Blood of the King Excerpt: Chapter 2 (Part 2)

Less than a week until the release of Blood of the King. Let’s peek in at Khirro and see how he’s faring.

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

A warrior, a whore, a magician, a mute, a reluctant hero. A curse to journey to a haunted land.

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 –

Read Chapter 2 (Part 1) –

Excerpt: Blood of the King

Chapter 2 (Part 2)

Khirro moved into the courtyard, tired legs burning with effort. Each step jostled strangled moans from the king. Braymon’s breath was alarmingly shallow and Khirro could find nowhere to lay his hand without it coming away sticky with the king’s blood.

A ball of hellfire arced over the wall and landed a few yards away, showering them with sparks. Fire smeared across the courtyard, igniting the tinder-dry grass, cutting off his path to the center keep. Sweat or blood stung Khirro’s eyes as he glanced up at the fire, looking through the wavering heat and smoke, and amended his course, veering toward a closer building. It wasn’t where the king had requested, but he had to find a place to make a stand.

Make a stand. The thought made him shudder. I hope the door isn’t barred.

As they approached, the world slowed to dream time and everything leaped to new levels of clarity: fires burned brighter, sounds became clearer. The king’s breath rasped in his ears, blood pounded in his own head. Another sound hammered above all else: footsteps closing in, gaining ground fast. And a smell. It overpowered the sooty stink of fires and the stale odor of sweat and dried piss. Rank and sweet, earthy and rotten, it smelled of the dead.

Hope drained from Khirro like candle wax pooling into panic at the pit of his stomach, leaving behind a quickly solidifying trail of fear. His mind swirled. The foot race was lost, no doubt of that.

What do I do?

Face the soldier? He’d be dead before he drew his dirk. Surrender? The Kanosee would take no prisoners. But did the warrior pursue him or was he simply after Braymon?

What if he dropped the king?

Khirro gritted his teeth, biting back the thought. He let the king down once, he wouldn’t do it again. A day ago, he told Jowyn the king deserved his loyalty, not his life, but he could no longer make that argument. Braymon could have waited, sacrificing one man to ensure his own safety, but he didn’t. Instead, he threw himself into the fray knowing it might mean his end. If a monarch would sacrifice himself to save a dirt farmer, how could the farmer hesitate at saving the king?

With each step Khirro expected to feel steel in his back, ending his flight and his life. A cry rose behind him, deep and wild. Khirro echoed it, crying out with effort, putting everything into pumping his exhausted legs. Ahead, a door swung open and a figure appeared on the threshold, distracting him. Khirro’s feet tangled and he fell forward, tumbling awkwardly as he twisted to protect the king. His shoulder hit the ground painfully. The king’s body shifted forward, sandwiching Khirro’s head against the ground, blurring his vision. He rolled to his back, reached for his scabbard, found it empty, and had only a second to realize his weapon lay on the wall walk where he’d stumbled down the stairs before his pursuer was on him.

Khirro tried to struggle up, but his arm was trapped beneath King Braymon. The Kanosee soldier sent him back to the ground with a kick to the midsection and put his foot on Khirro’s chest, pinning him. Writhing and wriggling beneath the pressure, Khirro grabbed the enemy’s boot in both hands and tried unsuccessfully to move it. He looked up at the warrior, at his black mail splashed with red, at his menacing closed-face helm, at his massive axe, and his limbs went numb. For the second time in a day, death stared Khirro directly in the eye, and Khirro was afraid.

The Kanosee stared back at Khirro from behind his visor, breath rattling against the steel. Khirro looked from the black helm to the battle axe and saw star bursts of rust dotting the blade, chips and gouges marking its edge. What soldier carried a weapon so old and neglected? It would split his skull nonetheless. Khirro gritted his teeth, determined to take the deathblow like a man but, to his surprise, the Kanosee released the haft with one hand and lifted his visor instead of raising the axe.

The face beneath the visor may once have belonged to a man, but the flesh was rotted and decayed, leaving behind a parody of a man’s features: a black-edged hole in one cheek revealed crooked yellow teeth; the right eye socket stood empty and inflamed; tattered flesh hung from cheek and jaw and forehead. Strands of hair, gray and stringy, escaped from under the helm, plastered by dried blood and pus to what was left of the mottled gray flesh patch-worked across its face. Khirro recoiled. If the thing’s foot wasn’t pinning breath inside his body, he would have had to fight to keep his gorge from rising. He squirmed under the thing’s boot, grabbing and pushing; it didn’t move. Tears squeezed from his eyes as he struggled to move, to breathe.

The enemy leaned over, leering at him, and something dripped onto Khirro’s face—sweat or saliva or blood. He gagged and his captor laughed.

Khirro’s resolution faltered, his mouth opened in a scream. The soldier—the creature—smiled, its lipless mouth twisted in a grin that might easily have passed for growl. Goose flesh puckered Khirro’s skin, his stomach knotted. The thing straightened, grasped the haft of the axe with both hands, and laid the blade’s edge on Khirro’s shoulder. Cold steel pressed against his cheek, its rusty smell filling his nostrils. A weak cry burbled from Khirro’s lips, unheard by any save himself and the creature raised the axe skyward as Khirro closed his eyes, whispering prayers to Gods he’d not bothered with since childhood. Memories of Emeline fought their way through his panic, first of her smiling, happy, then angry and accusing. So much had happened, so much was left undone.

What am I doing here? Why does it have to end like this?

He wished he was anywhere but here: tending fields, slaughtering cows, at the end of his father’s switch for something done wrong. Anywhere.

Light flashed bright enough to shine red through Khirro’s lids. A sound like canvas tearing. The pressure on his chest lessened then disappeared. Something hit the ground near Khirro and the stench of burnt hair filled the air. He tensed, awaiting the deathblow, lying helpless pinned beneath the king.

Dread-filled seconds passed, then the king’s weight lifted. Khirro raised his arms in defense, peeked through slitted lids. A black-robed figure leaned toward him—the man from the doorway. He saw nothing beneath the man’s cowl: no face, no mask. The hood cast an inscrutable shadow even in the bright sunlight.

Bring him,” the robed man said.

Hands grabbed Khirro, dragged him into the darkness beyond the wooden door. It swung closed behind them, leaving Khirro blind in the night-dark room.


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