Blood of the King (Khirro's Journey Book 1)
The king falls and a hero is born, his fate thrust upon him by Shaman's curse. A journey to save the kingdom begins.
Khirro never wanted to be anything more than the farmer he was born to be, but a Shaman's curse binds him to the fallen king and his life changes forever.
Driven by the Shaman's dying words, Khirro's journey pits him against an army of the dead, sends him through haunted lands, and thrusts him into the jaws of beasts he wouldn't have believed existed. In one hand he carries the Shaman's enchanted sword, a weapon he can barely use; in the other he holds a vial of the king's blood, the hope of the kingdom. His destination: the Necromancer's keep in the cursed land of Lakesh. Only the mysterious outlaw magician can raise the king from the dead to save them all from the undead invasion, but can Khirro live long enough to deliver the vial?
Can a coward save a kingdom?
This blog post is part of a cycle: a group of bloggers is publishing excerpts from successive chapters of this exciting new book.
Read Chapter 1 on Tami Parrington's blog:
Read Chapter 2 (Part 1) on Chantal Boudreau's Visions in the Dark
Read Chapter 2 (Part 2) on Steve Montano's Blood Skies blog
Read Chapter 3 on Joshua Johnson's Gunpowder Fantasy blog
Read Chapter 4 on Emily Ann Ward's blog
And now you're caught up and can read part of Chapter 5:
Excerpt: Blood of the King
Chapter 5The soldier sat on the top stair cleaning blood from his sword, listening to the groans of wounded men strewn on the walk around him. He shifted and slid the blade into its scabbard. Men moved along the wall walk making repairs, tending the injured and collecting the dead. Most of them made a wide berth around him, avoiding a man wearing the garb of the king’s guard. A few archers remained at the parapet launching arrows at the retreating Kanosee, but they had pulled back beyond bow range. The fight had been fierce but, despite the wall breach, they’d repelled the invaders.
Farther down the wall walk, soldiers scavenged the fallen enemy for whatever they might keep or sell. He sneered. How could they act that way? Where was their honor? On the battlefield, in the heat of the fight when life and death were at stake, such things were done for survival, not for personal gain. Bury them or burn them, don’t rob them. He spat in their direction and turned his head away.
When the Kanosee soldiers breached the wall, it had required all his focus to stay alive, and he lost track of the king in the melee. The last time he saw Braymon, he was engaged with one of the monstrosities summoned to swell the Kanosee ranks. The tide of battle engulfed the soldier, distracting him from his assignment until a fresh troop of Erechanians joined the fray, driving the invaders from the wall, setting the ladders alight with urns of burning pitch. The stench of burnt flesh had threatened to empty the soldier’s stomach; he might have known some of those men, as he may have known some he slew himself. When his thoughts had cleared of the fog of battle, the king was gone. The cloaked man wouldn’t be happy he failed, but he’d have other opportunities.
The soldier stood, stretched, and glanced down the stair at the landing below, a glint of sunlight on metal catching his attention. Near the wall, crowded at the corner of the landing, he saw a suit of plate—Erechanian and of high quality, but he couldn’t get a good view. He hurried down the stairs for a closer look.
Puddled blood, dried and brown, stained the landing. He surveyed the scene with a practiced eye and surmised two men had lain here, one gravely injured. His gaze followed the trail of blood descending the stair and the story became clear: one man injured, the other stripped his armor to carry him to safety. The warrior shook his head. How many men died trying to save one fallen soldier when the entire fortress was in peril? He half-smiled at the novice mistake and went to the heap of plate, shifting it with the toe of his boot. Dirty, scuffed, caked with dried blood inside and out. Through the flaking gore and dust of battle, a pattern was evident on the breast plate. He brushed grime away with a gloved hand and revealed a scrollwork of enameled ivy. His eyes widened.
The armor belonged to the king.
It must have been he who was seriously wounded, carried to safety by some faithful soldier. His stomach clenched. How would he find the king and complete his task now? Anger rose in the soldier; he despised failure, had been trained since birth that it meant weakness. A boot scuffed on a stair below and he stood, muscles tensed, hand on sword hilt.
“Ye! What 'ave we 'ere?” The man ascending the stairs halted as he saw the soldier standing over the pile of armor. “Anythin’ valuable?”
The soldier kept his voice purposely low to draw the man closer. With the king fallen, he had little time. The cloaked man had told him what would happen if the king fell and the Shaman performed his abomination, had explained how they would get out of the fortress. He needed to find a way to intercept them before they got too far. This man might be the way.
“I can’t see, ya damn fool. Move outta me way!”
The soldier shifted, keeping his king’s guard insignia hidden, and made space for the other man to sidle in beside him. The man did as the soldier had moments before, crouching, wiping dirt away for a better look and to gauge the armor’s value. The soldier loosened his dagger in its sheath.
“Gods, look at this. Must be worth a fortune.”
He brushed away more dirt, then stopped, hand hovering above an exposed loop of ivy spilling across the breastplate. The soldier’s dagger slid free.
“What is it?”
“The king,” the man said, a note of shock in his words. He stood, half turning toward the soldier. “It’s the king’s pl--”
The soldier’s blade touched the man’s throat, cutting off his words as the sharp edge pressed flesh hard enough to draw blood.
“Don’t cry out. I’ll open your throat before a sound escapes.”
The man’s eyes widened and his breathing stopped; the soldier knew he’d do whatever he said. This man was no warrior, he clung too tightly to life.
“There are tunnels leading from the fortress. Do you know how to access them?”
The man didn’t respond at first, so the soldier pressed more firmly and a drop of blood rolled down the man’s his neck. He nodded once, a quick, mute movement intended to keep the dagger’s edge from slicing deeper into his throat.
“Take me.” The soldier spun the man around, facing him down the stairs, deftly moving the blade from his throat and inserting the tip through the seam in his leather armor. “Don’t betray me or I’ll gut you like the pig you are.”
They descended to the courtyard five flights below, beads of sweat running down the man’s neck, mixing with the blood. They were nearly at the bottom when the man next spoke.
“Why? Why do you betray your king?”
“Not my king,” the soldier growled and jabbed the knife further into the man’s ribs. “Looks can be deceiving.”
They crossed the courtyard, bodies pressed close hiding the dagger between them. Soldiers and workers passed by, too distracted with their own business of repairs and clean-up to notice anything awry. The soldier breathed deep, inhaling familiar fumes of battle, and raised his eyes to the sun. Many hours yet remained in the day, encouraging him. He’d find the king.
His mission would yet be completed.
BiographyBruce Blake lives on Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada. When pressing issues like shovelling snow and building igloos don't take up his spare time, Bruce can be found taking the dog sled to the nearest coffee shop to work on his short stories and novels.
Actually, Victoria, B.C. is only a couple hours north of Seattle, Wash., where more rain is seen than snow. Since snow isn't really a pressing issue, Bruce spends more time trying to remember to leave the "u" out of words like "colour" and "neighbour" then he does shovelling. The father of two, Bruce is also the trophy husband of burlesque diva Miss Rosie Bitts.
Bruce has been writing since grade school but it wasn't until five years ago he set his sights on becoming a full-time writer. Since then, his first short story, "Another Man's Shoes," was published in the Winter 2008 edition of Cemetery Moon, another short, "Yardwork," was made into a podcast in Oct., 2011 by Pseudopod and his first Icarus Fell novel, On Unfaithful Wings, was published to Kindle in December 2011. The second Icarus Fell novel, All Who Wander Are Lost, was released in July, 2012, and Blood of the King, the first book in the two-part Khirro's Journey epic fantasy, was released on September 30. He has plans for at least three more Icarus novels, several stand-alones, and a possible YA fantasy co-written with his eleven-year-old daughter.