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Authors: K.C. May

Tags: #heroic fantasy, #epic fantasy, #fantasy adventure, #sword and sorcery, #women warriors

The Kinshield Legacy

BOOK: The Kinshield Legacy
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The Kinshield Legacy

Book one of the Kinshield Saga

by K.C. May

The Kinshield Legacy

Copyright 2010-2011 by K.C. May

All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book or portions thereof in any form whatsoever.

This book is entirely a work of fiction. The names, characters, places, and incidents depicted herein are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each person you share it with. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, please purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the author’s work.

Cover design and layout by T.M. Roy / TERyvisions www.teryvisions.com / Wolf tag designed by T.M. Roy
Map of Thendylath by Jared Blando / www.theredepic.com

Chapter 1

Any doubt Gavin Kinshield had that he was in the right place vanished the moment he dismounted. The poplars and sweetgums, the shape of the cave mouth, the dirge-like song of a lone hermit thrush echoing through the trees -- these things were as familiar as the boots on his feet. He gave Golam’s flank an absent pat, and the horse ambled away to nibble a nearby bush. The only thing missing from Gavin’s recurring dream was the ghostly figure of his daughter waving him on. Even the woodenness of his legs felt familiar as he approached the cave.

He stopped at its mouth and peered inside. The fluttering in his gut warned him to turn back.
I shouldn’t be here. I ain’t a king.
He scanned the trees for movement and listened for voices and hoof-steps. Satisfied he wouldn’t be discovered, he drew a deep breath and stepped into the darkness.

In a burst of leathery flapping, several bats darted past his ear and vanished into the daylight behind him. The stench of guano hung in the air.

A shudder rippled through him.
This is where Calewen died,
Gavin thought. When his eyes adjusted to the dimness, he looked around, expecting to see the queen’s blood spattered on the floor and walls. But he saw none. Not now, two hundred years later.

His eyes focused on the far wall, about ten paces back. On a shelf of jutting rock rested a stone tablet. It drew him, like a starving man standing before a feast, deeper into the cave. His feet grew heavier with every step. “I must be mad.”
Mad. Mad. Mad. Mad.
The word echoed in his mind after it faded from earshot. “Damn caves.”
Caves. Caves. Caves.
He wiped his palms on his trousers, then rubbed his hands together as he stepped up to the tablet.

Roughly a foot and a half in diameter and three inches thick, it sat on edge. Gavin examined the tablet top to bottom. It didn’t look two hundred years old. Didn’t even have any dust on it. In the tablet’s surface a gemstone was nestled within each of five thumbnail-sized holes. Scrapes marred the edges of the holes, as though would-be thieves had tried to work the gems free with their knives. Beside each gem, a symbol was deeply chiseled into the tablet’s flat surface: the King’s Runes.

Gavin slid his finger to the surface of the gemstone in the outermost position of the spiral shape they formed. It felt as smooth as the surface of a still pool. In the center of the tablet sat the most prized of them all: the King’s Blood-stone.

‘He who claims the King’s Blood-stone shall reign as king,’ said law and legend.

But why was the tablet in a cave? Why hadn’t someone simply walked off with the thing? It couldn’t be that heavy, maybe twenty stones or so. To test his hunch, Gavin tried to lift it from the shelf. It wouldn’t budge. He planted his feet and set his hip against the rock wall for leverage, gritting his teeth as he pulled. Still the tablet didn’t move. Hm. Maybe the same magic that locked the gems in the tablet weighted it down. There had to be more -- artifacts, letters -- something left behind from King Arek’s reign, something explaining the purpose for the gems and the tablet -- and why the palace had been sealed. Someone somewhere had an accounting of how the king had died. And Gavin would find him.

Awright, might as well try it. No harm in that. Probably won’t work anyway.

He cracked his knuckles and gripped the tablet in his calloused hands, flexing his fingers against the cool, rough surface. He licked his lips and wished he had a tankard of ale.

Gavin focused on the first rune, and as he stared, its image blurred. “Faroryn,” he whispered. The symbol represented strength, dependability, a sense of purpose. He had no idea how he knew this; it had come to him as though he’d simply remembered.

Suddenly the cave seemed to tilt. He rocked back on his heels, then forward again trying to compensate and regain his balance. He clenched the stone tablet. The cave around him twisted, its rough walls warping into the tablet with its five gems, into his arms stretched before him, into the rock floor. He fell to his hands and knees. A cottony feeling filled his mouth.

When the cave righted itself, Gavin lifted his head to look upon the tablet once again. The first gemstone dropped to the ground, clinking as it struck the rock and bounced to land under his nose. He blinked hard to be sure he saw what he thought he saw: one of the Rune Stones. His destiny.

No. It couldn’t be. Deciphering one rune meant nothing. Anyone could have done it. Anyone but a peasant who could barely read. Gavin snorted a half-laugh and shoved the notion from his mind. He didn’t believe in fate or ghosts or any other superstitious crap. He’d come here by choice, after all. And now, he chose to take what he’d earned.

As he wrapped his hand around the gem, the image of a man sparked in his mind: King Arek -- the last man who had ever held that gem in his hand.

An icy feeling of dread swept through Gavin’s body. He’d just made the biggest mistake of his life; the throne would soon be his.

“It’s about time,” a voice said.

Gavin shot to his feet and whirled about.

“It’s not so far from Sohan,” another said. It came from outside.

“I’m not accustomed to traveling astride, Sage Marckys. My backside is utterly chafed.”

Scholars. Damn it. Gavin looked around but saw no place to hide. He shoved the gem into his pocket and ran.

“Mark my words. Once you feast your eyes upon the magnificence of the King’s Blood-stone, you’ll forget all about your—”

Blinded by the brilliance of daylight, Gavin stumbled onto the trail. Through squinting eyes, he saw two men dressed in long, colorful robes standing beside a pair of horses.

“Goodness me! Who are you?” asked one of the scholars.

“Check the tablet,” said the other.

Gavin spotted his mount waiting in the trees. With a running leap, he pulled himself up and into the saddle. He pounded the gray’s sides with his heels.

“The first gem is gone,” a scholar cried.

“He’ll be the king. Wait, my lord, come back!” The voices faded into the growing distance behind him.

Plagued by recurring dreams and images of the King’s Runes, Gavin returned to the cave twice more over the next nine months. Each time, he hoped the nonsensical word whispering through his mind portended madness. Each time, the word instead unlocked the rune, whose gem fell to the cave floor with a delicate clink. And with each gem, Gavin took another hesitant step closer to the throne of Thendylath.

After arriving in Ambryce, the third gem newly added to his coin purse, Gavin bartered his labor for a room at the Good Knight Inn and went to find a drink and meal. He stepped into a tavern and paused at the door while his eyes adapted. A couple dozen men, clustered around rickety tables, talked and laughed and hoisted mugs of foaming ale. The barmaid waved a finger at him as she carried a tray overhead, and he lifted a hand in return.

“Kinshield!” someone shouted.

Nearly every face turned toward him, which made finding his pals, Tonn and Vonn, much easier. Gavin had never learned to tell the twins apart. They shared a long, angular face and stringy, dark blond hair with a single eyebrow snaking from temple to temple. To Gavin’s eye, they looked like the same man. He had to rely on some distinguishing characteristic such as a shaving cut or bruise to help him identify which was which. Today, one wore a gray shirt and the other white. That would make conversation a lot easier once one brother named the other. He made his way to their table, greeted them with a handshake and some good-natured heckling, and sat. After his long ride, he wanted nothing more than a tankard of ale and warm food, though he would have preferred to sit alone to sort out his thoughts.

The barmaid bumped her hip against him. “Where’ve y’been, love?” she asked.

The Rune Cave, where else?
 “Killing and maiming as usual,” he replied. “How ‘bout a full tankard and some stew?”

“Sure, but you got to pay first.” At Gavin’s scowl, she jerked her chin toward the barkeep, who held up eight fingers. “His rules, not mine. I’d give you anything you wanted, no charge.”

BOOK: The Kinshield Legacy
12.82Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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