Kingdom Asunder Book Blurb:
What crime is more unforgivable than treason?
Princess Karena is all that stands between the House of Penmere and ruin. The King, her brother, was gravely wounded in a failed assassination attempt, and once-loyal followers are flocking to the treacherous Usurper’s golden embrace.
But Karena knows the surest defence is attack, and will stop at nothing to destroy any rival to her brother… or herself.
Against her, the Usurper musters a vast army to crush Penmere once and for all, but in a war of treachery those closest to you can be the greatest threat.
Today I’m pleased to be bringing you all an extract from Thaddeus White’s latest novel Kingdom Asunder.
“Men must be pampered, or annihilated.”
– Niccolò Machiavelli
The Queen of Penmere
Princess Karena closed her eyes and sighed as the heir to the throne stroked a pumice stone down the sole of her foot. In less than a week she would leave Penmere to attend her brother’s wedding, but until then she was enjoying a final few days as the city’s mistress. Waves crashed into the cliffs beneath Dragon’s Hall and a strong sea breeze blew into her bedchamber.
She opened her eyes and kicked Prince Stephen gently in the face. The House of Penmere had been shrivelled by misfortune and war, to the extent that a cousin to the King was heir to the throne. Stephen was of middling height, but in all other regards he was half a man. The princeling was scrawny as a starved kitten, the legacy of secluding himself in libraries instead of fostering strength training for war. He not only lacked a prince’s pride, he was meeker than an apprentice, and on the occasions he did venture to express himself his tongue was tarnished with a stutter that inspired only derision. Even his eyes were wrong. His right was a dark brown, and his left a vivid green, not unlike her own.
A flurry of motion caught Karena’s eye. She turned to look at her balcony, brushing a long lock of dark red hair behind her ear. A little plate crammed with morsels to delight the seabirds that circled over the cliffs had been left out. Sure enough, one gull had been tempted down and was tearing into the fish. A great cat leapt from its hiding place in the shadows and crushed the bird beneath its paws. She smiled at Gorhelga’s success, and the glee with which the Fenshire lynx tore into her vanquished prey.
“Would that fawning courtiers could meet the same fate,” she mused.
Gorhelga, her small meal devoured, finished off the remaining fish herself and then slinked to Karena’s bedside. The princess tickled the great cat under her chin, eliciting a rumbling purr of contentment.
“How do you feel about Eleanor Norcott?” she asked Stephen.
“I’ve, I’ve only met her once. Well, seen her,” he replied, refusing to meet her green-eyed gaze and staring instead at the flawless white marble floor.
“Shoes,” Karena commanded. He started to get off his knees but she clicked her fingers and pointed to the floor, to which he returned. “I was talking to my cat,” she said. Gorhelga lowered her head and delicately picked up the shoes in her mouth, one at a time, and brought them to her mistress.
Karena pointed her toe at the prince. He slid the fur-lined boots onto her feet and set about lacing them up. “The Regent sent me a list of potential brides for you, Stephen. Eleanor Norcott was at the top of the list.”
Stephen swallowed nervously as Gorhelga crept nearer and licked him. The lynx’s rough tongue was big enough to cover half his face in slobber before Gorhelga returned to Karena’s side.
“I’m sure she’s a lovely young lady,” Stephen said.
Karena laughed. “She’s a feeble woman from a pathetic city. Still, there isn’t exactly a fine stock of candidates for the task. Jane Falchester’s vindictive and sly, Fenwick has plenty of daughters but would never marry them to a man who can’t carry his weight in battle, Beckworth and Esden have none… it’s Eleanor Norcott or settling for the daughter of a baron. Or a knight, Heaven forbid.”
“Did he send a list of potential husbands for you?” he asked, meeting her gaze at last.
She kicked him hard, her shoe smacking into his head. He fell onto his back and before he could move Gorhelga had wrapped her jaws around his throat. The lynx had been trained since birth and did not so much as draw blood. Nor would she, so long as he was still.
“There’s a time for backbone, cousin. Count yourself fortunate the House of Penmere needs every vessel of noble blood it can muster. Even a limp, feeble vessel such as yourself. Gorhelga, come.”
The cat released him and sat by Karena’s side.
“Take yourself back to your quarters and begin writing a proposal to Eleanor’s father.”
He scrambled to his feet and nodded. “Yes, cousin.”
Karena waited until he had left and walked over to her balcony, avoiding the small pool of blood and feathers which were all that remained of the gull. The balcony was large enough for a feasting table and overlooked the churning, bitter sea. Spray lashed the jagged rocks beneath Penmere as waves crashed into the cliffs. A cold breeze carried the smell of salt into her chambers and stirred the red velvet curtains. Beneath her boots she trod upon a writhing stone serpent carved into the floor. Karena stroked the swirling vines and blooming flowers decorating the balustrade and enjoyed the primal violence of the sea. The whole chamber, like the rest of the Holy City, was made from impervious white marble. It was a city crafted by gods and fit for kings. And for her.
There was a knock on the door to her bedchamber.
“Come,” she called.
Sir Horace, a bear of a man with a temper to match, threw the door open and strode forward to bow before her. “Forgive me, my lady, but you must come with me at once. The King has been attacked, and is near death.”
“Do the magistri know? Where is he?” Karena demanded, her heart clouded with dread.
“He’s in the Church of the Victorious Divine. A messenger has been sent to summon the magistri, and I took the liberty of having the grooms saddle your horse.”
Karena ran from her bedchamber, trailed by the knight and her lynx. Dragon’s Hall was a grand palace, a labyrinth of marble corridors and wide staircases. She raced through the palace, pushing past dawdling guards and oblivious servants, their apologies fading into the distance. When she reached the stables she mounted her horse and rode for the Church, Gorhelga running by her side and Sir Horace riding close behind.
The Church of the Victorious Divine was the furthest from the royal palace, but it also lay at the end of the Blessed Way, the wide thoroughfare that led directly from the city’s gates to Dragon’s Hall. If the Blessed Way were flooded the road would be wide enough for a ship to sail down it. White buildings pierced the sky, taller than any structure mortal man could craft. Hooded and helmed statues of daunting height stood guard at crossroads and dominated the Holy City’s squares. Despite the immensity of the statues and buildings, the avenues that cut through Penmere were so broad there was no sense of being hemmed in. Karena was grateful for that. Even as the sun set and men and women returned to their homes, she could ride swiftly without obstruction.
No spire rose from the Church, and in form it was no different to a hundred other particularly impressive structures the gods had left behind. Ten Hollow Knights guarded the colonnade that led to its doors. She tossed the reins to Sir Horace and ran inside.
Her brother was laid upon the altar, and relief flooded Karena’s heart to see one of the black-robed magistri had already arrived. William had been stripped of his armour, and most of his clothing had been torn open. Whatever shade his raiment had once been, almost all of it was crimson now. Bandages bound his limbs. The magister had placed his hands on the King’s bare chest and was chanting in the old tongue.
Karena sat on the nearest pew, and watched as the mage endeavoured to save her brother’s life. Gorhelga jumped onto the pew and rested her head on Karena’s lap. She stroked the lynx’s soft fur and listened to the magister’s chant echo in the church.
She had thought she was alone, but two men rose from behind the altar and made their way towards her. Sir Hugh’s bushy black beard was instantly recognisable. He was limping badly, and was supported by the second man, clad from head to toe in the battered armour of a Hollow Knight.
“My lady, we were ambushed,” Sir Hugh said. “The King was impatient, and had us ride ahead to Trewithiel. His impulsiveness was fortunate. The caravan of wagons we left behind was utterly destroyed, and we barely escaped Trewithiel with our lives. When we came upon the corpses on our way back to Penmere we were attacked again. All save myself, Sir Ambrose and the King were slain, and the King was grievously wounded. It was all we could do to make it back to the city.”
“Who is behind this?” she demanded.
It was Sir Ambrose who answered, his voice empty of passion or fear. “Baron Maurice Trewithiel sought the King’s death, my lady. He attempted to poison the King with a gift of fatal wine, and we would have perished in the city without the aid of the Order of Lascaris. The fidelity of the Knights Lascarian saw them pay a price in blood.”
The King screamed. His body convulsed and would have fallen from the altar had the magister not pinned him down. Breath stirred in his lungs and his chest rose and fell rhythmically, but his eyes did not open. The magister staggered over to the pew. Sir Hugh and Sir Ambrose made room and he slumped down beside Karena. Even though his black hooded robe was meant to confer anonymity, his stunted stature told her at once he was Verus.
“He will live,” Verus stated, his voice hoarse.
She sighed with relief, and hugged him.
“I have settled his soul, and it will not flee his body this day. There are many serious wounds, and he needs much more healing. The other magistri will be here before long, and we will restore him entirely then.” There was a hint of a smile within his cowl.
“Divine bless you, Verus,” Karena thanked him.
She got to her feet and walked to her brother’s side. The skin over his chest was unblemished by bruise or cut, a sure sign the magister’s healing hands had been at work. The rest of him was a bloody mess. Old, soaked bandages and black bruises covered his body. It surprised her that the two knights had managed to reach Penmere before he died.
“Why would Maurice Trewithiel do this?” she asked them.
“This is another House’s bidding,” Sir Hugh asserted, grimacing with pain as he hobbled to her side. “Trewithiel is too small to try and accomplish this by itself. Someone else wanted the King dead. Only Hurstwood and Esden could hope to claim the throne, and Alfred Hurstwood’s daughter is to be his wife.”
Karena sighed. Her uncle had been proclaimed Regent and assumed the reins of power when William was only seven, and had had a decade to seize the crown if he had wanted to. Waiting until her brother had become old enough to fight back made no sense. John Esden was a stiff-necked miser but she could not imagine he would trample upon law and reason by declaring war on his own nephew.
“We will find out soon enough. When the other magistri arrive William will slaughter those who sought his death.”
She did not have long to wait. Barely had the words left her lips than the doors to the church opened, and Cethegus, the magister magnus of Penmere, strode in. Unlike the six magistri who followed him, Cethegus wore a white robe to denote his unrivalled status within the city. Silent as ghosts, they glided towards the King and halted.
“It seems the messenger was right. The King has been injured most severely,” Cethegus observed.
Karena resisted the urge to tell the ancient mage to make haste. Men became prickly and stubborn in their old age, and few men were older than Cethegus. “Indeed, the wound would have been mortal were it not for Verus. Would you heal him?”
Astonishment stilled her tongue, for a moment. “I beg your pardon?”
Cethegus sighed. “It gives me no pleasure to decline, Karena. Aurelic Law forbids the involvement of mages in political matters. John Esden has announced that William Penmere is an illegitimate bastard, and that the crown therefore belongs to the House of Esden. He has claimed the throne and intends to abdicate authority to his eldest son once the House of Penmere has either acknowledged the reign of Esden or met its end.”
The magister magnus fished a letter from the sleeve of his robe and handed it to her. Karena hastily read the letter, which had been signed by her uncle.
“My lady, is it true?” Sir Hugh asked.
She nodded. “Cethegus, my brother is the King of Denland and Duke of Penmere. Maurice Trewithiel and John Esden are responsible for his life hanging by a thread. If that thread snaps because of the choice you make this day I shall hold you in the same regard as I do my uncle.”
The magister magnus laughed. “Do not try and threaten me, girl. I recall that the Duke of Esden’s grandfather made a similar threat when your great-grandfather began the rebellion that eventually made him master of this kingdom. Your petty power squabbles are not my concern, but ensuring we do not become drawn into them is. We will not help you, we will not harm you. In a few days, a few months, or a few years one side shall emerge victorious, and hold grand ceremonies and lavish celebrations. And absolutely nothing of importance will change. Oh, do not let a sour face spoil that exquisite beauty. Be glad Verus got here so soon. Without his intervention I suspect your brother would already be dead, and this war would already be over.”
Karena slapped him. Two of the magistri stood behind Cethegus laughed, but fell silent when Gorhelga slinked to her side and growled. Another magister stepped forward menacingly, but the magister magnus waved him back.
Lightning danced across Cethegus’ fingertips, crackling as it arced from one hand to the other and back again. Gorhelga hissed, hackles raised, and the hairs on the back of Karena’s neck stood on end.
“I can hardly plead neutrality and then slay the King’s sister in cold blood, can I?” he remarked, before clenching his fist to kill the lightning. He whispered, “Long life grants me patience, mortal, but it is not endless. If you ever lay a finger upon me again I will strip the flesh from your bones.”
The magister magnus turned his back on her and led the six magistri away. “Verus, come,” he ordered.
Verus got to his feet, a little steadier than before, and walked over to Karena. “My apologies, my lady. Breaking the Aurelic Law is a fine way for a magister to shorten his life.”
“Would that Cethegus were more like you,” she replied.
Verus stumbled and caught hold of the altar to stop himself falling. Out of sight of his fellow mages, Karena saw the lacerated flesh of her brother’s arm knit together. Verus tapped the side of his nose, and then left the church with Cethegus.
“My lady, if the magistri will not heal the King I should fetch an apothecary,” Sir Hugh said.
She sighed. “Barbaric as it is, yes. Have one of the Hollow Knights fetch Samuel and Catherine Killigrew, and send another to the Aurelian Palace for more guards. William cannot be moved until he is better, and we will need more than a dozen Hollow Knights to protect him.”
So there you have it, thoughts?? Has the extract piqued your interest in the book?? I’m currently not accepting review requests and so had to decline a copy of the book. However, my fellow blogger Kitty at Vicarious Bookworm reviewed the book and was kind enough to allow me to link to her review which if you would like to read then you can find below:
Kingdom Asunder by Thaddeus White is released on the 24th of November and is available to pre-order now! For both pre-orders and the first week of release, Thaddeus has reduced the price of the book to only £2.39/$2.99.
About the Author:
Thaddeus White is a writer who finds third person bloody awkward, especially when persuading people his book is worth buying (which it is). He’s a Yorkshireman, and in 2016 to date has had short stories included in the Woodbridge Press anthologies The Haunting of Lake Manor Hotel, and Explorations: Through the Wormhole. This year also saw the publication by Tickety Boo Press of his fantasy-comedy The Adventures of Sir Edric. In the first half of 2017, his short story Black Sails will be included in the anthology Journeys (also featuring stories by Adrian Tchaikovsky, Julia Knight et al.).
Kingdom Asunder is his third self-published fantasy novel, the last being released in 2013, and the first part of The Bloody Crown Trilogy. When not writing, Thaddeus relaxes by reading classical history and fantasy, as well as watching/betting on F1 (which has currently been going about as well as a drunk attempting to impregnate a beehive).
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