Book Showcase: The King's Gambit by Thom L. Matthews
The Lord of the Rings carried you on an epic journey. Game of Thrones made you fall in love with rich and complex characters. Star Wars threw you into the action and pulled you to the edge of your seat with its twists and turns. Now it’s time to the let The King's Gambit follow in their footsteps, but this time in your own backyard. No more fantasy worlds--this time you're going to the future, long after the collapse of modern civilization. You'll follow a young hero on his quest in a dangerous world, and discover a sinister plot revolving around the mysterious Vaults that were left still standing after the apocalypse. Are you ready for your next adventure?
Synopsis: It has been centuries since Earth's societies crumbled, leaving the planet a nearly barren wasteland. Since then, the remnants of humanity have slowly rebuilt isolated civilizations with new cultures and ideas, all seemingly unaware of how the world ended. It is a world ravaged by war, illness, and famine. To Benedict Limmetrad, the outcast son of Freztad's former chief, that world is about to get much bigger. When the mysterious forces of a faraway land capture a beloved member of his village, Ben embarks on a quest to bring her home-only to discover that the world is far more dangerous and mysterious than he had once thought. His journey proves perilous, and he is faced with death and danger at every turn. Throughout his quest, Ben's values and sense of self are pushed to the limits as he uncovers the secrets of the world, its past, and himself.
From Chapter 15: A Stranger from a Strange Land
The Argr quickly turned himself around and swung his halberd toward Ben. With less than a second to react, Ben pushed his feet against the sand as hard as he could and slid backwards, out of the halberd’s way. This only granted him another millisecond to react as the Argr swung his weapon in circles. The next hit was about to come if Ben didn’t do something.
“What a dodge, folks! This may be his first time here, but the Vault Guardian sure knows how to use the environment to his advantage!”
Ben lifted his shield and stuck out his spear. There’s no way the Argr would be able to jump over Ben from this close, and decelerating was no longer an option.
The Argr stopped running at about a foot short of Ben’s spear. Before Ben could make a thrust forward, the Argr released his weapon. The halberd landed right in Ben’s shield. Pain shot from his wrist to his shoulder as he felt the sheer force penetrate his shield. The shield, now cracked, took most of the energy, but the rest went to his now throbbing arm.
“Ouch! Looks like the Vault Guardian has taken quite the hit!”
Ben let go of his shield. He gripped his spear with both hands and thrust it repeatedly toward the Argr.
The Argr took a step away from the spear and handled his chain-sickles. He swung the chains through the air like two windmills spiraling through a harsh breeze.
Ben threw his spear at his opponent’s spinning blades. The chains caught the polearm, and the spinning ceased. Ben had a few seconds before the Argr would be able to recover his weapons. He used the time to slide to his left and stop next to his shield. He stepped on the wooden disk that had saved his life and, with all his strength, pulled out the halberd. There was a splintering CRACK. Ben thought he had broken the shield, but instead, the halberd’s axe had snapped loose from its wooden shaft.
Without the handle to hold it, the halberd was useless to Ben. He cast it aside and picked up the wooden shield. It had a gaping breach towards the upper rim, but still offered plenty of protection. Ben drew his bronze sword and raised his shield once more just as the Argr freed his weapons.
The Argr launched one of the sickles toward Ben, just barely missing. He charged towards Ben and threw another sickle, this time most certainly within range.
“Not even ten minutes in and we already have a fascinating fight on our hands, folks!”
Unsure of what to do, Ben let instinct override reason. He parried the sickle with his sword and darted for his enemy. Ben closed in before the Argr could reel in his chains. He slashed his weapon through the air as the Ænærian sidestepped out of the way each time. Ben jumped forward to close the gap. The closer he was, the harder it would be for his opponent to pick up his weapons. He attempted a shield bash, but narrowly missed.
It was a foolish move.
With his shield away from his center, Ben was now wide open for attack. The Argr noticed and charged toward Ben.
The impact was instantaneous. The Argr’s sickles pierced through Ben’s leather chest guard and dug into his sides.
Ben could feel the hot red liquid pouring down his chest. He had to act fast; the Argr had him caught and could kill him at any second. Ben slashed at his enemy’s side.
The Argr yelped and pulled away from Ben, yanking the sickle out from Ben’s side. The Ænærian backed away quickly and examined his wound.
“Yikes! I sure thought that was going to be the end of it! If that’s how they fight before the ten-minute mark, I’m sure excited to see how this goes once they aim to kill.”
The crowd around muttered in agreement, the first sounds Ben noticed since he had started fighting.
What am I doing here? This is wrong—fighting for people’s entertainment.
It’s not for their entertainment, it’s for Arynn to get better, he argued with himself.
If I die here, I can’t save Rose.
I’m helping Arynn, so I can find Rose. She’s all that matters.
Ben shook the thoughts as he saw his enemy retrieve his chains. Ben raised his shield and readied himself.
The Argr spun his chains once more, but this time ran at Ben with greater speed.
The deadly windmills broke through the air as they closed in on Ben. He studied his surroundings and developed a plan.
Ben ran underneath the arena’s stands and hid behind a black wooden pillar. The audience jeered as Ben hid from their sight.
“Now, now, folks. I’m sure the Vault Guardian will come out soon. It’s been an impressive match so far, eh?” the ringleader said through the air in an almost nervous voice. “And, uh, please note that all bets are now closed. Good luck!”
The Argr grunted and ran to the stands just as Ben had hoped. The Ænærian continued to spin his blades as he closed the gap between the two gladiators. As he walked underneath the stands, one of the sickles became caught in the rafters above.
The Argr let out a frustrated grunt and pulled on his weapon. It was stuck.
Ben smiled shrewdly: his plan worked. He spun from behind the beam and ran toward his unsuspecting opponent.
“Sorry about this,” Ben whispered under his breath as he slashed his sword beneath the tangled chain’s handle.
The Argr screamed, his shriek much higher than Ben would have expected, as his right hand was severed from his wrist, dangling from the trapped chain-sickle.