Neanderthal King

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Summary

Imagine Game of Thrones, but Neanderthals never died off. It’s 1107, and the once-great Neanderthal empire is no more, laid waste by the dark Sapien king, Isaac, the same bastard who slaughtered the Thal queen’s young heirs. A brutal reversal of medieval power forged in blood and fueled by Sap ingenuity. But one babe escaped the mad king’s wrath. Raised the son of a simple Thal herder, Maralek’s a rough lad with the ferocious pride and temper of his ruined people, a scorn for rules and rulers, and less than a little creativity in his thick skull. In a word, your average Neanderthal. And life’s livable, until King Isaac resumes his bloodthirsty crusade, and Maralek’s forced into slaving shackles. Then, a rowdy caravan, a mysterious gypsy, a whispered prophecy… A whirlwind of devastation and war as his master is murdered, his fate unwoven, and his world ripped asunder in an epic battle to end all. Neanderthal King is a historic epic YA fantasy by renowned science fiction and fantasy author, Matt Ward, that features savage twists and darker secrets, raging kings and enslaved heirs, and an audaciously ambitious coming of age quest set in an alternative medieval Europe. If you love Brandon Sanderson, Ursula le Guin, or Robin Hobb, or explosive high and low fantasy classics like Lord of the Rings, the Kingkiller Chronicles, and the Earthsea Cycle, you’ll love this novel.

Genre:
Fantasy / Adventure
Author:
mattwardwrites
Status:
Excerpt
Chapters:
6
Rating:
n/a
Age Rating:
13+

THE FALL OF AKKAJ

Start writing here…“The Saps are coming, my D’rori!” Aeik cried. “Quick, we haven’t much time before they pierce the re’drak’s outer walls.”

Orik leaped to her feet, throwing aside her blood red quilt and earthen crown of her people as she raced for the royal nursery. Not now. How could they have known. Swords clanged outside the keep’s stone walls, heart pounding. They’d already reached the city? Impossible.

“Fire!” a Sapien voice shouted. The twang of their gods’ damned crossbows filled the air, echoing as her guards screamed, and fell. Their d’rorji was in ruin, defenses no match for the Saps’ steel bows and artillery.

She flung the iron-handled door open. “Come, my children, now. We haven’t—”

A massive BAM shook the fortress. Another. Twice more.

Not the ram.

A crash, and the keep’s impenetrable door splintered open below. Louder hammering steel.

“My lady, now!” Aeik grabbed my hand and yanked me toward the far door. Four young handmaidens scooped up the six sleepy children—all that was left of our royal lineage—and ran.

Acrid smoke... Something burning.

At the end of the stone hall, Aeik grabbed my arm. “Are you all right, my—” A whistling schwaff as an arrow thudded into her throat. Eirisek shrieked.

“There!” one of the high-pitched little intruders yelled. His comrade spun his crossbow toward us, and we veered right. Sprinted toward Oren’s den and skidded through the holy ornate doors. Arrows and bolts thudded the heavy oak as I heaved it shut, and locked the latch. It wouldn’t hold long. Not with their fancy rams.

“Behind Oren, under the canvas.” I crossed the torch lit prayer room of pelts and power, and pulled aside the bloody mural of the bear god. Two of Aeik’s fair-haired, identical underlings carried Arkaek, Liorik, and my other sleeping babies through the hidden opening. But not fast enough. We had to hurry.

Something struck the door with a rattling crash. Ugly male voices roared from the other side. Their chickenfooted bitch soldiers… but there were too many of them.

And not enough time. My babies…

A reverberating crack as a gap appeared along the door’s iron frame.

The two women turned with me, and as one, drew swords that hadn’t left our sides for many a fortnight, not since that fateful day. The door exploded off its hinges, and arrows flew through. We dove, lifting hardened shields from our backs. An honorable death… And many more with us.

“For Oren!” I cheered. My ladies took up the cry as we charged, cutting through Isaac’s miserly reds.

Darkened smoke filled the room, clouding their weak Sapien eyes as I slayed three more. Another thrust, another slash. But still, my re’drak shook as the dark king’s troops poured in. Impossible numbers. We never stood a chance.

But I wouldn’t surrender, not to that inferior monster. Not to a Sap.

A quick glance. The children were gone. Had they made it? Had the knights seen?

Burning worry as a bolt smashed my chest. I ripped it out.

Another, and another.

Stabbing pain. They must have upgraded again. Bloody engineers.

Two Sap knights stepped forward as I slumped to my knees. Heavy silence, a hush. Building tension as the weaklings froze. Replaced by a resounding set of footsteps. Isaac.

That bastard.

The mountain swept into the room and glared down at me from behind dark, wild eyes before turning to his blond knight. “Did you kill the children? All of them?”

No… My heart froze, blood chilled.

The hideous knight sneered at me, and nodded.

NO. It couldn’t be.

“Yes, your highness,” the hideous brute replied. “All five of them.”

Five? Only five? I stifled shock as the tan king flashed a hateful black smile. Like his heart. Like the horrific karma of his people’s tormented eternities.

“Good work, Royc.” Isaac patted his brute on the back with an empty gesture of warmth. Cruelty had no heart. “Kill the Neanderthal.”

The blond knight raised his gleaming blade, but I refused to look away. Stared him down as it fell. Never give up. Never show weakness.

On to the Great Slumber.

A searing icy stab.

Everything went dark.

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