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Authors: Chris A. Jackson,Anne L. McMillen-Jackson

Tags: #Fiction, #Fantasy

Weapon of Fear

BOOK: Weapon of Fear
7.39Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub




novel is dedicated Anne’s mother, Marge McMillen, and Chris’ father, Robert
Jackson, both of whom passed away during the writing of this story.







We would
once again like to thank Noah Stacey for agreeing to do the cover art for this
second trilogy in the Weapon of Flesh series.


We owe
Noah more than we can ever repay.

of Fear


Weapon of
Flesh Trilogy II

Book 1


Chris A.
Jackson and Anne L. McMillen-Jackson






the award-winning Weapon of Flesh series.

is Mya’s story.


One thrust of a
dagger changed an empire.

Mya discovers that
donning the Grandmaster’s ring does not make her master of the Assassins Guild,
and won’t keep her safe from the machinations of those whose power she has

The Tsing guildmaster
refuses to pledge allegiance. The power-crazed priest, Hoseph, vows to see the
Grandmaster’s ring on the finger of a new emperor of his own choosing.
Meanwhile, the true heir to the throne ignites class warfare with his new
policies, earning the enmity of his own nobility.

Alone in Tsing, a
city simmering in intrigue and injustice, Mya struggles to overcome her
ingrained fear and shattered heart to wrest control of the guild from those who
view her as a usurper. But what chance does one woman have against an entire
guild of assassins, much less a madman who can dissolve into shadow and kill
with a touch?

The Hunter has become
the hunted…



Copyright Notice


2014 Chris A. Jackson

rights reserved.





Image Copyright 2014 Jaxbooks




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he assassin’s kick splintered
Hoseph’s ribs like kindling, knocking the breath from his lungs.  The room spun
around him as he tumbled back over something cold and hard.  He landed in a
heap, pain lancing through his chest.  A gasp for breath brought the tasted of

growled curse and the clash of metal from beyond the stone slab caught his
ear.  Hoseph blinked away the darkness edging into his vision, forcing his mind
to focus on the here and now, on the fight, on the unbelievable mayhem these
assassins from Twailin had unleashed.

guildmaster and his Master Hunter had turned out to be more than anyone
bargained for, daring to challenge the Grandmaster of the entire Assassins
Guild, the very emperor of Tsing.  They had even managed to kill two of his
bodyguards, blademasters of Koss Godslayer, a feat unheard of…until now.  The
Grandmaster was immune to their attacks, protected by his ring from any guild
assassin, but Hoseph couldn’t rely on the three remaining blademasters to
contain the situation.  His own attempt to kill Guildmaster Lad had proven
disastrous.  He needed help.

the tiny silver skull that dangled from his wrist on a thin silver chain,
Hoseph called upon his patron goddess: Demia, Keeper of The Slain.  Dark
tendrils curled about him, her chill power infusing his flesh.  The stone walls
of the interrogation chamber faded away into shifting veils of gray—the Sphere
of Shadows.  At once, the pain of his injuries vanished.  Here, in this place
without physical substance, his incorporeal body could feel nothing, hear
nothing, taste nothing.  Grateful for the release, Hoseph was tempted to
linger, but he dared not.  He pictured his desired destination in his mind and
invoked the skull talisman once again.

staggered upon the uneven footing, gritting his teeth against the renewed
pain.  A long, torch-lit stairway rose before him and descended behind.  This
was as far as Demia’s magic would take him, for magical wards of immense power
shielded the rest of the palace from any kind of magical transport.  The
imperial guards stationed at the top would rally aid.  They were sworn to
protect the emperor.  Of course, they had no idea that Emperor Tynean Tsing II
was also the Grandmaster of the Assassins Guild.  Only five people in the city
of Tsing were privy to that truth.

soon, two of those five will be dead

smiled grimly.  As a high priest of Demia, his role was to usher souls from the
realm of the living to the afterlife.  He would take great pleasure in doing so
for Lad and Mya.  He pushed himself up the steps, gasping for breath as his
splintered ribs ground against one another.  Blood dripped from the wound in
his upper chest where Mya’s dagger had pierced him during her surprise attack,
though how she had survived the Grandmasters dagger thrust, he couldn’t
fathom.  No matter.  Demia’s grace would heal his injuries, but not quickly. 
In the meantime, he had a long flight of stairs to climb.

one arm clutching his chest to stabilize his shattered ribs, Hoseph lurched
forward.  Lightheaded, he leaned against wall until his dizziness eased. 
got to hurry
.  If the traitors escaped, the Grandmaster’s wrath would be
terrible.  He started up the stairs.

his legs were uninjured, his progress was slow; each breath felt as if he were
being stabbed with a ragged blade.  His foot missed one step and he nearly
tripped.  As he caught himself, the torchlight danced in his vision, then
No…don’t pass out! 
Forcing the darkness aside by sheer force
of will, he climbed on.

could he have underestimated the assassins so badly?  He knew that Lad had been
created for Saliez, the former Twailin guildmaster, as a magically enhanced
But Mya
…  Hoseph wondered if Saliez had commissioned more than
one weapon, conveniently neglecting to inform them.  It would explain her
uncanny speed and battle skills, but didn’t make sense.  Mya was an incredibly competent
young Master Hunter; her record in the guild was clearly documented. 

doesn’t matter

can’t touch the Grandmaster
, he reminded himself with cold certainty. His
only worry was the Grandmaster’s reaction.  Hoseph’s proposal of Mya as the perfect
choice as Twailin guildmaster had precipitated this whole situation, and Tynean
Tsing was not a forgiving master.

priest stumbled against the thick, iron-bound door at the top of the stairs. 
Reaching for the handle, he bit back a curse as he realized that he had no
key.  Only the emperor and the jailor had keys to this door.  As usual, the
jailor had been dismissed once the preparations for the meeting were completed,
retreating to a dark corner of the dungeon with a bottle of rum until summoned
to dispose of the bodies and clean up.  Hoseph had no time to go back down and
find him.

pounded on the door with his fist, shouting as loudly as he could, though each
word cost him pain and blood.  “Guards!  Guards!  The emperor is under attack! 

came the voice from beyond the door.  “Who is this?”

Priest Hoseph!  Listen to me!  Assassins in the dungeon!  Summon the guard and
break down the door!”

fell back against the wall, his chest afire from his efforts.  “Thank Demia”,
he murmured as shouts rang out beyond the door.

feet and clanking armor soon announced the arrival of troops.  Moments later, a
heavy blow struck the door.  Hoseph stumbled back as a second blow shook the
door in its frame.  The pounding continued, heavy implements cracking against
the wood, with an occasional clang against the iron bands and hinges.  The
door, however, was too well built to submit to mere brute strength.

…  Covering his ears to ease the
racket, Hoseph tried to gauge how long it had been since he had left the
torture chamber.

pounding stopped.

they given up
they wouldn’t

screech of tortured metal and the crack of crumbling stone shivered the air. 
Hoseph backed down another step, staring as the door’s iron bands, hinges,
lock, and handle all glowed eerily, then crumpled inward.  Wood splintered and
rivets popped.  Hoseph flung up his arms to defend against the shrapnel as the
stout door collapsed in on itself, as if a giant’s hand had wadded it up in a ball.

the heap of twisted iron and shattered oak stood a slim man in silver robes—Archmage
Duveau.  The phalanx of imperial guards and knights hung back, fearful of
getting caught up in the fierce enchantment.

Duveau!  Thank Demia!  The emperor’s in danger!”  Hoseph gestured down the long
stair.  “Hurry!”

Guards surged forward.

interrogation chamber.”  Hoseph was about to choke out directions when he saw
several of the senior guards and knights exchange knowing, unsettled glances. 
They knew where to go.  Commander Ithross led dozens of his imperial guards
past him down the steps, followed by several knights and their squires.  Hoseph
pressed himself against the wall to avoid being overrun.  As their clatter
passed into the distance, he concentrated on trying to breath without fainting.

injured.”  Archmage Duveau stood before him, his robes shimmering like
quicksilver in the torchlight.

I tried to intervene.  One assassin kicked me in the ribs, and the other stabbed
me with a dagger.”  Hoseph wiped blood from his lips and tried unsuccessfully
to straighten without wincing.

Duveau pulled from a pocket in his robe a small dark sphere about the size of
an olive.  He held it out to Hoseph between his finger and thumb.  “Swallow

is it?”  Working with assassins for years had bred in Hoseph an unshakable
habit of distrust.  Though he couldn’t imagine why Duveau might want to harm
him, he accepted nothing at face value.

archmage sneered in derision. “It’s called a fleshforge.  It will cure your
injuries, since your death goddess apparently has little regard for the health
of her priests.  Now swallow it.  We haven’t time for reticence.  We must aid
the emperor.”

course.”  Steaming at the offhand insult, but reluctant to anger the archmage,
Hoseph popped the sphere into his mouth.  It was cold and tasted of iron.  He
swallowed forcefully, and the sphere slid down his throat.  He tensed as heat
pulsed outward from his belly, but then his pain began to ebb.  The ends of his
broken ribs shifted, not grinding now, but moving together and knitting.  The
knife wound closed and the split skin sealed.  Even the ache in his thighs from
the long climb vanished.  Before Hoseph drew another breath, he was healed.

was—”  A sudden wave of nausea gripped him.  He retched, bending forward with
the force of the convulsion.  The small sphere surged up his throat and out his
gaping mouth.

caught the fleshforge, wiped it on Hoseph’s robe, and tucked it away.  “There. 
Now, we must hurry.”

two men hastened down the stairs.  About halfway down, Duveau stopped and
seemed to sniff the air, then grasped Hoseph’s arm as if to steady him.

can walk.  You needn’t—”

time for walking.”  Duveau murmured arcane phrases and pressed a hand to the
the wall.  The stone swallowed his hand as readily as Hoseph
had swallowed the fleshforge.  But the archmage didn’t stop there.  He strode
forward, dragging Hoseph along with him.

no time to panic, Hoseph found himself pulled into the wall and utter
darkness.  Though he knew it was solid stone, he felt like he’d stepped through
a gentle waterfall.  A moment later, they emerged just down the corridor from
the interrogation chamber.

tore his arm from the archmage’s grasp.  He was unaccustomed to being on the
receiving end of a spell, and didn’t like it in the least.  A clatter from down
the hall drew his attention as the crowd of guards and knights arrived, clearly
astonished to see Duveau and Hoseph there ahead of them.  But they didn’t stop,
continuing their headlong dash down the corridor.

wanted to rush right behind them, eager to see the two assassins laid out in
pools of blood.  Duveau strode after them at a slower pace than Hoseph would have
preferred, but he refused to cede his own dignity to the archmage.  The
collective gasps and cries from the warriors spurred them forward into the
chamber.  They found no fighting, no clash of arms, only a closely packed crowd
of guards and knights around the spot where he’d left the emperor.

Majesty!” Hoseph shouted as he hurried forward.

young squire stumbled back from the crowd of guards, fell to his knees, and
vomited.  With a cringe of disgust, Hoseph side-stepped him and shoved his way
through the strangely quiet assembly of warriors.  “Your Majesty!  I’ve

stopped, blinking in shock, for a moment disbelieving his own eyes.  Instead of
Lad and Mya, the emperor’s five blademasters lay pale and dead in a veritable
lake of blood.  One was missing a head and a hand.  A steel spike protruded
from the head of another.

middle-aged knight, Sir Fineal, knelt beside yet another body stretched out on
the floor.  Blue and gold robes streaked with blood, silver hair, a golden
circlet inlaid with blood-red rubies.  But all Hoseph could stare at was the
emperor’s own hand clutching the hilt of the kris that had been thrust up into
his brain.

…  Demia’s high priest stared in
shock, unable—unwilling—to accept what his eyes were showing him. 
How can
he be dead?
They couldn’t touch him!
He wears the ring!
Hoseph suddenly realized that the gold and obsidian band of the Grandmaster of
Assassins no longer glinted upon Tynean Tsing’s finger.  The ring—the
Grandmaster’s last protection from his own guild—was gone.

emperor has been slain.” Sir Fineal reached down to close the dead sovereign’s

disbelieving voice broke the silence. “He…he killed himself?”

thought Hoseph.  “But how…”
and Mya
have killed him
. Hoseph only realized that he had
spoken aloud when he felt every eye in the room upon him.

narrowed eyes, Sir Fineal stared at the priest as he rose.  “How this could
have happened is
the question, High Priest Hoseph.  You say that
you were with His Majesty.  What occurred here?”

Hoseph glanced about the room.  Everyone stared back, expecting answers.  He
caught sight of the open iron maiden near the emperor’s corpse.  It had, only
moments ago, held the captain of the Twailin Royal Guard.
Hoseph caught his breath. 
Where is Norwood?
  The captain had signed his
own death warrant when he begged an audience with Tynean Tsing, believing that
a spy posed a lethal threat to the emperor.  The man had discovered that the
emperor himself was the threat.  But now he had vanished.

BOOK: Weapon of Fear
7.39Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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