Fire and Lies (Tales of the Drui Book #2)
“I was there at the core buried deep within the earth where the Seidr dwells. But something was wrong, very wrong, and I can’t find the words to call it by name.”
Blood waters the fields of Alfheim. War rips across the land of elves and usurped kings. The Fae gods draw near, and Queen Kallan’s strength is tested as she follows King Rune into Alfheim. But the Shadow Beast caged within Rune’s body writhes in hunger, and Kallan’s newest companion, Bergen the legendary Berserk, is determined to end the conflict with her life.
As the witch, the king, and the berserk come together, the truth buried within the past begins to surface. Now, Kallan must master a dormant power or watch her kingdom fall to the Fae who will stop at nothing to keep their lies.
Fire and Lies (Tales of the Drui Book #2) picks up right where Dolor and Shadow left off, concluding one chapter of Kallan’s life as the next chapter begins.
Excerpt Chapter 21
Kallan stared at herself in the glass, happy enough with the gown of warm russet she wore. She normally would don a pair of trousers and a tunic for a day like this, but under the circumstances, she felt it would add a sharper sting to her bite.
She ran a flat palm down her stomach then spun on her heel, gently closing the door of her bower behind her, the Seidr pouch of amadou rested idly on her bedside table.
If you want Bergen’s respect, challenge him and win fast or lose hard.
She played Torunn’s words back as she passed through the corridor carefully reviewing each word.
Fight them and win. He adores the woman, but respects the blade and nothing throws him into more turmoil than combining the two. He can’t pass up a good mead, a good fight, or a good woman.
Kallan swept through the Great Hall, ignoring the occasional pair of eyes that glowered as she entered the courtyard.
Rune is stubborn and speaks little, keeping his head in most cases where Bergen loses it. He observes while he keeps to himself, careful never to leave an opening. His solitude makes up for Bergen’s unruliness, but don’t underestimate Bergen’s unruliness. It’s a front he uses to throw off your guard.
Kallan’s eyes strayed to the gathering of bare chested men who planed the logs for the new stable.
If you want Rune’s attention, hit him hard. Get in his face where he can’t get away. He moves fast and, if you let him, he’ll keep ten paces ahead of you. If you’re not watching, you will lose him.
And Geirolf? Kallan had asked.
Geirolf goes where I go, every time. Let me handle Geirolf.
Kallan slowed her pace as the clang of sparring grew louder from the courtyard. The door had been propped open allowing the cool breeze to pass through. Forcing her breath steady, Kallan paused in the threshold and thoroughly examined the situation.
Nearly two dozen men had gathered around the barracks, giving large shouldered Ottar and Bergen the space required to spar with each other. She watched them quietly as Bergen lunged forward, bringing his sword down onto Ottar who blocked his attack. Sweeping the blade up, Bergen cut through the air to his left where Ottar barely blocked it and pushed Bergen back.
Regaining his balance, Bergen advanced, bringing his sword to the right toward Ottar’s leg. He blocked the sweep as Bergen snapped his elbow with lightning speed into Ottar’s face, breaking his nose in the process.
Ottar stumbled, blinded by the taste of his own blood, but Bergen had no pity. He raised his sword and thrust stopping directly at Ottar’s throat, where he held the point of his blade.
At once, the barracks erupted into applause. On-lookers exchanged bets while Bergen gave a congratulatory slap to Ottar, who beamed from beneath the red mass on his face. The rumble granted Kallan the time she needed to glide to a table pushed against the wall and adorned with a generous collection of swords, daggers, and shields.
With a curious eye, Joren peered from his place against the wall. He leaned with ankles and arms crossed and studied Kallan, intrigued as she scanned each artifact with a critical eye.
“What are you up to?” Joren asked, keeping his voice below the rabble’s expletives. With a hardened cold in her eye, Kallan glanced up for one particular sword that held her attention.
Bergen’s voice boomed through the barracks with ease as he spun about, eager for the next victim. “Anyone here dare best me?”
In reply, Kallan took the black hilt in her hand and balanced it easily on two outstretched fingers, her approval won by its craft.
The display caught Bergen’s eye and a smug smile stretched his face.
“If it’s a long, thick blade the lady wishes, she shouldn’t be looking on the table.”
Fire flickered to life in Kallan’s eyes and she gave a silent smirk as the barracks burst into an uproar of laughter. With a flick of her wrist, she caught the blade and, with a flourish, extended it down to her side as she turned to face him.
“I can best him!” Kallan dared, forcing Joren to squirm uncomfortably in his spot against the wall. Bergen bellowed loudest over the thunder of laughter that filled the barracks.
“Not without that craft of yours, Seidkona,” Bergen barked between stammered chuckles.
“Without my craft,” Kallan agreed, raising an eyebrow with cool collection that reinforced her offer.
The barracks grew silent. Bergen glared at the woman, weighing her offer as Ragnar leaned closer from his wall.
Kallan held her eye on her challenger.
“You might want to rethink this,” Joren cautioned.
“You’re next,” Kallan said, shifting her gaze to Joren. “How ‘bout it, Bergen?” Kallan belted, returning her attention to Bergen. “Will it be rumored that you were too afraid of being bested by a woman…” There was an outcry of ‘ooh’s’. “Or will you be humiliated by losing against one?”
Sweat balled in Bergen’s palms and he forced his breath steady, suddenly aware of how he ached to go head to head with her. He puffed his chest with a deep inhale that fueled the ferocity she stoked. All jocularity was gone from him as he stared down at the Seidkona from across the room.
“If it’s a lesson you want, Seidkona,” Bergen said, “I will be more than happy to instruct.”
The game was on as the bets were placed, drawing everyone’s attention to the fighting circle. Kallan smiled and glanced at the sword still clasped in hand. With a brandish, she confirmed the balance on her fingers then dropped it to snatch the hilt before it had fallen an inch.
Joren pushed his weight off the wall and came to stand beside Kallan as word passed through the courtyard, gathering onlookers who filled the barracks, muttering excitedly.
“Do you know what you’re doing?” Joren asked.
With a smile, Kallan looked up from the blade.
“Where is your king?” she asked, her hardened stare fixed on the scout’s face.
“Seidkona!” Bergen spat with impatience.
Turning from Joren, Kallan joined Bergen in the center of the room, balancing her weight on the balls of her feet. Bending her elbows, Kallan raised the sword, blocking her body and face, and waited.
“No Seidr now, Woman!” Bergen barked.
“No Seidr,” Kallan said with a grin.
Resuming his stance, Bergen shifted his way to Kallan’s right. He lowered his blade and, with patience, tapped Kallan’s sword held firm against the taunt. Kallan and Bergen stepped to the side, shifting their balance as they danced, mirroring the other’s movement.
With might, Bergen swept his blade to Kallan’s right, fully expecting to take her down with his first blow, but Kallan blocked his attack. Again, Bergen brought down his sword, sweeping it toward Kallan’s left, and again to her right. Each time, Kallan met his attack with her blade.
Take my hand and descend into the bowels of darkness! Join me so that you may lay upon your death bed and say that you have lived! Adventure so that you may taste the sweet nectar that flows from the earth… and receive a monthly newsletter from me.
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