Book One, Chapter 3: Birds of Prey

Pan Rugui strode towards Duancheng Gate, where Brocade Guard lieutenants stood at attention on either side, quiet as winter cicadas. He took up position before them to read the Emperor’s verbal edict for all to hear. At the last word, the Guards jumped to action.

Shen Zechuan’s mouth was gagged. Practised hands wrapped him in a thick cotton under-robe, then pressed him to lie face-down on the ground.

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Book One, Chapter 2: Death by the Rod

Within an ill-lit cell in the Imperial Prison, Shen Zechuan slowly suffocated. His hands and feet were ice-cold. The hemp rope held his wrists like a vice. He chafed them against each other over and over, but nothing happened.

The sack of soil pressed unyieldingly on his chest. It felt as if he had been dropped into a bottomless lake. A ringing started in his ears, and his breaths came frenzied and shallow. He couldn’t breathe. He was drowning.

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Book One, Chapter 1: Bitter Winds

[Book One: I was an outcast liege]

Chapter One: Bitter Winds  

“When Shen Wei, Lord of Jianxing, was defeated in the north-east at Chashi River, the whole line of defense fell to pieces at Dun province. Thirty thousand soldiers were buried alive at the Chashi sinkhole, and you were amongst their number. Why are you the only one left alive?”  
Shen Zechuan sat silently, his gaze unfocused.  

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