On the unforgiving streets of Karad, Veron grows up hungry, inexperienced, and stealing just to survive. After tragedy strikes, he is forced to decide what path his life will take.
Opportunity arises when he discovers the last survivor of a secret organization called the Shadow Knights. Apprenticed to learn their ways, Veron begins to develop abilities he never dreamed he could have.
Meanwhile, an enemy from across the mountains comes to destroy their kingdom’s way of life, and the Shadow Knights are the only ones able to stop him. As Veron fights to survive the city, he prepares to face his destiny.
Targeted Age Group:: 13-30
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
I love reading books with amazing plots and interesting twists. I wanted to write one of my own, and be able to make readers excited about it.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
The main character is modeled after my son. Not just who he is, but things I want him to be able to grow into. His father is modeled after myself, or at least the parts of me I want to highlight.
Veron stood on the roof and looked at the city surrounding him. A collection of buildings in various shapes and heights jutted up unevenly. He imagined the streets and alleys below that flowed together like a collection of streams. Lanterns lit in the main streets gave Karad a glow as if a muted serpent of fire snaked its way through the city’s wealthy areas. Behind him, the Bottoms where he called home was completely dark.
“What’s the worst that could happen?” Fend asked.
“Seriously?” Veron replied, looking at his friend. “That’s your pitch? Getting me to imagine the worst that could happen?”
Veron peered over the edge of the building at the long drop to the empty street below. The wind picked up and whipped his hair, causing him to feel unsteady.
“Come on!” Fend said. “This place’ll be the best we ever hit! You seen all the fancy outfits he sells from his shop. You can’t find fabric like he sells anywhere south of Split. He’s gotta be loaded. Plus, neither of us ate in days. You know you want this!”
As if on cue, Veron’s stomach growled. He was hungry. He did want this.
“We’ll watch our backs like we always do,” Fend continued. “If anythin’ goes wrong, we get out of there.”
“You ’member the lender’s office we hit after we ran away?” Veron asked.
“Yeah. What about it?”
“That was sposta be the best ever, and we left there with nuthin’!”
“That’s ‘cause we had to run. Your shaggy hair stuck out from behind the wall and gave us away!” Fend punched him on the arm. “Look, Veron, you’re thirteen and aren’t gettin’ any younger. We can’t count on people pityin’ us and givin’ handouts anymore. We need to take care of ourselves.”
A gust of wind sent a chill through Veron. His tattered clothing did little to keep him warm, especially during the frigid season of wiether. “What if someone’s there?” he asked.
“I told you, no one’s home. I saw the tailor and his family pack their wagon this mornin’. I even talked with the girl and asked her where they was goin’. She said they’re headin’ down to Felting to buy supplies—fabric or somethin’. Won’t be back to Karad for three days.”
Veron surveyed the city again, trying to avoid deciding.
Under every one of these rooftops is someone with money and food, Veron thought. I’m tired of bein’ hungry. I’m sick of this city gettin’ the best of me.
He looked back to Fend and nodded. “Okay, let's do it.”
Fend set down the sack of supplies he had been carrying and took out a metal wire. “Hold my legs while I get the latch on the window,” he said as he crouched at the edge.
Veron sat on his legs, letting the older boy dangle upside down from the second-story roof.
“Got it!” Fend whispered after a moment from over the edge. His hand appeared at the edge of the roof, and Veron pulled him up.
After looping a frayed piece of rope around a nearby chimney, Fend held onto it as he made his way over the edge, feet first. Although he tried to appear confident, his breath quickened as his body lowered. Soon, he disappeared.
Veron waited and listened. For several seconds, all he could hear was his heart beating and the sound of the wind. He tapped absently at the medallion hanging beneath his shirt as he strained his ear forward. Finally, a whisper confirmed it was his turn.
Even though Fend made it look easy and Veron had done it countless times before, he was still nervous. What if the rope breaks? What if I slip and fall? What if someone’s in the house? Despite the fear, Veron grabbed the rope and worked his feet over the edge. When his foot rested on the wrought-iron sign below, his nerves settled a bit, but only when he made it through the window and landed inside the building did he feel in control again.
The two boys stood at the end of a short hall. A sliver of moonlight revealed one door frame on the right and two on the left. The staircase at the end would lead down to the shop below. Fend had his ear against the first door on the left, listening. So far, everything was silent.
After a seemingly endless wait, Fend motioned for them to go. The first room was an office with a full bookcase and desk. Veron rifled through the ledgers and papers, but nothing looked valuable. In the far corner, he spotted a chest, and his heart raced. He tried to open it, but it didn't budge. A keyhole on the front stared at him, taunting him.
With a grin on his face, Fend handed him a small pry bar and whispered, “Your turn.”
Veron took the pry bar and worked on the chest, doing his best to be silent. The wood groaned as the chest fought back. The sound was quiet, but it felt like an alarm bell to him. Sweat beaded on his forehead from both the noise and the effort as he strained to open it. He was about to pass the bar to Fend when the lock broke with a loud crack. Veron froze, his ears strained for the slightest noise. The silence soon returned, and they each let out their breath.
Veron's heart raced as he opened the chest, but his smile disappeared and shoulders slumped when he saw it was packed full of papers. Both boys rummaged through the stacks of official-looking documents and maps. The scent of dried parchment clung to Veron’s nose—the smell of disappointment and squandered hope.
“What a waste,” Fend said as he threw a handful of papers down.
Why would a tailor have so many documents locked away? Veron thought.
Hoping for something more, he continued to dig through the chest until he found a velvet bag at the bottom. A clink sounded as he picked it up. Opening the bag, he emptied it into his hand. Coins—six copper tid and four copper pintid.
“Whoa!” Veron exclaimed, forgetting the need to be quiet.
Fend looked over his shoulder. “Nice!”
Veron had never held that much money in his life. We could live for almost a season on this. We could buy supplies, bread, fruit—meat even. Maybe we could get real beds and blankets? Not wanting to hang around any longer than necessary, he put the coins back in the bag and stuffed it in his pocket.
“Let’s keep lookin’,” Fend said.
The next door down the hall creaked when opened to reveal a kitchen, including shelves with food. There wasn’t a lot, but to the starving boys, it was a feast. Veron’s stomach growled as if calling out to it.
“Jackpot!” Fend said.
Both boys grabbed what they could, gorging on bread, salted pork, and carrots. They laughed at the unexpected bounty as they took turns shushing each other between bites. After their eating slowed, they stuffed their pockets with as much as they could carry. The pocket space ran out long before the food did.
“If they’re gonna be gone three days, why don’t we take what we can, then come back tomorrow and get more?” Veron asked as he chewed on a tough piece of pork.
“Yeah, that’s a great idea,” Fend said with a grin. “Let’s get out of here.”
They went back into the hall, and Veron grabbed the rope dangling outside the window. Fend remained in the hallway, standing by the remaining door.
“Whatcha doin’?” Veron whispered.
“I wanna see what’s in here first.”
“We can’t carry any more. Let’s go.”
Fend eased the door open, and Veron sighed as he let go of the rope and joined his friend. The room was dark, with the only bit of light coming in from the window. Shadows covered the floor from the outline of two beds. One bed was bare, and the other held a pile of blankets. A bookshelf stood at the end of the room with what looked like two bronze candlesticks on top.
“Whoa!” Fend said as the boys crossed the room. “Those hafta be worth a silver argen apiece!”
With one foot on the edge of the bed and the other on one of the shelves, Fend extended his arm, but the first candlestick was barely out of reach.
“What do you think you’re doing?” a deep, unfamiliar voice asked.
Veron spun around and froze. A body stood behind them—a body shaped like a pile of blankets. Veron cursed himself for not being more careful when they came in.
“What are you doing?” the bundle of blankets repeated with growing intensity.
“I—I saw the tailor leave this mornin’. I thought the house was empty,” Fend said with a wavering voice.
“The tailor?” the other man said. “His shop is next door. You thought you could take his stuff while he was out?”
Veron glared at Fend. “You got the wrong house?” he muttered.
Before Veron could think of what to do, Fend yelled as he ran at the man and collided with his body square in the midsection, knocking him backward over the bed. Veron’s heart raced as he and Fend ran for the stairs.
Desks, books, papers, and files filled the shop below. We must be in the tax assessor’s shop next door to the tailor’s. That explains the chest full of documents.
Veron reached the door first, and his stomach dropped—locked. He frantically looked around. They were trapped. He froze, unable to think as fear set in. His paralysis shattered along with the window as Fend threw a chair through it, spraying glass and splinters of wood into the street.
“Let's go!” Fend said, motioning.
The boys scurried through the broken window. Glass shards tugged on Veron’s clothing, hands, and legs. He ignored the pain as they stumbled onto Market Street at the edge of Karad Square.
“Thieves! Stop them! Thieves!” a voice shouted from above.
Veron looked up. The tax assessor leaned out the upstairs window where their rope dangled limply. He pointed at them but looked across the square to where three soldiers stood staring back. Veron’s heart sank as he recognized the tallest soldier. Captain Mortinson—the last man he wanted to see.
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