Sunday Sample – Sovereign of Shadow, Chapter 1

Working on my baby right now, Sovereign of Shadow. This is the second half of chapter 1. This one’s a little rough around the edges and still needs some polishing. If you haven’t read the first half yet, you can find it here:

Sovereign of Shadow – Chapter 1, Part 1

Enjoy!

*****

Galan’s outta prison…. 

Kieran tried to swallow the lump in his throat.

Just then, a loud crash shook the entire house. Shouts and rattling echoed from the ground floor, and he heard the telltale clank of armor against stone barreling up the stairs.

Shit. Kieran stashed the skull away and whirled to escape through the window. He tossed back the curtains, only momentarily surprised to find it already unlocked.

Galan had set him up. He’s probly waitin’ fer me outside, ready ta put a bolt in my heart.

Still, Kieran would rather take his chances at outrunning the man he’d put behind bars than tangle with the law.

He pushed open the glass panes and rolled over the windowsill onto the balcony just as a group of shouting guards streamed into the room, exclaiming over the woman’s body. A female voice barked orders, but Kieran didn’t stick around to hear them.

Using the wrought iron bars surrounding the narrow balcony, he sprang up to catch hold of the ledge above him. Below, a man poked his head out of the window. A gauntleted hand shot up and wrapped around Kieran’s ankle, leaving his legs dangling in the air. He aimed a kick at the man’s wrist. The guard growled, but didn’t let up. Kieran’s arms trembled as he fought to maintain his grip on the iron bars.

Kieran’s strength flagged. His arms weakened. His hands lost their hold for a moment and he slipped downward, barely able to regain his grip.

In a last effort, he hooked an elbow around the bars and let go with one hand. He reached into a pocket on his tunic and pulled out a tiny glass sphere, flicking his wrist to send it smashing into the floor below the window. The liquid within the sphere reacted to the air, and a billowing cloud of thick mist engulfed the guard.

The guard’s grip faltered and he looked down in alarm. A heartbeat later, his head sagged and he folded over the windowsill, arms dangling free.

Not wasting any time, Kieran heaved himself up and over the third floor balcony and scrambled for the roof.

As he pulled himself the rest of the way up, a sharp sting hit him in the upper arm. Intense pain flared through his shoulder.

Kieran grunted, but held onto his focus. He sprinted along the rooftops, glad for the decorative bridge-like arches that connected the buildings. For a short time, he could hear guards running along the street below, shouting at him to stop. It didn’t take long to outrun them, though; they had the twists and turns of the streets to contend with.

He glanced down at his burning arm to see the end of a crossbow bolt jutting out. He left it there, not wanting to leave a trail of blood leading straight to him. He hoped the bolt belonged to a guard. If it was one of Galan’s shots, the poison would kill him in moments.

By the time he worked his way through the Outer Circle and into The Dregs, fatigue shook his legs and his arms hung limp with weakness. Briefly, he considered hiding out overnight until he was sure no one was following him; he certainly didn’t want to lead anyone back to his hideout. And it seemed Galan had been watching him.

Ultimately, he decided it would be best to risk heading straight home. The wound in his arm needed his attention sooner rather than later to avoid permanent damage.

The stench in the back streets of The Dregs of Midcity assailed his nostrils and he gagged, fighting down the rising nausea. That could have been as much from the pain as the odor, though. Every movement, every twitch in his arm sent searing agony through his shoulder. He gritted his teeth and jumped from the last rooftop on the street to the stone wall surrounding the city. His awkward hop nearly sent him over the far edge.

Eyes wide, he righted himself and took a few deep breaths until he felt steady. He lowered himself down and hung off the wall with his good arm, letting go to drop down the rest of the way. His exhausted legs couldn’t hold up his weight and his knees gave out. He rested in the cool cushion of grass, trying to breathe through the pain, trying to calm his racing heart.

Galan’s outta prison. The thought ran through his mind a hundred times. He pulled the little skull out of his pocket, staring at it as if it were Galan himself.

How? He was supposed ta be in there fer the rest of his life.

Kieran balled up his fist and pounded the ground. A barrage of memories raged through his mind, memories of working for Galan as a child. The pain, the humiliation, the terror. Galan had freely exploited that fear in Kieran and other abandoned children, using them to do his dirty work.

He musta been watchin’ me. Fer how long? Long enough to plan a set-up. Did he know where Kieran was hiding out?

Though, if Galan really wanted me ta get caught, I wouldna gotten away. He’s got other plans fer me.

Kieran gritted his teeth, heaving himself back up to standing. Keeping as much to the shadows of trees as he could, he made his way to the abandoned watchtower just east of Midcity near the river. The sight of the crumbling structure filled him with some relief. He didn’t know what had originally destroyed it, or why no one had bothered to repair it, but as long as it remained forgotten he didn’t care. The ruined tower had become his home.

Kieran ducked into a narrow hole between two fallen stones – a makeshift door, as the real entrance had collapsed upon itself. Cutting away his shirt, Kieran gripped the end of the crossbow bolt. He filled his lungs with air and pulled, snarling as he eased it out of his arm. When it came free, fresh blood trickled out of the hole. He inspected the tip, noting the lack of barbs. The fact that he was still alive told him it was a guard who had shot him. Either that, or Galan was toying with him.

He flung the bolt away, sending it careening off the far wall with a twang. He poured an entire flask of water into the wound, then wrapped a strip of his shirt around it as a bandage.

Gotta see Lilyana tomorrow. The alchemist would have something for his wound.

Kieran longed to jump in the nearby river to wash off the sweat and blood, but exhaustion tugged at his mind. He leaned his head back against the wall and shut his eyes.

Galan would pay. He’d pay for destroying Kieran’s innocence as a boy, and he’d pay for trying to frame him for murder.

Galan’s reign was over.

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