To motivate myself to get through editing this book, I’ve decided to try something new. I’m going to start posting chapters from it once a week. So I’d better hurry if I don’t want the whole thing to just be published on this blog. This book has not yet been through beta readers or any in-depth editing, so what you see here may very well not be the final version.
Fall of the Titan picks up immediately after the end of Winter of the Wolf. Braeden, Gwynneth and her children have narrowly escaped Teodora’s attack, fleeing to the home of Prince Kendryk’s aunt, Princess Galena. MAJOR WINTER OF THE WOLF SPOILERS AHEAD!!
Braeden Terris had been sound asleep, but when his door opened, woke up as readily as if his camp had been under attack. He squinted against the candle-light, wavering in a servant’s shaky hand. Surely he wasn’t still so frightening?
“Count Terris,” the servant greeted him. “Her Grace, Princess Galena requests your presence in the dining room.”
“Coming,” Braeden said, already pulling on strange clothes. After his arrival late the night before, he’d left his own outfit in a heap on the floor. While he slept, someone had whisked away his dirty, bloody garments and laid a clean shirt, breeches and doublet on a nearby chair. Aside from being a bit tight around the middle, they fit passably well. Braeden couldn’t imagine who around here would be his size, but didn’t have time to worry about it.
He followed the servant down a dark corridor while buttoning the doublet. He noticed the fine texture of the wool and wondered if it had belonged to the princess’s late husband.
All was dark inside Delsenhof Palace, except for the well-lit dining room. It smelled of fresh bread and coffee, and Braeden’s stomach rumbled. He bowed as soon as he stepped into the room, seeing both princesses–Galena and Gwynneth–already at the table.
“Please sit down and have something to eat, Count,” Princess Galena said, waving over a servant bearing an enormous silver pot, hopefully holding coffee.
Braeden obliged, casting a glance at Gwynneth.
She looked as if she hadn’t slept at all; her wide, anxious eyes meeting Braeden’s.
“We have a big problem,” Princess Galena said, as soon as he was settled in his chair, his plate heaped with food.
“Bad news from Terragand.” Gwynneth picked apart a crust of bread over her plate.
Braeden put his fork down. “How bad?”
“King Lennart has made a mess of things,” Princess Galena said. “After Kendryk’s death, he rather hastily put his cousin, Balduin Bernotas in charge.”
Gwynneth shook her head. “He’s the one I threw in the dungeon years ago; Duke Evard’s son. He’s stupid and stubborn, and should have stayed there. As it is, he’s declared himself an adherent of the old faith, turned on Edric Maximus, and rallied a number of the nobility to his side.”
Braeden’s mouth turned dry. “If he’s harmed Edric, I’ll–”
“He hasn’t,” Gwynneth said. “Yet. But he’s besieged Heidenhof with a considerable force. Fortunately, Lennart left the city well garrisoned with Estenorian troops, but I doubt they’ll be able to hold out long without help.”
Braeden suddenly lost his appetite. “We need to go there now.”
“With what army?” Gwynneth’s tone was sharp. “I have no idea what’s happened to the troops Prince Dristan lent me. And Princess Galena already sent most of her militia to join Lennart down south.”
“I can raise a thousand, maybe two,” Galena said, looking unusually subdued. “But I doubt it will be enough.”
Braeden wanted to swear, but remembered the refined company and bit his tongue instead. He swallowed down a little blood, then said, “Might be Colonel Destler will still show up with most of the troops. He knows to come here if things went wrong.”
“We can’t count on that.” Gwynneth shoved away her crumb-filled plate. “I’ll write to Lennart and send it by fast messenger. I’m sure he has his hands full with Mattila down south, but perhaps he can send help anyway.”
“Mattila’s fighting him?” Braeden was finding it difficult to keep track of events.
Princess Galena nodded. “It seems she and Teodora came to an agreement before Teodora left for Isenwald. I haven’t heard that Mattila has engaged Lennart, however. It might be she’ll wait until spring to strike.”
“This is bad,” Braeden said, stating the obvious. “And Teodora has all of Isenwald’s forces at her disposal too.” Something niggled at him, the hope that Elektra would find a way to undermine her mother, but he knew better than to count on that. And that reminded him. “I swore to the Archduchess Elektra I’d rescue her.”
“I’m afraid that’ll have to wait.” Gwynneth’s lip trembled. “I feel terrible for her, but we cannot risk Edric Maximus.”
“And the queen,” Braeden said, remembering that too. “I heard Lennart left Queen Raysa and the baby princess in Heidenhof.”
“Oh gods.” Gwynneth turned even paler. “Lennart must be told.” She stood. “I’ll write to him immediately. Can you send for a messenger?” she asked Princess Galena.
“Of course.” The princess waved over a footman. “Now go. Count Terris and I will discuss the situation further.”
After Gwynneth had hurried from the room, Braeden felt suddenly awkward. “Before we talk about anything else,” he said in a rush, “I must thank you for sending the rescue party.”
Princess Galena nearly smiled. “It was the least I could do. I couldn’t believe you’d ever harm my nephew, and knew both he and King Lennart valued you. And though there was no debt, you paid it anyway, bringing Gwynneth and the children here safely.”
“It was a near thing,” Braeden said. “And that was because I made a big mistake, going along with her plan to kill Princess Viviane.”
Galena rolled her eyes. “That was ill-advised, even for Gwynneth. But what matter is that she and the heir to Terragand are safe for the moment. I still pray that Maryna will be found, but we cannot wait for her. We must find a way to defeat Balduin Bernotas, save Edric and the queen, and put Devyn in his rightful place as ruler of Terragand.”
“I agree.” Braeden took a sip of the coffee nearly grown cold. “I just can’t think of how to do it.”