The One-Eyed Queen Preview: “An Unnascent Praxis”

Next month sees the release of The One-Eyed Queen, my new Guild Wars 2 serial novel over at Chronicles of Tyria. It is the next installment in my ongoing series (The Books of Varr) depicting the life and adventures of Kaede II zu Amselwald of Varr, a noblewoman whose magical abilities allow her to see through the eyes of those around her rather than through her own.

The One-Eyed Queen is The Second Book of Varr, taking place several years after the end of Hide Your Fires, the short story I wrote to bridge the gap between City of the Chimera (The First Book of Varr) and The One-Eyed Queen.

For those of you who are familiar with The Books of Varr, you can expect a number of familiar faces as well as a few new additions to the cast, chapter names that I spent far too long playing with, and an altogether different story from what you might have read in my earlier works.

I’ve been planning and writing The One-Eyed Queen for some time, and I’m pleased to finally be able to showcase it here with a short excerpt from the first chapter, An Unnascent Praxis.

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We found her where we expected to – which in and of itself was somewhat unusual.

Keeper Tianne Moravel had been running operations in the area for some time. My superior had not deigned to share the full details of her mission with me even if my team and I executed her orders as part of it, and this was the first time we’d actually been in the field base – a modest house she had somehow acquired – we found it bustling with activity.

Members of The Order of Whispers, all dressed in civilian garb moved to and fro, carrying carefully nondescript boxes and crates to a furnace in the back room, wherein they destroyed everything. I’d seen it before – whatever Moravel had been doing here, she was getting ready to disappear.

“Galmond, Varr, you’re overdue,” she said without looking up, her icy eyes fixed on the map spread across what must have originally been a dining table. She wore a deep brown scarf, dark linen breeches, and a tunic of contrastingly innocent off-white. Very much a merchant’s wife, not used to hard work, but not attractive enough to be a noble. A seamless disguise, and only the rifle on her back stole any sense of innocence. “Trouble?”

“Mercenaries,” I replied, and Moravel looked up, brushing a stray lock of short blond hair behind her ear. “Hannes is dead, same as the others.”

“How many?”

“Sellswords? Twelve.”

“Any sign of theft?”

“None.”

Moravel sighed, rolling her shoulders as she looked at the two of us. “After you left I did some digging, and these last three aren’t all of them. Jarlsson, Diyri, and Fenno are all dead.” The names all stood out of me – each of them a contact Baen and I had cultivated in the last four years.

“Any other snitches been killed recently?” Baen pointedly kept her eyes on Moravel, who was already shaking her head.

“Just yours,” she said. “Six dead in the space a year. Six of yours, specifically, is not coincidence,” the Keeper of Whispers crossed her arms, sighing again as if this were just another one of a myriad of mildly irritating chores she had to tend to. “You’re being hunted.”

I fought the smile from creeping onto my face, feeling a little swell of excitement. The thrill from the little skirmish at Hannes’s home had not yet faded.

“We’ll compile a list of our surviving contacts,” I said. “Establish a pattern, make someone talk-”

“No,” Moravel said, her tone a quiet command. “You’ll return to Queensdale with your team, bunker down in your estate, and wait for me.”

“What?” Baen blurted before I could. “Why?”

“We don’t know who, or why, but you’ve apparently drawn the attention of someone very well informed and very well connected,” Moravel explained. “There’s an army of potential candidates, and to narrow that list I’m sending you home. These killings are the sort you commit to flush someone out, so we’re going to let them do just that. Make it well known that Lady Varr has returned to her estate, that she has a potential interest in returning to court. The reaction of this enemy will help us establish whether you’re being hunted as people or members of The Order.”

“Play as bait,” Baen reasoned.

“By all means, compile a list, consider possibilities, but take no action,” Moravel said. “I have to debrief these men, escort a few new faces back to base, so I’ll join you as soon as I can with a security taskforce. Until then you’re on your own.”

I barely heard her. Whatever excitement I had felt a moment earlier had been replaced with a cold, seething anger and something more unpleasant that curdled in my stomach like sour milk.

“Stay the night, get some rest and resupply before you head home tomorrow.”

Home.

I was going home.

Bile rose in my throat.

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The One-Eyed Queen launches in November!

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