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SIGNED – Reckoner (Darkblade #8)


The Hunter’s enemies will soon learn a bloody truth:

No foe is more dangerous than a cornered assassin.

Trapped in a city under siege, where even high walls, strong gates, and brave hearts will inevitably fail against overwhelming odds.
With both his daughter Jaia and his gathered “family” of Kiara, Evren, and Hailen to fight for, he will stop at nothing to shatter the forces bent on the destruction of Shalandra.

But in the City of the Dead, every shadow conceals hidden daggers and murderous intent.

The greatest threat to the Hunter may be the very people he’s battling to protect.

"Darkblade has dragged me through agony and despair that left me bleeding for more by the end. This is a book of hurt and hope and...deserves to be on everyone's radar." -The Wulvers Library

(Each paperback is hand-signed and personalized by me. Swag included!)

Revenge quest
broody anti-hero
grim and bloody
Sentient weapon
demons and monsters
killer with a heart of gold

SIGNED – Reckoner (Darkblade #8)

Look Inside

The siege of Shalandra began with a tremendous collapse. Not of great stone walls nor mighty gates of steel nor the morale of its defenders. Indeed, it was a collapse the Hunter had been expecting, yet no less tremendous for it.

One moment Invictus Tannard was roaring orders at Indomitables and Keeper’s Blades alike, rallying soldiers in the city’s defense. The next, his voice was snuffed like a candle flame in a great wind. The broad-shouldered Keeper’s Blade sagged and slipped from his saddle without a sound.

The Hunter was so focused on making certain Evren, Kiara, and Jaia had made it through the city gates and avoiding the Zahirani arrows flying overhead that he saw the Invictus’ collapse too late to forestall it. The broad-shouldered man crashed to the ground with bone-jarring force. His thick skull bounced once on the paved road and he lay still. Spots of bright red blood splashed the golden stones beneath his head and began to spread out in a thick puddle around him.

“Invictus!” Issa, Hykos, and the Keeper’s Blade who’d met them at the gate shouted in the same instant. Despite their visible fatigue, the two young Shalandrans sprang from their saddles and reached their fallen commander’s side a heartbeat before the heavily armored older warrior joined them.

“Keeper take it!” Hykos growled. He had two fingers pressed to the side of Tannard’s neck. “His pulse is weak.”

“His wound’s reopened,” Issa added, then gasped. “Fiery hell!”

By now, the Hunter had ridden close enough to see the cause of Issa’s surprise. She had pried open Tannard’s cloak to reveal an utter mess of blood. Crimson soaked into his leggings, turning the bright yellow-dyed goat hides a terrible rust color. His boots, shirt, and the inside of his thick over-cloak were equally sodden. More blood stained his horse’s side.

By the Swordsman!

The spear wound Tannard had sustained during their fight to hold off the Zahirani in Fortune’s Pass hadn’t had time to fully close, much less heal. The sheer volume of blood suggested the man had been bleeding for a while—perhaps hours, since they set off riding early that morning. Despite that, he’d kept pace with the rest of their small group, even led the way into Shalandra. Few men the Hunter had met over his decades of life could match such stubbornness.

Instinct caused him to duck as Zahirani arrows whistled over the wall and landed dangerously close to where he sat astride a gasping, wheezing Elivast. Most flew wide of their mark. A handful bounced off thick Indomitable armor or spun away from upraised shields. One unfortunate was struck down to the ground as if by an invisible fist. He didn’t rise, didn’t so much as gasp or gurgle out his final breaths. The arrow shaft had pierced the back of his neck just beneath the rim of his spiked helm and severed his spine.

“We need to get him out of here!” the Hunter shouted, springing down from his saddle and moving toward Tannard.

“We need to get him to a healer!” Issa called to the Keeper’s Blade in almost the same breath.
Not surprising, the Shalandran responded to his own and paid the Hunter’s words no heed.

“Leave him with me,” the man said, his thick, square-jawed face somber beneath his snarling lion helmet. From up close, he smelled of hyssop, fir sap, and beef bones. “He is a Keeper’s Blade, and as such—”

“Look at me!” Issa all but seized the Keeper’s Blade by the collar of his spiked black armor and shouted in his face. “Look at me and tell me you do not recognize me.”

For the first time, the Keeper’s Blade looked her way. Really looked. His eyes widened a fraction and his spine stiffened. “Defteteros Issa?” His head snapped toward Hykos. “Archat—”

“Bloody right it’s us, Ypertatos Zachash!” Issa released her grip on the man’s armor and returned to kneeling at Tannard’s side, lending her strength to help Hykos apply pressure to the leaking wound. “Which means that when I command you to do everything you can to help me get the Invictus to the Palace of Golden Eternity, you know it’s coming not from a Defteteros, but as daughter of your Pharus and Proxenos!”

If the older Keeper’s Blade was surprised to recognize her, he recovered quickly. He didn’t salute—she wasn’t his superior, after all—but sprang to heed her words nonetheless. Spinning, he seized a passing Indomitable by the arm. “Get me a wagon and driver here now! And send someone to care for their horses. There’s no way they can make it to the Keeper’s Tier in their condition.”

The man had the right of it. Even now, a terrible snorting and wheezing rose from among their mounts—particularly Elivast and the horse that had carried Alessard’s armored weight. Ash and the mountain ponies were the best off, but even they appeared unable to hold their heads up for long.

The riders weren’t in much better shape, to be fair. Jaia’s dark hair was plastered to her skull by sweat and her face was somehow both flushed and pale from exertion at once. Perspiration sluiced off Alessard’s forehead and aquiline nose in rivers that rivaled the Stannar River’s flow. Kiara’s face was pinched and drawn with both the strain of the hard ride and the torrent of myriad emotions raging around her. Evren looked barely able to stand without clinging to his exhausted horse’s flanks.

That left it to the Hunter, tired as he was, to keep his head about him and watch over the rest of them.

“Under here!” he shouted, waving for Jaia, Alessard, Kiara, and Evren to follow him. The four stumbled in his wake toward the guardhouse built into the side of the golden sandstone wall. They dared not enter—Indomitables were running in empty-handed and barging out armed with sickle-shaped khopeshes and seven-sided three-quarter shields of the same black steel as their armor—but the guardhouse had a sloping roof with overhang enough to offer shelter from the raining arrows.

They reached shelter not a moment too soon. A fresh volley of Zahirani missiles clanked and clattered off the guardhouse roof. A few bounced off and skittered away up the street. One whizzed a half-pace past Issa’s back, so close it would have killed her without her realizing it.

“Stay here!” he shouted to his companions but didn’t wait to find out if they heeded. Instead, he spun, snatched a khopesh from the hand of an Indomitable, and raced back out into the hailstorm of arrows. He dared not risk drawing the Sword of Nasnaz now—its magic would draw far too much attention. With Marius’ Fehlan sword shattered and left to commemorate the deaths of Akran, Gaina, Marrakis, and Maliah, the Hunter couldn’t very well ward off arrows with daggers alone.

He ran toward Issa and Hykos, who remained kneeling over the unmoving and profusely bleeding Invictus Tannard. The two Keeper’s Blades didn’t look up, and the one Issa had called Ypertatos Zachash was busy shouting orders to the Indomitables. The Hunter skidded to a halt just behind Issa, spun, and brought the khopesh up to guard position.

The sword felt wrong in his hand. The balance was fractionally too weighted toward the tip, the sickle shape odd after so many years of fighting with a straight-edged blade. But it was lighter than he’d expected, a finely crafted weapon without a doubt. Unfamiliar or no, it would have to serve.

His gaze fixed on the sky overhead and narrowed to a single point of focus. He wouldn’t need to see every arrow—or, more accurately, wouldn’t have to register the flight path of each shaft consciously. As with facing any weapon, be it sword or axe or spear, instinct and training would guide his reactions. His mind would merely recognize the threat and command his well-honed muscles to react on their own.

And if not, he thought grimly, bracing himself for what was to come, I can heal from an arrow far easier than they can.

He hadn’t long to wait. The next hailstorm of Zahirani arrows hurtled over the wall, arcing high into the clear blue sky before plunging a sharp downward trajectory. The steel heads plowed a path of destruction toward the civilians and soldiers upon whom they rained.

The Hunter’s right hand darted out, striking with the khopesh at an arrow whistling in Hykos’ direction. A fraction too slow, he only managed to graze its feathers with the curving tip. Relief flooded him when his keen ears picked up the clack of steel striking stone instead of the terrible meaty thunk of flesh.

He had a fraction of a second to adjust his grip on the unfamiliar blade and adapt his timing. Then the arrows were falling too fast and thick for him to have any conscious thought whatsoever. He could only act.

His arms pumped like bellows, his wrists spinning with such speed the sword was a blur of motion before him. His eyes never lost their focus on the nebulous focal point in the sky above him—his gaze wide enough to take in all the arrows hurtling toward him but narrow enough to discard any shafts visibly flying high or wide.

He abandoned any attempt at power; he demanded only speed and accuracy. Precision with every strike. Slashing, hacking, slicing this way and that, sword flying in a desperate attempt to match the swiftness of the oncoming arrows. For what seemed an eternity, the world around him ceased to focus. Nothing existed save his body, the sword in his hands, and the spots of black slicing through the blue expanse over his head.

And then, seemingly all at once, the hailstorm of arrows slackened. Grew fewer in number, so few the Hunter could pick them out of the air and respond with intention. His arms felt numb, his right leg slow, and his lungs burned, yet he was in utter control of his movements and the sword in his hand. With one final roar, he cut the last arrow from the sky with a savage blow that spun him around to face Issa, Hykos, and Tannard.

His roar cut off in a harsh, wet cough. His spin ended with his right leg giving out beneath him. He collapsed to one knee, grounding the tip of the khopesh onto the stone to support himself. The movement sent pain flaring through his torso and belly. Something ground against his right shoulder bone hard enough to tear a hiss of pain from his lips. Blood came with it.

He spat a red stream, which splashed into the pool of Tannard’s blood. Someone was shouting behind him. Hands seized him by the arms, hauled him upright. Suddenly, the Hunter was lifted off his feet and all but hurled onto the hard wooden bed of a wagon. A moment later, Hykos sprang into the bed at his side, then turned, knelt, and helped someone else drag Invictus Tannard aboard. Issa joined them, and the Hunter dimly saw more familiar faces. Jaia and Alessard, staring at him with naked astonishment. Evren, eyes clouded with worry. Kiara. She was saying something. Her lips moved, but he could scarcely make it out.

“What?” he muttered, around a mouthful of blood.

“They have to come out!” Kiara’s shout pierced the hammering in his ears. “Now!”

The Hunter stared at her numbly, his mind distant. He didn’t know what she was talking about—what had to come out?—but he nodded anyways.

He closed his eyes, only for them to snap open again as blinding pain seared his right shoulder. A gurgling hiss escaped his lips, then another as something tore free of his chest.

Only then did the Hunter look down. First at the two bloody-headed arrows Kiara and Evren held, and from there, to the shafts of three more protruding from his belly and right leg.

A harsh, grim laugh fell from his lips. Looks like I didn’t block them all.

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