The Forsaken Crown: A Desolate Empire Prequel by Christina Ochs
Genre: Epic Fantasy
Sonya is a disgraced mercenary with shattered ambitions. Kendryk is a young ruler in danger of being overthrown. An unlikely pair, they must learn to trust each other to survive the turmoil ahead. But with a corrupt regent, a disloyal aristocracy, and an army in their way, the future looks grim. The Forsaken Crown, a prequel to The Desolate Empire Series, delivers thrilling battles, devious political intrigue and compelling characters. The Forsaken Crown combines the action and excitement of the Three Musketeers with the sweeping imagery of fantasy. Readers are calling this powerful series "an all-ages Game of Thrones." Check inside to find out how to get a free copy of Rise of the Storm, Book One in the Desolate Empire Series.
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Sonya crept to the edge of the clearing until she had a clear view of the nearest fire. Only two men sat there. “Go to bed,” she muttered under her breath, not wishing to kill them if she didn’t have to. According to her information, they belonged to Kolnikov’s unit, and he was the one she wanted. The men didn’t move, their voices a low rumble, interspersed by the occasional laugh. The rest of the camp grew quiet and one after another, the fires died down. Only this one didn’t, and she needed to get past it. The longer she waited, the more could go wrong. “Kill one, grab the other,” she whispered to her troopers. “The live one will lead us to Kolnikov.” Faber, her sergeant, raised his eyebrows then nodded in agreement. Sonya dashed forward, her already bloody dagger at the ready. The men at the fire weren’t looking, had been staring into the flames too long to see well in the dark. One man grunted as Faber ran him through. Sonya grabbed the other around the neck, spinning him to face away from her, her hand over his mouth, her dagger at his throat. “Not a sound,” she whispered in Brianski. “Take us to Kolnikov, and I’ll let you live.” The man nodded, even as he sagged against her. He was only a little bigger than she was, and didn’t struggle. Her troopers fanned out, making sure no one else was nearby. “Let’s go,” she whispered to her captive, prodding him with her knee. He took a few hesitant steps, then moved faster. Sonya kept pace, making sure her blade stayed against his neck. The camp was quiet, though not completely asleep. “Anyone sees us, you die first,” Sonya murmured by way of encouraging him to take them along a quiet path. And he did, past the backs of tents, along the goat pens, right into the middle of the camp. Sonya found its size and order impressive, but then Briansk always had the best of everything. Finally, they reached a large tent near the center. “Kolnikov?” Sonya asked, and the man nodded. Faber slit the canvas with a long knife. Sonya pushed through, the prisoner in front of her. A lamp burned on a desk and behind it, a man had sprung to his feet. “Try anything and he dies,” she growled at him. “I’m unarmed,” the man said, his voice surprisingly soft. “What’s your name?” Sonya held her hostage even tighter. “Igor Kolnikov, Major in the imperial army of Pyotr, our immortal—” “Yes, yes,” Sonya snapped. “That’ll do. You must come with us,” she said in a rush, looking over her prize. Kolnikov had been writing a letter, but dropped the quill at the incursion. His face was broad and pale, framed with curly dark hair, black eyes slightly slanted. He wore a white shirt open at the neck. “Threatening that man is unnecessary.” Kolnikov sounded so calm Sonya wondered if he had some trick planned. “Please let him go.” “Once you’re in our custody, maybe,” Sonya said. “Faber, bind his hands.” “You’re making a big mistake,” Kolnikov said. “The war is over.” “Hah,” Sonya said, her tone mirthless. “It was still on an hour ago when one of your patrols ran into ours.” “All right then.” Kolnikov shrugged. “Take me back to your camp and I’ll prove it.” Brianskis were well-known liars, but just in case Kolnikov was right, Sonya didn’t kill her original hostage. Instead, she had him bound hand and foot, and left in the major’s tent. Even though Kolnikov’s bulk intimidated her, Sonya would never show it and grabbed him by the arm, just as she had the other man. But she was more cautious this time, sensing a barely restrained violence under Kolnikov’s genial tone. With his right arm wrenched behind his back, she laid her dagger flat against his collarbone, the tip touching his neck. “I won’t make any sudden movements then,” Kolnikov said, humor in his voice. Without turning his head, his eyes slid in Sonya’s direction. “Your Brianski is good. Where did you learn it?” “From years of fighting scum like you.” Sonya let the tip of the dagger poke into his skin. “Now shut up.” Not even over a friendly mug of ale would she tell him how she’d learned the language: she’d spent nearly two years in a Brianski prison, her superiors judging her too unimportant for a speedy exchange. That proof of her insignificance had rankled far more than the freezing conditions, insufficient food and brutish guards. Sonya grabbed Kolnikov even more roughly, then shoved him out of the tents and back the way they’d come. “Go ahead, Tchernak,” she whispered at one of her troopers. “Make sure the way is still clear and that there are no new sentries.” “There won’t be,” Kolnikov murmured, as Irena Tchernak disappeared into the darkness. “The guard won’t change for another hour.” “Good for us, better for you,” Sonya hissed through her teeth, her senses back on high alert. The camp was even quieter now as her party slipped between the tents. At the edge, she stepped around the body of the man they’d killed, the campfire nothing but coals now. “You shouldn’t have done that,” Kolnikov said, nodding at the body. “Shut up,” Sonya whispered again, shoving him toward the trees. Tchernak had rejoined them by now. “Coast is clear,” she murmured. “And no sign of that patrol either.” Sonya breathed a little easier now. Their horses shouldn’t be far away.
Christina Ochs is the author of historical fantasy series, The Desolate Empire, which is based upon the events of the Protestant Reformation and the Thirty Years War (1618-48). Many of her characters are also based on historical figures. With degrees in history and business, Christina uses her writing to indulge her passion for reading and research. Publishing as an indie author provides an outlet for her entrepreneurial side and she is an avid supporter of fellow authors, both independent and traditionally published. Christina lives in a semi truck full time, traveling the United States with her truck driver husband and two cats, Phoenix and Nashville.