To End a War. Nearly a thousand years ago a great warrior named Lachlan sought to unify his people, using the power of the Three Swords of Destiny. Before his victory, Lachlan was killed by his trusted friend, Allarun. Now, Allarun is still in power but haunted by dreams of Lachlan’s death curse: that Lachlan would return to avenge his death. Allarun’s decision is to destroy the very people Lachlan tried to unite. Only two men have the power to stop the slaughter. Romarin, the last of a line of kings, and a half-blood mercenary named Shadowhelm. One may be destined to be Lachlan, but can they unlock the secret to Lachlan’s power before Allarun kills them?
M H (Maggie) gives an overview of the book:
Allarun awoke with a start. The cold air from the keep’s sole window
prickled his sweat-drenched skin. He sat upright for a while, watching
the moon’s light play among the clouds. The nightmares had come
again. It could not be a coincidence.
He drew himself out of bed and slid into the silken clothing.
Cold finery, he reflected thoughtfully. How different it was now from
those days on the battlefield. He had never been haunted by
nightmares then – the world had been remarkably real. Life and death.
Living and dead. Friendship and betrayal…
He almost flinched. It was a long time ago, he told himself.
Lachlan was gone – his ashes scattered and long buried beneath the
Darkling Plain. The Eleion were but a scattered race among the Ansgar.
There would be no more war.
Then, why do you dream?
Why indeed? Allarun strode to the window and gazed into the
night. He leaned against the stone; strong, slender fingers gripped
the railing. He was tall, even by Eleion standards. Slender to the point
of bony – the years had not been kind. At one time, he might have
been considered handsome, but now he was wan and withdrawn.
The dark mane, once full and flowing, was now lackluster and brittle.
His face was angular and pale, but his eyes were still dark and held a
hungry fire within. That fire now searched for something.
In the distance, the storm clouds had gathered. Lightning flashed,
lighting up the cloudbanks. The thunder rumbled muted, as though
the silence weighed heavily upon it. But Allarun knew the wind. The
storm would head this way. It always did.
“This is the third time this week,” a soft, female voice said.
Allarun turned. His gaze fell upon a small woman in crimson
robes. Cascades of golden curls flowed from beneath the hood as
she gazed into his eyes with her own steady green ones. “I did not
summon you,” he remarked, not bothering to hide the irritation that
crept into his voice.
“No, you did not,” she said as she closed the door and strode
into the room. A delicately painted fingernail traced the crystal ball
that sat on the stand near the bed. “My Lord, I am indeed surprised.
I would have thought the Sight would not have left you.”
Allarun frowned. “It has not, Lila, though I sometime wish it
were so.” He stared back out at the moon.
“What did you dream?” she asked.
“How did you get past the guards?”
Lila laughed. “You ask a sorceress?”
Allarun’s gaze narrowed. “I have grown too complacent,” he
grumbled. “A few hundred years ago you wouldn’t have made it to
“Perhaps,” she smiled. “Are you going to answer my question?”
“Why should I?”
“Because I may have an answer for you.”
“And in return?”
“That remains to be seen.”
Allarun frowned. He knew Lila too well. She would bargain
when she had the advantage – that was her kind’s treachery. The link
between him and Areyn Sehduk had grown dim over the centuries.
Perhaps she might be able to resolve that which he had lost. Still, the
sorceress’s help did not come without a price.
“Very well,” he said. “I dreamt of the Darkling Plain and of
“Did he die?” she asked, as her hands traced the reddened
wood on the table.
“Yes, yes!” he snapped.
“Then what causes your concern?”
“The curse – it becomes stronger each time in my dreams.”
She ran her hands lightly along the crystal ball. “My Lord, you
know the death curse is the most powerful of magic. As the son of
Rhyn’athel, his powers were not weak…”
“I know! I know!” he said. “But why now? Why after all these
“Perhaps because the line of Elsonre still runs true.”
Silence engulfed them both. Allarun stared at the moon as it
emerged from the dark clouds. “Romarin of the Silver Hand…”
“The Red Wolf.”
“He is at Citadel Heights.”
“Find him and you find Lachlan. Destroy the Lachlan’s
incarnation before he awakens, and the curse is no more.”
Shadowhelm stared at the gallows as it swung before him in the
wind. The wind was strong that day, blowing the cold air from the
alpine tundra miles above the city of Citadel Heights. But even the
wind could not clean the stench of death and decay that filled his
nostrils. The gallows had been used many times before – even if
Shadowhelm hadn’t seen it, he would have known by the feel. He
could feel the gasps as the rope dropped, hundreds, maybe thousands
of times before.
Although mid-morning, the cold sun had not crested the cliffs
on the east. He would die in a foreign city, far from his homeland
even before the sun rose. Shadowhelm stared dismally ahead. The
gallows towered on a platform twenty feet on the North end of
Merchant’s Quarter. Below him, the shopkeepers were busy displaying
their wares and people were going about their business, either buying
or selling. Not far from the gallows was a bakery; the aroma of fresh
baked bread was incongruous with the morbid scene. There was
always a crowd in the Merchant’s Quarter – many were wandering
idly around, waiting for the day’s executions.
A sharp prod propelled him forward, followed by a harsh laugh.
“Can’t worm yourself out of this one this time, thief ?” the guard
Shadowhelm wheeled around, deftly averting the poll-axe as it
swung towards him. Although ropes bound his wrists tightly behind
his back, he still had use of his feet. “I stole nothing!” he hissed. He
was shorter than an Eleion and dressed in rags, but he held his head
high. Beneath the dirt and bruises was a mixture of Ansgar and Eleion
features and a gaze that commanded power. The guard stepped back
for a moment, forgetting the man’s wrists were bound.
The guard laughed and spat. “Shara’kai.” Half-blood.
Shadowhelm did not flinch. Under the grime and the rags, he
still bore the mark of kings – half-blood or not. The red-gold mane
marked him from the Royal House of Lochvaur. “Filth!” Shadowhelm
snarled. “I stole nothing.”
“Then may Areyn judge your soul,” the executioner snapped.
The big man grasped Shadowhelm’s shoulders and spun him around
towards the gallows.
Hanged like a common thief, Shadowhelm thought.
He stared at the noose and redoubled his efforts to slide his
hands from the ropes. His wrists were slick with sweat and blood,
but the ropes were tight. If he could somehow move his fingers to
untie the knots…
The pole-arm prodded him forward. He took two steps and
the executioner shoved him into place. Shadowhelm almost recoiled
as the man fit the noose on his neck.
All at once, the memories of dying men flooded Shadowhelm’s
mind. Their last thoughts, hopes, and feelings echoed within his
thoughts as though this was some ghoulish final torture. His gaze
fell on the trap door. At least it’ll be quick and he wouldn’t have to
hear the dying men’s final thoughts.
“Halt!” a female voice rang from somewhere beyond the crowd.
The crowd parted and Shadowhelm watched as a soldier astride
a dapple gray rode forward. The stallion’s hooves chattered on the
cobblestones as the warrior reined the steed.
She was a tall woman wearing chainmail and an open-faced
helm with a noseguard. The surcoat she wore over the armor was
red and gold with a dragon emblazoned across her chest and back.
Shadowhelm recognized the colors and armor immediately. A Chi’lan
“What are you doing?”
Shadowhelm’s gaze met hers. She’s Eleion, he thought as he
recognized the icy steel color of her eyes. He wondered if perhaps
she might be from the Royal House of Lochvaur, herself. He couldn’t
tell, because her hair had been cut warrior-style and was concealed
by her helmet. His wrists, drenched with sweat, had become slippery
and he found that he could wriggle his hands enough to work the
bonds. He slipped his fingers around the knot, praying for more
The executioner squinted. “Just hanging a thief, Commander.”
“We’re at war, Executioner. Or haven’t you heard?”
“Didn’t you receive the King’s orders? There will be no
executions until further orders.”
A murmur ran through the crowd. She stared into the
Executioner’s eyes. He flinched. “Allarun is on the move. We need
anyone who can wield a sword. We need shock troops for Citadel
The executioner grinned at Shadowhelm. “Eltar fodder. I hear
they are soul-eaters.”
“How would you know? You haven’t one,” Shadowhelm shot
back. At that moment, the knot slipped and his hands pulled free.
The executioner snarled, seeing his charge freed. He tripped
the trap door.
“No!” shouted the commander.
But, Shadowhelm had leapt up and grasped the rope before he
could fall and snap his neck. He pulled himself upward, clinging to
the rope, knowing well that one slip would kill him. All around, the
crowd began cheering and yelling. The commander rode forward,
trying to reach the platform. “Stand back, all of you!” she warned.
The guards held back, not daring to disobey a Chi’lan’s orders.
The executioner was not deterred. He bellowed, drew his sword,
and charged at the Shara’kai. Shadowhelm swung and kicked,
knocking the executioner in the chest. The man reeled backwards
and fell through the trap door. Shadowhelm’s hands began slipping.
He looked up, trying to gain more purchase on the rope when he
saw a flash of a silver si’lar dagger. The throwing weapon sliced
through the rope cleanly and he plunged downward.
Shadowhelm caught the edge of the trap door, dropped, and
then caught a scaffold. He dropped again and grasped another, before
dropping to the ground. The crowd backed away as the executioner
rushed forward, swinging his sword. Shadowhelm stepped aside as
the heavy hand-and-a-half slid past him and used the big man’s
momentum to fling him to the ground.
Shadowhelm turned and halted. The Chi’lan warrior’s sword was
pointed at his throat. “You don’t fight like a common thief,” she
remarked, eyeing him appraisingly. “Come with me, Shara’kai, we
can use fighters such as you.”
About M H (Maggie)
Author of 30 books, including 7 works of fiction. Multiple award winning author.
Maggie has been a professional writer since 1995 and has written novels, nonfiction books, short stories, courses, educational materials, and articles. Her writing...