“Sometimes something is so absurd that it can be nothing but the truth.”
Kalen huffed a laugh. It was evasion at its best, and it told him more than he suspected the other man wanted him to learn. Marist had seen the sigil before, which put the young man in a role of power. As the Rift King, his role in the ongoing disputes between the Kingdoms was one that most didn’t like to think about.
Bully. Enforcer. Violent mediator. Monster needing to be caged.
That meant that while people were aware that a Rift King existed, few could recognize the mark or what his real role was. He’d heard some of the rumors about himself. Some of them were even accurate, but he didn’t have a taste for human flesh, despite common belief. After seeing so many dead men, he didn’t even like meat all that much anymore, not that meat was plentiful within the Rift.
He also didn’t share his bed with any of his horses, although he had to chase his stallion out of his study whenever the handlers didn’t manage to secure Ferethian’s stall door. It didn’t help that the small stallion was as clever as he was stubborn.
A surge of loneliness tightened his chest. Ferethian, Honey, and the rest of his herd was fine. If any one of them died, he’d know, just as he had known when Tavener had died so many years before.
Kalen stretched to hide the nature of his grimace.
“What would happen if you died here in Kelsh?” Derac asked him in a whisper.
Kalen pressed his lips together. It was an answer Derac wouldn’t like. He knew it, but gave it anyway. “They’d Ride.”
“I don’t understand.”
“You don’t want to know.” That much was the truth. It made him glad that he couldn’t hear the song of the ancestors like some could, but he’d been told even they stilled at the very mention of the Ride.
Marist rejoined them. “We can use the well in the back to clean off. They only had a few free rooms so some of us will have to share.”
“We’ll deal with it,” Derac said. “But first, time to get this filth off.”
Kalen nodded his agreement. The mud that wasn’t dried was sticky, and the mud that had dried cracked and pulled at his skin. The naked dagger bounced against the side of his leg with each step. While he had managed to slip the blade through one of the corded loops attached to his belt, it wasn’t the same as having a proper weapon at his side.
Maybe it was a good thing he’d lost his boots. At least he wouldn’t have to clean them. Marist led them around the building to a covered stone well ringed by trees. Kalen limped after them and watched as Derac and Marist went to work hauling buckets of water from the depths.
The other three, still nameless and refused to speak or look at him in the eye, helped at pulling up water. They didn’t ask for his help and Kalen didn’t volunteer.
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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