Follow the law and you’ll stay safe. But what if the law betrays you?
It all started with the girl from the river: mutilated, tattooed, murdered. Tashué couldn’t help but look for answers and in the process, he uncovered the ugly truths being hidden by the very law he used to believe in—the law of the Authority.
Now he’s fighting for his life. Mere survival isn’t enough; he desperately wants to save his son from the Authority, and he wants revolution. At any cost.
Davik Kaine has been gathering power under everyone’s noses. Ruthless, ambitious, with a rebel army backing him, he wants revolution, too. He’s probably the only person powerful enough to protect Tashué from the looming implosion of the political field. And he’s the only person with the connections to save Jason.
He may also be responsible for the death of the girl from the river.
Is making peace with Davik worth it, if it saves Tashué’s son from the Authority?
If Tashué plays along with what Davik wants, can Tashué get retribution for the girl from the river?
It’s finally here! After much suffering, a lot of pulling out my own hair, way too much paper, fountain pen stains everywhere, Legacy of Brick & Bone is finally almost ready. Due to release April 25th, it’s high time for a cover, isn’t it?
Well here it is.
Are you ready?
C’mon, I’m not going to give it to you THAT easy. I’m gonna make you scroll a little.
Is that enough of me being a jerk?
Okay okay, here it is, my beauty, my cover, Brad’s latest brilliance.
Isn’t it amazing? Brad knocks it out of the park yet again!
Make sure you check out Out of This World SFF where Nick has a portrait of Lorne Coswyn, and FanFiAddict where Boss TBR has Davik Kaine. You guys NEED to see my trash villain, TRUST ME.
Goodreads pages for Legacy of the Brightwash and Legacy of Brick and Bone are at the bottom of this post, along with a buy link for Brightwash on the off chance you haven’t read it yet!
And if you’re still here looking for that EXCLUSIVE chapter out of Brick & Bone? Well, I guess I’ve made you wait long enough…
Edgar Hale—or, at least, what remained of him—hung from the window of his apartment, rope tied to both his ankles so he hung upside down, swaying in the wind that came off the Brightwash. Scavengers had peeled bits of him away layer by layer. A stray dog walked in slow circles beneath the corpse, snarling at anyone who walked too close even though the meat was several stories above its head. It paused, now and then, to lick the old clotted blood and brain matter from the cobbles beneath Hale, where pieces of him had been oozing out of the massive hole through his skull. The shot to the head that had probably killed him.
Lorne wasn’t sure how long he stood there, watching the corpse sway. Watching the crows and the turkey vultures gather in the windows and the rooftops, their heads bobbing as they each tried to figure out how to get to the hanging meat.
Lorne had decided he didn’t want to be found for a while. The aftermath of the fight left his ears ringing more often than not, and delivering the news to Jason that Keoh was dead had splintered something in Lorne’s soul. Sometimes at night, when he was wandering through the city, looking for a safe place to sleep that didn’t cost anything, he looked north up the river to see the ominous glow of the Rift and he wondered how hard it would be to just walk right into that fucking place. Climb a wall or something, just so he could hug Jason again. If he had to be tired and sore and bloody, at least he could do it with Jason in his arms.
But then he’d heard the news about Edgar Hale, and morbid curiosity drew him to the warehouse. He’d been dead two days, and the late autumn cold kept his meat fresh. If the scavengers didn’t finish him off, soon he’d freeze and he’d likely be there all winter.
Powell Iwan had asked Tashué to kill this man, and apparently Tashué had found it in him to obey. Lorne told himself he shouldn’t be surprised, but he was anyway. He couldn’t put his finger on why exactly. Tashué had seemed perfectly at ease that day in his apartment, shooting the shit with Powell Iwan, a man who would have killed him if he gave the wrong answer to the questions Powell was asking. And yet as long as Lorne had known him, he’d tried to draw rigid lines around reality, talking about right and wrong and laws as if they were an iron code that was easy to follow. But maybe the reason he’d tried to draw those lines was because he knew life was a slippery fucking slope. Sometimes it didn’t take much to push you down into unimaginable violence.
And Edgar Hale had killed that child Tashué found, so maybe it shouldn’t have been a surprise at all.
Vasska came around the corner. He walked right under the corpse like it didn’t bother him at all, hissing through his teeth at the dog who tried to snarl at him. The dog lowered its head and backed off, but as soon as Vasska cleared the corpse, the dog went back to its post, looking up at the body. Lorne thought about leaving for just a moment, about melting back into the alley and going somewhere else fast. He was tired. He was tired of the Hive and tired of Powell Iwan and tired of thinking about the Army of the Red Dawn. But it was too late. Vasska had already spotted him and came right toward the alley.
“Your face looks like shit,” Vasska said, coming to stand beside Lorne.
“Oh hey,” Lorne said, as brightly as he could, even though talking still hurt. Hurt his jaw, hurt his lips, hurt his tongue. “Thanks! I appreciate it. I wouldn’t have noticed if you hadn’t told me.”
Vasska sighed. He leaned against the wall and crossed his arms over his chest, turning his face away from the bitter cold wind that came off the river. It caught all his blond hair, mussing it in every direction. The wind stung in all the places on Lorne’s face that were struggling to heal. Stella had helped with whatever was bleeding internally, but that still left the mess of his face and his hands and the clumsy stitches he’d placed himself because his lip wouldn’t stop bleeding.
“Can we skip the part where you’re all furious with me, like I had something to do with all this?” Vasska asked. “I told you, didn’t I? I told you not to fuck around with the Red Dawn. I told you they would fuck you up, but you didn’t want to listen to good advice. You pushed, and Edgar Hale wanted you dead—and Grandad protected you.”
“Protected me,” Lorne echoed, his voice going flat with his anger. “That’s what Powell Iwan’s protection looks like, does it?”
“Yes it does,” Vasska said. “Hale wanted you dead, and now look at him. Everyone knows he asked for that fight. And you’re still walking around in the Bay with that big fucking chip on your shoulder, so now the whole Bay knows you’re untouchable. So yes, this is exactly what Powell Iwan’s protection looks like. I’m sorry you got hurt so bad, I really am. I’m sorry it went the way it did. But you’re in the middle of it now.”
“Fuck off,” Lorne muttered, pulling his collar up around his face in a poor attempt at shielding himself from the cold. “I’m not in the middle of anything. I’m done. I’m sick of the Red Dawn and I’m sick of fighting. Maybe I’ll take the job General Wolfe’s been offering me—go to Highfield and keep running spies for him.”
Vasska sighed, opening his coat to pull out his cigarillo case. He flicked it open and offered one to Lorne, and habit made Lorne take one, even though he knew the smoke would hurt all the cuts in his mouth. Vasska leaned in real close, using both of their bodies to shield the match as he popped it on the side of the building, huddling low over the flame to light his cigarillo. And then it was Lorne’s turn, and the pair of them stood so close Lorne could feel the heat of Vasska’s body, which only highlighted how fucking miserable it was outside. The wind and the rain and the frost that crawled across everything at night—it was a shit time to be out on the streets. In the summer you could almost forget how bad it was, so long as you found a way to keep hydrated. But the winters killed. He’d never imagined he would still be on the fucking streets of Yaelsmuir this long after landing here, but he didn’t regret putting Alys through school. And he didn’t regret tying his life to Jason. It’s just that it meant his whole life was just fucking stuck. Building a life for his sister that he’d probably never get to see, waiting for a life with Jason that would probably never come.
“It’s too late to back off now, Lorne,” Vasska said, and his voice was softer now. He’d lost the confrontational edge now that they were standing closer, huddling against the wind and making ribbons of smoke between them. “You stuck your foot in it and now this is your life. Grandad said whoever won the match was going down to the real fights to be the Bay’s first tourney pugilist. You beat Ijaz, so you get to go learn how to box.”
“Sure,” Lorne muttered. “Sounds great. Sounds like a real treat. Are you going to leave out the part about who’s running that pugilist club? Were you just going to send me down there and hope I didn’t notice I was going to work for Davik fucking Kaine? I thought I was supposed to stay away from the Red Dawn, and now you’re sending me right into their headquarters?”
“I told you, it’s too late for you to stay away,” Vasska said. “I was hoping you would go down there knowing exactly who you’re working for, but also knowing that I’ve done my best to take care of you in a city that’s all to happy to chew up guys like you and spit them out as nothing but fucking gristle and bone. And I was hoping you’d keep an eye on Davik fucking Kaine for me, because I think my grandfather is going to die this year and I think Davik is going to try to kill me once Grandad is gone.”
All the layers of information sucked the rage out of Lorne’s chest. It took him a moment to parse out each one, separating them like threads in a vicious knot.
“You took care of me, did you?” Lorne asked.
Anger flashed across Vasska’s face for a moment, bright and powerful and threatening, twice as potent with Hale’s corpse swinging behind Vasska’s head. “Out of all the things I just said, that’s the one you want to talk about?”
Lorne opened his mouth to say something to make it better, but no words came. He hadn’t meant it the way Vasska was apparently taking it—it wasn’t an argument or a denial, it was just surprise. He didn’t exactly feel taken care of, but then again, he’d survived this long, and made enough money to take care of Alys, when the Bay was notorious for doing exactly what Vasska said—eating people whole and coughing up the parts that couldn’t be consumed so that they were just empty eyes and a body that moved without really being alive.
“Yes I took care of you,” Vasska said. “Yes I fucking did look out for you. Yes I did put in a good word with Grandad for you when you turned up to the fight hall, looking for income, and yes I did make sure people didn’t fuck with you while you were coming up. And now here you are, with all that money, and all that ego, like you still think you’re alone in this world. But that’s what happens to your enemies.” He turned to face Hale, blowing smoke into the street. “You took a shit beating but Hale got his head blown open. So yes, this is what being taken care of looks like in the Bay. I’m sorry it went the way it did. I’m never going to forget what it was like to watch you go down, and then keep getting up like you didn’t care—I don’t know how you do it. Maybe you honestly don’t care, but that means the rest of us have to fill in the gaps and care for you. Orix had to beat the crowd back while you were still fighting, because people wanted to get up there and defend you. Grandad said you had to go down to shut Hale up. And then when you were done, eight people dragged you off that stage.”
Lorne shook his head, touching the tender spots on his face when they gave a dull flare of pain, as if to remind him of the beating. “I don’t remember that.”
Vasska shrugged, flicking ash toward the street. “This quarter loves you, Lorne. People love that you don’t take any shit and you don’t back down and even though you’re making good money in those fights, you never left the Bay. No one knows the reason you never left is because you’re sending all that money to your sister in Teshii and you feel trapped and you resent the Bay for it. And it’s a good thing all those people who love you don’t know that or they’d feel so betrayed. You’re their hero—they rioted for you. And Grandad let them because he was proud of them for standing up for you. So now’s your chance to pay some of that back. Go down to the pugilist club and fight for Davik Kaine, and let the city love you even more. Davik will have a healer for you to fix you up, and three square meals a day of whatever it is that athletes eat to look so good, and a roof over your head this winter. And all I ask is that you keep an eye on shit. Let me know if Davik is making plans to come for me.”
“What makes you think Iwan is going to die?” Lorne asked.
“Have you talked to him lately?”
Lorne grimaced, and a jolt of pain passed through his lip as it split again. Started to bleed. “The last time I talked to him was at Tashué’s apartment, when he asked Tashué to get rid of Edgar Hale. I had other shit on my mind than keeping an eye on his health. Did Tashué really kill Hale? I mean, he’s obviously dead but—it was really Tashué?”
Vasska turned his face away, blowing a long line of smoke into the wind. “Grandad is collecting new soldiers. I think he’s trying to find people who will be loyal to me when he dies. Maybe he’s betting on Tashué Blackwood’s paternal instincts, hoping some of that ferocity will spread to me since I’m about the same age as you and Jason. Maybe Grandad is hoping that if we get Jason out, Tashué will feel like he owes us. Either way, Tashué promised to stand with Grandad once Davik is dead.”
“Is that a yes, Vasska? Did he kill Hale?”
“Don’t sound so surprised. The man was a soldier for ten years.”
A crow fluttered down from one of the windowsills, catching ahold of Hale’s trousers with both feet. It’s beak went searching through a hole in the wool that had been ripped open by some other carrion eater. All that effort was rewarded by a glistening chunk of thigh meat, red and white with blood and fat. Lorne shuddered, turning his back on the corpse so he didn’t have to watch anymore. “So Iwan wants to off Davik, but you think Davik is going to kill you and Iwan?”
Vasska didn’t turn away. He watched the crow and smoked one leisurely breath at a time. “No, I think Davik is going to let the fucking weather kill Grandad, and then once Grandad is out of the way, he’ll come after me next. But I don’t know for sure. This fucking election is going to go Myron’s way, and then we’ll have the police force sticking their nose in our shit, and our best bet is to stick together. The best thing for both of us would be working together. I’ll hold the Hive, and he can hold the Red Dawn, and together we can hold the Bay and keep the police force out, just like we kept the Authority out. But I don’t know what Davik wants to do. So I’m hoping you’ll go down there and keep an eye. For me.”
Lorne dabbed his lip, watching the dark blood spread across his sleeve. “How come Iwan doesn’t just have someone off Davik, if you’re so worried?”
“Because Davik is the only person with the resources to get Jason out of the Rift.”
Lorne’s eyes snapped up to Vasska’s face so fast, it made him dizzy. He had to stand still a moment just to let the words sink hooks into him, had to breathe slow just to make his heart stop hammering enough that he wouldn’t faint. His mouth moved but words failed him.
“There it is,” Vasska said softly. “You weren’t sure about getting involved for me, but you’ll do it for Jason, hey? I guess I can’t be insulted. It’s funny how things kind of draw themselves together, isn’t it?”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Lorne asked.
Vasska shrugged. “I still remember the first time Kaine came down to the Bay to make a deal with Grandad. Must have been fifteen years ago, now. He came with a few of his northerners and sat down with Grandad and my mother and they all made a deal that Davik would run his smuggling road through the Hive. Guns, opium, and salt, all headed east across the mountains. And my mother, she liked him a lot. I don’t remember why exactly, or what happened, but she pushed Grandad to make the deal, said it was an opportunity to be more than we were. She said Grandad was getting complacent, growing stagnant, and it would be the end of him if he didn’t start growing new opportunities. And then all that shit happened up north, and Davik left Cruinnich permanently, and he came down here to keep building.”
“All that shit—I heard the Red Dawn set off bombs up north.”
Vasska nodded. “That’s how the story goes. Bombs and riots. The Authority lined people up in the streets in front of firing squads. They say the Red Dawn chased Davik out of Cruinnich, just to end the violence.”
“And then he came here. Why’s he still going by Davik Kaine?”
Vasska shrugged. “He built his roots here under that name. And then after he was chased out of Cruinnich, he disappeared for a while, and rumours said he was all over the Dominion. So then when he drifted back here, he just kind of folded back in. My mother thought he’d planned it—he knew it was going to get bad up here so he set up his backup plan here. And then she died. Davik scooped up control of all the whorehouses she ran, and suddenly he was more powerful than Grandad ever intended him to be. Back then they were kind of… in a standoff. Davik acted like he was real fond of me, like him fucking my mother a few times made us something. But if I was close to everyone who fucked my mother, well… she had a type. At least Davik is smarter than my father ever was. It left the balance precarious, after she was gone. We’ve all been holding our breath since, you know? Waiting to see who would fuck up first. And then, a couple weeks ago, Tashué Blackwood finds the body of a little dead girl on the riverbank, and suddenly people are sticking their noses in business that never used to concern them.” He glanced pointedly at Lorne, blowing smoke up over Lorne’s head. “And all the cracks and flaws and vulnerabilities in the Bay are blown wide open.”
Lorne glanced back over his shoulder at Hale. Three crows had joined the effort, one of them ripping open Hale’s shirt to peck at the flesh over his ribcage.
“If we don’t step carefully, it’s going to be war down here,” Vasska went on. “Davik’s people against the Hive. And the piece in the middle of it all, the thing that keeps Grandad and Davik from finally ripping each other apart, and a lot of blood flowing in the streets of this quarter, is Jason Blackwood. A kid that didn’t matter last month. No one really knew his name. He matters a whole hell of a lot now. And I bet he has no idea.”
“Leave Jason out of this, Vasska, or I swear—”
“I can’t leave Jason out of this,” Vasska interrupted. “Jason is right in the middle of everything. He is the thing pulling everyone together—that’s what I’m trying to tell you. Wolfe wants Tashué to run for Mayor at the next election, and the price Tashué asked for is Jason’s safety. So Wolfe sent Ishmael down here to make a deal with Grandad, except Grandad can’t be arsed to fuck around with the Rift. He decided it was worth it to make Wolfe owe him another favour, and doubly worth it if Tashué takes the Mayor’s office, so he kicked it to Davik because he knows Davik is trying to get a few of his people out of that place. Adding Jason into their plans won’t change much, and Grandad gets to offer Kaine a way to do Grandad a favour. And for approximately two days, none of it really mattered. It was just a thing everyone was doing for the politics. We’ve done it before. The Bay and the Mayor have to work together or none of this works. But then word got out that Jason is the one who broke suppression at the Rift and now he matters so much that everyone wants him. Grandad wants him on my side, Davik wants him in the Red Dawn, the Breeding Program wants him to make tainted babies with that much raw power, just like his mother did. And Tashué made his deal, and Wolfe wants to know why nothing’s happened yet. Eventually, Davik will finally get Jason out, and then the fight for Jason’s loyalty kicks off. So I just think you should be down there. I think you should be involved with whatever Davik’s planning, and I think you should be there to hang on to Jason when the storm hits. And since you’ll be down there for him, I would appreciate it if you were also looking out for me, so that I can protect both of you when everything goes to shit.”
“You’ll protect us, hey?” Lorne asked.
The fight-tremble rolled through Lorne’s bones, making everything feel too sharp and too violent even though they were just standing here talking. Talking about war, talking about bloodshed. Talking about Jason. Lorne turned to watch the crows eat Edgar Hale, but that only served to make his heart beat faster and make his head feel too far away. “Why me, then?”
Vasska snorted, flicking ash into the wind, watching it skitter across the cobbles until it hit a puddle that swallowed it whole. “What do you want me to say? That I’m so devoted to you because we’ve been through too much together? Get your head out of your ass, Lorne. Why you? Because you and Jason and Tashué Blackwood are fucking up my whole damned life, but maybe you’ll be the ones who save me.”
“Isn’t Davik going to know I’m there for you? Isn’t he going to want retribution for…” He waved at Hale, whose carcass swung like a clock pendulum as the crows jostled him more and more.
“Probably,” Vasska said with a shrug. “But if he kills you, he fucks the balance of the standoff, doesn’t he?”
Lorne laughed. “So you’re betting my life on the fact that he probably won’t fuck up the standoff. Great. Thanks. I appreciate it, Vasska.”
“It’s worth it though, isn’t it? For Jason.”
“Is that a yes?”
Lorne dabbed his lip again. For Jason. He would do fucking anything for Jason. He would rip his heart out and lay it on an altar for Jason. He would walk into the Rift himself if he thought it would help Jason. And a little part of him resented Vasska for knowing it and using it, but a much bigger part was just so fucking relieved that someone was doing something. Finally. And a part of him was guilty that he hadn’t been the one to set any of this in motion. He’s been so wrapped up in being stuck that he hadn’t been able to see any way out. “How am I supposed to get word back to you if I’m down there learning how to be a pugilist?”
Vasska reached into his pocket again, producing a scrap of newsprint that had been clipped from a larger page. Small and tattered, the ink half-smudged like it had been touched before the ink had the chance to dry. “Remember this?”
Lorne took the scrap—from one of the Bay papers, because it talked about the tenement fire that killed that woman from the Breeding Program, and the only papers that cared about Bay disasters were Bay papers. Lorne could almost smell the ash again, hear the screams of the dying. And he could see that woman again, and the wild look in her eye, and the things she told him and Tashué about the children from the Breeding Program. “Yeah. I remember.”
“You fought it, people say. You were there, trying to put it out.”
Lorne nodded. Fat load of good him fighting it did. It felt like his whole life was just him fighting things that wouldn’t change anything. “The rain put it out. What’s this got to do with Davik and his club?”
“Nothing,” Vasska admitted. “But it’s your excuse to come talk to me even though you’re training. I heard some rumours about the fire and I want to know if they’re true or not.”
“What kind of rumours?”
“Someone set the fire on purpose. I want to know if it’s true, and I want to know if anyone saw who did it. So I was hoping you can get your people on it, and maybe we can find out for sure.”
Something cold and hollow and heavy rang like a death knell in Lorne’s chest. Someone set that fire on purpose—what were the chances it was a coincidence and it had nothing to do with the woman from the Breeding Program? Probably fucking slim. It defied reason to think that the two things weren’t connected. And he’d put her in there, trying to help her, but it only brought death. Death to her and just about everyone else who lived there.
“Yeah,” Lorne said. “I’ll see what I can drag up. I’ll let people know you’re looking, and then I guess I’ll go down to Davik’s club.”
Vasska nodded. “Tell him Grandad sent you, like they agreed.”
Lorne took a long drag of the cigarillo, wishing the smoke would wash him clean of all the guilt that sat like poison in him, making everything taste foul. “Sure. For you and Jason.”
Check out Ryan’s review of the first book, Legacy of the Brightwash