“Stand up and drop the weapon.”
A long shadow stretched over the grass, followed by a second. Breton loosened his grip on the weapon and let it fall. Careful to step on the blade as he rose, he held out his hands to show he wasn’t armed.
A second robed figure emerged from the knee-tall grass, and the tip of a second arrowhead glinted in the sunlight. Breton ran his tongue over his teeth. The first stood close enough for Breton to reach, if he could avoid being struck.
The second man would prove the true problem. If Breton was hit — or if the archers missed him and hit Ferethian instead — he’d have more than his survival to worry about. While he needed to find Kalen, he didn’t want to lure the Rift King back to the Rift through death.
“That’s right. Easy now. Keep your hands where we can see them, Rifter.”
Breton glanced out of the corner of his eye at Ferethian. The Rift King’s horse stood rigid, the animal’s dark eyes staring beyond the two outsiders.
The pair of large shadows moved closer, and it took all of Breton’s will to stare at the two figures in front of him.
“Hands up higher, Rift King,” the man snapped.
Breton hesitated, glancing at each figure in turn. They thought he was the Rift King? He frowned and considered the two men. They didn’t exactly go out of their way to describe Kalen to anyone. However, he could recall a few missives talking about how unusually small the Rift King’s horse was. Had they learned of Ferethian, but not of the man who rode him?
The shadows solidified to the towering forms of black horses. The taller of the two Breton recognized from the familiar warmth in his chest born from being near his horse. Perin’s teeth were bared and both ears were turned back. The second horse was covered in river mud and dust, with black patches showing through.
Breton held his breath.
Ferethian lifted his hoof and struck the ground once. A chill ran through Breton. The two large animals took their placed behind the robed figures, their movements silenced by the ever-present hiss of the wind.
“Halter your horse,” the man ordered.
He lifted his hands to his shoulder to grab the ruined halter. Ferethian snorted and reared back, slamming both hooves down at the same time.
The outsiders fell to the heavy blow of hooves to the head. Angry squeals broke the silence, and Ferethian surged forward to trample the fallen, his long tail bannering.
Breton shivered, stooping to pick up the poisoned blade and the outsiders’ bows and arrows. One of them was carrying a small pouch tied to his belt. He grabbed it and tucked it away in a pocket. Pivoting on a heel, he left the bodies for the nibblers. The three Rift horses flanked him.
He hurried to where the Foristasa cut its way through the plains. The weapons vanished beneath the white caps of its waters. Perin draped his head over Breton’s shoulder and sighed. There was only one reason he could think of for outsiders to make their way to Blind Mare Run. They wanted the Rift King, dead or alive.
If the outsiders learned the truth of the Rift King’s disappearance, he didn’t want to think of the consequences. Breton knelt by the river’s edge and clucked his tongue at the horses. Perin came without complaint, letting him clean the blood from his legs.
The other two horses refused, as though unwilling to wash away the evidence of their devotion to the King no longer within the Rift.
He glanced in the direction of the bodies, shook his head, and headed back towards Blind Mare Run to call for the other Guardians.
Kalen’s throne is his saddle, his crown is the dirt on his brow, and his right to rule is sealed in the blood that stains his hand. Few know the truth about the one-armed Rift King, and he prefers it that way. When people get too close to him, they either betray him or die. The Rift he rules cares nothing for the weak. More often than not, even the strong fail to survive.
When he’s abducted, his disappearance threatens to destroy his home, his people, and start a hopeless and bloody war. There are many who desire his death, and few who hope for his survival. With peace in the Six Kingdoms quickly crumbling, it falls on him to try to stop the conflict swiftly taking the entire continent by storm.
But something even more terrifying than the machinations of men has returned to the lands: The skreed. They haven’t been seen for a thousand years, and even the true power of the Rift King might not be enough to save his people — and the world — from destruction.
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Genre – Fantasy
Rating – PG – 13
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