City of rogues (book i o.., p.1
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       City of Rogues (Book I of the Kobalos trilogy), p.1

           Ty Johnston
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City of Rogues (Book I of the Kobalos trilogy)
Kron Darkbow seeks vengeance, and he plans to have it no matter the costs. Returning to the city of his birth after 15 years, he hunts down the wizard responsible for the deaths of those he loved only to find out another was responsible for the murders. That other is Belgad the Liar, a former barbarian chieftain who is now boss of the city's underworld.

  Following his path for blood, Kron comes across the magical healer, Randall Tendbones, and accidentally reveals Randall's darkest secret to the world. It's a secret about the past, a secret that has kept Randall on the run for three years. Now it has caught up with him, and Belgad the Liar is suddenly the least of Randall and Kron's concerns. The gaze of Lord Verkain, king of of the dark northern land of Kobalos, has fallen upon Kron and Randall. And it is a gaze filled with madness.

  City of Rogues

  Book I of the Kobalos Trilogy

  The Ursian Chronicles

  by Ty Johnston

  a Monumental Works Group author

  visit the author’s website: tyjohnston.blogspot.com

  This e-book is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This e-book may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each person you share it with. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then you should return to Amazon.com and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

  for Greg

  Chapter One

  1,994 years After Ashal (A.A.)

  Trelvigor sat on a cushioned chair in the dark, his hands crossed in his lap over a curved dagger. Unmoving, he watched a young man with long hair and tattered clothes climb through the open shutters of a window into the top level of the tower.

  As the stranger stepped onto the floor, Trelvigor’s somber face formed a devilish grin. It had been a simple task casting an aura of darkness around himself. The trespasser could not see him, but the wizard could see the intruder through the open window’s moonlight.

  The young man glanced around at the cold fireplace and the long iron table holding up a heavy slab of wood as its surface. Built into the walls of the room were shelves lined with decaying books and glass vials filled with colorful liquids. He barely took notice of where Trelvigor sat, his eyes coming to the room’s lone door of thick oak.

  He took a step toward the door.

  Trelvigor waved a hand in the air. “Ice.”

  The young man stopped, his feet planted to the ground and his arms hanging at his sides as if heavy. His eyes continued to roll from fear, glancing and darting about.

  The mage’s grin grew wider as he gripped the dagger and stood, allowing the spell of darkness to fall away from him.

  The intruder’s gaze sprang to the older man in a long tunic who appeared from nowhere.

  The wizard raised his blade to eye level so they could see the moon glinting off its curved edges. “This is what happens to those who enter my home uninvited.”

  The blade slashed at air.

  The young man’s eyes went wider as pain like fire erupted in his gut. He stared down and saw his stomach slashed open, the intestines spilling onto the floor like fluid.

  Trelvigor slashed up with the blade.

  The trespasser’s body arched, his feet remaining stuck to the floor. Through pain that nearly clouded his vision, he could see his chest had been ripped open, exposing scarlet ribs beneath.

  The young man tried to scream but found he could not draw in air. His body quivered ever so slightly then slumped to the floor.

  Trelvigor’s grin was all teeth as he sheathed the dagger in his belt and kicked the still, bloody form of the youth.

  The wizard chuckled. These petty thieves would never learn. Trelvigor did not consider himself a vain sorcerer, mainly because he was smart enough to realize he was not the best nor most powerful mage in the city of Bond, but he did have talent and had been a student to more than a few skilled teachers. He also had spent plenty of time on the darker side of the city and knew the right end of a dagger. Stupid thieves should beware, especially when trying to invade his home.

  Satisfied the intruder would no longer be causing mischief, Trelvigor turned with his tunic swaying around him and reached for a handful of rags on a shelf. There had been blood spilled, and the wizard had much to clean, the one part of murder he detested.

  Trelvigor bent with the rags to wipe blood from the floor. A distant noise, a glasslike tinkling, made him pause. His head came up as he strained his senses to pick up any sound.

  Another remote noise followed, this one too like breaking glass.

  Trelvigor gritted his teeth, gripped his dagger in its sheath. He strode across the room and out the door. Beyond, he paused atop the circular stone staircase and listened.

  He detected nothing more.

  Perhaps the young thief had a partner? Someone who had followed him into the wizard’s den and now could not find his way out? Trelvigor doubted that. One lesson the mage had learned on the streets was that good thieves worked alone because there was less likelihood of being caught. The young intruder Trelvigor had slain had not been bright, but he had shown some skill; he had been caught only because Trelvigor had placed an alarm ward around the house.

  The sorcerer hurried down the stone steps, then came to a halt once more. He could have sworn a shadow had moved above.

  He waited patiently for a few moments. Another lesson he had learned on the streets of Bond was that a shadow could spell death.

  A breath passed.

  But nothing moved.

  The wizard continued down a hallway. He had dealt with the thief and now had someone or something else within his home.

  As he stormed into his private quarters, Trelvigor’s grin returned in hopes of finding another opponent. But the wizard found no threat in his bedroom. His eyes followed the gilded curves of the huge master bed and the intricate embroidery of Hiponese tapestries hanging about the chamber.

  Another shadow danced upon the wall in the hallway.

  The wizard mumbled a few words of magic, simple protection wards, then stuck his head into the hall.

  Nothing.

  Trelvigor scowled. Someone was going to pay for their mischief.

  He gritted his teeth and hurried down a stone stairway into the main apartments of the mansion, rounding a corner into a long, high-ceilinged entertaining room. He came to a halt. Before him stood a dark wooden cabinet, a piece of furniture nearly as tall as himself, that stored many fine liquors. The cabinet doors hung open and two bottles of Ursian brandy had been smashed on the rug in the center of the room. A trail of the dark alcohol ran from the shattered bottles into the hallway Trelvigor had just exited.

  The wizard glanced around the room. Everything else seemed in place. The couches covered in tiger skins appeared fine, as did the bear rug before the burning fireplace and the gold-plated sconces that featured oil-filled lamps. The polished rosewood desk had not been touched, and neither had the brocade cushioned chairs or the Ursian tapestries on the walls.

  Trelvigor glanced at the broken bottles again. It was bad enough to have found that fool breaking into his house, but now his home seemed a stranger.

  The now familiar, distant chord of shattering glass came to him from the hallway.

  For the first time since entering the room, Trelvigor peered inside the liquor cabinet. It was almost empty, only two dust-covered bottles of cheap wine rested in the back. Missing were nearly a dozen bottles of the strongest potables that could be purchased in West Ursia.

  Someone had broken into his home and not only taken his ri
ghtful property, but was destroying those belongings and ruining his house. Someone was having fun, a little joke on the wizard. That someone would learn a lesson far harsher than had the dead thief. Trelvigor would take his time with this one, delighting in slicing flesh from bone.

  The sorcerer yanked out the long, curved dagger. He stormed out of his entertaining room, turning left to follow a trail of dark liquor to the kitchen, the direction he had last heard the breaking of glass.

  Once inside the kitchen, Trelvigor found on the floor two more busted bottles, one a black Kobalan whiskey and the other a lighter East Ursian brandy. Another liquid trail left the room through a doorway to the dining room.

  The din of shattering glass came to him again, this time from above.

  The wizard glared at the ceiling. Above him was the tower where he had disposed of the thief. Whomever was causing this mess had gotten past Trelvigor, and the only path to the tower was the one he had just taken. Someone either had slipped past him, which was not possible, or someone had exited the lower floor and in a matter of seconds been able to scale the tower and climb through the window on the topmost level.

  Trelvigor gripped the dagger more firmly and charged through his home and up the stairs to the tower’s upper level. He did not pause in front of the door, but plunged through with his weapon in front.

  His anger drained as a dark, cloaked figure gave him reason to halt. The shape was in the center of the chamber, next to the remains of the thief. The being seemed human, but Trelvigor could make out little because of the enveloping black cloak and the hood pulled forward to shadow the face.

  The mage’s first inclination was to ask who this being was to invade his home, but he was more concerned with his own safety upon noting the large sword strapped on the figure’s back, the weapon’s pommel above the right shoulder.

  The wizard noticed two more shattered bottles of expensive alcohol, this time in front of the door, leaving another liquid trail directly beneath Trelvigor’s feet.

  The dark figure lowered its cowled head slightly, as if to menace. “It has been fifteen years.”

  Trelvigor leaned forward, staring at the black hole where a face would be if the cloak’s hood were pulled back. He was trying to see lips moving, but could not. He guessed the figure was a man, or at least male, because of its sturdy voice, but even that was not certain.

  With sweating palms, the wizard shifted his knife to the other hand and then back again. “What is it you want?”

  “Fifteen years ago you murdered a man and woman.”

  Trelvigor had killed a lot of people over the years. How was he expected to remember two bodies out of dozens, especially from across fifteen years?

  “There was an ambush.” The figure crouched while it recalled the past. “You had half a dozen men at your command. You forced the couple’s wagon to a halt and demanded surrender of their goods. The man said ‘no,’ and your brutes launched arrows into them, stilling their lives.”

  A dim memory surfaced in Trelvigor’s mind’s eye. “Belgad.”

  “What?”

  “I worked for Belgad in those days.” The knife shifted again, then shifted back. “We only hit merchants who were too cheap or stubborn to hire guards. We didn’t kill them unless they put up a fight, or we had orders to make an example of them.”

  The dark form stood straighter, taller, the moonlight from the window stretching the figure’s shadow across the floor nearly to Trelvigor’s feet. “You mean Belgad the Liar.”

  “Had to have been.”

  “I see.” The figure’s voice was like stone grating against stone.

  Trelvigor shivered. He normally had little fear of any mortal man, but he wasn’t sure what this was in front of him. It seemed human, but there was no proof of that. “It’s Belgad you should be speaking with.”

  “I will,” the dark figure said, standing tall once more, its stature menacing, “but first I want to know if you remember the names of the couple.”

  Trelvigor’s mind was a blank.

  “You don’t know, do you?”

  Trelvigor’s mind raced, but nothing surfaced in his memory.

  “I should do to you what befell the young man on this cold, stone floor.” The figure waved a hand over the dead thief.

  Trelvigor’s eyes darted to the dark hole of the hood.

  “He didn’t deserve the fate you offered.” The figure clenched a black, gloved fist over the corpse. “I only hired him to break out a window or two. I figured it would be best to have someone else disarm your alarm wards. It never occurred to me how sick you truly were.”

  The figure took a step forward.

  Trelvigor jumped back, holding his dagger in front. “Stay away! Or I’ll turn your insides out and feed you to a demon.”

  The dark shape chuckled.

  Sweat dripping down his face, the wizard waved his weapon. “You laugh?”

  The figure ceased its chortle.

  “Then become my slave.” The wizard snapped his fingers.

  The figure stood motionless.

  Trelvigor pointed at the large sword. “Fall on your weapon.”

  The dark figure chuckled again. “Charms only work on the weak of mind.”

  Trelvigor’s nerve nearly broke and he almost turned to run. The dark thing was right, and if it had the willpower to ignore his charms, then it could possibly ignore other illusions. There was only one way to find out.

  “Ice,” Trelvigor said, pointing the dagger at the cloaked form.

  “I’ve been studying you from afar for some time.” The moon from the window outlined the bulky figure, outlining muscle beneath the black cloak. “I know your tricks.”

  “I’ve nothing to fear from you.” Trelvigor's voice quivered. “You cannot harm me.”

  “Let me guess. You have placed a protection spell around yourself.”

  “Yes, so there is nothing you can do to me.”

  “Neither sword nor arrow can harm you, I suppose?”

  Trelvigor nodded.

  “How are you, then, with fire?” A hand gloved in black snapped out from beneath the cloak, flinging a small gray ball.

  Trelvigor watched the clay orb sail across the room before it cracked onto the ground at his feet and burst, flames exploding from within and climbing up his limbs.

  The wizard screamed as he dropped to the ground, rolling across the room’s stone floor in hopes of smothering the fire sticking to his skin and melting his silk tunic. He rolled into the smashed liquor bottles, cutting his hands and face, and learned new levels of anguish as the spilled alcohol caught fire and began to cook the flesh on his arms. Further thrashing only spread the conflagration, catching ablaze the liquor trail leading to the stairs and beyond.

  The dark figure slid backward, away from the burning and shrieking wizard. It gave Trelvigor one last glance, an evil grin of white teeth beneath the black cloak’s hood, then was gone through the window.

  Chapter Two

  If one of his Dartague countrymen saw the fortress Belgad the Liar claimed as home, the man would believe Belgad was a king. The building was much like its owner, towering and solid. The grounds of the fortress included a yard of no few acres surrounded by a high stone wall. However, the property’s surroundings proved Belgad was not royalty. His fortress rested in the west end of Bond within a region known as the Swamps, named so because it lay between two rivers that eventually ran into one another east of the city. If the northerner called Belgad were king of anything, it was the busy and crowded streets within the Swamps where the majority of Bond’s rabble led their daily lives.

  Despite this wealth and power, Belgad the Liar sat glum in a massive oak chair on a raised platform at one end of his grand hall, the room much like a chapel with high windows upon either side showing gardens beyond.

  “Dismissed,” the large, bald northerner said to a short man in robes before him.

  The little man backed away quickly, bobbing his head. “Thank you, mighty
one, thank you.”

  Belgad sneered and waved the stooping figure away. Acquiescence from others was expected, but it was nothing the large man respected. Looking much like a barbarian king of old in his lion-skin tunic, Belgad ran his fingers over the white mustache beneath his crooked nose while his eyes shifted to another figure standing at the foot of the steps leading to the throne.

  This man was also short, as most were to Belgad, and he was covered in ratty clothes. His eyes glanced around nervously beneath the stern gaze of his liege

  Belgad motioned the man forward. “Report.”

  “Sir, you’d asked me to keep watch on the Docks situation.”

  “Yes, Stilp. Proceed.”

  “That pope they got in the East has lowered the tariffs on all their goods,” Stilp said, then added a shrug, “but the dock foremen, they don’t want to pay no extra.”

  “How much have the tariffs dropped?”

  “Three percent.”

  Belgad’s hard eyes focused upon his employee. “More gold is falling into their laps, but they don’t want to pay extra for their protection when it means there is more to protect.”

  Stilp stared down at his dusty boots. “Yes, sir.”

  Belgad leaned forward on his throne, rested his chin on a fist and stared through the high windows on one side of the hall. Beyond he spied a bountiful garden full of foreign trees and other plants he had brought to his fortress at great expense; he knew next to nothing about the greenery other than it was something a rich and powerful man like himself should have, and after a long day of dealing with a line of clients, the garden calmed his mind.

  “The next guild assembly is in two days.” Belgad continued to stare into the garden as if he were alone. “Take three men and make it clear the Docks does not profit without my protection.”

  “How far should I push?”

  Belgad’s blue eyes returned to the smaller man and made him shiver. “Roughen a few of them, if necessary, but no killings. Killings are bad for business.”

  “Yes, sir.” Stilp backed away.

 
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