The first seven chapters of The Providence of Fire are now up on Tor.com for your reading pleasure! But we know that’s not enough of this awesome world. So we asked Brian to pick a chapter from later in the book, so you can see what kind of trouble Adare, one of our favorite characters, is getting into. Here’s an excerpt from Chapter 18 of The Providence of Fire, by Brian Staveley.
Olon straddled the blue-brown shallows of the northern end of Lake Baku like a gracile thousand-legged spider of stone, her body an oblong island a few hundred paces offshore, her legs the narrow quays stretching into the shimmering water and the slender stone bridges reaching toward the north bank. Even seen through the blindfold, the narrow towers and shapely domes were far more elegant than Annur’s stark angles and rigid lines, but Adare couldn’t spare much attention for the architecture, not with two score armed men blocking the bridge on which she stood.
The men weren’t uniformed, not that she could make out, anyway, but it was clear enough from the neat ranks, from the well-polished weapons and obvious military discipline that they weren’t a band of thugs out to rob pilgrims. They might have been legionaries, only they weren’t wearing imperial armor, and besides, none of the armies had a legion stationed in Olon. Which meant the Sons of Flame. Which meant the reports Adare had heard were true. She wasn’t sure whether to be relieved or terriﬁed.
She had thought, at ﬁrst, that the men were just running a routine patrol on the bridge, checking carts and carriages, maybe strong-arming money out of the merchants, some sort of “levy” to support the faithful. As she approached, however, caught up in the knot of pilgrims, she realized they were waiting—forty or ﬁfty of them, well-armed and alert—just waiting. Adare glanced over her shoulder, half expecting to ﬁnd another army marching on the city, an attacking force that might warrant the presence of so many armed men, but there was no army. Only the stragglers of her own pilgrimage alongside a few local cart drivers lashing ponderous water buffalo.
“Looks as though the light lovers think they own the bridges,” Nira groused, spitting onto the ﬂagstones.
Adare nodded nervously. She’d expected the Sons of Flame to be hidden away somewhere, holed up in alleys and cellars, not standing at attention athwart the main bridge into the city. Ameredad was either very bold, very stupid, or both. Such an open display of force risked the full retaliation of Annur, at least once il Tornja heard of it.
On the bright side, she thought bleakly, at least I don’t need to go hunting around for them in the taverns. At least they’re here.
She reached up to adjust her blindfold, squared her shoulders, then moved forward with the mass of gold-robed faithful, just another pilgrim returning to the city where the faith was born. The soldiers, younger men mostly, some with onion-pale skin, others dark as charred wood, watched the throng approach. Adare waited for them to move aside, to allow the devout into the city, but they did not move. Instead, when the ﬁrst wagons reached the height of the bridge, a broad-shouldered man with a neck like a dock piling stepped forward. He must have been well into his ﬁfth decade, though the years had done nothing to chip away at the heavy muscle of his arms and chest.
“Stop,” he said, voice loud enough he didn’t bother to raise a hand. The pilgrimage clattered to a halt in a welter of confused questions, those behind demanding answers from their friends nearer the top of the bridge. Adare’s hands were slippery with sweat. She forced herself to leave them at her side, not to wipe them on her robes. She felt light-headed, as though she might pass out. It would be a disaster, of course. If she fell, the pilgrims who came to her aid would remove the blindfold, and then she was dead. Continue reading