Bonus Scene for The Ring Keeper

Emperor Callonen of Sarine

His worsening illness made travel difficult. Callonen wished for the strength to ride his horse as he always had instead of traveling in a carriage. At least his guards offered him the small kindness of not mentioning the change. No one spoke of his deteriorating physical condition. They all hoped he would get better. If he didn’t, Callonen’s death would affect the lives of every person in his empire. It wasn’t something anyone in Sarine wanted to face.

Now the carriage rolled toward the edge of the Warding, surrounded by a protective army. Sarine couldn’t afford to allow any harm to come to their emperor. Without him and the enchanted defense of the Warding, demons would destroy their people.

“Emperor, I think we should have ignored his message,” General Gray said from his seat opposite. “What could he possibly have to say that will aid us? It’s too dangerous for you to be so near the border.”

Callonen’s stomach clenched. The message from his traitorous brother had been unexpected in the extreme. Years ago, the last time they had spoken face to face, Haldreth had driven a dagger into Callonen’s heart. Only a miracle had saved him that day.

No, not a miracle. A young woman had saved him. She had loved him and given everything to save his life. The memory of Allia awoke a familiar sharp pain in his chest. For a moment, he concentrated on breathing, until he could speak again. “No. He will do nothing to aid us.”

“Then why should we hear what he has to say?” Gray protested. “He intends to destroy us. This whole meeting is probably a trap.”

“We won’t leave the Warding,” Callonen assured him. “For now, we still have the power to keep his deadlier servants out of our land. Maybe there will be something useful we can learn from what he says.”

The border, invisible to the human eye, was defined by lines of armed men on both sides. Outside, the heavily armed troops of Ara in blue uniforms and black armor congregated. Inside the protection of the Warding, Callonen’s men stood guard in orderly rows.

The carriage stopped. Callonen drew in a deep breath. How could he face his brother again after what Haldreth had done? He’d been a peaceful man all his life, but now Callonen felt the urge to attack his brother, to make him pay for the pain he’d caused. Haldreth deserved to die for the unspeakable crimes he’d committed.

Gray moved to the door and got out, turning back, subtly providing support to Callonen. As he stood upright, exhaustion dragged at his limbs, pain twisted through his muscles and joints. No matter how his body felt, he had come to face his brother. For a moment, he feared he couldn’t walk without aid. Gray remained close beside him, ready if that should be the case.

Callonen moved forward, one step and then another. His loyal soldiers dressed in dark green uniforms lined his path on either side. They were good men, every one of them. He would do what he had to do to protect them and the rest of his people.

Slowly, Callonen walked toward the front, trying to conceal his weakness as best he could. A familiar figure approached the border from the other side. Haldreth’s appearance hadn’t changed much. Dark hair and beard, their father’s brown eyes. He looked older, but he remained a mirror image of Callonen, his identical twin.

Callonen was the one who had changed. The illness had attacked his body, aging him prematurely. The changes were obvious now, as he faced his brother across the empty space between the soldiers, and he could see the triumph on Haldreth’s face.

“Callonen!” Haldreth called jovially. “It’s good to see you, brother!”

All of Callonen’s muscles clenched, tightening with a visceral need to attack. His jaw clenched back the words that threatened to flood out of him. You took Allia from me. I loved her and she was everything to me! I intended to marry her and spend the rest of my life cherishing her. He couldn’t prevent the words that escaped his lips. “Where is she?” Haldreth would hear the desperation he felt.

A long, awkward moment of silence fell. The soldiers stood perfectly still while Callonen faced his brother.

At first, Haldreth’s face betrayed no emotion. “Who?”

Callonen met his gaze, attempting to control the trembling in his hands.

Haldreth’s eyes widened in realization. “Oh, you’re talking about that kitchen maid who worked at the palace. The two of you were… friends.”

Hot rage flooded through Callonen and he struggled to keep his body still, his expression calm. Haldreth meant to goad him, to force him to lose what little control he had left.

Haldreth laughed coldly. “Let the past go, brother. Seventeen years is a long time to hold a grudge. I can’t believe you’re still asking about her. What was her name? Hannah, Leah…”

“Allia.” Callonen hadn’t spoken her name aloud in years. The pain was too great.

Haldreth smiled, slapping his thigh. “That’s right,” he rubbed his chin. “I remember now. Not the smartest girl. For some reason, she never would cooperate with me, no matter how I tried. She’s long gone.”

Callonen hadn’t thought his heart could hurt more, but the pain increased at his brother’s words. Haldreth had taken Allia, determined to control her for her power. He would have used any means to force her to his will.

“I didn’t ask you here to talk about her,” Haldreth said. “I wanted to know how you were. You don’t look well, brother.”

“No,” Callonen ground out. His brother knew that already.

Haldreth shook his head in mock sympathy. “That’s terrible. How long has this been going on? Probably about four months now?”

Fear, like a silver of ice, penetrated Callonen as everything came together at the words. Four months. “It’s a spell,” he gasped. He looked up at his brother. “You did the same thing to father, didn’t you? I should have realized.”

“Me? How could I affect our dear departed father’s health? I haven’t been in Sarine for years.”

“I saw your book before you left. An enchantment to cause someone to die of old age within a year. Father wasn’t even sixty, and he could have had many good years. How could you—” Callonen felt his knees weaken, and he swayed on his feet. Gray stepped closer and took his arm to support him.

Haldreth’s cold eyes bored into Callonen’s. “If you believe that’s true, then you know exactly how much time you have left. Just a few short months. We are family. I thought we should speak once more before it was all over. I think you already know that Allia gave birth to a child.”

Yes. Callonen had received that news from one of his best soldiers, wounded by Haldreth’s dark minions, dying of their poison. He won’t get the ring, or the child. I hid her where he won’t find her.

Allia’s child.

“You haven’t found her, have you?” Haldreth asked, his voice deceptively casual.

“I would never tell you where she is!”

Haldreth smiled. “So, you don’t know either. No matter. I sent my demons to hunt her. It’s only a matter of time before they find her.”

Callonen had sent many of his best people to search for the child over the years. They still searched. There seemed little hope they would find the girl before Haldreth’s unholy demons did.

“Dear brother,” Haldreth said, shaking his head, “why are you still fighting me? Sarine will be mine. You have nothing left. Give up. There’s no cure for your illness. You don’t have long anyway.”

Giving up made absolute sense after everything that had happened. Except for a single part Haldreth lied about. There was a cure for his condition. If they could find the ring, there would be hope.


Haldreth nodded to his soldiers. Yelling, they drew their weapons and surged forward to attack.

4 thoughts on “Bonus Scene for The Ring Keeper”

  1. It is an interesting beginning. Depending on what comes next it could be either good or bad. Regardless, you need to capture the attention of your audience and keep them engaged but you know that. I personally hate boring front end books and I have read my fair share of them including Tom Clancy.

  2. I loved the way that you jumped into the story line instead of dragging it out.
    This is an awesome start for your book.

    1. Thanks! I’ve been thinking a lot about what really helps us engage as readers in the beginning of a story. With this clip, I was aiming to start with the heart of the conflict!

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