The River Kings' Road: A Novel of Ithelas
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A thrilling new voice in fantasy makes an unforgettable debut with this "intriguingly twisted tale of treachery and magic" (New York Times bestselling author L. E. Modesitt, Jr.). Liane Merciel’s The River Kings’ Road takes us to a world of bitter enmity between kingdoms, divided loyalties between comrades, and an insidious magic that destroys everything it touches. . . .
The wounded maidservant thrust the knotted blankets at him; instinctively, Brys stepped forward and caught the bundle before it fell. Then he glimpsed what lay inside and nearly dropped it himself.
There was a baby in the blankets. A baby with a tear-swollen face red and round as a midsummer plum. A baby he knew, even without seeing the lacquered medallion tucked into the swaddling—a medallion far too heavy, on a chain far too cold for an infant who had not yet seen a year.
A fragile period of peace between the eternally warring kingdoms of Oakharn and Langmyr is shattered when a surprise massacre fueled by bloodmagic ravages the Langmyrne border village of Willowfield, killing its inhabitants—including a visiting Oakharne lord and his family—and leaving behind a scene so grisly that even the carrion eaters avoid its desecrated earth. But the dead lord’s infant heir has survived the carnage—a discovery that entwines the destinies of Brys Tarnell, a mercenary who rescues the helpless and ailing babe, and who enlists a Langmyr peasant, a young mother herself, to nourish and nurture the child of her enemies as they travel a dark, perilous road . . . Odosse, the peasant woman whose only weapons are wit, courage, and her fierce maternal love—and who risks everything she holds dear to protect her new charge . . . Sir Kelland, a divinely blessed Knight of the Sun, called upon to unmask the architects behind the slaughter and avert war between ancestral enemies . . . Bitharn, Kelland’s companion on his journey, who conceals her lifelong love for the Knight behind her flawless archery skills—and whose feelings may ultimately be Kelland’s undoing . . . and Leferic, an Oakharne Lord’s bitter youngest son, whose dark ambitions fuel the most horrific acts of violence. As one infant’s life hangs in the balance, so too does the fate of thousands, while deep in the forest, a Maimed Witch practices an evil bloodmagic that could doom them all. . . .
though, and Albric couldn’t evade both at once. The second ghoul-hound battered past his shield and tore into his side; he felt, with a tingling sense of disbelief, its talons catch against his ribs and twist in deeper. It thrust its face in for a bite and he slammed his elbow into its nose, crunching the brittle dead cartilage and the top row of its teeth back into its face. The ghoul never flinched, never wailed. Its tongue curled up under the ruins of its smashed nose, flecks of cartilage
time, what she intended to do about the father. They’d simply accepted, with a grace and generosity that few others in Willowfield would have shown, that their grandson would have none. She’d hated Coumyn for that too: for putting such strain on her parents’ love because he had none of his own to give her. Now, though, that hatred was gone. He was dead by no fault of his own, and it was a crueler fate than he deserved. Remembering Coumyn felt like probing at a sore tooth that had fallen out and
dice and go.” Brys did. He took a short walk to clear his lungs of the tavern’s smoke and relieved his bladder in a dark alley, listening all the while for footsteps behind him. But Renshil never came out to take revenge for his humiliation and lost money, so Brys went to another tavern to cheat and be cheated again. Twice he repeated the pattern, and twice more his victims failed to confront him after he took their money, loudly accused them of fraud, and lingered invitingly in shadowed alleys
dribbled thin lines of red down his arms. Like the rest of his men, Cadarn ignored his wounds except to wipe away the blood if it threatened to slip up his grip. “They were busy looking to the wagon. They did not hear us, and they had no concern for who else might be near. By the time they realized their danger, we were upon them.” Leferic could only shake his head. Had Gerbrand been that confident that his provocation would go unpunished? Was that how contemptuous he was? All this while he’d
withstand heat better than the others, he tilted over the forge’s firepot. Then he checked his captive for brands, found none, and splashed a handful of water from the quenching barrel in his face. The man spluttered and shook the water away. He froze when he saw Brys watching him. “Who’re you? What do you want?” His accent was Langmyrne. “Someone you tried to kill. I want to know everything you do about what happened in Willowfield.” “What? Willowfield? I don’t know anything about—” Brys