Work in Progress: Ashes and Light, week three

Ashes and Light
Swords of Charlemagne, Book 3

21237 / 85000 (24.98%)

Just like that, quarter of a book.

The research bits this week have all involved the intricacies of Charlemagne’s siege of Zaragosa — exactly why the Franks were there, who was manipulating whom, and the ongoing conflicts between the two caliphates that were vying for control of al-Andalus. So basically, I’ve had a crash course in Dark Ages Poly Sci, which I then condensed to about a quarter of a chapter.


“I was not in court when the seeds for this venture were planted,” Turpin said slowly. “What I’ve been told is that emissaries came from these lands, and promised Charles free passage to spread the word of God if only he would assist them in their conflict against… who was it, Olivier?”

“The amir of al Andalus,” Oliver answered.

“The amir?” Nasir repeated. “But the amir is in Cordoba! That’s a week’s travel south of here!” He waved one arm in the general direction of south.

“The agreement was that if we came and assisted them in their fight against the amir, that they would submit to Frankish rule, take the Cross, and give the cities of Barcelona, Girona and Zaragosa over to King Charles,” Olivier said.

“I can’t see my uncle ever agreeing to that,” Nasir said slowly. Olivier nodded.

“That’s where the problem lies. Your uncle didn’t agree. But someone speaking in his name did.” Olivier frowned. “Solomon?”

“Sulayman?” Nasir corrected. “Sulayman ibn Yaqzan al-Kalbi?”

“That’s it, yes,” Olivier said. “And when we reached Barcelona and Girona, things went just the way they were promised. The gates were opened to us. There was feasting and the greatest of welcomes. When we got here, though. That’s when the trouble started.”

“Sulayman is wali of those cities,” Nasir said softly. “He’s an ally of my uncle against the amir, one of three, but I had no idea it had gone this far! Nor that he had overstepped so far! I’m certain that once my uncle hears your side of things, that we will be able to resolve everything amicably.”

“And if he wants to deal with Sulayman, we can even hand the man over. When it became clear that his promises weren’t going to be kept, Charles put him in chains. Which may be how your uncle would want him delivered. Now, I’m not clear on the conflict between the amir and your uncle and his allies,” Turpin said. Nasir nodded.

“It’s complicated,” he said slowly. “The easiest way I can explain it is that my uncle and his allies are of one branch of a very old family, the amir is of another branch of the same family. There has been animosity between those two branches for over a hundred years.”


In other writing, I’m still working on Heir to the Firstborn. Discovered that I managed to bleed a little of Swords of Charlemagne over into Adavar — in the prologue that I posted, the injured Heir to the Firstborn is named Milon.

Milon is also the canonical name of Roland’s father in the Charlemagne myths. Which I knew, and wrote about in the first two books of Swords of Charlemagne.

I guess I just really like the name.

Double excerpt week, this week. You’ve had a little of Ashes and Light. Here’s a little of Heir to the Firstborn. Remember, you can read along with this every Friday if you support me on Patreon.


She [Aleia] handed his bag to him. “And wear this. Aven, I’m serious about this. I want you to keep this to hand from the minute we leave until we reach Forge.”

Aven took the bag from her, feeling the weight of it. “What… Ama, there’s something in here?”

“Yes. Think about it.”

Aven frowned, hefted the bag, then blinked. “The Diadem? And the gems?”

“Don’t let Aria know you have them,” Aleia said. “I don’t want her to know where they’re hidden.”

“They’re hers, though,” Aven said. He slung the bag over his head and across his body, settling it on his hip. “Why not tell her?”

“Because if things go badly, it’ll be on you to keep her, and those, safe.” Aleia folded her arms over her chest. “And she’s got a good heart, for all that she’s spoiled. She has to, or she’d not wear the Diadem. If things go badly, and she thought for an instant that she’d be able to save you by giving Mannon the Diadem, she’d do it.”

“And she can’t,” Aven said. He smoothed his hand over the strap on his chest.

“He can’t have the Diadem, and he cannot have her,” Aleia said softly. “Aven, the only reason that we left Milon behind was that he was dying. If Mannon had gotten his hands on the Heir… no. No, Milon wasn’t the Heir at that point. He was the Firstborn. If Mannon had gotten his hands on the Firstborn… I don’t know. I don’t want to know. You’re her Companion now, Aven. It’s on you to keep her safe.” She sighed. “And that’s another reason to bring the swords. You’ll need them.”

“Me?” Aven said. No, he didn’t say it, he squeaked it, and felt his face grow hot. “Ama—”

“I’ve taught you all of the sword dances, and you’re very good with sword and club.”

“But that’s just dancing!” Aven protested. “Ama—”

“You have the skills,” Aleia cut him off. “You’ll know what to do when the time comes.”


Aleia shook her head. “I’ve no doubt that the time is coming, Aven. Don’t deny that. You’ll be fighting. We’ll all be fighting.” She bent, picking up the oilcloth bundle. “These were Abin’s, you know.”

“You told me the story,” Aven said, but his mother didn’t seem to hear him.

“I brought them with me to the Palace, because my mother insisted. She gave them to me before I left, told me to bear them with pride. She was proud of me then, proud that I was going to be Companion to the Firstborn, the same as our distant father. I’d only ever used them to dance. I never used them on another person until the morning Mannon attacked the palace.” She cradled the swords like a baby. “I would dance with these, for Milon. He was a dancer, too. I was teaching him sword dancing, and he was teaching me smoke blades.” She smiled, softly. “It’s fitting that you should have them, that you should use them to protect his daughter.” She looked up. “Do you want to carry these, or the cask?”

“I’ll carry the cask, Ama.” He packed the cask with the canvas and the silk, and the other supplies he’d collected, then hoisted it under his arm. It wasn’t heavy. Not nearly as heavy as the meaning of the weight on the bag that rested on his hip.


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