Men reacted to death in different ways. Some saw their own mortality, and the fear of it consumed them. Others were consumed by their anger and hatred. A rare few accepted it and recognized what they faced and did so with pride and dignity.
There were even those who enjoyed it.
Two of the men ran forward in silence, their eyes burning with their need to strike Kalen down. Ducking beneath the blades that were held too high, he stepped to the side and onto firmer ground. Both let out startled cries as they splashed into the muck. Letting momentum guide his hand, Kalen cracked the flat of the sword across their shins. It took the slightest twist of his wrist to slice the edge through their trousers and into their flesh.
“Stop!” Derac shouted.
The man’s companions didn’t obey. Kalen stepped back and dug his toes into the moss. The sword was longer than he liked, but it was well cared for and sharp. His teachers would flay him if they learned he used the weapon like most used a scythe, but it let him add power to the strength he possessed. The sharp edge cut through flesh and bone with such ease it left a bad taste in his mouth. His victim fell before having the chance to rise from the mud.
“By the Lady of Light, stand down, Luca,” Derac pleaded.
Kalen held his ground, the bloodied sword ready. His arm ached from the strain of holding a weapon too heavy for him. Each moment where he stood still, his feet hurt almost as much as his arm did. While there was no pain from the bite marks, the burning sensation continued to creep up his arm to his shoulder. His breath came as ragged pants.
“Derac’s right,” Marist said. “We can’t kill him. If we do—”
“Enough,” Kalen interrupted, twisting around to glare at the talkative man. Marist’s teeth snapped together with an audible clacking. “I’ve no quarrel with you.”
The unspoken “yet” hung between them. Luca stepped back, spreading the distance between them, and leaned against one of the large trees. The man’s sword was held low enough to be ready for use, but not in preparation to strike. Kalen wanted to sit down or rest against something — anything — but he didn’t dare.
Enemies always waited for the first sign of weakness.
“He killed Hareth and Uthen,” Luca said in an emotionless voice.
“May the Lady of Light watch over them both,” Derac replied.
The tip of Luca’s sword touched the ground. Kalen let out a sigh, relaxed his stance, and mimicked Luca so he wouldn’t drop his weapon.
“And you’ll do nothing?” Luca whispered.
Out of the corner of his eye, Kalen glimpsed Marist shaking his head. “They attacked him first without cause. We are at fault.”
“But they’re dead!”
“And I count our blessings that we aren’t too,” Marist spat. “If you’d like to join them, you’re welcome to it, but not I, Luca. Not I.”
Kalen’s throne is his saddle, his crown is the dirt on his brow, and his right to rule is sealed in the blood that stains his hand. Few know the truth about the one-armed Rift King, and he prefers it that way. When people get too close to him, they either betray him or die. The Rift he rules cares nothing for the weak. More often than not, even the strong fail to survive.
When he’s abducted, his disappearance threatens to destroy his home, his people, and start a hopeless and bloody war. There are many who desire his death, and few who hope for his survival. With peace in the Six Kingdoms quickly crumbling, it falls on him to try to stop the conflict swiftly taking the entire continent by storm.
But something even more terrifying than the machinations of men has returned to the lands: The skreed. They haven’t been seen for a thousand years, and even the true power of the Rift King might not be enough to save his people — and the world — from destruction.
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Genre – Fantasy
Rating – PG – 13
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