Author · Spotlight/Interview

The Heart of Stone by Ben Galley Book Extract (Chapter 2)

hoscpter2

After bringing you all an awesome interview with Ben Galley on The Tattooed Book Geek, if you haven’t yet read it then I highly recommend taking a look, it’s well worth your time!!! The link can be found here:

And welcoming Ben back yesterday for Chapter 1 from his upcoming book The Heart of Stone (releasing 30th March 2017). Today I bring to you the final post in my trilogy of posts featuring Ben and The Heart of Stone with Chapter 2 from The Heart of Stone. If for some reason you missed reading the first chapter then please find the link below:

The Heart of Stone:

31844202

Merciless. Murderer. Monster. He has been called many names in his time.

Built for war and nothing else, he has witnessed every shade of violence humans know, and he has wrought his own masterpieces with their colours. He cared once, perhaps, but far too long ago. He is bound to his task, dead to the chaos he wreaks for his masters.

Now, he has a new master to serve and a new war to endure. In the far reaches of the Realm, Hartlund tears itself in two over coin and crown. This time he will fight for a boy king and a general bent on victory.

Beneath it all he longs for change. For something to surprise him. For an end to this cycle of warfare.

Every fighter has a last fight. Even one made of stone.


Book Extract:

2

War drives men to great things. Great evils, great sacrifices, great bravery. But also great innovation.’

FROM THE WAYS OF THE HASP, BY ALBIN CROSSIT

37th Fading, 3782 – Hartlund

With a mighty thud, his foot dug deep into the sand. It blended almost perfectly with the grey hues of the grit. It looked as if he was rooted to the earth, like some growth that had sprouted to scare the sea-goers.

The shouting of the soldiers was just noise to him. In his many years, he had learnt that most of the sounds that skinbags make are useless clamour. Or lies.

He spied a brown pebble sitting in a puddle and bent to pick it up. Spears waggled in his face as he did so, but he paid them no heed. Transitions were often tense for both parties. He wasn’t exactly the brand of mercenary people were used to.

Hold it there!’ It was the one with all the metal on her. She wore at least double the armour of any of her men, and waved her sword about like a riding whip.

The pebble was an interesting one, speckled with flecks of crystal. His stone fingers wrapped around it, feeling its smooth grain, living its ages. This was a cold land, a bitter land, an old land that had seen too many years for its own good.

Put it down!’ ordered the suit of armour. A spear was tucked under her arm, its point wavering. ‘I said, put it down.’

The pebble was tossed to the sand. Task had already learnt enough from it. The woman could have the pebble, though he doubted she could glean its secrets. Only stone can truly know stone.

The others on the beach had grown impatient. They were striding across the sand towards the ring of spears. They wanted a better look at their new monster.

The suit of armour saluted them as they approached, clicked her boots together and covered her eyes with her palm.

A skinny man with a circle of glass wedged in one eye elbowed his way between the soldiers. He wore a formal suit with a long coat that brushed the sand. Not a single hair sprouted from his head.

My, my! If my lungs hadn’t already been emptied by this wind and blasted cold, this would be leaving me breathless, gentlemen.’

It’s a bloody giant!’ said another; a pudgy man with a suit of plate-mail and a pointed helmet. There was a long musket at his side, held with white knuckles.

The beast shrugged his shoulders. The crunching of rocks almost sounded like a growl.

A woman came forwards. She was slender, wrapped in a long green coat lined with fur. Her fiery red hair thrashed in the pestering winds. ‘It is not a giant, Sergeant. It is a blue golem of Wind-Cut. In the flesh, so to speak.’

Do you mind?’ asked the glass-eyed man, stepping closer. A brave one, him.

The golem held out a hand, nodded, and watched as the man gently touched the pitted stone, then felt the edges of his thick fingers. ‘Each like a knife in its own right. Marvellous! You’ve done us proud, Baroness. Dartridge will be pleased.’

The woman bowed her head. ‘All I care about is how the younger Dartridge is going to handle this. It’s a monster.’

Dartridge.’ The golem tested the word. His voice was rasping, lacking in depth. He spoke again to bring a rumble to the name, like distant thunder. ‘Dartridge is the new master.’

It speaks!’ Glass-eye exclaimed, raising both hands. The armpits of his suit ripped in the process and he cursed. ‘Spit on it! Where have all the good tailors of this country gone to?’

Normont, most likely,’ said the woman. ‘There is a war on, you know.’

Cowards!’

The golem flexed his hands.

Glass-eye had finished tutting at his suit and was now readjusting the circle of silk tied about his neck. ‘Yes, Mr Golem. General Huff Dartridge the Third is your new owner. He awaits you at his camp. It’s a bit of journey, I’m afraid.’

The woman rolled her eyes. ‘You can’t call him “Mr Golem”. Do you have a name… golem?’

Task, of Wind-Cut,’ he said, spitting out the consonants. He only had trouble with the soft ones. Stone lips weren’t built for words.

Glass-eye motioned to the cliffs. ‘A fine name. Now, I say we get toddling. Can we trust you, golem? No more breaking of chains? Nor necks for that matter?’

Task nodded.

Fantastic! Onwards, then. Out of this infernal rain.’

They followed Glass-eye, as he headed for the chiselled gap in the cliffs. They walked in single file with Task at their centre, spears clamouring at his back. Task wondered if they believed their spears could hurt him, or if the wood and weight just gave them the courage they needed. They’d soon realise how useless they were. They always did.

The stairs were too small for him, so he took three at a time; sometimes four, if he felt adventurous. Their climb passed slowly to the drone of clanking armour and the pound of Task’s feet on the stone. Three times they doubled back on themselves, and three times Task ran his fingers against the cliff-rock, tasting every eon of its crushed layers.

Glass-eye hovered by his arm. ‘I realise I have yet to introduce myself. I am Councillor Dast, envoy to the King and his Council.’

Task nodded. Dast went on. ‘You know, I do hope the wagon we procured will be up to the task, pardon the pun. Ha!’ He seemed pleased with himself, as if he was the first man in four hundred years to think of that joke.

The man with the gun spoke over his shoulder. ‘The general assured me it could hold the weight of several cannons, so I trust it will be fine.’

I feel sorry for the firns that have to pull it,’ cackled Dast.

A larger group of soldiers and watchers greeted them at the summit of the slanted cliffs. Their jaws dropped and slowly rose again. Their eyes stayed wide. It was as if Task was too big to take in all at once.

The soldiers poked him towards a nearby cart. Four large beasts with fur and scales sat in hames and traces, shackled to a stout wooden wagon. Several other cloth-covered wagons waited nearby. Lanterns glowed within them.

The firns were strange beasts, full of meat and long in the spine. They had stubby tails and ridged backs, and pointy heads, held low. Their scales were an ochre-brown; diamond-shaped and overlapping like fine armour. Their bellies and long legs were wrapped in a dark, mottled fur. They chuntered in the cold, their steaming breath snatched away by the wind. Sharp teeth poked from leathery mouths. Stubby claws stamped in the mud.

A few sacks of sand had been piled onto the wet grass, arranged like a set of steps. Task tested one with a foot before stepping down. He felt them creak and wheeze before he knelt on the wagon’s bed. The wheels groaned, but held steady, and Task arranged himself into a sitting position. Another tarpaulin was draped over him, but they left him enough room to stare out.

Hope you don’t mind the rain!’ said Dast, before nipping into his wagon, into the dry.

The whips cracked and Task tilted his head to face the direction of the wind, letting the drizzle whip his face. He allowed himself one of his private smiles.

He loved the rain.

The silent countryside rolled by at a stately pace. Every now and again, when the wind wasn’t rushing over his craggy features, he would get a glimpse of his new land.

Hartlund, he had heard it called. From what he knew of maps it was a fractured world in the north west of Normont, at the far reaches of the Accord.

Task had never been this far north. Though the weather seemed pleasant enough, the cold was a constant prickle, seeping into his stone. Not even in the darkest hours of a frigid desert night had he felt this type of coldness. It emanated from the ground like a mist.

The countryside was a permanent wash of green. Though the trees were skeletal and naked, and the daylight murky, the rolling hills and stretching fields of grass were a deep emerald. Stone walls divided up the land, made of flat blocks piled atop one another, much like his own construction. Task scrutinised every one of them.

Most of the land seemed abandoned. Fields that had been sowed now rotted in the chilly air. Livestock seemed a rare sight, but here and there, beasts would low and snuffle at them through broken fences. There were more of the firn creatures, and smaller horned versions, but with fluff instead of scale. They were fat enough, despite their wild looks. It looked like the grass had been doing its job, even if the fences had failed theirs.

The verdant expanses were punctuated by churches with squat spires and cottages with thatched roofs. A few people came out to peek at the tramping soldiers and the wobbling wagons. Task saw the worry in their faces, the whiteness of their knuckles as they clutched babes and grimy children. A few even came to their doors with muskets or clubs. The soldiers let them be, not even sparing them a glance. Task clenched his fists all the same. It seemed the cold was not the only thing that had seeped into this land. He could taste the fear in the air.

Here and there, as they wove a merry pattern down dirt paths walled with hedgerows, and cracked flagstone road, he caught the signs of battle. Of death. The last tendrils of fire hovering over a village; the stench of firepowder in a valley; craters in the earth where cannonballs had met the ground; hills churned to mud where countless boots had come marching.

At one point they trundled through an abandoned town, and Task rattled with every bump its cobbled streets had to offer. All the doors were barred with planks, and embers still smouldered in the streets where fires had blazed. Every one of the crooked buildings was dark and empty. They leant over the street as if in mourning, walls and thatch punctured with holes from cannon and musket. A few bodies still lay in doorways, their hands crooked, faces more bone than skin.

Task caught glimpses of ragged children hiding in alleys, mud and fear on their faces. They were as white as parchment in their torn clothes. Alone and hungry.

As they ambled back into the country, escaping the gloom of the town, Task wondered what had eaten the soul of Hartlund. What had brought this country to rot and rust and worry?

There was only one reason to be fond of soldiers in Task’s mind: they could never hold their tongues. A tongue to a golem was a very precious thing, not to be wagged about or left unchecked. But soldiers liked to gossip. Task had gleaned a fair few whispers on the long journey from Lezembor, but none of them helpful.

All he knew was that this land was in the grip of a civil war. The people had taken a dislike to its crown, formed their own armies and called for battle. He would be fighting for a king’s general. A Truehard, he’d heard them branded. A royalist.

Another general. Task had fought for many in his lifetime, and he had yet to find one he liked. Flesh and stone did not mix; like water and fire. You either get steam or one dies.

There was one thing he enjoyed holding onto during every transition, and that was the glimmer of hope. The dogged hope that this master would be different; that their war would be different.

The golem snorted at the countryside.Four hundred years, and he was still waiting.

General Huff Dartridge the Third was pacing. He liked to pace. He thought it showed determination. Standing still spoke of indecision.

We’ll show it around first. Let it get the lay of the camp. Just in case it needs anything.’

A burly man to his left cleared his throat. He stood easy, with his arms folded behind his back, staring at an insect that was busy headbutting the lantern. ‘What exactly would a golem need, sir? Water, perhaps?’

Just in case, Manx, just in case. It may want me, at times.’ Dartridge wagged a finger for extra emphasis.

Of course, sir.’

And, Glum. Have you found a berth for it?’

I ’ave, sir,’ said a sour-looking attendant slumped at the back of the room. ‘Over by the stables, there’s a patch of spare paddock. Seems only fair. Beasts with the beasts.’

The general nodded. ‘It will have to do for now.’

Will it be wanting a mattress, sir? Straw?’ said Manx, still enraptured by the moth.

I doubt it, Captain,’ said Dartridge, before huffing and snatching the moth from the air mid-stride. He crumpled it up in his hands, grimaced at the mess, and flicked it to the wood. ‘I want nobody bothering it.’

Not a soul, sir.’

It’s mine, understand?’ ‘Absolutely, sir!’

Dartridge came to a halt, hands on hips, foot tapping. ‘How long?’ Glum took out a pocket watch.

Within the hour.’

Right, off with you then. To the gate to keep watch. Let me know the moment it arrives.’

Yessir!’ the pair duetted, before making themselves scarce.

After making a mental note to order Glum to bathe the next time he saw him, he went to the mirror and checked his uniform. A clean uniform, even in a time of war, is a sign of composure and meticulousness. Huff liked that word. Meticulousness.

He nudged a fibre from his shoulder and patted his blonde hair back into place. It was always sneaking out of shape on wet days.

With his appearance in check, Huff fetched his favourite pistol from his cabinet and affixed it to his belt. He took a seat at his desk; if it could really be called a desk. It was more of a glorified folding table. Then he templed his fingers.

For almost an hour he waited, letting his thoughts wander through the future, painting pictures of his forthcoming victories. He was grinning by the time the captains came to call on him.

General, sir. It’s arrived,’ said Manx. Glum nodded. ‘Your new toy, sir.’

hossmall


About Ben Galley:

bg

Ben’s love of fantasy comes from a childhood spent devouring the works of authors such as JRR Tolkien and CS Lewis. That, combined with an interest in mythology, spawned a passion for creative writing that occupied most of his pre and early teenage years. By age 13, he’d written three books about anthropomorphised monkeys, which shall go forever unpublished, but were a good foundation of practice.

After pursuing a career in the RAF (and bailing out after realising he was not cut out for military life), music distracted Ben until age 20, when he decided to turn back to that early dream of being a professional author, and being paid to make up stories. After 18 months of writing, working jobs in bars, restaurants and a pasty kiosk, he had a debut book – The Written – and was ready to publish. Choosing to self-publish from the moment he googled “publishing a book”, Ben realised he could apply his knowledge of the music industry and being an independent artist into working as an independent author.

In 2010, The Written was published in paperback, and shortly after, in eBook. Almost 8 years on, and Ben has 11 books published, including a crowd-funded graphic novel, and 7 fantasy novels to his name. He’s about to launch his eighth –The Heart of Stone. In 2016, his 5th novel – weird western Bloodrush – was the bloggers’ favourite of Mark Lawrence’s Self-Published Fantasy Blog Off, and also won the Library Journal’s Indie eBook of the Year award for Fantasy.

When he isn’t being a being an author or a mischief to the local populace, Ben is a frequent guest speaker and lecturer on the subject of self-publishing. He’s incredibly zealous about helping other authors and writers, and currently offers 1:1 sessions to indie authors at his site Shelf Help.

Aside from writing and lecturing, Ben dabbles in music, photography, gaming, cinophiling, and he apparently owns an acre of the moon. Ben can be found being loquacious and attempting to be witty on Twitter and YouTube @BenGalley, or on Facebook and Instagram @BenGalleyAuthor


The Heart of Stone:

31844202

Merciless. Murderer. Monster. He has been called many names in his time.

Built for war and nothing else, he has witnessed every shade of violence humans know, and he has wrought his own masterpieces with their colours. He cared once, perhaps, but far too long ago. He is bound to his task, dead to the chaos he wreaks for his masters.

Now, he has a new master to serve and a new war to endure. In the far reaches of the Realm, Hartlund tears itself in two over coin and crown. This time he will fight for a boy king and a general bent on victory.

Beneath it all he longs for change. For something to surprise him. For an end to this cycle of warfare.

Every fighter has a last fight. Even one made of stone.


Pre-Order The Heart of Stone (released 30th March 2017):

Amazon UK  /  Amazon US  /  ibooks  /  Kobo  /  Google Play


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