Dagger of Bone | Clanblades : Book 1
Everyone expects Nyalin of the Obsidian Clan to do great things. And he’d gladly do so, except that he hasn’t inherited a single drop of his late mother’s legendary magic. Now his clan refuses to waste resources to teach him, and the last chance to discover his father’s identity—something his mother took to the grave—is slipping away.
Then one small gesture of kindness changes everything.
Everyone expects Lara of the Bone Clan to do her duty. But in the wake of her brother’s untimely death, that means marrying the cruel and power-hungry heir to the Dagger of Bone. Lara is willing to risk everything to escape her fate, even if it means taking a chance on a famous orphan everyone says has no magic.
Then one small gesture of defiance changes everything.
With the contests to confirm the Bone Clan heir approaching, Lara and Nyalin must unravel dangerous secrets if they want a chance at happiness. But they have more enemies than they know. Enemies who won’t stop until the empire itself lies in smoldering ruins.
A fantasy adventure set in an epic, sweeping universe, DAGGER OF BONE is the first book in the Clanblades trilogy. Come for the spunky dragons, shadowy demons, and fearsome necromancers. Stay for the tasty baked goods!
Available July 23, 2019
Chapter 1: Imprinting
“You’ll never be a swordmage. Stop fighting it.”
Nyalin narrowed his eyes from the other side of the dim room. “Isn’t that for the Council to decide?”
“You know what they’ll decide.” His foster father Elix was stopped in the doorway, his lips thinned.
“No, I don’t.” He did, in fact, know what they would decide. But that didn’t mean he had to like it, or that he would let Elix off easy for it. “How do you know what they’ll decide? Because you’re twisting their arms behind their backs?”
The bearded face that stared back was expressionless. “There’s lots of paying work for scribes.” He turned to go.
“I never thought you’d give up this easily. On me or on her.”
Elix stopped and went still. But he didn’t turn. The misty dawn light made him a dark silhouette, a hulking bear suspended in time like an insect in amber.
He folded his arms across his chest. “For my sake, I don’t care. But everyone said you cared about her.”
That got the old bear to turn, but Nyalin wasn’t hearing it. He turned his back and walked away—down the hallway, then the back servant’s stairs, and then out into the street. No more excuses. It was better to get out of any conversation with Elix while he was still ahead.
He had somewhere to be anyway.
Each week, he woke before dawn for this trek. He always reached the graveyard before the sun rose above the city walls. This week was no different, except the early hour usually guaranteed solitude.
Today, his luck had run out. In more ways than one.
A single set of footprints marred the white pebble footpath between Nyalin and his mother’s grave. He glared down at the dents in the sea of smooth stones.
He started forward, his worn boots crunching fresh prints into the milk-white pebbles. He scanned the graves for the interloper but spotted no one. Heard no one. If he’d had magic, he might have sensed no one, but that was precisely his problem.
Why did he keep doing this—showing up to visit a woman he’d never known? Maybe it was a misplaced search for answers. Or a longing for scraps of truth about a past forever lost. Some weeks, he came out of duty. Others, out of habit.
Today, though, he’d come to apologize. He’d failed.
The only thing worse than being in the royal graveyard was being here with an audience. He ran his hand through thick brown hair. It flopped right back down into his left eye, and he sighed.
The air felt charged. This place made his skin itch, like the souls of the dead were dragging nails across his skin and tugging at his very core. He scratched at his thigh, the black linen of his crossover rough against his fingers. No silk for him, not like his so-called family.
His whole future was being decided by that family and the Obsidian Council in the meeting across town. He hadn’t been invited, and there was little he could do to argue his case any more than he already had. Only one thing was left to do: to say he was sorry. To apologize.
He’d never known his mother, but he owed her this much.
The Feast of Souls was coming in a few weeks. In preparation, paper lanterns had been hung over the dead; crimson, teal, gold, and emerald globes swayed and knocked in the brisk wind. The decorations had so little regard for the mourners that they bumped cheerfully in the sunlight, soft taps filling the air with a strange, percussive rhythm. Summer was only just waning, but the wind was already sending a chill through him.
He studied the prints in the gravel path again as he neared her grave. The footprints were small, like a woman’s, and recent. He reached the final turn toward the grave, and the footprints turned with him. Damn. The monks who tended this burial ground smoothed the pebbles each morning and again and again throughout the day, so someone had been here. And not long ago at all.
With his luck, it’d be a pilgrim. No, a family of pilgrims. With ten children. By the Twins, he’d hoped to be alone today.
He gritted his teeth, then swallowed and tried to calm himself, the way he did when he needed a steady hand to write. It wasn’t their fault the pilgrims were so annoying.
He listened. A fresh gust of wind sent the lanterns tapping again and him shivering. No hymns, no snaps of prayer sticks, and no crunches of feet on pebbles. Birds sang, and the wind teased the holy chimes hung in the cardinal corners of the cemetery, bronze characters in the holy language standing for peace, harmony, and, of course, the afterlives.
He continued on.
His mother’s gravestone stood alone. He blew out a breath. Thank Seluvae.
The white marble was inundated with gifts, the hope and suffering of many expressed in azalea branches, roses, chrysanthemums, and white flowers he didn’t know the names for. Most of the blooms were too fine to have been purchased. The poor who flocked here had likely stolen their tributes from the gardens that surrounded the emperor’s palace. Nyalin could understand. He had little gold or even copper to his name, and only his continued residence in his foster father’s house gave him any resources at all.
And who knew if he’d even have that come evening?
What solace did pilgrims find here? His mother had only been a person, albeit a rare and powerful one. Not a goddess. Not someone to pray to.
Clearly the pilgrims disagreed.
Tracking down the basket the monks used, Nyalin filled it with the oldest, most wilted flowers. Slowly, tenderly, he uncovered her name. He slid his fingers along the smooth indentations, tracing the elegant holy characters carved into the marble. He left the best blooms. It would be full again soon enough.
When the flowers were cleared and he’d dusted off the stone, he knelt in the soft square of sand set aside for prayer.
What had he hoped to say? Should he ask that the Obsidian Council make the right decision? They wouldn’t. This was all doomed to failure. Should he pray that Elix would change his mind? As if his foster father ever had before.
He was trapped, and there was nothing his mother could do to help him, powerful or not, alive or not, whether he prayed to her or not. And the secret of who his real father had been, if the man was even still alive, had gone to the grave with her. If he could have asked her for one thing, it would be his father’s name. But those were idle wishes.
“Sorry,” he murmured into the music of the chimes, the lantern tapping, the quiet birdsong, the morning air. “I failed you. I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t convince them to keep trying.”
What else was there to say?
She had been the greatest talent of her time, the hero who’d saved so many, who’d shot fear into the hearts of the evil Mushin. Her victories had led to the unification of the clans, to unprecedented peace, to even the construction of this city around him. Unification had turned a rickety trading post near two salt mines into the one place in the empire where the six clans strove to coexist. Mostly. No one had expected peace or an end to the war, and she’d found it. Fought for it. Forced it on them, even. And she’d given it all up in the blood of birth, for what?
For nothing, then. Her torch had burned bright, and he’d dropped it.
He hated disappointing Grel; his dutiful foster brother believed in Nyalin almost blindly. But even more, he hated to disappoint her. There was no one else to disappoint.
“They would’ve listened to you,” he whispered. “By the dark dragon, I wish there was some other way.”
He shook his head, staring unseeing at the sand as the wind knocked the lanterns about. His hand closed into a fist.
“I’ll just have to find something. A way to make your sacrifice worth it.”
How exactly he’d do that, he had no idea. He had nothing but time to figure it out.