Only the Bold (The Way of Steel—Book 4)
Morgan Rice is the #1 bestselling and USA Today bestselling author of the epic fantasy series THE SORCERER’S RING, comprising seventeen books; of the #1 bestselling series THE VAMPIRE JOURNALS, comprising twelve books; of the #1 bestselling series THE SURVIVAL TRILOGY, a post-apocalyptic thriller comprising three books; of the epic fantasy series KINGS AND SORCERERS, comprising six books; of the epic fantasy series OF CROWNS AND GLORY, comprising eight books; of the epic fantasy series A THRONE FOR SISTERS, comprising eight books; of the new science fiction series THE INVASION CHRONICLES, comprising four books; of the new fantasy series OLIVER BLUE AND THE SCHOOL FOR SEERS, comprising four books; and of the fantasy series THE WAY OF STEEL, comprising four books. Morgan’s books are available in audio and print editions, and translations are available in over 25 languages.
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Select Acclaim for Morgan Rice
“If you thought that there was no reason left for living after the end of THE SORCERER’S RING series, you were wrong. In RISE OF THE DRAGONS Morgan Rice has come up with what promises to be another brilliant series, immersing us in a fantasy of trolls and dragons, of valor, honor, courage, magic and faith in your destiny. Morgan has managed again to produce a strong set of characters that make us cheer for them on every page.…Recommended for the permanent library of all readers that love a well-written fantasy.”
--Books and Movie ReviewsRoberto Mattos
“An action packed fantasy sure to please fans of Morgan Rice’s previous novels, along with fans of works such as THE INHERITANCE CYCLE by Christopher Paolini…. Fans of Young Adult Fiction will devour this latest work by Rice and beg for more.”
--The Wanderer, A Literary Journal (regarding Rise of the Dragons)
“A spirited fantasy that weaves elements of mystery and intrigue into its story line. A Quest of Heroes is all about the making of courage and about realizing a life purpose that leads to growth, maturity, and excellence….For those seeking meaty fantasy adventures, the protagonists, devices, and action provide a vigorous set of encounters that focus well on Thor's evolution from a dreamy child to a young adult facing impossible odds for survival….Only the beginning of what promises to be an epic young adult series.”
--Midwest Book Review (D. Donovan, eBook Reviewer)
“THE SORCERER’S RING has all the ingredients for an instant success: plots, counterplots, mystery, valiant knights, and blossoming relationships replete with broken hearts, deception and betrayal. It will keep you entertained for hours, and will satisfy all ages. Recommended for the permanent library of all fantasy readers.”
--Books and Movie Reviews, Roberto Mattos
“In this action-packed first book in the epic fantasy Sorcerer's Ring series (which is currently 14 books strong), Rice introduces readers to 14-year-old Thorgrin "Thor" McLeod, whose dream is to join the Silver Legion, the elite knights who serve the king…. Rice's writing is solid and the premise intriguing.”
Books by Morgan Rice
OLIVER BLUE AND THE SCHOOL FOR SEERS
THE MAGIC FACTORY (Book #1)
THE ORB OF KANDRA (Book #2)
THE OBSIDIANS (Book #3)
THE SCEPTOR OF FIRE (Book #4)
THE INVASION CHRONICLES
TRANSMISSION (Book #1)
ARRIVAL (Book #2)
ASCENT (Book #3)
RETURN (Book #4)
THE WAY OF STEEL
ONLY THE WORTHY (Book #1)
ONLY THE VALIANT (Book #2)
ONLY THE DESTINED (Book #3)
ONLY THE BOLD (Book #4)
A THRONE FOR SISTERS
A THRONE FOR SISTERS (Book #1)
A COURT FOR THIEVES (Book #2)
A SONG FOR ORPHANS (Book #3)
A DIRGE FOR PRINCES (Book #4)
A JEWEL FOR ROYALS (BOOK #5)
A KISS FOR QUEENS (BOOK #6)
A CROWN FOR ASSASSINS (Book #7)
A CLASP FOR HEIRS (Book #8)
OF CROWNS AND GLORY
SLAVE, WARRIOR, QUEEN (Book #1)
ROGUE, PRISONER, PRINCESS (Book #2)
KNIGHT, HEIR, PRINCE (Book #3)
REBEL, PAWN, KING (Book #4)
SOLDIER, BROTHER, SORCERER (Book #5)
HERO, TRAITOR, DAUGHTER (Book #6)
RULER, RIVAL, EXILE (Book #7)
VICTOR, VANQUISHED, SON (Book #8)
KINGS AND SORCERERS
RISE OF THE DRAGONS (Book #1)
RISE OF THE VALIANT (Book #2)
THE WEIGHT OF HONOR (Book #3)
A FORGE OF VALOR (Book #4)
A REALM OF SHADOWS (Book #5)
NIGHT OF THE BOLD (Book #6)
THE SORCERER’S RING
A QUEST OF HEROES (Book #1)
A MARCH OF KINGS (Book #2)
A FATE OF DRAGONS (Book #3)
A CRY OF HONOR (Book #4)
A VOW OF GLORY (Book #5)
A CHARGE OF VALOR (Book #6)
A RITE OF SWORDS (Book #7)
A GRANT OF ARMS (Book #8)
A SKY OF SPELLS (Book #9)
A SEA OF SHIELDS (Book #10)
A REIGN OF STEEL (Book #11)
A LAND OF FIRE (Book #12)
A RULE OF QUEENS (Book #13)
AN OATH OF BROTHERS (Book #14)
A DREAM OF MORTALS (Book #15)
A JOUST OF KNIGHTS (Book #16)
THE GIFT OF BATTLE (Book #17)
THE SURVIVAL TRILOGY
ARENA ONE: SLAVERSUNNERS (Book #1)
ARENA TWO (Book #2)
ARENA THREE (Book #3)
BEFORE DAWN (Book #1)
THE VAMPIRE JOURNALS
TURNED (Book #1)
LOVED (Book #2)
BETRAYED (Book #3)
DESTINED (Book #4)
DESIRED (Book #5)
BETROTHED (Book #6)
VOWED (Book #7)
FOUND (Book #8)
RESURRECTED (Book #9)
CRAVED (Book #10)
FATED (Book #11)
OBSESSED (Book #12)
Did you know that I've written multiple series? If you haven't read all my series, click the image below to download a series starter!
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Copyright © 2019 by Morgan Rice. All rights reserved. Except as permitted under the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, no part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed or transmitted in any form or by any means, or stored in a database or retrieval system, without the prior permission of the author. This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return it and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author. This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, organizations, places, events, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictionally. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental. Jacket image Copyright Amir Bajrich used under license from Shutterstock.com.
Royce stared into the Mirror of Wisdom, and for the first few moments, all he could see was the reflection of the world around him. He saw the collapsing shape of the first of the Seven Isles, the flow of the waves around the boat, the presence of Mark, Neave, Matilde, Ember the hawk, and Gwylim the wolf-like bhargir.
In those moments, it seemed impossible to understand why Dust had screamed on looking into it, why his father had warned Royce against looking, or why it had driven Barihash mad, down in his grotto beneath the volcano. It seemed like no more than an ordinary mirror.
“Royce, is this a good idea?” Mark demanded from further back in the boat. His friend sounded worried, and Royce could understand the reasons for it. They’d all been through so much, and the dangers of the Seven Isles were more than real. Mark had at least one fresh scar from the experience, while ash from the island sat in his dark hair.
Neave and Matilde sat at the heart of the boat, controlling the sail between them. Royce could see them in the mirror, the Picti girl dark-haired and tattooed in woad, Matilde’s red hair matted with what might have been blood from one of the many fights they’d had. In the mirror, Royce thought he caught a flicker of something: the two of them in a cottage somewhere…
Royce kept looking, determined to see all that the mirror would show him. Gwylim barked a warning, but Royce ignored the bhargir. He needed to know… he needed to see what had happened to his father.
The moment the mirror started to connect with him, it felt like the whole world coming into focus, the reflection from the glass spreading out so that it seemed to encompass everything Royce could see. Looking at the world in the mirror, he realized that he could make out every blade of grass on distant beaches, understand every movement of the currents that threatened to pull the boat this way and that. Almost without thinking about it, Royce moved to the tiller, making a small course correction that sent them past a spot where rocks waited just beneath the waves.
“Why did you do that?” Mark asked.
Royce opened his mouth to explain about the rocks, but even as he did, he could feel his grip on the mirror slipping away, the patterns there too complex to both hold and explain, the sight of which could be twisted too much by any attempt to explain it. Royce clamped his mouth shut, determined to keep looking.
Royce could see now how the Mirror of Wisdom might send men mad. Possibilities tumbled through his mind like the rocks that fell from the collapsing volcano they were putting further and further behind them with every moment. Even those rocks held possibilities, with Royce seeing the ways that every breath of wind or jolt of the earth might send them tumbling in a fractionally different direction.
“And they’re just rocks!” Royce exclaimed to himself, as he continued to stare into the mirror. There was a kind of clarity and focus there that he had never experienced before, but which threatened to overwhelm him if he wasn’t careful. There was so much of everything to see in the mirror that it was almost impossible to focus on anything, and Royce had to drag his attention back to what he wanted again and again.
The flight of birds distracted him for a moment, then the play of sunlight off of the waves. Each held so many secrets, and the sheer knowing of it all made Royce’s brain feel as though it was about to burst. He saw every possibility, and trying to narrow those down to just the ones that mattered was like trying to pick a single tree out of a forest, with all its branching paths.
“Show me the fight to come,” Royce demanded of the mirror. “Show me what I have to do. Show me my father.”
He saw then, and for a moment, the horror of it threatened to overwhelm him, threatened to make him cry out in despair the way Dust had done. He saw then all the reasons why Dust had come after him. He saw the death that would follow in the battles, the ways in which the war might drag on and on. Royce saw the fight against King Carris dragging the whole kingdom into bloody civil war, and the endless, endless deaths that might follow.
He saw the potential for victory, and attempts to make the kingdom a better place, but Royce also saw all the ways that it could go wrong. He saw venal courtiers, saw a son with Genevieve who would grow and…
“No,” Royce said, shaking his head, forcing himself to look more clearly. He had to remember that this was how the mirror worked: it didn’t show one set line, merely set out the consequences of actions. He could see dark paths, paths filled with death, but he could also see ways for the world to be so much more. He was less like a seer peering into entrails for an answer, and more like a navigator, trying to pick out a path based on a hundred sets of maps.
“We should pull him away from that thing,” Matilde said, her voice sounding distant even though it came to Royce as clearly as every other whisper of sound right then.
“No,” Royce said, holding up a hand. In the mirror, he could see that would be enough to stop her. Moments so close were easy to see, with so few decisions making the pathways branch. “No, I need to understand.”
“Leave him,” Neave said. “He made the stone sing and crossed the bridge to the tower. If anyone can make the old magic bend to his will, it’s Royce.”
Royce almost laughed at that, but he didn’t, because he could see that his friends would believe that he was mad if he did. This wasn’t about bending the mirror to his will, because that was the mistake people made with it. It wasn’t a thing of will, but a thing of clarity, of possibility. Barihash had made it seem malice filled, Dust had recoiled in terror, but Royce saw just as many beautiful possibilities.
“Maybe that’s it,” Royce mused in something that was almost a whisper. “It’s a mirror, so maybe it gives you back what you bring to it?”
“Royce,” Mark said. Royce didn’t look up at his friend, because right then there was too much to see. “Royce, we’re going to steer the ship for home. Give me a sign that you can hear me.”
Of course Royce could hear him; why wouldn’t he be able to? Royce made himself nod, but then held still, because even that small movement seemed to send ripples through some of the possibilities there, and Royce needed all of them if he was going to chart a way for them to follow.
“What happens if things continue as they are?” Royce asked the mirror, trying to shape the vague thoughts he had into a question; trying to focus.
He saw the answer to that reflected in the glass. He saw people dying by the hundreds, by the thousands. He saw blood and more blood, with a war that never seemed to end.
He looked for a way to win that war, staring into the glass over and over, even though each attempt seemed to end worse than the last. He saw himself, and his friends, and the people who had come to support him die in a hundred different ways, and more. So many of the possibilities seemed to lead to blood.
The things he felt for Genevieve seemed to be a part of the problem. The love he felt, and the things he was prepared to do for her, only seemed to drag Royce away from doing the right thing. The paths that led to her seemed also to lead to some of the greatest pain. Despite that, Royce found that he couldn’t look away from them.
“I need to find a path where people live,” he insisted. He set his mind to it, even as he could feel his consciousness starting to fray around the edges.
There were so few good paths left. They seemed like a slender collection of silvery strands running through a world that was otherwise cloaked in darkness. The problem was simple: people like Altfor and his family, like the king, Carris, would do anything if it meant them holding onto power. What hope was there to get them to relinquish that hold without a fight that would drag everyone else down with them?
The thread for that was so narrow that Royce could barely believe it existed at all. He could see the elements that made it up, though, the decisions that went together one after another, so many that it would almost be a miracle if they all came together. He could see where it started, though.
He needed to find his father.
“Where, though?” Royce muttered. He could imagine his friends staring at him, thinking how mad he must look. He briefly had a glimpse of them there, looking back across the boat, their looks suspicious. What would they be thinking? What might they be planning?
Royce caught himself in time. Was that how Barihash had started? Was the sheer ease of seeing so much enough to push someone into madness? Forcing himself to focus, Royce pushed his attention onto his father, trying to see where he had gone when he left the island. It took everything he had to do it, the mirror’s view seeming to curl away from that one thing into possibility after possibility. Royce waded through them like a man through a snowstorm, trying to pay attention.
Clarity flickered through him, and he realized that he already knew where his father had gone. There had been papers among his father’s things, torn into scraps and seen by Royce for a matter of moments. There had been words on them, and now Royce knew what they meant, where they meant.
Royce could see all of it then, everything that he needed to do. He looked up from the mirror. To his astonishment it was dark when he did so, the stars glinting down, moonlight spilling over the water, and the Seven Isles no more than a dot on the horizon.
“Are you all right?” Mark asked, looking worried.
Almost immediately, all the wondrous details that Royce had seen in the mirror started to fade. The complex web of choices and decisions was too much to hold at once.
“I know where we have to go,” Royce said. He set his hand to the tiller, moving it and setting the boat turning onto a new course. He knew as surely as he could see the moon that this was the correct direction, and that his father lay ahead.
“What are you doing?” Matilde demanded.
Royce didn’t have the words to explain it, or rather, he could, but even attempting to form the words made all that he knew feel soap bubble thin, ready to burst into nothingness and chaos. He wanted to tell his friends, but telling them would change things in and of itself.
“We need to go this way,” he said. “My father… I know where he is.”
“Are you sure?” Mark asked. “We thought he would be in the Seven Isles.”
“I…” Royce couldn’t explain. He couldn’t. “Do you trust me, Mark?”
“You know that I do,” Mark said. Around him, the others nodded, one by one.
“Then we need to go this way,” Royce said. “Please.”
For a moment, he thought they might argue, that they might try to turn the boat back toward the kingdom, or tell him that he’d been addled by the mirror. But one by one, they sat back in place, waiting while the boat continued on its course.
They were going to find Royce’s father, and this time, Royce knew where he would be.