Shattered Shields - eARC

Shattered Shields - eARC by Jennifer Brozek, Bryan Thomas Schmidt Read Free Book Online

Book: Shattered Shields - eARC by Jennifer Brozek, Bryan Thomas Schmidt Read Free Book Online
Authors: Jennifer Brozek, Bryan Thomas Schmidt
already beginning to blister from the metal’s nearness.
    “I have silver,” he shouted. “This castle is ours now, or you can explain her body to your parents.”
    Aoife stepped forward, one hand raised in the beginnings of a spell. “Let her go, merlin, and you can walk away.”
    “Leave this castle,” he replied. “It is ours now.”
    I closed my eyes, sagging in his arms. It was all down to choice now; all down to how my siblings played their fated roles.
    The twang of a bowstring came from somewhere close, and I heard the arrows strike home in the breasts of Emrys’s men. They fell. Emrys did not let me go.
    “Leave this castle,” he said again.
    Oh my brothers, oh my sisters, you spent the lives of your descendants like so much coin, but the deaths of our own? Those had always been rare. Those had always mattered. I heard the horns blow to call off the men still fighting in the fields, and still Emrys held me. The servants and the noncombatants were moved from the castle, and still Emrys held me. My throat ached where the iron burnt my skin, and I did not move, and he held me. The surviving merlins came in from the fields. I opened my eyes to see the gates swing shut on the forces of Faerie, standing on the bridge with murder in their eyes.
    “You will need to unmake the bridge,” I rasped, my voice low and strained from the iron against my skin. “They cannot attack the castle walls, but the bridge…”
    “It will be done,” he said, and ran the knife across my throat, and I knew no more.
    * * *
    I awoke on the moor, face down in the bracken, the front of my white samite gown stained black with my own blood. Michael crouched nearby, his hands on his thighs and his milk colored eyes turned in my direction. A raven perched on his shoulder, doubtless lending him its eyes.
    “How long?” I rasped.
    “A day,” he replied, and offered me his hand. I took it, allowing him to pull me from the muck. “He should have used the silver as well, if he wanted your death to keep.”
    “Mercy is a virtue,” I said, standing on unsteady feet and feeling the smooth skin of my throat, already healed from what Emrys had done—what I had ordered him to do. “Brocéliande?”
    “The merlins hold it. The spells in the walls were woven well. Too well. We can’t reclaim what’s ours.”
    I nodded. “Then the battle is lost.”
    “Yes.” The raven on Michael’s shoulder looked at me intently as he asked, “How were you taken, Annie? You are my cleverest sister. You shouldn’t have been caught so easily.”
    “Ah,” I sighed. “That is easy, dear brother. I betrayed you. I betrayed you all.”
    Michael nodded. “I thought as much. Father is here.”
    “…truly?”
    “Truly.” He smiled. “Let us go and tell Oberon that his stronghold is lost, but his daughter lives.” There was no judgment in his expression. Michael understood better than most that what I did, I did for good reason.
    “I would like that,” I said. “Borrow my eyes.” There was a tingle as his magic slid into my mind, and then the raven that had been serving him took flight, racing to join its family in the feast that covered the fields. Together, arm in arm, we walked away from Brocéliande.

Keeper of Names
    Larry Correia
    “The demons must be emerging from the sea again,” the overseer said as he entered the storehouse.
    Alarmed, Keta the butcher sprinted to the entrance, meat cleaver in hand. He looked toward the distant shore, but saw no monsters. The ocean was its normal blue, not blood red like the last time. “Are they coming?” he gasped. It had been nearly twenty years since their last incursion into the lands of House Uttara. “How do you know? Have you seen them?”
    Yet the overseer wasn’t panicking like most men would if they’d seen such horrors. “Calm yourself, butcher.” The large man scowled as he moved one hand to the whip at his side. He was a hard man but, unlike most appointed to his station, not a

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