Today is the release day of Maharia by Joshua Robertson! I am so excited to be able to share an excerpt of this book with you, as well as the rest of his series.
In Valor There Is Hope!
Branimir has remained hidden from the enemy, withholding the cursed dagger from their erroneous hands. When a stranger arrives, and offers the chance to end his never-ending battle, Branimir sets off for the City of the Gods for answers. Now, hoping his faith has not been misplaced, Branimir undergoes his darkest adventure yet. He can only trust that he has the courage to survive the truth.
Joshua Robertson is a bestselling author in dark fantasy. Robertson is a Licensed Master Social Worker, who received his degree from Wichita State University. He has worked with children and families for the past fifteen years in a variety of unique venues: a residential behavior school, a psychiatric treatment facility, and the child welfare system. He has functioned as a supervisor, an educator, a behavior specialist, and a therapist during his career. Mr. Robertson has presented trainings for hundreds of professionals and military personnel on topics that include child abuse and neglect, human trafficking, strengthening the parent and child relationships, and the neurobiological impact of trauma.
You may recognize him as the dude whose dragons were said to destroy George R.R. Martin’s and Christopher Paolini’s dragons in a very biased Twitter poll. His first novel, Melkorka, was released in 2015, and he has been writing fantasy fiction like clockwork ever since. Known most for his Thrice Nine Legends Saga, Robertson enjoys an ever-expanding and extremely loyal following of readers.
He currently lives in North Carolina with his better half and his horde of goblins.
Branimir’s heart jumped at the thought of leaving Gaetana. He spun around and rose to his feet. Adamus faced him, beard hanging to his chest, and blue eyes wild with excitement. Witigor, a head taller than the Ariadnean, joggled his head in agreement, the overhanging flap of his ridiculous brown hat bouncing over his brow.
Sulanna stilled them with her hand. “What about Dorofej? The Stuhia has not survived this long simply to stay captive in a dungeon. Are we to continue to trust that he will find a way to escape?”
“Tis a thought I hope to be true, Sulanna,” Adamus said, “though the odds are not favorable. I am not proposing we attempt to free Dorofej. We simply cannot stay here much longer. Besides, if Dorofej does escape, he can always find us with that thing he does.”
“Klukas,” Branimir said. “Yes. He can find us in the shadow world.”
“Oh, here we are again, talking of this mysterious, all-knowing man called Dorofej.” Wit grimaced, pulling the sleeves up on his shirt. “The man might as well be a god, the way you speak of him.” Wit’s eye twitched. “Still, you are correct on this matter. The Stuhia can find anyone in Klukas if they have come across them before. Their gift of scrying supersedes the skill of the greatest oracle. He would be able to find you no matter your destination, I assure you.”
“Oh. Are you suddenly an expert with the Stuhian people, Wit?” Sulanna mocked, twisting her mouth with suspicion. “Funny you have not said a word of them until recently.”
“Well…I have read Tom Flitter’s Mystagogical’s Forlorn Folio and Colin Turney’s Unchanted and Unequaled.” Wit crossed his arms, leaned back like he had taken a blow to the bits, and then wobbled his head back and forth in disbelief. “Do you not know I have access to every book in the known world, Sulanna? I would have been reading about the dragon people long before now if I had known anyone cared to know about them. But you three keep your tongues wrapped so tight, I would not be surprised if you did not have any tongues at all. I don’t know how you expect me to help.”
Branimir stuck out his tongue. “No one asked for your help. We asked for one book on ancient religions, and here you still are—”
“Yes, I remember. The Compendium of Infernal Light by Emrys Trudgeon.” Wit widened his eyes. “No other man could have gotten you that little treasure. If you don’t want me, I can be on my way.” He stomped the back of his foot against the earth, indicating he had no intention of budging. “You know, it is not everyday someone asks about a text not highlighting the Lightbringer.”
“Czern’s breath. You mustn’t go anywhere,” Adamus said, angling an eyebrow at Branimir.
Sulanna flashed her teeth, chiming in, “Indeed. Your input is always welcome, but our business will remain our own.”
“Of course, my Lady,” Wit said, nodding his head again with enough momentum to bounce his hat. “And I don’t mean to pry, but anything you need to know, I can find.” He winked, pointing at Branimir. “Don’t get me wrong. The Kras have wicked memories, but none are as old as books. None can know how their minds have twisted their words over time.”
Again, the bearded Kadari and Beryl tightened their hold on his arms.
With a flash in her eye, Kveta pulled aside Branimir’s cloak and pulled the dagger from the belt. Kaelandur stayed hanging from its sheathe around his waist. She barely looked at the copper blade, twisting the iron dagger in her hand. The sharpness of the weapon gleamed in the firelight.
Her free hand grabbed his shoulder roughly, balancing her weight to keep pressure off her bandaged leg. “Should I wedge this in your leg, your eye, or your dear, little bits?”
Beryl’s blithe snigger robbed the air from Branimir’s lungs. “Why choose only one?”
Disbelief and horror seized Bran, his timorous lip quaking with realization. He twisted against the Kadari holding him, hardly budging.
He dared to break from Kveta’s ghastly expression to look at Falmagon. The twisted smile under the Patrician’s mustache screamed of gratification. After Harrowhal, he realized how far gone Falmagon truly was. He once thought Falmagon, at least, considered himself decent, but nothing was left of the Highborn Long-Walker.
Nothing could have readied Branimir for the shockwave of pain riddling through his body as Kveta speared him with the dagger. He reacted at instinct, thrashing violently against the two Kadari holding him hostage, his wail causing the very flames of the distant fire to waft. He could not pinpoint where she struck him at first, only knowing the pain surged from beneath his belly. The heat of the immediate wound was only diluted by the warmth of the thick blood flowing down his slender leg.
He moaned. Tears descended from his cheeks with heaved sniffles, snorting his slick snot back into his nose and off his upper lip.
Kveta twisted the blade, grating the sharp edge against his femur, isolating the dagger’s location. Branimir blubbered softly, catching the saliva on the edge of his tongue, hatefully glaring at the Kadari woman.
He gagged in effort to keep his throat from closing, gasping for oxygen. He needed to breathe. He had to shake away the abysmal pain. Inhaling the metallic odor of his own blood, Branimir gazed to Falmagon and exhaled the bitter thoughts flooding his mind. “I will kill you! I swear it! Marheena will leave you broken and deformed!”
Branimir could not guess how much time had come and gone since they entered the gate and started up the never-ending staircase. Not only did the sun stay at its apex over the City of the Gods, giving constant warmth and light in every crevice, but also something kept his stomach from hunger and his body from exhaustion. Every time his foot lifted and fell, his body seemingly had forgotten he repeated the same movement a hundred times before. In the beginning, the mundane climbing had been a game; but after a couple hours, he lost interest in playing. He stopped counting the stairs after reaching the thousands. Yet he felt no aching in his back, legs, or feet. Bran supposed he should be thankful for being away from the snow and wind on the mountain pass, but the monotony was wearing on him.
“You would think,” he said, after several hours, “with all the magic in this place they would find a quicker way to the top. I bet the Svet’s gateway takes them straight to the top of the peak.”
Alyona ambled along behind him, responding with a dull tone. “Close. You arrive on the seventh tier, near the temple.”
“Nine Lands. And no one thought to put one of those gateways at the bottom of these stairs?” Branimir asked, gazing at the rocky wall on either side of them. He was certain a dragon could fit on the staircase without discomfort. Which did not matter much, considering the dragon could fly to the peak of the mount.
Tyr held the smile on his face, climbing besides Branimir on the right. “Bah! Can you imagine when we go back down to leave? I bet we will lose our minds going back down these stairs.” Tyr swung is giant arms back and forth as he climbed. Branimir hardly noticed he had six fingers anymore. “How about if we were to arrive through the doorway up there? And then, when we went to leave, we were faced with this? At least, we know, right?” Tyr rumbled, peering over his shoulder for an instant. The bottom of the winding staircase could no longer be seen. “I might consider flinging myself down the steps, or simply lying down and rolling. Maybe the gods will spare me if I crack my head.”
Alyona’s dry tone answered the unasked question. “No, they will not.”