No estimated release date yet. It will be done when it's done.
Unedited. If typos offend thee, depart now lest my many iniquities wring tears of pain from thy tender sensibilities. But here's the beginning of the new story cycle.
The courtier knelt and bowed low until his forehead touched the marble floor. "Oh great and mighty lord, whose surpassing wisdom shines as a beacon into the darkness of our humble-."
"Cut the crap, Rolos," the emperor growled. "It's too blasted early for your mockery. Get your rotted nose up off the floor and deliver the rancid report. Then haul ass down to the kitchen and tell whoever is on duty that if my tea comes up here this cold again, I'm going to personally go down there and boil a few cooks."
"As you command, oh great and glorious one," the young man bounced to his feet. "The last dispatches from Kulhn came in yesterday, uncle."
"Well, at least this one should be mildly interesting." The emperor yawned and took another bite of toast. "What's the latest east of the mountains?"
The courtier told him, "It looks like the earth and fire temples are just going to have to eat shit and like it. Lokenberg is still in no shape to tackle a kingdom full of battle trained witches, and Uleirand is too busy bickering with everybody and their sister to coordinate dinner, much less an attack. Aroglin and Sheerlio are doing fine, though. The water temple is rolling in donations, and eight tenths of Kulhn's army follow the air goddess. Tothran is, well, Tothran. King Peteros turned his new general loose and they already own the northern third of the place. King Lonsel is suing for terms and praying that they let him keep his favorite boots."
"The cursed forest?" The emperor swung his feet to the floor and reached for his robe.
"Reports indicate that Peteros and his enchanting lady..." The kid waited expectantly and his uncle snorted.
"Seriously? His queen is a fire witch and that's the best you can do? I should put you to work herding pigs." The emperor picked up the pillow that he had shoved off in the night and tossed it back on the bed. Then he got up and yawned again before shuffling over to the washstand. "The wash water is only lukewarm. Since Bilina retired this place has gone to the jakes. I am definitely going to vent my wrath on someone. Pass the word."
The young man looked chagrined. "Sorry, uncle. Anyway, they have seriously depleted the supply of darkhunters all over the kingdom, to the dismay of the temple hardheads who had preached doom and desolation. Even the southern forest is running out of vampires and werewolves. Not completely bare, but getting scarcer. Witch teams are combing the place, along with armored men carrying silver blades, garlic, wolfsbane and stakes."
"How's the general level of discontent?" the emperor asked. He damped a washcloth and wrung it out.
"Among the common people," his nephew said, "The general attitude seems to approach bliss. They honestly believe that King Peteros is the fulfillment of their ancient prophecy. The average peasant thinks he's the original Agrahain reborn, and in their eyes he can do no wrong. Queen Jessera displayed so much power during the war that they are making up songs about her being an emissary of Hohdwan sent to punish the temples for their arrogance."
The emperor stopped to stare. "A woman as an emissary of the fire god?"
The young man took a deep breath. "This is the part I was leading up to. A new heresy is starting to spring up. Some people are saying that the former handmaidens are consecrated to the service of the gods just as much as any priest. Just because they took their collars off and can use their magic now, doesn't make them evil. So there is no reason that a handmaiden can't conduct a religious service."
The emperor clapped a hand over his face and dragged it down. "By Duchess Mirood's ox-wide ass. They do love wars, don't they?"
"There are petitions from the central temples of both Hohdwan and Egainot waiting on your desk, uncle," the kid said apologetically.
"Go mislay them somewhere," the emperor said. "I don't care where. Just make sure that they end up in some inappropriate location that will delay their arrival for a day or so. I need time to think."
"As you command, beneficent master," the courtier bowed. "Want me to take the tray as I go?" His uncle gestured impatiently.