Today on The Tattooed Book Geek I am pleased to be welcoming Toby Frost to my blog with an excerpt from his book Up To The Throne as well as featuring an exclusive introduction to the excerpt too.
Up To The Throne (Dark Rennaissance #1).
- Paperback: 463 pages
- Publisher: Independently published (28 Feb. 2019)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1794174656
- ISBN-13: 978-1794174658
- Amazon UK
Revenge is never simple…Giulia Degarno returns to the city-state of Pagalia with one intention: to kill the man who scarred her and left her for dead. But Publius Severra is no longer a mere criminal, and has risen to become a powerful politician – and perhaps the only man who can save Pagalia from anarchy. Now, as Severra stands poised to seize the throne. Giulia must choose between taking her revenge, and saving her home.Up To The Throne is a dark fantasy novel set in a magically-enhanced Renaissance: a dangerous world of assassins, alchemists and flying machines. It is a world where artists and scholars cross paths with feuding nobles and clockwork monsters – and death is never far away.
Introduction to the excerpt from Up To The Throne.
Up To The Throne is a story of revenge and intrigue in a magically-supercharged Renaissance. Giulia Degarno returns to the city-state of Pagalia to kill the man who scarred her and left her for dead. She’s trained and armed herself while she’s been away – but she’s not the only person who’s changed.
Her target, Publius Severra, is no longer a mere gang leader, but has bribed and fought his way to riches and power. He’s now poised to become Prince, once he’s disposed of his rivals. As the body count rises, Giulia comes to realise that her revenge will not just destroy one man, but could throw the whole principality into chaos.
I always wanted to write something about the Renaissance. I find the idea of a society changing and moving forward really interesting, along with all the potential for invention and disorder that dramatic change brings. Of course, the real Renaissance took hundreds of years, and moved at different speeds in different places – but a fantasy version could be accelerated with magic. The idea of writing about a world where every one of Leonardo’s inventions could work was too good to pass up! I’ll be bringing out the sequel, Blood Under Water, in August 2019, so watch this space…
This excerpt is from the middle of Up To The Throne. Giulia has gone to check out the mansion of her enemy, the crime-lord and aspiring politician Publius Severra. She wants to see if she can break in – but his guards are waiting for her.
Excerpt from Up To The Throne.
Severra’s house stood behind a seven-foot iron fence that was in itself a statement of wealth. The house was in the middle of a lawn, an island of well-tended green in the dirty sea of roads and homes around it, and looked as stern and righteous as a fasting Purist. The front gates were huge and guarded by liveried men, and the house was an austere cube four storeys high, with a facade of six white pillars like bars across a window. A single tower rose out of the roof. Weather vanes and instruments of natural philosophy protruded from the tower like a bunch of twigs in a fist.
Now, how do I get in? Giulia set off along the other side of the road, parallel with the fence but away from it, head facing forward and eyes looking left into Severra’s grounds. The front of the house seemed impregnable: climbing the fence unseen would be hard enough, let alone getting into the mansion itself.
It’s a fortress. Who does he expect to have to keep out, the bloody army? Perhaps he does.
Behind the fence, twenty yards away, a couple of men were chatting and smoking pipes. They wore swords and padded jackets. Guards.
There was a row of white sheds near the house, too low for humans to occupy: kennels. She grimaced, remembering the terror of running from Lady Tabitha’s hounds, the fear of being knocked down and savaged at any moment. Perhaps some backstreet alchemist could brew up a potion that would make the dogs think of her as a friend. That would cost money, though. Best to find another way in. She walked on.
Far off in the market, cows were lowing mournfully. A girl walked past on the other side of the street, carrying a bolt of cloth in her arms like an oversized baby. The edge of the fence was close ahead.
As she approached, Giulia saw the rear of the house: outbuildings and stables, a workshop with big double doors. That must be where he keeps his clockwork carriage.
Two men and a girl were playing bowls on a little green at the back. The girl wore her hair tied back and looked about as demure as a wharf rat. One of the men glanced up, perhaps feeling Giulia’s eyes on him, and she looked away.
The outhouses touched the back of the house. If she could get onto the stable roof, she could run across to the rear windows of the mansion. Assuming that the horses didn’t panic, and that the stable roof would take her weight. Risky, of course – but possible.
In the corner of her eye, the girl who had been playing bowls made a quick gesture – not at Giulia but at something behind her.
Keep walking. Don’t speed up. There’s an alley up ahead. She turned into the alley, stopped, crouched down and looked around the corner the way she had come.
Two men were coming, both in dark jackets. The pipe-smokers from inside the fence.
They must have moved pretty fast to get round here so soon, she thought and, as if to confirm it, they broke into a jog.
Shit. She drew back, pulled her skirt up and ran down the alleyway.
Giulia reached the end and emerged into a wider street. The houses here were large, owned by merchants and professional men. Several had opened up their ground floors as little covered markets. She slipped into the nearest doorway, into the dark of the trading-room, and stopped, waiting.
The floor was set out as a bazaar. Half a dozen tenant sellers had set up shop here, selling spice and bolts of cloth. It smelt of dust and soup. The traders looked foreign, maybe even pagan: Mumari, perhaps. A grey-haired servant stared at her for a long, unfriendly second, challenging her to buy something.
She looked out the door. The road was empty. The coast was clear.
The two men from Severra’s house walked out of the alley. Ah, fuck. They’d followed her down here, no doubt about it.
Now what? Go out and start the chase anew, or try to hide in here? Her heart was tensing inside her chest, clenching up like a fist.
She looked around.
“What’re you up to there?” The grey-haired man tapped his cane against his leg.
Nowhere to hide here. She stepped back into the sunshine.
The heat dropped down onto her like a blanket. She looked left, saw only one of the men now, turned and walked quickly the other way. The one she could see had a neat, pointed beard: his friend, who had long, dark hair, was gone. She wondered where he’d got to. She sped up.
If it came to running, she’d lose, and if it came to a straight-up fight, she would lose badly. The best thing would be to give them the slip and find somewhere to hide. Giulia turned back towards the cattle market. An alleyway appeared to her left. She ducked into it, hauled her skirt up and ran between the high walls.
Halfway down, clothes were drying on a line strung between two upper windows. Giulia jumped against the wall, leaped up off it and snatched a blue shirt from the line. She landed and kept walking, pulling the shirt on without breaking stride. She reached the end of the alley, her boots and skirt spattered with dirt, and strode into the chaos of Saint Ludovico’s Square.
The square was packed with stalls and tables. Farmers were yelling, pointing to bullocks and huge oxen bred to turn the winding gear of clockwork machines. Head down, she hurried through the vendors and buyers, through the smell of beasts, dung and roasting meat. The backs of her legs ached from long strides. She glanced behind, saw nothing, walked straight into a baffled farmgirl and stumbled back, hands raised to show she meant no harm.
The farmgirl gawped at her and Giulia pressed on, cursing under her breath. A farmer stood on a box ahead, calling out his wares while a band of citizens stood about: she slipped through the crowd, came out the other side, paused behind a fat woman and looked around.
The bearded man was at the edge of the square, heading towards her. The hard-faced girl was approaching on an intercepting course, now twenty yards away. Beard’s left hand was raised to aid his passage through the crowd. His right was down by his side, hiding something.
Giulia crouched down and dropped out of view. Bent double, she scuttled behind the farmer on the box, behind a row of cows. She thought about pulling the knife from her boot – too risky in this crowd. She scurried on, her head at waist height, slipping through a forest of hips and belts. Giulia looked left, saw a set of stalls she could use, and made towards them. Her boot slid on cowshit and she lurched, righted herself and carried on.
Impossible to see how close they were.
At the edge of the stalls she stopped and stood up. Half-hidden by the side of the stall, her face in shadow, she looked around for her pursuers as she tried to catch her breath.
The hard-faced girl was pretending to listen to a man selling beer from an open keg, nodding as she sipped, her eyes roving the square over the rim of her cup. The bearded man was gone – no, he was on the far side of the square, lounging against the wall between two exits. No doubt they’d sent the long-haired man back for reinforcements.
How the hell had they known to come after her? It didn’t matter. She could imagine how they might make the kill – how she might make it, if it were her. A quick shove – a stab in passing, no more than a jab to the ribs or groin – and she’d bleed out in the gutter, surrounded by a concerned, fascinated crowd.
Fuck that. There was a way out on the near side of the square, a broad brick archway guarded by two bored members of the City Watch. From the looks of it, the arch led up to towards the Palazzo, towards the cobbled avenues where the cattle were not meant to go. The Watchmen stood with halberds ready to bar the way; one of them yawned.
Behind the stall, beef fat sizzled on the griddle. The proprietor welcomed a group of half-drunken apprentices, as his daughter took a coin off each. There was a big slab of meat at the edge of the stall, waiting to be cooked. Giulia slid her hand out, touched the meat, squeezed the raw flesh and felt blood run between her fingers.
Time to go. She broke from cover, sucked her cheeks in and strode towards the archway. The Watchmen saw her and stood up straight, crossing their halberds to block her route. Five yards away she folded over, turned from them and raised her right hand to her mouth.
She coughed loudly, almost shouting into her palm, and lowered her hand as she tasted blood, red running from fingers and chin. The Watchmen stared for a moment and stepped back, appalled. She stumbled past, muttering thanks through a mouthful of blood, and was through.
Giulia looked back. The guards were back in place, halberds crossed, dutifully forgetting about the diseased woman they had just let by. Giulia grinned and wiped her chin on her palm. I must look terrible.
She walked on, rubbing the blood from her teeth with a finger, crossed the road and ducked into another alleyway, the sky almost entirely hidden by the overhanging eaves.
A man lunged at her from the side. She turned too slowly and he threw her across the alley, into the wall, and as she hit the wall he grabbed her from behind and locked his arms across her chest.
Giulia lunged left then right to wrong-foot him, but his legs were bent and he grunted and squeezed, crushing her body. She drove her heel into his kneecap, raked it down his shin, and dropped her head and bit his hand. Her teeth clamped on his wrist; she felt the bones scrape together and his grip loosened – not much, but enough for her to drop low, elbow him in the side and twist free.
“Murder!” Giulia yelled. Nobody heard. Far away, an auctioneer shouted something, a rising cry like the call of a circling bird.
Her assailant glared at her. It was the long-haired man, the one she’d thought had gone away. He came in quickly in a wrestler’s crouch, hands out to grapple. She thought about the knife in her boot, pulled up her skirt to reach it, and he darted in and knocked her hand aside. “No you fucking don’t,” he snarled, and he whacked her round the ear with his palm.
It felt as if God had boxed her head. Again the big arms seized her, lifted her off the ground and hurled her against the wall; her head hit brick and the world blurred. He punched up into her and she twisted but not enough, and his fist pounded her bruised hip. He clutched her shirt as she fell, reached to his belt for a weapon and she raised her hands, screamed “Wait!” – and drove her hooked fingers like claws into his elbow joints. As he flinched, she grabbed his ears and slammed her temple into his nose: one, two woodpecker jabs into his face. He stumbled and she punched his bloody mouth with her first knuckles extended, stamped into the side of his leg just below the knee and, as he lost balance, she pulled the stiletto from her left sleeve and drove it into his side.
Giulia ripped the blade free and jumped back, and he dropped as if the knife was all that had been keeping him up. He fell onto all fours, or all threes because his right hand was clasped to his side, thick blood pouring through the fingers.
There was something in his left hand, wrapped round the fist. A length of chain.
He pulled a weapon first. He meant to kill me. Of course he did. It was self-defence. Self-defence. Now run.
Giulia slid the stiletto back into her sleeve. Calm now. Calm and quick. She backed away. Her hands were fists at her sides. She made herself breathe properly: slow and controlled, in through the nose and out through the mouth.
Giulia walked out of the alleyway like a good citizen.
Severra knew I was coming. They were waiting for me. He knows me now.
In the marketplace, the cattle lowed. Behind her, the man with long hair flopped onto the ground.
About Toby Frost.
Toby Frost is the author of the Warhammer 40,000 novel Straken, published by Black Library, and six science fiction comedy novels about Space Captain Smith, published by Myrmidon Books. Toby has written short stories for Black Library and the collections Sharkpunk and The Immersion Book of Steampunk, as well as articles for the website Fantasy Faction.
Up To The Throne is Toby’s first self-published novel, and is a tale of intrigue and revenge in a magically-supercharged Renaissance. He is currently working on the sequel, Blood Under Water, which will be out in paperback and on Kindle in Summer 2019.
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