Only nne more days until the release of Blood of the King. Here’s another taste.
Blood of the King (Khirro’s Journey Book 1)
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 raide the king from the dead to save the kingdon from the undead invasion, but can Khirro live long enough to deliver the vial?
Can a coward save a kingdom?
Read Chapter 1 here.
Excerpt: Blood of the King
Chapter 2 (Part 1)
A helm clattered off the wall walk, bouncing end over end down the stairs. It hit Khirro’s foot, startling him and sending a jolt of pain up his leg. When he looked to see what hit him, he recognized the dead eyes of a member of the king’s guard staring back at him from within the helm. A pained grimace twisted the face, blood dripped from severed tendons and ragged veins. Khirro recoiled, pain flashing down his spine. He kicked at the head, the sound of his armor scraping stone impossibly loud in his ears. His toe contacted the helmet painfully, sending it spinning across the landing. It trailed off blood spatters as it rolled to the edge then disappeared over the brink. Khirro breathed a sigh of relief.
Khirro flinched. The king’s plea came again, a breathy whisper barely audible above the sounds of battle. Chickens ran about after their heads were removed, but nothing could speak without life remaining within. Khirro shifted painfully onto his side.
“My king,” he whispered.
Braymon lay in a tangled heap, hips wrenched farther than possible, one arm pinned beneath him, the other twisted behind. Blood streamed from his shaven head onto his cheeks and into his eyes, a mask of red through which little flesh showed. He blinked clearing his vision, a slow, lethargic movement, then directed his gaze toward Khirro. A pained smile twitched his lips; it quickly turned to a grimace.
“I thought you lost, lad.”
The blood drained from Khirro’s cheeks.
“No, your highness. I… I was knocked unconscious. I’ve only just woken to find you here beside me.” The lie tasted more bitter than the coppery tang of blood on his tongue.
Braymon coughed a fine spray of bloody spittle. Khirro knew it meant something inside him was bleeding.
“I’ve not much time. I need your help.”
“I owe you my life.”
“Then you can return the favor.”
Fear lumped into a mass at the back of Khirro’s throat. “What can I do?”
“The healer will know I’ve fallen,” Braymon said coughing again, face strained with the effort. “Take me to him.”
Relief. He didn’t ask to be avenged or dragged back to the battle to die a soldier’s death. Khirro glanced at the blood pooling beneath the king’s contorted body, flowing from some unseen spot under his plate mail, and pushed himself up to kneel beside Braymon to better assess his condition. The battle raged above but no one appeared on the stair.
“You shouldn’t be moved,” Khirro said after consideration. The way the king’s body twisted upon itself made him feel sick. “It would mean your life.”
Braymon shook his head minutely. “It matters not. I must get to the healer before the warmth has left my body or all is lost.”
“I don’t think–”
“Soldier,” Braymon said with a tone of command befitting a king. “If you do this thing, all else will be forgiven.”
Khirro gaped at the king’s words. He fought to keep tears at bay as guilt siphoned the strength from his limbs. His mouth moved trying to form the words to apologize for not rejoining the fight, to beg forgiveness, to explain, but his constricted throat choked them. Instead, he nodded.
“You’ll have to remove my armor to carry me.”
Khirro stripped the king’s armor as quickly and quietly as his hurts allowed. Each time he shifted the king, Braymon’s face contorted with deeper levels of pain, but he never cried out, and each piece of armor Khirro removed revealed more horror. The king’s blood-soaked underclothes stuck to him like a second skin; the jagged end of a bone punched through the flesh of one thigh; a loop of intestines protruded from a long cut in his abdomen. As he uncovered each injury, Khirro felt more grateful to be alive and whole and his own injuries seemed less significant. By the time he finished removing all the pieces, the king’s eyes were closed, his face taut with pain, cheeks pale. Khirro had to look closely to ensure he still drew breath.
“We’ve no time to lose.” Braymon said in a strained whisper. “Take me to the center keep.”
Khirro stood, teeth gritted against his own meager pain. He reached for Braymon but stopped, unsure how to proceed. He saw no way to pick up the injured man.
“Don’t concern yourself with my pain, it will end soon enough. Put me over your shoulder.”
A shudder wracked Khirro’s spine as he paused to look around. A few men ran about the courtyard below, but they were distant. Above, the fighting reached the top of the stairs. Two Kanosee soldiers—one wearing gray leather, the other the black breast plate splashed with red—hacked at soldiers of the king’s army who tried to keep them from the stairway. Khirro hoped they’d hold them long enough. He bent and hooked the king by the armpits, struggling to pull the dead weight from the ground. The king clenched his jaw, every muscle he could control straining to help.
Finally, the king’s limp form flopped over Khirro’s shoulder. He imagined he felt the soft flesh of his innards through his leather armor and his stomach flipped, forcing bile into his mouth. He swallowed it. The pain proved too much for the king and a cry tore from Braymon’s bloodied lips as his broken body pressed against Khirro’s shoulder.
Khirro looked back up the stairs, hoping no one heard. At first he thought the Gods with him as the fight continued, but one of the Erechanians fell and as the gray leather-clad Kanosee pulled his sword from the man, he leaned toward his companion and pointed down the stair.
A sword flashed and the man fell, but Khirro saw no more as he turned and rushed down the stairs, focusing on his feet hitting each one and not over-balancing under the king’s weight.
By the time he reached the bottom of the final flight, Khirro’s back and legs ached, his pulse beat in his temple as his breath came in ragged gasps. If he didn’t pause to catch his wind, he wouldn’t get much further. He stood at the foot of the switchback staircase, half-bent, and watched a pebble strike the ground near his foot. Khirro looked at it without understanding, his fatigued mind reeling from lack of oxygen, but realization came quickly. He twisted awkwardly, ignoring the pain in his back, to look up the stairs. Halfway down, the black and red mailed soldier hurried toward him, battle axe in hand.
Bruce 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 unti, 6 years ago he set his sights on becoming a full-time writer. Since then, his first short story, “Another Man’s Shoes” was ;published int he 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 (published to Kindle Dec., 2011) was chosen a semi-finalist in the Kindle Book Review’s Best Indie Books of 2012. The second Icarus Fell novel, All Who Wander Are Lost, was released in July 2012, and Blood of the King, the forst book in the two-part Khirro’s Journey epic fantasy, will be released on Sept. 30. He has plans for a tleast three more Icarus novels, several stand-aalones, and a possible YA fantasy co-written with hiis eleven-year-old daughter.