Series: Wraith Kings #3
Published by Self Published on October 6, 2020
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The WRAITH KINGS saga continues.
The demonic horde that threatened to devour the world has been defeated, but at great cost.
Plagued by guilt and nightmares, Serovek Pangion sets out to deliver the soulless body of the monk Megiddo to the heretical Jeden Order for safekeeping. Accompanying him is sha-Anhuset, the Kai woman he admires and desires most--a woman barely tolerant of him.
Devoted to her regent, Anhuset reluctantly agrees to act as a Kai ambassador on the trip, even though the bold margrave known as the Beladine Stallion gets under her skin like no other, and Anhuset fears he'll worm his way into her armored heart as well.
But guilt and unwelcome attraction are the least of their problems. The demons thought vanquished are stirring again, and a warlord with blood-soaked ambition turns a journey of compassion into a fight for survival. When the Beladine king brands Serovek a traitor, Anhuset must choose between sacrificing the life of a man she's grown to love and abandoning lifelong fealty to the Kai people.
A tale of loyalty and acceptance.
What an amazing series! Since we were well acquainted with the main characters, both of whom are great warriors in their own right, Grace Draven indulges us with a long-story brimming with action, adventure and excitement.
There are some mentions of the prior stories but no more than you would get reading the book description.
This series started with a Beast and the Beast plot of two completely different humanoids falling in love. In the Ippos King, we start with two characters which we have grown to love and admire in the first two books and while they are the same mixed race dynamic as Brishen (Kai) and Ildiko (human) in Book 1 and 2, in The Ippos King, Serovek Pangion (human), the Margrave of High Salure, has had his eye on sha-Anhuset (Kai), Brishan’s cousin and leader of his army, since they first met. As a long-time friend of his Kai neighbors, Serovek admires the Kai for their many strengths and he isn’t put off by their shockingly different appearance. Anhuset starts out believing that Serovek and his flirtations are shallow at best, but as the story progresses and she realizes how noble a man and a warrior that he is and that his flirtations are heart-felt, she shocks herself when she acknowledges that she has come to see this human as handsome. So the romance factor of this series is already well underway at the start of the story which I really liked.
That left us with over 400 pages crammed full of excitement as Serovek and Anhuset travel a great distance into dangerous country to return the Monk Megiddo to his order of heretic, one-god loving worshipers. The Jeden Order are warrior monks who have managed to battle back a warlord who wants to take over the valley where the monk’s order is located. If they can’t find an alternate route to bring Megiddo home, Anhuset and Serovek will need to risk a possible ambush by the warlord and go through the Valley. Hint: Things aren’t going to be easy for them.
They travel past the now abandoned Kai capital of Haradis and find it to be worse than a ghost town. Their attempt to avoid the warlord takes them through another abandoned, or not quite abandoned, city no longer on any map and of course, they can’t avoid the warlord completely (how boring would that be?) which leads to a survivor island kind of encounter.
After surviving all these deadly encounters so far (not really a spoiler since it is their story and they don’t escape unscathed) , they find that someone is plotting against Serovek and has convinced the Beladine King that Serovek is a traitor against the crown. Since Serovek has become so popular among the Baladine people after joining Brishen in the battle as a Wraith King against the galla, they didn’t have to work too hard to convince the King to arrest Serovek on treason to the crown. Anhuset has never been in love before but regardless of her feelings for him, Anhuset won’t allow such a noble warrior to be killed by a jealous king but how can she do it without dragging Brishen and the recovering Kai nation into a war with the neighoring Beladine nation?
As much as I loved the first two stories, they were more love story; and The Ippos King would absolutely fall into the category of adventure with a little romance thrown in to spice it up. There is definitely more story to tell and while I am uncertain who will tell the next part, I am certainly going to be awaiting it. There was a five year gap between Book 2 and Book 3 and I hope we don’t have to wait that long for the continuation.
There were many exciting scenes but I don’t want to give anything away, so we will simply go with…
“The scarpatine has escaped.” He expected a least a huff of derisive laughter from her at her host’s carelessness, but all she did was bend to gather and pocket her winnings. “Any idea what room it’s in?”
“Still in the kitchen.” He gave a brief nod to the soldiers who’d risen as well and motioned for them to stay where they were. “The maids are standing on the tables, and the cook is stabbing at anything that moves. What’s the best way to catch Brishen’s fine gift?”
As tall as she was, Anhuset had a much easier time matching his pace than Bryzant did as they headed back to the fortress. “Use yourself as bait. I’ll do it. I’ve done it before. It’s easy enough if you’re quick.”
That sounded ominous, and Serovek wanted to ask her what she planned to do and how often scarpatines terrorized the kitchen staff at Saggara, but they reached the scene of mayhem before he had a chance.
The kitchen was in an even worse state than when he left it only moments earlier, and Bryzant had joined the maids perched on the preparation table, his weapon of choice a rolling pin.
At Anhuset’s sharp whistle, everyone froze. All gazes settled on her as she held up a slender finger tipped with a sharp black claw. Her eyes shown like gold coins. “Stay still and quiet,” she said. “Otherwise I won’t be able to hear the scarpatine.”
No one argued, and all watched with wide eyes and bated breath as Anhuset pulled a knife from a sheath on her belt and made a shallow cut on the underside of her forearm. Blood trickled from the wound to splatter on the floor in crimson drops. She walked a few steps in one direction, leaving the sanguine equivalent of breadcrumbs in her wake. The silence in the kitchen breathed even when the occupants did not.
Her patience and bloodletting were rewarded when a scrabbling, clicking noise rose from under the shelter of a corner cupboard. A pair of black pincers emerged first, their ends snapping together. The scarpatine inched forward, revealing the rest of its armored body, including a tail that arched over its length, venom dripping from the tip to drizzle down the segmented carapace. Its back legs were longer than the front to accommodate a pair of venom sacs the size of hen’s eggs. Five pairs of eyes on short stalks swiveled in multiple directions before locking onto the drip trail of blood Anhuset had left on the floor.
A mass shudder swept the crowd. Even Serovek, who thoroughly enjoyed the Kai delicacy that was scarpatine pie, swallowed back a knot of revulsion when the insect’s proboscis emerged from a space between its jaws to suck up the blood.
Anhuset spared a glance for the cook who stood nearby. “Hand me your apron very slowly,” she said in a quiet voice. At his uncomprehending stare, her tone sharpened. “Now.”
Serovek tensed when the man did as she ordered, but in quick, jerky motions. The movement alarmed the scarpatine, which whipped around with a hiss to face this new threat and leaped at the cook.
Once more, pandemonium erupted as people not already standing on the furniture, leaped to any elevated surface they could reach. A few tried to escape the kitchen altogether, only to find themselves facing Serovek’s daunting form blocking the door. His glare dared them to try and shove past. There was no way he’d open the door and chance the scarpatine escaping into another part of the citadel. They’d never find and capture it.
The creature was fast, but Anhuset was faster. She darted after the scarpatine, leaping over upended chairs and broken crockery while eluding the flailing elbows of terrified scullions.
A pounding on the kitchen door vibrated the wood against Seroveks’ back. Voices called from the other side, inquiring, demanding entrance. “Margrave, what’s happening?”
Serovek held the door shut and narrowed his eyes in warning as three of the younger scullions–lads no more than twelve or thirteen–considered their chances at going through him to get out of the kitchen. Their fear of the scarpatine was fast overriding their deference to their liege. “All is well,” he bellowed over his shoulder to Carov on the other side. “Just give us a few moments.”
Anhuset had cornered the scarpatine not far from the hearth. Its tail struck at her, flinging droplets of black venom to sizzle on the floor planks. She danced out of the way, avoiding most of the splatter. The droplets that landed scorched the leather of her boots, leaving behind an acrid scent and tendrils of oily dark smoke. Woman and insect feinted with each other, she avoiding the nasty barb on the end of the scarpatine’s tail, the scarpatine dodging the apron she snapped toward it.
Suddenly, the scarpatine lunged at Anhuset. The maids screamed, the cook shouted, and the door smacked hard against Serovek’s spine. Anhuset twisted to the side and cast the apron like a net toward the creature. And missed. It darted back at the last moment, hissing its victory at avoiding the trap.
It lost no time in renewing its attack, launching once more at the Kai woman. This time Anhuset snatched the rolling pin out of a startled Bryzant’s grip and brought it down like an executioner’s ax on the scarpatine.
The insect burst under the impact, splattering guts, venom, and shattered carapace in every direction. A rancid odor, reminding Serovek of a battlefield under a summer sun, filled the kitchen.
People covered their noses and mouths with their hands or aprons. The unmistakable sound of retching replaced the shouting.
Serovek, who was rarely plagued with a weak stomach, even at the most gruesome sights, felt his somersault in warning.
Unfazed by the smell or the slimy detritus of smashed scarpatine, Anhuset tossed the ruined rolling pin into the hearth and inspected her boots where wisps of smoke drifted off new scorch marks left by the venom splatter She glanced at Serovek.”You owe me a new pair of boots, margrave.” She didn’t wait for his answer but turned her attention to the others.
“Check your clothing.” She pointed to her boots to emphasize the importance of that command. “If any of the venom is on it don’t touch it with your bare hands. Cut your garb off if you have to. As you can see, the venom burns anything it touches. And someone get me a shovel so I can scoop this up and bury it.” She waved a casual hand t the smoking insect carcass as if it were as harmless as a dust ball.
“Can’t you just throw it in the fire?” Bryzant’s asked, still perched on the table.
“Only if you want to vomit up your insides once it starts to burn and make Lord Pangion’s home uninhabitable for a week.” She returned her attention to Serovek. “I’m afraid there will be no pie for you, Lord Pangion. Smashed scarpatine means spoiled meat.”
He straightened from the door to give his guest a quick bow. The kitchen looked like the aftermath of a whirlwind’s visit, but it was now at least safe to open the door. “We’ve squandered the Kashkem’s generous gift,” he said. His statement earned a few disbelieving coughs as well as an indignant snort or two. “But we thank you, sha-Anhuset, for taking care of the problem.”
As soon as Serovek shoved aside the bar holding the door closed, Carov and a half dozen soldiers stamped inside, brandishing an array of weapons to save their master and his servants from the monster menacing them. They halted as a group just inside the threshold, awestruck.
“My gods,” the master-at-arms breathed out, eyes wide. “What happened?”
“A hard-fought battled with supper,” Serovek replied. “Sha-Anhuset won.”