Thursday, July 14, 2016

Jack of Thieves by Ben Hale


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ABOUT THE BOOK

The Thieves Guild is renowned for their ability to steal anything. Its elite members have robbed nobles of wealth, reputation, and even their honor. The Guildmaster rules them with brutality and fear, yet his name and past are a mystery. From the depths of the Evermist swamp he seeks a master thief, one who can help him reclaim his lost power.

Young and brash, Jack Myst has drawn the Guildmaster’s attention. His feats mark his potential, but his audacity and cunning make him dangerous. After years of preparation an invitation from the guild is exactly what he desires. When he gets it his hunt begins, and there is nothing he cannot steal.

Even the Guildmaster’s secret.

EXCLUSIVE SNEAK PEAK

Chapter 1: Lord Saris

  
Lord Saris exited the tavern and stumbled into the darkened street, righting himself before anyone noticed his state. He blinked against his blurry vision, peering into the shadowed corners of the roadway. He scowled and straightened, hitching his belt higher around his broad waist.

Turning away from the Golden Chalice, he strode toward his estate in the northern district of Terros. The laughter from within the gilded tavern faded as he made his way along the road. Although he knew the way, he was forced to pause at signs in order to puzzle out where to go. He cursed his guards' absence and swore to himself he would punish them soundly for their error.

He caught a post and steadied himself until his head stopped swirling. Then he noticed a beggar woman. She sat hunched against the wall in a pool of light cast by the flickering fire of the lamp. Her eyes looked at him with pleading, causing a flood of memories to fill him.

His wife, ill and weak, struggling to rise from bed. Her pain had caused her to tremble, and she’d pleaded for him to stay at her side. Her disease had ravaged her body and left her an empty husk, but still she’d begged him to leave the drink behind and serve the people.

Disgusted by the sight of her wasting away, he’d used every excuse to avoid her sickbed. He’d worked long into the evening, and claimed that meetings in the city occupied his nights. Instead he found a tavern and stayed until his fear and pain had numbed before stumbling home. One night he’d returned to find she had passed on.

He’d known it was coming and been relieved, but a needle of guilt pierced his heart, cutting deep and refusing to fade even after a decade. As Saris stared at the beggar woman the guilt returned, sharp and stabbing, morphing into hatred. He growled and stabbed a finger at her.

“Please, my lord,” she said, raising her hands. “I have so little

“You know better than to come into this district,” he snapped. “Go, before I summon the guard.”

She scurried into the night. He watched her go with a heavy-lidded gaze, furious that his walk home had been interrupted, and the memory she’d elicited. Pushing off the post, he turned a corner and ascended to his estate, forcing the thoughts aside.

A smirk crossed his lips as he looked up to the castle atop the hill. It was one of the largest in the district, and looked down upon the wealthy homes of Terros. Upon his father's death, Saris had ordered a wall constructed around the estate and hired more guards. Now a full company patrolled the grounds, ensuring that common folk never entered.

The two men at the guard tower straightened as he trudged up the hill. Winded from the climb, he came to a halt and used the moment to growl at them.

“Inform the captain I have returned, and tell him that the men on duty for this evening will see their wages garnished for their absence.”

“But sir,” the lieutenant protested, “you ordered them to stay.”

He fleetingly recalled the orders he'd given them to stay behind. 

The meeting at the tavern had been of a sensitive nature, so leaving the guards at the estate had been a necessity. Such common men were as prone to gossip as the trash that lived in the Sticks. Still, he could not admit that he’d forgotten.

Lord Saris straightened to his full stature of five feet. “Are you questioning my orders?” His voice took a dangerous edge, and the man lowered his gaze.

“No, sir.”

Lord Saris did not miss the hatred in the soldier's eyes, and resolved to dismiss the man the following day. His scowl deepened as he noticed the same glint in the second man's gaze, and wondered if he could ever find a good servant. His sharp rebuke died on his lips when the ache in his skull stabbed into his eyes.

“And summon an attendant to my chambers,” he said, all thought of the soldiers gone. “Have her draw me a bath.”

“As you order,” the lieutenant said, and signaled another guard.

Saris dug his hand into his side as he advanced past the guard and ascended the steps to the castle proper. Another guard opened the door as he reached it. Once inside, Saris grasped the railing and climbed the steps to his private quarters. Another soldier opened the door, and Saris strode past him.

“I do not wish to be disturbed,” he said.

“As you order,” the man replied, and shut the door.

Lord Saris breathed a sigh of relief for the solitude, and vowed never to drink so much again. He realized it had become a frequent indulgence, but dismissed that with a jerk of his hand. He was a lord of Griffin, and could partake as he desired. Then he strode to the bathing chamber.

Comprised of four separate rooms, his private quarters were spacious and elegant. A central receiving space allowed him to meet in private with others of his status. A trio of doors opened onto a bathing chamber, a bedroom, and a library.

He stepped into the bathing chamber to find a manservant filling the tub with steaming water. Saris squinted at him and realized he did not know the youth. Barely in his twenties, the servant was tall and slender. His black hair highlighted his dark blue eyes. He looked up and Saris flinched at the predatory look in his eye. By the time Saris recovered the man had bowed, the expression gone.

“My Lord,” he said, “is there anything else you require?”

“Where are the servant girls?”Saris frowned, struggling to recall their names.

“Ill, my Lord,” the man replied easily. “The Steward asked me to take their place.”

Saris glared at him, and then gestured to the door. “Wait outside in case I have need of you.”

“As you order,” he replied, and drifted out the door.

Once it had clicked shut, Saris removed his clothing and slipped into the tub. He breathed a sigh of relief and reclined his head, annoyed that the manservant's expression lingered in his thoughts. 

Then he dismissed the image and turned his mind to the conversation in the Golden Chalice.

Six months past, he'd beaten a servant girl for refusing his affection and she'd gone crying to the city guard. Taken alone, the guard would have dismissed the complaint, but added to past grievances it had led to an inquisition. If the blasted girl could prove he'd been improper the inquisitor would require him to pay a significant sum.

He scowled at the potential humiliation. The other lords had assured him the girl had no standing in the court, and without proof her words would fall on empty ears. His tension easing with the warm water, he closed his eyes.

He woke with a shiver. Muttering a curse at the frigid water, he looked to the light orb to find that it had dimmed. Vowing to flay the manservant for allowing the bath to cool, he heaved himself from the tub and dressed. His teeth chattering, he cinched his belt and stepped to the door.

He paused at the clink of coins, the angry shout dying on his lips. 
Confused, he came to a halt, and then heard it again coming from his study. Fear and anger blossomed within him as he realized a thief had dared enter his home. He eased the door open, his eyes searching the darkness for the manservant.

The receiving chamber was empty and the lights had been dimmed. He heard a shuffle from the library and another clink of metal. His expression darkened and he advanced toward the hall door, intent on calling the guard. He tripped and nearly went down, just managing to catch the curse before it betrayed him. Then he looked to the cause and his expression widened in horror.

The manservant lay on the floor, blood dripping from a dozen wounds. His eyes were open and haunting, as if he had just perished. The brutality of the death shocked Saris, and his fear overpowered his anger. His eyes flicked between the corpse and the library. Then he began to crawl toward the hall, his hands shaking as he reached for the door. The handle refused to budge, and abruptly he realized the thief had locked it to prevent a guard from entering. Swallowing the dryness in his throat, he forced the words from his mouth.

“Guard!” he hissed. “I have need!”

No answer came, and he repeated his plea, risking raising his voice in order to be heard. His words seem to reflect off an invisible barrier, echoing into a strange silence. He’d seen muffling charms used in the tribunal halls to silence angry criminals and recognized the magic. Anger filled him as he realized the thief had locked him inside his own chambers and cast a charm to silence his cries. Straightening, Saris gathered his courage and roared for the guards, attempting to shatter the magic by force of will.

To his dismay the soldier just outside the door did not come—but the noise in the library came to an abrupt halt. Terror gripped Saris and he crawled behind a couch, willing his breathing to quiet. His heart battered against his chest like a hammer against a shield and he mentally cursed the betrayal. The silence persisted, building the tension until his hands trembled . . .

A window shattered. He yelped in surprise and clutched his chest. When nothing followed he realized the thief must have fled. Shame filled him, and then rage burned it from his veins. Grasping the couch, he rose to his feet and stomped to the library door, yanking it open.

Books lay strewn on the floor, their pages ripped. Gold and jewelry were missing, and even the gilded brackets for light orbs had been pried from the walls. Then he saw the strongbox. Hidden behind a false section of paneling, it contained his most valuable possessions. Fear exploded through him and he hurried to it. He turned the levers to bring the combination into view and then grasped the lever. It swung open with a creak of steel.

Piles of gold, jewels, and rings looked back at him, as did the signet of his house. Attached to an ornate ring, it sat atop a silver pedestal, untouched. Saris breathed a sigh of relief that the thief had not found it. Then the lights winked out, snuffed like a candle in a gust of wind.

“Thank you, my Lord,” a voice said from behind him. “That was much easier than I expected.”

He spun in place but could not make out the thief in the darkness. 

“Take whatever you wish!” he cried out.

“I intend to,” the thief laughed.

The thief brushed past him and in remarkable time cleaned out the strongbox. Saris huddled against the wall, struggling to keep his terror in check.

“Sound magic has a reputation for being useless,” the thief remarked, his voice mocking, “but it keeps guards from hearing their master’s whimpering.”

Saris squeaked in surprise. “How dare you

A dagger touched his throat and he swallowed the rest of his words.

“Be glad I don't do to you what I did to your manservant,” the thief growled.

Saris felt a tug on his hand and screamed, but the thief had merely yanked his ring from his finger. The mocking laugh came again, this time fading as the thief departed. Saris remained against the wall, furious and embarrassed. Then he gathered himself and straightened, roaring for the guards.

Without the thief's muffling curse to stop it, his bellow exploded across the manor. The doors burst open and two soldiers rushed into his chambers, following Saris’s shouts to his library. At their appearance the light orbs brightened, flooding the space with light. 
The soldiers came to an abrupt halt, aghast at the damage to the room.

“My Lord,” one said, “how did this happen?”

Saris screamed at them, unleashing his rage. The glint of humor in their eyes only served to heighten his wrath until he pointed to the door.

“OUT!” he roared. “And take the body with you!”

“But sir,” the second guard said, “what body?”

Saris stared at him and then stalked into the receiving room. His indignant rage evaporated when he found the body had disappeared. Dumbfounded, Saris stared at the empty floor, struggling to understand what had occurred. Long after the guards had left it dawned on him. The thief hadn't killed the manservant.

He was the manservant.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 As an avid snowboarder from Utah, Ben grew up with a passion for learning. This thirst for knowledge led him to sports, music, and academic endeavors. After a year of college, he did volunteer work in Brazil and became fluent in three languages. Graduating from the University of Central Florida, he started and ran several successful businesses before publishing his first novel in June of 2012. By the end of the year he’d sold almost ten thousand copies of The Second Draeken War, and he began writing full-time. Now spanning 10,000 years, ten titles, and two series, The Chronicles of Lumineia represents a sprawling YA series that has sold over 100,000 copies, and continues to expand its readership across all ages. Each of his books has been inspired by his wonderful wife and five beautiful children.
      To contact the author, discover more about Lumineia, or find out about upcoming novels, feel free to contact Ben via his contact page. He loves to hear from readers and writers, and welcomes feedback.

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