And now something different - a fantasy novel extract:
Andry wondered how long it would take to die. It was difficult to think straight, difficult to concentrate on any thought for more than a few seconds, but his eyes kept being drawn back to the rope on the dais at the far end of City Square and the crowd that was even now beginning to gather around it.
It was raining, a fine drizzle that soaked through the thin cotton shirt and made him shiver. He was finding it increasingly hard to stay awake – never mind keep warm – and since the last dose of whatever drugs he’d been given, he’d finally realised that there was no way out. This time he wouldn’t leave Ariathen alive and he wasn’t sure he cared anyway.
Why did you do it, Elene? When you had so much to live for? The only one of this violent and bloodthirsty race who had cared about him and she was dead, had been dead these seven years past and he hadn’t known. Not until now. She’d ended their affair, determined to make her marriage work and then she’d killed herself. He’d have cried if he’d had the strength, but all he could do was stumble across the cobbles and hope to meet her in whatever world she’d gone to.
A diversion up ahead and one of his guards stopped him with a hand on his shoulder. He turned his head to one side and saw a familiar face pushing his way to the front of the crowd. Jereth? But the cocktail of drugs was too potent and he couldn’t reach his friend’s mind. Words would have to be enough.
“Andry.” Not much more than a whisper, but the guards were looking towards the source of the disturbance across the square.
“Jereth.” What could he say? There was nothing his friend could do without jeopardising his own safety. “She’s dead.”
“I know. I’m sorry.”
He knew? Was that why they’d kept him away from the city for so long? “There was a child. A girl.” The words kept getting stuck in his throat, but he was alert enough to see Jereth’s wide-eyed expression – he obviously hadn’t known this much.
He nodded, but even the slight movement made him lose his balance and he fell against the guard. By the time he’d got his feet underneath him, he was pushed forwards again and Jereth had melted back into the sea of people, all jostling for the best vantage point to see him die. Someone spat at him, but his hands were tied and he couldn’t even wipe his face.
Up on the dais stood a familiar figure. Dressed in the uniform of the City Militia, the man’s complete lack of any badges of rank marked him out from the other soldiers positioned around the square – both Watch Guard and Militia had turned out for the event. Andry wondered if they knew what he’d done. Why he was really here. Not just because he’d broken the treaty.
“Andry. Are you prepared?” The man’s voice was low but the tone deadly.
“To meet Elene again? Oh, yes.” If he’d been capable of it, he’d have laughed at the effect her name had on Ariathen’s Guard Captain. He wished he could shout it out loud.
His last thought as he felt the rope was that he’d never even known his daughter’s name.