I want to thank Escapist Book Co. and Michael Michel for allowing me to take part in the Book Tour for The Price of Power, and for letting me share an excerpt from the novel!
While I haven’t been able to finish TPoP quite yet, it is an EXCEPTIONAL indie debut that I would put up there with the likes of Ryan Cahill’s Of Blood and Fire and Daniel T. Jackson’s Illborn.
Check out more info on the book and author below, while also giving your eyes some candy with this sick excerpt 🙂
The Price of Power by Michael Michel
Series: The Price of Power
Genre: Epic/Dark Fantasy, Grimdark
Intended Age Group: Adult
Pages: 384 (print), 730 (eBook)
Published: February 6, 2023
Publisher: Morningstar Books (Self Published)
Prince Barodane could not hold back the darkness. Not even in himself. He laid an innocent city in its grave and then died a hero.
In his absence, war whispers across the land.
Power-hungry Highborn dispatch spies and assassins to the shadows as they maneuver for the throne, while an even greater threat rises in the South. Monsters and cultists flock to the banners of a mad prophet determined to control reality…and then shatter it.
Destiny stalks three to the brink of oblivion.
A dead prince that isn’t actually dead. Barodane buried his shameful past in a stupor of drugs, drink, and crime, and now, he’d rather watch the world fall apart than wear a crown again.
An orphan with hero’s blood who is forced to make a harrowing choice: betray her country or sacrifice her first love.
And a powerful seer who has no choice at all–her grandson must die.
If any of them fails to pay the price…
The cost will be the world’s complete annihilation.
Author Bio & Information
Michael Michel lives in Bend, Oregon with the love of his life and their two children. When he isn’t obsessively writing, editing, or doing publishing work, he can be found exercising, coaching leaders in the corporate world, and dancing his butt off at amazing festivals like Burning Man. His favorite shows are Dark, The Wire, Arcane, and Norsemen. He loves nature and deep conversations. Few things bring him more joy than a couple of hours playing table tennis.
At night, the Dregs came alive. Dance, drink, and thorn made its way throughout the taproom in a current of hedonistic striving. A pair of drovers and their porters slammed tankards together, slopping godsbrew across the floor. Women from the Gem Loft slid through the door, leering at the business the night would bring them. Unsavory and disreputable sorts of folk trickled in and out as the night dragged into the late hours. Stark naked and toothless, a man from the slums wandered into the Dregs, hoping to cajole a drunk into giving him some food or coin, but Meckin shooed him away. A gnarled man and what seemed to be his grandson smoked pipes in one corner, here and there clapping for the harpist.
At the back of the taproom, Barodane drank and brooded alone. He barely felt the warmth from the hearth on his grimace.
Harp song slithered through the air alongside a thick pall of smoke hanging over the gathered patrons. The harpist himself had awoken when he wet himself. He rebounded well enough after a couple of tankards of godsbrew and the attention of a young couple who’d never heard a harp before. The pissant musician beamed, bragged, and slurred about his skill, and then he indulged them.
Fucking harps. If I were Crown Prince, they’d be outlawed.
Somehow the young couple seemed to like it and danced with a broad woman Meckin had hired to entertain for the night. Her heavy steps rattled the floorboards, adding a certain upbeat energy to the space.
Barodane watched Garlenna descend the stairs, each step measured and powerful as if she could, with any sudden added force, snap the boards underfoot in two. Her shoulders stayed level and open, regardless of whatever motion her body made. Proud, powerful, and polite, Garlenna was a higher breed of human. And an exceedingly dangerous one. The type of person so foreign to the people of Digtown that Barodane knew they all saw it.
After the battle of King’s Crossing, the first thing Barodane had done was strip himself of anything making him appear of higher standing than a commoner. So he rounded his shoulders more, made eye contact less, spoke in gruff, plain language—or not at all—and buried his past at Rainy Meadows.
Why should you live when we are all dead? the dead host said. You should have buried your corpse with ours. But we deserve no such dishonor. You deserve to die alone…Prince.
Meckin greeted Garlenna warmly at the bar with a mug of mead. Then a second tankard. As she approached Barodane’s table, he turned away from her to watch the harpist poorly regale the crowded inn with a song about Barodane’s grandparents called, “The Eyes of Love.”
To consort with Garlenna was to draw unwanted suspicion. After meeting with his buyer,he would dedicate his time to getting rid of her. A difficult prospect to imagine.
Her back to the hearth, Garlenna’s shadow stretched across his table. Memory flashed. He’d seen this before. Her, standing over him, flame and smoke and shame hovering like a shovel over a grave. Behind her, Meckin and some patrons were clearing a space for dancing at the center of the room. The fireplace crackled and spit an ember next to Garlenna’s foot. She ground it out then put a tankard next to Barodane’s arm.
Three long strides and she took a seat at a nearby table.
Barodane felt her watching him with her one good eye. How had she found him? What did she want? For fourteen years he’d eluded his past. He was where he belonged now. Where Kord belonged.
And nothing will change that.
It was close to midnight, which meant his buyer was late. He’d never wanted a deal over with more. He wanted to sleep, or ascend, or be alone to think. With Garlenna staying at the Dregs, he’d need to sleep at the Gem Loft. He didn’t want her following him to either of his stables.
No—she would already know where he was staying. Most likely she’d been watching him for a while. Inwardly, he cursed.
With a resounding bang, the inn’s door ricocheted off the interior wall. Three men stepped into the Dregs. The way each of them immediately searched the room marked them as his buyers. A young man with red hair and a stringy beard looked somewhat familiar to Barodane, but he couldn’t place him. In the lead was a broad-shouldered man with a demanding air. His clothing was fine in the way of highborns. The third, a hollow-eyed companion, was dressed plainly and loomed at the group’s rear. He was tall and thin with a neck that flanged out wider than his weak chin. All but the redhead wore neatly crafted swords at their hips.
The redhead spotted Barodane and whispered into the broad-shouldered man’s ear. They approached and took seats without asking. Once, Barodane might have reprimanded them for their presumptuousness.
He did nothing but slurp from his tankard.
Barodane didn’t have to see Garlenna to know she discreetly watched his interaction with the buyer and his muscle. She was a trained agent of the Sempyrean. A spy of the highest caliber.
“You’re Kord.” The broad man reached across the table and laid a slap on Barodane’s honor plate. “No one said you were a shadowguard.”
The bull-chested buyer also bore an honor plate but kept it covered with a finely woven cloak. Intuition told him it was the steel of a knight he hid rather than the bronze plate of a crownguard. Dealing with such a highly trained man was both a rare and risky affair.
“Great,” the man said. He afforded a quick glance of affirmation at the redhead, the familiar face. “Jennim tells me you’re the man for godsthorn around here.”
It wasn’t until that moment, when the redhead smiled a wide, gap-toothed grin, that Barodane realized who he was. This was Tyne’s son. Tyne, who he’d foolishly let himself fall in love with.
He’d been a little boy when Barodane first wandered into Digtown, half-dead and blood-caked. The young man’s face became a child’s face in his memory, pale and expectant. His visits to the Gem Loft had been oft. “Isn’t my boy the sweetest?” Tyne would say.
Time, however, had been anything but sweet for the boy. He looked maltreated, strung out, a few bad breaks away from living in the slums. Sorrow passed through Barodane like a sip of bitter drink.
“Hey,” the broad man said, snapping his fingers in Barodane’s face. People seemed to think that acceptable of late. Really, it just pissed him off. “I’m making you an offer.”
“I’m buying you out.” The broad man smiled.
The lanky third man surveyed the room, dead eyes alighting everywhere but on Barodane. When his gaze settled on Garlenna, she too, looked elsewhere. The tall henchman watched her with unconcealed suspicion.
“Buying me out.” Barodane grew serious. “Who are you?”
The man drew his cloak off one shoulder to reveal a burnished-steel honor plate. The sigil depicted two mason hammers crisscrossing, framed by a pair of laurels. “Hyram Olabran. My father is Roddic Olabran, the Magnate of Lah-Tsarra and a member of the Namorite Collective. I don’t expect matters of state to appeal to every drug lord, but surely you’ve heard of the Hammer of Breckenbright?”
I’ve met the prick. When he was young, he vaguely recalled meeting a concrete man with a rigid quiet about him while attending his father at court in Alistar. During the Great Betrayal, Roddic Olabran and his masons had famously held Breckenbright against Scothean siege for the entirety of the war. The armies of Anjuhkar had finally arrived and crushed Raeklord Sahuhd’s forces against Breckenbright’s walls. The battle of the Forgotten Fields, they called it.
By that time, Barodane had already slain Acramis at King’s Crossing and disappeared.
“I’m buying your business and willing to pay quite a lot for it. More than it’s worth, if that helps. I know we told your man Danuuk we were just here to make a small purchase, but the truth is one of my men bought your stuff two months ago and claimed it to be some of the best this side of Unturrus.” Hyram waved dismissively. “I’ll own the operation and you get to go back to whatever life you desired before you became a drug dealer.”
Barodane shook his head. “Not interested.” He took a loud pull from his tankard. Jennim blanched.
Hyram remained smiling, though only in the way of smiles held long after mirth had come and gone. He chuckled. “I’m not familiar with the kind of humor you use in this shit-caked town. Digtown, is it? If it’s anything like the weather, I’m sure it can be quite…dark.” He paused. “You’re joking. Of course you are. Thorn dealer, shadowguard, and humorist. A man of many talents.”
Barodane’s hands curled tighter around his tankard. “I’m far more boring than you imply. My answer is no.”
With an expression of false concern, Hyram Olabran leaned forward. “So let me get this straight. I’m offering you a small fortune to live out your days drinking wherever and whenever you desire withoutneeding to deal godsthorn…and you’re saying no. Are you mad?”
The Mad Prince. Yes. Many call me that. “Quite.”
At this, the hollow-eyed man turned his attention from Garlenna to Barodane and stared with deadly focus.
Rage filled Barodane. “Your man here thinks it wise to watch me with a rapist’s gaze?”
Hyram frowned. His eyes wandered to the tankard in Barodane’s hand, then to the full tankard at his elbow. “Expecting company?”
Barodane glanced at the harpist then took a quick swig of godsbrew. He sucked his teeth before falling into a contented silence.
With a grunt, Hyram slapped Jennim on the shoulder. “Let’s restart, shall we? I’ll introduce my friends properly. This is Jennim here.” He hiked a thumb at the tall man. “Eustus there. Eustus doesn’t talk much. He may be a dullard, so I’m sorry if his gaze has offended you.”
The holdlord was in no way sorry. Threats buttered with pleasantry. Barodane well remembered the ways of highborn. He scoffed. “You travel long distances and do dark deals with a dullard?”
“Oh, I don’t think you should worry about that. Eustus may be slow of mind, but he is fast in the ways I need. Very fast, some uncompromising ghosts will tell you.” Hyram’s chin lifted. “Now, how much of your product are you willing to sell since you’re refusing to let me buy you out entirely?”
Hyram laughed. Jennim went a shade paler. Twenty thorns would last a heavy addict less than a month.
“You don’t understand, do you, Kord?” Hyram wagged a finger at Barodane. “You could be a very rich man. You have what, a handful of runners harvesting on Unturrus’s slopes? Maybe two wains? If you share your spots with me as well as your processing techniques, I can supply the coin for a fleet of wains and dozens of men to man them. We could have the most lucrative godsthorn operation from Unturrus to Breckenbright. We could turn this shit heap into a proper city.”
Lies. Don’t let him take you from us. Digtown stays, the voices said. You stay…
He knew Hyram’s promises rang false. He wanted Barodane to give away his secrets, to stumble into telling him how many men he employed. Important for some darker aims.
Barodane stared into his tankard. “Twenty thorns.”
“The innkeeper has more than that on hand for fermenting drink. I can do nothing with that amount.”
Barodane shrugged. “You could have a good time with it. Or sell it. Or stick it up each other’s asses. I really don’t care what you do with it. I imagine Eustus there may enjoy the latter option.”
Hyram’s brow knit with fury. “You have a harsh tongue, Kord.”
“And you have an exhausting one. I sell twenty thorns at a time. That’s all.”
“It isn’t.” Hyram slapped a gloved hand on the table. “Jennim, you said this man was like a father to you. You said he was different. Wise. Why do I feel as though I’ve been lied to?”
“Please, Kord,” Jennim said. “It’s a good deal. Hyram—”
Jennim’s head bounced off the wall as the highborn delivered a snapping backhand to the young man’s mouth “Silence, ass. I’ve heard enough of your empty words.” Hyram looked at the ceiling, took a breath. “Apologies, Kord. I’ll be clearer. I’m willing to offer—”
“No. I’ll be clearer. You imagine this is some kind of negotiation, a dance I’m doing to drive the price of purchase higher. I’ll tell you one last time—it is not. I won’t sell my operation, not any part of it. You’ve wasted your time.” Barodane hunkered deeper around his cup of brew. He scrunched his face into a mask of fake pleasantry. “Unless you want to buy twenty thorns.”
Hyram drummed the wood with thick fingers as he looked around the room. “You have…” He leaned back in the chair, stretching. “Offended me.” He shot Jennim a withering glare then let it meander back to Barodane. “I am very offended. Now, I want your supply. I want your operation…the whole thing.” The young lord of Breckenbright chuckled. “Twenty thorns…up each other’s asses? Unbelievable. Oh well, Kord. I hope you’ve enjoyed your life.”
“Yeah,” Barodane said.
“Eustus,” Hyram said. “Teach him.”
The reed-thin dullard’s hand wrapped around the hilt of a dagger at his belt. Garlenna’s chair scraped across the floor as she stood and faced their table. One hand folded back her cloak to reveal a flanged mace culminating in four points, one for each of the Sempyrean’s gods of light. She stood still as a glacier. Her good eye roamed the crowd for other threats while confidently ignoring the two before her.
Silence hung over them like an executioner’s ax.
Hyram frowned. When his eyes found Barodane’s, there was a mix of admiration and annoyance there. “Kord, you keep interesting company. I wonder how many are willing to face death at your side?”
He rose. “Eustus, we’re leaving. For now.”
From the corner of his eye, Barodane watched them go. Jennim slunk behind, searching for a way out of whatever awaited him once the trio were out of view of others.
Barodane settled back as Garlenna returned to her seat.
There was little doubt Hyram intended to return. Perhaps at the night’s end they would be waiting for him. Taking a dagger in the ribs and being left to bleed out in a muddy alley without fanfare seemed a fitting end.
But have you suffered enough to deserve even that? the voices questioned. There is more pain yet to feel.
He shook his head and took account of his crew.
Danuuk, the half-Kurg nephew of Madame Gratha would do most deeds if paid enough, but anything beyond a knife in the dark with the advantage of surprise and the man was untrustworthy. The Redhand brothers were thrill-seekers to the bone. Whether it was attempting to ride a horse standing on the saddle, bed a highborn lady, or fight a group of men with three times their numbers, the brothers refused to be outdone by their counterpart. But they were also Barodane’s runners and currently harvested Unturrus for godsthorn. They may not be back in time for whatever Hyram was planning. A few others came to mind, children who ran errands and messages or smaller dealers he took a cut from. Nothing a lord of Breckenbright couldn’t squash.
Then there was Garlenna.
He ground his teeth. He hadn’t asked her to step in, but if she hadn’t would Eustus’s knife be stuck in his heart? Would he be staring up at a frantic Meckin as his lifeblood drained through the floorboards? Despite Hyram Olabran’s claim of Eustus being a dullard, Barodane had searched the eyes of enough soldiers to know neither Hyram nor his man shied from violence.
The broad-hipped dancer had taken a break and was now sweating onto the bar as she spoke with Meckin. The innkeeper caught Barodane’s eye, winked, and then slapped the dancing woman on the shoulder. Flipping back a snarl of graying blond hair, she gyrated her hips slowly and then moved to the center of the dance floor on languid feet. A clap began. Stomping followed. The harpist plucked a tune to go with the beat, although he was off. The dancer moved with it expertly, making up in skill what the harpist lacked in talent.
The room cheered.
These people’s lives were hard. They deadened their emotions like he did with thorn and drink, or fighting and fucking. They sought to own their environment only to be owned by it. But on some occasions, they pushed back and took control by letting go. They exposed themselves. Chose happiness in the face of destitution. An endeavor of complete vulnerability.
Barodane fell inward. For a moment, he wished he could be like them. He wished his anger and sadness and pain could be harnessed in his feet and hands and throat and passed through him by dance or song.
He didn’t clap nor stomp in mirth. He drew up his hood and bent over his drink. He stared at the dark reflective surface within.
As if his mood dictated reality, rain began hammering at the roof. Unlike most structures in Digtown, the Dregs had few leaks. “Driest place in town to quench one’s thirst,” Meckin often said when a new face wandered in.
Barodane pulled his cloak tight. His honor plate lay cold as a corpse on his shoulder. A reminder, though not the kind honor plates were created for. Fourteen years had passed since his own hung over his bed, the act of a good little Namorite.
When his grandfather, Danath Ironlight, had made the armor pieces sacred, it had acted as a badge of service to the Sons of the Ardent Heart for fighting against Scothean tyranny and helping unite Namarr.
A legendary shadow I’ll never be free of. A reminder of who I never was nor could ever be.
I’m Kord now.