I am very excited to be teaming up today with Storytellers on Tour and J.D.L. Rosell to tell you all about A King”s Bargain. It is the first book in the new epic fantasy series The Legend of Tal. I have an excerpt to share with you today as well as a fun giveaway!
Bran settled in a chair across from his guest and smiled like they were old friends.
The house was nothing to look at, he well knew: two rooms large, with a ragged curtain separating them; a small wood stove settled behind him, and a well-used pot and pan, travel-ready, hanging above it. As rain began to patter against the roof, the usual leaks started up in the corners.
He didn’t care to impress folks, not anymore, and this man least of all. But he’d helped his guest over the stoop like a nobleman might usher a lady into his bedroom, and ignored the man’s protests that he needed no assistance in a similarly lofty manner.
Gallantry, he’d often found, suited a liar like a cape fit a king.
Garin squirmed in the seat next to them, but Bran paid him no mind as he took his glass and threw it back. He sighed as the liquid burned its way down his throat to settle a steady warmth in his gut. “Say what you want about Crazy Ean, but he makes a damn fine whiskey.”
“So says anyone mad enough to try it,” Garin muttered.
Bran grinned at him. “Life is short and dark as it is. May as well brighten it with a few glorious risks.”
The youth shrugged.
He turned his gaze to the guest again, who hadn’t touched his glass. “I know your name, Aelyn, and you know ours. The table is set. Now lay out what you want, or we’ll have to settle on beans and roots for dinner.”
Aelyn hadn’t removed his hat, but even with his eyes shadowed, they seemed to gleam. “You know what I want. I’m not idly used as a messenger. But I obey my commands.”
He lifted his hand to reveal a small, shining band resting in his palm, then set it on the table. Garin stared at it, mouth open wide. Bran found he was unable to resist looking himself, though he knew its kind well. Not a ring of silver or gold or copper, but milky white crystal, with a steady glow from within its clouded center.
“What is it?” Garin asked, sounding as if he wished he hadn’t spoken but was unable to resist.
Aelyn didn’t answer but kept his steady, orange gaze on Bran, like a raptor on a hare.
Bran sighed. “It’s a Binding Ring. An artifact of oaths that holds the wearer to a promise.”
Garin might be a man grown to the villagers, but he looked a boy at that moment, his eyes wide, his mouth forming a small “o.”
“Like… a magic ring?” the youth ventured.
“Enough of this!” Aelyn snapped. “Take it and put it on. We must be returning immediately.”
“Off so soon? But you haven’t touched your drink.”
The man snorted. “If I wished to poison myself, I have a thousand better ways than that human swill. Don that ring. Now.” His fiery eyes slid over to Garin. “Or do you want the boy to know your true name?”
Bran studied him. A feeling, hard as flint, was starting behind his eyes. A feeling familiar as a distant memory. A feeling he’d hoped to have dug a deep grave and buried in the past. As it rose, a warmth unconnected to the whiskey began coursing through his body. Dread? he mocked himself. Or anticipation?
He reached a hand forward, finger brushing the crystal. It was warm to the touch. From past experience, he knew it remained warm most of the time. So long as the wearer kept to what he was bound. If he didn’t, a mountain peak in winter would be preferable punishment.
Aelyn’s eyes watched. Wary. Waiting.
Bran scooped up the ring, vaulted across the table, and shouted, “Heshidal bauchdid!”
The man jerked, then stiffened in his chair, eyes wide with surprise, hat knocked askew. Bran took his moment, snatching one of the smooth hands and slipping the ring over a long finger.
As Aelyn shivered free of the binding, his mouth stuttered, “Bastard of a pig-blooded whore—!”
“Quiet down!” Bran shouted over him. “This I bind you to: That you will wear this ring until I am safely back in Hunt’s Hollow. That you will tell no one that you wear this ring instead of me. That you will tell no one my true name unless I bid it. And that you won’t harm the boy Garin or myself in that time.”
The ring shone brightly for a moment, and Aelyn shuddered, eyes squeezed shut, teeth braced in a grimace. A moment later, the ring dimmed, and Bran released his guest’s hand. As he settled into his chair, brushing back the hairs that had worked loose of his tail, his blood began to cool again.
“Now,” he said as he reached for the whiskey bottle, which had fallen over in the struggle, and pulled out the stopper. “You sure you don’t want any of this human swill?”
The man raised his hand and stared at the crystal ring, horror spreading across his face. “She told you, didn’t she? She told you my true name.”
Bran poured a glass, then proffered it to the youth, who stared at him as if he were the stranger. “Feeling mad enough yet?”
Garin took the glass, threw it back, and promptly coughed half of it back up.
“There you are, Garin, there you are,” Bran said, thumping his back. “You’ll learn to swallow it all before long.”
You can check out the rest of the incredible people involed in the tour here.
Be sure to pick up a copy of Legend of Tal here.
You can add it to your Goodreads here.