Trial and Glory - Book Three in the Blood and Tears Trilogy

A warleader seeks redemption. A High Mage doubts his success. A commander faces his past. A queen hardens her resolve.

Purchase Trial and Glory: Book Three of the Blood and Tears Trilogy now!
Keep scrolling for a free sample.

Trial and Glory: Book Three of the Blood and Tears Trilogy
Tobin’s domination of Hesh has left him feeling empty, the cost of victory too high. A recurring nightmare drives him to learn the one truth that could ease his heart. Just when he thinks he may have found peace, an unlikely foe pushes him back into a life he wanted to avoid.

A High Mage is on the cusp of victory when a power he did not anticipate reveals itself. Rattled, his aggressive strategy changes to one of caution. He searches for a way to overcome the new threat while guarding himself against traitors among his would-be allies.

Kaz’s returned memories of wife and home are a mixed blessing. The memory that brings him the most joy causes pain to someone he cares for greatly while the memories of his brother only inspire hate. Before he can return home he must win a battle against insurmountable odds. More than ever, the support of the Hell Patrol will determine his success.

At the High Pass, Queen Elyse’s war-torn army faces a massive horde of invading warriors. In Lyrosene, her throne is threatened once again, but by someone she never suspected. The two conflicts consume her night and day as she wrestles with a solution to her problems.

Trial and Glory is the third and final book in the Blood and Tears Trilogy. Free excerpts of Walk Through Fire: A Blood and Tears Prequel Novella and Hero of Slaves: A Blood and Tears Novella are included.


Cassus sat with his back to the wall at the end of the dimly lit bar. The Orchid, the toughest bar on Slum Isle, was not a place in which you grew lax.

At least not by yourself, he thought.

One hand never strayed far from the hilt of his dagger. Under normal circumstances, he wouldn’t even be at the place alone. However, the ship he chartered to Cadonia would be leaving in a matter of days, and he needed as much information about recent happenings as he could find.

The Orchid might be a dive, but Cassus knew no other place in Mudhole Bay would have what he needed.
“So, you were saying the queen won?” Cassus asked the man across from him.

The man nodded, one eye rolling haphazardly around its socket as he did. “Aye. Defeated Duke Conroy and that other one that took over for his old man. Mathas, I think.”


“Yeah, that’s it.”

The man gulped the last of his ale.

“You said there was more.”

The man stared at his mug. “Awful thirsty tonight. How about you?”

Cassus sighed and wrapped his knuckles against the bar, motioning the bartender for another round. A fresh mug appeared, loosening the man’s tongue.

“So yeah, just when everyone thought the fighting was done, Thurum decided to attack the High Pass.”

Cassus grunted. “That’s nothing new. They’ve done that off and on for a couple hundred years.”

The man shook his head. “Nah. This time it’s different. I heard they got something like five hundred thousand men.”

“Five hundred thousand men? That’s impossible!”

The man motioned with his hand. “Alright. Quiet down. It was only half that. Can’t a guy embellish a little? It adds flavor to the story.” He took another drink.

“Two hundred fifty thousand is still unbelievable.” Cassus got up to leave.

“Wait. Sit down, I’m serious.”

Cassus eyed the man. He appeared too calm, too sure of himself, for Cassus to doubt the story further.

He sat down, head spinning.

One Above, two hundred fifty thousand men?

The drunkard belched. “I heard they got people from a strange land with them.”

“How is Cadonia fairing?”

The man shrugged. “I don’t know. The last I heard, they were holding out. But against those numbers the
whole country could be overrun by now.”

Cassus hunched in his chair as the man nursed his drink.

After all this time, there might not be a home to return to. He thought of his friends in the Hell Patrol as well as Elyse. One Above, what are they having to go through?

He pushed himself from his seat, and then walked out the door toward the docks.

Every moment I waste here is one less I’ll have with them.

Chapter 1

Perched on a cliff in the Cataric Mountains, overlooking the valley leading to the High Pass, a light breeze tickled Nareash’s skin as he watched the battle unfold.

Guwan, his commander, had initiated the assault against the fortress an hour after the High Mage had appeared before Kaz and Elyse. Recalling the shock on their faces brought a smile to Nareash’s face. He couldn’t wait to see how they reacted to him up close. As tens of thousands marched past him, his smile grew wider. He could not imagine anything capable of removing it.

Not unless Amcaro himself comes back from the dead.

Squinting through a spyglass, he watched the men his ally, Hezen, had managed to recruit from the various tribes of Thurum swarm the battlements of the outermost wall. The defenders of the fortress struggled against such large numbers.

Kaz sprinted back and forth along his lines, red and blue armor shimmering in the afternoon sun, as he strengthened those sections.

Such a waste of effort. The animals on his armor are a nice touch though. There is no denying the man’s skill, but he can’t hold forever.

Kaz seemed to be everywhere, rallying his men just when it looked like a part of his line would collapse. The image caused Nareash to think of Tobin. He wondered how the two brothers would fare against each other after so much time apart.

They seem so evenly matched now. Too bad neither will get the chance to settle that dispute.

He clicked his tongue, mood souring. His friendship with Tobin had not ended as he had hoped.

But what do I care? He thought about the bonds he shared with others from his past. Amcaro, Essan, and even Gauge. None of those relationships ended well. None really understood me. I didn’t need them, just as I don’t need Tobin.

Nareash blinked. Satisfied with Guwan’s distribution of forces, and the effectiveness of the mages led by Colan, he aimed the spyglass upward, toward the great keep. The structure loomed behind the three curtain walls of the fortress like a stone guardian. Elyse stood in a window near the top, flanked by members of the Royal Guard. She stood taller than when he saw her last, yet he did not doubt that she felt helpless.

His shoulder ached at the bitter memory of their last meeting.

Where did you put the scepter, Elyse?

He shook off a burning desire to hold the weapon once more, returning his attention to the battle.

Where is this mage Hezen keeps going on about? Kaz barely has a handful of yellow-robes at his disposal. Is Krytien afraid? Or has he already died? It doesn’t matter. Kaz’s men are tired and won’t be able to hold much longer.

Near one of the siege towers, Guwan began pushing his men around, directing them with sharp, jabbing motions. Nareash searched for what could have riled his commander.

A wave of men dressed in the colors of Cadonia rushed across the long catwalks separating the interior and exterior walls to support the weakening lines of the defenders.

Nareash sighed. Reinforcements. This may take longer than I thought.

A burst of lightning-like sorcery cracked in the air, crawling over Guwan’s men. He searched for its source.
Behind the lines of defenders, a cluster of mages, attacked in unison.

Colan and his mages adjusted their focus. Bursts of blue light and red fire filled Nareash’s view as the two sides exchanged attacks. Though the defenders held the advantage, Colan managed to stretch the skills of the mages at his disposal. His efforts bought Guwan enough time to gain a few more feet of the wall.

At this rate, they might hold us off for another day. That’s unacceptable.

Nareash climbed down the cliff, angling his way over the sloping brown and red rock toward a waiting mount. He took to the saddle and entered the wide valley, pushing his way through the thousands of warriors waiting to storm the mountain fortress.

He stopped in their midst, atop a small hill, closer to the fortress. Its height rose just high enough for him to see over the outer wall.

The soldiers gave his mount a wide berth. He scanned once more for the cluster of mages fighting against Colan. He found them, confused that their attacks had lessened.

Why? They hold the advantage in skill. They should press.

A round, white-haired man wearing gray robes appeared at the center of the group. The others made way for him. The mage’s face twisted in concentration.

Is this the famed Krytien? Enough of this. I have a kingdom to conquer and an empire to build.

He folded his hands, closed his eyes, and tuned out the sounds of the anxious battle-ready men swarming around him.

Let them see what a High Mage can do.

The power had just begun to enter him when the muffled screams of battle shifted from anger to fear. He felt the air thin as a wealth of power drew toward the fortress.

His eyes fluttered open.

A thick mass of black fog hung thirty feet over the fortress. Red mist descended from the fog toward his army on the outer wall. When the spray met the soldiers, streaks of crimson spurted while bits of armor and weapons flew off in countless directions.

Men screamed.

Nareash’s mouth dropped as his men erupted in gouts of blood. He had read about such sorcery only once before.

In the historical records of Aurnon the First’s conquering of Cadonia. Performed by Sacrynon himself.

He fumbled with the spyglass to get a better look.

His army ran away in terror. Men on the walls tried to climb down the ropes, ladders, and siege towers. Others simply dove over the side, chancing their lives on what awaited them below.

No one has the power to do this. A frightful thought struck him. Unless he has the scepter.

Nareash thought of Krytien’s troubled look again. It reminded him of a man struggling with immense power.

His stomach sank.

* * *

Guwan stormed through camp with a narrowed focus. Covered in gore, and more furious than he had ever been, he resembled something out of a child’s nightmare. No one dared step in his way.

All he could think about was how close he had come to victory, nearly proving himself against the best. Beating Kaz would have elevated him in the minds of the Kifzo, even with his superior numbers.

But that blasted mist changed that.

His pace quickened.

While training as a Kifzo, he had seen things that would make most men vomit, but never had he seen anything like that. Bits of armor, flesh, and bone took to the air like swarming locusts.

While Nareash did nothing.

Not that it mattered. Colan and the other shamans had managed to protect enough of the men. As the mist faded, Guwan had readied his men to renew his assault.

Guwan pushed himself through Nareash’s tent unannounced. “Why did you order a withdrawal?” he yelled.

Nareash and the old scholar, Mizak, looked up from a worn leather book over which they leaned. The thin High Mage furrowed his brow. He snapped through clenched teeth. “Watch your tone. The men were getting slaughtered. I thought that was obvious.”

“You care about these pathetic warriors less than I do,” he fired back. “Who cares how many we lose when thousands wait to take their place?”

“Those thousands were losing their nerve,” said Nareash.

“By the time the mist started to dissipate, the Kifzo had already begun to unite them.”

“The risk was too great.” Nareash rubbed his temple, taking a deep breath. “Reports indicated that five thousand men died from the mist alone. Whether it had begun to dissipate or not is irrelevant. There is no telling if it would have happened again.”

“You sound like you don’t know what the mist was.”

“I never said that.”

“Is that why you didn’t do anything about it?”

Nareash’s nostrils flared. “I chose not to do anything today because I’m not willing to rush into something unexpected without more knowledge!”

Guwan knew he should not push more, but his frustration was too great. “What do you mean something unexpected?”

Nareash lowered his voice. “They have a weapon. A weapon similar to the ones I hoped to find when we journeyed to Quarnoq.”

Guwan grunted. “Even with that weapon, they barely held their position. We should have pressed.”

“No. What you saw was only a glimpse of what that kind of weapon is capable of.”

“Then why didn’t they continue their attack against us?”

“I don’t know.”

Guwan’s tone softened slightly. “Can you stop it?”

“Of course I can stop it,” Nareash snapped. “I just need more information.”

“Then what do I do?”

“Keep the men motivated, and hide the truth. Make them think that everything went as planned. Most of them are idiots anyway. None of what I just told you leaves this tent. Say nothing to even Colan or Hezen.”


“Just do as I say. I haven’t steered you wrong yet, have I?”

Guwan shook his head.

“Good. I’m counting on you.”

* * *

After the tent flap closed, Nareash closed his eyes and canted a spell. Anyone else who came near the entrance would immediately forget themselves and wander off. He didn’t want any more interruptions, not when he had so much to consider. When he finished, his hands trembled. He tried to tell himself that he was tired, but he knew better.

I thought with Amcaro dead I wouldn’t have to face the scepter. But now . . .

He turned around where Mizak had resumed studying the text. It wasn’t just that Nareash had to face the scepter.

Krytien is too much of an unknown.

Amcaro had always been a reserved person, careful with his powers. Nareash knew if the two faced each other again in battle, Amcaro would lose, with or without the scepter.

Krytien is a soldier. One Above knows how he thinks.

“I’m surprised you told him as much as you did,” said Mizak.

“It was necessary. He’s in command of the army. I need him on my side if we’re to succeed. Besides, he may have a strong military mind, but he’s not ambitious, at least not past what he sees.”

“Is that why you refuse to tell Hezen and Colan?”

Nareash grunted. “You already see the kind of man Hezen is. He calls himself an emperor without having an empire. Colan . . . I’m not sure about.”

He plays the loyal apprentice, eager to learn, but I played that game once.

“And I’m just an old man interested in his books.”

“More or less.” He pointed at the musty smelling book. “Do you think you can translate it?”

“Eventually. You know, when I took those books from Hezen’s library, I didn’t think they would be of any interest to you. Otherwise, I would have started looking at them before the others.”

“I was interested. I had just planned to look at them myself after we took the High Pass,” he hissed.
Mizak squinted. “Where are these from again?”

“The old Quoron Empire. Except the language is different than what I studied at Estul Library. Coded. We need to find the key that will make sense of it.”

“And you think it contains information about this weapon you mentioned?”

“I’m able to recognize a few words, and those lead me to believe so.”

“I’ll get started immediately.”

* * *

Wailing moans and blubbering sobs jarred Krytien from unconsciousness. He tried to sit up. A black hand pressed against his chest, holding him against the cot.

“Not yet,” Kaz said. Bags hung under the commander’s tired eyes. A new cut ran across his chin through his neatly-trimmed goatee.

Krytien blew out a long breath. “How long have I been out?”

“Half the night. How do you feel?”

“Like someone dropped a mountain on me. Even my eyelashes hurt.” He paused. “Please tell me you didn’t wait here the whole night for me to come around.”

Kaz smiled. “No. The old crew’s been with you in shifts. Yanasi’s got the wall. I just took over for Kroke.”

“So we managed to throw them back?”

“For now.” Kaz reached over and patted Krytien’s arm. “Thanks to you. If I had known all this time that you could do that—”

“No. Don’t ask me to do that again. I used the spell out of desperation, and only because I thought I had taken adequate precautions.” He shook his head. “The other mages couldn’t help me as much as I assumed. I almost killed myself trying to contain the power.”

“But you did contain it.”

“Barely. One Above knows what would have happened if I hadn’t.”

“I understand. We’ll just have to figure something else out.”

Krytien sighed. “When do you think they’ll attack again?”

“I don’t know. You’ve given them something to think about, though. They don’t look eager to try again tonight. I’m taking advantage of the time they’re giving us, especially since Jeldor came up with the rest of our forces.” He stood. “Get some rest. We can manage for a little while without you.”

Kaz left, stopping briefly to speak with Wiqua on his way out of the infirmary.

Krytien stared at the ceiling.

Am I ever going to learn my lesson? Or am I destined to keep tempting fate?

He had just started to close his eyes when the Byzernian settled in beside him.

“How are you feeling?”

“Exhausted.” Krytien rested a hand on the old man’s arm. “How are you doing? I’m sorry about Hag.”

“So am I. But it was her time. I just hope she did enough good to outweigh the bad. Underneath that gruff exterior she had a tender heart.” Wiqua cleared his throat. “Now, tell me what happened?”

“What do you mean?”

“On the wall. What went wrong?”

Krytien chuckled. “I performed a spell I had no business trying.”

“I disagree.”

“You weren’t there.”

“I didn’t need to be there. I’ve seen you work. I know what you’re capable of.”

“What exactly am I capable of?”


“You sound like my old master. He swore I had more potential than anyone he’d ever seen.”

“You do.”

“A lot of good that potential does if I keep endangering the lives of others. The spell was too difficult, and it required too much power.”

“Almost all forms of sorcery endanger the lives of others. Even what I do. The spell you performed did not require too much power. You simply introduced too many variables by relying on others rather than yourself.”

“Then why—”

“Stop!” snapped Wiqua.

Krytien blinked. Normally soft-spoken, the old man’s tone took him aback.

Wiqua’s voice softened. “Quit arguing, and listen to me for a moment. Your problem is that these more dangerous spells affect your focus since you know they have a greater risk of harming others. What you need to do is practice something extremely difficult in private, something that will affect no one but yourself. That way the pressure of repeating Asantia, which I know still weighs heavily on you, is not possible.”

“Maybe you’re right. I’ll think about it.”

* * *

Elyse stared out from the balcony of the great keep. She looked past the furious activity on the walls where her army worked by torchlight, and focused on the valley that widened toward the enemy’s camp.

Thousands of fires, varying in size, shone brightly in the black night. Somewhere among those fires walked a man she thought she would never see again.

You tried to warn me he was still alive, didn’t you Amcaro?

Her skin crawled as she thought of her last meeting with High Mage Nareash.

I wish I could go back and stab something a little more vital than his shoulder.

A knock came at the door.

“Enter,” she called, turning from the view.

Kaz walked in wearing a troubled expression. Still dressed in his armor, he brought with him a smell of musk and death. Elyse wasn’t sure if she had ever seen his shoulders hunched so far forward or his head hung so low.

It’s like he’s carrying a great burden.

He closed the door. “I saw your light was still on.”

“It’s fine,” said Elyse. “Dawn may be only a few hours away, but I won’t sleep tonight.”

“I’m not sure when Nareash will attack again, and I needed to speak with you.”

“About our forces?”

“Actually, about more personal matters.”

Purchase Trial and Glory: Book Three of the Blood and Tears Trilogy now!

Leave a Reply