The Concubine’s Spy: A Preview

Here’s a sample from The Concubine’s Spy, part one of A Lord of Five, the next volume in the trilogy The Furnishings of Baba Yaga’s Hut. You can buy the first book, A Lord of Three at

Dr. Erasmus Lammergeyer strode the sewers of Mydmos at a furious clip, the crisp lines and regular motions of his long skinny legs resembling the opening and closing of a tailor’s shears. He muttered to himself animatedly, gesturing at the empty air with long fingers, from time to time dashing his unruly hedge of silver hair back from his eyes with an unconscious, irritable gesture. The awful stink of the sewer and the unsavory shifting of the shadows washed unremarked through his senses; his mind was too occupied to notice. His scholar’s robe, now somewhat fouled since he’d absentmindedly stepped off the path a few turns ago, snapped smartly in the wind created by his swift passing. Yet it was not the urgency of his errand that fired his movements, it was the excitement engendered by his newest acquisition.

A team of swordswomen had arrived in Mydmos two days ago, just before the riots started and the city gates were sealed, with the most surprising parcels lashed to the flanks of their mules. They named Nothoa as their point of origin – a land so little understood despite its proximity to Said that their claim seemed thrillingly improbable – and bore with them many fine specimens, both living and mounted, of their native flora and fauna. Principal among these were three mated pairs of a creature the Nothoan women called ardixx, a foul-tempered beast of disreputable habits which resembled a composite of bird, reptile, and monkey.

The little monsters, safely dead and neatly stuffed, would be perfect for the Museum; the only question was which exhibit they belonged in. Their wings and general resemblance to both mammals and reptiles made them suitable for the exhibit one visitor to the Museum had christened ‘Things That Fly As Oughtn’t’, a collection of flying squirrels, flying fish, sailing snakes, and the like. But their transitional nature made them perfect for the exhibit Lammergeyer planned to showcase his radical new theory of evolution.

Lammergeyer’s cogitations were interrupted by the soft echo of voices and the scrape of boots on stone. He came to a sharp stop and peered into the gloom. The torches burning at regular intervals along the walls did little to dispel the subterranean night, and the single torch he carried offered only marginal help. The river of sewage running down the center of the tunnel seemed to include darkness among its many other exhalations. Shadows stretched around the corner ahead of him, suddenly falling away to reveal a small knot of human figures clinging carefully to the narrow ledge on which they walked. They stopped as they became aware of Lammergeyer’s presence.

He hesitated. There were no end of dangers down here – bandits and smugglers, river pirates, spies from Xantiffe, the indigent, the mad, the diseased, and worse. But he thought he recognized their outlines. And now one of the figures, a small man, spoke.

“Lammergeyer?” he said incredulously. “Is that you?”

Dr. Lammergeyer released his breath in a sigh of relief and drew nearer, until the man’s face was visible in the light of the torch he carried.

He offered his kindliest smile. “Hello, Minister Higginbottom.” The minister’s robes of office were badly disheveled and stained from his soujourn in the sewer; his cap was askew on his balding head and the edges of his white beard dripped with sewer-filth. Only the bright blue eyes blazing above his bulbous nose served to redeem what would otherwise be a sad figure. He leaned heavily on his cane, hands folded to conceal the gold-and-ruby ring on his knobby forefinger.

Lammergeyer’s gaze flicked to the others as they drew into the light. First came Lady Bohumila, first among King Qareppoh’s concubines; a tall, slender Saidi woman, her eyes like chips of obsidian shooting their sparks from an olive-complected face. Her features were strong and her expression defiant despite the soil upon her fine robes. She held the hand of Prince Kulor, a pretty, dark-eyed boy wearing silk pajamas.

“Lady Bohumila, Your Highness, it is a pleasure to see you again.” He frowned suddenly at the sight of the blood soaking the hem of Lady Bohumila’s dress, the way she drew her leg painfully behind her with each step. “Why are you bleeding, Lady?” He was startled to notice a gore-encrusted dagger clenched in the woman’s slender hand.

In place of an answer, Bohumila gripped the doctor by the lapel of his robe and swung him around. She cast an apprehensive glance over her shoulder and thrust him back the way he had come with a sturdy blow from her forearm. A shattering scream echoed down the sewer tunnels from the passage they had just left.

“Run, fool!” she cried.

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