Blood Adept is the 3rd Book in Teer & Kard. Coming May 23, 2023
From the genre-blending master Glynn Stewart, author of Starship’s Mage, comes the latest in his thrilling fantasy Western series, set in a new world with a magical twist…
Hard rides and long nights as a cattle hand prepared Teer for the harsh life of a bounty hunter on the Unity’s eastern frontier. His fate now tied to the disguised El-Spehari demigod Kard, his quick eye and steady shooting hand have kept them both alive—even when the bounty hunters decided justice required taking a fugitive beyond the reach of the Unity’s law.
The same law would see Teer himself doomed for the magical powers now awakening within him. He has followed Kard to a strange shaman who promises to train him—but when a monster turns on and slaughters an entire hunting party, Teer and Kard take up the hunt to protect friend and foe alike.
Their hunt follows the monster to the edge of the Unity, where the Spehari lords have sent an entire regiment to bring the monster down. But teeth and claws are the least of the dangers the creature brings to bear—and the monster itself is only one of many dangers Teer and Kard face as they walk among enemies to protect the innocent…
Eight shots rang out in eight heartbeats, each bullet punching through the dead center of the target and into the earth mound behind it.
Eight rounds clicked home into the short repeater over the next eight heartbeats, then Teer raised the gun to his shoulder and fired again.
Eight cracks rang out in six heartbeats this time, as he adjusted to the motion of the new gun and began to speed past normal human motions.
He had the cartridges for the cavalry weapon in a pouch open on the table in front of him. He wasn’t even looking at the pouch as he drew the bullets out and loaded them into the repeater’s magazine.
Six heartbeats, and then he opened fire again, trying to push the gun faster.
Teer had learned by now that few of the weapons built in the Unity of the Spehari could keep up with his speed. The short repeater was a solid lever-operated gun, taken from a group of bounty hunters who’d attacked him and his master, the half-blood El-Spehari Kard.
Unlike the silver-inlaid quickshooters lying next to the cartridge pouch or the blue-chromed hunter long rifle leaning against the table, the short repeater was a good gun but not one of the best in the Eastern Territories. The quickshooters had belonged to the leader of the bounty hunters who’d attacked them, and the hunter had been a gift from his stepfather.
Those three weapons were each, in their own way, masterpieces of the gunsmith’s art. The short repeater, on the other hand, was a standard weapon issued to the cavalry forces of the Unity. Rarely seen outside the hands of cavalry troopers, it held the stigma of being the main weapon of the Sunset Rebellion of Teer’s childhood.
The Rebellion where his father had died.
“Teer is learning,” his instructor’s voice said cheerfully. “Tyrus saw you slow when the mechanism struggled. Good.”
Teer was a gawky dark-skinned youth of the Merik, the “first among slaves” of the Spehari Unity. His people had been the first the Spehari had conquered and had formed the bulk of the armies that had broken most known lands to Spehari will over the following centuries.
Tyrus, on the other hand, was a squat and muscular man with dark blue skin. Scars marked the Kotan shaman’s arms and face, including where he’d lost an eye. His people, unlike Teer’s, were still mostly free of the Unity.
Which, of course, the Unity did not like. Teer and Kard were there because they’d escorted a refugee from Unity law to join the Kotan tribe Tyrus led—and so that Tyrus could teach Teer how to use his own gifts.
“Slow is learning,” Tyrus continued, stepping up next to Teer and tapping for him to put the repeater down. “Learning is skill. Skill is speed. But guns… Guns are not designed for Kota who ride Cauldron. And if guns were ever made for Merik like Teer, they are long lost.”
“Destroyed,” Teer guessed.
“Likely. If Kard knows nothing of talents like Teer’s…” Tyrus shrugged. “Not all Kota shamans can ride the Cauldron, Teer. Not all who ride Cauldron ride fast enough to challenge guns. Some ride fast enough that even bows cannot keep up.”
“Cauldron is why Tyrus can teach Teer,” the shaman told him. “Tyrus has prepared it. But for now, Teer must learn at speed of child. Some of Teer’s arms can hold much of Teer’s speed. But no mechanism of factory make will hold a Notable Shaman riding the Cauldron…and Kard believes Teer can match that.”
Tyrus laid a leather-wrapped package Teer hadn’t noticed on the table.
“Kard found this after Tyrus asked,” Tyrus told him. “Tyrus did not ask where. Tyrus knows every blade in Tyrus’s tribe. This is not one of them.”
Teer slowly unwrapped the blade and shivered as he looked down at it. He’d been a ranch hand before his fateful meeting with Kard. He was familiar with both the big working knives of cattlehands and the equally large cleavers of butchers and slaughterhouses.
He had no familiarity with bladed weapons, but he recognized the brutal efficiency of the one he was looking at. It was longer than any knife he’d ever seen, easily half again the length of his arm, with a curve to the blade that made its use for slashing obvious even to him.
“Tyrus knows the pattern,” the shaman observed. “Unity cavalry saber. But this blade…”
Something in Tyrus’s voice told Teer that the Kota had hoped to never see a sword like this again. Even as Teer’s gaze traced the lines of the blade—the pattern, as Tyrus named it—he could feel there was something subtly off about the sword.
For one thing, he’d never seen steel that dark. A faint wavelike pattern was visible in the midafternoon light, but even that was a burgundy red that reminded him of the setting sun.
“What is it, Tyrus?” Teer asked.
Teer shivered. He hadn’t met any of the Kott, but the lizardlike people who’d fought alongside the Prince in Sunset in his rebellions were known across the Unity. Unity armies had chased the Kott back into their swamps after the rebellions, but the war since had been unending and bloody.
“So, Kard had this just…in his saddlebags?” Teer asked.
“Ask Kard,” Tyrus said sharply. “Tyrus is here to teach Teer to use a blade. We start at child pace. Tyrus must know Teer will not cut self.”
The young cattlehand felt like he almost should be offended by that, except that something in how Tyrus said it made it very matter-of-fact. And left Teer suspecting that at least one youth Tyrus had trained had done exactly that.
Teer was used to guns. He didn’t miss with guns except for the very first shot he took with a given firearm.
He was not used to swords, and the first candlemark of training with Tyrus was a mix of humiliating and exhausting. The first hints of twilight were starting to appear in the sky when the shaman finally let him rest.
“Not bad,” Tyrus concluded. “Need work, but Teer never held a sword before. So, not bad.”
“Thanks,” Teer said. An attractive, petite young woman in a freshly sewn dress appeared at the edge of the training ground with a tray of drinks. Gesturing the two of them over to her, she put the tray on the table he’d rested his gear on.
Lora then proceeded to very thoroughly kiss Teer, a pleasant endeavor that left the tips of his ears flushing pink. She was the refugee he and Kard had brought to the Kota, and he wasn’t entirely sure where their relationship was going—or even could go, given that she couldn’t return to the Unity without facing the charges and twisted court they’d rescued her from.
He couldn’t stay with the Kota and she couldn’t leave. Even Teer wasn’t foolish enough to miss what that meant, but for the moment, he was enjoying her company and attention.
“Kard went out with one of the patrols,” she told Tyrus. “He said that Shaman Nia hasn’t returned yet and it’s making him anxious.”
Teer took a sip of the cooled tea Lora had brought—a desperately needed beverage after the day of intensive training. They’d been in the Kota settlement for three days now, and they’d met Shaman Nia on their way in.
“She was huntin’ the callipsus, right?” he asked. “That’s not good.”
“But Teer killed the callipsus,” Lora said, a spark of fear tensing her shoulders.
Teer shivered at the memory. The callipsus Nia had been hunting was a large lizard-like creature—and not in the way of the Kott, who apparently looked much like Merik or Spehari for all that they had scales and cooler blood. A callipsus looked like the watch-lizards he was familiar with from the plains, four-legged creatures that would sun themselves on rocks and watch humans and cattle pass.
Except that a watch-lizard was a foot long, excluding its tail, and ran on all four legs. A callipsus was closer to twelve feet long and stood on its hind legs, freeing its forearms for limited manipulation and an ugly claw on its hind legs for kicking.
They also commanded powerful magic of their own and fed, when they could, on sentient beings.
“Teer killed a young callipsus,” Tyrus said grimly. “Too young to be long away from its parent. No, Nia’s prey still haunts these hills. A five-day hunt for a callipsus is not strange.”
“But it worries Kard,” Teer said.
“And perhaps Tyrus, but Tyrus cannot say such,” the shaman replied. “Lora makes excellent cool tea, Tyrus must observe. But Tyrus has worked poor Teer to the edge of Teer’s pride, if not Teer’s endurance.
“Come, let us eat.” The old shaman gestured toward the round structure at the center of the settlement, his current home. “Whatever comes, we must all be ready for it.”