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Authors: Morgan Howell

The Iron Palace

BOOK: The Iron Palace
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Praise for the novels of Morgan Howell

“Intriguing world building and wonderful characters made this an awesome book.”

—Romance Book Wyrm, on
A Woman Worth Ten Coppers

“What makes
Coppers
—and, so far, Howell’s writing as a whole—a standout is the complexity of her characters, and the sensitivity with which she portrays their struggles.… Howell brings the gritty, ‘real world’ flavor of urban fantasy to the more traditional landscape of high fantasy [and] manages to avoid the clichés of both.”

—The Accidental Bard, on
A Woman Worth Ten Coppers

“What Anne McCaffrey and Naomi Novik have done for dragons, Morgan Howell has done for orcs.… Ms. Howell has written a spellbinding high fantasy novel that is refreshingly original and shows how talented a storyteller she is.”

—SF Revu, on
The Queen of the Orcs: King’s Property

“An involving, entertaining mix.… Dar [is] a fascinatingly thorny character.”


Locus
, on
The Queen of the Orcs: King’s Property
and
The Queen of the Orcs: Clan Daughter

“Howell has created a fascinating, believable world and a compassionate, kick-ass heroine who helps the weak and uses wit and agility to survive and triumph.”


Booklist
, on
The Queen of the Orcs: King’s Property

“Every once in a while, a novel comes along with a character that I absolutely love. [Dar] is such a character. She is fierce, protective, passionate, scarred, loyal, and wise.… I truly loved
King’s Property
and I highly recommend it.”

—Fantasy Debut [
fantasydebut.blogspot.com
],
on
The Queen of the Orcs: King’s Property

“Author Morgan Howell has created an outstanding foundation for the next two books to build upon.… Be warned, you will
not
want to put down this story.”


huntressreviews.com
, on
The Queen of the Orcs: King’s Property

“An unusual tale … Howell’s depiction of orc culture is fascinating—these orcs are as big, strong, and dangerous as any in fantasy, but they also have moral and ethical issues of importance. This is not a book to read for fun on a rainy night—it’s a book to think about.”

—E
LIZABETH
M
OON
,
Nebula Award–winning author of
The Deed of Paksenarrion
, on
The Queen of the Orcs: King’s Property

“Dar never loses our admiration and compassion—qualities at the heart of any struggling hero.
King’s Property
tests your own presumptions of ‘the other’ and brings to mind the cultural prejudices and wars born from betrayal that are so sadly evident throughout our own history.”

—K
ARIN
L
OWACHEE
,
author of
Warchild
, on
The Queen of the Orcs: King’s Property

“In a crowded field, Howell has succeeded in creating an original and vivid fantasy. [The] characters display unexpected depths of humanity—even when they’re not human. I was captivated by Dar. Highly recommended.”

—N
ANCY
K
RESS
,
Nebula Award–winning author of
Beggars in Spain
, on
The Queen of the Orcs: King’s Property

B
Y
M
ORGAN
H
OWELL

THE SHADOWED PATH TRILOGY
A Woman Worth Ten Coppers
Candle in the Storm
The Iron Palace

THE QUEEN OF THE ORCS TRILOGY
King’s Property
Clan Daughter
Royal Destiny

The Iron Palace
is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

A Del Rey Books Mass Market Original

Copyright © 2011 by William H. Hubbell

Interior map and illustration: © William H. Hubbell

Cover art: Gene Mollica

All rights reserved.

Published in the United States by Del Rey, an imprint of The Random House Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc., New York.

D
EL
R
EY
is a registered trademark and the Del Rey colophon is a trademark of Random House, Inc.

eISBN: 978-0-345-52477-5

www.delreybooks.com

v3.1

For my sons,
Nathaniel and Justin

Contents

 

These things crack a stone—
iron, frost, and love.

—Averen proverb

ONE

T
HE NIGHT
roared with the sound of rain. Its damp chill flowed from the hut’s unglazed windows and drove the old peasant and his wife to huddle by their hearth. There they shivered despite the fire. Then, mingled with the noise of falling water came the jangle of distant bells. They rang out in an uneven cadence.
Jang!
 … 
Jang!
 … 
Jang! Jang!
 … 
Jang!
The elderly pair glanced at each other uneasily.

“Karm preserve us!” said the woman. “A cursed one!”

“Mayhap ’twill pass us by,” said her husband.

“Pray Karm it does,” replied his wife. She arched her thumb in the Sign of the Balance. But as the couple listened, the bells sounded ever closer.

“Don’t just sit there!” barked the man. “Get an offerin’. Mind ye, nothin’ fine.”

The man’s wife rushed to a basket and hastily rummaged through it until she found three moldy roots. Then she hurried back to her husband and pressed them in his hand. “Ye do it, Toby. I’m afeared.”

Grabbing the roots, the man opened the door and peered out into the rainy dark. Firelight spilled from the open door to tint the nearest raindrops red, but it illuminated little else. As the man stared into shadows and water, his ears told him more than his eyes. Cursed ones carried a belled staff to warn folk of their approach. Toby could hear the bells, but he couldn’t see who jangled them; all he knew was that the wretch who bore them was coming closer. “I’ve food fer ye,”
he called out. “Show yerself, and I’ll toss it yer way. Then pass us by.”

There was no reply, only the sound of bells.

Mayhap its tongue’s gone
, thought the man. He’d heard tales of a cursed one whose entire face had rotted away. The peasant shuddered at the thought of it as he strained to see some movement. The bells sounded close before Toby finally viewed a dark figure staggering like a drunk across the rain-soaked field. It seemed more a phantom than a person, for Toby saw no face, only a pale orb with dark spots for eyes.

“I’ve roots fer ye,” Toby cried. The figure kept advancing. When it was twenty paces away, Toby saw the face was wrapped in bandages with two eyeholes that likened to sockets in a skull. Toby tossed the roots at the advancing stranger. When they splashed on the wet ground, he slammed the door.

Jang!
 … 
Jang!
 … 
Jang!
The bells sounded louder.

“ ’Tis supposed to go away,” said the woman. “Go away!” she shouted at the closed door. “We’ve fed ye, now leave us be.”

The bells rang a few more times, then stopped. For a spell, the silence was a relief, but it quickly turned ominous. The pair listened for some sound that indicated the visitor was retreating. All they heard was falling rain. At last, the woman spoke. “Do ye think ’tis still here?”

BOOK: The Iron Palace
7.76Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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