Sometimes you don’t get lofty heroes, angels, kings, and chosen ones. Sometimes you get…Aaslo. What happens when the chosen one fails? You grab a couple of willing miscreants, a grossly incompetent horse, and maybe one or two insane people, and try to save the world anyway.
This fall, Kings Dark Tidings author Kel Kade brings us Fate of the Fallen, the first in her new Shroud of Prophecy series. Check out Kel’s intro to the book, read a short excerpt below, then head over to Tor.com for a closer look at the cover!
Aaslo urged his horse forward. Upon reaching the feature of glistening, blue water, Dolt refused to heed Aaslo’s command to stop and instead hopped over the fountain’s rim to stand beneath the frothy spray. He then proceeded to flick the water with his tail, flinging it several paces in every direction, seemingly delighted by the patrons’ protests. Aaslo tumbled onto the fountain’s ledge as he gracelessly dismounted while scolding the horse. Shouts from the crowd echoed his own, except that they were directed at him. By the time Aaslo had his feet firmly on the ground, two city guards had joined him.
“What do you think you’re doing? Get that horse out of the fountain!” said the first, a brown-haired fellow with a thick mustache and a dimpled chin.
“Oh, you’re in trouble now.”
“Can’t you see that I’m trying?” Aaslo muttered. “The infernal beast does what he wants.”
“Well, he’s your responsibility, and you’ll be paying for any damages. If you don’t get him out of there right now, we’ll have to arrest you for disturbing the peace.”
A crowd started to form, and Aaslo wanted to get away before attracting any more attention. He said, “All right, how about you help me get him out, and then we can both be on with our business.”
The guard drew a baton from his belt and pointed it at Aaslo. “Do I look like a stable hand?”
“Actually, he kind of does.”
“Stable hands are usually bigger,” Aaslo muttered.
The guard stepped forward. “What did you say?”
Dolt snorted, turned his massive head, and nabbed the second guard’s hat from his head. The young man shouted and hastily reached for the cap, but Dolt dodged the attempt with a pleased knicker. The crowd roared with laughter as the young guard toppled into the fountain.
Aaslo turned to the first guard with a heavy sigh, crossed his arms, and said, “Doesn’t matter your position. You’re a man, and a man can choose to make things more difficult, or he can choose to help. In the choosing, he decides what kind of man he wants to be.”
“More sage forester wisdom?” called a familiar voice. Aaslo turned to find the marquess’s party watching the display from atop their mounts. “It seems your horse is up to his usual antics.”
Dolt turned as if he knew they were speaking of him. He abruptly vacated the fountain and plodded over to nip at the tail of his former acquaintance. The other horse was again disquieted by the attention and summarily sent its rider crashing to the ground. The patrons jeered while the marquess’s guard collected himself and hollered epithets. The marquess watched the scene with apathy, but laughter danced in his eyes.
The marquess’s servant tapped two hollow metal shafts together causing them to ring louder than the boisterous crowd. He called over the din, “The Most Honorable the Marquess of Dovermyer.”
The crowd hushed, and then everyone was bowing—everyone but Aaslo. He glanced around and suddenly felt awkward to be the only one standing erect in the presence of the marquess. He decided that a belated bow would be even more uncomfortable, so he stood his ground with a scowl.
“You rebel. Still seeking the noose, are you?”
“If it’s not a noose, then it’s a thief,” Aaslo muttered.
“What are you going on about now?” said the marquess. “Has someone robbed you?”
“This city is full of thieves,” Aaslo replied. “But I got back what was taken.”
“And then some.”
“I am pleased to see you standing here well enough, then. I hear tell that some of these thieves can be quite brutal.” The marquess tilted his head to examine Aaslo. “It seems you did not escape unscathed.”
Aaslo brushed his fingers across the sore spot on his split scalp. Although it no longer bled, the injury was bold enough to stand out from his hairline. He said, “I’ll live.”
“Quite so,” said the marquess, “but did the thieves?”
“The noose grows tighter.”
Aaslo said nothing, and the marquess hummed under his breath. Glancing toward his frustrated guardsman, the marquess said, “Perhaps I should hire you to train my guards.”
With Dolt’s reins in hand, Aaslo yanked the horse away from the poor man. “I’m not a soldier. You know that.”
“I’m not sure that I do, Sir Forester. You seem qualified to me.”
Aaslo’s stomach churned with the marquess’s use of the title. A wave of chatter rushed through the crowd of onlookers who suddenly appeared hungry. People were jostled as others pushed forward to see the forester on display, and his personal space began to shrink. Aaslo wished Dolt would dash through the crowd and drag him away. The horse turned to look at him as if to ask if he were serious.
“May I address the Most Honorable the Marquess?” said the city guardsman.
The marquess looked to the man and said, “What is it?”
The guardsman straightened and said, “Shall we arrest this man?”
“I am almost inclined to allow it,” said the marquess.
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