Seishin never expected to fall in love, nor that his love would hold a dark secret. The Pirate Coast is a dangerous place, one which might hold the key to his future, if it doesn’t kill him first.
This month we're covering another excerpt from the upcoming Tales from Thac. Price of Honor is the last story in the collection that takes place along the Pirate Coast. The first two, the Emerald Blade and Grand Choosing, lead up to this final tale.
The Pirate Coast is the unofficial home of the thirteen clans of the pirate nation. The Clans of the Coast rule the waters along a 1000 mile stretch of the western mainland. They demand tribute from all who sail past and sink those who are foolhardy enough to refuse. They are a tough lot of privateers, but also live by a strict code of honor.
Price of Honor is a coming of age story for the young Shin Tauri warrior, Seishin Kazari. Hailing from the number one clan in the country of Isandor, Seishin's family had much honor. His father was lead adviser to the King and his uncle General of the Isandor Army. All that changed, however, after the King and members of the City Council were murdered. His father blamed and his uncle missing, Seishin's family fell into disgrace. The young man set out to find the one person who might restore his family's honor, his missing uncle last seen along the dangerous Pirate Coast.
Now, here is an excerpt from Price of Honor:
Seishin sat in the midst of a dingy tavern, the smoke-filled air reeking of rum and ale. Dim light filtered down from overhead fixtures and sconces that lined the wood-framed walls. The dozen or so tables scattered around the place sat empty as the tavern’s seedier denizens engaged in a typical drunken brawl.
“Tell me you don’t you miss this life?”
A lean young man sat across from him, an ironic smile on his boyish face. He wore the brown and scarlet tunic of an Isandor soldier. Tobin had been Seishin’s best friend during his time in the army. They had been inseparable until Seishin’s abrupt discharge two months ago.
Seishin shrugged. “I do miss some things. This is not one of—” He abruptly ducked as something flew over his head. A glass smashed into the wall behind him.
“Now this is getting out of hand.” Tobin rose from his seat and pulled a short wooden rod from his belt. The corner of his mouth lifted as he gazed at Seishin. “Want to lend a hand for old time’s sake?”
Seishin stood and pulled a similar rod from his belt. Without another word, the two of them waded into the fray.
Seishin wedged himself between a pair of combatants, catching one in the knee with his foot, while slamming the butt of his rod into the other’s face. A swift elbow to the chin finished the first man. Both fell to the floor, out cold.
Tobin grinned. “I see you haven’t lost your touch.”
Seishin shrugged once more. “Guess it’s in my blood.”
Seishin stemmed from a long line of warriors known as the Shin Tauri. They had been Isandor’s finest before a tragedy in the nation’s capital a couple of months ago. What followed included the discharge of every Shin Tauri from the army.
Tobin appraised the fighting around them. “It’s getting worse. We’d better split up if we’re going to stop this.”
The two men exchanged a nod, then went in opposite directions.
Seishin swept through the crowd, disabling one rowdy brawler after another. It was exhilarating. He hadn’t felt this alive since the loss of his commission.
Seishin had trained his entire life to be a Shin Tauri warrior. He had felt lost after his discharge, but a few weeks ago he was given a new purpose. The Queen herself had tasked him with finding his missing uncle, Draigo. The former head of the army, Draigo might be the only one who could set things right in Isandor.
As Seishin broke through the crowd, all other thoughts were driven from his mind. A striking young woman with long raven hair stood alone at the bar. Garbed in black with a frilly white shirt, she casually twirled a thin pointed blade in the one hand, while dangling a bottle of rum in the other.
A rough-dressed sailor nearly twice her size leered at the young woman menacingly from a few feet away. The muscles in his arms bulged as he brandished a long, jagged-edged sailing knife.
The woman did not appear the least intimidated. A mischievous grin adorned her lightly tanned face as she carefully circled around her opponent. She moved with an almost cat-like grace—not a stride too long, and not a drop spilled from her bottle. She finally stopped and casually taunted the hulking sailor. “So, are you all talk and no action?”
The big man moved with a speed that belied his size; Seishin found himself too far away when the sailor lunged for her. He started forward, but halted as the young woman elegantly side-stepped the brute.
She could have easily run him through, but instead chose to slam the butt of her sword into the back of his neck. The big man fell head-first into the bar as the young woman danced away with a quick swig of rum.
A bell-like laugh escaped her lips. “Ha! You’ll have to do better than that.”
Two sailors near Seishin stopped their fighting and glared at the woman.
“She can’t do that to one of us!”
“Let’s get ‘er!”
Seishin intercepted the duo before they had taken a couple of steps. He caught the first in the gut with his club, doubling him over. He then used the man’s back to vault over to his companion. Seishin landed a flying kick directly into the second man’s torso. The sailor went flying into a nearby table, not to get up again. Seishin then finished off the first sailor with a quick chop to the back of his neck.
The young woman eyed him with a strange expression, then gave him a quick smile. Despite the frantic situation, Seishin found himself smiling back.
“Slippery one, ain’t ya?” Over at the bar, the huge sailor had recovered. He rubbed the back of his neck with a large-hammed hand. “Jus’ ya wait ‘til I get me hands on ya—”
He lunged at the woman with surprising speed, but again she proved too fast for him. The brute went flying into the crowd, taking down at least five other brawlers with him. Everyone nearby stopped fighting at that point, their attention riveted on the battle at the bar.
If this keeps up, they’ll do my job for me, Seishin thought with wry amusement. Deciding to see how things played out, he placed himself in a strategic position to keep any others from intervening.
The big man slowly rose to his feet, shoving a few onlookers out of the way. His balance seemed slightly off as he turned and growled at the waiting woman.
An impish smile decorated her perfectly round face. “Is that all you’ve got, you bilge rat?”
The brute’s face turned bright red as he lunged at her yet again. This time he was not even close. She agilely twirled out of the way as he slammed into the bar.
He hit the bar with such force that the wood split all the way down to its base. The huge man groaned, then slumped to the floor, unmoving.
The feisty young woman laughed again, then took another swig from her bottle. She lowered it, her deep brown eyes fixing on Seishin. A warm smile crossed her lips as she sheathed her blade. “Thanks for the assist.”
Seishin swept his eyes around the tavern. The brawl had come to an end, so he shrugged and joined the woman at the bar. “You’re welcome.”
The corner of her mouth quirked upward as she smoothed out her shirt and pants. “That move you used was quite spectacular. Tell me, where did you learn it?”
A slight blush rose to Seishin’s cheeks. “Oh, that was just a little something my uncle taught me.”
The woman leaned back against the bar and tapped her chin with a slender pair of fingers. “Your uncle, huh? He must be an amazing warrior. Shin Tauri, I assume?”
Seishin gave her a quick nod. “It runs in the family.”
She twirled a strand of long raven hair as she gazed at him. “Well, you’re not so bad yourself. You seem quite adept with that little rod of yours…” She trailed off with a lilting laugh.
Seishin didn’t know quite how to respond to that. Thankfully, he was saved from having to by Tobin.
“Alright, alright, show’s over folks!” His lean friend stepped in and shooed away any remaining spectators. At the same time, the town guardsmen dragged away the downed sailors.
Tobin glanced from Seishin to the swordswoman and then back again. “We’ll take care of the rest. Why don’t you escort your new ‘friend’ out of here?” He leaned in and whispered in Seishin’s ear, “You two make a cute couple.”
Tobin gave him a sly wink before leaving to help the remaining town guards. Seishin shifted his weight uncomfortably as he returned his gaze to the intriguing young woman.
She was impressive, yet there was more to her than her good looks and dry wit. He could sense a power within her. She did a marvelous job of masking it, but Seishin had noticed it flare up during her battle with the large sailor.
The woman took another sip from her bottle, then she, too, gave him a sly wink. “Well, since we’re ‘friends’ now, I’ll let you escort me out of here.” She stood and laced her arms through his.
This time, Seishin’s cheeks burned with embarrassment. He waited as she took another sip from her bottle. She tilted her head, a dazzling smile lighting her entire face. “Lead the way, escort.”
That look practically melted Seishin’s insides. He didn’t trust himself to speak again until they made it outside. The tangy smell of salt water filled the cool night air. Seishin took a deep breath to calm himself, then asked a careful question. “Um… if you don’t mind… ma’am… what led to the drawing of blades?”
The young woman pushed him away, her jaw set and her hands on her hips. What little remained of her rum jostled around in the bottle. “Do I look like a ma’am to you?”
Seishin was caught off guard by her abrupt change in temperament. He sputtered until her expression relaxed, replaced with a mischievous grin. “It’s Korti—and you can have all your questions answered while you escort me home.”
Before Seishin could utter another word, Korti laced her arm through his again and dragged him down the street. “You know, you’re really not good at this whole escort thing, but that’s okay”—she winked at him again— “I’ll show you the ropes.”
Sorry, but we'll have to stop there for now. For more of Price of Honor and other exciting stories, look for the anthology to be published in the next couple of months. And stay tuned for more excerpts from Tales and Rise of the Thrall Lord.