Book: War of the Downer King (Scar of the Downers #3)
Author: Scott Keen
Genre: YA Fantasy
Release Date: July 2019
Now that Crik and the Downers, once-slaves of Ungstah, have arrived safely in the village of Arined, they can breathe freely for the first time in their short lives.
However, unbeknownst to them, the specter of Sulfus the gaunt king and the witch of Ungstah looms over their new home, the last vestige of safety in the Northern Reaches.
Meanwhile, in Ungstah, Durgan, former Captain of the Watch, and those left behind, prepare for their final assault against Sulfus, knowing his fall is their only way to freedom. But as each day passes and lives are lost, the uprising begins to falter.
Aniel, a messenger from the Eastern lands, knows that time is running out as she searches through the dark past of an ancient king in the hope of finding a clue to the mysterious origins of Sulfus and the King’s Eyes.
How long can Crik and his companions hide from Sulfus and the King’s Eyes? Will Durgan and the Branded have the strength to topple a throne? What secrets will Aniel find? Will it be enough to overthrow a king and free the Downers once and for all?
It all began with a child. It will only end with a war.
Then an idea came to her. It was uncertain, perhaps even dangerous, but then again, it just may prove invaluable. Aniel made her way out of the castle and down an embankment where the Nameless River flowed. She stood along the shore, listening to the water gurgle as it passed. A powerful, untamed spirit resided in the waters, and she knew that touching the surface of the river was dangerous. Placing one hand on the hilt of her sword, she submerged the other one deep into the river.
Almost immediately, she felt something like a current tug on her, almost dragging her into the water. She braced herself and then tried to wrap her fingers around whatever it was that was pulling on her, but she couldn’t do it. She just grasped water. The force drew her arm deeper into the river. Aniel knew that if she went in, she would not come back out. Withdrawing her sword, Aniel stabbed it into the ground to keep herself from being dragged any further. Then, in one final jerk, she yanked herself free from the river spirit’s grip and fell back into the dirt.
“I want to speak with you!” gasped Aniel, her chest heaving up and down. “I need your help. I need answers.”
The dark swirling water didn’t respond. It moved along peacefully, whispering in trickles and gurgles. Aniel stood up and looked past the gleaming surface to peer into the deep. Whether it was the reflection from the moonlight or not, Aniel didn’t know, but there appeared to be two silvery orbs staring back at her.
“You must answer me!” she cried. “If you don’t, you are no better than the evil you washed away all those hundreds of years ago!” The babbling water continued to babble. “If you don’t come willingly, you leave me no choice.”
Aniel removed her sword from the clayish mud and stabbed it into the river. Instantly, water lurched into the air and the two orbs, seemingly filled with pain, grew as wide as saucers. The river raged and Aniel pulled the blade out.
“Show yourself!” Water, in the shape of a hand, splashed onto the shore, reaching for Aniel’s feet. This only enraged her. “So be it.”
Once again, Aniel drove the sword into the river, which convulsed and thrashed. She withdrew the sword, took several steps back, and waited. The water continued to churn, bubbling up in a fountain-like geyser in the shape of a man. Even before the spirit’s figure was complete, it walked toward Aniel, water flowing in its body and spilling out with each step it took. By the time it reached the shore, its arms had formed and its long beard appeared as a white waterfall, always running, but never losing its form. The river-spirit stood well over seven feet and its silver-like eyes glared at Aniel.
“Where’d you get that sword?” it demanded.
“It was given to me before my task began,” answered Aniel.
“By whom?” asked the spirit. “And by what right? My water flows in that blade.”
“I did not come here tonight seeking questions. I came here seeking answers.”
The river-spirit took a step closer, water splashing on the ground. “You will not get answers without questions. If you want to know what I know, then you must do what all the birds in this land do.”
Aniel still gripped the sword rather tightly in her hand as a precaution against the volatile nature of the river-spirit. “And what is that?”
“They come seeking to quench their thirst from my body. I only allow them to partake if they have news to share. So, if you want information, then you must give some. If not, I will have to drown you. What is it going to be?”
She studied the river-spirit for several seconds before finally answering. “Fine. I shall answer what questions I can. But I will ask the first. What is your name?”
A malicious smile spread across the river-spirit’s lined, but flowing face. “Erolorith.”
“Erolorith?” asked Aniel. Her hand fell to the sword hanging at her side. “Have you not been known by other names, Vehelmuth?”
He smirked and took a step forward. “I have been known by many names.” Aniel took a step back, making sure to keep her distance from the river-spirit. “Now it is my turn,” said Erolorith. “What is your name? And how did you come about that blade?”
Aniel gripped the hilt of her sword, readying herself in case the spirit tried to drag her down into its depths. “My name is Aniel. I am one of the Avarah. This blade was given to me by the One who sent me.”
“And who sent you?” sneered Erolorith. “What entity has the power to harness water from my river?”
“I am not at liberty to say.”
Erolorith took a menacing step toward Aniel, who quickly lurched back and pointed the tip of her shimmering sword toward the heart of the river-spirit.
“But he is much older than you,” continued Aniel. “Ageless. Besides, you’ve already asked three questions to my one. Now it is my turn to ask you. Tell me what happened to Mezaheen and his mother.”
“That is not a question,” smirked Erolorith.
“If that is how you want this to go, then fine. I’ll rephrase it. What happened the night you broke the borders of your river and swept Mezaheen out into the Bholding Sea?”
“What more can I tell you?” said Erolorith. “You seem to already know what happened. Now it is my turn.”
“No!” demanded Aniel. “You have not answered my question. Why did you cross the banks and flood his castle?”
Erolorith had a twisted, yet restrained expression on his face, as if he were trying to keep his anger from revealing itself.
“Because I did not want that evil feeding off of me. It was time to wash that filth out to sea. Now, it is my turn. What are the Avarah doing back in the Northern Reaches?”
About the Author
Scott is married and has four daughters. He has an MFA in Script and Screenwriting and is adjunct assistant professor. He is also the author of three young adult fantasy novels, Scar of the Downers, Rise of the Branded, and, the final installment of the series, War of the Downer King.
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