Read an Exerpt of Kings & Vagabonds - Part Two

The Breton stood with one foot planted on a capstan, his right forearm resting across his thigh as he stared thoughtfully across the harbour.

“Are you telling me that the mercenary has been in the Halls of the Dead and has returned unharmed?”

“It was a near thing, my Lord,” confessed the druid, “and indeed a miracle that he escaped unscathed.”

Chris grinned crookedly. “Yet now you propose that I should attempt the same journey?”

Josiah sat on an upturned coracle and rested on his staff, accepting the irony of his request. “I am asking that the two of you go into the Halls together, united in strength and purpose, for it is only by taking this path that we have any hope of success against Lord Gris. Your conventional army, even should you be able to raise the manpower in time, will never prevail against the tyrant.”

“You seem very sure of this.”

“Chris, hear me and listen well. The unholy power that Lord Gris wields can only be drawn from the Nether World through a human conduit. A Seer. He cannot be beaten by men alone, however great their courage or strong their faith.”

“The Church Elders would disagree with you there, my friend.”

“And what say you, Knight of the Sword?”

“I say show me proof, Mage. My faith only goes so far.”

“If your mind is as open as you claim it to be then I shall have no difficulty in persuading you that the cause is a just one, however the mercenary is afraid to return to the Halls and this quest cannot succeed without your combined strength and faith to sustain you.”

“You paint a dire and chill picture, priest. Yet you are certain that this is the only way.”

“My son, this may sound presumptuous but the fate of the world may well rest in your hands. Yours and those of the mercenary.”

Chris shook his head, not believing but neither daring to disbelieve. “The prophecy of which you spoke?”

“One and the same. If you are willing I will give you your proof. But be warned, the trial is not without its dangers and you must enter this agreement with a pure heart and a clear mind. I tell you not only this, that your faith will be taxed beyond measure, but also that if one of you falls or fails, then you will both perish.”

The paladin straightened and walked a few paces away, his hand resting on the massive sword at his side. After a few minutes he turned and stared levelly at the druid. “Convince me that there is no other way, Josiah and I will go.”

“Then we must prepare. By the rising of the moon tonight I would have your answer.”

“Then so be it, priest. What must I do?”

Josiah stood slowly and leaned on his yew staff. “You must pray to your Great Mother that I am right.”