The room was a shambles. In the middle of the floor lay the once-priceless painting depicting Arturius and his knights. Its frame was shattered, the painting torn. A chair, missing one leg, leaned drunkenly amid the splintered remains of a table, while another was wedged in the narrow embrasure of the window.
Deep chips and scars in the stonework of the walls gave testimony to frenzied sword strokes, and the bolster of the bed was slashed and torn, its stuffing strewn all around.
Broken mirrors and shattered glass crunched beneath the queen's shoes.
Sprawled on a chaise lounge was Aldivon. Unkempt, his hair a disheveled mess, he lay there clutching a wine skin, face red, eyes bloodshot.
“Get out!” he staggering to his feet and his sword slid from his lap and clattered to the cold stone floor. He stumbled to one side clutching at the chaise to steady himself.
“I had no choice!” Maugause made her way further into the devastated room. “She betrayed me, betrayed us! Is such self pity the way to deal with it?” The queen’s voice was scolding. “What is happening to you, Aldivon? Where is the mighty general my late lord and I respected so much? Why abase yourself so?”
Aldivon reached for the fallen sword and stood up, using the blade as a prop. He swayed uncertainly before drawing himself to his full height.
“I was in love with her! Two more years…” He took an unsteady step forward. “You raised her as your own. Trained her! Why kill her now? Gods, how could you do it?”
“It is regrettable but her betrayal was unforgivable. She would have grown to be powerful, Aldivon. Maybe more powerful than I. I’d labored hard to hide the power from her but she had it, and by aiding Guenevere’s escape she made her allegiance clear. Your infatuation with her clouds your mind. I did what was necessary.” Her voice rose, taking on a sharpness of tone that cut through the drunken fog of his mind like a knife.
“It’s time you did the same. Look at you! You’re a disgrace, my Lord!”
He opened his mouth to speak but could think of nothing to say. He ran a hand across the stubble on his face, then rubbed ineffectively at his bloodshot eyes.
Morgause walked to the window and with surprising strength pulled the heavy chair from the embrasure in which it was wedged. She looked out into the chill pre-dawn sky and pointed at a particularly bright star.
“Mars rises. We are but months, Aldivon—months, from the alignment and you waste time wallowing in pity over a girl? If we are to achieve success in this cycle we must find the rod and remove those who oppose us.”
He sagged back on the divan head in his hands.
“What more can I do? My men hunt for this ‘supposed’ resting place of Arturius, and the Cùra dubh again search Invalone. We have lost all trace of the wizard, and now the boy. You should have given him to me when I asked.” He grinned suddenly. “But have you not reminded me countless times that we have forever? In fact why rush now? If we wait, wait for the next cycle, we can use what we have learned to our advantage, and Naveena would be alive…”
“Aldivon. Things have changed. Never before have we been this close to achieving our ends. Myrthinus is doing all in his power to prevent detection; he has gone to ground, the boy with him. You know as well as I he prepares the boy to seek the crown.”
“You know this?”
“Think man! They know we need the rod of Dardanos to complete the portal's key. It rests with Arturius—of that I am certain. The book states Arturius sleeps, suspended outside of time. To recover the rod he must first be awakened, and only the crown holds the power to do that.”
Aldivon turned to watch the queen as she paced the room, picking her way through the debris of his rage. “So where is this crown?”
“I don’t know.”
Aldivon tried to push the fog of alcohol to the back of his mind. “You have the book—surely it tells where Arturius is and where the crown pieces are placed?”
“The book makes no mention of his location. As for the crown, it says nothing more than it was broken into six pieces. A fragment given to six of the kings allied with Arturius.” She laughed, but the sound lacked any mirth. “How many of those kings have we already overthrown?” she said. “Who can tell where those pieces now lie? There are twelve possible kings, Aldivon, twelve! It is there Myrthinus has the advantage. We are forced to search all locations, but he knows! Only he knows to whom he gave them.”
Morgause turned sharply to face him. “And every hour you wallow thus buys him time!” Her voice climbed an octave. “Time we do not have!”
He hung his head at the rebuke.
She looked around the room at the scattered medallions, and spying one near her foot stooped to retrieve it. Blue sparks crackled weakly in her hand as she stroked the pewter dragon with a thoughtful finger; the red center stone seemed to pulse with an energy all its own. She cast a disdainful look at Aldivon who blinked red-rimmed eyes, unable for once to hold her gaze.
“Sober up and rejoin your men. We need but one fragment of the crown to thwart them, Aldivon. One! Track down every king and descendant thereof from the old alliance and surely a fragment will be found. See to it.”
“And what of the boy?”
“Worry not about the boy. I have already taken steps against him. He will not escape me twice.”
Excerpted from "To Raise a King (The Broken Crown Book 1)" by Justin Orton. Copyright © 2016 by Justin Orton. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.