Here’s an excerpt of my fantasy novel, “Sovereign of Shadow,” chapter 1. Just a bit of a teaser. I’m so excited about this book. Comments welcome. Enjoy! =)
Darkness. Silence. The wealthy Inner Circle of Midcity slept. Only guards roamed the paved streets at this hour.
Or rather, guards and a lone thief weaving his way through the paths of their endless patrol.
Kieran Lazaran padded down a narrow alley. His soft boots made no sound as he crept through the shadows. He stopped at the opening into the street, poking a single eye around the corner, just enough to spot his target: An extravagant house of white stone that stood proudly at the far edge of the Inner Circle. Listening for approaching guards, he climbed up the side of the building using the windowsills and drainpipes. He followed along the connected rooftops of shops, inns, and homes until he got to the end of the street.
He looked across at the house, a full story higher than his perch on a baker’s shop. No light shone through any of the windows, and the lack of a carriage out front confirmed that the husband wasn’t home; he was rarely home, for that matter. Kieran had been watching the house and the couple that lived within for several weeks now.
In the Inner Circle of Midcity, the closer one got to Town Hall in the center, the more guards patrolled the streets. Here, two pairs of armored men crossed paths. Several more dotted the streets at stationary posts, one of which leaned heavily on the ornate fence just outside the white stone house. The sentry opened his mouth and yawned into the back of his gauntlet.
Gettin’ tired, are we? Kieran smirked, his mask pulling tight around his face. He’d timed his outing well. This group of guards were all nearing the end of their watch.
When the patrol passed again, Kieran swung his legs over the alley and dropped down silently onto an awning. From there, it was an easy jump to the ground. He rolled to absorb the impact and pressed his back against the far wall.
Their alleys are cleaner than the streets in The Dregs. He shook his head, eyeing the pristine cobblestone, particularly noting the lack of garbage, sleeping forms, and things that scurried. Using the back street, Kieran moved out of the guard’s range of view and darted across, coming around to the back of the white house.
Now, the hard part. Kieran used the wrought iron fence to vault up to the balcony on the second floor. He peered into the window through a crack in the curtains, but the darkness made it near impossible to see inside. Pressing his ear to the door, he detected only silence.
He reached down and eased a thin, hard case out of a pocket on his thigh. Examining the lock on the door, he opened the case and chose several different lockpicks, sticking the ends of them between his lips as he tried them one by one. Finally, he felt the proper resistance and pulled, a faint clunk pricking his eardrums. He returned the case back into its pocket.
Hoping the doorknob of a rich couple’s home would be well oiled, he gripped it and opened the door. A floral aroma wafted out onto the balcony, fresh and pleasant. In one smooth motion he slid inside and shut the door behind him, immediately crouching as low as he could while he gave his eyes time to adjust to the darkened interior.
Blinking, he looked around. He appeared to be in an empty bedroom, likely used only for guests. A vase of fresh flowers on a table near the balcony door explained the scent.
Kieran crept around a bed large enough to fit three people, his knife rasping softly as he drew it from its sheath. He wanted to be ready; a wealthy family like this was bound to have some sort of security in place.
Just hope it’s not a dog. Hate dogs. He pressed his lips together, remembering the lumbering mastiff from his last jaunt to the Inner Circle. Though he’d been watching this house for days now and hadn’t once heard a bark, so he was counting on a more human type of security. That, he could handle.
Poking his head out into the hallway revealed a polished wooden banister carved to resemble a twisting vine. No one stirred below on the ground floor. His eyes darted around, making a quick note of all possible escape routes.
He sent mental thanks to those who constructed the house for the stone stairways; wood had a tendency to creak at the worst possible moment. He ascended to the third floor and passed two more empty bedrooms until he reached one that looked lived-in at the end of the hallway. The door stood wide open, the massive canopy bed untouched.
The silence had become oppressive. Where was the wife? Had she gone with her husband this time? She never had before. They weren’t a particularly close couple, judging from his observation of various young men coming and going while the husband was away.
And surely a house like this would have a guard. A servant, at least. Or better locks.
A tingle ran up his spine, stirring the hair on the back of his neck. Something wasn’t right. He drew his other knife and slipped into the room.
Where before he had surveyed lavish jewelry in decorative boxes and stands lining the tables and armoire, now the surfaces were bare. He’d specifically chosen this house because the wife insisted on wearing a small fortune in jewelry every time she went outside. She might as well paint a bullseye on her back.
I know this is the right house. Been studyin’ it for weeks. There’s that ridiculous hat she always wears.
Kieran squinted at a dark stain the size of a dinner plate on the rug in front of the armoire. He knelt to inspect it.
He shot to his feet. Blood. And more of it dripped through the crack at the bottom of the armoire door.
His ears pounded and dizziness prickled across his scalp. He slowly turned the tiny knob of the wardrobe and pulled. Something thumped against the door, pushing it wide open. Out tumbled a once-handsome older woman, her naked skin slashed and bruised. Some of the cuts still oozed blood.
Kieran drew in a sharp breath and touched the back of his gloved hand to his mouth. He bent over to prop himself up on his knees. The woman’s lifeless eyes stared at him, accusing him. Her face seemed a frozen mask of terror. He searched the room thoroughly for anyone hiding out, but nothing else seemed out of place. The room was empty.
He swallowed and bent to give the woman’s wounds a closer look. They were placed at high bleeding points – her wrists, neck, and thighs. With that many cuts, and some of them deep, she probably bled out quickly. But the bruises suggested more of a struggle. On examining an ugly, purplish splotch encircling her wrist, he caught sight of something nestled in her curled fingers.
Trying to ignore the blood, he pinched the whitish object from her palm. His heart dropped to his knees, head reeling as he recognized it. A tiny carved skull with a wicked grin, no bigger than his thumbnail. It was something he’d seen before more times than he would have liked. Something he’d hoped to never see again.
Galan’s outta prison….