David B. Coe

Author of Fantasy Novels and the Occasional Short Story

The Horsemen's Gambit

For a thousand years, the Southlands were ravaged by the Blood Wars, vicious conflicts between the magical Qirsi of the western clanlands, and the Eandi of the eastern sovereignties. Generations upon generations grew up knowing nothing of peace or compromise or mercy. And though for many hundreds of years the two sides fought to a bloody stalemate, in the end it was the Qirsi who drove back the Eandi, taking control of the Central Plain.

The peace that came at last was fragile and bitter. The memory of war lingered in the land like the smell of smoke from distant fires. The Blood Wars had ended, but the hatred of a millenium could not be overcome in a year or a decade or even a century. So it was that Lici, an old Mettai woman driven near to madness by a wrong done her and her people when she was just a child, turned her vengeance and her magic against the Y'Qatt, a sect of Qirsi who refused to use magic. Lici cursed them with a plague both deadly and contagious. Before long that plague had spread to the Fal'Borna, a powerful Qirsi clan of the plain. Villages were destroyed; thousands died.

In Qalsyn, a glorious city in the Eandi sovereignty of Stelpana, the family of Tirnya Onjaef lives in exile. A century and a half before, as the Blood Wars neared their violent conclusion, the Onjaefs had been driven from their home city of Deraqor on the plain. Tirnya, a captain in the Qalsyn army, and her father, Marshal Jenoe Onjaef, hear of the pestilence sweeping across the land now held by the Fal'Borna, and they begin to dream of reclaiming their ancestral home.

At the same time, Besh, an old Mettai man, and his son-in-law Sirj, search for Lici's cursed baskets and the merchants who are carrying them, desperate to keep the plague from doing more harm. As they journey deeper into Fal'Borna land, they encounter an odd company -- Q'Daer, a young Fal'Borna Weaver, who is distrustful of outsiders and quick to anger; Torgan Plye, an Eandi merchant who harbors a deadly secret; Jasha Ziffel, another merchant who trusts neither Torgan nor the Fal'Borna; and Grinsa jal Arriet, a Weaver from the Forelands, who has come to the Southlands seeking only peace and a place to make a new life for himself and his family. It falls to Grinsa to keep the peace among his companions, to prevent hatreds rekindled by Lici's curse from spilling over into ever more violence.

As the Eandi of Stelpana begin to plan for war, and the Fal'Borna of the plain seek vengeance for the terrible pestilence spreading across their land, Grinsa and Besh seek a cure for the magical plague. Their sorcery is as different as the color of their eyes, as different as the worlds in which they were raised. But out of need and fear, and under the threat of calamity, they forge an unlikely friendship. They'll need each other; they'll need their wits and their courage. For the threat of this pestilence lies far closer than they could possibly imagine.

The Horsemen's Gambit is the second volume of Blood of the Southlands, the sequel to the critically acclaimed opening volume, The Sorcerers' Plague.

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*****

Praise for The Horsemen's Gambit, book II of Blood of the Southlands

"In this intense and appealing sequel to 2007's The Sorcerer's Plague, clan rivalry continues apace...Coe steps up the tension and raises the stakes, leaving readers quivering in anticipation of book three." -- Publisher's Weekly

"Coe manages to take several serious, weighty issues, approach them from distinctly different points of view and make you sympathetic toward characters who sometimes act selfishly or viciously. He absolutely nails the plot and sequencing. This book is the best yet in the series. Four and a Half Stars" -- Romantic Times