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The Risen Prince (EBOOK)

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BOOK 1 OF THE DEMONIC COMPENDIUM DARK FANTASY SERIES.

The slaughter of the royal family has awakened an unspeakable evil. 

Hope is stamped out under the rule of the new tyrannical king. But buried deep in history lies an answer to his steel grip that nobody wants to unleash…

Risen from death, a warrior emerges — The Arbiter, a demonic sorcerer not seen in 500 years. And he’s pissed.

For it’s not a random king who sits upon the throne and plunges an already struggling kingdom into chaos…the mad king is the Arbiter’s brother, and the man responsible for ending his life in the first place.

Sound the drums of war and prepare for battle! Prince Shaw returns as The Arbiter with his brother, the king, in his sights, and anyone who stands in his way will be considered an enemy...

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Chapter One

Shaw was looking for something. Something that did not want to be found. Something that could lose itself. Something harmless on the outside, yet of terrible and awesome power within.
Shaw was looking for a book.
He hated even the notion that such an object had this much of a hold on him. Since the Book had brought him back, he owed it a debt and this deal was signed and sealed in blood. The Book offered him his life in exchange for a task not yet revealed to him and if the Book could bring him back, maybe it could bring his wife back as well.
He stared east across the Valor, its mighty flow raging south until it broke against the Bone Bottom Crags many leagues away. The Valor was much like the Book; cold and absolute in the middle, yet peaceful at its borders.
“Where are you?” Shaw mouthed. A light throb on his left forearm indicated a snide remark from the demon imprisoned within it was imminent. Shaw pulled back his sleeve to examine it.
Perhaps it is at the bottom of the river. Why not swim for it? A shrill, disembodied voice replied in his head. Shaw shifted his gaze away from the froth and rolling waves to the cracks of the shallow dock and into the river below.
“Perhaps it’s still in the Far East…that last King’s Guardsman thought so,” he spoke aloud.
He told you what you wanted to hear; we cannot rely on the word of a dying man.
“But we can rely on the word of a living demon?” Shaw questioned, somewhat taken aback by his own retort; was this demon considered alive?
He examined the three rubies embedded in his arm. Inside the center ruby, a magpie with too many eyes stared back at him.
The gems pulsed again, this time painfully.
You imprisoned me. But I am the one you say cannot be trusted. The magpie hopped back and in a swirl of red dust disappeared. The gems resumed their usual amber glow.
His own face stared back at him. He breathed deep and rolled down his sleeve. Turning on his heels he walked back towards town, leaving the Valor raging and frothing behind him. The shallow dock was a testament to his quest, empty and bare. He opened up his stride and pulled his hooded tunic over his head, disguising himself. On the Fringe, swarming with refugees, thieves, outlaws, beggars, and the discarded, hiding one’s own face was expected. His footsteps fell heavily on cobblestone as he left the dock and pushed through the crowded side street. The roar of the river faded as the sound of trade and commerce steadily rose. When he arrived at the center of town, the early morning sun was already blocked by the market banners. The center-facing huts stared down at him suspiciously. The Fringe was aptly named for the way of life here. Most lived on the edge of poverty and others preyed on that same poverty, all of which was centered on the market.
The market was unusually crowded, and the traders were out en masse. Some yelled above others, holding fish and weaponry and clothing. Others carefully guarded their wares, eyeing customers as the buildings did, suspiciously. Shaw flashed a half-hearted smile under his hood. A large scar, running the length of his face to the bottom of his neck, ached in response. It was a painful reminder of bestowing trust where it was not earned. He moved towards the western side of the market, used a handful of silver coins to purchase a small, deerskin water-bag and sat in the archway of a crumbling church; one of many on the Fringe. Shaw contemplated the surge of people in the market and remembered a Great Barge was to arrive today from the Far East, carrying refugees, trade-spice and other goods. He was not interested in these things, what he needed was information…
He felt a small tug on the bottom of his tunic. He looked down upon a small boy, skinny and dirt-ridden. Unfortunately, the Fringe was not well-known for taking care of its own. It was a hub for trade and travel, but the poorest of poor also make home here, with alleys, ruins and a host of surrounding trees to retreat to.
“Silver for a poem?” the boy said, looking up, his hopeful, toothy grin peeking through his overgrown head of hair. Shaw smiled back, tossed a silver coin from his pocket and waved at the boy to continue.
The boy stood up proudly and took in a chest full of air. “A King sat high, poised and proud…”
“…Another, boy…” Shaw interrupted.
“Shipwreck, shipwreck on the Valor…”
“…Another…”
The boy furrowed his brow, “I know of one other, kind sir, it’s a new one I’ve just heard.”
“Go on with it, and if I have heard it I’ll surely retrieve my silver”.
“Written in fire, bound in blood…” the boy whispered.
Shaw’s eyes widened in surprise.
“A demon’s word, buried in mud. A beggar’s hand grasping tight, two royal children, got up to fight. One of royal blood remains, the other gone, throne of shame.” The boy continued, picking up speed.
Shaw stood up, sliding his hand across the gems in his arm.
Wake up, he thought.
“A common name, they once held. A mighty blade of demon weld.”
Demon, awaken, he bellowed in his head, never taking his eyes off the small boy who seemed in a trance, lost in his own words.
I love when you take charge, the bird squawked. The magpie appeared in the center of the three gems, beak open, head tilted slightly as if confused.
Listen.
“On the Line, one did tread, men in boots, bound in thread,” the boy continued, taking a gingerly step towards him.
“Black spires black spires raise the night, TWO DEAD BOYS GOT UP TO FIGHT,” the boy screamed.
“Compendium lost, you can’t find. Before dark on land, becomes dark of mind.”
The boy backpedaled a step as the poem came to an end, turned around in a flash of ragged clothing, and leapt into a full sprint. He ducked below a horse drawn cart of exotic looking fruits and continued to pick up speed. Maniacal laughter bounced between the walls of the buildings lining the street as Shaw picked up the pursuit. The boy dodged and weaved through the herd of people shuffling towards the center of town. Shaw was quick, but this boy was quicker. Shaw vaulted another hand cart and continued on, the boy on the edge of his view, his small black-haired head bobbing up and down as he ran. Slowly, the boy’s head became a distant speck. Shaw was tall and limber but he was no match for the boy’s stamina. Sweat poured from his brow with the rising temperature. He slowed down and removed his outer tunic, leaving a thinner green one in place, also equipped with a hood.
Aging well I see, Shaw, the magpie quipped, its sharp tones piercing the sounds of his own heartbeat in his ears.
“Shut-up, the boy knows about the Compendium,” he thought.
That was the Compendium, taunting you. It knows you are looking for it.
Shaw drank deeply from the waterskin. It was cold and refreshing and helped his dry throat.
“I’ll find it. It has the answers we need.”
We have bigger concerns, the bird squawked.
The gems throbbed and he pulled up his sleeve. The magpie was no longer in the center gem but was now squeezed into the ruby farthest up his arm. It pressed its head tightly against the surface, and its eyes bulged in their sockets. The other two gems lay dark and dormant.
He caught his breath and plopped down in the shadow of a stone archway. Blood-red lettering defaced the stone, catching his eye. “The King, our redemption from filth” it read. Even in the Fringe, where a cutthroat is welcomed and a beggar shunned, there was still disdain for the King. He was to blame for the rapid decay of the Kingdom after all. He took a moment and heaved himself to his feet, dusting off his tunic. He shifted his belt, keeping mental note of where the boy disappeared from view. It would not likely be useful information. The boy was just a boy, and the Compendium had easily overpowered his will.
“Demon, have you heard that poem before?”
I have not, he mused. If it was written in the Book, it is unlikely anyone has heard or read it before. It appears differently to its readers.
He sighed. “We must find somewhere we won’t be bothered.”
The ruined church north of the shallow dock is frequently empty, the magpie replied.
Shaw moved purposefully, cutting through the north half of the market to the main road dividing the eastern and western halves of the Fringe. The eastern half featured the shallow dock and the Valor waterfront, the western half was comprised of homes and slums. The life of the town was focused on the market which clogged the crossroads for travelers from mid-morning until sunset. Without the market, the Fringe would be a place where the unwanted would go to die. Here, he felt at home.
He passed through one of the many alleys, stepping over someone sleeping in the dirt and turned the corner of the building. The spire of the church came into view and rose above the huts as he walked, a decaying bell drooped to one side in the tower held by a frayed rope. He came upon the entryway of the church and stepped over two boards half-heartedly blocking the door. Inside the church, only a few pews remained and those that did were discolored from mold and moisture. He walked between the rows of remaining pews, imagining that at one point people of faith must have gathered here to worship their god. He bowed instinctively before the lectern and stepped up, aiming for the priest door leading to the spire. Light poured in from broken-out windows and highlighted various holes in the floor. At one point beautiful portraits of stained glass would have filled the vacant slots. Now, the hot afternoon sun bled into the church, illuminating the decay.
Why did you do that? the magpie asked softly.
“I don’t know, it seemed appropriate,” Shaw said.
Who, or what, are you bowing to?
“A god, if there is one.”
There is no god, and if there were, would he approve of your actions… Arbiter? The magpie hissed.
“Shut-up.”
-consorting with demons, rising from the dead, sabotage, revenge….murder…and just to be clear, there are three gods…
“ENOUGH!” he bellowed aloud. Enraged by the demon’s mocking, questioning tone, his fists were clenched tight, pale and shaking. The small rubble about his feet had begun to vibrate and the light within the church began to dim. He realized his throat burned as his anger began to manifest.
Easy now, the magpie chuckled.
He pulled in his breath with purpose and unclenched his hands. Shortly after his anger dissipated, he was able to relax his body. He glanced beyond the lectern and forced himself to ignore the demon’s temporary win and made for the narrow stone stairs leading to the choir loft. He climbed the winding stairs and stepped out onto the platform where another set of pews sat crumbling in the corner. The platform, however, remained clear. He had frequently rested here in the past. He stepped to the center of the platform and crouched. He held up a finger in the light, focused in on it, and pressed a small amount of energy from the well within him. The gems pulsed as he focused intently on his fingertip, willing the energy, feeling its warmth travel down his arm. The room shivered around him, then faded in on itself. The energy flowed more freely now, like the gates of a dam opening. He countered with his own inner strength and held the flood back. The gems pulsed again as he pressed his finger to the last gem where the magpie was waiting to open its beak. It filled the rim of the gem with twisting darkness until only a black window remained.
He backed his finger out of the gem and the world came to. He squinted at the tip where a hair-thin swirl of smoke danced in a non-existent wind.
With his other hand, he removed a hand-drawn map from his breast pocket and unfolded it. On it was a depiction of the Fringe, the surrounding forest, the trade routes, Second City to the west, the barren wastes to the Far East, and the Ruins of Third City to the south. And to the north, outlined in a massive blood-red X, was Stonehaven. Shaw laid the smoky thread along the map, which flung itself to a small dot on the Fringe, marking his location. The thread writhed like a worm before stretching east across the Valor, rising north and resting upon a small dot moving westward through the ocean, beyond the Maw to the entrance to the Valor…
As the dot moved, the line moved with it, marking the closest route between the two objects. The spell tracked the nearest magical essence and this one appeared to be on a Great Barge. Farther south along the Valor another dot moved near the Fringe.
He slapped the map together at the folds and shoved it back in his pocket. The Great Barge he’d been waiting for was approaching the Fringe and he wanted to interrogate its passengers for information from the Far East. He climbed down the spire, exited the church, and took the main trade route heading south into the town. He picked up his pace and the magpie clicked its beak with his footsteps. Of course, Shaw was the only one who could hear the magpie. The magpie took advantage of their internal connection.
“Stop that,” Shaw thought to the bird in annoyance.
What do you suppose is on that Great Barge?
“Hopefully, information. My contact from the Far East said she’d be aboard this particular ship according to her message from a week ago. She sent an enchanted magpie, how fitting.”
He recalled the magpie, which was fatter and only had two bulging eyes. When it arrived at the church through an open window, it jumped furiously on his head until he awoke, then vomited a small piece of parchment with four words on it into his hand. “Two weeks, Great Barge.” Once he read the message, the bird attempted to swallow the parchment again and after struggling for several minutes, managed to get it down. The magpie hopped once before exploding with a small squeak and a pop in a cloud of feathers and blood.
Whoever she is, she is a very powerful mage. We need to be careful, replied the magpie, revolting slightly at the memory as if it was personally offended.
He ignored the bird.
What do you suppose is on the other Barge? it asked.
“Something not so terrible yet still fulfilling enough for you.” The demon hadn’t fed in weeks. Generally, the larger and more powerful the creature, the more energy the demon could replenish, reflected by the glow of the three rubies embedded within his arm. The more he drew from the demon’s power, the weaker they both became. If he drew too much, the consequences were permanent.
It will never come to that, as long as you do not lose control, Arbiter, snapped the demon.
Shaw pushed on excitedly at the prospect of new information. He’d been on the Fringe for weeks. Since he’d awoken, he’d hoped for something, anything, to indicate the location of the Compendium. He pushed past merchants and others traveling the stone path heading south into the town. He turned abruptly eastbound and crested a small hill overlooking the shallow dock. Mid-afternoon winds blew hot across his face. He squinted against them, and rising above the swell of the river, he saw a thick wooden mast jutting toward the sky. The expected Great Barge was approaching quickly. Unlike some of the smaller travel vessels, Great Barges were loaded for bear and could be operated with magical assistance and a minimal crew of five. The Barges themselves were not magical; the captain directing the ship would use his powers to direct the wind. Shaw believed his contact from the Far East to be one of the five-hundred passengers tightly packed into the bowels of the ship. Unfortunately, he did not know which of the five-hundred she was…
He followed the crammed side-street and arrived on the main road within earshot of the shallow dock. Crowds had begun to shift from the central market to the dock. The life of the Fringe revolved around its trade along the river and the Great Barge was a sign of new wares. The Valor ran a deep, salt-water current from the mighty seascape to the north, splitting the barren wastes of the Far East and the Fringe. The river was strong, and vessels required extreme man-power to operate their manual oars and were often staffed by slaves, who were considered expendable. The slaves powered through the current until they passed out or died of exertion only to be replaced just as quickly. The Great Barges, on the other hand, were impressive, affordable, and relatively safe for common passengers.
The ship was within eyeshot and showed no signs of slowing. The ship glided swiftly across the surface of the swell, parting small waves to either side. Its triple sails flapped in the wind and then filled with a gust of air. The steady creak of heavy oaken boards shifting, the flapping of the ship’s massive silver sails, and the slapping of waves against its broadside was settling. Above all the noise and the hustle on the crowded dock, a deep reverberating tone shook the air around him. The captain was calling the wind.


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