Home > Of Kings and Killers (Elder Empire Sea #3)

Of Kings and Killers (Elder Empire Sea #3)
Author: WIll Wight

In the dim, predawn light of the Capital streets, Karson clutched a musket to his chest and prepared to save the world.

Even at this time of day, the roads would normally be cluttered with the last of the city’s nightlife, but the street was bare. Karson waited behind a trash collection bin, his fellows in similar positions all over the nearby buildings.

There were twenty-one of them. Twenty-one souls offered up to the future of the Empire. They would not walk away from this, but if the Unknown God was kind, neither would the false Emperor.

He stole them from you, a voice whispered from deep inside Karson’s thoughts. It’s his fault they’re dead.

The pain seared through him. Five years ago, when Karson was little more than a child, his parents and older sister had been killed in the riots following the Emperor’s death. The wound had never closed. It had only festered.

And here the Imperialists were trying to raise an imitation, a fake Emperor, to pretend everything was all right. His eyes flicked up to the black crack in the sky, the badge that unified every one of the twenty-one patriots who prepared to die here this morning.

The false Emperor would deliver them all to the Great Elders.

Unless Karson stopped him.

The first wave of Imperial Guards marched down the street in their uniforms of black and red. These were the Guards with enhanced senses, and it seemed they had gotten more hideous since the true Emperor’s death. One Elder-looking woman paced ahead with her bat ears flicking from side to side, and another hideous monstrosity snuffled along in her wake, bent down so his snout could press close to the ground.

They had prepared for both of these. A fellow patriot had led the robbery of an alchemical workshop the week before. Using those materials, they had constructed devices to confuse both hearing and smell.

An open jar to Karson’s left bubbled and hissed strangely; the sounds seemed to dip in and out of audibility, as though they made noises that his human ears couldn’t pick up. They had four such devices scattered around, and the bat-eared woman pressed a hand to her head but continued walking.

Each of the patriots had been sprayed down with a scent-masking perfume that smelled like clean, fresh wind and dirt. The man with the snout sniffed here and there but showed no alarm.

In a more populated place or time, the false Emperor’s Guard would have been larger or more thorough. But this was supposed to be a secret trip, a quick one, through an all-but-abandoned neighborhood at a silent time of day. If one of Karson’s fellows hadn’t been a member of the Imperial Guard herself, they would never have caught the Liar King so unprepared.

Armored horses trotted around the corner, carrying a plain carriage, and Karson’s rage pounded in his ears along with his heartbeat. This was him. He felt a surge of contempt for the man. What was the point of disguising the carriage if you traveled with half a dozen more Imperial Guard along the sides, each dashing as fast as the horses?

The voice stirred up his rage, and the shadows of the alley seemed to deepen as it spoke. He doesn’t deserve to wear the crown.

In some of Karson’s daydreams, he and the other patriots captured the fake Emperor alive. Then they visited on him all the torments that they and their loved ones had suffered since the true Emperor had been taken from them.

He clutched his hate tighter than his musket. He had to put a stop to those dreams, to relinquish any hope of walking away alive. They wouldn’t win if they didn’t have the will to die.

But Karson was privileged enough to die last. He would get to see the corpse of the puppet-king.

The first four patriots popped out from nearby rooftops, throwing off the blankets or boxes meant to camouflage them from surveillance by Imperial Guards on winged Kameira. Two of them fired muskets while the others hurled waxed-paper globes with burning fuses.

One of the horses fell to the gunfire, its knees buckling, but the second one reared up and screamed, pulling against its harness.

That was when the fuses ran down and the bombs went off.

Karson ducked behind the corner to avoid the noise and the debris, but they didn’t sound terribly impressive. Just sudden, muffled thumps followed by the shouts of the Guards.

When he peeked out again, the carriage leaned to one side, its wheels shattered. Smoke and dust rose in clouds, and both horses and the coachman were dead.

This wasn’t Karson’s moment yet, but it was the most crucial of the operation. Because now the Imperial Guard were enraged.

None of them had died. A Guard with hooked, clawed hands scaled the side of a building faster than Karson would have dreamed possible, tearing one gunman apart and tossing the other screaming over the side. A woman with organic plates bulging under her uniform protected another Guard whose eyes bulged from his skull. That one leveled a musket and took out a patriot with a resonant crack.

Another team, half a dozen men and women who put the good of the Empire ahead of their own lives, dashed out into the streets. They leveled weapons and shouted as loudly as they could.

Karson stared at them, determined to witness their deaths. Their commitment would temper his own.

They matched the Guards in number, but this team was called the Bait Team. They had the hardest job, for theirs was simply to die.

When the door to the carriage opened and a woman in polished black-and-red armor stepped out, Karson knew their bait had been taken.

General Teach had served the true Emperor, and not one of Karson’s patriots could fully explain why she had transferred her loyalty to a lesser copy. Some believed that the false Emperor had blackmailed her, others that she had been in thrall to the Elders all along, and the true Emperor had merely held her leash.

Personally, Karson believed she was just simple in the head, more animal than human, and she hunted like a dog wherever her master pointed. But dogs could be dangerous.

Icy blue eyes stared out from her helmet, and one of her gauntleted hands had already wrapped around the sword-hilt protruding from her shoulder.

Before a single one of the Bait Team fired a shot, Teach bared an inch of her blade.

A wave of darkness thundered down the street with a sound that Karson heard in his very soul. Flowers in windowsills died, dirt flew to the sides, and cobbles cracked.

All six of the Bait Team fell over. Simply dead.

The Imperial Guard who had been in the path groaned and braced themselves against the ground or nearby walls, looking sick, but none of them died or showed any injury. Teach raised her fist in a sign.

But her enemies had signaled each other too.

Hot Books
» A Court of Wings and Ruin (A Court of Thorn
» Anti-Stepbrother
» Empire of Storms (Throne of Glass #5)
» Twisted Palace (The Royals #3)
» Sugar Daddies
» Egomaniac
» Royally Screwed (Royally #1)
» The Hating Game
» Salvatore: a Dark Mafia Romance (Standalone
» Ruthless People (Ruthless People #1)
» To Hate Adam Connor
» Wait for It
» How to Date a Douchebag: The Studying Hours
» Managed (VIP #2)
» The Protector