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Excerpt: Blood of the King Chapter 3

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Blood of the King (Khirro’s Journey Book 1)

A vial of blood, a Shaman’s curse. A haunted land, monstrous beasts. A journey to save a kingdom.

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?

Read Chapter 1 – http://www.tamiparrington.com/2012/09/19/blood-of-the-king-excerpt/

Read Chapter 2 (Part 1) – http://www.writersownwords.com/chantal_boudreau/blog/1783/

Read Chapter 2 (Part 2) – http://bloodskies.com/indie-author-spotlight-bruce-blake-part-2/

Excerpt: Blood of the King

Chapter 3

The face of the dead warrior floated before Khirro’s eyes, lipless mouth pulled into a sneer, yellow teeth sharp and dangerous. Blood and pus seeped from its eyes and nostrils forming drops at the tip of its putrid nose. One drop lengthened into a string, separated, and landed square in the middle of Khirro’s forehead.

Khirro woke with a start, eye lids snapping open, breath short. There was no dead man threatening him, no rotted face, no blood-splashed mail. Instead, guttering torches threw dancing shadows against the walls of a windowless room. Khirro struggled to control his breathing and kept his head down as he lay on the dirt floor. From behind hooded eyes he observed figures moving, but who or how many, he didn’t know. His first memory was of the monstrous Kanosee soldier, then he recalled the black-robed man. And there had been others.

Khirro inched his hand toward the dirk hidden in his boot-top but pain in his shoulder kept him from drawing it—dislocated, perhaps broken. With no other choice, Khirro lay at the mercy of whoever dragged him here. After all that had happened, it didn’t surprise him he felt more relief than fear.

One figure he saw and recognized—the body of the king prone in the middle of the floor. Minutes passed and he came to realize there were three other men in the room. The black-robed figure bent over the king, whispering and gesturing. The king’s healer, he guessed. A shiver ran the length of Khirro’s spine. Rumor said this man was more than just a healer, something darker and deadlier who dabbled in arts outlawed in Erechania. Khirro hadn’t believed the stories until the flash of light felled his undead pursuer.

The other two men wore heavy armor. The taller of the two wore silver and gold plate embossed with the crossed sword and lightning insignia of the Kingsblade—the King’s personal guard—the other’s armor was plain black plate marked and dented with use.

Little life remains in the king,” the healer said without looking up. “Give me the vial, Gendred.”

The man in black plate pulled a glass vial from his belt and passed it to the healer. Gendred. Khirro had heard the name but never seen the man—few had, fewer had and lived. He was a Shadowman, one of an elite group of fighter-assassins Khirro had thought more fable than reality. On quiet watches, fantastic tales of the Shadowmen passed from soldier to soldier, building their legend. It became the goal of any good warrior to be drafted into their brotherhood. The thought never crossed Khirro’s mind.

The boy lives,” Gendred growled looking sideways at Khirro, his pock-marked face turned down in a sour look. Nothing about him looked friendly.

Leave him,” the healer said. “I’ll deal with him later.”

He held his hand above the king’s head, a whispered chant of rhythmic cadence coming from beneath the darkened hood. Khirro shifted to watch, his movement drawing a glare from the Shadowman. The third man stood against the far wall, arms folded across his chest, concern showing in the blue eyes peering from beneath bushy red brows.

The healer’s chant increased in volume, his pale hand shook. He spoke dusty, archaic words foreign to Khirro, unsettling, and he squirmed on the dirt floor in spite of himself. The king’s eyes stared wide and glassy at the high ceiling as it collected oily smoke twisting up from the torches. To Khirro, it looked as though Braymon had already passed to the fields of the dead, but the healer’s incantation continued.

The king gasped, his body jerked.

Startled, Khirro jumped, a bolt of pain lancing through his arm. The healer held the vial between thumb and index finger over Braymon’s torso, open end toward the king. Braymon’s back arched as though drawn toward the vial and Khirro held his breath. Gendred and the man of the Kingsblade watched silently. Above the king’s head, the healer’s hand quaked; the hand holding the vial remained steady.

It was just a single drop first, so small Khirro barely noticed. Another drop followed, then another. Khirro drew a sharp breath as the droplets expanded to a thin stream flowing from the king upward to the vial. Somehow, the blood from the king’s wounds collected at his midsection, concentrating in one place to defy the Gods’ laws. The fine stream of blood filled the vial as the healer continued chanting.

The container approached fullness and the stream waned, became droplets again, then stopped. The healer kept chanting as he turned the vial right side up, then his words ceased. The king’s body spasmed then moved no more, the end of the healer’s words releasing him to the fields of the dead. The officer of the Kingsblade and Gendred bowed their heads and kept their silence. Sadness gripped Khirro’s chest, surprising him.

Weep not for your king,” the healer said as he stood. He drew a cork from somewhere in his sleeve and capped the vial then waved his fingers around it and spoke more foreign words. Then he said, “All I need to retrieve the king from the fields of the dead is here in my hand.”

The warriors raised their eyes. Khirro wiped a tear from his face, hoping the men hadn’t seen, and looked at the vial, too. The flickering torchlight lent it a dull crimson glow.

We must dispose of the king’s flesh,” the healer said. “No one can know the king has fallen.”

What of this one, then, Shaman?”

Gendred gestured toward Khirro, speaking of him as though he wasn’t in the room, but Khirro barely noticed.

The rumors about the healer are true.

The healer turned his gaze toward Khirro. Something flickered beneath the cowl, impossibly far away. A shiver galloped up Khirro’s spine.

What is your name, soldier?”

Kh-Khirro.”

Khirro has done the kingdom a great service.” He paused as the torches flickered and spat in their sconces, then continued, his voice quiet, serious. “You have seen much.”

Khirro shook his head.

They mean to kill me.

But he’d risked his life to bring the king to them, surely that meant something. He fought the urge to crawl away from their gazes, to seek refuge in a shadowy corner of the room.

I won’t tell anyone,” he squeaked.

The healer chuckled, a sound like stone rubbed against stone.

Of course you won’t,” he said still looking at Khirro. Then, over his shoulder to the other men: “Bring him with us.”

Khirro’s chest felt as though it dropped into his stomach.

Bring him with us? Bring me where?

He stared into the blackness beneath the hood, searching for answers, but it revealed nothing. A horrible feeling flooded his aching body, one he’d never have expected: he found himself thinking he’d have been better off at the end of the monster’s axe.

That wouldn’t be wise,” the Shadowman said without looking at Khirro. His voice held the taut tone of a man containing his anger. It wouldn’t be long before Khirro realized it sounded thus because it was the truth of it. “He looks more farmer than fighter.”

But he’s a trained soldier of the king’s army,” the other man said and Khirro realized he knew him. They called him Rudric. He’d been one of the men leading Khirro’s training.

Hmph. He’ll slow us down at best, more likely get us killed. I have no desire to waste my time saving his skin at every turn.”

Blood rushed to Khirro’s face. He’d managed to get the king here with a monstrous creature at his heels. Didn’t that prove he was no longer a novice? He opened his mouth to protest the Shadowman’s words but snapped it shut remembering his blunders on the wall walk which had led to Braymon’s death. His ego shrank like a snail pulling its head into its shell.

He has seen too much for us to leave him,” Rudric said.

Does he mean they should spare me or kill me?

And he’ll be a burden if we take him,” Gendred added.

He means to kill me.

The healer looked at them. “Would you kill the man who has kept hope alive? Would you kill the man who has given us the opportunity to bring back our king?”

Gendred opened his mouth to protest, but the healer raised a hand, stopping him. The vial was gone from his grasp, disappeared somewhere into his robe.

Bring him with us.”

Rudric nodded, accepting the healer’s command, but Gendred remained motionless, the muscles of his jaw flexing as he ground his teeth.

Bring me where?” Khirro fought hard to keep his voice from trembling.

We are bound for Lakesh,” the healer answered.

Khirro’s breath caught in his throat.

Lakesh. The haunted land.

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