Death's Reckoning (The
Mortal Aspects Book 1)
July 18, 2023
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Micol’s blood ran cold. He closed his eyes, concentrating
on taking deep breaths. Please don’t let them see us, he prayed to
Loss. Please, let them pass by. It’s not supposed to end like this. Please.
Another man stepped into view. Then a third. Their
conversation continued, but Micol couldn’t focus on the words. He was too busy
listening to the growing sounds of movement around them. The pounding boots and
squelching mud hinted at a larger force than the three men who had already
passed, although he could only guess at how much larger.
At least a half dozen more came into view, most of them
near Asoka’s hiding place. The three who’d led the way were nearly out of
sight; Micol could barely see their torches through the thick trees. To his
left, a glint of light caught his eyes. When he followed it to its source, he
Silvery-blue armor covered the woman from head to toe,
flowing around her like water. Every inch of skin was covered, leaving only a
pair of thin slits for her eyes. She was close enough to Micol to touch. His
entire body began to shake, demanding action.
He couldn’t be still anymore. His every fiber screamed one
word: escape. He had to get out, but there was nowhere to go. The
beating of his heart raged thunderous in his ears until it felt like the sound
alone would betray him. Cold sweat beaded on his fevered skin. The aspect’s
head swung in his direction.
Micol tried to bolt from the tree – away from the aspect –
but she reacted faster than he would have thought possible. Her hand snapped
out, stopping his momentum and taking the pair of them to the ground. He managed
to twist in time to see her liberating a rusted dagger from its sheath.
From out of sight, he heard the groan of a bowstring. The
aspect’s dagger plunged toward his chest, but before it could strike the tip of
an arrow spiked through one of the slits in her helm. Its force pushed her off
him, and Micol took his chance. He was on his feet in an instant, running away
from the group of soldiers.
He met Asoka’s wide-eyed stare; the other boy still held
his bow in a ready position. Time stood still for a solitary moment before
Micol broke the contact.
Bodies thudded; wood cracked from out of Micol’s view. “Got
him!” he heard someone say. “He doesn’t look like an assassin to me.”
Micol kept running. He heard the footsteps of several men
behind him, but he didn’t dare stop to check their progress.
“Get the other one!” someone else shouted.
“Over there! He’s headed toward the undergrowth!”
Micol fell into a row of dense bushes, forcing himself
through. Branches and thorns tore at his skin and clothes, but he paid them
little mind. The men chasing him reached the bushes a moment after he broke
through the other side.
His days on the streets of Vicrum came back to him, lessons
born from a thousand beatings doled out by those older and larger. There was
always someone faster, someone stronger. But Micol had had one advantage: he
was willing to go further. A path ahead promised easy escape, but instead of
heading for it he plunged deeper into the undergrowth.
A thick root tripped Micol, sending him toppling head-over-heels
down a stream bed. He hissed as a flare of pain shot up from his ankle; he
inched toward the running water, but a sound came a moment later that stopped
“Micol!” a distant voice cried. Asoka’s voice. “Help!
Please help me!” The pitiful cry was like an icy knife plunged into his lungs.
He didn’t make it out, Micol
thought. I didn’t even stop to think about helping him escape. He rose
to his knees, taking stock of the situation. He’d lost his bow when the aspect
had taken him, which left the small hunting knife on his belt as his only
“Help! Oh, aspects, please!”
Micol knew what he was supposed to do. The stories soldiers
shared were full of such scenarios; if he had been the hero in one of those
stories, he would have drawn his knife and carved a path of blood back to his
friend to save him. The men searching for him were getting close, and he knew
he had to make his decision soon.
A sound like an axe hitting a tree echoed through the
forest, sending a morbid shiver down Micol’s spine. He summoned all of his
courage, but it wasn’t enough. He turned back to the stream and jumped in,
letting the water carry him away.
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Quinn Thomas is an Epic Fantasy author and occasional pool shark from Denver, Colorado. When she’s not writing stories about people thrust into situations that turn them into heroes (or more frequently, villains), she’s wrestling her 100-lb labrador retriever. Her favorite fantasy series of all time is Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson.
Things Quinn has tried exactly once and wants to mention
because she thinks they make her seem cool: skydiving, surfing,
Things Quinn has tried several times and wants to mention
because they make her seem less cool: eating Cheetos on the couch while wearing
yoga pants, tripping on her own feet, singing karaoke songs completely sober.
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