Broken Banners (A Reaper of Stone Book 2)
by Mark Gelineau, Joe King
Release Date: February 15, 2016
Cover (use links below to download)
Slaughtered and left for crows, soldiers of the King’s Army lay dead in a field. A grim reminder: the king’s law ends at the gates of the capital.
Elinor fought for what she believed and now she is an outcast. No soldier will follow her. No officer will stand with her. Yet when she finds her brothers and sisters slaughtered, she cannot turn her back on them.
Long ago, they swore an oath. Not to the king, but to each other.
And woe to those who break that bond.
Buy link: amzn.com/B01AKTACDK
Mailing List: www.gelineauandking.com/mailinglist
Amazon Author Pages:
Mark Gelineau: http://www.amazon.com/Mark-Gelineau/e/B00I6TQUCE
Joe King: http://www.amazon.com/Joe-King/e/B01460OK50
Author Bios (Short)
Mark and Joe have been writing and telling stories together for the last 25 years. They share a love for the classic fantasy tales of their childhood. Their Echoes of the Ascended series brings those old epic characters and worlds to new life.
Lieutenant Aldis Janen frowned as his opponent raised his blade in a crisp salute from across the dueling circle. The salute was much too sharp for a man with a large dose of poison running through him.
Damn, Aldis thought.
What had looked to be a promising day had just taken a decisive step in the opposite direction.
It had to be the bastard’s weight. Lieutenant Garm Crispin had put on considerable girth in his time leading the Forty-Second. Soft living at the feet of the warden, no doubt, Aldis thought bitterly. That extra weight had obviously been enough to slow the poison Aldis had sneaked into his wine.
Or perhaps what he bought was not poison at all. That old crone had likely given him nothing but water in that vial.
The thought rankled him.
Aldis hated being cheated.
And now, when the moron should have been shaking and wobbling, he was instead holding his blade high, waiting for Aldis to return the salute.
Loud jeers and catcalls sounded from the soldiers around them. All wore the king’s black and silver, just like Aldis and his opponent, but half sported the tan markings of the Forty-Second, while the rest bore the green of the Ninety-Fifth Pioneers, the unit Aldis commanded.
His soldiers were watching. Best not to disappoint them.
Aldis assumed his most confident smile, raised his sword with a flourish, and saluted.
And then things went to hell.
“Aldis Janen is a spoiled wastrel who has always been able to get by on his charm and his family,” Con said. “He has never achieved a genuine thing in his life. You’ve always given him a pass on his character defects because he was kind to you in the Academy, Elinor.”
“Absolutely. When so few others were. I do not forget such things.”
He sighed. “I’m just saying that your feelings for him tend to cloud your judgment.”
She moved off her rocky perch. “You two never got along.”
“No, we most certainly did not.”
“Well, then the good news for you is when we see him later today, you will have another chance to mend things, now won’t you?” she asked with a smile as she headed back toward the camp.
Elinor took stock of the large wagons being pulled by the mule teams. “With some luck, we can reach Height’s Ward Keep, or what’s left of it, by nightfall.” She pointed to a cliff, a short distance from their position. “We should have a good glimpse of the road from there. Think you’re up for a little climb, Journeyman Engineer?”
Con sighed, but followed her up the cliff.
Before long, he was catching his breath. “I don’t—I don’t know how you do that so fast,” he wheezed.
Elinor said nothing. Her eyes focused in the direction of Height’s Ward Keep. In the distance, a cloud of dark shapes stained the sky.
“Rouse the camp. I want us covering ground in under an hour,”
Elinor said, moving. “At the hop and weapons to hand. Prepared for trouble.”
Con was already scrambling back down, shouting orders to get the company moving.
Con and Elinor rode into a scene of horror.
The large clearing was filled with torn and shattered bodies.
Dozens of men and women lay in the snow, their red blood frozen on their black uniforms.
Black uniforms of the King’s Army.
“By the First Ascended,” Con swore, staring out at the charnel scene before them.
He knelt down beside one of the corpses. The black uniform had a green stripe down the arms; an engineer.
Cold dread curled inside Con’s stomach like a sleeping snake.
This was the other reclamation group. The Ninety-Fifth Pioneers.
Con moved to another body. A woman’s face stared up at him, eyes wide with fear. He recognized her. Her name had been Rina. Rina something. A noble, but he couldn’t remember her family name. He had known her in the Academy.
“Elinor, this is the Ninety-Fifth,” Con said. “I know—I knew some of these people.” He shook his head. “What happened here?”
“All the wounds are to their backs, Con,” Elinor said. “They were run down. Taken from behind.” She scanned the clearing, her eyes hard. “Where are the rest of them?”
“What do you mean?” Con asked, but even as he said it, he understood. Unlike their contingent, the Ninety-Fifth Pioneers were a full cohort. They traveled with forty soldiers and over twice that in attached engineers and teamsters. There were no more than fifty bodies in the clearing.
Con looked back to Elinor. “Lieutenant Janen?”
“Aldis isn’t here,” she said.
In her voice, Con heard an equal mix of relief and worry.
She moved across the bloodstained clearing until she stood above a body that clasped a long pole. A torn banner dangled from it.
Elinor removed the banner and folded it silently. With each crisp, precise movement, Con saw tension grow on her face. Cold fury in her eyes.
“What do we do, Elinor?”
“These were soldiers of the King’s Army. Our brothers and sisters. We bury them,” she said. Then her voice grew colder. “And then we find who did this.”
Elinor bent low over the neck of her horse, urging him to greater speed. Small houses of the village flew past and she saw Edmur up ahead, a few of his men by his side.
“Run!” she yelled.
They scrambled up the short path and disappeared into the trees.
Behind her, she heard her pursuers, the beating hooves of their horses pounding like drums.
Elinor entered the forest, long branches scraping her as she raced past. She pushed further and faster, her heart pounding in her chest.
“Now!” she heard Con’s voice yell before something twanged with a high-pitched vibration. Strangled cries and panicked shrieks rang out behind her.
Elinor turned around just as the second wave of riders hit the length of rope at their chest, throwing them violently from their horses. The first riders were already on the ground and these others fell heavily atop their fellows, man and beast alike crying out in the chaos.
Edmur and his work crew were already on the downed riders.
They swung shovels and small blades, and the confused screams of the men on the ground were short-lived.
“Do not let them escape!” Elinor yelled out.
A flash of movement caught her attention. It was the tall rider, the leader of the group. He was barely a few strides away, gazing back in shock. He met her gaze with a look of fear and hatred, but then turned his horse and raced toward the village.
Elinor followed, weaving through the trees to catch him. “Stand down!” she yelled at the rider. “Stand and you will be spared. I give you my word.”
As she bore down on him, he swung wildly with his sword. She easily leaned out of the way and the sharp edge whistled harmlessly past her. The rider raised his blade high, standing tall in the saddle. As he did, a low branch caught him and threw him from his mount in a whirling cartwheel. She heard a sickening crunch.
He lay in a broken slump on the forest floor, his eyes staring wide and lifeless.
There would be no answers from him.