GUEST POST and GIVEAWAY
(Order of the Krigers Book 1)
(Order of the Krigers Book 1)
by Jennifer Anne Davis
Rise by Jennifer Anne Davis is currently on tour with Chapter by Chapter Blog Tours. The tour stops here today for a guest post by the author, an excerpt, and a giveaway. Please be sure to visit the other tour stops as well.
The people of Nelebek live in fear of persecution from the evil Morlet, who reigns with a dark and destructive magic. The kingdom’s only hope lies with the Order of the Krigers - twelve warriors with mysterious powers linked to magical weapons.
For over a century, Morlet has been annihilating the Order, picking them off one by one. Eleven Krigers have been hunted down, tortured, and imprisoned in his dungeon. Now, only one remains.
Sixteen-year-old Kaia survives by keeping her head down and minding her own business. But when she finds herself in the middle of a public execution where the mysterious Morlet is in attendance, an odd compulsion she can’t resist comes over her.
Kaia looks into Morlet’s eyes.
Soon, an ancient power awakens and Kaia can no more blend into the scenery. Will she heed the call of the Krigers or will Morlet’s dark magic destroy the last of the Order?
I staggered into my apartment. The bed, tucked in the corner of the room, begged me to lie down, if only for a moment. But my sore feet, raw hands, and aching back — the result of washing clothes for twelve hours straight — would have to wait for a reprieve because hunger overruled the need for sleep. Opening the kitchen cupboard blackened with dirt and grime, I found only a few crumbs scattered on the shelves. How were we going to survive? Stomping from above shook the ceiling, causing dust to rain down. A baby cried and a couple argued on the other side of the wall.
"Kaia," my father said as he entered the room. "I didn't hear you come in."
"Why are you home so early?" I asked, kissing his cheek. His face was paler than usual, his hair disheveled, and his eyes had dark circles under them.
Instead of answering, he swung his arms, loosening them up. "Let's get to it."
Hopefully, he hadn't lost his job from being too sick to work. If he did, we would not only be out of food, but we'd be out of this apartment as well. It might not be much, but it was all we had. I'd grown up in these two rooms, and, most likely, would be where I lived the rest of my life.
"Sure," I said, too tired to train. "What do you want to work on first?"
"Hand to hand combat," he said. Besides the kitchen cupboards and my straw mattress covered with a few dingy blankets, the only other furniture in the room was a wooden table, two chairs, and a box for my clothes.
As I stood across from Papa in the middle of the room, my stomach growled. His hand barreled down toward me. Raising my left arm, I blocked the strike and punched his gut. When he hunched forward, I latched onto his shoulders, pulling him down and slamming my knee into his head. He toppled to the ground.
After a minute, my father raised his eyebrows. "Aren't you going to finish me off?" he asked, leaping to his feet. "You had me. Why'd you stop?"
"When my attacker is on the ground, there's no reason to render him unconscious or murder him. Fleeing is easy at that point."
He shook his head. "Honey, when the time comes, you won't have the opportunity to consider whether a person should be killed or not. We train so you can act without thinking."
"I'd rather train so that when the time comes, if it ever does, I can defend myself and make the right choice. If there's another way to escape, why should I murder the person?" It was difficult to argue with my father since he always insisted he was right. As much as I loved him, I didn't necessarily agree with him.
"Your mother would be proud of the woman you've become," he said, changing the subject.
"Why don't you ever talk about her?" I asked. "Do we look alike? How'd she spend her time?" If only he would tell me something, anything, so I could feel a connection to her.
"Not right now," Papa said, staring at his feet. "You're not done with your lesson."
Of course. Training always came first — it was the most important aspect of my life. Since my mother had died delivering me, my father felt it was his duty to make sure I could take care of myself. Inconsequential things such as knowing anything about my own mother would have to wait. Survival was the one, and only, goal in this desolate kingdom.
Even though my arms shook from hunger, I smiled. "What do you want to work on now?"
"Let's practice what to do if someone comes up behind you."
Turning my back to my father, I patiently waited for him to attack. When he didn't, I glanced behind me. Papa bent over clutching his chest. Running to where he kept his medicine, I grabbed the bottle off the moldy shelf and uncorked it. It was empty, and my heart sank. There should be at least another week's worth. Papa had to be taking more than he should, which could only mean one thing: he wasn't getting any better.
"I'm sorry," he said, wheezing. "I didn't want to worry you." He coughed, and little droplets of blood spattered on the floor.
Tears filled my eyes, and I hastily blinked them away. "I'll go to the apothecary's and get more medicine." I wrapped my arm around his torso and helped him hobble to the wooden chair at the table.
"It's almost curfew," he said, sitting down. "It's too dangerous for you to be out at this hour."
Without the medicine, my father's condition would only worsen. "Let me do this for you." It was nothing I couldn't handle. He worked hard to ensure I was taken care of — it was my turn to see to his needs.
Papa pulled out his handkerchief and wiped off the blood covering is lips. "There's no money left."
He started coughing again, and I struggled to hold back my rage. He was forced to work as a soldat in the mines for the king, yet he wasn't paid nearly enough to feed us, let alone to have extra money for expensive items such as medicine. It wasn't fair.
"Don't worry," I replied. "There's a little bit of money left over from my job." Reaching under my mattress, my fingers fumbled around until they came across my one and only coin. It wouldn't be enough, but it was better than nothing.
"Kaia," my father said. "Go tomorrow instead. It'll be safer." The handkerchief clutched in his hand was moist with blood, and a foul, metallic smell permeated the air.
"You might not be alive come morning. I'm going — and there's nothing you can say to stop me." I leaned down and kissed his cheek.
"Remember everything I've taught you, everything we've practiced." He patted my shoulder. "And when you return, we need to talk. There's something I must tell you."
With curfew going into effect in a few short hours, I needed to leave instead of dwelling on what Papa had to say. Wrapping a knit scarf around my neck, I closed the door to our apartment and ran down the rickety, wooden steps to the first floor. The repulsive smell of body odor and waste hung heavy in the stale air. Holding my breath, I hurried along the dark corridor and shoved the door open, stepping outside and inhaling the fresh air.
The chilly wind whipped around my body. Thankfully, I had on sturdy pants, a plain shirt, and a thick leather vest instead of a dress. For as long as I could remember, Papa insisted I wear trousers because they were easier to move and fight in. Pulling the scarf around my mouth, I made sure my long, brown hair was tucked under my shirt. The key to making it through the capital without attracting the soldats' attention was to keep my head down and walk quickly.
Since most people hurried home from work at this hour, I easily vanished into the crowd. Soldats stood posted at each street corner watching everyone. Across the way, a young man joked with his friend — he should have known better. In less than a minute, half a dozen men dressed in red uniforms descended upon him.
"I didn't do anything!" the young man screamed. A soldat punched him in the stomach, yanked his hands back, and tied his wrists together. He dragged the young man down the street, presumably to the dungeon. It took all my willpower to keep walking the other way. Papa had drilled it in me to pick my battles. Unless my life was in danger, I had to stand down, regardless of the injustice of the situation. Curling my fingers, I made two fists, keeping my anger under control. This was no way to live.
Passing between the tall, gray, windowless buildings lining the street, an oppressive feeling overwhelmed me. Each structure was jam-packed with apartments housing multiple families similar to the one I lived in. The sound of people speaking, children crying, and soldiers yelling was constant. The smell of decaying rats, trash, and vomit coated the air like a wool blanket.
Rounding a corner, I spied the king's castle in the distance. Its imposing black stone walls and bleak towers mirrored the capital and my future. Legend said it was once a shining, gleaming, white castle filled with lively parties and a ruler who cared about his subjects. I didn't believe any part of that. It was probably just wishful thinking — a fairy tale to lull children to sleep at night. The only people who entered or left the castle were soldats from the King's Army. The king didn't care about his subjects — he obsessed over hunting down and capturing the Krigers.
Turning onto another street, I quickly took note of where each soldat stood and avoided passing near them. Men covered with dirt from laboring in the mines stopped at the taverns on their way home from work. Women carried baskets, desperately trying to sell knitted scarves, socks, and gloves. There were two hours until curfew, just enough time for me to buy my father's medicine and make it home.
After passing the baker and blacksmith, both closing up for the night, I finally arrived at my destination. I entered the apothecary's store; a gray cat darted in front of me, but otherwise the place seemed empty. Shelves containing all sorts of glass jars, most of them no larger than my hand, lined the walls of the small room from the scarred wooden floor to the cracked plaster ceiling. At the counter, I cleared my throat. A moment later, the apothecary entered through the back curtain, his dark eyes darting around the store nervously.
"Kaia." He smiled, relieved. "How is your father doing?" he asked, wiping his hands on a small towel.
"He hasn't improved." Placing my money on the counter, I hoped we could strike a deal. "He needs more breathing medicine."
"Maybe it's time to let your father go." The apothecary slid the coin back toward me.
Papa was all I had left, and just the thought of losing him made it hard to breathe. I pushed my coin back toward the apothecary and folded my arms.
The apothecary rubbed his tired face. "Medicine is expensive. Didn't you just turn sixteen?"
"Then you can legally work."
"Are you offering me a job?" A woman in my apartment building already employed me at helping her wash clothes. It didn't pay much, but it afforded me the flexibility to go home and take care of my father if needed.
"I can't hire you," he said. "An apprentice is already assigned to me." He turned around and took a jar off the shelf behind him. "This is one week's worth of medicine."
"Thank you." As I reached for it, he snatched it away with his long, bony fingers.
"This isn't free," he scolded me.
"I promise to pay you."
"I have mouths to feed, too." The cat jumped onto the counter and lay down so the apothecary could scratch its plump belly.
"What about cleaning your store or making deliveries?" There had to be something he needed.
He held the jar in his free hand, taunting me. "There is an errand that must be taken care of." He leaned forward on the counter, placing the glass bottle before me and shooing the cat away. "Do this favor for me, and I'll give you one day's worth of medicine."
Clenching my hands, I muttered, "Only one day?"
"That's what I'm offering." He smiled.
The gray cat slunk up next to me, rubbing its body against my legs. Seeing no other feasible option at this late hour, I agreed. The apothecary reached under the counter and pulled out a small jar, setting it on the wooden surface. After pouring a tiny amount of medicine inside, he corked it and held the bottle in front of my face. "I need you to go to the Town Square."
The Town Square always crawled with men from the King's Army looking for young, able-bodied people to recruit. They would arrest the person and tell him that he could go free if he willingly joined the army. Other times, they would put the person to work in the mines, digging for the Heks power source. Many steered clear of the Town Square in order to avoid being forced into the king's service. I would rather die than become a slave.
"Still want the medicine?" the apothecary asked.
"Yes," I snapped. "Tell me what to do."
"Look for a man wearing a fur-trimmed jacket," he instructed. "He's ... well, not from around here. And he's someone you never want to cross."
Most likely, this man was a criminal. I swallowed, contemplating my options. Doing this errand meant receiving my father's medicine. Papa would be upset with the risks involved. However, he'd also told me to pick my battles — and this battle I was willing to fight.
I reached for the jar, and the apothecary nicked it away. "I'll give it to you when you return. I need some form of insurance you'll make the delivery."
"It'll be curfew by then," I said, clutching the counter so tightly, my knuckles turned white.
"Then I suggest you hurry." The apothecary went to a wooden cabinet concealed in the corner of the room between two large shelves. Slipping his hand into his pocket, he produced a long, thin key. He unlocked the door, reached inside, and pulled out a black bottle the size of my pinkie finger. After locking the door, he came over and carefully placed the bottle on the palm of my hand.
"I have some advice for you," he said, drumming his fingers on the counter. "This man disposes of people for a living. Try to avoid asking him any questions, and don't make eye contact."
My heart pounded just thinking about the task before me. "I understand."
"You better be on your way. He's expecting someone to deliver it at any minute."
With shaking hands, I hid the bottle under my leather vest. The apothecary crept out from behind the counter, shoving me out of his shop and onto the street, closing and bolting the door behind me.
I shivered, wanting to forget the feel of his fingers digging into my shoulders. Folding my hands under my arms, I took the main road that led straight to the center of town. Nearing the Town Square, the street became unusually packed.
Walking shoulder to shoulder with dozens of people filtering into the Town Square, I tried to listen to the conversations of those around me. Many whispered the word execution. I froze, not wanting to witness something so heinous. People bumped into me, pushing me forward into the open cobblestone area.
The Town Square was approximately one hundred feet by one hundred feet wide, surrounded by shops. A wooden platform was situated in the middle. A man dressed in black holding an ax stood atop it. My stomach lurched. I'd never witnessed an execution before. There hadn't been any gossip in my building and, hopefully, it was no one I knew. This was another reason my father insisted the area be avoided at all cost.
Making my way through the crowd of at least three hundred people, I searched for the man dressed in a fur-trimmed jacket, hoping he'd stand out and I'd find him before the prisoner was brought forth.
A hush descended over the crowd as the king's personal guard — men dressed in solid black with the royal crest embroidered on their tunics — marched into the Town Square, clearing a path between the people, directly to the execution platform. A clattering sound arose as a shiny black carriage with its curtains drawn shut rode through the open area the soldats had created. When the carriage turned, the painted crest of the king, Morlet Forseve shone. Even though we lived in the capital where the king's primary residence was located, Morlet rarely made public appearances. He spent most of his time scouring the various towns in the kingdom of Nelebek, searching for the Krigers.
The carriage pulled to a stop before the platform, and a footman opened the door. A figure dressed in a black cape that covered his head and body emerged. He glided up the stairs and spoke briefly with the executioner. I stood on my toes, trying to get a better look.
No one in the Town Square spoke.
"What's going on?" I whispered to the man standing next to me.
"The king ordered the execution of the man who aided Kriger Henrik before he was imprisoned two seasons ago."
Legend stated that when Morlet used dark magic and came into power, twelve warriors, known as Krigers, were born. Krigers had special abilities and magical weapons. When all twelve Krigers came together and united their powers, they would be strong enough to defeat Morlet. Papa told me that at first, Morlet hunted down and killed the Krigers. However, every time he killed one, a new one was born. The only way for him to end the Krigers was to kill all twelve at the same time, when their powers were linked, thus ending the Order of the Krigers forever.
And now, the king had eleven of the twelve imprisoned.
Although I'd never known or met a Kriger before, every night I wished I'd see the day they came together and killed the king. If Morlet was gone, surely the people of Nelebek would have a chance at a better life — one without poverty and fear.
Praise for the Book
"This book feeds my need for dangerous assassins and powerful women." ~ Maria V. Snyder, New York Times Bestselling Author of The Study Series
"The world is so richly developed and I feel such a connection to so many of the characters. If you're a fan of fantasy, this book is a must read!" ~ Zach's YA Reviews
"The story and the world building are phenomenal. I absolutely think the characters and their complexity and depth make this one wonderful; but seriously, I'm impressed and awed with how creative this story line is!" ~ Happy Tails and Tales
"From the first moment there is action, intrigue, and it never relents throughout the entire book ... this is a series all YA readers can embrace and enjoy. Rise contains fast paced action, mystery, slow burning romance, and interesting magical elements." ~ Rebecca @ Desert Divas Book Addiction
Guest Post by the Author
Creating a Fantasy World
Creating a fantasy world is essential before I begin writing.
I probably spend a month just planning out what the world looks like, how it came to be, and who the characters are. I usually start with a map which allows me to visualize where everything is better.
From there, I start picturing what the characters look like, what their houses look like, what the land is like, and what sorts of animals there are. This is when Pinterest comes in handy. I love looking through pictures and finding what matches the image in my head.
Once I feel confident in the world and what it looks and feels like, I add in other elements such as magic. What is the magic? How does it work? Who wields it? Things of that nature.
I have learned that if I truly know and understand my world, then I can begin writing the story. However, if the world isn’t clear, I end up writing about the world instead which makes for a boring book! When the world is well developed, it naturally comes through in the story as the characters start interacting with one another.
About the Author
Jennifer Anne Davis is the award-winning author of the bestselling True Reign series. After graduating from the University of San Diego with a degree in English and a teaching credential, she married her high school sweetheart. Jennifer is currently a full-time writer and mother of three highly energetic children. Her days are spent living in imaginary worlds and fueling her own kids’ creativity.
Enter the tour-wide giveaway for a chance to win a Scrabble tile book cover charm (US only) or one of five ebook copies of Rise by Jennifer Anne Davis (international).