With the manuscript for the sequel to We Do Not Kill Children in the hands of our editors, we’ve decided to celebrate with an extract from Penelope Wallace‘s debut novel and transport all you lovely readers to the kingdom of Marod.
We Do Not Kill Children: An Extract
Meril woke early, but lay still and tense, shivering a little and dreading getting up. It was hard to believe that they were really going to do this thing.
Master Hassdan had spent most of the day before arranging it. He told her that nothing would make the inhabitants of the house accept a desecration of the children’s graves; any explanation he could offer would be regarded as an insult. So Mistress Soumaki was to undertake further questioning of Lord Gahran’s people that afternoon, all together in the hall, to keep them out of the way. Soumaki plainly thought this a waste of time, and a distraction from their task, and said so forcefully. The possibility that the children might have been substituted was a very faint and unlikely one. Hassdan was in charge of the mission, so she had to give way, but she did not like it. Meril, excruciatingly embarrassed, had to witness their argument.
As they left the room, Master Hassdan had relieved his feelings by slapping the back of her head, and saying, “Take that smirk off your face. Go and make yourself useful in the kitchens.” While she was doing this, he exerted the authority of the King’s Thirty over the two reluctant priests, and talked to Captain Rabellit, whom Cremdar had left in charge. The captain was willing to help, he told Meril, but she had to select the least talkative of her soldiers to assist. “Not that there’s much hope. Someone will surely let it out.”
Meril, chopping vegetables and apologising for the ones she dropped on the floor, had been trying to learn what the dead children had looked like, but she had discovered little. They were all little angels. Gascor had a mole next to his eye. Ilda’s hair was curly, and Filana’s straight. This was all she could learn, apart from the colours of the clothes they had been wearing that day.
She had asked several people about the events of the funeral, and learned these by heart. Cremdar, Arvill and Braf had wrapped the children in a sheet and sewn it together “out of respect”, before breaking the news and arresting Dorac. The actual bodies had been too terrible to be viewed, after what that monster had done to them. All anyone else had seen was the bloodstains on Dorac’s cloak, and on the floor, and seeping through the sheet… and the fact of the children’s absence. The remains had lain in the chapel with those of their father for an hour or so, for last rites to be spoken, and people to pray. Then they had been carried out into the grounds by Captain Rabellit and one of her soldiers, with everyone else following behind. Lord Gahran’s chaplain had spoken the words of the funeral service, and all had wept and crowded round while the bloodied sheet was placed in the earth, in a hole dug by the soldiers. The other body, that of the stablehand Arator, had been buried later.
“Very very odd,” commented Master Hassdan. “Not even a coffin.” It was clear, he said, and Meril earnestly agreed, that the people of Ferrodach could have had no part in anything suspicious after the murders, at any rate. Captain Rabellit seemed trustworthy, and she was sure the grave had not been disturbed since. When asked if Ferrodach had had enough warning of their arrival to organise a substitution, she had thought not. “Our scouts saw nothing, and when we rode up, everyone was very surprised. Or seemed to be.”
So today they were to dig up corpses. Meril could not get her mind off this, wondering how horrible the sight and smell would be, and if she would disgrace herself utterly – throw up, or scream, or worse, in front of everyone. She thought of pictures at home of the opening of the tombs at the Last Judgment, which had given her and her sister nightmares. Her stomach was cold and heavy, and she could not make herself move from her pallet outside the Ferrodach guest chamber.
“Meril! You good-for-nothing brat! Are you intending to sleep till noon? St John preserve me from idle children.” Hassdan kicked her up, and she stammered apologies. He was still complaining loudly about her laziness and clumsiness as they went down to the hall (the same stair that Master Dorac and Master Cremdar had used that day), and Soumaki gave her a compassionate look. It was almost funny.
We Do Not Kill Children
“We do not kill children; we do not commit rape; we do not take pleasure in torment.”
Dorac Kingsbrother was one of the King’s Thirty in the kingdom of Marod. That was before he was found guilty of the murder of Lord Gahran’s three children. Though Gahran was a traitor, his children were innocent. The code of the King’s Thirty leaves no room for such a barbaric act, and for this heinous crime Dorac faces a life in exile.
The shame of such a sentence is something that Dorac can’t brook, and so he sets off on a journey to the Old Stones, the place where those that seek death meet their end. Followed by Gormad, a child in search of adventure, Dorac is not alone on his final journey.
But not everyone believes that Dorac is guilty. Gemara Kingsister, head of the Six, investigates the murder of Gahran’s children; though there is more at stake than the life of a lone warrior in this, the first of the Tales from Ragaris.