The Tiger and the Cauldron
To coincide with the release today of the new paperback, here are two final teasers from the story!
‘ Dawn came too quickly for Hassan. He had hardly slept but his body felt warm and alive. Doquz lay close to him beneath the double blanket, her wounded arm still wrapped round his chest, one knee pressing against his belly and her cheek nuzzling his chin. Since leaving Venice, the growth of his beard had both roughened and accelerated, but she appeared to find no discomfort in it.
‘A single sunbeam formed a triangular shape on the far wall of the room and there was enough light for him to distinguish her features. With her eyes closed she was less the Tiger Princess and more the carefree child he remembered from long ago. Her unruly hair fell over her forehead as two elflocks and a narrow strand that curled round one eyebrow. Her lashes flickered.
‘Hassan wondered at her modest denials of beauty, as it seemed to him at that moment that she was the single most beautiful thing in the universe. He had enjoyed watching her before, but now nothing mattered except that he hold her close and keep guard over her until she wakened.
‘Their clothing and weapons lay untidily to one side of the makeshift bed along with the residue of three spent candles, giving the lie to the possibility that it had all been a dream. Hassan glanced towards the triangular beam. He wanted to know where the light was coming from but could not turn sufficiently without disturbing Doquz. Instead, he watched the shape widen at its base and round gradually until, at length, it split into two arched doorways of light.’
‘Doquz watched until the crown of Hassan’s helmet disappeared from view. For a moment her limbs froze and she was overcome by doubts.
‘ ‘Why are we doing this, Ahmed?’ she asked. ‘We are not martyrs to my brother’s cause. I do not want to die – nor to be responsible for the death of my friends. Is there no more to life than war and hatred?’
‘ ‘I ask myself the same thing before every battle,’ the Commander replied, ‘but, then, I have rarely known anything else. For you there is hope.’ He leant across and touched her on the arm and she clutched his hand in return. ‘It is not too late to go back.’
‘ ‘Look what he has done to me,’ she said, thinking of Hassan and wondering, as she did not speak his name, whether Sabbah would realise to whom she was referring. ‘It IS too late, Ahmed! Let us finish together what we began.’
‘She slapped his pony on the rump and spurred hers down the slope to their rear, calling to the company as she went. Below the next rise she saw Fakhr gathering his horsemen around him ready for another attack. Sabbah overtook her on her right flank, Khumar on her left. The Commander carried only his sabre and a heavy shield, Khumar a Chagatai lance.
‘ ‘Allah!’ came the answer from Fakhr’s troops as they heard the shrill battle-cry, saw the charge begin and rode to join it.
‘The two forces came together. They merged at the gallop, swung into an irregular arc two or three deep, and descended on the defenders at the gate. Doquz lost sight of Sabbah and Khumar. She was carried forward, gasping for breath, enclosed on three sides by men and horses, wishing she could halt the furious pace but powerless to do so. She acted by instinct alone, drew back the bowstring and released her arrow. She felt the dry wind on her cheeks, heard it whistle past the earpieces of her helmet. It had a smell she had not noticed before – the smell of wild grasses and trees, of smoke, corrupted flesh and horse sweat, of blood and death. It was both exhilarating and terrifying, unlike anything she had ever known.’
The e-book version of The Tiger and the Cauldron is available from most digital book stores. The paperback – for the present – is exclusive to Amazon.