For generations, the kingdom of Arten has stood alone against the ancient dark mage Mercer, a man no longer bound by time. But when King Wern is kidnapped, Queen Arin will risk everything to get him back.
Lynden Trenadin is chosen to join the ranks of the elite Queen's Champions both for her prowess as a warrior and her remarkable resemblance to the queen. She has spent her life battling at Arten's borders, but now she must defend the queen with her life as they journey to their enemy's castle. When the tide of battle goes against them, Lynden unleashes a magical power she didn't know she possessed. Even though she saved hundreds of warriors, Lynden is forced to flee in shame for her use of forbidden magic.
Now on the run, Lynden must raise a rebellion to free her country from the tyranny of the enemy she thought she'd destroyed. A band of loyalists and an enclave of ancient mages aid her in her efforts, but with a dark mage bent on her destruction, Lynden must discover a way to harness her new magic before it is too late.
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.60(d)|
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Bringer of Light
Book One of the Bringer Trilogy
By J. R. Boles
iUniverse LLCCopyright © 2014 J. R. Boles
All rights reserved.
It had been a long day of burying the dead. Lynden Trenadin, champion of the queen, had been at her post for nearly a month. Of the seventy originally assigned to her, fifty warriors remained. Each night their enemies attacked, and each night it was all Lynden could do to hold their ground. She'd been told it would get easier to lose men, but that had never been the case for her. The approaching darkness called her back to the task at hand.
"Champion?" She looked up from sharpening her sword. "Everyone is in position."
"Excellent, Captain. Let's see if we can't give them a little surprise tonight." They'd worked out a different approach. Holding the line was resulting in too many losses. She'd ordered her best archers up into the trees with makeshift halters to hold them in place. Hopefully, the change in tactic would be enough to hold the outpost a little longer.
It wasn't much to look at—a sad building with patched tents surrounding it. But Lynden knew the farmers at the edge of the forest counted on them. Even if one enemy got past them, it would mean terrible things for the families beyond. The small town of Leron was not far either.
She thought longingly of the Blackberry Inn and their dark ale. She handed her sharpening stone and cloth to her squire, Davin, and followed the captain out of her tent. The captain was a good man, a fine warrior, but it had taken Lynden some time to figure out he had a sense of humor. He was nearly a decade older than her, yet he didn't resent her presence there. Others might have bridled at having command taken from them, but he had fully accepted it, adapting to her leadership style and following her orders, though he certainly made his opinion known. Lynden preferred his bluntness to the usual blank acceptance that others gave her orders.
"Let's hope this buys us time until the next squadron shows up," she said, looking at the forty warriors positioned in a line in front of the outpost. This was the only clear path to the farms beyond, and they couldn't lose it to enemy control. The queen had made it very clear that she would not tolerate failure.
"It's a good plan, Champion. Naki are not skilled at adaptation." That was an understatement. They were shaped like humans but with red eyes, and their minds could handle only singular tasks. They were beasts of war, nothing more than Mercer's attack dogs. The captain sighed beside her. He had been here too long, and she could see the signs of deep weariness weighing down on him.
"Captain?" she asked.
"My apologies, Champion." He paused. "I'm glad you're here." She looked at him in surprise. "I was surprised when I got word that a champion was going to take over. It's not done often, is it?" This was the most he had ever said to her that was not mission specific.
"No, not often. But I was a warrior first, unlike most champions, so this is not my first outpost assignment." She waited. There was something eating at him.
"I wondered at first, if it was a punishment of some sort." He said it hesitantly. She tensed. Many had assumed this assignment was punishment for something. But the queen had sent other champions around the same time on similar missions. They were losing too many commanders, and Lynden thought the queen was running out of options. It was not a thought she wished to share.
"Others were sent on similar assignments. It's no punishment, Captain, to hold this ground." She glanced back toward the farms. He nodded and seemed to settle back inward. She wouldn't be getting any more insight into his personal thoughts.
"Champion Lynden? Captain Spane?" They turned to find their sole surviving scout standing beside them. Lynden hated that the young woman could get so close without her knowing it. The scout, Karen, was at least part ghost, if such things were possible. There was no other explanation that Lynden could see. The young woman was slim and light on her feet, but that only went so far.
"Yes, Warrior Karen?" Lynden replied. She knew that Karen was probably the most skilled scout in the queen's army. Her gaze drifted over the tomboy once more, searching for some reason that she should be so impossibly quiet.
"I'd say there are nearly a hundred Naki approaching from the northeast. They're up early today."
"Good work. I want you to fight from the sidelines tonight. I've seen you dart in and out before when we've been ambushed." Karen looked surprised but inclined her head before disappearing back into the trees.
"Is that wise?" Captain Spane asked carefully. He was fiercely protective of the people under his command. Lynden respected him for it.
"She's no good on the line. Fighting from the fringes, I bet she'll save more than a few lives tonight."
"They'll outnumber us more than usual," he said quietly.
"You held this post with fewer warriors before I showed up. Take position, Captain." He bowed and walked off.
The howls of Naki soon filled the evening air, savage calls of battle. Lynden moved into the line with the others. Standing back to yell orders would only make her a greater target. In the line, she could protect the others and yell orders if she needed to. There was a rustling of underbrush, and it seemed as though the trees themselves groaned from the weight of hundreds of feet crossing over their roots.
"Hold the line!" she called. The warriors around her had done this for months. They wouldn't quail in fear at the odds. They would do their job. Each of them had been raised in war as their parents before them. This was life.
"Champion Lynden?" a voice called from behind her. She turned to find a squadron riding up. Lynden nearly jumped for joy at the sight of reinforcements.
"Excellent timing, Warrior. Everyone, dismount and fall in line. I want a row of your best archers behind the line. Now!" she bellowed when they all looked at her askance. The warrior apparently in charge dismounted. He was short but square and sturdy-looking.
"But, Champion, I've orders to—"
She held up her hand. "They can wait." As if to punctuate her point, the first of the black arrows shot into the side of the old outpost building. "Fall in line!" she yelled again. This time the warriors didn't hesitate to dismount and move to the line.
Lynden had a moment to wonder that they all looked tired from a hard ride before she pushed the thought away and moved back to her position. Their numbers were nearly even now, she thought. Hope kindled within her chest, and she felt ready to take on the approaching force.
Arrows shot out in the night. She could see the Naki advancing in the moonlight.
"Volley!" came a shout from behind her. Captain Spane was wasting no time in putting the new arrivals to use. She smiled, relieved that for once they had a good chance. The rivers forced the Naki to try this route to the farms, so she knew where they were. She flashed the signal, and arrows began to rain down from the surrounding trees. Naki squealed in anger and surprise. They packed closer together, making it easier for the archers to pick them off.
The brave ones marched forward, slamming into those in the line. She moved up when the warrior in front of her went down with a broken leg. Lynden crouched to miss the edge of an ax, coming up with her sword into the stomach of the attacking Naki. He smelled sour as she pushed him off to get her sword back. Another took his place, and she drew her short sword to fight doublehanded.
Naki were singular but good fighters. They were bred for speed and agility. Lynden was sweating with the exertion of fighting them in close combat. She moved through the motions her father taught her, taking the brunt of a sword to her chain mail more than once. Her shoulder was badly bruised, but they failed to spill her blood that night.
The battle was over faster than she was accustomed to. The archers had done an excellent job of picking off the Naki. She stopped when she realized no Naki was waiting to take the other's place. Lynden wiped her sword clean, but she didn't sheathe it. They had to check each of the corpses to make sure they were completely dead.
"Fan out. Check for breathers!" she yelled. She moved through the night, checking on her own fallen warriors. She knelt by the warrior with the broken leg. Her name was Kerry, and she was maybe five years younger than Lynden. She was tawny and strong. Lynden liked her. She felt along the gash the ax had made in Kerry's leg. Kerry just watched her in silence. They both knew she'd probably lose the leg; the ax had sliced through too much muscle and bone.
Lynden hoisted her up with the help of her squire, Davin, who had appeared at her side, and they silently helped Kerry inside the outpost with the other wounded.
"Davin, find the healer. Let's see if we can save that leg." She looked up at Kerry questioningly. It was risky to try to keep it, but it wasn't Lynden's choice. Kerry didn't move for a moment, but she finally nodded.
The healer currently assigned to them was a crotchety old man named Alec. He didn't possess the bedside manner that Lynden expected from healers, but he was quick and efficient. He was also skilled at making healing potions from anything he could find in the surrounding forest. Lynden waited for him to reach Kerry before she squeezed the warrior's shoulder and let her be.
The square fellow who'd been leading the new squadron approached her. He was unscathed by the battle, and Lynden wondered if he'd been one of the archers. She waited for him.
"Sorry, Champion, but I've got orders for you to return to Arten at once. The queen is calling back all of the champions." She looked at him, waiting for more of an explanation. He looked uncomfortable. "I don't have any more information than that. I was ordered to get here as fast as I could and get you back even faster." She shook her head. Something big must be up.
"How many of your men can you leave behind here at the post? The new squadron isn't supposed to arrive for weeks yet, and you can see how undermanned we are."
"Not a one, Champion. I have my orders."
"I want at least ten left here at the post. I won't take 'no' for an answer." He shook his head, about to go on about his precious orders. "No, I won't hear it. If there is fallout for those ten, I'll gladly take it. Choose the ten—preferably archers—and then let's head out." His face was six shades of red, and Lynden could see a big muscle in his neck spasm at her orders, but he couldn't say anything unless his orders had come directly from another champion or the queen. He spun on his heel and went off in search of the chosen ten.
Lynden looked over at Davin. She was very fond of the young man. He'd been fighting on the line when he thought she wasn't looking. It wasn't often that a squire so young would risk so much.
"You heard the man, pack up." Davin sped off to gather their things. She looked around in search of Captain Spane. He wasn't in the outpost building. Lynden ducked outside, grabbing a hand lamp on her way out. She found him overseeing the burning of the Naki corpses. She walked up beside him, and the two of them watched in silence as the fire was lit.
"I've been ordered back to Arten. All the champions have been recalled." Spane looked at her in surprise. "I've ordered that square fellow to leave ten of his men behind with you. He wasn't happy about it, so I'd appreciate it if you'd check over the ones he's chosen. You saw them in action more than I did, so make sure you get the ones you want. I'm pretty sure you outrank him. If he gives you grief, just invoke my rank or come get me."
"Thank you. Are you sure you want to go against whoever ordered him out here?"
"I'd rather that than leave you here without the archers that you need. Even the queen has to see the logic in that. If it were up to me, I'd leave them all here and head back. Not like I need the escort." She looked back at the outpost. Davin was putting their bags on their horses while the other men mounted and looked at her impatiently.
"Go inspect the ten," she said before walking off toward Davin. He was looking back at the outpost longingly.
"Did you find Karen?" she asked. He blushed and shook his head. Lynden turned and looked around. She finally spotted Karen helping two other warriors contain the fire. She nodded toward her. "Go on then." Davin followed her line of sight and then sprinted off.
Lynden had noticed the two of them spending more and more time together. She thought they were a good enough match, but she also knew the relationship only increased the likelihood that Davin was going to want to be sponsored in as a warrior—not that she didn't think he had it in him, quite the contrary, but she had no qualms admitting to herself that Davin's mother intimidated her. She wasn't looking forward to that conversation.
She said quick farewells to the warriors at the outpost, sparing a moment to make sure that Spane was content with the ten staying behind. He nodded with a smirk to let her know he'd pissed off the new guy. Lynden slapped his shoulder and then followed quickly as the others rode away from the outpost.
It would be two days at a hard pace to get them back to Arten.CHAPTER 2
The rising sun spun gold across the tapestries on the stone wall. Dawn spread out across the world, awaking the city to the sounds of armor clinking. The castle bustled with frenzied activity as each squire and maid worked tirelessly to ensure that hundreds of warriors had complete packs when they rode out to war. Lynden studied the sun-drenched fabric as she fastened her hair up into a tight braid that circled around her head. She'd only returned to Arten the day before, and already she was preparing to leave again. The queen's haste gave her a lot to think about.
Around her, twelve others prepared themselves for the ride. In battle, they shifted around the queen to act as living shields. Each stood at similar heights, with blonde hair and fair features, each with their own vibrant house scarves hidden somewhere beneath their armor. The armor was sleek chain mail with a dark green arming coat underneath. Lynden watched as the squires ran in and out of the room. Never had the queen given them one night to prepare such a campaign.
There was a flourish of green at the entrance to their armory that only Queen Arin could create. Thirteen blonde heads bowed in unison at the queen's entrance. She smiled warmly and joined them in preparation for the journey ahead. Lynden watched her for a moment, marking the confident stride. Queen Arin wore a black scarf woven into the braid in her hair as a symbol of mourning for her lost king. The once kind-faced queen now bore a set expression that silenced the room. With news that the king was in enemy hands, a great sadness had opened up within the queen, and it showed in her every movement. Her head was angled down, her shoulders rounded, as if to protect herself from the pain.
The queen had never taken such a large force into Mercer's territory, let alone to the black castle. Lynden thought of how great their love must be for the queen to risk so much.
Lynden tied the kerchief with her family's crest into her hair. The blue-and-yellow kerchief held a white flower with four small petals hand stitched onto each corner by her mother. Although the flower no longer existed beyond their crest, it was said to have bloomed on the trees of her father's homeland. He described valleys of these trees that stretched for days where he trained as a youth. Thinking of her father, Lynden once again felt the reality of his loss. No matter how much time passed, it still hit her sometimes that he was gone. Pushing back the thought, she checked her armor over once more.
It was a long ride to Morenen, but Lynden was ready for it. Part of her craved the attack, enjoying the adrenaline and the victory, but this campaign would be different. Her sole purpose was to protect her queen. If they failed, all their lives were forfeited. Marnin clapped her shoulder to wake her out of her thoughts.
"Where are you?"
"Nowhere and everywhere, as usual," she replied, winking at her friend for the familiar banter.
Excerpted from Bringer of Light by J. R. Boles. Copyright © 2014 J. R. Boles. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse LLC.
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Katniss and her champions go to the Death Star to take out Darth Vader. It is discovered there that she may have access to the Dark Side. Imprisoned and escape she goes to Hogwarts for training. Battle violence.