BloodSeek [The Chronicles of Riven the Heretic Book 1]
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by Toni V. Sweeney
Description: Son of a barbarian sellsword who is raised by the Margrave of Francovia after his father is killed in His Majesty's service, Riven kan Ingan is, by his own admission, a heretic, who doesn't believe in the existence of either magic or religion. Though he rises through the ranks under his own power, he's never allowed to forget his foreign ancestry, and schemes to marry the Margrave's daughter and become a true member of the Royal House, but the gods of Arcanis, insulted by his denial of their existence, have other plans for the young skeptic. When Aleza is abducted by the soldiers of Mahldimir Djaan-Baih, a follower of Drel, god of Death, and Riven is wounded in her defense, he swears a Bloodseek oath to rescue her. Accompanied by Bar-Bara, a barbarian slave girl, his search takes him to the desert country of Izhmir. There, in the City of the Sunrise--where the sorcerer practices his black arts and his people live in fear of becoming sacrifices to Drel--Riven seeks the aid of a reluctant rebel in freeing Aleza. Saving the princess, however, does not end the story, for there's no Happily Ever After for the Margrave's young soldier. Riven's punishment is only beginning as the gods make him fall in love with a woman he can't have. When he loses her to another man, there's nothing he can do to claim her and nothing he can do to forget her, because the gods aren't finished with him yet!
eBook Publisher: Double Dragon Publishing/Double Dragon eBooks, 2007 Double Dragon Publishing Inc.
eBookwise Release Date: June 2007
6 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [468 KB]
Reading time: 292-408 min.
When the red raw mists cleared, he was alone.
That was how the Mortuaries found him--face down in the bloody slush where the heat from his body had melted the snow--the black war-horse standing guard above him. They had to blindfold the animal to lead it away, for it bared its teeth and struck at them, determined to protect its master even at the cost of his own life
In desperate haste, the man was carried back to Aljansur, given over to the ministrations of his long-time enemy, the Royal Leech, who put aside his differences long to enough to treat the Margrave's favorite, declaring that 'twould not be because of a lack of skill on his part if the young warrior died.
That said, the Royal Leech did what he could before abandoning his patient to the compassion of the gods.
At this point, the gods were still merciful .
The slow and painful process of healing took many months. 'Twas winter when Riven was injured, late spring before he was able to leave his sickbed. Too weak to mount a horse or lift a sword, shamed by his infirmities, and the knowledge that he'd been unable to defend neither his princess nor his men, he felt himself a laughingstock and his anger grew until it supplanted his humiliation.
Nearly a year passed before he declared himself returned to health, ignoring the Leech's half-hearted advice. From one winter to another, four seasons of impatience and accompanying guilt gnawed at his heart and railed at him in his dreams. When the day came that he was able to leave his sickbed, he prepared to go after the raiders in spite of the protests of the Court Physician and the twelve brave knights to whose counsel the King always listened.
Even Hraeth, his sword-brother, closer than a real brother, closer than blood, tried to dissuade him.
"Nay, Riven, wait," he cautioned, knowing that his reasoning fell on deaf ears. Riven was the more headstrong of the two, ready to brave dragons in their dens and call out anyone who dealt him what he considered a slight, whether intentioned or otherwise. "Wait until the snows have melted. Early Spring is an occasion for prudence, not a time to enter the Snow King, when the mountains are treacherous with change!"
Hraeth was right, of course, but Riven was determined.
"Those thieving B'akshir bastards braved the snows," he argued. "Why shouldn't I?"
Shrugging off Hraeth's comforting hand, he stood before Leontilf's throne, ashen with pain and trying vainly to ignore it, and railed at them to hide his shame.
"Stay safe if you wish! None of you has had your body wounded near to death, or your men slain!" Nor had any of them had his betrothed snatched from his arms but no one knew that, and he was wise enough not to reveal his and Aleza's secret. "'Tis my responsibility, Your Majesty. I lost her... I'll bring her back! I'll go. Alone!"
He would rescue the woman he loved and, more importantly, avenge his honor.
"You can wait--all of you !" Including Hraeth in his anger, he fairly spat the words at them, scorn in every syllable. "Until the safe season."
Some quailed before him, not daring to face the fury in those wild eyes, others merely shook their heads in pity that one so young could have so much hate, but eventually, one by one, each one spoke his pledge.
"You'll not go alone, Riven! What kind of men would we be, if we let a single man attempt our Princess' rescue?"
Oh yes, they came with him, pricked by his taunts, but more because Leontilf ordered it so.
He and twelve knights set out from Aljansur Castle, following the highroad that became the path leading through the mountainside groves of black-needled pines into the Snow King. In their winter armor and heavy capes, they rode through the snow-heavy passes where the frost-heave had buckled and twisted the earth.
The bodies of those men and their horses now lay in the chasms and crevasses of that treacherous mountain.
Only he had survived.
A soothsayer once told him he was accursed by the gods.
Mayhap the man was right, Riven now thought, if the gods existed, that is. Personally, he felt that fortunetellers, like priests, were there only to frighten and intimidate the foolish and any man with half a brain in his head knew better to believe their tales.
If Hraeth had been along, things might have been different. Perhaps Riven might not have pushed forward in such haste but the chances were that he would merely have added his bones to those already lying at the bottom of one of those wide snow-hidden mouths which lurked to swallow men and animals whole.
Copyright © 2007 Toni V. Sweeney.