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A Double-Edged Sword

A Double-Edged Sword

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A Double-Edged Sword

407 Seiten
6 Stunden
Feb 26, 2016


In 1339 AD in the country of Sunrisen, Antony Scott of Westridge is mysteriously murdered while his party is visiting the Ravehaven province. The only clue besides a dagger wound Ravehaven’s lord, Randall Halle, discovers on the body are two apparent bite marks. As Randall investigates the possible motive behind Antony’s murder, he learns it was only part of a much larger plot; one that involves thought-to-be-legend vampires and even himself.

Vera Yate from The Sisters territory learns of Antony’s death and becomes determined to find the truth when she and her brother are attacked by a member of the undead on a rainy night. With a small band, she journeys to find the one person who could provide information on vampires; strangely a Benedictine monk.

Meanwhile, a girl named Emma Savage is abducted by strangers alongside others; including what’s revealed to be a vampire named Lewis. After escaping but suffering a mortal wound, Lewis turns Emma into a vampire spawn in order to save her life, but abandons her shortly afterwards. She is left in the hands of a vampire clan; causing her to struggle with deserting her simplistic, past life as a farmer’s daughter and embracing the present moral and emotional difficulties of surviving as a vampire. All the while, Emma’s past captors continue their pursuit of her.

Feb 26, 2016

Über den Autor

J. Walker, starving writer here. I got this idea in my head that you may want to read my novels. Crazy, isn't it? But feel free to cater to my wishful thinking. And don't forget to tip your authors. Wink.


A Double-Edged Sword - J. Walker




Book 1

By Jason Walker

©2016, Jason D. Walker

All rights reserved.

Smashwords Edition

Table of Contents:

01. Ravehaven

02. Feral Lands

03. The Sisters

04. Ravehaven II

05. The Veering Forest

06. The Sisters II

07. The Veering Forest II

08. Ravehaven III

09. The Sisters III

10. Grotoya

11. Feral Lands II

12. Wanderer’s Web

13. Feral Lands III

14. Crestfall

15. The Veering Forest III

16. Crestfall II

17. Grotoya II

18. Feral Lands IV

19. Crestfall III

20. Feral Lands V

21. The Sisters IV

22. Feral Lands VI

23. Grotoya III

24. Ravehaven IV

25. Grotoya IV

26. Grotoya V

27. Feral Lands VII

28. Redway


Randall Halle was running through a thick grass field. It was all so vivid. The sun was setting in the west. The wind went through his hair and stimulated his scalp with a cool sensation that was engrossing on such a hot summer day. Far from home, he felt a type of peace rush over him; a type of fulfillment out of life, and a feeling that was almost forgotten in civilization. There was euphoria to being saturated by birds, untamed grass, large trees, and the self-sufficiency of pursuing an animal for the kill and feasting on what you sow. Randall would only get that type of bliss otherwise in late autumn and winter when the snow would fall over Ravehaven. Out in the wild, there were no rules; no demands but what truly mattered, and that was survival. There were no expectations as a lord’s son; no social customs that had to be observed. Nothing was provided for you. You provided for yourself.

Leaving home abruptly was wrong, he knew. His father, Lord Jacomus Halle, had often instructed him that some of the household guard should accompany him if he were to leave Ravehaven to hunt. But he just wanted to explore, and he was no child. He was 13 years old. How could he be expected to explore with a bunch of bearded guards eyeballing him? A note had been left telling everyone of his plans to go hunting for just a few days.

Soon it would be dark but he had nothing to fear. Not so long as his brother was with him. Kevin, his elder by 2 years, had a keen insight of the wilderness that Randall could only hope to emulate. The two were inseparable and Randall made every effort to mimic his older brother. Kevin had frowned at the prospect of going off unsupervised.

You’re still a boy, Randall, Kevin had said. Father is going to be furious with us if I just take you and run off.

But you’re leaving for Pinecreek in a fortnight, Randall had reminded him. We may never get a chance like this again. If you truly are going to be betrothed to that Cheyne girl... He corrected himself. I mean Alice Cheyne. We may never get an opportunity like this again. Please, Kevin.

And so they went. It wasn’t likely that their father would have sent men out to get them; at least not yet. The note said they would be back in 2 days, and Kevin always kept his promises. He knew he was the heir to Ravehaven’s responsibilities, and wasn’t about to lie after abducting his little brother for an endeavor in the outdoors. Lord Halle had enough trust and respect for his elder son not to retrieve him like a boy wandering too far from his mother. Their father often put on something of a show for their mother’s sake, but Randall knew he understood and would again. There would have to be a punishment, but nothing near as bad as the one mother would give if it was up to her. No doubt she would be frantic though. Women couldn’t understand this side of men; the predatory side, and the drive for adventure.

Randall was a follower; especially out in nature beside Kevin. Kevin made all the core decisions; what they would hunt, how they would hunt it, where they would go, where they would sleep, which plants were edible, etc. Kevin had confided that he sometimes envisioned just staying out in the wild. He knew he had to do his duty for his family’s sake, but at 15, didn’t feel ready for betrothal. And lordship was a responsibility vastly different than what was expected in the woods outside Ravehaven and beyond.

Randall would laugh. You want to be a hermit, Kevin? That’s a vast reversal from a lordship. Despite the jokes, Randall understood his brother’s torn feelings.

Lord Halle! A voice cried.

The world started fading. The boys wandered into previously unexplored territory. As the sun was setting, Kevin spotted something.

What’s that? Randall questioned. They started approaching the sound, bows raised and–.

Lord Halle! A voice repeated. The vivid images faded as Lord Randall Halle came back to consciousness and lifted his head from the bed. Someone was shaking his shoulder. It was now 1339 AD again, and the visions of his dream that a few seconds ago had been his world were immediately forgotten.

What is it?! Randall said in an anxious tone; startled from his sleep. His slumbering wife beside him, Lindara, was immediately startled as well. As his eyes cleared, he saw Sir Jasper Funteyn standing before him with a distraught look on his face. A man of average height in his mid-20s with brown shoulder-length hair and a thin blackish-brown beard, Sir Jasper was a knight and head of his household guard. Ravehaven wasn’t a very large hold but it commanded a strong enough garrison behind its walls to hold most armies at bay if needed. Many men acted as reserves. The household guard’s duty on the other hand was the protection of the Halles. The lords’ keeps were often protected by walls. Each land settlement had its lord appointed by the kingdom as vassals. The lord was the ruler of a varied stretch of land but could oversee smaller lords below them. All owed fealty to the crown.

Jasper spoke up. Beg your pardon, my lord, for disturbing your sleep.

What is it? Randall repeated.

I’m sorry, but perhaps we should speak outside. There’s no reason to trouble Lady Halle with this at this hour.

Randall considered. Yes, very well. Give me a moment to dress.

Of course, my lord. Sir Jasper left the room.

Randall! Lindara cried.

It’s fine. It’s not something that should concern you, I’m sure. Randall started getting dressed. It was a cold, November evening and he was leaving his fireplace. Go back to sleep. I won’t be long.

It’s the middle of the night.

He must think it’s important. Just please go back to bed.

He shuffled past a wooden family crossbow ornamenting the wall into the corridor. As Randall was leaving, he thought to himself, Probably some issue with Bethany Ryall again. A few moments and I can go back to bed. But as the grogginess of sleep left him, he couldn’t understand why the old crone would leave Jasper so anxious. Jasper was waiting in the hall next to a mount of a stag that hung above.

You better have damn good reason for crying my name in the middle of the night, Funteyn. What is it? The Ryall woman again? My wife and I were sound asleep.

Forgive me, Lord Halle, Jasper said. I thought you should be told at once. There has been a murder.

A murder? Randall thought. There had not been a murder in Ravehaven for years. Randall, who in some respects was still green when it came to lordship, had only passed judgment on a murderer several times in the years he was a lord. Once it had been a drunkard who had beat his wife to death after gambling away his livestock. Another had been over a fight in a brothel over a whore. Lord Randall had learned that alcohol and poor tempers could prove a deadly combination. Both murderers had gotten a noose. But overall, Ravehaven was peaceful territory. It was remote but brought the envy of some of the more populated cities. Ravehaven didn’t have to deal much with crime in general. Many duties of lordship dealt with land disputes, tedious crop tax, occasional poachers, and sometimes thievery. Even those punished got a milder sentence than some other territories. Pinecreek, for one, had an awful reputation regarding the treatment of some of its prisoners. And although torture had been condemned by the church in 866 AD, it was still a common practice; especially on the lowborn. Luckily, he had never been put in a position where it was necessary, and hoped to never be.

Who was it? Randall questioned.

That died? It was Lord Antony Scott.

That brought a chill. Antony Scott was no true lord in truth. He was the first son and second born of Jacob Scott, the deceased brother of Brandon Scott II. Brandon Scott II was the lord of Westridge; a city to the east of Ravehaven ironically. The two regions had often dealt in trade through the centuries; even joining through marriage. Antony Scott was a young man of 22 who was visiting Ravehaven with a fairly large host to negotiate trade with a hidden agenda of arranging a betrothal for Halle’s daughter, Susan. She had been fond of Antony, but the likely candidate had been Mitchell Scott, Antony’s younger brother.

Funteyn continued, That’s why I wanted to speak with you at once. The circumstances were bizarre and...

Randall’s mind was elsewhere. Who did it?

We don’t know, my lord.

Antony came with a garrison of twenty men. How could this happen, and under my roof? Do you know how this will look? Not only will our reputation be slighted, but tensions with Westridge will...

I don’t think it will come to war.

No. That had occurred to him. He didn’t think a murder by someone who was likely some baseborn drunk would bring the swords of Westridge down on them. It was still likely to be a political mess, and certainly could dampen relations with the crown.

Halle and Jasper left the keep; stepping out into the yard. It was completely dark outside but for the moonlight and a few torches hung by various homes and walls. Without the knowledge of the murder, it would have seemed like a normal evening. There was no commotion as most were still asleep and those involved with the investigation were some distance away.

Randall asked, Who found the body?

Two of the villagers. The Rede brothers, I think. They were returning with a slain deer when they found him.

‘I’ll talk to them too. He wasn’t optimistic. Where’d they find him?"

By the lake.

Randall paused. "You mean he was outside the walls?!"

Yes, they were bringing back a deer from the woods when they spotted his body more than a hundred feet from Ravehaven. They went to him to see if he was alright and saw the blood.

The front gate was a few hundred feet from his living quarters. It entailed two large wooden doors roughly twenty feet high and thirty feet wide. The wood showed great signs of age but was still a sturdy thing. Normally, it was closed at night with guards on the walls which towered over the door at a height of over thirty feet. These walls were made of cob and surrounded the entire town. They passed through.

Randall Halle began to wonder if anyone had noticed Antony Scott leaving. Surely the porter, a watchman, or a guard must have. And if so, perhaps they saw the killer as well. There was another, smaller door on the opposite side of the town. This was meant as a last resort retreat from invaders and to make a siege more difficult. There was also a secret exit; one passed down from the Halles of old. Thankfully, the knowledge had not been lost over time. But no one knew of that besides his wife and himself. It was crucial to limit how many knew of it, and the family tradition was that two would know of it at all times to reduce the chance of the knowledge becoming lost. Preferably, it was husband and wife who knew, and eventually the heir once either died. Not even Funteyn was aware of its location. Some believed it was just a myth, but Randall had used it several times in his life as a form of practice in case the situation ever occurred where he would need to use it for actual survival.

The more he thought about it, the more he was convinced that the guards had indeed seen the killer and would surely be able to identify him. It was no easy thing to open the doors, and at this hour, any exits would attract notice. Even if Antony Scott and the murderer did not leave together and the door was left open after Antony Scott left Ravehaven for whatever reason, someone likely would have taken notice of a second person leaving shortly afterwards. But his inner voice suggested, Unless they were outside the walls all along...

They were approaching the area of the murder; evident from all the torches in the distance. There was otherwise no light by the lake at this hour. Several of Antony’s kin were there surely, as well as a few of Ravehaven’s guards.

What was he doing out here in the middle of the night? Randall asked.

Considering he was murdered out here, my guess is he was here to meet with someone. I have no idea what for.

Randall’s mind was racing. His thoughts went back to the notion that the killer had been outside Ravehaven all along. This left two possibilities. Either the killer happened upon Antony by chance and killed him, or the meeting was arranged. But why would Antony meet with someone who was not even in Ravehaven and not tell anyone about it? And Ravehaven wasn’t a short trip from any town. Whoever was waiting outside the walls had to be from this region. They could not feasibly travel countless leagues just to have a conversation with Scott.

Halle decided, Either he came out here for reasons of his own; reasons that we may never know, or...

Or he knew his killer, and went out on his request. My men have already begun questioning everyone who came with him.

I want to speak to them myself. Antony Scott was of high birth. It wouldn’t do for Lord Randall Halle to go back to bed as Scott’s body lie cold on the grass while his guards interrogated people of much higher birth than themselves without supervision; all in the middle of the night. And his presence would help preserve their dignity.

We could question them forcefully, but-.

No... How would it look if he started performing rough interrogations on the kin of a highborn murder victim?

I didn’t mean the direct kin. Perhaps some of the retainers if we got the family’s permission?

They wouldn’t give permission for that and I’m not about to ask them for it. We will question them respectfully. Learn their alibis if they have any, and go from there.

I understand.

Halle approached Antony’s body and everyone around it. Jasper kept back a discreet distance. Pretty much all of Scott’s household guard that had come with him to Ravehaven were here. Most looked less than useless and were obviously loitering around out of duty rather than purpose. His close kin were also here and they seemed more grief-stricken. One of Antony’s cousins named Rachel Scott, a red-haired girl of 16, was by the body on her knees. Her face was solemn and she did not look up as Randall approached. A few of his own men were there as well; including Sir Harry Fogg. Fogg had been born in Ravehaven and had served his house since before Randall was even born, and Randall Halle was now 34. Harry likely could have been the captain of Halle’s guard had he desired it. Instead, it went to a man nearly 30 years his junior, Sir Jasper Funteyn, who was more ambitious in that sense. But no one could question Fogg’s loyalty.

Randall Halle noticed one of Antony’s aunts, Bethany Ryall. She sucked in her lips in a disapproving expression and Halle thought, Uh oh. The woman had been a pain in his royal backside since coming to Ravehaven. Her last insignificant complaint involved one of the villager’s dogs who would bark repeatedly at night.

Lord Randall said, I’m so sorry for your loss.

She snorted. Lord Halle. This is obscene. My nephew, butchered like a pig! How could this happen? What was he doing here? I want to know! I-.

Everyone is looking into that right now, said one of her household guards who put a hand on her shoulder. All those manning the walls are being questioned now. Captain Funteyn is seeing to it.

Bethany grimaced. Those men?! They were probably too drunk to see their own shoes. You think I don’t notice, Lord Halle. I may be old, but those heavy coats are being used for more than keeping them warm. They have enough space in there to hold a keg of mead. Her loud voice was startling in the otherwise ominous silence around the body, and was the only one openly angry; considering the circumstances.

Excuse me, my lady, Randall said with forced graciousness. He turned his back to her. Rachel Scott did not look up as he approached; continuing to stare down at her dead kin. Firstly, Halle had to see for himself what had happened. There would be time for questioning and bickering after, and preferably where it was warmer.

Antony Scott was lying on his back. Did anyone move him? Randall asked to no one particularly in the direction of several of the loiterers.

Harry Fogg responded. Yes. That villager, Mark Rede, I think, had to turn him. He was on his stomach with his face in the soil. They weren’t sure until they turned him over. That he was dead, I mean.

That could mean nothing or everything. It might suggest that Antony was killed from behind, or that he merely fell forward. He hated this. One clear look at the body under the torchlight showed the cause of death. There was a large wound on the right side of his neck. He wouldn’t even have had a chance to scream. The pool of drying blood around him clearly came from that wound.

An intuitive notion came. Randall spun. Is everyone here? I mean, is anyone missing? He had just realized that if the killer had been someone in Scott’s party, they may have run off after the murder; especially if the killing wasn’t planned.

The others looked at each other. Falk Elynbrigge, a red haired and bearded man of about thirty who came with the Scotts, spoke up. No... Everyone is here. Those who are not with us now are in their quarters. Everyone saw the body, I think. We’ll be sure to find out though. Falk asked the rest with futile effort, Was anyone missing tonight from our quarters? They slowly shook their heads.

"Are you suggesting that one of my own people murdered poor Antony?!" Bethany barked.

He’s just considering all options, replied Falk.

An outrageous implication, to be sure.

Jasper asked. Does anyone have an idea when he was killed? When was the body found?

Right before we told you, a guard said. That was when it was found. When Mark Rede told us, we came right to Sir Funteyn.

Randall walked over to the left side of the body. He sighed. So I suppose no one had mysteriously disappeared in the last hour?

We were sleeping, my lord, Bethany Ryall said sharply. "We were under the impression that everything was peaceful in Ravehaven. We presumed it was safe at night, and there wasn’t butchery occurring just a few acres away."

Halle was starting to lose his temper, but that was when something at the corner of his eye grabbed his attention. He moved closer to Antony and took a good look at his neck again. Faintly appearing were two small puncture marks on the left side of the neck. What the hell?

Sir Jasper, what is this?

Jasper came close. Sweet Mary. It looks almost like a bite mark. But it’s so precise. No animal bites so cleanly. I’ve never seen anything like it.

Fogg, have you ever encountered this?

Sir Fogg slowly approached and bent down. It’s like in the tales of the Blood Vanquishers-. He broke off.

Blood Vanquishers? Jaspered pressed.

Just something I heard as a child. Nothing to discuss here, I assure-.

...Vampires, a small voice said. The three men turned to Rachel Scott. It was the first time she spoke. Her eyes were still fixed on Antony. Just like the stories. She lifted her head up to them. Creatures of the night. They bite you on your neck. The men gave each other a perplexed look as if they were in secret acknowledgement that the girl had lost her wits.

"Even in the stories, vampires don’t kill their victims," Elynbrigge said with an inappropriate grin.

Bethany Ryall put her hands on Rachel’s shoulders. "Forgive the girl. She has witnessed a horrible, horrible thing. She’s not thinking clearly. Dear, step away from the body. You should return to your chambers." She pulled the girl to her feet and escorted her away.

The entire topic made Randall uncomfortable. He felt suddenly and obscenely vulnerable out here. Take it easy. There are a dozen people around you. He looked around. The walls of Ravehaven were a comforting sight to the south. But in the north, he only saw the dark woodlands by the lake. The absurd notion of someone or something watching from there chilled him. Halle only wanted to return home.

He knew that the more people there were in a conversation, the longer it would take for it to end of its own accord. A commanding voice was needed to cut discussion abruptly. Halle used that voice now.

I think Lady Ryall has the right idea. Let’s get everyone settled and bring the body back to Ravehaven. Has anyone checked around the walls? I hope so.

Yes, my lord. We’ve sent a few scouting parties to briefly check the area. Nothing unusual, I fear, a guard responded.

Yes, we’ll discuss this more in the morning. I’d like to talk with the Scotts however, but not out here. Randall took one more glance to the northern woods. He did not know what was happening here, but Randall never longed for the safety of Ravehaven’s high walls more than he did tonight.

Feral Lands

Emma Savage was jogging along a dirt road; involuntarily made over time by many human feet and horse hooves. If I keep running, my worries will be harder to think about, she told herself. All around her were tall grass and trees with the bright morning sun shining above. Even now in late autumn, Emma could almost mistake it for a summer day from the sky’s vast blue. She was already neglecting her duties but she just had to see Ivo. With a deceased father, and a mother and brother to support, Emma could not afford to skip her daily chores like this. It couldn’t be helped. After the fight with mother, the girl had to clear her head.

It all came back to Ivo. While it was common for peasant daughters to be wed in their twenties, if at all, Emma knew she was going to lose the boy she loved if she waited. Her mother just didn’t understand that. He’s going to marry another girl soon if I wait. And what prospect do I have to find someone else like him? In this world, it was a rare blessing to marry for love. It was like something in a song, and Emma loved songs. That was why she was carrying her lute with her although she had no business holding it; not with responsibilities that were already being ignored.

Mother had reproached the notion of wedding her 15 year old daughter to a butcher’s son. Her mother was reluctant; even though someone like Ivo was as good of a match as could be expected. It came down to the dowry, and the fact that Emma marrying so young would take away years of contribution to her family. She thought back to the last bits of their conversation.

I want to marry Ivo. I love him, the girl had said in tears.

Her mother was adamant. "Emma, marriages are not done out of love. They are done out of duty. And right now, your duty is to your family. In time, you will marry, and then it will be out of duty as well."

You just don’t want to see me happy! Emma had yelled back defiantly.

Do not talk that way to me, young lady. Her mother’s face had darkened. Ivo is a good lad but you two are behaving like this is a dream.

Stop judging us!

I’m not judging. I’m concerned.

You can’t be concerned without judging!

That was when Emma ran out of the house to do her morning duties; her large eyes filled with tears. Her relief would be outside in the sun away from the conflicts with family. At that moment, she had wanted to just leave that life behind. Her mother wished her to marry into a wealthy house yet had not arranged a betrothal. Nor could Emma’s mother afford a dowry to support this fantasy. Why shouldn’t she find a man herself?

Emma was approaching Ivo’s home and quickened her pace. It wasn’t a modest keep but more modest than her own. He was outside with a heavy sack over his shoulder. When he spotted her, his eyes widened and he dropped the sack onto the soil.

Ivo came forward and asked, Emma, what are you doing here?

She just ran into his arms; not saying a word. Her head was turned to the side against his chest as they hugged; hiding her tears. He was much taller than her. At first, he mistook their embrace for good news.

Does that mean your mother has agreed to-?

She let go and moved away. That was when he saw the tears. Emma wiped her eyes and said, No. She sniffed. I’m sorry Ivo. But mother won’t approve. I shouldn’t even be here. I have chores but... She paused and looked him in the eyes. I had to let you know. I don’t know what to do. I just wish-.

Ivo put his hands around her shoulders and brought her close. I’m sorry too, he said softly.

She wants to keep me in that barn forever like some horse, Emma said in a broken voice.

I’m sorry, Emma. But father is unyielding. He is prideful enough that marrying without any dowry would be considered an outrage. That and the taxes paid to Lord Harrison...

We could just run away, she said in a despairing voice. Her tone alone showed the futility of the prospect.

I don’t know what to say. But Emma knew his silent words. Our lives would only be worse. Would that be fair to our children? Where could we go? And we have to obey our parents.

Emma moved away with a hurt look as if those words were said aloud. I should not have come.

Emma, perhaps your mother will reconsider-.

Savage cut him off. "I have to go. I have ...duties." Grimacing, she turned and quickly walked away without looking back.

Why did I come here? It took far too long and for what? Somehow, she thought Ivo could fix things; that he could offer a solution or at least say everything was going to be alright, rather than just accepting it. Perhaps her mother would reconsider once she realizes how important this is to her. Ivo was not lost to her yet. No, not yet. Savage knew her family had some coin saved. Mother had to be convinced.

Emma was out of breath. She stopped by a tree and sat. The shade made her too cold though, so she moved away into the sunlight and sat cross-legged. The moving clouds above lifted her spirits a bit. Just leaving your home and stepping outside to see them could brighten anyone’s mood. She brushed her lute. Savage did not consider herself a good enough singer worthy of a bard. Yet right now, singing a song was all she could envision to get her mind off these troubles. Emma put her small hands across her old lute and sung My Rogue Prince.

My prince charming, soft and mellow

By what cruel fate you stray

For two are one and yet you linger there

Deluding my love for a dotty maid

She shook her head. It wasn’t a very good song in truth, and Emma could not even remember all the words. Yet it was the only one recollected that mirrored her emotions. Wiping the last of her tears, she sat up and continued her tread back. A cold breeze hit her face; forcing her long brown hair to dance in the wind. It will be winter soon, and here I will be, wishing I was somewhere else with someone else. Emma Savage was certain that she knew the exact course of her life for the next five years at least. She’d be miserably farming in the Feral Lands.

The Feral Lands were located in one the most inland parts of Sunrisen. What existed there was grassy plains, scattered forests, the keeps of small lords and a few great ones, and plenty of farmers and scattered commoners. Emma herself lived in the northeast portion of this area, but the greatest population of Sunrisen resided on the coasts; all but the northern due to the cold and lack of ship activity.

Continuing her walk, she looked to the east. Tremor Gorge was in that direction. It was the misshapen domain of the Harrisons; her lord and owners of the fief her family lived on. It was given that name because its form was said to be shaped by earthquakes. Emma grimaced. She had never even met Lord Guy Harrison, and yet the Harrisons’ presence had such an influence on her fate. How could that be? The girl knew of them though. From what she recalled from history, the Harrisons were up-jumped thieves at one point hundreds of years ago. It was maybe around 900 AD. Jamie Harrison was the first acting lord of that name. Before that, he was a landless criminal. He had gotten his wealth by robbing the Brents, who were once the lords in ages past. Apparently, this Jamie was expecting no more than a few family jewels, but to his astonishment, discovered some personal heirlooms of the crown. The Brents had been well associated with Kingdom’s Rise; having family in court and even wedding into the crown throughout history. Apparently, the Brents got very personal with their riches as well. Confronted with a decision, this brazen thief offered the treasures back to the king and was given a lordship; the very lordship of the lands he stole from. Replacing the Brents with the thief that robbed them was salt in the wound, she supposed.

Emma was nearing her family’s domain; a small farmland with some horses, sheep, chickens, dogs, and no opportunity. Much of the production from her family’s farm was given to those of better birth, as was the custom. None of her kin were in sight. It was time to begin her work. Savage sighed. Something caught her ear. In the distance, she heard the trample of hooves. Motionless, Emma watched as a group of men on horseback approached her from the east. Certainly, they were heading to Tremor Gorge and had lost their way. Two shooting stars say they will ask me for directions. She patiently waited as the group approached. It would be impolite not to. There were three men on horseback. They were clearly not merchants. There was no carriage, and the way they were dressed... Are they

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