So is the epic saga at its end? Yes, but to me, the journey to the world of Tilir will never end. I have begun working on a spin-off novel called Stronger Than Blood. It takes place right after the events depicted in Paths of the Shadow, and features Dankar Gindur, one of the most controversial heroes of the book. Its events do not happen in Tilir, but in a new and fascinating setting of a wild and beautiful land.
Here is an excerpt from Stronger Than Blood:
They reached a clearing, which was made by felling trees. Some of the trunks still lay there, discarded. Bright sunlight poured in from above, and for a moment Dankar was dazzled by the sun. He squinted. “The path ends here,” he remarked, none too pleased.
"It does,” said the scribe. “Raenir's men have never dared to go further into the Blue Forest... or else they were stopped by the savages.”
"So this is where our work begins,” said Dankar, leaping down lightly and rubbing his hands together. “We'll have a bite to eat, and then tether the horses and go on by foot – riding is impossible, of course, but the growth shouldn't be too dense for walking.”
The scribe looked uncomfortable. “We might... meet someone,” he said in a low voice.
"That was the point of our journey here, isn't that so?” Dankar observed briskly. “To meet the savages and parley with them, so that passage through the Blue Forest won't always carry a death risk. Do you know where the Xavans set their camps?”
"Those people are nomads, and the Blue Forest is vast,” said the scribe. “However, I do believe I can guess the general direction of - “
He never finished his phrase. His face had gone chalk white, and he opened and closed his mouth and opened it again, like a fish thrown upon the sand. Dankar whipped around.
A man stood in front of him. His skin was the color of bronze and covered in intricate patterns – whether paint or tattoos, it was hard to tell. His face was painted white and red and black, and framed by two curtains or straight, sleek black hair. He wore nothing but a loincloth and his feet were bare, and in his hands he held a slender spear which was pointing straight at Dankar's heart.
This was not the worst of it, though. The man was not alone. Quiet as shadows, silent as ghosts, more men like him were stepping out from among the trees, all tall and fit, bronze-skinned and black-haired. Some had rough smudges of black paint on their faces, other sported complicated designs which made them look like wild birds or beasts. There was at least a dozen of them, and their black eyes showed no mercy.
There was nothing to it. Dankar allowed his sword to fall to the ground and raised his arms in a gesture of surrender. It was not only that they were outnumbered – he had often fought against a greater number of enemies in battle – but they were caught completely by surprise. A minute ago, he could have sworn the forest around them was empty for many miles around. Now, he was at the mercy of savages who owned this land and did not feel like sharing it.
The man pointing his spear at Dankar growled something. It took two or three attempts to understand, but finally the scribe pitched in. “You come here, I think he says,” he suggested in a trembling voice. The Xavan man nodded. Dankar, remembering the purpose of his mission, tried to assume as pleasant and unperturbed an expression as possible.
"That is right,” he said in his best Sambearan. “We come here, to talk. Talk, do you understand? Not fight,” he glanced at his sword, which lay on the ground, and gave a small shake of the head.
The man looked unimpressed. He barked something else, and this time, Dankar understood.
"You come,” the savage said, “or you die.”