Barbarian Blood Royal [The Chronicles Of Riven The Heretic - Book Four]
Click on image to enlarge.
by Toni V. Sweeney
Category: Fantasy/Science Fiction
Description: With their parents' deaths during the Genocide Wars, the five sons of Riven kan Ingan and his beloved Barbara flee to separate countries to escape the Margrave's injustice. Growing to adulthood in foreign lands, Val becomes second in command to the leader of a barbarian tribe, Ilke a priest among the desert dwellers, the twins cutpurses in far-off Chaleit, young Merigan a warlord--each learning to live by his wits or his skill with the sword, as he waits for the day of their revenge. When that time comes, they have homes of their own, and friends they don't want to leave behind, but they answer their elder brother's call to return to their homeland and avenge themselves upon Morling, king of Francovia. In doing so, they fulfilled the Drune priest's prophecy given to their grandfather three generations before, and bring into being a new dynasty to rule the planet of Arcanis.
eBook Publisher: Double Dragon Publishing/Double Dragon Publishing, 2011 Double Dragon eBooks
eBookwise Release Date: April 2011
1 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [552 KB]
Reading time: 349-489 min.
* * * *
Wheeling, Val fended away the sword of his attacker.
For weeks now, they had followed him. He'd seen the three figures in the distance, and though they never came close enough for him to identify the crimson gauntlet upon their black tabards marking them as Black Shields, he knew who they were. Like hounds on the scent of a fox, Morling's hunters had tracked him this far, staying with him, never losing sight of their prey.
He was on a plain...grassy, hot, and treeless, and offering little protection from either the sun or the men following him. Behind him, the mountains were a hazy blur in the distance. Before him, stretched the level grass and nothing else.
For days now, he'd rationed his water supply, going without so his horse could have more to drink, until the animal faltered and fell under the blaze of the sun, its mouth open and dry. Holding his hand under the horse's muzzle, Val poured the remaining water onto the animal's tongue. As it coughed, swallowed, and heaved itself shakily to its feet, he brushed his damp palm across his own dry, cracking lips, skin gratefully absorbing what moisture was left.
Taking up the reins, he and the animal trudged on.
That was what they had waited for. The fox was run to ground and the hounds attacked. He barely had time to draw his sword and brace himself before they were upon him.
All-Father, help him! The spindle fell from the Weaver's fingers, sending her scrambling to the floor after it. It tumbled through the clouds to land at Ildred's feet. Weaver followed, on her knees before the Father of the Gods.
'Tis not the time, Weaver. All-Father's voice was calm, making her plea all the more frantic.
There are three against one. The odds are too unfair, she protested, seizing the spindle and crawling back to her seat before the loom.
He's not an untried stripling, Weaver. Though young, he's already fought beside his father, and survived.
Aye, and you let the father die! she accused, her fear making her reckless to speak back to the Father of the Gods. You promised the man peace and a long life and you let him be killed in that needless war!
For this day and time, he did have a long life, Ildred answered. The war was necessary to force his sons into manhood, to mark the beginning of the prophecy. Yon boy fought and survived and he'll survive this, too--without my help.
Why won't you help him? she persisted. You said his grandsire would be the ancestor of kings. How can that happen if the boy dies?
Riven kan Ingan had more than one son, Weaver. The words were cold.
Then...young Valriven isn't the one who-- Weaver's words trailed away. Which one, All-Father, which one is it, then?
Not now, Weaver. A hand gestured toward the scene being woven before her. You must tend to your loom. The story unfolds without you...
Fending away one sword, he turned to block the thrust of the second Black Shield's blade, trying to maneuver into a position where he could face all three. They continued to circle, darting in, moving away. If they'd bayed and growled, 'twould've been appropriate.
The fox was at bay and they were waiting to pull him down.
Drel's devils! he thought frantically, despairing at the odds. Prince of Demons, help me! Three against one's too unequal!
...the clouds burst into crimson light. Ripping them away with his taloned fingers, Drel forced his dreadful way into the Cavern.
Father, did you hear? He called for me! The words were a liquid stream of scarlet, directed at Ildred as if in challenge.
I heard, Ildred replied, unmoved by neither Drel's blood-smeared aspect nor his words. And you shall have him--for now.
Y-you relinquish him? A look of puzzlement appearing on what could be seen of Drel's gore-stained face under the cheek-guards of his horned helm
For this moment. The boy's belonged to you in body for some time, my bloody son. The Bloodsong rages through his veins and 'tis your path he'll follow for many years. Go! Send your minion to answer his call and make him your own, but be ready to release him when the time comes. Take his body--but I'll keep his soul!
With a roar sweeping through the sky as a screaming wind, darkness gleaming through the rents in his blood-dark robes,Drel rushed from the Cavern...
He swung his sword but the man leaped away and the blow which should've driven the point through his chest merely struck his shoulder. Still, the Black went down, weapon falling from his hand.
One out of the way!
'Twas awkward, fighting with his left hand, trying to swing the sword around to meet theirs. One moved in, and as their blades clashed in the air, the other Black stepped behind him. Out of the corner of his eye, Val saw the man raise his sword.
Even as he dodged and lifted his own weapon to catch the downward-moving blade, he knew 'twas too late. He had a sudden glimpse of metal glittering in the sun as it fell to bury itself through forehead, eye, and cheek.
Dropping his sword, Val clutched at his face, and the world burst into a raw and crimson wound.
He was alone, the sun red against his closed eyelids.
He tried to open his eyes but they were sealed shut by stiffening gore. Painfully, he raised one hand to his forehead, fingers probing into gaping tissues, traveling the deep furrow slashing from forehead to jaw.
Why didn't they kill me? Abruptly, he understood. Gods, I'm hurt...badly, too. They'd taken his horse and sword and left him to die. What better fate for a traitor's son than to be left, wounded and weaponless, on this dry, hot plain? 'Tis so hot.
His face was stiff and drawn from the drying blood. Where the heat touched, the pain of the raw wound thickened.
Suddenly, the sun was blotted out. A cloud? Briefly, it became cooler as the wind began to blow. The brightness returned, then was gone again. The wind became a beating of wings.
Lashes clinging to dried blood tore as Val forced his eyes open.
Overhead, a vulture circled in a lazy spiral. As it dived, he covered his face with one arm. Feathers brushed his face when the bird landed on his chest, claws digging into his flesh. Striking out, he tried to fend away the creature's attack, felt its beak clamp his forearm.
Blood spurted onto his face, spotted his chest. The other hand groped blindly for something to defend himself...a rock, a stick... Found nothing, and his fingers dug into the grass as the cruel beak released him and snapped again.
A second vulture landed nearby, giving a harsh, croaking cry as it joined its companion. The ruthless head slashed down again and again, and Val's shriek echoed through the dry air as black oblivion engulfed him.