Second. Prince of the Gray Keep has kind of...erm, evolved. Knowing that most of you have NOT read RotW, and that PotGK won't make much sense without it, I've kind of, um...included it. In Prince of the Gray Keep. So technically you'll be picking up a small sample of a larger book that still stands on its own. But I also know most of you have not read it, so...yeah. I want my book to make sense.
So now, without further ado, BOOK SAMPLE:
The instincts of a soldier saved him. Already on edge, he had considered any man coming through that door a threat. So when the stranger came at him, he stepped back without thinking, grabbed the stranger’s wrist, twisted, and struck a nerve point just above the wrist. The hand went limp, knife sliding through numbed fingers. The rest of the move ended with the combatant’s hands on the enemy’s throat; Leythorne didn’t think snapping this stranger’s neck neck would be wise. He shifted the last move so that the elf’s own weight carried him to the ground.
The man was skilled. His knees hit the stone floor, he took the weight, then rolled and came back up. His hands moved in a quick, tight pattern, and a pure bolt of heat brushed Leythorne’s cheek, singing hair and beard. The Keep muttered options frantically, offering spells for his defense, methods of killing that were gruesome in their effectiveness. It seemed desperate to keep its new master alive. Leythorne ignored these suggestions, ducked, and fought like a man. He landed a beautiful right hook just below the Elf’s eye. These arms had strength, and the Elf went sprawling.
Pardal tossed him the Elf’s knife. He caught it, burning his fingers where the rags had slipped. As the Elf rolled up, Leythorne caught his legs and sent him once more onto his back. Sitting on his thighs, Leythorne bought the knife under the man’s chin.
Silence in the room. The elf spat in his face.
“Finish me, then.” The elf said. “I’d rather die than serve you.”
“I am not Faer,” He said, quietly. “And I will let you go.”
And he did. It went against every instinct, but this man was known to the others. Killing him might be a bigger mistake than releasing him. Dropping the knife where the man could see it, he backed up slowly. The Elf snatched up the knife, but by now Pardal was armed, and Ledden stepped forward, thrusting the wrapped sword hilt into Leythorne’s hands. And he stayed at Leythorne’s side after. The elf looked frantically at the mortal. “Do you know what this man is? Do you, Pardal?” When Pardal nodded, cautiously, the Elf seemed to explode. “Why do you, of all men, protect him?”
“He’s the man that saved my son and myself from the Old One.”
The Elf looked at Ledden, holding to Leythorne’s belt, then at Pardal. His pale blue eyes burned. Holding Leythorne’s gaze, the elf spat to one side. “What lies you tell, Jennal.” Leythorne flinched, and he smiled. “Oh? Did you think I would not know your face? Old companion. Dear, dear friend.”
Well, that would be his luck. The one man in this place who had known Faer personally was not only alive, he was someone his only ally trusted. “What is your name?” he asked, feeling more exhausted than all the world.
“What a fair jest.” Calm words, taut with hate. They should have murdered on their own. “Should I ask yours? Pretend we have never met before now?”
“We never have.”
“I would not—”
“Jennal Faer attempted to slave a mortal in the hills above Ravensfel. He did not know this man was Portal gifted, and that the gift would react…well, for him it was badly. It saved my life. Our powers tangled and I found myself looking through his eyes.” His heart was pounding against his ribs. If this man, who called Faer friend, should react so poorly, how would Rashaliem react? If he returned to Ambercross, he would have even less time to be convincing.
Think about it later. Deal with this now.
The man spat again. “You lie. And damned badly, for you.”
Leythorne shrugged. “If you don’t believe me, leave. Take what is yours and go. You may have some of that, too.” He gestured at the Duskin Lord’s finery. “But I would suggest running far. It sounds as if the Duskin are ripping this island apart.”
The low rumble of internal fighting swelled like the tide. The other man turned to Pardal. “Why would you say the man was good? Why bring me here? Even the Duskin Lord was better than this monster.”
“He saved my life, and spared my son from the torturer’s hands. And he did not need to.” Pardal quickly related Leythorne’s actions a bare hour ago. He stretched the truth far too much, because he made it seem that Leythorne was a hero.
The Elf turned to the boy. “This is true?” the child nodded. The Elf looked stunned. After a few heartbeats, however, he recovered.“But you killed the Duskin Lord in the process. These two could have been collateral damage.”
Something in the distance broke. It was big, and the impact that followed rattled teeth. The sea-sound of war swelled into individual sounds. Voices screaming and urging each other on. Fists throwing blows, knife and axe resounding off shield. Inhuman throats rose in one great chorus. Victory and hate. Triumph, and then a call to further war. Leythorne’s pulse quickened as the sound slowly faded back. The Keep’s interest had peaked, and he had the dreadful feeling these halls were filled with darkness and red thread. Leythorne and the others were running out of time.
He turned to the Elf and smiled, thinly. “We can stand here and argue who and what I am as long as you wish, but these others will not survive unless we stand together. Or at least, get out of my way.”
“Perhaps you may show the Duskin how murder is done.”
His temper, tried by exhaustion and this hell he had awakened to, finally snapped. Not bothering with magic, he slammed the elf hard against the filth coated wall. The muck from eons of filth and bloodshed felt grimy beneath his knuckles. It stained the elf’s perfect skin. Leythorne found himself not caring for anything, save that he had his enemy by the throat. “Stand with me or leave. But if you do not wish to help, get out of my way.”
The Elf’s face hardened. “I have protected them since you gave me to that monster you served these long centuries. Do not tell me to leave them behind.”
“Gave?” The word was shocked out of him.
“I was the price for your victory. A taste of what your master would gain, if you won the day and the throne.” The Elf shook his head spitefully. “It was the delight of my life that you would rot forever insensiate in that cell. My revenge for all I had suffered.”
Leythorne let him go, shaking. The Mistlands were something no one fully understood, something that everyone feared. The thought of being given to the creatures in it... “You’ve had your revenge. Jennal Faer died in a mortal form at least a hundred years ago.”
“A pretty lie.” The elf sneered, rubbing his neck. “A defeat that costs you everything and a mortal, nothing at all. But I would not believe—”
Leythorne threw another punch. Even the outer roar had fallen second to the brutality in this room. Loss fueled a rage deeper than anything he should have felt, and his fist’s impact seemed to echo off the walls. When they finally stood apart again, he shouted, “It cost me my wife and my king. And even if I could convince Rashalem that it is his friend that stands in these dreadful bones, my wife…” He stopped. Oh, this pain was greater than the whole world. “My wife is dead. I can only hope that Faer didn’t…” his throat closed. “That it wasn’t his revenge. Mock me all you wish, but claim it is painless once more and I will finish what that son of a bitch started.”
Prince of the Gray Keep comes out November 15th. I promise.
Even if it kills me.