Excerpt – Wizardwall- Sacred Band Fantasy

To celebrate the recent release of the author’s cut of Janet Morris’s Beyond Wizardwall she has kindly provided an excerpt.

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(c) Janet Morris – shared with permission from the author.

Fragile flesh, so hard to mend when so much of it is damaged.

And yet before this ravaged boy, who needs the god’s blessing to send him safe to heaven, Tempus cannot even find the words.

He simply kneels there.  Right now he’d gladly die himself, if only he could, trade soul for soul to the hungry gods, accept heaven or even hell in Niko’s stead.

He calls Enlil.  Gets no answer.  He waits, and calls again.  And listens again.  And hears nothing again…  No sound; no mercy from the storm god of the armies, his new ally.  So be it.

Then Niko groaned, the softest sound, and flinched.

Tempus put his hand on Niko’s sweating forehead and the boy tossed his head.  His mouth worked; he seemed to smile.

Niko whispered something:  “Riddler?  Is that you?” in a voice so faint that Tempus had to bend his head to hear it.

“Rest, Niko.  I’m here.”

Then:  “Don’t… worry.  I didn’t tell them.  This time… I didn’t tell them.”

And then Tempus’ eyes filled with tears and he roared to heaven:  “No!  I won’t accept this, greedy god!  If You have any power, any right to be; if You give Your faithful anything worth having, then take away these wounds, ease this pain, give me this one soul back!  I’ve never asked for such a thing before and, by my own word, if You deny me, I’ll never again lift my arm in Your service –”

Then he broke off, bit his lips, and tears blurred his sight – a blessing, considering what lay before him in the ravaged person of a boy he’d thought to love, and train, and save.

Years ago, when Abarsis had come to Tempus and sought death in his service, the Riddler had sent him off to heaven, built the pyre and said the rites.  And in that smoky farewell on a Sanctuary hillside, his eyes had smarted from the smoke and pain.  But Abarsis had needed only death; Stealth, called Nikodemos, still loved life.

And that cut deep into the Riddler’s heart, so that he rejected what he saw.  Even when he looked up and saw the shade of dead Abarsis, wizard-haired and wise and full of grief, as elegant as a ghost can be, reaching out his arms….

“You’ll not take him… not from me.  This is my boy – the closest I’ve ever come to one – and I swear by all the muck in heaven, I’ll do hell’s service if he dies unknowing, half awake.”

Then Abarsis coalesced, his satin skin and smooth cheeks as real as life.  In gleaming armor, with a silken smile, he knelt down on Niko’s far side.

And the ghost said gently:  “Riddler, don’t give up.  You who were my inspiration in life, don’t threaten or defame the gods.  We love you.  Your place awaits in heaven.  Someday you will claim it.”  The ghost of the Slaughter Priest smiled tenderly and put a gentle, almost opaque hand on Niko’s brow.  “Sleep,” whispered the ghost.  “Sleep, sweet fighter, your time’s not come if your will is strong.  Live, Stealth called Nikodemos.  Live to fight again.”

And then the shade of Abarsis, who’d formed the Stepsons and still brought them glory and a special place in heaven, looked again at Tempus soulfully:  “Riddler, give Niko water.  Give him solace.  Give him time.”

In Abarsis’ ethereal hand, a flask of crystal flickered into being.  Reaching for it, Tempus touched the ghost’s hand with both his own.  And they clasped hands there:  a ghost who had loved a man who saved him when he was but a boy, and a man who could not die.

“Give me your death, Slaughter Priest,” Tempus whispered.  “Take me up to heaven in his stead.  Death is sweet to me, and theft to him, who’s just begun to live.  I can’t bear this soul’s weight upon my heart if he’s maimed, or if he dies with witches hunting him and dream lords thirsting for his spirit.”

“Listen, Riddler….  I’ll say it once again and I must go:  have faith and we can heal him, you and I, who fell out of love with life.  If he loves it still, he’ll mend.”

Tempus felt the vial in his hand grow heavy.  As it did, the shade who was once called Stepson began to fade.

Tempus tried to clutch that hand again, stay the ghost, but it was too late.

When Abarsis was gone, the sun was wholly set.  Tempus sat upon the ground before a youth struggling for each breath he took as the night’s chill came, and darkness whispered that perhaps the ghost was right.

So Tempus opened the vial and, with his hand under Niko’s head, helped him to drink.

He didn’t know what else to do:  Abarsis had come and not taken Niko’s soul; said some words and left, leaving Tempus shaken, unsure of anything, distressed.

Somehow, he had to get Niko out of here, somewhere better for healing or dying.  But moving that tortured body would bring great pain.

The Aškelonian stallion butted him, as if to say, “I’ll gladly bear him anywhere,” but Niko’s wounds were worst just where a man sat a horse.

In the end, he carried Niko in his arms, the horse following behind him, through Ranke’s streets.  And everywhere he went, he laid curses upon Abakithis and the Rankan empire, wishing death and destruction upon it all.  When he came to the mercenaries’ hostel, where he and the boy were lodging, there was a chariot outside, its car worked with ancient skill, borne by horses whom his own steed greeted like brothers.

Inside, sitting sorrowfully in the anteroom, grit and trail dust on clothes and face, was the mageling Randal, supremely out of place among a score of hard-bitten fighters who jumped up when they saw Tempus and his burden.

As the mercenaries crowded around him, inflamed by the sight of Niko, the slight mage demanded, “Let me through!  Let me pass! He’s my friend!”






Here are book links in chronological order, beginning with Beyond Sanctuary, the Author’s Cut, first book in the Sacred Band of Stepsons Beyond Trilogy.  Beyond Sanctuary  will be free March 7, 8, 9, 2014):







Here are Kindle Single links (shorter Sacred Band of Stepsons fiction):





Here are the Audio book links:




Beyond Wizardwall – Review – Fantasy/Mythic/Heroic fantasy

Book Review – Beyond Wizardwall – Janet Morris.

5 Stars

The final instalment of the ‘Beyond’ series does not disappoint. Again it is an emotive read, Nikodemos suffers more than any other character and those scenes are heart breaking, yet not one scene or line is wasted, not one scene or line is out of place and reader has to continue reading to find out what happens. Does he survive? Does his maat return?  Are plots within plots the breaking of the Stepsons?  This is not a book for the faint of heart, but battle is not kind, nor gentle, nor pleasant. There is not simply the battle of man against man, but of magic and politics, gods and demigods and thus carnage reigns.

This book ties up situations brought to us in earlier books, explains some issues alluded to and sets the scene for other excursions with the Sacred Band. Relationships are forged, and broken, and trust stretches to breaking point with repercussions to come. An intellectual and complex fantasy, which takes the reader to the edge of tears and the heights of joy, an unashamed ride of epic proportions.



Beyond the Veil – Review – Mythic/Fantasy

Beyond the Veil – Janet Morris

5 stars

Strife follows the Riddler and that is especially true here. With dissention among his Stepsons, traitors in the camp, silence from his god and civil war brewing this is a rollercoaster ride of emotion, mayhem and, of course, exceptional fantasy.

Some new characters are introduced, namely Kama, a feisty female warrior who is not all she seems. Better still there is a lot of character development here, particularly for Niko and Randall; at times heartbreaking and at times enlightening the story draws the reader in from the beginning. This is the middle book of the trilogy so it does help to have read the previous one, however the characters are so rich and the world so well-crafted it is not essential.

Character Interview Number Three – Nikodemos – Fantasy/Mythic

Welcome to Nikodemos, of the Sacred Band.

Tell Us About Yourself

Name (s): I am Stealth called Nikodemos; Niko to my friends.

Age: How do you mean?  I have spent five years in the City at the Edge of Time, where time doesn’t pass, and lived now and again on Lemuria, where the Band is based, and where mortals do not age.  When I joined Tempus’ Sacred Band with my first partner, I claimed twenty-five years, not quite true, but I’d already been a right-side partner for nine years.  I have served sixteen years with the Stepsons.  So, thirty-seven, perhaps, as mortals count time.

Please tell us a little about yourself. First I should tell you that I answer your questions only at my commander’s order.  I’m overall second in command and hipparch, or cavalry commander, of the Unified Sacred Band of Stepsons.  I manage our prodromoi, our skirmisher light cavalry, as well as heavy cavalry.  I am a committed Sacred Bander, right-side partner of our commander, Tempus, called the Riddler, the Black, the Sleepless One, Favorite of the Storm God.  I am also a secular Bandaran adept, initiate of the mystery of Maat.  I’ve claimed Enlil when I have needed a tutelary god.  These days, the goddess Harmony calls me her own.  I’m not a man for words.

Describe your appearance in 10 words or less. Tall, but shorter than Tempus.  Hazel-eyed.  Dark-haired.  Fit.

Do you have a moral code? If so what is it? The Sacred Band Ethos guides me.  I am still learning what the Riddler has to teach.  I strive for balance in all things.  Stepsons should want neither too much to live nor too much to die.  To serve with the Band requires unflinching determination; unwavering devotion – to one another, to honor, to creed.  I’m Bandaran at my core: venerating the elder gods, but worshiping only the god within.  The Band says, ‘Life to you, and everlasting glory.’  I don’t ask destiny even that much.  Only to be useful while I live.

Would you kill for those you love? I have.  I do.  It’s what I am:  a fighter.  I told you:  My mystery is maat, one of seeking balance and equilibrium, truth and justice. On occasion, I am justice incarnate, when justice must be dispensed with a sword.

Would you die for those you love? I am a Stepson.  So, of course.  If you are really asking about my being immortalized by Harmony, I will tell you only that what is between me and the goddess is ours alone, not yours to know.

What would you say are your strengths and weaknesses? We are all weak, even those of us, like my commander or myself, who’ve been immortalized by some god or goddess or touched by sorcery.  I’m a Bandaran fighter.  I have a calling:  I take my strength, my mystery, my spirit and my skill out into the World and challenge its evil until it wears me down. Then I return home to Bandara or lately to Lemuria, restore my internal equilibrium, and do the same again.

If I must confess a flaw to you – and only the gods know why – it would be that I ask too much, not just from others, but from myself.

Do you have any relationships you prize above others? Ah, the women.  Everyone asks about how a Sacred Bander can love so many women.  It’s a soul that calls me, not the size of breast or buttocks.  But yes, I love women as well as men and horses, and the sun that’s new every day, and weather on the wind.  Without love, how can a man live fully the life that the gods bequeath?

My relationship with my commander is most important:  love without limits, wisdom beyond price; leadership is what he teaches, and commitment beyond measure.  I know I’m imperfect, still young in his sight, still balancing my rage.  More now than ever, since the goddess Harmony touched me, I need his guidance.

And there’s Harmony.  That this goddess favors me, gave me that great horse, is beyond my ken, but she’s goddess of the Balance, after all.

Above all else come my brothers of the Sacred Band.

And Randal, although he’s a mage and a shape-shifter, was once a partner to me and still like a brother:  not every man is alike in mind, and differences define us all.

Do you like animals? I love the Band’s Tros horses, and the horses we bred up in Free Nisibis, and the black horse the goddess gave me.  Love is vulnerability, you must understand:  love comes at the risk of grief.  I’m careful how much vulnerability I court.

Do you have a family? More than one:  The Unified Sacred Band of Stepsons; Bashir and the free men of Nisibis; the adepts of Bandara.

Can you remember something from your childhood which influences your behaviour? Too much suffering, too much death.  Terror in war.  Slavery and sorcery.  And then a left-side leader who loved me and made a man of a foolish boy.

Do you have any phobias? Witches.  Warlocks.  Arrogance.  Stupidity.  Stupidity kills more than all else.

Please give us an interesting and unusual fact about yourself. I was courted by the entelechy of dreams who gave me a charmed panoply forged in hell itself.  I was stalked by a witch.  The Greek goddess Harmonia is my current lover.  Pick any one.

Tell Us About your world

Please give us a little information about the world in which you live. These days I live with the Band.  Lately we’ve been in Thrace.  When we’re not campaigning, we billet in Lemuria.    There the Riddler’s sister rules with unchallengeable power from behind its sheer seaside walls.  From there we fight where the commander and his woman send us, anywhere in space and time – past, future, other realms.

Does your world have religion or other spiritual beliefs? So many.  What’s between men and gods powers all.  We fight in theomachy, too often:  Tempus is Favorite of the Storm God, so we fight a lot of wars.

Do you travel in the course of your adventures? If so where? Where?  Sometimes, a world away.  Wherever Cime, the Evening Star of Lemuria, decrees.  To places decoupled from time and space, like Bandara or Meridian or the City, or Thrace.  We’ve been places others only dream of.  We fought in a future so far away that the seas were dead.  We fought in a place so primitive ancient beasts walked the earth.  Sometimes we slip through gates between dimensions…  I’m a simple fighter.  Ask Tempus and Cime these questions, not me.  We go where he leads, we fight where he puts us.

Name and describe a food from your world. Nisibisi blood wine, made with bullock blood.  Possets of watered wine with cheese and nuts and barley.

Does your world have magic? If so how is it viewed in your world? You jest.  We fought a war for more than a decade against sorcery, thought we’d won it, but now fight the mages yet again, in other realms.

What form of politics is dominant in your world? (Democracy, Theocracy, Meritocracy, Monarchy, Kakistocracy etc.) An intellectual said we are timocrats.  What that means, I don’t know.  We fight for honor and our commander, not place or race national goals.  Dominant in our world are fools and kings and reavers and their sorcerous allies, who scheme under any name that will give them total power.  They try to seize control of everything and everyone.

Does your world have different races of people? If so do they get on with one another?Races vie for power.  People hate anyone different, then deem them soulless, then try to wipe them out.  Tempus says that, absent reason, men will fight over eye-color, hue of skin or heavenly affiliation.

Name a couple of myths and legends particular to your culture/people. We have no myths, except perhaps the one that says no nation can lose if Tempus and the Band fight on their side.  We have truths and realities, sometimes long forgot, and often twisted, that fools think are myths, going back to the time of Gilgamesh.

What is the technology level for your world? Tempus and his sister have the Lemurian windows, to take you anyplace in space and time.  We use repeating crossbows; some forged iron, some poor steel, some bronze, but well forged bronze still bests iron.  We have naphtha and poisons, great ships and more.  But what difference:  it’s the man, not the weapon, that wins the day.

Does your world have any supernatural beings? Supernatural?  Like the entelechy of dreams?  Or do you mean the gods?  Jihan, the Froth Daughter?  Witches?  Sorcerers.  Some mainlanders say that we Bandarans do the same as sorcerers, just under another name.  Mystical creatures?  Of course.  Naiads.  Erinys.  We have devils, demons, fiends, snakes that change shape, giant vipers and rocs and eagles.  Don’t you?  We have zombies, vampires, necromants; even a ghost horse, Straton’s mount. And our warrior-mage Randal, one of our bravest fighters, can become a dog or an eagle when he must…

Author notes: Novels(s) in which Nikodemos appears.

Beyond Sanctuary (1985), (2013), Janet Morris http://www.amazon.com/Beyond-Sanctuary-Sacred-Band-Stepsons-ebook/dp/B00GU0FPDG

Beyond the Veil (1985), (2013), Janet Morris http://www.amazon.com/Beyond-Veil-Sacred-Band-Stepsons-ebook/dp/B00GU0FIG0

Beyond Wizardwall (1986), (2013) Janet Morris http://www.amazon.com/Beyond-Wizardwall-Sacred-Band-Stepsons-ebook/dp/B00GU0FH6G

Tempus (1987), (2011) Janet Morris http://www.amazon.com/Tempus-Sacred-Band-Stepsons-Tales-ebook/dp/B00BI175EY
City at the Edge of Time (1988), Janet Morris and Chris Morris
Tempus Unbound (1989), Janet Morris and Chris Morris
Storm Seed (1990), Janet Morris and Chris Morris

The Sacred Band (2010), Janet Morris and Chris Morris http://www.amazon.com/Sacred-Band-Janet-Morris-ebook/dp/B00AMLKJAI

The Fish the Fighters and the Song-girl (2010), Janet Morris and Chris Morris, http://www.amazon.com/Fish-Fighters-Song-Girl-Sacred-Stepsons-ebook/dp/B007VQIJFY/ref=pd_sim_kstore_2

Nikodemos  also appears in Morris & Morris Sacred Band of Stepsons stories set in the Thieves’ World shared universe, including:

“Wizard Weather,” Storm Season, Ace 1982

“High Moon,” Face of Chaos, Ace 1983

“Hell to Pay,” The Dead of Winter, Ace 1985

“Power Play,” copyright (C) Janet Morris, Soul of the City, 1986

“Pillar of Fire,” copyright (C) Janet Morris, Soul of the City, 1986

Author name:Janet Morris

Chris Morris

Website/Blog/Author pages etc.