hands, exhorting the group’s attention. He wore his stately robes of office, symbols evocative of the Rill’s rings and arches embroidered across the breast of his white mantle.
“Sordan is as stunned as we are here.” Quirin drew upon the dense information to which his Order was privileged. “I have just come from there. Let me assure you that Sordan is at peace! The Hierarch Deben summoned me immediately, even before I could demand a meeting with him. I’m convinced he did not know of this in advance. He will be examining his options—and I suggest we move carefully regarding him. He presently is cooperating with the King’s provisional commanders in controlling the public there.”
Chyralane was not mollified. Tall as any man, dressed in black robes that gave her the look of an angry oracle, she was willing to say the things others would not. “Who cares about Deben? The man is a fool. It is Sebbord who roosts upon that mount, taunting us all. Your Order oversees the nodes. Well, Hestya’s node is not needed. Get rid of it.”
Quirin eyed her with the narrow-lidded disdain of a thwarted toad. “Do you think the Order did not try that first? The Rill recognizes Hestya as part of its body, and it does not honor our requests that it ignore or dispose of it. Shall I illustrate the problem?” He looked at her and issued a command. “Cut off your arm!”
Marc Frederick lifted an eyebrow at the analogy.
Those in the chamber watched the woman’s bitter smile. “You know I will not.”
“And the Rill will not cut off Hestya. It does not want to. And it does not hear our reasons as to why it should.”
Because humankind could not talk to the Rill, it heard no mortal voices at all. All human communication with the Rill consisted of signals which to it were no different from animal nerves triggering lungs to breathe air or guts to digest food. Because the Rill did not, on any concrete level, even know that those who thought they commanded it were there.
But someone or something had told the Rill to extend that arm to Hestya.
Author Bio & Information
L.L. Stephens has been writing science fiction and fantasy full time for several years. Published works include a debut novel in the deep dark past, short stories under various pen names, articles in medical journals, and pamphlets for everything from local politicians to a major international airport.
The Triempery series, which includes Sordaneon, The Kheld King and The Second Stone (April 2023) is a six-book series and life work. For excerpts from existing or upcoming books, lore, maps, and other related content, visit the L.L. Stephens website or L.L.’s giveaway-happy social media.