The King is Dead by Al Burke **Excerpt-Giveaway**
Etruvia has known peace for twenty years. But this time of peace has brought corruption and greed. The nobility has taken control, and the memories of great victories of old have faded. Crime is rife and the once proud people are little more than peasants. As a great evil rises in the desolate north, can a forgotten king and an embittered former war hero wake a nation from its stupor and build an army strong enough to give it a fighting chance?
ExcerptBeing king wasn’t exactly as Eric had imagined. His memory of his parents was
more akin to dreams than solid points of reference, but he had been very young
when they died, a mere six years old, and was now entering his fortieth year. The
succeeding thirty-four years became increasingly boring and frustrating in equal
amounts. While dealing with affairs of state was hardly something a heartbroken
child should have to deal with, as the years went by, Eric had received no
training in what should have been important matters, and instead, considerable
efforts were made to keep him from attending to what was his kingdom.
Eric’s ministers were no doubt enjoying their own power, and there were
rumours around the castle and even down in the city that they intended to usurp
him in the name of democracy. While Eric actually appreciated the idea of
democracy―thankfully he had been well schooled in other areas―what his
“advisers” were practising hardly fit in with the dictionary definition of the idea.
They preferred lining their own pockets and favouring the wealthy over those
less fortunate. There was no doubt that his father, who had come from a long line
of respected regents, was turning in his grave with regularity.
Eric, however, failed to replicate his father’s charisma and steely will that had
benefited the kingdom greatly when it came to matters of diplomacy or trade
negotiation. Whereas the mighty King Cedric had had his finger in all the
country’s pies, running it as he saw fit―which had been admittedly
effective―Eric had been hampered by his advisers from an early age, and by the
time he was old enough to sit in court, he had been roundly discouraged for so
long that he did as he was told.
Of course, this bothered Eric, who didn’t want to hand his beloved kingdom
over to a bunch of charlatans. He still occasionally tried to join in on matters of
state, but he was talked down at each attempt. With a lot of time to spare, Eric
spent much of his time reading and often talking late into the night with many of
the respected academics in the kingdom. The great minds supported the king, but
all felt he needed to show some resolve in order to take the seat of great prestige.
While his intellect was admirable and matched many of his predecessors,
there was one area where Eric surpassed not just every regent who had sat on the
throne before him, but possibly every person who had ever resided in the
kingdom: combat. Eric had been born at a time of great turmoil, as border battles
were an almost daily occurrence. Perhaps being born practically with a sword in
his hand helped, but Eric had grown up in a time of relative peace. Yet his
acumen with a sword, bow, or any other weapon one could name was peerless.
The king trained daily for most of the morning and reached the stage where he
could take on six soldiers while wielding just a knife, yet come out victorious
with nary a bruise. While some opined that his soldiers went easy on him, Eric
suspected that some of his more enthusiastic opponents were in fact assassins
sent by his ministry. Regardless of popular opinion, any combat veteran could
tell that the king’s ability to parry and strike bordered on superhuman, and if
there was one person who could spar with him for more than a minute, they had
yet to make themselves known.
Spending his day reading and training had given Eric a keen mind and a body
to match, and he could have had his pick of brides had politics not reigned
supreme. Instead, Eric was wed to Catherine of Genovia. They had managed to
consummate their marriage on their wedding night but never shared his bed
again. While court talk should always be taken with a pinch of salt, rumour had
it that Eric’s bed was the only one she refused to share as she ingratiated herself
with the castle staff.
Eric was no fool, and he knew that being royalty often led to a loveless
marriage. He could handle her frosty personality, but she refused to bear him a
child, which put his royal line in jeopardy. Not only did she refuse him sex, but
she worked hard to make sure that no one else could bear him a bastard child to
interfere with whatever nefarious schemes she had cooked up. Ending the
marriage was no option, as Catherine’s father was a proud man who would have
sought revenge with his seasoned army, something the peaceful Etruvians could
not boast. So, Eric had to grin and bear it. He continued to perfect his skills and
his mind in the absence of other ‘activities.’
Tiring of beating on his generally incompetent soldiers, Eric decided to seek
greater challenges, and at night he began to sneak down to town to try and help
stem the spiralling outbreak of crime. While the army was essentially the militia
too, some of the senior officers were well catered to by crime lords who seemed
to wield far more power than the king himself.
Dressing in dark clothing―not that he’d be recognised―Eric roamed the
town taking on thieves, rapists, and the other types of scum who had flourished
in the once proud city. Used to picking on hapless citizens, these criminals were
no match for Eric, and he quickly earned a name for himself as a vigilante. This
reputation earned him the respect of the honest people in the town, but the
criminal gangs and the militia worked hard to trap him, both of whom saw a loss
of profit courtesy of Eric’s crime fighting.
Villains came out in greater numbers, at least as great as they could without
being too obvious, yet Eric still sent the lucky ones running. With this
mysterious vigilante roaming the streets and upsetting the criminal apple cart, a
plan needed to be hatched to end his threat, and for the first time in his life, Eric
was able to bring people together to agree on one thing―the vigilante needed to
be dealt with.
Al's favourite genres are fantasy, science fiction and horror.
Al is a huge fan of mythology, and his future works will incorporate different legends.
Al has a degree in Philosophy, with particular interest in Morality and Philosophies of Freedom.