Kayne - Crown of Dominion, p.1
Kayne – Crown of Dominion
Copyright © 2014 by Adrian L Juhl
All rights reserved
Adrian L Juhl
Cover art by Kristina Juhl
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No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means including information storage and retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the author. The only exception is by a reviewer, who may quote short excerpts in a review.
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
Table of Contents
Glossary of Names
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Glossary of Names (Uncommon)
“That’s forty-six by my count!” Kayne’s voice echoed in the valley, filled with a lighthearted humor that spurred his men on.
Jack swung his two-handed sword in a wide arc, cleaving his enemy in half. “Dammit, boy, this is not a game. Act like a prince.”
Animated by Necromancer magic, rotting corpses ran along the walls of the mud hut with incredible speed. Kayne’s blade sliced through an undead creature’s cheek. It howled in surprise, clutching its face, but still advanced. Kayne lifted his sword once more, his blade flashing in the full moon’s light. The creature hissed, twisting and grabbing at the young prince, as it leapt from the wall. Kayne moved faster, clutching the creature by the throat.
“Hey, Jack, this thing was going for my neck. Let’s see how he likes it!”
The undead creature jerked its head from side to side, trying to find weakness in Kayne’s grip. It kicked with a ferocity born of desperation. As Kayne’s hold failed, it grabbed him around the back of the neck, digging claws into his flesh. Kayne grabbed the creature’s hair, its gnashing teeth just out of reach. He struck its head with the silver pommel of his sword. Guttural screams of agony poured out of the creature as it thrashed its arms and tried to escape. In the distance, three figures raised their arms, and horns signaled the undead to retreat.
Kayne raised his sword in triumph, joining the cheers of the surrounding men. “See, Jack? An easy victory. Who needs Apothecaries?”
Jack placed his hand on Kayne’s shoulder. “Careful. You may be the prince, but you are also the son of a Subjugator. Those comments have a way of biting back when you least expect it.”
“Nonsense. My mother’s nothing to fear. She just sits on her throne all day and nags my father about the importance of prayer and tithes.”
“The rest of us don’t have the luxury of blood ties. Your men admire and love you. They will repeat what you say.”
“I suppose you’re right. Sorry, Jack. The moment caught me. It’s a good thing I have you, my friend.”
“You leave on your pilgrimage in a few days. I won’t be around to advise you.”
“Yes, yes, I know. And my every move will be observed, assessed, and reported upon by some Apothecary loser.” Annoyed, Kayne kicked at the dirt.
“Silence that tongue, boy. You’re no longer a child. Many a king has been put to the sword for words far less offensive.”
“My father says the time’s coming when the state and church will separate. Just like the old days,” Kayne replied.
“In the old days, the church was very different.”
Kayne looked at Jack in surprise. Jack changed the subject, appraising the funeral pyre that lit up the hillside. The bonfire grew as more undead corpses fueled the flames.
“Took them long enough. Your men are getting slack. That’s what happens when we stand and chit chat.”
“Wait. We can’t go yet. Tell me more about the old church.”
“Now is not the time or place. Besides, that was a lifetime ago. We’ll discuss it when you get back from your trip.”
Jack studied the eager prince. At six feet and five inches, he was a spitting image of his father, except for the deep red hair inherited from his mother. His steel breastplate, stained with blood, glistened in the moonlight. Large cuts and dents decorated its surface. The words Prince Kayne, embossed across the chest, had been vandalized. It now read Prince of Payne.
“Or perhaps not,” he murmured, shaking his head.
Kayne followed Jack’s eyes. “Come on, now. You can’t judge me like that. Plastering my name all over my armor just makes me a target. It’s a wonder I’m still alive.”
Jack wiped his sword clean and returned it to the scabbard that hung across his back. He ushered the prince toward the small village. “You know what your father would say about that.”
Kayne sighed, tucked in his broad shoulders, and lowered his voice. “Your name is your glory. It’s your heritage, the strength of your birthright and the bane of your enemies. Wear it with pride, son. It will be the last thing to cross their lips when they lay dying at your feet!”
Jack tried to stifle his laughter, but the prince’s impersonation of the king would fool even those who knew him well.
Kayne looked at the dead body in front of him. He gave it a nudge to make sure it was dead. A small, tattered scroll fell out of the corpse’s tunic. He reached down and picked it up. “Ooh, an old scroll!”
Jack took the withered parchment from Kayne, attempting to conceal his excitement. With the utmost care, he unfurled the scroll.
“It’s an old map. This poor bugger must have worked at the library.”
“But that’s on the east side, protected by the Royal Guard and the wall.”
“Perhaps he lost his nerve and ran for the city.”
Kayne took the parchment and tucked it into a leather bag concealed under his red cape. “I’ll return this to the Apothecaries when I get back. Speaking of which, here comes one now.”
They waited as Apothecary Raymond approached, his war-hammer swinging at his hip. Black armor, adorned with symbols of his faith, covered him. A large snake biting its tail decorated his left shoulder-pad.
“Majesty,”–he inclined his head at Kayne, just enough to be respectful–“this way, please.”
Kayne shrugged. “I guess we’ve been summoned.”
Houses bordered the long, straight roads of the village. Ministers made their way from house to house, healing the wounded, and doing what they could for the dying. Beside them, two Apothecaries meted out quick deaths—the only cure for the infected.
Villagers’ screams filled the air. Kayne called to Raymond repeatedly. He rushed forward and grabbed him by the shoulder, touching the Apothecary’s holiest symbol. Raymond spun around, rage filling him at the blasphemous act. He grabbed the prince’s hand. Kayne heard his knuckles crack, but his steel gaze held Raymond’s.
“I asked you a question.”
Surprised at the prince’s reaction, Raymond released his grip. “Isn’t it obvious? The undead breached the east wall.”
“Impossible! That would’ve taken hundreds to acc
Raymond stopped in front of a large hall and gestured for them to follow. Inside the hall, Kayne couldn’t mask his horror. Members of the King’s Honor Guard lay dead and dying. One of them shuddered and convulsed on a small, makeshift bed.
“Pierce!” shouted Kayne. He rushed over to his lifelong friend.
Pierce tried to rise but collapsed back onto his bed. “No time, Kayne. They killed everyone here,” he whispered, glancing at the Apothecary who was in deep discussion with a Minister. “You know what you must do. All who survived the att-”
Pierce blacked out. Jack arrived and stood beside Kayne, whose hand had pulsed with blue magic. He grabbed Kayne’s wrist.
“Fool! What are you doing? You’re not a servant of Ophidia! Your own mother couldn’t protect you if they discover you’re a Subjugator and not a plain citizen!”
Kayne broke free of Jack’s grip. “Not now, Jack. You taught me to honor my responsibility, and that’s what I’m doing. Now stand there and make sure Raymond doesn’t see.”
Kayne placed his hand on Pierce’s clammy forehead. Pierce’s body shook as his memories filled Kayne’s mind.
Kayne saw a section of the wall protecting the village disintegrate as a black shadow burst through. Hundreds of undead flooded the breach and plowed into the Elite Guard. The fifty guardsmen stood their ground as bodies piled up around them. A single Necromancer stood in the opening. He lifted back his hood to reveal a pitch-black man. As he chanted, the blackness drained out of him, soaked into the ground, and turned the soil black. Large fog-like tendrils reached out in pursuit of their victims. Aghast, Kayne recoiled as they flowed into the open mouths and nostrils of the defenders. Their eyes turned black. Their bodies convulsed as the fog invaded them. Helpless, Kayne watched as Pierce fought on. Unwilling to take the lives of his infected comrades, he knocked them unconscious. He looked down as a single tendril wrapped around his leg and snaked its way up his body. He slashed at it. The sword cut through the tendril with no effect.
A deluge of emotions hit Kayne. He felt Pierce’s vulnerability, terror, and pain as the fog overwhelmed him and took away his will. Kayne saw a black horse descend from the sky, blue fire in its wake. It landed beside Pierce. Strange symbols adorned the female rider’s black leather armor. A sword, formed of pure magic, surrounded the cobalt wand in her hand. Its edges trailed into smoke. The fog turned to attack. With a single swing of her weapon, it dissipated. She turned to face the Necromancer, her eyes cobalt flames. Recognition filled him. He screamed in terror, bowing low to the ground. On hearing the screams, the undead turned and fled toward the breach.
With a cry of pain, the Necromancer grabbed his head, writhing. He appeared to struggle against an unseen assailant. Panicked, he ran and mounted his horse. The two riders stared at each other for a moment. “Dark Queen!” he screamed. The undead slaves responded, encircling their master as he fled in fear of his life.
The rider turned to the men and raised her hands. They screamed as their eyes cleared, the black fog dissolving in smoke and agony. Kayne felt Pierce’s terror as the rider’s gaze fell upon him.
“Kayne,” Jack whispered. “You need to come back to us now!”
The connection to Pierce severed. Kayne opened his eyes, and the glow disappeared from his hand. “I was almost done!”
“Majesty. If you’re done, I have other responsibilities I must attend to,” called Raymond as he approached the men.
Kayne moved out from behind Jack. “I’m pleased you summoned me, Apothecary. Pierce is a good friend.”
The Apothecary stood between the two men clutching his heavy war-hammer. “It was the least I could do, Your Highness, given the circumstances.”
Pierce opened his eyes. He paled at the sight of the Apothecary. Kayne smiled and grabbed Pierce’s hand.
“You’re okay now, Pierce. You must tell me how you were cured.”
Pierce took comfort in the presence of his friend and smiled. Without warning, Raymond crushed Pierce’s head with his hammer, killing him instantly.
“You’re welcome, Majesty.” He motioned for the men to move out. “We’re done here. The plague is contained.”
Kayne roared in fury at the Apothecary. “Why? Why! He was cured, you stupid fool!” Jack restrained him and dragged the enraged prince to the exit. “I’ll kill you! Raise your hammer and fight me!” The prince jerked free of Jack’s grip and drew his sword from its scabbard. “You coward! He was cured! I challenge you! You’ll pay for what you’ve done! I’ll see you dead if it’s the last thing I do.”
Jack paled. He tried to calm the angry prince and fulfill his oath to protect him, but Kayne pushed past him. Raymond shook his head. “I’m sorry, Jack. The law is clear. Justice is served when one combatant dies.”
The men stepped outside, but several Ministers blocked the path. From behind them came an emotionless reply to Kayne’s challenge. “It is with deep reluctance, to protect truth and the integrity of the law, that I must accept.”
A hush descended on the Ministers as they formed a circle around the two combatants. The sound of steel rang out as Kayne drew his sword.
“You and your men killed innocents with your blind faith”-he leapt high into the air, striking at Raymond-”and refusal to accept-”
Kayne’s tirade stopped short as the Apothecary grabbed the blade of his sword mid-strike. With surprising speed, and a quick jab, Raymond’s fist connected with the prince’s jaw. He placed his hand on the prince’s chest and slammed him into the ground. Kayne fought the wave of unconsciousness that threatened to overwhelm him.
“I can still take you.” His head dropped to the ground as he blacked out.
Raymond studied the unconscious prince. “A pity,” he muttered to himself.
Jack readied himself to strike the Apothecary, should Raymond finish what Kayne’s impulsive nature had started. As Raymond raised his fist to deliver the final blow, the scroll, sticking out of the prince’s satchel, caught his eye. He reached down and retrieved it, slowly unfurling the scroll to study it.
Raymond rolled the scroll back up and returned it to the satchel. “You need to keep your charge under control.” With a quick nod, his plate visor snapped closed, covering his face as he walked away.