This is a bit longer than I usually post, but here’s the opening taste of my book released earlier this year. May you enjoy – always, T
Near the border of a small duchy in Central Europe 1692
There wasn’t time to think about the pain burning through his shoulder from the heft of a sword he’d held for too long, or the weight of the armor chaffing against his flesh. There wasn’t time to worry about the loss of his helmet, or to brush away the hanks of bloodied hair hanging over his forehead. There wasn’t even time to consider the horror of the lives being lost. There was only time to fight the foe advancing upon his kingdom.
The warrior prince had barely a moment to survey the devastation surrounding him before the next wave of barbarians descended upon his army like a black plague of angry rodents. The invaders, dark, dirty, hairy men, appeared as faceless beasts to his eyes, no longer human. And much like swarming vermin, they carried the stench of death and destruction with them into battle. Even the pouring rain from grey, overcast skies could not wash away the filth they inflicted upon his land.
With scarcely a moment to breathe, Lord Gavin Richard Montague, heir-apparent to the Maninberg throne, shouted to the heavens, “This madness must stop. Do you hear me? This madness must stop. These are my people, this is my land. I must maintain control. By the gods and all the powers that rule, I demand my birthright. Do not let this be taken from me by these undeserving beasts.”
His father had already fallen under the enemy’s sword. It was incumbent upon Lord Gavin to save the day, or what was left of it. The sharp clank of metal against metal rang out, followed by the sickening sounds of crushed bones and tearing flesh. The smell of blood, death, and fear assailed his senses. He cut and slashed at the invading horde, only to be met with wave upon wave of attackers. Driving rain and rivers of mud turned the battlefield into a horrid bloodbath; a true reign of terror.
“My kingdom must be preserved!” Lord Gavin shouted skyward as his broadsword once again connected with deadly force against his foe. He ducked and dodged sideways to avoid the blade of his opponent as he swung his sword to strike the man. His blade sliced through leather and flesh, drawing blood as Gavin delivered a disabling blow. The barbarian fell to the earth, only to be replaced by another.
With fierce determination he fought against his attackers, spearing another faceless man with the blade of his sword. He needed a miracle to save his kingdom. It appeared hopeless, but he would not yield; not until his dying breath. Nay, he would not yield. He fought on.
“By the gods above, I demand my kingdom be preserved,” Lord Gavin cried out, his voice thundering above the din of the fighting.
The battle raging around him suddenly stilled. Every drop of rain, every breath of man, was held in place, unmoving, except for Lord Gavin. In awe, the warrior prince lowered his sword, stunned by the power holding the ferocious battle at bay.
A voice as powerful as the wind pierced the stillness. “Say ye true, what demands do ye place upon the powers of this land?”
“I demand nothing less than the safekeeping of my kingdom and my people,” Lord Gavin replied, turning his head to and fro. His eyes searched through the rain soaked skies as he sought the source of the voice. Adrenalin infused blood pumped through his veins, driving his arrogance to overrule his apprehension.
“By what right do ye make this demand?” A strange-looking figure appeared in the mists. His long robe, the color of polished gunmetal, was belted at his waist by thick braided cords of black leather. Thick, dark hair shot with silver hung in waves to his powerful shoulders, framing a long narrow face highlighted by piercing grey eyes.
Lord Gavin drew in a sharp breath. There was no mistaking the identity of this ghostly apparition. He was too familiar with the myths and legends told throughout his land to doubt that standing before him was Tazire, an ancient and powerful wizard.
He stood steadfast and proud, his head held high, facing the wizard. “By the right of my birth,” he replied. “By the blood of my father and his father before him. By the generations of my family who have held this kingdom in peace.”
“Your birthright?” Tazire glared at him. “Do you really believe your birth grants you the right to seek control of men’s destinies?”
“Aye, tis my birthright to seek control of this kingdom and all who live here.” Gavin would not back down. The reason for his birth, the very purpose of his life, was to rule his father’s kingdom. He’d do anything to secure his rule.
“How far does this birthright extend?” the wizard asked.
“I ask only for the control of Maninberg, my rightful kingdom.”
“Your rightful kingdom? Ha! And tell me, how long does this birthright exist?” A wicked smile graced Tazire’s lips, but his eyes remained hard.
“For as long as I have breath in my body.” Gavin shifted his stance, raising his sword before him.
“And if you were to live forever, would this birthright still hold true?” Tazire’s dark, grey eyes bore deep into Gavin, as if seeking his soul.
“Aye. Forever.” Lord Gavin returned the wizard’s steely gaze, inflexible in his demands, unyielding in his beliefs.
“Beware, young prince. Would you truly agree to accept immortality in exchange for total control of your kingdom – and only your kingdom?” A note of caution crept into Tazire’s voice.
“I would accept nothing less,” Lord Gavin stated confidently, ignoring the wizard’s warning.
Tazire cocked his head, studying the young prince. “Such arrogance shall be rewarded.” The wizard lifted his hands to the heavens. “Granted,” he shouted, loud and clear. “Thy will be done.” And with the wind, he was gone.