Here is a tiny morsel… A free grocery market sample of a chapter in my rough draft of The Bleeding Crown. Enjoy!!
CHAPTER SIX: Seizing An Opportunity
Taihven rapped his knuckles upon the wooden door. It was more formality than anything. He opened it before Captain Ruessard could answer it. The young soldier sat facing outward, scanning the horizon as he always seemed to do.
“I have your Brulla, Rashad. And with that northerly wind coming in today, I went ahead and added a touch of Candock Whiskey to them.”
Rashad turned around, sporting a wry smirk upon his face, “Well, who am I to debate with my king. It does have a bite of frostiness in the air this foremorn.”
He had touches of premature grey at his temples. He also had his late father’s hazel eyes and a spattering of freckles under his eyes that forever made him younger in appearance than his actual age.
They fell into a comfortable silence in the high guard tower which overlooked the docks. Each young man lost in his thoughts. Over the last two months, this had become an odd routine that they both grew to appreciate. During the Viestrahl Siege, they both lost cherished family members and were thrust into new positions of responsibility. It took them time to adjust, get settled in their roles and a friendship had developed naturally from this upheaval that they shared in common.
“You would not have known this by looking at him nor by the life he lived, but my father’s heart always belonged to the sea. Before the Wyvernguard had demanded more of his time, he and I would spend early hours like these fishing from a broken-down skiff he salvaged.” Rashad said wistfully looking out at the crashing waves. “There is something enchanting about the color of the water, the soothing roll of the waves and the thrill of watching the lightning storms in the distance…”
“Hmmm. You are right, I did not know that about the good captain. To tell you the truth, Bardun Ruessard used to scare the color out of my face!” Taihven laughed. “It took a long time for me to not be nervous around him. The man was as near a legend I had ever been close to.”
Rashad joined him in laughing and said, “You were not alone. It was rare any of my friends would dare to visit me. He was not a hard man, never laid a hand on me or my sisters, but I guess he had a different side to him ‘on duty’.”
Again, silence settled over them. Taihven’s own father and mother were entombed together only the prior month. He had lost everything that truly mattered to him. The new king felt that sacrifice each moment of the day and restless night.
A flash of memory interrupted his reverie. Letandra’s mace lying abandoned in the courtyard sand…
He grimaced and shook away the image. Then, he tried to take in the rays of sunlight with his eyes, drink it up and feel the spread of warmth over his chest — over his ice frozen heart.
“I am sorry, Rashad. He died a hero though and you honor his name well.”
He did not reply and took a deep drink from his mug of Brulla. Taihven continued to scan the waves of the bay himself. He took note and tracked a procession of five ships which had slipped around the Eastrock Lighthouse Island. They bore the flags and colors of the Trade Merchants of Ansony.
“That is welcome news.” He pointed to the fleet approaching the docks. “The plague has been keeping many of the supply caravans away. They still believe there is an outbreak within the outside edges of the villages. The Court Scribes and I were scheduled to work out letters for the Envoys. Requesting that word be communicated that we have stamped out the Viestrahl plague, but we were now dealing with shortages.”
“Yes, now it appears that will not be necessary…” His words faded and he squinted against the dawn sun. “Seems odd that Ansony would send five ships though.”
Another row of ships, these branded as Premia fishing vessels abruptly appeared, coming in from the west.
The first of the Ansony fleet floated alongside the docking posts of the pier. Taihven wondered aloud, “And now we have another six?”
Rashad stood up and unhooked a ram’s horn from its cradle set upon a wall shelf. He held it as the two men studied the docking merchants. The boats aligned two on one side, three on the other pier. No one had exited, yet dozens were gathering on the ship decks.
The Premia boats cruised into the bay. Yet, they were not approaching and were lowering their barnacled anchors. Men rushed in chaotic errands to and fro on their decks as well.
“Captain, this does not strike me as normal.”
Three dock guards strode out to the moored ships as per normal protocol. Taihven and Rashad noticed the dock guards were alert and had their hands on the hilts of their swords.
At the same instant the dock guards called out a greeting, a volley of fireballs launched from the decks of the Premia ships. They arched in smoky trails through the sky These were arcane evocations.
“It is an attack. Sound your alarm!” Taihven growled and he yanked open the tower door, but the young captain grabbed his wrist.
“You cannot go out there yet, lord! Wait for the Royals to escort you.”
Rashad pierced the stillness of the morning calm with a shrill series of warning notes from his horn. Hooded men in black leather armors charged from the Ansony boats waving hatchets and scimitars.
The invaders overwhelmed and dispatched the unfortunate band of dock guards.
Four Royalguards appeared and without word swept both of them into their circle of protection. They scrambled as a unit down the wooden steps.
An eruption of thick sheets of ice formed a few feet above the guard tower. The sheets drove through the shingles, imploded the guard room and pulverized most of the winding tower stairs into splinters.
“Take him to the Vaults!” Rashad demanded of his men and then broke from the circle. He head straight to a rank of Wyvernguard sprinting toward the docks.
“TO ME! CENTER TO ME!”
As Taihven was man-handled toward the castle, he glanced back over his shoulder in time to see a bulging, black-blue wave of sea water as it cascaded into the bay. It washed up and over the pier. The wave retreated leaving behind a colossal, ivory beast unlike anything he had ever witnessed. It extended its gelatinous, spiked belly in rolls as it thrashed a long split-tail over the boards. Guards and enemies alike were flung head-over-heels into the air and sea.
Rashad led the charge of a shield phalanx, lances and polearms bristling from it. They advanced upon the creature and the mob of invaders.
The beast’s hooked snout opened and several spear-like tongues erupted from it, impaling and dragging several victims back to it.
Screams of agony and echoes of snapping bones filled the air as the Adventdawn Vault door slammed behind him. The Royals hauled Taihven away from the dock carnage.
IT IS TOO SOON! Taihven’s thoughts screamed in his head as panic gripped him. WHAT CAN I DO? WE ARE STILL SO WEAK FROM THE DISEASE AND HORDE MARCH! HOW CAN I STOP THIS ALL ALONE?
Please let me know what you think so far. Comments are always welcomed!