"This book is fantastic. I am impatiently awaiting the next book in this series. There is so much going on in this story it is like a grade 6 white water rafting excursion. Betrayals, conspiracies and truths are revealed throughout the journey of two who were once intimate but have been leading lives not truly known to either."- Amazon
Armed with the voracious sword Frostburn, court slayer Regel Winter once shed the blood of countless foes in service to Orbrin the Winter King.
But even the coldest steel cannot save those Regel loves: his beloved Princess Lenalin, her daughter Semana, and the Winter King himself, felled by treachery five years ago.
Barely an echo of the man he was, Regel forges a pact with the assassin who slew Orbrin, setting out on that will change the face of the World of Ruin.
Act One: ShadowsFive Years Previous—the Burning Man Tavern—Ruin’s Eve, 976 Sorcerus Annis
Sizzling rain cut into the Burned Man’s roof. The corroded metal held for now, but in time it would buckle under the acidic rain and collapse in a great sigh of surrender. Such was the way of Ruin.
At the table in the corner, the King’s Shadow sheltered under his gray cloak and cut a ribbon of golden wood from a carved jackal that fit in his palm. The artistry that went into such a delicate piece was impressive, honed over decades of service to the City of Winter. Its snout curled almost in a smile, after the fashion of that beast, but he did not share its mirth. The figure was nearly finished, as was the task for which he had made it. He focused upon its rough fangs and let his mind and senses wander free.
Paeter Ravalis sat across the way, flushed and swollen, bristling with the red hair that marked his Blood. Around the crown prince sat four of his boon companions, lesser lordlings of weaker Bloods allied with the Ravalis: Saras, Rolan, Vortusk, and one he did not recognize. They had employed about a dozen fresh-faced lads and lasses for hire to blanket their laps and table in young, smooth flesh. It was hardly strange on a fate-cursed Ruin’s Night to spend the darkness in revelry and celebration of continuing life. In hiding from Ruin on its own night, the living indulged in all those things that the Children of Ruin feared, and love was one such. The lordlings were pleased, one and all, but for Paeter Ravalis.
His smile once had commanded legions, but Paeter scowled more these days than he smiled. Perhaps a part of his once keen mind recognized how far he had fallen: a warrior prince become a beast, lounging among slaves and ale. The wrinkles edging his eyes that many had once thought intriguing had become sagging folds of weathered skin. Beneath his jaw, a livid ridge of scar glowed in the ruddy candlelight along the left side of his throat. Paeter would find no love this night, and from his face, perhaps he knew it. Outwardly, he cared nothing for his crumbling world, but inwardly, he was in pain.
Regel Frostburn—the King’s Shadow—nursed a tankard of ale and watched through his expanded awareness. He took in the minutiae of Paeter’s presence: his appearance, his depth of drink, which saleable flesh he eyed most. No—this was not even honest prostitution. The Ravalis had introduced slavery to Tar Vangr, and treated all who lacked a name as bodies they either owned or had yet to purchase. Even those who had bought a name through good works or earned one through bold action meant little in the Ravalis’ eyes, and Paeter was the most contemptuous of the Blood. He insulted, belittled, and took anyone he wanted without consequence.
Regel’s hands trembled, and he told himself he had come not to kill a man so much as put down an animal. A rabid jackal.
It was not long before the red-haired lordling selected one of the slaves to take upstairs: a blonde stickling who wore childish timidity like a mantle. She had a forgettable peasant’s face, but her pale hair and her age reminded Regel of his beloved Lenalin—as she had been when Paeter murdered her.
Ten years, Regel thought. Ten years, and so he honors her.
Pity for the slave coiled in Regel’s heart but he forced it away so he could focus. He counted their steps: twenty on the stairs, eight on the landing above. Regel heard the slave’s nervous voice, and Paeter’s deeper, commanding reply. A door opened and closed.
The memory came to him of Ovelia from not three hours earlier. He saw her, naked and pleading, her taut body framed against the sweaty, black-sheeted bed. He hated her, yes, but also—far more—he hated what this man had done to her.
“How many, Prince?” he asked under his breath. “How many must you take from me?”
He closed his hand around the jackal figurine and put it back in his belt pouch. He had needed it to feel out the room for a waiting snare. Now, he needed to feel nothing at all.
Regel counted to one hundred before he made his way up the stairs. The other powder-nosed noble scions were too interested in their wine and company to notice an old man shambling off to bed.
As he reached the floor above, he put his hand on the hilt of his ancient sword, shaped in the scythe-curved falcat style. The tales named the blade Frostburn, forged of steel so cold it seared flesh from bone. The magic was real enough: he felt the familiar chill within, drinking life from his flesh. Crafted for harvest, the Deathless called this blade—for reaping the yield of Summer. And that was exactly what it would do this night.
“Let this be the last life this steel ends,” he prayed. “Let his be the last.”
About the author:
I am a speculative fiction author, mostly writing fantasy, science fiction, and some mix of the two. I'm probably best known for the Forgotten Realms series SHADOWBANE (the tale of a thief turned vigilante paladin, sworn to a dead god), as well as a growing body of short stories in various anthologies and available for download on the web. (Seriously, check my website, it's pretty awesome.)
I am also a known quantity in the gaming industry, designing for the legendary tabletop RPG Dungeons and Dragons as well as other systems.
When I'm not writing, gaming, or more writing, I compose technical documentation by day and fight injustice by night. I lives in Seattle and am married with pets.
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