Strength, humility, speed, mirth, and wisdom are perfectly balanced in the kingdom of Fraun where council leaders make decisions in the best interest of all Fraunians. Meanwhile, young Princess Eselda is being groomed to eventually take the throne of Enchenda. But as her reign draws closer and long-held secrets are revealed, she realizes that her title comes with challenges she never imagined.
In Fraun, there are rulers who will kill to keep their secrets hidden; and rulers who will kill to change the council.
(review request submitted by the author for an honest critique)
Murder, mystery, deception, secrets, scandals, and a love triangle await you amongst the pages of Breaking Eselda.
Eselda’s life is not dull. As she prepares to take the throne, her life is bombarded with questions. Is she ready to rule Enchenda? Should she get married? Whom should she marry? Is she prepared to birth an heir to the throne?
Being in charge of a realm is a taxing job. There are so many decisions to be made. There’s also the worry of becoming dark and malicious around your 20th birthday.
In Breaking Eselda, a lifespan isn’t nearly as long as what we have in real life. At age marker ten, a royal individual reaches full height. When he or she reaches forty annuals, their hair turns gray, and their bodies begin to fail them. Death soon follows.
I wouldn’t want life to end this soon.
I also wouldn’t want to ride on a talking cockroach or eat earthworm stew. For sure, the only bug I would ever consider using for transportation is a Volkswagen Beetle. 😀
No, I like my bugs small, and my meals bug-free.
This book is labeled young adult, but even people with many years under his or her belt will find enjoyment with it as well.
Heart Rating System: 1 (lowest) and 5 (highest) Score: ❤❤❤❤
(review request submitted by the author for an honest critique)
Design-wise, Breaking Eselda and Redeeming Jordyn couldn’t be any different. Breaking Eselda’s cover is bold, eye-catching; whereas, Redeeming Jordyn’s cover is dull and lifeless. When you open up the books, you’ll notice the story setups are also vastly different. Breaking Eselda has zero double spacing between lines and paragraphs while Redeeming Jordyn was littered with them. If you placed these two books side by side, you’d swear they had two different designers and editors. I also found more editing errors in Redeeming Jordyn than its predecessor.
As for plot and execution, Redeeming Jordyn had its share of shocking developments. As with any war, people rose up to fight their oppressors. Blood was spilled, lives were lost, but it wasn’t all for naught.
Leaders emerged, hearts mended, and the land of Fraun has hope once again.
All in all, Redeeming Jordyn was an okay read. Was it as good as Breaking Eselda? No, but I would still recommend it to others. 😉
Heart Rating System: 1 (lowest) and 5 (highest) Score:❤❤❤
Tabatha is the author of the Kingdom of Fraun series,Projection, and 30 Days Without Wings. She believes strongly in the power of helping others and is always willing to help out a fellow writer or reader. Find and connect with her on whichever social media platform you love best.
Elise is a faerie who has experienced terrible heartache and just needs a change before she is forced to choose the path she will walk forever. She will risk everything for one chance at happiness. But is the cost of the risk more than Elise bargained for?
Here goes nothing. My shoes make a light tapping noise on the polished floor as I make my way across it. Normally you probably wouldn’t hear it, but the echo off the domed roof is deafening. As my heart thuds away in my chest I have to wonder if they can hear that too. Are they used to the children sounding nervous?
The elder who walked me in takes to the air instead, crossing the chamber in half my time. I watch her drop delicately into her seat, smiling at a few fae on either side of her. Flying was a good idea, I wish I’d thought of it.
I reach the middle of the room and stop. The man before me has so much gold on his wings you can no longer see any clear. It sends beams of light flying out in every direction around him, giving the impression that he is glowing. He has years of impressive service to this community. He wears a long white beard, but it doesn’t hide the youthful expression in his eyes. I wonder what this man does for our society.
I tip my head downward in greeting. “Thank you all for seeing me.”
“We are here today to allow Elise an opportunity to choose the path of her future. Today she will choose the direction of her training. Elise, today you will tell us what future will earn color in your wings. What say you?” the elder asks. His voice echoes through the chamber.
I swallow the lump that has formed in my throat. Here goes nothing. “Can I request a manifest period?”
There’s an audible gasp from a few of the elders assembled. They range in age, I know. Some are no older than me, really, but have shown themselves to be adept at their field. Each sector of our society, each job held, has an elder who presides over it. They are all here today to hear my choice. Evidently, this is not what they wanted to hear. My wings begin to flutter nervously. They are well within their rights to tell me no, although it’s not normally done that way.
“Well, yes child. This would allow you a one-month period to travel to other colonies and decide where you would like your future to play out.” He commands the attention of a few elders who have reverted to whispering in the back by clearing his throat. “I believe we are surprised, Elise, because this practice is typically reserved for fae who have family in other circles. To be blunt, my dear, we are all you have.”
“But I could be allowed to try?” I ask.
The man looks to his right. A beautiful faerie sits along the lowest row of chairs beside him, her wings sending off silver rays instead of gold. She is our leader. Once she chose her path, the change was instant. Her silver wings are rumored to have fully colored right then, in the prediction of service she would do. It is strange that she has been our leader for as long as anyone can remember, and yet she looks so young. Her face is thin, her eyes forgiving. Her long white hair reaches her waist. The hair tugs a little as she nods once to the speaker. My eyes immediately lock back on him.
“Yes, of course. We would need to see you again in one month’s time to hear your decision. You would be required to return for that second meeting and the decision you express at that time would be final.”
My heart flutters with the permission. I’m so close now. “That is what I wish, then. Thank you.”
It has gone dangerously quiet in the chamber again. All eyes are on me; I can feel them melting into my face. I gulp. They have to have the final word. It is not official until they speak.
The face of the speaking elder reveals nothing. He remains stoic. Finally, he nods once. “So be it.”
Tabatha is the author of the Kingdom of Fraun series,Projection, and 30 Days Without Wings. She believes strongly in the power of helping others and is always willing to help out a fellow writer or reader. Find and connect with her on whichever social media platform you love best.
Note from the author, Jeffrey L. Kohanek: A Kingdom Under Siege is available now through the Wardens of Issalia boxed set (see link below). It’s also available to purchase on its own in print format (see link below). Mark your calendars because on May 14th, you can download it to your e-readers.
~~ On sale for only $0.99 until May 10th! ~~
1,300 pages of MAGIC, SECRETS, INTRIGUE, and BETRAYAL ________________________________________________________________________ An enemy nation rises, fueled by subterfuge, assassinations, and fire-powered weapons. A team of young agents must infiltrate and eliminate this threat before all is lost.
Includes the COMPLETE Wardens of Issalia series — novels that combine forover 75 5-star Amazon reviews and 150 Goodreads 5-star ratings.
An enemy threatens the kingdoms of Issalia, bent on conquest with the desire to vanquish Chaos magic forever.
The Empire has returned. Assassinations, subterfuge, and betrayal have fueled a rapid rise to power – a rise backed by fire-powered weapons. This enemy army swells with superior numbers and threatens the western kingdoms of Issalia.
With King Brock gone, the domination of Issalia is merely a matter of time.
The wardens, agents from a clandestine organization known as ICON, work in secret to stop this radical enemy. Trained as spies, warriors, rangers, inventors, and magic-users, the wardens have successfully reduced the enemy threat, but by doing so, they leave the Empire no choice.
War is certain. The attack is coming soon.
The kingdoms must stand against the Imperial Army’s advanced weapons and superior numbers. The wardens and Chaos magic offer slim hope, but a leader is required to achieve victory – a legend whom many believe is dead.
Join the battle. The fate of Issalia hangs in the balance.
The ship continued to rock from side to side, the motion beginning to affect Brock as nausea set in. He opened his eyes, folded the map, and slipped it into his pocket as he made for the door.
Stepping outside, he found the sails filled with the gusting wind and the snow changed to a steady drizzle. Two ships ran even with the Razor while the other five in the armada trailed behind. To the port side, Brock then noticed another fleet nestled in a protected bay.
Brock turned and climbed the quarterdeck as sailors scurried about the distant narrow-bodied longships. “Ri Star? What are they doing down here?”
The Ri Starian crafts raised anchor, the oars at their sides moving the longships toward deeper water as the Razor and the trailing armada sailed past. Tenzi called for another sailor to take the helm while she dug out a tube with glass on each end. She aimed the tube toward the ships, looking through it as the Ri Starian vessels unfurled their sails.
With shock, she gasped. “Flash cannons! They plan to attack!”
Considering what he knew of Ri Star, Brock recalled his previous interactions with Queen Olvaria. In his two decades as King of Kantaria, he had only met Olvaria three times. Despite her polite exterior, Brock had always sensed a hard edge to the woman. She often argued that her queendom was small and lacked resources. If not for their diamond mines, Ri Star had little bargaining power when it came to trade.
With Ri Star consisting of nothing but Ilsands nestled in dangerous waters, they had naturally developed Issalia’s premier navy. Manned by tough, experienced sailors and a crew of oarsmen below deck, Ri Starian longships were the fastest in the world. Having those vessels armed with flash cannons was a frightening prospect.
A flash of green fire and a puff of smoke billowed from the lead Ri Starian ship. A boom followed, and a projectile hit the trailing vessel of the Torin armada, sending a blast of splinters into the air.
“This is bad.” Brock’s tone was grim. “Queen Olvaria has thrown her lot in with the Empire.”
Another longship fired, also striking the trailing Torin ship, this time near the waterline. The wounded vessel rocked, tilted to one side, and turned toward shore, but it was too late. The ship was sinking while sailors and passengers scrambled for the lifeboat.
“We have to stop them!” Brock put his hand on Tenzi’s shoulder. “Slow down so the rest of the armada can pass us.”
She turned back toward the enemy fleet. “Once we are in range, they are going to fire at us.”
“I know, but I don’t have a choice. Just trust me.”
“Fine.” With her face in a scowl, Tenzi bellowed out orders, sending sailors up the masts to lower the upper sails.
Brock leaped down to the main deck where he spotted Stein. The man stood at the rail watching the trailing ships, his attention shifting toward Brock as he drew close.
“Stein! I need you to run below deck and instruct the other arcanists to begin applying Reduce Gravity augmentations to the deck. I want a large rune drawn near the bow, one in the middle, and one near the quarterdeck. Have them stack augmentations.”
“Stack them? You know what will happen.” Stein’s expression revealed his doubt.
“Just do it.”
As Stein ran to the stairs and disappeared below deck, Brock darted back to Tenzi’s cabin. He burst in and searched the room, his gaze falling on the small, round table bolted to the floor. With his boot heel against it, he gave it a shove but it didn’t move. He then picked up the chair and swung hard. The chair smashed into the table, scattering broken wood pieces onto the bed and across the floor. Brock gripped the tilted tabletop and lifted, tearing it off the base with a loud crack. He then set the tabletop on the floor and began to carve a symbol into the wood with the tip of his dagger. Once finished, he picked up the tabletop and ran back outside.
The drizzling rain continued, driven by the wind and leaving the deck slick. Razor had fallen behind most of the fleet, and the last remaining vessel was nearly upon them. Stein and the nine other arcanists were on deck with a group at the bow, a group in the center, and a group right beside Brock, near the stern. A man in the nearest group hurriedly traced a symbol with a chunk of coal. The diameter of the rune was half the width of the ship.
“Be sure to get the symbol exact!” Brock warned. “A misdrawn rune will kill us all!”
Still clutching the three-foot diameter table, Brock scrambled up the stairs to find the Ri Starian fleet less than a quarter-mile behind them.
“Tenzi!” he hollered. “Raise the sails the moment you see this rune activate!”
Without waiting, he closed his eyes and embraced the anxiety of the moment. The raw and angry energy of Chaos surrounded him, and he drew it in as easily as drawing a breath. Within seconds, a raging torrent of raw power surged throughout his body, threatening to tear him apart. Brock opened his eyes and gazed upon the rune he had etched into the table. It flared to life with a fiery glow, and Tenzi commanded her crew to raise the sails.
Brock ran across the quarterdeck and, with a grunt, threw the tabletop toward the Ri Starian fleet. It spun like a disc, the charged rune etched in the wood pulsing and fading as the tabletop struck the water.
A boom and a blast of green flame burst from a cannon on the bow of the nearest enemy vessel, launching a metal ball toward Razor. The projectile hit just below the quarterdeck with a massive crack that sent Brock, Broland, and Tenzi stumbling. It smashed through the rear of the captain’s cabin and emerged out the other side, destroying the quarterdeck stairs in a burst of splintered wood.
“No! Not again!” Tenzi roared in frustration.
The floating tabletop then turned pure white and the churning ocean around it began to freeze. A thunderous crack came from the ice and it expanded in a roar of pops and snaps. The air over the center turned the drizzle to snow that thickened into a swirling localized blizzard.
Razor rocked and began to rise out of the water, sending those on board stumbling as the craft lifted upward. Brock leaned against the rearmost rail and watched the expanding ring of ice race toward them, far faster than the ship sailed. He glanced backward to see the Reduce Gravity runes on the deck, again pulsing with the next augmentation about to take hold.
“Come on. Just a little more lift,” he urged, nervous that the ice would reach them too soon.
The ship lurched and rose up higher, tilting as the hull came out of the water and the wind pushed against the sails. Broland fell into Brock, both of them rolling across the quarterdeck until they wedged against the port side rail. Tenzi held tight to the wheel. The sailors and arcanists toppled to the deck, many sliding across it before slamming into the rail. A sailor on the main mast slipped, spun, and dangled by a rope briefly before falling into the ocean.
Brock pulled himself up and peeked over the rail. The ice ring had expanded beyond their position, the ocean now a white, choppy, uneven surface of frozen waves. The trailing fleet crashed into the ice in a massive collision, damaging hulls and launching crew members overboard. The sailors who landed on the ice did not move.
As the Razor floated away, tilted at a hard angle a hundred feet above the ocean, the ice continued to expand. In the distance. Brock spotted a lifeboat from the sinking Torin vessel, fighting the churning waves as it headed toward land. Between him and the ship, the sea had become an island of ice, two miles in diameter. Ten Ri Starian longships were locked in the ice and would remain there until the augmentation expired. Even then, Brock suspected that most of those vessels were too damaged to make it to shore. Those ships will no longer be a problem.
“That was too close,” Broland said.
“I can’t steer!” Tenzi spun the wheel with no response. “The rudder is useless! We are drifting toward the cliffs!” She cupped her hands to her mouth and bellowed, “Lower the sails!”
Tenzi leaped off the quarterdeck and ran toward the main mast, which was unmanned. The sailors in the other two masts worked frantically to lower the sails while Tenzi scaled the main mast. Brock climbed his way up the angled deck to the starboard rail and looked down. They had passed most of the fleet with only the lead ship still ahead of them.
“Broland, follow me.” Brock leaped over the broken stairs and landed on the main deck, almost falling on the slippery, tilted surface.
With Broland following, Brock bolted to the closet beside the galley and opened the door to reveal three ballistae, three-foot long bolts, and long coils of rope. As the sails came down, the deck began to level, making it easier to stand.
Joely appeared beside the door. “What can I do?”
“Both of you, help me with this,” Brock said as he lifted one of the heavy ballistae.
Once the weapon was out the door, Brock returned to the closet, grabbed two coils of heavy rope, and threw one over each shoulder before scooping up a ballista bolt with a grappling hook on the end.
“Broland, Joely, Stein,” Brock said as he moved past them. ”Carry the ballista to the bow.”
As the trio scrambled to pick up the ballista, Brock looked up to find only the lowest sails still unfurled. The ship had slowed and leveled but was still headed toward the cliffs.
With Broland, Joely, and Stein in tow, Brock led them to the prow. The Razor was now even with the leading ship – the craft a few hundred feet to the starboard side and a hundred feet below them. Kneeling, Brock tied the two coils of rope together and then tied one end to a massive cleat normally used when docking. As he secured the other end to the eyelet on the ballista bolt, he issued instructions.
“Rest the ballista on the rail and hold tight.” He turned to Joely. “You know this weapon. We only get one shot. Make it count.”
Joely nodded, eyeing his target while Brock cranked the launch mechanism back, inserted the bolt into the ballista, and held on tight.
Joely tilted the ballista upward and moved it slightly to the right. He pulled the release trigger, and the bolt launched, the recoil sending Brock, Broland, and Stein stumbling to the deck. The coil of rope rapidly unwound as it slid over the rail, chasing the projectile.
Brock scrambled to his feet and watched the bolt fly toward the other ship. It hit a sail, tearing it. Reaching the end of the rope, the grappling hook recoiled and leaped backward, spinning around the main mast before latching on. The rope drew tight and the Razor lurched, causing everyone on board to stagger.
Razor’s prow dipped and tilted toward the ship towing them. Their direction altered slightly, but the cliffside was approaching fast. The cliff drew close…too close to avoid. A deep grinding sound came from the hull. Razor lurched and shook as it scraped across the cliff face. Moments later, the sound ceased and the ship slipped free.
A glance over the rail provided a wave of relief. They had cleared the obstruction and were now heading toward open waters. Brock wiped his brow and turned to find Tenzi glaring at him, her fists on her hips.
“What’s wrong?” he asked.
“I have a hole in my ship, thanks to you.” She gestured back at her cabin and the broken stairs.
Looking through the opening, Brock was able to see the cliffs behind them, slipping into the distance. “Yes. I’m sorry about that.”
Tenzi crossed her arms and stared north, toward the trapped longships, now appearing as dark specs in a field of white. After a moment, she sighed. “I know you did your best. I just wish they would stop firing flash cannons at my ship.”
Brock moved closer and put his hand on her shoulder. “I’m sorry, Tenzi. However, look around you. We are a hundred feet above the water. You may have a hole in your cabin, but I am willing to bet that Razor is also the first flying ship. Ever. It should make a great story next time you’re having drinks with other sailors.”
A conflict of ideals – magic versus fire-powered weapons. The fate of Issalia hangs in the balance.
A new Empire has risen to power. Already in control of the east coast, the Imperial Army sets its sights on Issalia’s western kingdoms. Tensions rise as both sides prepare for war.
What deadly weapon will the Empire develop next?
Brandt and Quinn are espions – part spy, part thief, part assassin. Under false identities, these spies find themselves deeply entrenched within Empire headquarters. There, they gather information, seeking a means to foil the Empire’s plans for conquest.
One misstep by either warden could result in death – their own and thousands of others.
They are joined by a small squad of fellow wardens:
Wildcats – warriors trained to fight while powered by magic
Rangers – experts in nature, these archers scout enemy forces
Gadgeteers – engineers who invent magic-powered machines and weapons
Arcanists – those who can wield Chaos – a destructive, rune-based magic
Driven by the core belief that Chaos magic is evil, the Empire seeks to stamp out this scourge. If victorious, Chaos will be outlawed. Those who can wield it…will be executed.
The game is afoot – a game like no other. The world is my Ratio Bellicus board. The game pieces are real people with hopes and dreams and lives they believe they control. I know the truth of it – a truth my peers don’t even acknowledge.
While my enemy hides their pieces from me, I know the hand that moves them. In that knowledge, I have an advantage. My opponent’s motivation remains clear and they believe in that clarity. They see Chaos as evil. I see it as a tool, not so different from a knife. A knife can carve beauty from wood, slice an apple, or stab someone through the heart. How the tool is used defines its purpose. Magic is no different.
To my opponent, my hand remains hidden – my game pieces and their abilities unknown to them. Within this subterfuge, I study and consider, and I scheme. I shift a game piece here and move another there. The game pieces used are as important as the schemes guiding them.
My prodigy and her counterpart now dwell inside enemy headquarters, feeding from a well of misguided trust as they prepare for an act of betrayal. Sometimes, piercing your opponent’s heart actually becomes the knife’s purpose.
There may soon come a time where I become an active participant rather than simply the hand that directs others. When the time comes, my enemy best beware that I am well versed in knives and betrayal. Beware the hidden assassin, for a successful Imperial Gambit hinges on the placement of such a game piece.
From the journals of Master Espion, Delvin Garber
Natasha, Amazon Customer, 5⭐: OMG this series by is so good! It just keeps getting better and better. Idk how he does it but Kohanek is able to create such vivid imagery that I just get lost in his books. And I love all the characters! Quinn is by far my favorite though. I admire strong, loyal, brilliant women and Quinn is a character every girl and woman should look up too. All the other characters are wonderfully dynamic and admirable too so there’s never a lack of of that hopeful feeling. The world building is perfectly balanced and there’s enough action to keep things interesting but enough intrigue to keep me guessing. I wasn’t able to predict any of the big moments about this book which is so refreshing. I can’t wait to continue this series and read everything else Kohanek writes!
illidia, Amazon Customer, 5⭐: Jeffrey Kohanek has written another gem in An Imperial Gambit. The books in this series just keep getting better and better. I loved reading about the continuing adventures of my favorite characters and seeing them grow. I can’t wait for the next book in the series!
Megan, Goodreads Contributor, 4⭐: Another great one in the series
This book is another great addition in the Wardens series. It is the best book so far and I like that the books keep getting better as the stakes for the characters keep getting higher.
This book focuses more on missions for various Wardens as well as some development of weaponry at the Ward. The story strikes a very good balance between these with all the events being directly related to the overall plot. There are no filler missions or filler characters which I really liked. Most of the book focuses on Quinn and Brandt. Their story is extremely interesting and somewhat unpredictable. The banter between. Them as well as Chuli and Jonah is quite entertaining. This book definitely builds up the tension between the Empire and everywhere else and I can’t wait to see what happens next.
Fiona, Goodreads Contributor, 5⭐: As always another awesome adventure written in glourious wide sweeps of imagination. A world full of all sorts of people who are fighting to end the rule of a corrupt section of people. The characters are well written and described. The world of Issalia rocks. I love all of Mr Kohanek’s books. I highly recommend grabbing a copy of this series, curling up with your favourite beverage and lose yourself in a fabulous series.
A dark enemy rises, driven by radical beliefs and armed with destructive weapons. The Wardens must respond.
Urgency forces ICON to accelerate the training of their new recruits, for a new Empire has captured the eastern kingdoms and seeks to conquer all of Issalia. Although a raw and untested squad, the Wardens might be the only hope of stopping this imposing threat.
Everson is a gadgeteer, tasked with harnessing a magical power source. Leveraging his brilliance, he enhances existing machines and creates new inventions that astound his superiors. His next amazing discovery might save lives…or it could destroy them.
Destined to become an espion, Quinn hones her skills in preparation of her first mission. Intense training, combined with her fierce determination and fearless nature, transforms her into something more…something lethal. However, skills of a different nature are required when she finds herself alone and surrounded by enemies in a land far from home.
Joined by magic-wielding royal twins and a small group of veterans, these individuals shall become Issalia’s shield against monsters and tyranny. Regardless of what occurs, ICON must remain vigilant, for the machinations of their enemy extend far beyond what anyone suspects.
Parker Thanes pushed the tavern door open, stepped inside, and was greeted by a cacophony of cheers and laughter. The smell of salt air mixed with stale beer and unwashed bodies made him grimace. I don’t understand why she likes these places.
He pushed through the crowd as he headed toward the bar. Jostled sailors, spilled drinks, and a trail of curses followed in his wake. Ignoring the upset men, he scanned the crowded tavern until he approached his destination.
A hefty woman in her middle years stood behind the bar. The brunette filled a pair of tankards, turned, and placed them before two bearded men, one of whom had a pale scar on his tanned face, the wound running from his forehead to his cheek. After pocketing two coppers, she shifted her focus to Parker.
“Hello, Tess,” Parker greeted the barkeep.
“I’m glad you showed. Things are getting out of hand.”
Parker frowned. “Where is she?”
Tess flipped her head to the side. “Around back. You might want to hurry.”
Stifling a sigh, Parker forced his way around the far end of the bar. He turned the corner and found a thick crowd – the source of the cheers that arose earlier. Another round of shouts erupted, fists pumping into the air. He forced his way into the mass of bodies, emerging to find the back area open but for two people.
A man – tall and sinewy, with shorn dark stubble on his head and cheeks – stood facing a woman. She was short, even for a female. With blond hair that ran to her shoulders, she was dressed in a simple tunic, cinched at the waist with a studded belt. Her brown breeches were tucked into tall black boots, each with a knife strapped to them, matching the knives strapped to each thigh. Between the two was a round table with a dozen mugs on it. The man lifted a mug and drank, foam running to his chin as he chugged the ale. When finished, he tipped the mug upside down and slammed it on the table, where it joined the other empty tankards. Cheers rose up from the crowd while the man shook his head to clear it.
As the crowd quieted, the woman grabbed the last full mug and lifted it to her lips, emptying its contents without pausing for a breath. When finished, she lowered it, stumbled, and blinked, her blue eyes glazing over. A mixture of laughter and mutters came from the crowd until she flipped the mug over and slammed it down beside the others.
The man scowled, twisting a tanned face marked by a gold ring through one nostril. “Now, we will see who is better.”
He pulled a dagger from the sheath on his hip and gripped it by the blade. Turning away from the crowd, the man cocked his arm back and threw the knife, striking a hair below the intersection of an X carved into a wooden post fifteen feet away. He drew and threw another knife, which landed just above the first, the two hilts touching one another. When he turned back, his grin revealed the noticeable gap of a missing tooth.
“Your turn, Tenzi. Let’s see if a sodden girl like you can even hit that post.”
The woman moved toward the man, stumbling as she pushed him aside. As Tenzi stared at him, swaying, a satisfied smirk crossed the man’s face.
“Watch this,” Tenzi mumbled.
Her eyes seemed to transform, her half-mast lids narrowing with intensity as she stared at the man. Tenzi spun about, her hands a blur as a dagger appeared in each and flew toward the post. Without pausing, she unleashed the daggers strapped to her legs and they joined the first pair. A bend and a flick sent the two knives from her boots into the post. She then reached behind her back, pulled a blade from her belt, and flung it.
The seven knives perfectly formed an X, with the last blade landing directly on the intersection of the carved target, somehow fitting between the man’s two thrown blades. The crowd fell silent, the moment lasting a few breaths before loud cheers and shouts erupted. Heads shook in amazement as the men and women surrounding Parker began exchanging coins from bets placed.
Tenzi held her open palm toward the man. “Pay up, Ridley.”
The man snarled. “Leave off, Tenzi. I’m keeping my silver.”
In a flash, Tenzi had a knife in her hand and pressed against the man’s throat. “Didn’t know I had a blade strapped to my upper back, huh? I find it wise to always have an extra, just in case.”
With narrowed eyes, Ridley glared for a long moment before his lips pressed together and he slowly dug out a coin purse. Tenzi pulled the blade away and held out her other hand. After setting five silvers in her palm, he shook his head.
“Another ale and I would have had you.”
Tenzi smirked, gripping the coins in her fist. “Perhaps. Not today, though.”
The crowd began to disburse with many heading toward the bar for another drink. Parker shifted closer to Tenzi, frowning at her grin.
“Why do you spend time in these seedy places?”
Tenzi shrugged. “A girl’s gotta have a little fun now and then.”
Parker snorted. “I know you. Nothing you do is little.”
She moved toward the post and began retrieving her blades. “Why are you here? I thought you were staying on the ship tonight.”
“I was, but Joely and Hex came back early. They said that four others got into a fight at The Wind Sock tavern and were arrested.”
Tenzi slid two daggers back into the sheaths on her thighs, rolled her eyes, and grabbed the last three knives. “Again? Why can’t they stay out of trouble?”
Parker raised a brow. “I wonder who may have taught them to cause trouble.”
“You’re hilarious.” Tenzi slid a knife up each sleeve and waved toward Parker. “Let’s go. It looks like Ridley’s silver is going toward bail money, straight from him to the city coffers.”
Parker turned and squirmed through the crowd with the much smaller Tenzi in his wake. When he stepped out into the alley, the noise of the bar quieted and was replaced by a distant boom, followed by shouts and screams. With a furrowed brow, he led Tenzi down the alley and to the lit street.
People ran past in all directions, some heading toward the city wall, others toward the docks. Cries filled the air only to be engulfed by the boom of a distant explosion.
“To the docks!” Tenzi broke into a run.
Parker ran after her as she weaved her way through the foot traffic and around carts. They emerged from Downside – the portion of the Sol Polis that lay between the city wall and the docks – and found people crowding onto the pier. A flash of green flames erupted from a ship moored to the docks. People on the pier screamed and tried to reverse direction as the flames on the ship turned from green to orange.
“Flashbombs!” Parker shouted. “Someone is launching flash bombs!”
“That was a fleet ship,” Tenzi said. “We have to get the fleet out of the harbor.”
Fighting against the crowd, Parker and Tenzi pushed their way through oncoming traffic and onto the pier. An explosion blasted water into the air, sending two nearby ships rocking as seawater rained down on them. Running, Parker led Tenzi down the pier, running beside a handful of sailors trying to get to their ships.
“Why did we have to moor on the end this time?” Parker groaned as he ran.
They ran past the ship on fire. The flames had burned the length of the mooring rope and were licking the post tied to it. An explosion to the other side knocked them off their feet, Parker almost falling into the water as he gripped the pier edge. He sat up and turned toward the ship that had been struck. A wall of green flames raged upon it, turning orange as it spread. Burning debris lay scattered on the pier. Body parts as well. Tenzi cried out and frantically swatted the smoldering leg of her breeches.
Parker’s focus shifted toward the shoreline, and he saw armed soldiers running toward the pier. His eyes widened and he grabbed Tenzi’s wrist. “We need to run!”
Following his gaze, she saw the force collide with the crowd, cutting through them without resistance. Parker and Tenzi scrambled to their feet and ran toward the ship at the end of the pier. While Parker had never moved faster, he seemed be running in slow motion, the distance between him and the ship closing at an agonizingly slow pace. Until, finally, they reached it.
“What’s happening?” Shashi called out from the rail.
“Sol Polis is under attack.” Tenzi shouted. “Make ready to set sail!”
Parker reached the plank first and ran up it, heading straight for the pilot deck. Behind him, Tenzi shouted.
“I need Stein. Is he here?”
“Yes. Below deck,” Joely replied.
“Get him up here. Now!”
Sailors scrambled about the ship, some untying it from the mooring while others began preparing the lines. Parker turned toward shore and found dozens of armed men charging the pier.
Joely reappeared with Stein in tow, the latter rubbing sleep from his eyes.
“Stein. We need to take down the pier before those men reach us.” Tenzi pointed toward the soldiers and Stein’s jaw dropped. Without a word, he ran down the plank.
Parker unshouldered his bow and drew an arrow. He nocked it and prepared to fire. His gaze landed on Stein and found the man kneeling on the pier, tracing a rune with a chunk of glowstone. An explosion sent a thump into Parker’s chest as a wall of green flames blasted from the nearest ship. Again, flaming debris rained upon the pier and into the sea. Stein scrambled to his feet and ran up the plank as the enemy soldiers stormed down the pier. The moment Stein was on board, Shashi kicked the plank aside and it fell into the water. With its lines untied, New Horizons, the flagship of the Kalimar Navy, drifted from its mooring.
“Climb the rigging!” Tenzi called orders as she scrambled to the quarterdeck. “Raise mainsails!” She turned to Parker. “I’ll steer. You shoot.”
Nodding, he shifted away from the wheel and shot, the arrow arcing before it fell. A soldier in the vanguard stumbled to his knees and was bowled over by his companions. Another arrow launched as the rune on the dock began to glow a bright red. The rune pulsed while a third arrow found a target, striking a soldier who spun around and fell into the water. A fourth arrow struck an enemy soldier in the throat as the force reached the end of the pier. Archers stopped and raised bows toward the ship as the glow beneath them faded, the rune falling dark.
In a violent blast, the closest half of the pier exploded, launching debris and bodies into the air. Parts of both rained into the sea while angry red energy crackled and sizzled in glowing bolts that arced across the broken pier and the surface of the water. The portion of the pier that lay closer to shore remained, as did the soldiers who hadn’t made it any further.
As New Horizons gained speed and sailed out from Sol Polis, another explosion emerged from within the city. Based on its location, Parker surmised that the tower of flames came from the citadel. The city was lost. The capital of Kalimar had fallen in surprise attack. Again.
Jeffrey L. Kohanek grew up in rural Minnesota where comic books sparked his young imagination, inspiring fantasies of heroes with super-powers saving the day. His tastes later evolved to fantasy epics featuring unlikely heroes overcoming impossible odds to save worlds born from the writer’s imagination.
Now residing in southern California, Jeff uses that imagination to weave tales of engaging characters caught in fantastic plots to inspire young adults and the child within us all.