The Ghost in Exile:
A Korthlundian Kronicle
by Jamie Marchant
The Ghost is going to hell. Not even the goddess can forgive his sins: assassin, oath-breaker, traitor (an affair with the queen earned him that title). No one can ever learn the princess is his daughter. To keep this secret, he flees to the land that turned him from a simple stable groom into an infamous killer.
His mission now? To find evildoers and take them to hell with him. But when an impulsive act of heroism saddles him with a damsel who refuses to be distressed, her resilience forces him to questions why he really ran from his daughter.
*While The Ghost in Exile is related to the Kronicles of Korthlundia, it is not part of the series and can be read as a standalone!
The Ghost in Exile
By Jamie Marchant
Desperately needing the distraction, The Ghost went for a walk after his supper at the Green Sandpiper, an inn that catered to mercenaries and other unsavory types. The falling of night deepened the cold, but he didn’t cut short his walk. He wandered the filthy streets of the poorer section of the city, thinking about past kills—those in the distant past, not those connected with his daughter. He couldn’t think of her ever again. The few short years he’d spent with her had been the best in his life, but he hadn’t deserved them. The only thing he deserved was to rot in the seven hells. He wondered how many had died at his hands. Two hundred? Three? More? He’d never kept count.
Few of the street lights were lit in this part of town, but that was no hindrance to The Ghost. When he’d been the Saloynan king’s personal assassin, he’d had an enchantment performed on his eyes, giving him the ability to see in the dark, even the complete darkness of a cave.
Passing an alley, he heard a commotion. He turned to see a young woman pleading with two men. “Don’t make me go with him,” she begged. “He hurts me.” The Ghost recoiled when he heard her Massossinan accent. He hated Massossinans.
The first man slapped her across the face, and The Ghost saw the iron slave collar around the woman’s neck. Her red hair confirmed her nationality. She wore a low-cut, red bodice trimmed with black lace and an extremely short red skirt. She had to be freezing in this weather. “You’ll do as you’re told and like it, or . . .” He drew a knife and ran it across her right breast, drawing a thin line of blood.
The second man grabbed the woman. “You know you like it rough.” He too drew a knife. “Maybe I’ll slice you open when I’m through with you.”
“That will cost you extra,” the first man warned.
The second man shrugged. “I’m good for it."
He imagined his daughter being similarly assaulted. He stepped into the alley. “Let her go.”
The man pulled the woman closer to him. “You can have a turn when I’m done with her.” He grabbed the woman’s breast, and she tried to squirm away. She looked older than he’d thought at first, nearly thirty—old for a whore. Most didn’t live that long.
The Ghost drew his sword and stepped forward. “I said let her go.”
The woman’s master stepped between The Ghost and the other man. “Mister, you have no right to interfere with lawful commerce. She’s mine, and I’ll do with her as I see fit.”
“Not tonight you won't. Move aside.”
It must have been too dark for the man to see the menace in The Ghost’s eyes. Few men dared stand up to him after they’d gotten a good look at the coldness he held there. The slave owner, however, crossed his arms. “Go away.”
The Ghost raised his sword and struck the man on the head with the flat of his blade. He went down, and The Ghost stepped over him and addressed the customer. “I said let her go.”
The man placed his knife at the woman’s throat. “She’s mine, or she’s no one’s.”
The Ghost surreptitiously palmed a knife with his left hand while he continued holding his sword with his right. Even more than he hated Massossinans, he hated those who preyed on women’s flesh. He looked at the woman. “Your choice. Does he live or die?” * * *
For an instant, Brigitta was too shocked by the stranger's actions to answer. Saloynans were nothing but godless barbarians. She'd once been raped in the street, and not a single Saloynan had done anything to help her. The few men who had even deigned to notice merely did so to applaud her rapist and to vilify her homeland. Still, if he was offering help, she wasn't about to turn him down.
"Kill him," she hissed. Antero would not use her again.
She never saw the stranger move, but Antero toppled over, taking her down with him. He rolled off her, screaming and clutching at his face. She barely had time to notice the knife in his eye socket before the stranger had moved again and plunged his sword through Antero’s throat. Frigg preserve me!
Fearfully, she scrambled to her feet and glanced in her rescuer's direction, but she was too late to call out a warning before her master hit the stranger from behind with a rusty pipe. She cried out as the stranger fell to his knees, dropping his sword. After Damien killed the stranger, he would punish her horribly. She looked around for a place to run, but she knew it was useless. There was nowhere in this savage land that her master couldn't find her.
To her relief, the stranger survived the blow, and he somehow had another knife in his hand. He twisted, and before she'd realized what was happening, Damien was on the ground as well, his entrails exposed to the night air. The stranger's sword was next to her foot. She grabbed the heavy sword with both hands and rushed the man who'd made her life a living hell. Her rescuer rolled aside and allowed her access to the ogre. She raised the sword over her head.
Damien flung up an arm. "No, please!"
"You kidnapped me!" she screamed, as she rammed the sword into his heart. She raised the sword and plunged it over and over again. "You raped me! You made me a whore! You left my children motherless!"
The stranger grabbed her arm. "Enough. He's dead." He took the sword from her and wiped it on her dead master's clothes.
He stumbled as he slid it into its scabbard and put his hand to the back of his head where Damien had hit him with a pipe. His fingers came away bloody. He tore off Damien’s shirt and pressed it against his scalp. “Damned fool!” he muttered, seemingly to himself.
Brigitta thought she should offer her rescuer assistance, but she looked down and saw her master’s blood covering her legs. Her legs buckled, and she sank to the alley floor. Slaves who killed their masters were subjected to the cruelest deaths. "I killed him," she whispered. "I killed the bastard. Dear gods, what will they do to me?"
Her rescuer threw her master’s shirt aside and held out his hand. "Come with me."
She scrambled away from him and grabbed the knife from Antero's eye. She pointed it at the stranger. "Stay away from me. Before you people made me a whore, I was an honorable wife and mother. I'll die before being used again."
The stranger dropped his arm. "I don't intend to use you."
But Brigitta knew better. Saloynans were worse than the trolls that peopled the bard's tales of her land. She got to her feet, her trembling hand holding the knife. "I'm leaving now. Going home to my little ones. Move out of the way."
She knew the situation was hopeless. She'd tried to fight when Damien's squad had invaded her hut, but it had done nothing to stop them from raping her in front of her children. She was certain that this stranger could disarm her without even trying.
“I can’t do that,” he hissed through his teeth as if trying to convince himself of something. “You're covered in blood. You're collared. You're dressed like a whore. You'll never make it out of the city on your own, probably not even out of this neighborhood. They'll capture you and torture you to death. I can’t let that happen. I'll find a way to get you home, and I won't touch you without your permission. I give you my word."
The Kronicles of Korthlundia
From early childhood, Jamie has been immersed in books. Her mother, an avid reader, read to her, and her older sister filled her head with fairy tales. Taking into consideration her love for literature and the challenges of supporting herself as a writer, she pursued a Ph.D. in American literature, which she received in 1998. She started teaching writing and literature at Auburn University. But in doing so, she put her true passion on the backburner and neglected her muse. Then one day, in the midst of writing a piece of literary criticism, she realized that what she wanted to be doing was writing fantasy novels. Her muse thus revived, she began the book that was to become The Goddess’s Choice. The second volume in the series, The Soul Stone, will be released on June 25, 2015.
She lives in Auburn, Alabama, with her husband, son, and four cats, which (or so she’s been told) officially makes her a cat lady. She still teaches writing and literature at Auburn University. Her short fiction has been published on Short-Story.Me, and my story was chosen for inclusion in their annual anthology. It has also appeared in the anthologies—Urban Fantasy (KY Story, 2013) and Of Dragon and Magic: Tales of the Lost Worlds (Witty Bard Publishing, 2014)—The World of Myth, A Writer’s Haven, and Bards & Sages.