A Prince of Mars is live at last! Those of you who have pre-purchased the series should already have your downloads. The rest of you can pick it up from any of these online sites:
The Untreed Reads Store (http://bit.ly/xOVH8R)
Barnes and Noble
Here is the publisher's description:
Barely making it to Mars in their crippled aether cutter, Nathanial and Annabelle crash in the desolate Martian wastes. A disfigured Martian with a mysterious past helps them survive in the desert, but when they are rescued by a passing caravan their troubles may only have started.
Raids by steppe nomads and flying skrill riders are the most obvious dangers, but simmering resentment against Earth humans, and intricate plots to overthrow the British colony, lurk everywhere just beneath the surface.
Apparent friends become enemies, unexpected allies appear from unlikely sources, and the shadowy past of their Martian guardian collides with the sinister plans of the murderous head of the dreaded Martian Cult of the Worm...
And here is an excerpt to tease your interest:
Nathanial thirsted, but he did not trust his trembling hands to pick up the water cup without splashing half its contents on the sand. They were not short of water, of course. He simply was loathe to show weakness in front of Kak’hamish.
“You have pen and paper,” Kak’hamish said. “I will write out an explanation of your situation in Koline. All caravan masters speak Koline—it is a trade language, a pidgin of several tongues. If you are fortunate, the first caravan we see will be heading northwest, to Abak’hn. That is where you need to start. Then you must take a caravan or cloudship southwest to Siruahn, then another southwest to Thoth. Thoth is on the Grand Canal. From there you can obtain passage on a boat south to Shastapsh, where I hear there is a British garrison.”
“You will not accompany us any farther?”
“I have…other plans.”
Rubbish! The fellow had no plans other than to wander back into the desert to die. If Nathanial had been by himself it might have been different. He could take care of himself, steal food if he had to, barter for passage using the instruments and valuables he had brought off the cutter. But with Annabelle in the state she was in, he wasn’t sure how he would manage. Much as he hated to admit it, this scoundrel could help.
“You might at least tell me something of these cities we’re to pass through. Are they dangerous?”
Kak’hamish moved his jaw from side to side in thought. Clack-clack. “Dangerous? All cities are dangerous to one degree or another, aren’t they? People live in cities so…well, there you are.
“Abak’hn I suppose is particularly dangerous in that manner, although I have not been there for many years and it may have improved. Or deteriorated. It is cursed with a weak prince, Akhanoon III. He is absorbed by his own pleasures and content to let the city govern itself.”
“Some would say the hand of government lying lightly is a blessing,” Nathanial said.
“Yes, I have heard this as well but never from one who has actually experienced it first-hand, unless they were very rich. Without a patron or protector, you will be in considerable peril in Abak’hn. The strong take what they want and the town watch looks the other way, unless disorder threatens commerce or offends the sensibilities of the gentry—so there is sometimes danger in resisting the predators as well.”
“Sounds like a rum place,” Nathanial observed, and he admitted to a pang of anxiety. He was armed, it was true, but he had no confidence in his own abilities in a violent confrontation. True, he’d shot Le Boeuf, a cold and considered act for what Le Boeuf had done to Annabelle. But still, thinking back, it almost seemed as if another man had pulled the trigger, not him at all. He had hardly had cause to even raise his voice to someone before embarking on this disastrous tour of the worlds. Since then, often as not it had been Annabelle who had taken the lead, charted a plan of action. Poor Annabelle! Still half out of her head with fever. He wished she would recover quickly. He desperately needed her clear head, courage, and decisive nature.
The truth was he simply didn’t feel up to facing this by himself. If it came to that, could he kill a man? Well, yes. He had done it once and felt no regrets on that score. He could do it again, if necessary. But that was a devil he knew. What of the devils he knew not? Too many ill-understood dangers, and too many ambiguous situations requiring decisions on little or no reliable information, blocked the way forward. One had to trust one’s instincts, he supposed, and just forge ahead. But what if one had little faith in those instincts?
Kak’hamish was talking again and Nathanial shook those maudlin thoughts from his head.
“Siruahn is very different, of course. It once had a young prince like Akhanoon—stupid, vain, and convinced of his own indispensability. This was a conviction the people of Siruahn did not share. Twenty-some years ago they drove him out and turned the government over to a council elected from the different castes—merchants, tradesmen, farmers—even labourers, as I recall, although the wealthy are better represented than their numbers might warrant.”
“Really? It sounds a bit like a parliament,” Nathanial said. “How are they chosen, by election?”
Clack-clack. “I do not know exactly. Someone once told me, but it was very complicated and I have forgotten most of it. I understand they argue about the selection a great deal and make frequent changes, so it would be different now in any case. They argue about everything, I have heard. The poor argue with the rich, and are not even beaten for their insolence! It has become a very argumentative city.” Kak’hamish shook his head as if in disapproval, but Nathanial noticed he smiled as he did so. It was hard to tell a smile from a grimace on Kak’hamish unless you looked at his eyes. “This was a distressful business with Miss Annabelle’s wound,” Kak’hamish said. “It grows late and distress can bring fatigue. We should sleep, but also take turns watching. You still have your pistol?”
“Yes, it’s in my kit over there. Do you think we need it? I thought there were no large predators out here.”
“Not in the deadlands, but we no longer sleep in their sandy embrace. There is much to sustain a predator in the gardenways—now including us. Some of the larger animals have developed a taste for stragglers from caravans. They may like the taste of Earth people less than my own folk, but by the time they discover that it will do you no good.”
Nathanial tried not to look as if he was hurrying as he walked to the travois to get his derringer. That box of extra cartridges wouldn’t hurt either, come to think of it. Sometimes animals ran in packs, after all.