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Shadow King
Time Of Shadows - Book Three
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ISBN-10: 1-77115-146-3
ISBN-13: 
Genre: Fantasy/SF/Dark Fantasy
eBook Length: 166 Pages
Published: December 2013



From inside the flap

Reports of a dragon spotted in the Crystalline Mountains has King Daemon on edge. He'd rather not believe it's true, but a confirmation from the High Priest is hard to ignore.

Del has a secret. One not entirely his own. A secret too dangerous to keep, yet one that if revealed could cost someone he cares for her life.

When a vision forces Rowlin to leave his home and the only world he's ever known, he has no idea what lies ahead of him.

Clayden realizes that to uncover the meaning of the words written in the book marked only with the name Spiros he must make a journey to a place he left long ago. A place to which he never intended to return.

As Prince Dominus' fourteenth spring nears, he dreams of being king. And if his mother has her way, those dreams may come true sooner than he thinks.

The wheel of time continues to turn and each step taken, each choice made, pushes them all inexorably forward down the path toward the Watchtower. For there will be war and neither gods nor men can stop it. The only questions that remain is where they will stand when the time comes and which side will win.

Shadow King (Excerpt)


CHAPTER ONE

Winter was nearly spent and spring fast approaching. The air was still crisp, but carried on it the promise of warm and sunny days and the snow had already begun to melt. Gray sky gave way to blue as the clouds rolled on, and in the castle gardens, birds had begun to sing.

Daemon wasn't taking the chance to leave the confines of the castle after the long, hard winter as he usually did; there was simply too much on his mind. First, there was the sad news of the death of King Hortios of Malfrey, though it wasn't the man's death that was troubling him. He'd only met King Hortios once and that was a long time ago. No, he was more upset over the thought of Prince Orton taking the throne. He worried that the new king might not be as understanding about the situation with Valeria as his father had been, for if Hortios had not told him, Gazella surely would have.

Perhaps Orton would seek to do what Daemon's marriage to Gazella had so long ago prevented and bring war to Phalindros. They were no better suited for it now than they had been fifteen springs ago and this time there would be no peaceful way out.

Then there was this ridiculous report of a dragon having been spotted near Kenner Pass in the Crystalline Mountains. It must be some kind of hoax as there had not been a dragon in Phalindros since the Watchtower War, and it was debatable whether or not there had even been any here then. But dragon or hoax, or perhaps something else entirely, it had people nervous and that was never a good thing. Nervous people expected their king to do something about the cause of their worry and Daemon had never been able to handle such situations. It was times like these that he missed his mother most.

A knock on the study door brought him out of his troubled thoughts. "Who is it?"

"Us."

A smile spread across Daemon's face as he stood from behind his desk. "Us? I'm afraid I don't know anybody by that name."

The sound of feminine giggles came from the other side of the door. "You know who us is."

"Well, if you're certain I know you," he stepped around in front of the desk, "then I guess you better come in."

The door burst open and Alida came running into the study with Spinner nipping at her heels. Daemon scooped the little girl up and twirled her around, eliciting yet more giggles. Spinner bounced up on his hind legs and barked enthusiastically, not wanting to be left out of the fun.

Evander entered the room more sedately than his sister had, but then he had always been a somber child, reminding Daemon of Clayden at that age. Though, in truth, his old friend had not changed much with time.

"What are the two of you doing inside on such a fine day?" He planted Alida on his hip and kissed the top of her head.

"I was going to ask you the same question," Valeria said as she stepped into the doorway. "You're usually the first one out once the clouds start to break."

Daemon laughed. "In other words, you think I'm working too hard."

She leaned against the doorframe, her smile bright enough to rival the sun, her long hair a dark waterfall across one shoulder. Time had not diminished her beauty in his eyes. "I think even a king sometimes needs a walk in the fresh air."

"Won't you come walk with us, Father?" Alida asked, gazing at him with her big blue eyes. "Please?"

"That is entirely unfair," Daemon said, setting Alida back on her feet. "Valeria, you should be ashamed to use a child so."

"Oh, I am. But if something works..."

They both laughed and Daemon felt the tension in his muscles relax. "Yes, all right. A walk may be just what I need."

"Yay." Alida ran out the door before them, followed close by Spinner and Evander.

Daemon joined Valeria at the door, sliding his arm around her waist. It was perhaps not as slender as it had been when they first met, but she was still a fine figure of a woman. "Is everything all right?" she asked, looking into his eyes. She always did have this uncanny way of knowing when something was bothering him.

"King Hortios died."

"Should we be worried?"

"Not today." He kissed her lips. "Today, we enjoy our children. There'll be time enough tomorrow for worry."

"Then we best hurry, else the children will be long gone before we even get outside."

The children and the puppy were waiting for their parents on the porch, and together the five of them started out across the front courtyard. The day was bright and fairly warm, reminding Daemon that the Spring Festival was not far off. Somehow, it made him think off his first festival as king, how nervous he had been, how afraid that he would forget the words of the speech and disappoint his mother. He had presided over so many festivals since he could probably recite the speech word for word in his sleep.

"What do you find so amusing?" Valeria asked. "Care to share?"

"I was just thinking of my first Spring Festival as king. Do you think everyone could tell my heart was jumping around in my chest like a mad rabbit?"

"I only remember how splendid you looked standing up there, how passionately you spoke. You never looked more like a king than you did in that moment." She threaded her arm through his. "No, my love, you did not look nervous in the least."

Daemon wasn't certain he believed all that, but it was nice to hear her say it all the same. "Was that the moment you realized you were in love with me?" He'd asked the question mostly in jest, but Valeria seemed to take a moment to seriously consider her answer.

"I don't know," she said. "It's strange, but I can't recall when I started to love you. It seems as if I always have. As if there was no life before you."

"I know exactly what you mean." Even as he said the words, he knew they weren't enough. But then he'd never been able to tell her how much she meant to him, to let her know that she had saved his life, that she was his life. He only hoped that in actions he could show her all the things he didn't have the words to say.

"Look at them." Valeria nodded toward the children, who were walking ahead of them hand in hand, Spinner at Alida's side. "I'm so glad at how close they've become, how they look out for each other. I only wish..." She sighed. "I so wanted to give us the big family we both wished for."

"Let's not talk about it now." It was a painful subject for them both. Daemon had hoped to fill the castle with children, perhaps to make up for the siblings he'd lost as a boy. It frightened him sometimes, to think of something happening to Evander or Alida, leaving the other alone in the world. He prayed they would never know such pain.

"Do the children and Dominus get along?" he asked.

Valeria looked at him with some surprise. "You don't know?"

"The boy never talks to me. I swear sometimes he seems as distant and impossible to reach as the moon."

"I don't think he spends much time with the children." Ahead of them, Alida broke out in a run; Evander and Spinner gave chase. "They've never said as much, but I think they might be a little afraid of him."

Such words pained him. "I had always hoped he could be a brother to them despite Gazella's influence, though in a way I suppose I knew that would never happen. But fear?" How could he have missed something like that? "Do they have good cause to fear him?"

"Absolutely not," Valeria said firmly. "He would never do anything to hurt them."

"Then why fear?"

"He's older than they are and you know how...intense he can be. I think they would like to have him for a brother, but he keeps them at arm's length."

"He keeps everyone at arm's length," Daemon said. "I worry about him. People need connections, even complicated ones." That made him think again of Clayden. He could not imagine a relationship more complicated than the one he shared with the High Priest. "He has none."

"I don't know about that," Valeria said. "He has Casson and Kaida Udall. The three of them have been near inseparable since they were babies."

"I suppose, but I'm not sure... I mean..." He sighed. He didn't know how to explain his concerns about his son and the two youngest Udall children when he didn't even understand it himself. "Maybe it's just that the Spring Festival draws near and soon Dominus will be a man."

Valeria squeezed his arm. "Dominus will be fine, you'll see. He's not a bad boy, just a bit too much like his mother."

Daemon nodded, giving her an absent smile. Yes, too much like his mother. That was the problem.