TITLE: The Nine
GENRE: Adult Steampunk Fantasy
When orphan courier Rowena Downshire carries a book that transcribes the lives of the nine unsuspecting souls whose actions will determine humanity's deliverance or doom, she becomes a target in an ambitious nobleman's conspiracy to derail divine judgment. Hunted by murderous minions seeking the book's pages -- and her silence -- Rowena’s survival depends upon her wits and her alliance with two strangers as ruthless as her enemies: men whose troubled pasts and shadowy loyalties will be tested when Rowena’s name appears among The Nine.
Rowena Downshire fixed the lanyani with her best glare, ignoring the stack of coin it had placed in her palm. She knew by weight it was three sovereigns shy, difference enough in clink to earn a solid whack of Ivor’s hawthorn. The lanyani, its wooden face as rutted as old oak, blinked at her with white, irisless eyes.
“You’re short,” Rowena said, loudly and slowly, translating to half-wit. “The deal was sixteen. I en’t come two miles getting chewed to bits to leave with less than what’s due.”
She hadn’t let go of the vervet’s cage yet, either, though she wished the little beast would stop worrying at her hand under the shearling cover. The lanyani leaned for the cage, willow-whip hands sweeping wide.
Rowena danced backward, out from under the gypsy’s fringed tent and out of its reach. She ignored the curse of a costermonger whose foot she trod, though she did look up at him just to be sure he wasn’t a Constable. He spat by her boot before lifting his barrow of soft, waxy apples and wheeling off to some other corner of the Shipman’s Bazaar.
Rowena turned back to the lanyani.
“Three more clink, or no little rat,” she said. Slowly, she edged back under the tent, the little rectangular cage clutched against her chest.