Today we have a sneak peek from Horded, the second book in the Kingdoms Gone fantasy series by author Frances Pauli.
Maera is a woman torn between the debt she owes her people, and the selfish yearnings of her own heart. Tal is the lowest gobelin, the cursed brother of the horde’s greatest warrior. When he stumbles onto a legendary castle, however, he believes his luck is about to change.
Together, they are the only ones who can save Tal’s brother, the one person they both love and the only thing they can agree on. If they fail, the castle will fall into enemy hands. If they succeed, they’ll have to stand together against the full fury of the gobelin horde…
Here is an excerpt from Horded…
One spot opened on a vista, and he squinted his yellow eyes at the distant silhouettes. Far off, the trees flattened out for a space, and the horizon shifted into something less likely. For a moment, Tal didn’t believe what he saw. He blinked twice and shook his head as if to dislodge the idea. The shape remained even when he looked again. A castle loomed on the horizon.
There shouldn’t be a castle there, not where anyone could see it.
Tal stood up. He left his bag amidst the thistledown and marched to the edge of the pocket. It ended here, on the incline’s lip, but the view clearly showed a far off sea, a scrap of land, and the last castle of the Old Kingdoms, exposed and ready to be discovered.
“Blood and magic!” he swore. “Torg…” But his brother wasn’t there to answer. Not this time. Still, Tal glanced around the pocket as if Torg might appear to help him, as if the luck of this find had actually been meant for the younger brother, and he’d only arrived a step too soon.
Except Torg was hunting in the Shadow Mountains, and they’d arranged to meet at their usual camp. Tal was here, alone with the thistledown and the view of a castle that could only mean one thing. The gobelin horde had been summoned at last.
As if in answer to his thoughts, a snort rang through the glade. Tal spun from the horizon to face the Guardian. The gargoyle slipped fully into the pocket, and the membrane shivered shut at his passing. The beast towered above Tal, its granite skin bulging over muscles no weapon could defile. A rumble shook its flanks, and the huge, round head swung to fix Tal in the gaze of enormous eyes.
A forked tail swished through the grasses, sending a flurry of thistledown into the air. Tal’s heart thumped. His hand fell toward the hilt of his knife on reflex, even knowing the jagged blade was useless against stone flesh. He stepped sideways, easing one pace toward the membrane he’d so foolishly wandered away from.
The gargoyle snorted again and stepped forward. Tal could feel its breath across his cheek, reminding him just how real, just how lethal the Guardian was. He flexed his grip around the knife he’d only rarely drawn and took another sideways slide toward the edge of the pocket. The gargoyle growled. It stamped one front foot as if to tell him, quite plainly, that it knew he meant to bolt.
Tal froze. He waited for the jaws to snap. Instead, the big head lowered. The stone muzzle waffled at the thistledown, and one front leg, thick as a temple column, bent ever so slightly.
“What?” Tal blurted it, his voice a gravelly reminder of his kind. His tongue danced across the tips of his pointy canines and his green brow lowered in confusion. “What?”
The Guardian made no answer. It only bowed and waited.