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Kagen the Damned by Jonathan Maberry Book

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Kagen the Damned by Jonathan Maberry Read Book Online And Download

Overview: Kagen the Damned marks the first installment of an exciting new series of dark epic fantasy novels from bestselling author Jonathan Maberry.

Sworn by Oath

Kagen Vale is the trusted and feared captain of the palace guard, charged with protection of the royal children of the Silver Empire. But one night, Kagen is drugged and the entire imperial family is killed, leaving the empire in ruins.

Abandoned by the Gods

Haunted and broken, Kagen is abandoned by his gods and damned forever. He becomes a wanderer, trying to take down as many of his enemies as possible while plotting to assassinate the usurper, the deadly Witch-king of Hakkia. While all around him magic—long banished from the world—returns in strange and terrifying ways.

Fueled by Rage

To exact his vengeance, Kagen must venture into strange lands, battle bizarre and terrifying creatures, and gather allies for a suicide mission into the heart of the Witch-king’s empire.

Kings and gods will fear him.

Kagen the Damned

Kagen the Damned by Jonathan Maberry Book Read Online And Download Epub Digital Ebooks Buy Store Website Provide You.
Kagen the Damned by Jonathan Maberry Book

Kagen the Damned by Jonathan Maberry Book Read Online Chapter One

Kagen Vale woke to the sound of his own damnation.

All he knew at first was that he was naked, very drunk, not in his own room, and had a head filled with angry hornets and clashing cymbals.

Kagen opened his eyes, saw smoke crawling along the ceiling, realized dimly that this should not be happening. Considered going back to sleep. Then he smelled the smoke and fought to stay awake. After a few moments of bleary consideration, he figured this was all wrong and that he should probably be worried about it.

Then he rolled onto his side, leaned over the edge of the bed, and vomited onto the floor. There was a bucket by the nightstand, but he missed it. He did spatter the side of it, the nightstand, the tangled edges of sheet hanging down, and his own discarded sandals. But not one drop of old wine, half-digested beef, or green bile made it into the bucket.

He threw up a lot, and it took a very long time.

By the eighth or tenth heave of his guts, Kagen wondered if he was going to throw up his own colon.

The dizziness hit then, and it seemed to smack the lights from his eyes and knock him back against the pillow.

“Gods of the Garden,” he moaned, “take me now.”

His gut churned again and he leaned over the edge once more, but there was nothing left inside of him except—he was certain—broken glass and bad life decisions. His stomach twisted and knotted, and all he accomplished was to retch his throat raw before flopping back onto the sweaty mattress.

“Seriously,” he begged the gods, “now would be good.”

He did not, however, die. Neither Father Ar nor Mother Sah came to bear him to the Garden of Paradise. And even their son, Geth, the Prince of Pestilence and Famine, could not be bothered to drag him down to the land of shadows. He became aware of the taste inside his mouth and was reasonably sure a very sick lizard had pissed on his tongue.

“Woman,” he growled wretchedly, reaching over with one hand to try to blindly find the tavern wench’s shoulder. “Wake up. I need the sailor’s cure.”

There had been many a morning rescued by that old concoction. The cure was a specialty of the crotchety old apothecary near the palace, and it was guaranteed to sober a man up or kill him on the spot. It was made from pickled sheep’s eyeballs, tree sap, cayenne pepper, hot mustard, ipecac, asafetida, and croton oil. It was as noxious as the wrong end of a warthog, but it always worked to shake him out of another hangover.

“Do you hear me, woman?” he growled, trying to find her arm or hip. His hand, however, slapped only the mattress.

Kagen summoned every ounce of physical strength he possessed to turn his head three inches and peer out of the corner of his eye.

There was no tavern wench. There was nobody at all in the bed with him. He winced, because the clashing of cymbals in his head persisted even this long into the process of waking up. The smoke on the ceiling was getting thicker and it smelled wrong to be something cooking in the fireplace. Not even an overlooked and burning pot smelled like that. It was more like the stench from a—

And then reality grabbed Kagen by the throat and struck him across the face with a cold fist of understanding.

It was not cymbals.

The smoke on the ceiling was not from a scorched pot.

Kagen froze as the truth blossomed in his mind.

That metallic clatter and clang was nothing at all musical or domestic, nor was it the noise of the tavern’s kitchen. This noise came from outside, from the streets, and he suddenly knew it for the unmistakable sound of metal on metal.

It was the sound of ringing swords.

The sound of battle.

He sat up sharply and flung aside the sheet. Or tried to—it was knotted around his loins and thighs like a stubborn snake. Kagen struggled with it, cursing and snarling until he fought free of the cloth, then he swung his legs over the bed and shot to his feet.

The room spun around him in a sickening reel and then he was falling. He shot out his hands and just managed to keep from slamming face-forward onto the uneven floorboards. His knees and groin hit hard, though, and for a moment all that he was aware of was black poppies blooming in the air around his head. Nausea rose up inside of him once more, but it had nothing left to do and he ignored it. Kagen pushed against the floor, forcing himself up onto his bruised knees. He closed his eyes to try to coax the dizziness to abate.

In that moment of calm darkness, the part of him that was not a drunken fool made sense of what was happening. The swordplay outside was not a duel or even a mugging—it was combat. He could hear yells now too, near and far. This was a big fight, and it seemed to be all up and down the street. Kagen crawled toward the window, gripped the sill, and through sheer force—more moral courage than physical—pulled himself up. Even leaning on the windowsill he was unsteady, his legs wobbling and threatening to collapse. The room still spun, but—he thought—less so than a moment ago.

Kagen tore aside the dirty orange curtains and used the heel of his hand to bash the shutters open.

Everything he saw was beyond understanding. It was so much worse than anything he could have imagined. This was no brawl, not even a battle between rival gangs. The street was choked with people. Hundreds of them. Half of the combatants were dressed in nightclothes and were armed with whatever they could grab—brooms, staves, a wooden chair, a horsewhip, personal knives—while the other half were in armor, and they attacked with spears, axes, and bright swords.

What Kagen saw was a true battle.

Somehow, impossibly, out of all sense, war had come to Argentium, the capital city of the Silver Empire.

The battle was dreadful and it was not going well.

Already the street was littered with the dead, and there were so many corpses of men and women that the combatants had to step over them in order to do more killing.

“Gods of the Garden!” Kagen snarled, and he shoved himself back from the window, turning as he lunged for his clothing. He fell again, but caught himself on the bedpost, fought for control, found some, and went searching for his clothes.

His clothes and his weapons were nowhere to be found.

Apart from the bed, a small table and two chairs, the chamber pot, and the fire in the hearth, there was nothing in that small room. The woman had clearly robbed him and taken everything. The realization that she’d taken his weapons was like a stab through the heart. Some of those knives were centuries old, and his thigh dagger had been given him on Harvest Eve by Empress Gessalyn herself. It was no decorative showpiece, either, but a true warrior’s weapon, forged of Bulconian steel and engraved with sacred prayers. That blade had been passed down from generation to generation since his father’s kin had left Bercless two hundred years ago and come across the width of the continent to serve the Silver Empire.

Now it was gone.


Along with everything else.

Kagen cast around, looking for some unnoticed closet or hamper, but there was nothing to find. Snarling in fury, fear, and grief, he tore the sheet from the bed and wound it quickly around his loins, ripping strips of it to use as a sash. He knew he looked like a fool, like a child in diapers, but rather that than charge into the fray with his cock swinging.

He remembered the person outside fighting with the chair and grabbed the closest one here, wheeled, and smashed it against the wall. The flimsy wood exploded and Kagen bent to scoop up the two strongest-looking legs. The action made him dizzy again, but now his rage was flooding through him, shoving the sickness back.

“Gods above help me,” he begged as he staggered toward the door, pulled it open, and stepped into the hall.

There was blood on the wall—a spray of it, clearly from a severed artery—and several bodies lay silent. None of them were whole. He leaned over and saw to his despair that three of the corpses were men from the palace detail. They had been in the tavern with him last night, drinking, eating, and laughing. He fished for their names in the junk pile of his brain. The hangover was weirdly intense and clarity of thought was as elusive as a greased weasel. But the names did come at last. Delmond of Theria, Ket Halming from Sunderland, and the mountainous Mondrolan the Red of Nelfydia. Seasoned soldiers all, and trusted imperial guards. Like him, the men were naked, or close to it. Like him they had no real weapons. The big Nelfydian had a piece of chain wrapped around one huge fist, and the business end was bloodied, but his body was crisscrossed with sword cuts.

“Fucking hell,” breathed Kagen. “What in the Red Pits is going on?”

He ran from room to room on that floor and found soiled bed linen, filled chamber pots, and nothing else of use except a slender oyster knife, which he tucked into his sash.

Kagen was nearly to the end of the hall when a door opened and a figure stepped out, a heavy sword in his hand painted with bright blood. It was a man, medium height and solidly built. He wore leather trousers, boots, and a jerkin on which was a symbol Kagen had only ever seen in history books and museums. It was the sun during a total eclipse, with a fiery corona around the blacked-out star, and spreading out from behind the sun were massive black wings. Not bird wings, though, and not bat wings, which is what they most closely resembled. Kagen knew from the old stories that these represented dragon wings. This symbol was forbidden in the Silver Empire.

It was the battle sigil of the Hakkian ruling house, and that house had died centuries before Kagen was born. He had read the tales of the Hakkian legions coming out of the night, following the standard of the legendary Witch-king into battle with the allied armies of the empire. Although Hakkia was not a large country, it had once been among the most powerful nations in the world, with a vast army and weapons not made merely of steel but of the blackest magic. Every citizen of Hakkia had been conscripted and trained, and the resulting army numbered in the hundreds of thousands. The war with Hakkia had nearly destroyed the empire, and there was no town from Theria in the north all the way to the Lonely Sea that did not have burial mounds dating from the rebellion.

But Hakkia had been crushed in that war, the Witch-king slain, and the armies forced to lay down their weapons. The unified nations of the empire had decreed that no Hakkian for fifty generations would ever be allowed to train for war, under pain of death.

So how was there a Hakkian warrior here, in this city, in this tavern, standing five feet from where Kagen himself stood? For the briefest moment Kagen wondered if this—all of this—was part of some elaborate drunkard’s dream.

Then the Hakkian raised his bloody sword and swung it at Kagen.

It should have ended right there. A warrior in tough leather, armed with a butcher’s sword, steely and steady, against a wobbly drunk in a diaper armed with a pair of broken chair legs and an oyster knife. That should have been an easy and unremarkable kill for this man. And perhaps with any other citizen of the empire, it would indeed have been the end.

However, Kagen Vale, son of the Poison Rose, chosen of the Silver Empress, Guardian of the Royal Seedlings, was not another man.

This was battle, and the slightest movement of the big Hakkian blade changed everything inside of Kagen. In the space of a heartbeat—a fragment of a heartbeat—everything about Kagen underwent a lightning-quick process of transformation. His sick and trembling body shifted position, knees bending, weight tilting onto the balls of his feet; the chair legs became fighting clubs, and all of the noise dwindled into something familiar. In that flash of time, he became Kagen the fighting man. Kagen the soldier. Kagen the killer.

The sword rose very fast, but Kagen did not wait for it to fall and instead moved into the anticipated arc of the attack, whipping one club up to smash into the Hakkian’s gloved hand, bashing it sideways and simultaneously bringing the other club up between the man’s legs. Leather codpiece or no, the impact folded the soldier. Kagen kept moving forward, driving into the killer, slamming him back against the door frame, and then he headbutted him, stomped on the top of his foot hard enough to fill the air with the sound of splintering bones, and used the blocking club to smash the man across the jaw. The Hakkian spun and fell into the room, and Kagen followed, chasing him with a hard heel-kick to the tailbone that sent the soldier sprawling. Kagen dropped one knee onto the small of the man’s back and hammered down one-two-three with the clubs until the shape of the skull was all wrong.

Then Kagen rose and looked around the room. There, lying half in and half out of the bed, was Jorgen Tuck, a sergeant in his own retinue. Like Kagen, Jorgen was naked. He had shared Kagen’s off-duty revels last night, but now the man’s hearty laugh, good-natured jokes, and occasional recitations of old Ghenreyan poetry were silenced forever. A Hakkian’s sword had cut the sergeant’s head nearly from his brawny shoulders. Jorgen’s body looked as if he’d died hard. There were none of his clothes or weapons in the room, either, and his friend had fought back only with the chamber pot, the handle of which was still hooked by dead fingers.

“Gods of the Harvest,” breathed Kagen as the pain of loss struck him. Jorgen was a good man, a husband and father. And now he was nothing at all, merely compost for whatever garden he’d be buried in. Kagen touched his friend’s chest and bowed his head in prayer. “Rest, and I will see you in the spring.”

The sound of battle outside intensified.

Kagen lost a moment deciding what to do. A part of him was vaguely disturbed by his indecisiveness, because he had always been known for quick actions, quick judgments, quick decisions. The hangover lingered and resisted his efforts to shake it off.

When he made up his mind, though, he moved quickly.

He rolled the Hakkian over and stripped off the dead man’s boots and breeches and quickly pulled them on. They were a little tight, but it was better than wearing a sheet. The killer wore a dagger at his waist, and Kagen took it—and the belt with the sheath. It was not of Hakkian make, he judged, and was likely looted from someone else. The maker’s mark was that of a Nehemitian swordmaker Kagen was only vaguely familiar with. The balance was poor, but the blade was new and sturdy enough.

He left the big sword where it lay. Kagen was not a fan of swords, preferring the speed and intimacy of a knife instead. The ache for his own weapons stung him, and he promised Mother Sah that if he ever found the whore who’d stolen them he would feed her to feral swine. He knew a farm where the pigs had become quite familiar with human flesh.

Then he went back into the hall, still half naked and armed only with one dagger, but it was a step up.

Kagen crept down the stairs and found the tavern empty except for the dead. Seven men lay in tattered piles; all but one of them were regulars. Among them was the landlord, Big Rek, who had once been a gladiator, though that was many, many years ago. Even so, Big Rek lay with his hands locked like iron bands around the throat of a man wearing the Hakkian crest. And that invader had an even better dagger, which was buried nearly to the hilt in the landlord’s chest. Kagen pried the dead fingers from the handle, braced his legs, and tore the knife free.

“Sorry, old son,” he said to the landlord. “Glad you went out fighting. May your blood on this knife make fertile the flowers of my vengeance.”

It was an old prayer, and he hoped Big Rek—and all his dead friends—could hear that prayer in the great garden beyond the edge of the world.

Somehow, saying the prayer shook some of the cobwebs from Kagen’s mind, and he became acutely aware that he had to get the hell out of there and get his ass over to the palace. Although it was exceedingly unlikely these attackers could have managed to get into that fortress, his job—his sacred duty, in real point of fact—was to be there. To protect the Seedlings—the children of the empress. All those young princes and princesses were under his charge. Were they safe? Gods above, how terrified they must be. He knew that he needed to make contact with his parents, and with his two older brothers who served the empress. He needed to do what he was sworn by oath and bond to do.

The new blade was really a short sword of the kind used in the traveling battle circus. Ironically, a gladiator’s weapon had taken the life of a gladiatorial champion. Kagen wiped Old Rek’s blood off across the Hakkian’s thigh, felt the lovely balance of the weapon, nodded approval, and then headed outside to join the war.

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