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The True Bastards

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The True Bastards

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Author: Jonathan French
Publisher: Crown Publishers, 2019
Orbit, 2019
Series: The Lot Lands: Book 2

1. The Grey Bastards
2. The True Bastards
3. The Free Bastards

Book Type: Novel
Genre: Fantasy
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Fetching was once the only female rider in the Lot Lands. Now she is the proud leader of her own hoof, a band of loyal half-orcs sworn to her command.

But in the year since she became chief, the Lots have tested her strength to the breaking point. The Bastards are scattered, desperate, their ranks weakened by a mysterious famine, their fortress reduced to smoldering slag. And their troubles are only growing. A pack of ravening beasts circles their camp, while grasping human nobles hatch a plan that will shift the balance of power in the Lots.

Fetch and her comrades are still standing defiant--they're Bastards, after all--but even the toughest half-orc can take only so much; and Fetch knows they're on the verge of ruin.

As she strives to lead her hoof to safety and unravel the plots set against them, Fetching must journey through forbidden elven lands, overcome long-standing hatreds, battle a monstrous wizard of terrifying power--and, worst of all, delve into the dark truths of her own existence.

She's no stranger to fighting the world, but on this journey, sharp steel and a strong hog won't be enough. To survive these trials, she'll have to defy not just her foes but the very nature of the Lots.




"No. Nyellos."


"Hard o at the end. Like 'open.' Nyellos."


"Better. But not 'nee.' Quick 'nnn.' N-yellos."

"Nn... nnn... n-yell-ose."

"Try not to split the word. The l's roll into the o. Nyellos."

". . ."



"Almost. You need to... clip the l's. There is a sound within the sound. Nyellos."


"Roll the l's."


"But make sure to clip them."


"Roll, then clip."


"You lost the roll."


"You forgot to clip."


Fetching hurled the hunk of rubble with rage-driven arms. The stone smote its fellows resting in the wheelbarrow, upsetting the balance. The load toppled. Mead tried to seize the wheelbarrow handles to prevent it going over, instinctively using both hands. He got hold of the left handle, but the right smashed against his stump as the conveyance tipped. Fetching saw her tutor bite back pain and embarrassment as he floundered away from the small avalanche caused by her anger.

The sounds of labor ceased as all eyes drifted to the disturbance. Fetch barked at the nearest gawkers.

"Bekir, Gosse! Over here and help!" The appointed slopheads sprang at her call, swift and obedient as young hounds. "The rest of you back to it! And be f***ing cautious!"

The workers atop the great pile returned their attention to the rubble beneath their feet, shovels tapping gingerly.

Fetch righted the wheelbarrow. As Gosse and Bekir hustled the fallen stone back into its cradle she approached Mead and took a steadying breath. "I'm sorry."

"It's fine, chief," he said without meeting her eyes. His stump was hidden, cradled by his remaining hand. A lie. And she knew it. She also knew it would make the hurt worse if she pressed. He'd told her once that the only thing more painful than losing a hand was forgetting it was gone.

They stood together, silently sweltering. The morning was pale, the sun's heat still abed. It was not the sky above, but the rocks beside, that drew their sweat. Furious at its fall, the ruins of the Kiln still smoldered. Well over a year since the great fortress collapsed and yet the toppled stones continued to weep black smoke into the sky.

The Bastards had tried to harvest usable blocks from the remains of their former home in the first weeks after its demise, but the scorched debris remained hot enough to burn flesh. Months passed before the uppermost layer cooled. Still, gathering the stone remained a dangerous task. The villagers and slops chosen for the day's work detail picked their way along the broken surface of the mound, shifting the occasional stone, slowly loading the wheelbarrows waiting at the base of the rubble. These in turn were taken and emptied into large rope nets to be dragged back to Winsome behind a team of hogs when full.

As she surveyed the crews, Fetch's shoulders and upper back were dripping, itchy beneath her shirt, the linen weighted down by the fall of her braided locks. Cursing, she gathered the plaits in a tighter bundle and retied them higher upon her head. For the hundredth time since becoming chief she considered taking shears to the mass. She wouldn't, unsure why, unsure why she had let it grow in the first place. Perhaps because it marked the days, a living record of her time as hoofmaster. Perhaps she simply liked there being more of her and did not want to willingly return to less.

Either way, in this heat, it was a vanity that was f***-all irritating.

"Should we continue?" she asked Mead.

"I think we have reached the limit of your patience today, chief."

What Mead really meant was that he had reached his, but Fetch chose not to call him out. Making him give her lessons was abuse enough. In the silence that followed, Mead finally looked up and gave her a pardoning smile.

"Elvish is tricky. But you'll get it."

Fetching nodded, careful not to look away too quickly, but unable to hold Mead's eyes for long.


He was still too damned smitten to be a proper taskmaster. The silence was worse than the heat, pointing fingers at the budding discomfort.

Mercifully, Mead shifted first, running his hand through the plumed strip of hair he wore down the center of his otherwise shaved skull. That elvish affectation had once been the source of endless barbs and jibes from the other Bastards, but he had weathered the abuse, wearing the coif of the Tines with the same ease with which he spoke their tongue. Fetching knew how fortunate she was to have him as a sworn brother. He remained as invaluable to his new chief as he had been to the old.

Copyright © 2019 by Jonathan French


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