Fallen Crown (Orc Destiny Volume II) (The Blood and Brotherhood Saga)

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Fallen Crown

Orc Destiny Volume II

A Blood and Brotherhood Novel

By Jeremy Laszlo

 

© 2013 by Jeremy Laszlo.

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced,
stored in a retrieval system in any form or by any means without the prior
written permission of the publisher.

 

All characters in this book are fictitious, and any
resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is coincidental.

 

Books by Jeremy Laszlo

Clad in Shadow
(Poetry for a Burdened Soul)

The Blood and Brotherhood Saga

The Choosing
(Book One of the Blood and Brotherhood Saga)

The Chosen
(Book Two of the Blood and Brotherhood Saga)

The Changing
(Book Three of the Blood and Brotherhood Saga)

Crimson (Book 3.5
of the Blood and Brotherhood Saga)

The Contention (Book
Four of the Blood and Brotherhood Saga)

The Champions (Book
Five of the Blood and Brotherhood Saga)

The Crowned (Book
Six of the Blood and Brotherhood Saga)

Orc Destiny Trilogy

A Blood & Brotherhood Series

Twisted
Fate (Orc Destiny, Volume I)

Fallen Crown (Orc Destiny, Volume II)

Three Kings (Orc Destiny, Volume III)

The Beyond Series

Beyond The Mask
(The Beyond Book One)

Beyond The Flesh
(The Beyond Book Two)

Beyond The Soul (The Beyond Book Three)

Table of Contents

Prologue

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

About the Author

 

PROLOGUE

Entering the Orcish rite of passage known as Catunga, Gnak
sought to capture a human to sacrifice to the Orc gods of old. In a failed plan
to capture a human warrior, he stumbles upon a small girl that would change his
life forever.

Dying from a wound suffered at the hands of human warriors,
the girl called Jen stays at his side as he falters, telling him of things he
previously did not understand. Using her blessing from the human gods, she
restored him to health from the very brink of death. Wanting to understand her
motives, Gnak listened as she explained her understanding of the world, and he
realized the way of his people had many faults.

Vowing to return her home, he stumbles upon a pair of his
peers and is caught up in the struggle between his new understanding and his
people’s ways. With events spiraling out of control, Jen was taken from him,
forcing him on a path away from his home and the human girl who saved his life.

Stumbling across a goblin city in the sand, Gnak made an
unlikely ally of a goblin king and, capturing a new sacrifice for the gods, he
returns home atop a sand giant bound by steel and chains. Before he can save
Jen, however, she is murdered right before his eyes. With rage and pain in his
heart, Gnak cries out to the only one that he thinks can help him, invoking the
name of a human god.

Out of obscurity Gnak then rises as a new blessed warrior
among the race of the Orcs. Seemingly holding the power over life, he is sworn
to the goddess Ishanya. In return for his power, he has given his oath to unite
the clans of the Orcs, build temples to honor Ishanya, spread her following,
and create an army the like of which has never assembled before.

Using his newfound power he resurrects his small human
companion from the dead, only to watch her body fail. Pushed to the edge and
torn between what he feels is right and what his people have taught him, Gnak
flees his home with Jen, wishing to stay at her side as she had once done for
him.

 

 

CHAPTER ONE

A cold wind howled down the mountains from the snowcapped
altitudes above. Sweeping up to carry aloft both dust and debris, it rose again
to be lost among the night’s clouds somewhere in the distance. Predators
prowled, slinking from one darkened shadow to another in hopes of catching prey
unaware. Night birds and bats flitted from the boughs of great trees above, as
below, darkness swallowed everything both living and dead.

Gnak feared neither the living nor the dead, for he was
mighty among his kind. Striding down the mountain slopes he glanced up at the
sky when able, and again marked his location and destination by the position of
the stars. Though the clouds were making it difficult, so familiar was he with
the land, that his use of the stars here was moot, and more or less just a
means of passing the time. Just as he had done with Jen.

It had been many days since she had finally fled her mortal
shell, and though he had waited with her until the very end, even when she had
left him, she had not left him alone.

Sauntering down the rocky mountainside, Gnak passed between
two trees, a small creature scurrying away at his approach. Shrugging his
massive shoulders and testing his grip upon his spear, he parted his lips and
wet his two massive tusk-like teeth that protruded from within his mouth.
Ignoring the fleeing animal, he thought more of his current situation. It was a
strange thing. It was uneasy. He knew it was not natural to share a body with
another. But since his meeting with the goddess he had sworn himself to, was
anything natural any longer?

Delving within, Gnak felt around for her presence and
located it exactly where he had left it. There, within him, was a warmth that
pulsed. Consciously noting it made him feel better, as if her foreign presence
within him meant that he had not failed her. It made him feel as if he was not
alone. Jen had been better than he. She had been a weak human girl when
considering her body, but her mind and understanding had far exceeded that of
his own. She had been his better in nearly every way, and from her he had
learned a new understanding of the world. He had learned of new gods. He had
learned that there was more to life than strength and courage and pride. He had
learned that his people could learn, as he had, and become better. It was
because of her that he had been given the gift of a god. But surely it had been
his own stupid Orc brain that had failed to use the gift correctly, and in so
doing, failed her.

Jen had been his savior even when she knew that she would
die because of it. But she had been strong for a puny human and she was proud
when she died. For her, and for his people, Gnak knew he had to do something to
better the Orcs. He wanted to teach them that their ways were making them
weaker, not stronger, and guide them to a better future. That was what it was
all about. That is what Jen had taught him. Life was not all about the here and
now. It was about looking forward and planning ahead. Life was about serving
life, saving life, and seeing the usefulness in people, both strong and weak,
for everyone had something to contribute. But only the chief of his tribe had the
power to change their ways, and Gnak was only a captain. At least for now.

Brushing the warm glow within him still, he wrapped his
conscious around it, feeling her there. Feeling her power. She was alive. In a
way. She survived within him. If he could keep her, then perhaps one day he
would better understand the gift Ishanya had given him, and perhaps then he
could find another means of saving her. He just needed to keep her safe. But
for now it left him feeling alone.

Wrapping himself around her as he walked down the
treacherous path he followed, he brushed against her time and again, stroking
the power that remained of her like one might coddle a babe. Her essence
stirred within him. Gnak grinned, his sharpened teeth and tusks standing in
stark contrast to the darkened night.

“Jen?” he asked into the night-time air.

When no reply came he continued brushing against her
presence with his own, feeling the need to communicate with her. If he could
only gain her attention for a few moments, that would be enough. He just wanted
to ask her a question. It had been hours since last he heard her.

Minutes passed and then more beyond that, and still nothing.
Gnak, with the stubbornness only his race had, continued relentlessly for what
felt like hours, but in the end his determination paid off.

“Jen?” he asked the night again.

“Hi, Gnak. Is it night time now?” came her voice within his
mind.

Gnak smiled anew. Though her voice was faint and muffled
slightly, as if she were far away, he recognized it and it filled him with
happiness.

“Yes, Jen. It night. Very dark.”

“Are we going home?” she asked, her voice exactly as he
remembered.

“We go camp. Make better Orc future.”

“Like Ishanya said?” she asked.

“Yes. Go camp. Kill chief. Make Gnak chief. Make better
future.”

“So if you just kill the chief, then you
become
the
chief?”

“Yes. Make challenge. Pride make chief fight. Gnak win
fight, Gnak win chief.”

“What if the clan is afraid of you because of what happened
when I died?”

Gnak stopped dead in his tracks, his face bunching up in a
grimace. He had hoped that she had no recollection of what had become of her
when he had restored her to life. He had hoped that the weeks of painful
rotting would have been left behind in the shell she had discarded. He did not
want for her to bring those memories with her, the memories of his failure. But
there was no help for it now.

Beginning to walk again, he thought of her question. It was
possible the members of his clan would no longer trust him, or deem his act of
raising the dead as weak, unnatural, or even unholy. He could not be certain
his newly won position as a clan captain would still be his to claim. The Orcs
in his command may have turned against him. They might even attempt to kill him
when he returned. Even if he were to challenge the chief, if he were not seen
as a possible successor, the people would not see the challenge as one with
merit and the chief could simply order him killed. No. He would have to test
the waters within his clan. Discover what the people thought. Plan ahead.

Again his attention turned within.

“What Jen think Gnak do when go back camp?” he asked her
presence.

“I think you should hide. Find the Orc who is most afraid of
you. Question them about what the clan thinks of you. See if you still are
considered a captain. Then you don’t have to rush into anything and can choose
a path when one comes. What do you think, Gnak?”

“Gnak think Jen smart. Use Jen plan. Go camp, see clan. Then
make plan.”

For more than an hour they exchanged minor variations of
their ideas in an attempt to better solidify the best option available without
more information. Though he was saddened when it happened, Gnak did not get
frustrated when her replies stopped coming, as he
had
done several times
over the last few days. Instead, this time, he simply kept walking downhill in
the general direction of his camp.

He did not know why she faded in and out as she did. He
assumed that she needed time to rest and build up enough energy to communicate
with him. Of course there was no way to be certain. Though he did not like the
feeling that came when she departed, he did his best to steel his resolve and
soldier on. Life as an Orc had taught him much about swallowing emotion and
holding one’s head high even in defeat.

Alone and battling the emptiness within, Gnak decided to
pick up his pace. Deciding upon a slow jog, his stride stretched out
unnaturally, gravity pulling him down large swaths of earth with each step.
Down he came, dodging between trees and outcroppings of stone, weaving this way
and that in the darkness. Beneath him, patches of rock, moss, and lichens
created a surface that was ever changing and a challenge to navigate, as above
the mountain wind swept the clouds across the sky obscuring stars and moons
alike, creating an absolute darkness where only the deadliest of killers dared
prowl. And ahead, even with his feet pounding out a steady rhythm upon the
mountainside, his armor creaking and clanking as he descended, he heard the
snap of a small twig and reacted as only the deadliest of killers could react.

Springing aside he dove headlong into the night, tucking his
left shoulder before striking the ground and rolling back to his feet. A spear
sailed inches above his face as he spun while crouching, the
whoosh
of
its passing giving him an idea where his attacker might lay. His eyes searching
the darkness, he found that which he sought, and he sprang forward, driving his
feet and legs into the earth behind him as hard as he was able as a means to
propel himself into an attack.

Pulling both blades from his back as he lunged, he brought
them to bear just as he collided with his foe. Pressing the enemy back with a
metallic clang, he found the opposing Orc armed with a blade of its own.
Reminding himself that every life was precious, he altered his tactic. Instead
of aiming to injure, kill, or maim the Orc who had happened upon him, he began
to bash at the man’s blade instead of his body. Again and again their swords
rang out with the distinct sounds of steel upon steel, and again and again he
drove his opponent back. Lunging forward again, Gnak brought one blade to task
in a swooping arc and smashed the other Orc’s blade and watched as it came
loose in his opponent’s hand. His second blade swung true as well, and with a
reverberating ringing sound his assailant’s blade was flung end over end into
the darkness. As any proud Orc would, the attacker fell to his knees tilting
his head back to expose his throat to accept the death that was owed his weakness.

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