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Keeper of Knowledge: A Fatal Empire Short (Direct Exclusive)

Keeper of Knowledge: A Fatal Empire Short (Direct Exclusive)

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I always thought I knew the world I had been born into—the powerful and insular Dharakmeni Empire. I thought I knew what it meant to be born the son of a noble house.

That knowledge comforted me. Even as a child, I thought I understood my place and the legacy I would eventually inherit.

...Until the day I realized I knew nothing at all.

Meet Raziel’s foster-father Admon, and learn his dark heritage in this short story prequel from the vividly rendered Fatal Empire fantasy series.

(This adventure takes place before Keeper of Secrets, the first book in the Fatal Empire series.)

Exclusively available direct from Jacquelyn’s store.


Destiny. It makes puppets of us all. Some only learn their life’s purpose as they are taking their final breath. Others have their destiny laid out for them—an inherited road map that must be followed. I am one of the latter.

I wish I could say whether my destiny comes from the goddess. To be honest, I do not know. But I believe the quest I have inherited is an honorable one. And in my darker moments, when I begin to doubt, I remind myself that if the goddess did not approve, surely I would be dead by now. For clearly it is only by her blessing and the protection my one loyal friend that I have survived as the sole member of Zamadi house.

Admon Zamadi al-Tahlid. That is what they call me now that I have inherited my father’s title. It weighs heavily upon my young shoulders. I did not expect to have to carry the burden so soon, but I must find a way to do so with pride. My father would expect no less, just as he would expect me to carry on his secret legacy—the one that changed the course of my life.

I learned of my secret heritage when I was seven years old.

At the time, it struck me as a day much like any other. I was lurking at the far edges of our family estate, which lay on the northern border of Tahlidi province. The ancient boughs that formed the Elven Forest loomed close by, casting leafy shadows on the manicured lawns. The trees were wild and struck me as vaguely unfriendly. Although no imperial map ever drew a line on the outskirts of the vast wood that stretched from one end of the empire to the other to mark it as foreign territory, it served as a physical barrier as surely as a giant wall.

Even though the forest bordered on our estate, I had never seen anyone go in or out. I had learned even as a young boy that the area was forbidden. Not that I had ever wanted to go in. I often dreamed up stories of what kind of monsters might be lurking in the shadows of the trees. When I was younger, I had stayed well away from them. But as I got older, a foreboding curiosity drew me closer, within the reaching fingers of the forest’s shadow.

A breeze ruffled the treetops. The trees seemed to whisper to one another, discussing my close presence. I suppressed a shiver and stepped back into the warm sunlight. The matter of the forest had become something of a dare for me. Would I ever work up the courage to step beneath the branches?

Probably not, if my father’s guards had anything to say about it. Armed men in livery embroidered with the Tahlidi falcon stood watch over the border of the estate grounds, and I could already see one of them giving me a wary look. My father was not a cruel man, but I knew if I decided to brave the forest, I would not be the only one to face his wrath.

I turned my back on the trees with a sigh and retreated to safer territory. From the corner of my eye, I saw the guard’s shoulders slump with relief. He was soon forgotten as I strolled closer to the sprawling household to wander the gardens. Within moments, I was surrounded by the riot of colorful blooms that had been chosen by my mother. Most of them were orchids, but there were some hibiscus as well, their large, delicate petals brushing against my fingers as I walked.

The hibiscus were odorless, but the orchids provided a feast for the senses. The pale yellow ones with their pink spotted tongues were my favorite. They smelled like lemon tarts. Most of the others smelled faintly of cinnamon, but there were also a few dark red ones that reminded me of cherries. I inhaled the familiar fragrances deeply and tilted my head back to feel the sun on my face.

Usually, I would be cooped up inside the estate at this hour, poring over my lessons. But today, my father had sent me outside to amuse myself while he spoke to my mother. I might have only been a child, but I knew what this meant well enough. They had something important to discuss—something they did not want me to hear.

I did not strictly intend to wander over to the wall of my father’s study. But that was exactly where my wandering feet took me. I was a well-behaved child, and I knew better than to deliberately eavesdrop. But if I just so happened to hear something while I was strolling by…

All imperial estates are constructed of polished oak beams and painted screens. Most of these screens can be moved on tracks to reconfigure the interior, or to allow fresh air to flow in from the outside. The screen that stood between my father’s study and the garden had been closed for privacy. I had expected as much. But the screens themselves were a thin barrier. Mindful of the position of the sun, I crouched in the shadow of the garden and leaned closer, under the guise of inspecting the blossoms.

“…are certain it must be done now?” I heard my mother’s muffled voice ask. “He is still so young. Perhaps in a year or two—”

“In that same year or two, he can learn countless fundamentals that will help to keep him alive.” I recognized my father’s reasonable, persuading tone. “We cannot afford to wait.”

I shook my head in confusion. Keep who alive? Surely I wasn’t in any danger…

I heard someone sigh. My mother?

“Of course, I want him to be safe,” she said. “But to place this kind of burden on his shoulders at the age of seven…”

I froze, a cold lump of fear forming in the pit of my stomach. They did mean me! For a moment, I hardly dared to breathe.

I was only seven when I began my novitiate.” My father’s voice was dry. “He is a clever boy, and the only heir to our house. We cannot afford to shelter him in ignorance any longer. Besides, it will be far worse if he finds out on his own.”

A foreboding chill settled over me.

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