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Blood of the righteous, p.1
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       Blood Of The Righteous, p.1

           J. E. Sandoval
 
Blood Of The Righteous
Blood of the Righteous

  By J. E. Sandoval

  Copyright 2011 by Jim Sandoval

  ISBN: 9781301575022

  DEDICATION

  This book is dedicated to the memory of Anthony Fischera, one of my early beta readers. He was the inspiration for Bishop Malachi. I’m sorry, my friend, that you never got to see the final product. May you rest in peace.

  ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

  A big thank you to Radio Rivendell (www.radiorivendell.com) for blocking out the noise of the world and helping me write

  Thanks to my editor, Jennifer Robb. Your contributions were invaluable.

  Thanks to my proof-reader, Susan Hawk. Thanks to her, grammar nazis will no longer cringe while reading.

  Special thanks to my friend and cover artist, Steven Till (https://www.steventillonline.com).

  And the biggest thanks of all to my loving wife, Erica Lynn. Without her encouragement, this book would never have been finished.

  Follow me on Twitter @Antibingo

  Like my Facebook Page: J. E. Sandoval

  Email me at [email protected]

  * * Introduction * *

  A thousand years ago a son of perdition, for reasons unknown, performed a ritual to open a portal to hell itself. However, his demonic incantation quickly grew beyond his control. The fires of hell poured down upon the earth in what has come to be called the Rain of Fire. The upheaval was cataclysmic. Mountains rose where cities stood. Parts of the land sunk into the sea, while land rose out of the ocean. Rivers shifted. People and beasts were touched by the dark powers and changed.

  A knight of the time rode into the heart of the maelstrom. Sir Michael, a Knight pure of heart and clean of spirit, led a group of his fellow knights and bravely fought the sons of perdition. When the battle was over, there had not been a single loss among their number, but the sons of perdition were slaughtered to the man. The portal had closed.

  The knights returned to a much different world. A full third of mankind had been killed in a matter of hours. Most of the monarchies had been destroyed. There was only one institution that was decentralized enough to escape destruction: The Holy Church.

  A month later, Sir Michael and his men stood before the newly elected Pontiff. They were given special commission by the church, to which they swore their service. They became Knights of the Order of Holy Defenders.

  Through their efforts, they brought forth law and order across the land. People had very little left, and they turned en masse to the church. The ranks of the Holy Defenders grew. Gradually, the world returned to normal.

  * * * * * *

  Snow blowing in her face, Janelle Argos made her way through the lightly dusted streets of Avonshire, her companion, Holle MacLeod, a Caledonian Highlander, following in her footsteps. Janelle was tall for a girl, two fingers short of six feet. She was also broad shouldered, muscles honed from the constant martial practice with her older brother, Felix, who last week had left Avonshire to join the mercenary army, The Free Company, as their father had before. Janelle now lived alone, a girl of fifteen, on her own, and already with a reputation not to be trifled with.

  The pair made their way towards the University, the only place of higher learning on the island of Avalon, and it was run by the church. Their destination was an inn right outside the University’s gates. Every year two weeks before Christmas, the Scholar’s Inn hosted a King’s Table tournament. While that kind of event normally wouldn’t interest Janelle, rumor had it that a girl had entered this year, something absolutely unheard of.

  “Do you know anything about this girl who entered the tournament?” Janelle yelled over her shoulder.

  “Aye! Her name be Eleenia Ki Kalendeen, second year student at the university. She be studyin’ ta be a healer.”

  “Ki Kalendeen. Why does that name sound familiar?”

  “Her Da was Lord General fer King Edgar Northcott before he died. He’s the one who knocked down the bloody walls of Denning.”

  Janelle nodded. “That’s right. He’s Lord of Lystra now, isn’t he?”

  “Aye. Bloody shame he retired early. He supposedly knew what his enemies be going ta do before they did. Bloody brilliant strategist, he is.”

  “Then it stands to reason this Eleenia inherited his intellect?”

  Holle chuckled. “Aye, that be a safe bet.”

  The pair arrived at the Scholar’s Inn. They quickly darted inside, the welcoming warmth washing over them. The inn was crowded, with standing room only. Janelle kicked the snow off of her boots and hung her cloak on a wall peg, revealing her blue shirt and brown doe-skin pants, a bold choice of wardrobe for a woman. She untied the quarterstaff across her back.

  Holle was wearing a traditional highland kilt of yellow and black tartan. A bow and quiver were strapped on her back.

  Janelle surveyed the crowded room. The tournament had already started. She made her way over to the betting table, a path forming for her. Holle followed in her wake.

  Men eyed her, those who knew of her were a bit wary. Meeting their gaze, Janelle scowled. Best to bolster that reputation.

  “Place your bets!” a man behind a table yelled, chalk board filled out with names and numbers. Janelle silently cursed her inability to read.

  “Ooh,” Holle said. “We be in luck! Eleenia has no played her match yet. Odds be heavily against her. Fifty to one!”

  Janelle balked. Those odds were unheard of. Reaching into her coin purse, she counted out all the silver she had brought with her. “Five silver on Eleenia Ki Kalendeen.”

  Everyone around her got quiet for a few seconds, then began to laugh.

  “Are you sure you want to make that bet, lass?” the man asked in a mocking tone.

  Janelle leaned in, her knuckles on the desk, looking the man in the eyes. “Are you ugly and deaf?”

  The man blinked a few times. “Alrighty then! Five silver on Eleenia Ki Kalendeen, at fifty to one!”

  “I’ll be puttin’ two silver on her too.” Holle said, placing the coins on the table.

  “Two silver, fifty to one.” The odds man turned around and erased the fifty next to a name, replacing it with a twenty-five.

  The girls made their way back into the crowd. “So,” Janelle said. “Where is the girl we bet on?”

  Holle scanned the crowd. She pointed. “That be her, the well-dressed lass arguin’ with the Holy Defender initiate.”

  Janelle followed Holle’s hand. This Eleenia was five feet, seven fingers approximately, had long black hair and alabaster skin. Her dress was red and gold, and looked to be of the highest quality. She was probably sixteen or so. The lad she was arguing with was wearing the tell-tale white tunic, black trousers, and green cloak of a Holy Defender initiate. His hair was also black, and he had a resemblance to the girl, most likely an older sibling. Janelle made her way closer.

  “Gabriel,” Eleenia said, “I’m not going to bow out of this tournament!”

  “But it’s improper, a woman playing in a tavern tournament,” the initiate shot back.

  “Give me one logical reason why you don’t think I should compete! Just one!”

  The initiate looked exasperated. “Hello! You’re a woman!”

  Eleenia crossed her arms. “I said a logical reason, not an appeal to a ridiculous tradition, which will hopefully be soon outdated!”

  Janelle smirked. “Oh, I like her, Holle.” The pair made their way to the arguing siblings.

  “What would Father say if he were here?” the initiate continued.

  “Probably ‘I’ll bet ten gold on Eleenia.’ I wrote to Father and he wished me good luck in
the tournament!”

  “Marcus Henderson, Eleenia Ki Kalendeen! Time for the final match of round one!” the caller shouted.

  Gabriel grabbed Eleenia by the arm. “Come on. You’re forfeiting.”

  As fast as lightning, Janelle struck the initiate on the knuckle with her quarterstaff.

  Gabriel pulled his hand back and shook it, wincing in pain.

  “Sorry to do that to you, lad, but I’ve got silver bet on your sister. Let her compete.”

  The initiate glared at her. “And you are?”

  Janelle held her head high. “Janelle Argos.”

  The initiate sneered. “I’ve heard of you.” He took a threatening step towards her, however Janelle did not back down. “You dare to strike me again, and we are going to have it out.”

  Janelle shrugged, unfazed. “I’ve bet a week’s wages on Eleenia, and you were about to throw that bet into the garbage.”

  “Please, Gabriel,” Eleenia said. “You don’t want this poor girl to starve, do you? Is that a very Christian attitude?”

  Gabriel pursed his lips. “Fine. But I won’t stay here and watch you make a fool of yourself.” The initiate turned and left the inn.

  Janelle half smiled. “Sorry to butt in to family business. I’m Janelle Argos.” She extended her hand, which Eleenia shook enthusiastically.

  “Eleenia Ki Kalendeen. Thank you so much for your timely intervention.”

  “I be Holle MacLeod,” Holle said, extending her hand, which El shook.

  “Pleased to meet you. Did you really bet on me?”

  “Five silver at fifty to one,” Janelle said.

  “Aye, and I be bettin’ two silver.”

  “Eleenia Ki Kalendeen, report to the table now!” the caller shouted.

  “Well, Miss Argos, Miss MacLeod, let’s go earn you some gold.” El walked over to the table and sat down.

  “She be seemin’ friendly,” Holle said.

  Janelle nodded. “Well, I suppose it never hurts to make friends with a noble.”

  The match began.

  “So ye be hearin’ from Felix?” Holle asked.

  “Yes. He made it to Gillingham yesterday. Sent a Pigeon Post. He’s been accepted into the Free Company and been assigned to the scouting unit. He said one of the Majors is going to retire in a few months, and that Father is a shoe-in for the position. Felix also said he’s going to send me half of his pay.”

  “Bloody nice of him.”

  “I hope someday to tell him I don’t need the money anymore, and be able to pay him back.”

  The caller raised his hand. “Winner, Eleenia Ki Kalendeen in four moves!”

  “Yes!” Janelle shouted. She realized that the entire tavern had gone quiet and all eyes turned to her.

  Eleenia looked back her way and winked.

  “That is the end of round one,” the announcer yelled. “We shall take a ten minute break so the odds on the remaining six competitors can be recalculated.”

  Holle rubbed her chin. “Looks like the odds on Miss Ki Kalendeen now be ten ta one.”

  Janelle chuckled. “Glad we placed our bets early.”

  Eleenia returned, confident smile painted across her face. “And thus began my first step in shaming the alchemists of old!”

  Janelle blinked, non-comprehension painted across her face.

  “Alchemists used to try to change lead into gold. I’m doing so with your silvers!”

  “Oh, now I get it.”

  The blonde, middle-aged barmaid came over to the three. “Can I get you girls anything to drink?”

  “I’ll have a light ale,” Janelle said.

  “Same,” Holle answered.

  “Cherry phosphate,” El said.

  The barmaid nodded and hurried off.

  “Phosphate?” Janelle questioned. “Do you have something against alcohol?”

  Eleenia chuckled. “Oh, not at all, but alcohol tends to dull the wit. I want to stay sharp. Look at it as me being careful about your investment. However, I do intend to celebrate my victory in this tournament with a sweet wine.”

  “Ah.”

  “Time for round two!” the announcer yelled. “Charles Tippet and Tristan Porter!”

  The two men sat at the table, the board having been reset.

  Janelle noticed Eleenia carefully studying the game.

  “Oh, poor opening move!” El said.

  “Why be that?” Holle asked.

  “In moving his king’s side bishop’s pawn, it completely exposes the king. If Mr. Porter has any skill at all, he’ll…” She paused, as Porter moved his king’s side knight. “And… Porter’s first win was likely a fluke. An equally bad response.”

  “Ye be knowin’ this game pretty well,” Holle noted. “Who be teachin it ta ye?”

  “That would be my father. We used to play endless games of strategy together. Naturally, he would almost always win, but I learned from my defeats. One time, I actually beat him!”

  “How did he take that?” Janelle asked.

  “He was so proud of me. He said it was the first time he’s been beaten in as long as he could remember.”

  The barmaid brought their drinks.

  El dug out a few coppers. “Here, drinks are on me.” She handed it to the barmaid.

  “Wow! Thanks!” Janelle said.

  “Aye, thank ye!”

  Eleenia continued to eye the board. “This game is going to be over in three moves.”

  They waited in silence. While Janelle was at a complete loss as to the rules of King’s Table, she still watched the board. Sure enough, three moves later Tippet had won.

  “Winner, Charles Tippet! Reset the board! Next match, Eleenia Ki Kalendeen and Fredrick Spangler.”

  Eleenia chugged her drink and set the cup down. “Be right back.” She headed off to the table.

  Janelle took a drink of her ale. “That girl is making me seriously rethink my disdain for the nobility!”

  “Aye,” Holle agreed.

  The game lasted less than five minutes.

  “Winner, Eleenia Ki Kalendeen!”

  “Woohoo! Go Eleenia!” Janelle yelled, not realizing the inn had become silent once again. She proudly chugged the rest of her ale.

  Eleenia practically skipped back over to the pair.

  “Next match, Randle Watson, reigning champion, against William Prince.”

  Janelle eyed last year’s champion. He had an arrogance about him that made her feel uneasy.

  “Congrats again, lass,” Holle said.

  “Thank you! So Holle, I noticed you are Caledonian. Do you feel safe walking around in an Elgannan city with the war going on?”

  “Oh, aye. Ye see, I be from one of the highland clans near Inverness. The clans be stayin’ out of the war. It be the mess of the lowlanders and Gylinians.”

  Eleenia jumped as Watson pounded his fist on the table. Fortunately, the table’s sturdiness kept him from upsetting the pieces.

  “Bit of a temper on that one,” Janelle said.

  El smirked. “Just wait until I thrash him.”

  The match went on for a half hour.

  “Winner, Randle Watson! Next game in five minutes. Eleenia Ki Kalendeen against Charles Tippet. The winner will face Master Watson for the championship!”

  A bit of concern rose in Janelle’s gut. “Hey Eleenia, if Watson looks like he is going to get violent, stay behind me.”

  El blinked. “Why? He wouldn’t dare raise his hand to a noble woman, would he?”

  “Doubtful, but still. I have a bad feeling.”

  Watson went over to a bald, chubby friend of his. They were chatting, motioning over in Janelle’s general direction.

  “Ye expectin’ trouble?” Holle asked quietly.

  Janelle shrugged.

  “Charles Tippet and Eleenia Ki Kalendeen!”

  El walked over to the table and sat down.

  Janelle motioned to Holle to mov
e closer to the match. Slowly, they made their way to the front of the crowd.

  Eleenia was using the black pieces, which outnumbered their white counterparts. She moved a piece.

  “Exposing your bloody queen like that? Who the hell taught you how to play this game, girl?” Tippet spat.

  “Bray all you like,” El shot back. “Victory shall be mine shortly.”

  Tippet chuckled and moved a piece. Sure enough four moves later, Eleenia had won.

  “Victory, Eleenia Ki Kalendeen!” the announcer shouted. “Reset the board! Randle Watson, Eleenia Ki Kalendeen for the championship!”

  Watson and his friend sauntered up to the board. “Hello, little girl! You ready to get your behind paddled in front of all these good folks?”

  His chubby bald friend chuckled.

  “El here’s going to be the one laughing when this is all through,” Janelle interjected.

  “Oh?” the bald man said. “Care to put your gold where your mouth is?”

  Janelle held up her betting voucher. “I already put all I could afford on her.”

  Eleenia counted out two platinum and five gold, handing it to Janelle. “You’re covered. You win, we split the winnings.”

  Janelle shrugged. “Deal!” She slapped the coins down on the table.

  “After you,” El said. She was using the black pieces, Watson the white.

  Watson moved a piece out on the side of the board.

  “Benko’s opening! Interesting choice,” Eleenia commented.

  “Is that supposed to impress me?” Watson asked.

  “No. It was a bold move, strategically.” She moved a piece on the board.

  The game went on for several minutes.

  Watson grinned and moved his castle looking piece, taking one of Eleenia’s smaller pieces. “And first blood is mine.”

  El smirked and moved another black piece, which caused some people watching to chuckle.

  Watson shook his head, laughing, capturing another one of Eleenia’s small pieces. “Queen takes pawn. You really aren’t very good at this, are you, girl?”

  El moved one of her horse pieces to an empty place, causing everyone watching to gasp. The girl cocked her head and smiled.

  Watson looked to be growing agitated as his eyes bulged, his jaw locked, and he gripped his chair.

  Janelle looked to Holle.

  “He now be havin’ ta decide if he wants ta lose his rook or his queen. Both pieces be extremely valuable!”

 
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