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Curse of the Severns - Book 3

Prologue

In the dying days of his rule, King Razen was a desperate man.

The baron uprising spread despite the king putting many to the sword. Although invincible in battle, the fighting still took its toll on his ageing body and soul, and he was running short of loyal knights.

Razen was the last of the eternal Knights of Yore. He was the first son of a first son and so on down the line. The one of the most robust blood, so the bards said. Upon his expiration, only a son of his blood could inherit his magic armour. As had happened in past generations of the Yore Knights, if there were no heirs to continue the line, the magic armour and weapons would vanish into thin air.

Queen Leanne bore Razen three daughters, and when she died giving birth to her third, many saw it as an omen that Razen’s reign was cursed and he would be the last of Severn’s Dynasty. Driven mad by this curse, Razen resorted to taking maidens in the vain hope of seeding a son and heir.

When not off fighting in the Baron Wars, Razen and Hannah, his chosen one, would take a stroll in the noonday sun to visit the rose gardens inside the keep walls of Maálox Castle. It was on one such occasion the king confided in her. “Time is not our ally, Hannah. I cannot carry the Armour of Yore much longer, for it weighs too heavily on my soul.”

Hannah gazed at her father and read the lines of strain on his weary face. Although well into his fifties, Razen retained a fitness and robustness of a thirty-year-old. He had the physical build, fair hair, and reddish beard of his highland heritage. During this time of war, he always wore a breastplate and kept Grainger, his legendary sword sheathed in its scabbard.

“Even Grainger becomes heavy to wield in battle,” Razen added. “I am the last of the Knights of Yore, yet I fear the time approaches when I must leave this world, and the majik that sustains me will consume my armour and weapons.”

Seeing her father like this, alarmed Hannah. She needed him to remain strong, to protect her child. “You led a glorious life, but so much fighting and killing must take a toll. I expect your soul yearns for release. Please don’t fret for all goes well with my pregnancy. Perhaps Desirae’s prophecy will ring true, and my son will break this awful curse.”

“Let’s hope you are right, my dear,” he said, gazing into the eyes of his lovely young Hannah. His heart melted when he thought of her brave loyalty. “It is the hope for you and this child that keeps me going. You are the key, don’t you see. You are the miracle that continues the Severn line.”

Hannah feigned a smile and asked, “If Maálox falls, do you think the people will grieve your passing?”

Razen returned a sad look. “The hate is strong, Hannah. I take the life of those who believe they are righteous. With each passing death, I feel the drain.”

“So, the watchers no longer look out for us,” she stated with a crestfallen frown.

Razen grimaced and shook his head in resignation. “The Frey squabble among themselves. They don’t openly say it, but I see the divisions. The Lord of Shades supports us, but Knane incites the barons. He spreads word that I tire. Even though I kill many, they still come believing victory isn’t far away. I have become their plaything," the king said, staring despondently at the ground. "Perhaps I was all along; what a fool I’ve been,” he uttered, and then lifted his head to catch Hannah’s gaze. “This is why we meet here at noon when shadows are smallest. For in the shadows, the Frey dwell, listening to all that goes on. Remember that my loveliest; the child’s safety depends on it.”

Hannah stared back at him through large brown eyes and nodded with a half-smile.

“Good,” Razen acknowledged and then beckoned her closer. “Now, my chosen, you must listen carefully for I have made plans with Desirae to ensure that no one will ever know of this child, including the ever-watchful Frey,” he said in hushed tones.

“How is that possible?” she whispered back.

“We have prevailed upon the services of Inanna,” he replied.

Hannah’s brows knitted in confusion. “But Inanna is Freyen. Can we trust the Goddess of Love?”

“I trust Desirae’s judgement. Besides, only a member of the Frey can do what is required to keep your pregnancy a secret. After you have suckled him and return, no-one will believe you had a child because so little time will have elapsed. Yes, if she goes to all this trouble, I think we can trust the Goddess.”

“What will happen to him? Where will Inanna take my son?” she asked with growing alarm.

Razen gazed at her with sorrowful eyes. “My dearest Hannah, this you don’t want to know. It will be a secret I must take to the grave. It is the only way to ensure the child’s safe upbringing. Can you live with this decision for your child’s sake?” Razen implored, searching her with wide, manic eyes.

Hannah covered her mouth in shock. “Then I may never see him again?” She asked, realising the implications.

“Not necessarily,” Razen advised in a calm voice. “When he is older and can handle himself, he should seek you out. I would,” he offered.

Hannah shook her head. “It’s not fair. You ask too much,” she protested in a raised voice.

“Ssh!” Razen said, putting a finger on her lips. “Don’t draw attention to yourself. There, that’s better,” he added as Hannah stilled. “Save the child and save yourself. Remember, I won’t be around to protect you. Many will want him dead, not just because of a who he is, but to uncover the Armoury of Yore. No, my precious one, too much is at stake.”

Hannah’s lips quivered in response to his words. She felt hopelessly trapped. So many horrible things. So many lies and so much killing, she privately lamented.

Perhaps it is time for the Kingdom of the Severns to end. I see little good left in this world, she decided.

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