Will hurried across the dark stones. The soft tap of his shoes against the cobbles echoed in the empty Square. In the middle, where the ground sloped down toward the sewer drains, the statue of Amarr the Barbarian cast a long shadow. Will passed into it and stopped. He heard voices.
Two men spoke in hushed tones, but their words carried when the wind wasn't gusting.
"It's that hag, I tell ya," came one voice. "She's roundin' them up, preparing one of her big spells, she is. I heards there's a sacrifice comin', and she means to raise the dead."
"Don't be stupid, Roth." Will recognized the raspy tone at once. It belonged to Mern, the whitesmith, whose half-slashed throat had never fully healed. Will squinted, but couldn't see where the voices came from, other than realizing they drifted over from the dark, walled yard outside Hellistead's Tavern.
"I'll not have ya callin' me stupid. Oh no. I know what this is about an'hoo. You're just afraids, justs protectin' yurself. Ya know whatcha got in it, ands I don't blame you for bitin' your tongue."
"Quiet, you hay-brained crofter," Mern spat. "Tonight's not a night to whisper about such treacheries. The Lord Ham will cut your tongue out, and the world'll be a better place for it if he does."
"Old Cren will put it back, if he do, but I says he'd best act quick, or he'll be lacking for the parts as fits him proper. The night's black, Mern, and it's gettin' blacker yet."
There was a hollow clatter, then sharp hisses. The man who spoke improperly cursed in words that would have made Grandma Mae gasp then Will heard quick footsteps and a series of clunks. He looked back to the castle, to where father gathered his fighters, then the other way, to the Stablehouse. If father's in trouble, I have to warn him. Will knew his words wouldn't be taken seriously, though.
He began to run across the stone expanse. Fort Lesterall won't fall. Mern's a wicked man, and whoever that other one is, he's got no wits. Cren's just an old woman who lives in the woods. She probably doesn't even exist.
The side door to the Stablehouse opened as Will arrived, revealing a long labyrinth of stalls lit by rows of hanging lanterns. Jak peeked from behind the door, and Will slipped inside. When the older boy closed it, the dangerous night seemed far away. They were alone, Jak peering at Will, a curry comb still clasped in his hand. He was broad-limbed and of average height, with tousled hair the color of wet earth and eyes like onyx. As usual, he smelled of straw and horse manure, but that only made him all the more inviting.
Jak grinned. "I thought you'd hurry over after the feast proper. Too many clouds tonight, though. I'm afraid we won't be spying Hell's Cap, but I've another surprise for you. Found it myself, last night."
"We won't be going to the groves, Jak." Will lowered his voice. "The Unborns are going to attack. Alter Dun showed the Red Token. That means the Unborns have challenged us. The Pact is broken. Even as we speak, my father's gathering an army."
"Of course he is." Will turned toward the metal spiral stair. Barrik, a wiry man with salt-and-pepper hair and a bushy moustache, bent his impressive height as he descended from the second floor serving quarters. "I've a hundred retainers to see to and that's lots of horseshit, my little prince. A good thing they've taken to the barracks. I'm full, and there's a thousand more coming, twenty companies marching under you uncle's banner knight, Telliken. If we hold the night, then there will be others, and we'll feed the Unborns hell like they haven't seen in centuries. But if what I've heard's true, then they have hell to feed us first, before we can draw breath."
Will gaped at the Master of Stables then shook his head fiercely. "Fort Lesterall cannot fall."
Barrik grunted, though it sounded like a laugh. He picked up a pail and carried it to a nearby stall. "I wish I believed that, lad, but this world's not run on luck, I'm afraid. A man forges his own blade then learns to use it, or he gets cut by everyone around him. This world's a fierce battlefield, a bitch with a thousand teeth."
"We can fight with them," Jak insisted. "I've practiced with the sword you gave me lots of times in the groves. I'm not bad."
"You would be with armor on." Barrik came out of the stall with a pail full of black dung. He looked at Will, at Jak, his expression grave. "No, you boys have another errand..."
Enter the world of Will Lesterall, a boy who's grown up in the safety of his father's castle. Tales of the outside world ruled by warring kings and creatures of nightmare have never seemed a threat, yet on the night celebrating the two hundredth year of the sacred Pact that has kept Fort Lesterall safe, a secret intrigue ripens, and in the course of a few hours Will is confronted with a choice greater than he can comprehend.
Join an unlikely hero as destiny pulls him into the middle of an ancient conflict between fallen gods and ambitious women, one that demands blood, both holy and wicked, and the power of an ancient fire bound in steel. As swords clash below a watching wood, hope and betrayal war as fiercely as fear and valour.
Whether he lives of dies, Will Lesterall will never be the same.
What people are saying about The Pact:
"...fast paced...so short [it] can be read in one short sitting." - All Things Books
"...[keeps] you engrossed through all the 48 pages with the end leaving you wanting more - which will be answered in the inevitable sequel. ... Great for a fantasy reader and even though I am not one, the book managed to hold my attention." - Jacinta, reviewer for Dog-Ears
"Graeme Brown penned this perfectly and I would tell everyone to have a look at it." - Charisma Bloggers
"...a dense and dark read. The tension begins right from the first sentence - "When you kill a man, look him in the eye" - and escalates from there...dark forces are gathering... The Pact features many of the long passages found in epic fantasy - passages that aren't exactly my cup of tea, but Brown keeps them smooth and flowing. (Conversely, George RR Martin has a similar style, but I find he goes overly long in his detail and description. Brown keeps it relatively tight and relevant.) ...there are evil plans, conspiracies, and counter-plans all happening at once. The reader is carried along, page by page, until the shocking end... [The Pact] was short, it was tight, it never got boring, and it left enough questions and wonderings in my mind to make me want to read the eventual sequel." - Cameron D. James, author of Autumn Fire
"...a good book for someone who wants to experience a taste of dark, medieval fantasy without having to read a book with hundreds of pages. ...This is a very good start to a promising series." - Christy's Cozy Corners
"Wonderful bedtime story for those kids (of course adults too) that love fantasy! Great Read." - Pink Mama
"Graeme Brown has written an excellent story with a most unlikely hero. I really like Will Lesterall, and I find his actions to be believable and heart-warming... It is refreshing to have a hero such as Will, someone who is honest, with a good heart, without any apparent special prowess or abilities. The story is action-packed and moves at a fast pace. Everything is explained, and it all holds together nicely... I would recommend this for 12+ even though Will is ten, because there is some graphic violence. I think this would make an excellent choice for classroom discussion. In addition, I found it to be an exciting, well-developed story which I recommend to readers of all ages who love fantasy." - Long and Short Reviews
"...an action packed adventure in a vivid new world. The pacing in this book is very well done...it keeps you flipping pages but doesn't seem rushed. The characters are very well developed. Will Lesterall being the main character really needed to be interesting enough to intrigue the readers and he definitely was that. This is a dark novella that is part of a series. You will definitely be anticipating the sequel after reading!" - Life Through Books
"This is a super quick read and a dive into a fantasy world that will keep you on the edge of your seat. ... Great mystical world with vivid details and intriguing characters. You will definitely be sucked in and eager for book number 2." - My Reading Addicion
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