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A TURNING POINT by J T Greathouse (EXCLUSIVE EXCERPT)


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the-garden-of-the-empire-jt-greathouse.jToday we’re joining the blog tour for J.T. Greathouse and we’re extremely excited to be sharing with you all an exclusive bonus chapter from the release of his sequel The Garden of Empire.

Please note there will be 

SPOILERS FOR THE HAND OF THE SUN KING. 

 


A Turning Point

Harrow Fox

 

Harrow Fox, Sun King of Nayen, crouched at the edge of a cliff, looking down through the gentle fall of snow on the fortress of Greyfrost Keep, the last bastion of his rebellion against the Empire of Sien. A conjured storm of wind and flame had scoured a ring of smoking ash through the winter-dusted forest, where imperial banners moved in steady, unhurried retreat.

The boy was powerful. Harrow Fox had to grant him that. No Hand of the Emperor or witch of Nayen could have wielded such magic. None, perhaps, save the emperor himself.

A thought which did little to quiet his mind.

He remembered his sister’s son only as a thin twig of a child, round-cheeked, peering from a window. Sienese in all but the tint of his hair and a dark shade in his complexion. Then, Harrow Fox had marked the boy’s existence only as another piece of evidence proving his sister’s treason. That their mother had chosen to stay with her for so long, in that house, still baffled him. Had she sensed, even then, what her grandson would become?

An owl rose from the forest, carrying with it a wake of witchcraft that sent a cramp through Harrow Fox’s arms. It circled once overhead, landed beside him, and in a breath of cinnamon scent burst into the young witch Tawny Owl, his protege.

‘It doesn’t appear to be a trick,’ she said, stretching her neck. ‘They’re falling back. Though I couldn’t bloody well explain why.’

‘Much about the last few days defies explanation,’ Harrow Fox replied. Once, he had imagined Tawny Owl might lead the Army of the Fox after him, should he fall. Of late, the hunt for a worthy successor had begun anew. Still, she deserved the opportunity to understand. ‘He was a Hand of the Emperor. Why would he join us now? And after the Sienese cornered us in Greyfrost, chasing us further than they ever have before?’

Tawny Owl rolled back her shoulders, settling her hands on the hilts of her swords. ‘You think, what, that he’s still working for them? They had us beaten. If the boy had not arrived when he did, we’d all be dead.’

‘And only the pretender Frothing Wolf would remain to carry the torch of rebellion.’ Harrow Fox stood and stroked the line of gray in his beard. ‘Which is stronger, Tawny Owl, a people united under one leader, or divided between rivals? We do not know much of the boy Wen Alder – Foolish Cur, I suppose, now that he claims his Nayeni heritage – but we do know that he fought at Iron Town. He killed one of Frothing Wolf’s daughters.’

She tilted her head, letting her braids drape over one shoulder. ‘I don’t follow.’

Harrow Fox smiled at her, masking frustration. Under his tutelage she had become a strong witch and a good soldier. But she was, in many ways, still a child.

‘Why destroy one enemy, only to make room for another to rise, when you might pit the two against one another?’ he said.

Doubt twisted her mouth. ‘He killed dozens of them, if not more, by the look of the blackened bones down there.’

‘Fewer, I would wager, than they fear to lose in a prolonged campaign against Frothing Wolf.’

That Tawny Owl remained unconvinced was no concern of his, save a fresh twinge of disappointment. It was not the task of the king to convince his warriors, only to perceive what they could not and to wield them well.

‘There is another possibility,’ Harrow Fox went on. ‘The boy may not be the empire’s pawn. He may, instead, have discerned that service to Sien could never satisfy his ambition. However he learned this powerful magic, it might have led him to believe himself a worthy rival to the emperor. If he has truly defected, it is only to seize the rebellion for himself.’

Slowly, she nodded. ‘What should we do?’

Harrow Fox lowered himself again, crouching at the edge of the cliff, watching the smoke rise.

‘We wait, Tawny Owl,’ he said. ‘Until the Sienese legion has retreated far enough. Then we go back, seize the serpent by the tail, and wield it as a lash against our enemies. Great things are never accomplished by cowardice.’

‘I see,’ Tawny Owl said, though Harrow Fox very much doubted that she did.

‘Go and get some rest,’ he said, dismissing her, barely noting her salute while his thoughts drifted back to the whirl of the winds, the bone-deep chill in their wake, and the roaring storm of fire and lightning.

A shiver worked through him. No wake of magic, but of a great change coming. A turning point in the long, exhausting struggle. There had never been an opportunity like this before. He touched the hilt of his sword, feeling a plan begin to form, coalescing from all he knew of Nayen and of Sien. Of war and the world.

Such terrible power.

Enough, if wielded well, to scour the Sienese from his homeland at last.

Power he could never control, or trust, if he left it in his nephew’s hands.

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The post A TURNING POINT by J T Greathouse (EXCLUSIVE EXCERPT) appeared first on The Fantasy Hive.

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