Book 2 of the Skullborn Trilogy is coming. On February 7th the tale of Malzaria continues, and the battle for Chul Gaerog begins. At over 130,000 words, there’s a lot going on in PATH OF BONES. I don’t want to give too much away for those of you who might not have read CITY OF SCARS yet, but we’ll see what sort of tidbits I can share over these next few weeks.
We’ll have the cover reveal next month, but in the meantime let’s start off by talking about the groups of characters and creatures featured in PATH OF BONES, which takes the story away from the crime-torn city of Ebonmark and heads west to the grand city of Ral Tanneth and north into the dreaded ruins of the Empire of Gallador, a blighted waste more commonly known as the Bonelands.
Dane & Kruje: Fallen knight Azander Dane, once a member of the prestigious Dawn Knights but now an exile and an outlaw, continues his hunt for Ijanna Taivorkan, though now his reasons for pursuing her have entirely changed. Haunted by his past and burdened by a strange magical disease that poisons his body and soul, Dane is aided on his mission by a deposed prince named Kruje. Kruje is a Voss, a powerful race of cruel and intelligent giants whose war machines devastated the very Bonelands through which he and Dane must travel. Burdened by the mistakes that cost him his family and throne, Kruje helps Dane not only out of friendship but because of some mysterious reasons of his own…
Ijanna & Kath: Ijanna Taivorkan, the Dream Witch, is one of the Skullborn, destined since birth to sacrifice herself so a great evil can be stopped and the legacy of the Blood Queen might be put to rest once and for all. The ghosts of her past and anger at her situation have driven Ijanna to seek another way of carrying out her mission, but she’s plagued with guilt over the fact that every moment she delays could result in more innocent lives lost. Ijanna is aided by Kath Cardrezhej, a former Ebonmark soldier unwittingly bonded to Ijanna by the will of the Veil. Kath is filled with doubt over Ijanna’s mission and sometimes questions her sanity, but in spite of his misgivings he vows to defend her to the end.
The Cabal: A secret society of nihilists, mercenaries and power-mongers, the shadowy Cabal has grim plans for Ijanna, and possibly for all of Malzaria. In addition to Mezias Crinn (aka “The Iron Count”), the Arkan Jaendrel and the mysterious Kala, PATH OF BONES introduces a handful of new members of the dark organization, including Crogas the Red (a Drage Veilwarden with a nasty temper), Gallaean Stohrmshrike (a disgraced priest with a penchant for torture and cruelty), and Drazzek Ma’al (a silent Allaji assassin). The Cabal’s goals are dire and their resources great, and with mercenary forces and considerable magic at their disposal the organization is a major threat to both of the Empires.
The Jlantrians: Among those who seek the Skullborn is none other than Empress Azaean, the White Dragon of Jlantria, whose interest in Ijanna is part of a much more personal agenda. The cruel and cold-hearted monarch has assigned the task of finding the Skullborn to the Veilwardens Toran Gess and Argus Saam’siir, head of House Blue, who in turn utilizes the aid of Colonel Blackhall, mercenary Marros Slayne, and an eclectic band of bounty hunters: Razel, a Veilwarden; Jar’rod, a dreamwalker; Fon, a shapeshifter; and Brutus, a war troll.
The Red Hand: A band of rebel Bloodspeakers who violently stage open acts of sabotage and terror against Jlantria, the much-feared Red Hand are led by the charismatic Malath Zayne, a dangerous man who seeks nothing short of the liberation of his kind and the fall of the Empires. Unlike the Cabal or the Jlantrian bounty hunters, agents of the Red Hand (most notably the intimidating battle-hardened Bloodspeaker named Gilder) seek the Skullborn not to capture them but in the hopes of forming an alliance.
The Phage: In the aftermath of the Battle of Black Sun, the Phage have been left with the clear advantage in their war against the Black Guild, but their battle is far from done. The powerful Mez’zah Chorg, one of the organization’s diabolic leaders, has a personal grudge against Ijanna, and her influential Veilwarden enforcer Mazrek Chairos and his Blood Knights take a vested interest in hunting down the Dream Witch so as to cull Chorg’s favor.
The Black Guild: Even with Crinn in hiding, the Guild is not yet finished. Exiled and fearful for her son’s safety, Guild lieutenant Vellexa recruits the newly transformed Cronak and a band of Tuscars and mercenaries to hunt Ijanna across the Bonelands, believing that doing so will buy her enough favor with the Iron Count that he’ll ignore her treachery and let her son Kyver escape his wrath.
The Chul: Ijanna has a strange connection to the Witch Mother of the Chul, and the band of cannibal apocalypse cultists have committed themselves to chasing the Dream Witch to the edge of Hell so they take her skin back to their revered leader.
Razorcats: Deadly lion-like predators who dominate the Bonelands, the shadowy Razorcats can bend darkness around their bodies and breathe ebon mists to conceal their numbers. Fast, hungry and powerful, Razorcats hunt in packs and rely on their mobility and numbers to surround and overwhelm their foes, hacking them to pieces with fangs, claws and tail before consuming their hapless prey alive.
Runefiends: Dread giants of multiple arms and toothed maws, Runefiends are so named for the rune-carved flesh buried beneath their shell-like carapace hides. These fanged titans slumber beneath the desert surface, waiting until they sense motion so they can rise and rend their enemies to pieces with their powerful limbs.
Charred Ones: Grisly arcane natives of the Bonelands, the primitive marauders called the Charred Ones are the last vestige of the Drage who once occupied Gallador, now reduced to dark-skinned scavengers whose madness is rivaled only by their hunger for human flesh.
[All images except for the City of Scars cover borrowed liberally from the internet.]