Excerpt + Giveaway: ECKO BURNING by Danie Ware

On June 3, Titan Books is releasing Ecko Burning, the sequel to Ecko Rising, by Danie Ware. Her series is described as: “The Matrix meets Game of Thrones… immense fun.” – James Lovegrove, New York Times bestselling author of the Pantheon series.

This Week’s Posts and Book Giveaways: (Monday) Excerpt of Ecko Burning by Danie Ware; (Tuesday) Podcast on Bloodsounders Arc with Jeff Salyards; (Wednesday) Interview about Unwrapped Sky by Rjurik Davidson

This week, AISFP Newsletter subscribers from the US and Canada will be entered to win one of:

  • 3 paper copies of Ecko Burning
  • 3 hardback sets of Jeff Salyards’ Bloodsounders Arc (Scourge of the Betrayer and Veil of the Deserters)
  • 3 hardback copies of The Unwrapped Sky by Rjurik Davidson.

Subscribe by Monday, June 9th at 11:59 PM CDT. For more details on our newsletter and giveaway system, check out our giveaway page.


EckoBurningBook Description: (Beware, possible spoilers — check out Ecko Rising first)

Ecko Burning by Danie Ware

Ruthless and ambitious, Lord Phylos has control of Fhaveon city, and is using her forces to bring the grasslands under his command. His last opponent is an elderly scribe who’s lost his best freind and wants only to do the right thing.

Seeking weapons, Ecko and his companions follow a trail of myth and rumour to a ruined city where both nightmare and shocking truth lie in wait.

When all of these things come together, the world will change beyond recognition.

Back in London, the Bard is offered the opportunity to realise everything he has ever wanted – if he will give up his soul.

Now, for our excerpt:




Harvest time had come to the great city of Fhaveon. Celebration danced drunken though her zig-zag streets.

Harvest was a time of thankfulness, of rejoicing in family and abundance, of celebrating the incredible wealth of autumnal colour that washed the open Varchinde. The crafters and the traders, the storytellers and the warriors of the city amassed their wares and moved to their tithehalls, waiting for the incoming wagons of meat and bone and clay and leather. The bookkeepers of the Terhnwood Harvesters’ Cartel went through their notes and records for the previous return, and stole down to the city’s sanctuary to assure themselves that the security stockpile, hoarded against crop failure or extreme winter weather, was enough to guarantee them safety.

Harvest was also a time of sorrow, for the colours in the grass meant it would die, that the vast emptiness of the Varchinde would be scoured back to empty soil and bared rock and scattered scrub, waiting, bereft, until the spring growth came again. Everything the people of the Varchinde needed for the winter had to be gathered when the double harvest moons rose from the eastern sea. If they failed to gather enough to survive, there was no contingency.

Like the ancient ruling of Heal and Harm, the harvest was both life and death – and it told that there must be balance in all things. The people of the city’s manors knew this in their blood and bone.

In the city herself, though, where the wild colours of the grasses were hung from garland-banners and woven into decorations, such traditions were sometimes easy to forget.

Surrounded by the noise of Fhaveon’s bazaar, an ageing scribe sat beneath a pale awning, spectacles perched upon his nose. His parchment was pinned to its easel by ingenious fibre clips. He drew with a deft hand – not letters, but swift curves and features, charcoal lines of body and face. The parchment flapped occasionally as the wind chased through the tent, but the scribe continued with his work.

Above him, upon one of his upright support-poles, a long pennon fluttered like a live thing, snapping in the salt wind. It bore a symbol advertising his skill to the people of the topmost streets of Fhaveon, the people who had left kiln and needle and hall and workshop to enjoy the festival. The scribe’s name was Mael, and he was a well-known character of the sunlit street-sides. Once, he had kept records for the hospice, but he was too restless for the methodical work. Now, he made his living raising a smile and a gift from those who watched him draw.

Around him, Fhaveon’s decorous walls and shining, tumbling waterways shone with rare autumn warmth. Wreaths of grass, studded with berries like drops of blood, adorned the stonework proclaiming the city’s double holiday with indulgent glory. More garlands, red and yellow and umber and ochre, wove through the wide streets, covering the city’s topmost heights as if they’d grown from the very clifftop.

Beneath them was the wine and food bazaar: stalls that offered gifts and jewellery, most made from ubiquitous and gloriously decorated terhnwood, some few pieces of real ravak, red-metal worked by the craftsman of the distant Kartiah. Gamblers called to passers-by to roll their dice, try their fortune. Storytellers flourished and boasted. Animals were here, too: exotic beasts in embroidered collars, doomed and squeaking esphen, bright birds in cages. The smells and the noise were incredible.

Harvest time – the celebration of the Varchinde grass.

And a perfect time for the city’s new powers to take advantage.

The crowds stirred and eddied. In among them were performers, troubadours and jongleurs, attracting gatherings when they paused for a song and a jest. The tales they performed were carefully selected: the lineage and beauty of the new Lord Foundersdaughter, the necessity of trade and terhnwood, the long wisdom of the Council of Nine. Some sang of lively rogues and troublesome maidens, older tales chosen for both fiction and familiarity, each accompanied by the pulse of the drum or the skirl of pipes.

The people gave them food and wine, sometimes trinkets.

Sometimes things rather less savoury.

At the heart of the revelry, a huge, abstract mosaic lay basking under the fat, autumn sun. Here, the wind was keen and the area was free from the bazaar; here, the people broke away from the crowds to eat and wander, to watch the sparkling fountains and look above them at the tip of the city, the ten shining windows of the High Cathedral, the valour of the Founder’s Palace, both flawless against the azure sky. Up there, looking away from the plaza and out over the sea, stood the imperiously motherly statue of the GreatHeart Rakanne, keeping her eye upon the silent shores of Rammouthe Island.

The Lord’s face was blunted and salt-rimed with age, though its decay could not be seen from below. Had she but turned, behind her and to her left, she could have looked down into one of her own creations, one of the joys of the city – her sunken, half-circle theatre. This morning, the tiers of seats housed a scattering of people, shaded by canvas roofings, like horizontal sails, that flapped tightly in the breeze. The theatre was behung with flying pennons of more woven grass – like all the others, they would be burned when evening’s dancing began. For now, though, they framed the single herald and the pair of sparring fighters that occupied the stage.

The harvest tourney, a long city tradition, had begun.

Ousted combatants wandered freely back into the stalls and the roadways, garments stuck to their bodies with sweat, garlands hung about their necks. Some sought wine in solace or celebration; others eyed the kaleidoscope of wonders on offer, and plotted how to win in the following return.

One of these paused by the awning of Scribe Mael.

Intent on his sketch, Mael did not look up as something large blotted out the sunlight. He was putting the finishing touches to a picture that was unmistakably the new Lord Foundersdaughter, her face petulant, her curves overstated, the grasslands behind her rippling under a dramatically stormy sky. It was accurate enough to show Mael’s artistic talent, cutting enough to be funny, funny enough to ease the inherent disrespect.

Several people were tittering behind their hands, but as they saw the fighter approach, they stopped and sidled away.

Eventually Mael glanced around, saw that his audience had gone, and scowled.

“You damned great oaf, Saravin,” he said.

“I’ll have you hauled in. Look at that picture.”

The two men had been friends for more than thirty returns, one settled in the hospice records room, the other roaming the city’s tithed farmlands as one of Fhaveon’s few warrior freemen, a sort of one-man Range Patrol.

Mael pulled the picture from the easel, and handed it over.

“Here, keep it if you want.”

Saravin took it, grinned. “You trying to get me in trouble?”

The scribe stood up from his stool to stretch his back. He was a small, slim man, stooped from returns of peering at manuscripts, and lately framed with a faint atmosphere of nervousness. Beside him, Saravin was as big and as furry as a northern bweao. The contrast was marked, but there were similarities in body language, in inflexion, which marked their very long friendship – in many ways, they’d grown up together.

“Her Lordship going to show her face, later?” Mael asked. “Join her party?”

Saravin eyed the picture. “Doubt it. Reckon her days of freedom are over, poor love.”

“Love?” Mael sniffed, began to tidy up the inside of the tent. “Love is for –”

“Poets and fools, I know.” For a second, the big man’s grin broadened. “I taught her everything I could – think my days are just as done as hers.” The grin vanished below his beard. “Being… deniable has its downside.” He eyed the picture thoughtfully, the young Lord’s hair and skirts flowed free in the wind – the same wind that rippled the autumn grass, that was even now –

Mael grunted humorous assent with an edge of resentment that caused Saravin to frown and study his friend more closely, but the scribe shooed the warrior from the front of his stall, followed him out. He began to let down the flickering, shifting curtain.

“And how did your heat go?”

Saravin chuckled. “Was drawn against Lithian, first thing this morning.” Saravin cast his eyes above, then his grin broadened and he winked. “I’m through again. Next bout this afternoon.”

“Interesting,” Mael said.

A collection of young, off-duty soldiers knocked into them, spilling wine from skins and goblets. They caught Saravin’s eye and muttered an apology before moving off into the crowd once more, spluttering with laughter.

“You think you’ll get it?” Mael said. Again, that hint of annoyance.

With a quick, impish chuckle completely at odds with his size, Saravin shrugged.

“Get what?” the warrior said, with a wink. “Foundersdaughter’s Champion? Rhan’s empty seat on the Council of Nine? Can’t think what you mean.”

Mael hissed, and Saravin chuckled again, a brief, sweet sound, oddly boyish. Then he lowered his voice, and said, “Someone has to do something, Mael. If not me, then…” He shrugged, let it tail away.

The curtain was stuck, and Mael tugged at it harder, speaking as he pulled.

“This is all madness. Haven’t you heard? There’s something wrong with the harvest.” The old scribe glanced up at the garlands – a veneer of hope that concealed a leering, unspoken fear. How much grass had been wasted in their making – in the celebratory burning that would come? “The city’s still in shock from Rhan’s death, we should be in mourning.” His eyes flicked to the palace above them, back. “So much is happening around us…” For a second, he glanced about them at the revelry. When he spoke again his voice contained a knife. “…I can’t find my feet, gather my thoughts.”

Saravin chuckled again. “You? The young prodigy who’s unlawful learning once cured a warrior doomed?”

Mael frowned at the memory, said nothing. He tugged harder and suddenly the curtain came free, closing off the tent with a sharp slide that nearly made the old scribe stumble. Saravin caught him easily, then indicated a long pennon that flew from one side of the plaza.

“You need an ale.”

“You’re fighting this afternoon – get drunk and you’ll be a warrior doomed all over again.”

“I’ll stick to water. Save you saving me twice. You’re bit long in the tooth to be remembering those forbidden books now, old friend.”

“Don’t you ‘old friend’ me.”

Saravin laughed.

They wandered slowly in the direction of the pennon, pausing to admire the stalls they passed on their way. The stallholders nodded at them, knowing both of them well enough by sight.

“Pure terhnwood resin, straight from the plantation itself. Craft with this, it’s smoother than a maiden’s…”

“First round’s always a winner, seek your fortune…”

“Paints and colours, inks and powders! Dyes all the way from Southern Padesh…”

The scribe hesitated for a moment to look at the colours offered by the dyer’s stall.

“This is all crazed,” he said, his attention on the display before him. “You mark my words.”

“Prophesying doom again?” The stallholder, it seemed, knew Mael’s ways. “What ails you this time, Brother?”

The scribe shot a glance at Saravin, but the warrior had moved to the next stall along the row, where he chatted with another of the morning’s fighters. Saravin slapped the woman sympathetically on her tanned shoulder.

Mael turned back to the dyer, picking up a fragment of coloured cloth.

“I’m afraid,” he said. “Afraid of the future. And afraid of –” He caught himself, but his eyes must have flicked to the palace – or to the statue – because the stallholder leaned forwards.

“Hush!” He grabbed Mael by the shoulder of his tunic and leaned to speak into his ear. “Your thoughts are well known, Brother, to many of us here today. We stand on the brink of a new age, a new fear.” Tension rode his words. “The harvest has not been rich enough. The Council can’t help us – that poor girl…” The trader’s voice was fast and low. “She’s a child, she’s not ready to rule! We have to help ourselves!”

Mael backed away, suddenly unsure of the trader’s urgency.

“What are you –?”

“Quiet!” The stallholder peered about him, face etched with concern. He noted Saravin, still talking to the woman, and lowered his voice to an intense thrum. “The Angel on the beachfront, next Calasday, at highsun – ask for Fletcher Wyll. And don’t bring him with you!” “Him” was obviously a reference to Saravin, noted with a quick jerk of the trader’s chin.

Suddenly changing attitude, he picked up the fragment of cloth that Mael had let drop.

“The brown, Brother?” Now, his voice was loud enough to carry. “A perfect shade, don’t you think?”

Catching on, Mael made a show of examining the colour in the sunlight, squinting at it, and wishing he hadn’t left his spectacles in his tent.

“No, I don’t think so, too sombre. I want something –”

“This cloth has crossed the Varchinde, Brother! From the farthest south, it has been marked by merchant after merchant, it has fought its way past brigands and pirates, past bweao and…” The shadow cast over the trader by Saravin was unmistakable; the trader’s voice grew brittle. “…Good morning, there.”

For a moment, Saravin said nothing. When he spoke, his tone was so mild and affable, that Mael was not sure if his question was a threat or a jest.

“Would you care to face a test, trader?” he asked.

Conscious of a sudden tension, the scribe held his breath.

“You may forget,” Saravin went on, “how sharp a man’s ears become when he spends thirty returns listening to the plains wind.” The trader’s eyes flicked to the peace-bonded weapon and back to Saravin’s face. “You may also forget that ‘that poor girl’ learned much of her rural lore at my side, and that I grew very fond of her. You may forget, but it’s probably wiser if you don’t.”

“On the contrary,” the trader said, smiling with all innocence. “I have a very good memory. And I remember you, Saravin.”

“Delighted to hear it,” Saravin said, beaming. “Then you’ll remember that I’ve told you to leave the girl be. Let her do her job.”

“Let Phylos do her job.”

The dyer’s mutter was barely more than a breath, but Saravin’s hearing was as sharp as he’d claimed. Still affable, he grasped the man’s shoulder in one huge, hairy paw. His voice was barely edged. “Tread careful, trader.”

The trader folded his arms deliberately, looking up into the fighter’s face.

“Everyone treads careful round you, Saravin.”

Tension locked them together for a brief, silent moment. Then Mael laid a sun-wizened hand on his friend’s arm. “Go easy,” he murmured, “you’re seeing things.”

For a second, Saravin didn’t move, but the trader sat in bland-eyed innocence, and the warrior let him go, glowering.

“You’re too long in the plains, old friend, too long alone,” Mael said softly. Under his hand was the scar that had nearly reft Saravin of his life some thirty returns before – the bite of the gangrene from which Mael had saved him. “I’ve seen what that open space does to a man’s mind. It changes you, ‘Vin, remember?”

Saravin grunted, patted Mael’s hand as if it were a child’s, smiled. “Remind me how to think city?”

Mael laughed quietly. “At least you’ve got the city’s respect. But if you win this afternoon, win anything, you’ll have responsibilities.”

Shaking his mass of hair, Saravin turned away. “Maybe I’m seeing shadows,” he said. “Arta ekanta;figments that aren’t there when I turn to look close. But these rumours of disease – we’ve got no –”

“This is a city, Saravin, you can’t treat its people like pirates.”

With his flash of his childlike grin, Saravin quoted a Fhaveon axiom. “‘Guilty until proven guilty.’”

Mael moved him away, catching the trader’s eye as he did so. Almost imperceptibly, the trader nodded in acknowledgement, then turned to a couple of brightly clad ladies who were examining his colours. He did not look up again.

“It’s all games.” Saravin smiled and shook his head as a younger woman pressed herself against him, her eyes vivid with kohl and sincerity. “If the harvest really is threatened, then we must stand together, city and farmlands both, or we’ll all die.”

Mael wasn’t so optimistic, but he let the matter rest.



At the edge of the plaza mosaic, a simple bar had been erected – no more than a waxed cloth roof and a makeshift wooden table. Behind it, warm in the unlikely sun, a small, walled garden gave a place for drinkers to loiter and chat. Even though it was early, the makeshift bar was packed and people had scattered outwards into the sunshine, needing to make the most of both weather and break.

Scribe and warrior began to shoulder their way through to the bar.

Conversations paused as Saravin passed; gatherings of traders and workers and celebrants were silenced by his presence, then fell to muttering at his back. Mael’s hearing was sharp enough to catch fragments of words, tantalising hints of public opinion, concern about the Harvest, several comments about the city’s new Lord. He could only imagine how much Saravin could overhear, but the warrior’s face was stone hard under his heavy beard. They reached the bar without comment.

“A tankard of the tempest,” Mael said, “and –”

Before he’d finished his order, the girl thumped two leather tankards down in front of him, spilling ale on the bar top. Her eyes did not meet his.

“Won’t you…”

But she had gone to serve another, further away.

Saravin stared after her, checked a sigh. By the tension in his movements, he would far rather be in the garden than clustered in with all these people – Mael saw him watching the light dapple the green space with a certain well-disciplined wistfulness.

Mael picked up his drink, and turned to lean his elbows on the bar. Unlike his friend, he avoided the outdoors whenever possible – the inadequacy of the harvest was an almost academic problem to the scribe, one of numbers and weights and allocation rates. He understood that any shortage meant the farmlands would struggle with the winter. It meant their manors wouldn’t hit their required autumn quotas, that the city would decline full recompense, refusing to exchange to them the goods and materials they needed. He understood how this could become both complex and disastrous. But he had not seen the failure, had not felt it in the soil as Saravin could.

Tensions stole through the crowd like figments, stole through the city entire.

The creeping blight was not the only problem.

Lord Founderdaughter Selana Valiembor, only child of her dead father Demisarr, and painfully inadequate to the role to which she had so abruptly ascended. Her father murdered, her mother raped, her family’s timeless guardian accused and condemned. Selana’s grooming had been good – but she was too young, too traumatised, and she was an open opportunity for exploitation.

Her increasing reliance on the Merchant Master Phylos was both apparent and worrying – and it didn’t take a scribe’s wisdom to know where this story of a new and naïve ruler could end.

Mael listened to the fragments ebb and flow, took a foaming and thoughtful sip of his ale.

Something about Rhan’s absence was deeply, fundamentally unsettling. He had always been here; his presence like the stone the city was built upon, the wall that defended her cliffside face from the water. Yes, he had been irreverent, his behaviour was both legendary and humorous, but his loyalty was unquestioned and his defence absolute. Without his experience – his authority to balance Phylos’s manipulation and ambition – the city was rocked to her foundations, trembling headless and vulnerable. Out there, right now, a heady mix of fear and drink was working upon the people’s anxieties – one strong voice could lead them almost anywhere.

Had Rhan really been a champion? Or had he been as Phylos painted him, the stagnant deadweight that prevented the city – and the Varchinde – from developing? Had he murdered Demisarr? Forced his wife? Caused the harvest to fail? Who would take his critical seat upon the Council of Nine? With Phylos in ascendance, would this promise of a New Age really come to save the city, the grasslands?

Saravin had drifted away, gone to find the open air. His head full of questions, Mael continued to idly observe the crowd.

And what of Fletcher Wyll’s meeting? Priorities warred within the old scribe. Though young, Selana was the only child of her father, and Fhaveonic traditions were as deep as her wells. Enough people would support that principle to make insurrection scattered and unlikely.

People like Saravin. His heart was true, but his loyalty…

Mael found himself looking through a gap in the drinkers – following the direction that Saravin had gone. The big warrior stood in the garden with his bearded face turned up to the sunlight, feeling the cool wind of the autumn, brisk this high above the sea. The seethe of plant life around him was almost overgrown – an oddity for the upper reaches of the city where the soil was thin.

At the very rear of the garden, on a stone bench with a gargoyle grimacing at one end of it, sat a young woman, cloaked, hooded, and alone. She sat silent, her hands and most of her face concealed. Mael gazed at her blankly for a while, not really seeing what he was looking at, until something crossed his line of sight and he suddenly blinked, aware of what he was looking at.

There was something wrong with the woman’s skin.

It was hard to see – the sun was behind her, behind the low wall of the garden, and her face was in the shadow of her cowl. The stonework over her was hung with vine and creeper. There was something wrong with her hands –

Good Gods.

Mael’s grip tightened on his leather tankard and he found himself staring, breathless and wordless, the blood draining from his face.

The girl’s hands were in her lap, in a dapple of sunlight. They were soft and uncallused, yet her skin was blotched and suppurating. There were patches of rot, like lichens, growing through and in her flesh. As she raised her face and her hood fell back, he saw her hair was matted with it, that her mouth was full of… he swallowed in spite of himself, felt sick …her mouth was full of moss.

Saravin, closest, must have seen Mael’s expression. He seemed to turn with almost comedic slowness, his hands going to the peace-bond that held his belt-blade. The woman parted her lips, tried to speak to him, but no voice came. She lifted those hands, tried to reach for him but the creeper held her back and she struggled like a trapped thing, and the people were looking up now and wondering who she was, why she was trapped with her hands reaching outwards…

Mael stared, stunned.

Then someone pointed and screamed, and suddently all around him was disbelief and scrambling, scrabbling bodies. Someone tried to scramble over the bar, and was forcibly repelled.

Saravin was moving, but something in Mael could not. He was…

He didn’t think about why.

As the people backed and fled, some of them panicked, hissing like water over stones. Mael moved forwards, out of the bar and into the garden, towards his friend.

“’Vin?” he called softly. “What’s that?”

“Damned if I know…” Saravin’s voice was hoarse. Mael had never heard him sound scared before. “You?”

A thrill of terror went through Mael’s blood.

The woman tried to speak again, but whatever was growing in her mouth had coated her tongue and her teeth, the insides of her cheeks, and no air would come.

“I’ve never seen anything like it…” Saravin tailed off, his hand still on his belt. “What in the name of the Gods is the matter with her?”

The bar was empty now, people had fled shrieking across the plaza outside and the soldiery would arrive any moment.

The woman opened her mouth again. The overgrown plant life of the garden seemed to reach for and through her.

The scribe edged closer, ignoring Saravin’s combatant bark of warning. Mael had no weapons, couldn’t use one anyway, but he needed to see her close-up – needed to see what was happening. In long returns at the hospice, he had seen many illnesses and injuries, many types of grief and pain, but he’d never seen anything like this. And if Saravin, also, had no idea…

Something in him moved – like pity.

And then she came for them.

Timothy C. Ward
Executive Producer

Timothy C. Ward has been podcasting since 2010, first as AudioTim, and now with AISFP. His first publication, Cornhusker: Demon Gene (A Short Story), is available on Kindle for $.99. His novel in progress, Order After Dark, is a Post-apocalyptic Fantasy set in the rift between Iowa and the Abyss. Sign up to his author newsletter for updates on new releases.

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About Timothy C. Ward

Timothy C. Ward is a former Executive Producer for AISFP. His debut novel, Scavenger: Evolution, blends Dune with Alien in a thriller where sand divers uncover death and evolution within America's buried fortresses. Sign up to his author newsletter for updates on new releases.

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