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Morgan Rice

A Realm of Shadows

“Life is but a walking shadow, a poor player,That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,And then is heard no more.”William Shakespeare, Macbeth

Copyright © 2015 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 Algol, used under license from

Morgan Rice

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 eleven books (and counting); of the #1 bestselling series THE SURVIVAL TRILOGY, a post-apocalyptic thriller comprising two books (and counting); and of the new epic fantasy series KINGS AND SORCERERS, comprising six books. Morgan’s books are available in audio and print editions, and translations are available in over 25 languages.

TURNED (Book #1 in the Vampire Journals), ARENA ONE (Book #1 of the Survival Trilogy) and A QUEST OF HEROES (Book #1 in the Sorcerer’s Ring) and RISE OF THE DRAGONS (Kings and Sorcerers – Book #1) are each available as a free download!

Morgan loves to hear from you, so please feel free to visit to join the email list, receive a free book, receive free giveaways, download the free app, get the latest exclusive news, connect on Facebook and Twitter, and stay in touch!

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

“RISE OF THE DRAGONS succeeds – right from the start… A superior fantasy…It begins, as it should, with one protagonist's struggles and moves neatly into a wider circle of knights, dragons, magic and monsters, and destiny.…All the trappings of high fantasy are here, from soldiers and battles to confrontations with self…A recommended winner for any who enjoy epic fantasy writing fueled by powerful, believable young adult protagonists.”

Midwest Book ReviewD. Donovan, eBook Reviewer

“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.”

Publishers Weekly

Books by Morgan Rice












A CRY OF HONOR (Book #4)

A VOW OF GLORY (Book #5)







A LAND OF FIRE (Book #12)








ARENA TWO (Book #2)


TURNED (Book #1)

LOVED (Book #2)

BETRAYED (Book #3)

DESTINED (Book #4)

DESIRED (Book #5)


VOWED (Book #7)

FOUND (Book #8)


CRAVED (Book #10)

FATED (Book #11)

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* * *

Chapter One

The captain of the Royal Guard stood atop his watchtower and looked down at the hundreds of Keepers below him, all the young soldiers patrolling the Flames under his watchful eye, and he sighed with resentment. A man worthy of leading battalions, the captain felt it was a daily insult for him to be stationed here, at the farthest ends of Escalon, watching over an unruly group of criminals they liked to call soldiers. These were not soldiers – they were slaves, criminals, boys, old men, the unwanted of society, all enlisted to watch a wall of flames that had not changed in a thousand years. It was really just a glorified jail, and he deserved better. He deserved to be anywhere but here, stationed guarding the royal gates of Andros.

The captain glanced down, barely interested, as another scuffle ensued, the third this day. This one appeared to be between two overgrown boys, fighting over a scrap of meat. A crowd of shouting boys quickly gathered around them, cheering them on. This was all they had to look forward to out here. They were all too bored, standing and watching the Flames day after day, all desperate for bloodlust – and he let them have their fun. If they killed each other, so much the better – that would be two fewer boys for him to watch over.

There came a shout as one of the boys bested the other, plunging a dagger into his heart. The boy went limp as the others cheered his death, then quickly raided his corpse for anything they could find. It was, at least, a mercifully fast death, far better than the slow ones the others would face out here. The victor stepped forward, shoved the others aside, and reached down and grabbed the morsel of bread from the dead man’s pocket, stuffing it back into his own.

It was just another day here at the Flames, and the captain burned with indignity. He did not deserve this. He had made one mistake, once disobeying a direct order, and as punishment he had been sent here. It was unfair. What he wouldn’t give to be able to go back and change that one moment in his past. Life, he thought, could be too exacting, too absolute, too cruel.

The captain, resigned to his fate, turned and stared back at the Flames. There was something about their ever-present crackle, even after all these years, that he found alluring, hypnotic. It was like staring into the face of God Himself. As he got lost in the glow, it made him wonder about the nature of life. It all felt so meaningless. His role here – all these boys’ roles here – felt so meaningless. The Flames had stood for thousands of years and would never die, and as long as they burned, the troll nation could never break through. Marda might as well be across the sea. If it were up to him, he would pick the best of these boys and station them elsewhere in Escalon, along the coasts, where they really needed them, and he would put all the criminals amongst them to death.

The captain lost track of time, as he often did, getting lost in the glow of the Flames, and it wasn’t until late in the day that he suddenly squinted, alert. He had seen something, something he could not quite process, and he rubbed his eyes, knowing he must be seeing things. Yet as he watched, slowly he realized he was not seeing things. The world was changing before his eyes.

Slowly, the ever-present crackle, the one he had lived by for every waking moment since he had arrived here, fell silent. The heat that had been pouring off the Flames suddenly vanished, leaving him feeling a chill, a real chill, for the first time since he had been here. And then, as he watched, the column of bright red and orange flames, the one that had burned his eyes, had lit up the day and night incessantly, for the first time, was gone.

It disappeared.

The captain rubbed his eyes again, wondering. Was he dreaming? Before him, as he watched, the Flames were lowering, down to the ground, like a curtain being dropped. And a second later, there was nothing there at all.


The captain’s breath stopped, panic and disbelief slowly welling up inside him. He found himself looking out, for the first time, to what lay on the other side: Marda. He had a clear and unobstructed view. It was a land filled with black – black, barren mountains, black craggy rocks, black earth, dead, black trees. It was a land he was never meant to see. A land that no one in Escalon was ever meant to see.

There came a stunned silence as the boys below, for the first time, stopped fighting amongst themselves. All of them, frozen in shock, turned and gaped. The wall of flame was gone, and standing there, on the other side, facing them greedily, was an army of trolls, filling the land, filling the horizon.

A nation.

The captain’s heart fell. There, just feet away, stood a nation of the most disgusting beasts he had ever seen, overgrown, grotesque, misshapen, all wielding huge halberds, and all patiently awaiting their moment. Millions of them stared back, seemingly equally stunned, as it clearly dawned on them that there was now nothing separating them from Escalon.

The two nations stood there, facing off, looking at each other, the trolls beaming with victory, the humans with panic. After all, there stood merely hundreds of humans here, against a million trolls.

Breaking the silence there arose a shout. It came from the troll side, a shout of triumph, and it was followed by a great thunder, as the trolls charged. They rumbled through like a herd of buffalo, raising their halberds and chopping off the heads of panic-stricken boys who could not even muster the courage to run. It was a wave of death, a wave of destruction.

The captain himself stood there on his tower, too terrified to do anything, to even draw his sword, as the trolls raced for him. A moment later he felt himself falling, as the angry mob knocked down his tower. He felt himself landing in the trolls’ arms, and he shrieked as he felt himself grabbed by their claws, torn to pieces.

And as he lay there dying, knowing what was coming for Escalon, a final thought crossed his mind: the boy who was stabbed, who had died for the morsel of bread, was the luckiest of all.

Chapter Two

Dierdre felt her lungs being crushed as she tumbled end over end, deep underwater, desperate for air. She tried to get her bearings but was unable, thrown around by the massive waves of water, her world turning upside down again and again. She wanted more than anything to take a deep breath, her entire body screaming for oxygen, yet she knew that to do so would certainly mean her death.

She closed her eyes and cried, her tears merging with the water, wondering if this hell would ever end. Her only solace came in thinking of Marco. She had seen him, with her, tumbling in the waters, had felt him holding her hand, and she turned and searched for him. Yet as she looked, she saw nothing, nothing but blackness and waves of foaming, crushing water driving her down. Marco, she assumed, was long dead.

Dierdre wanted to cry, yet the pain knocked any thoughts of self-pity from her mind, made her think only of survival. For just when she thought the wave could not get any stronger, it smashed her down into the ground, again and again, pinning her down with such force that she felt as if the entire weight of the world were atop her. She knew she would not survive.

How ironic, she thought, to die here, in her home city, crushed beneath a tidal wave created by Pandesians’ cannon fire. She would rather have died any other way. She could, she thought, handle almost any form of death – except for drowning. She couldn’t take this awful pain, the flailing, being unable to open her mouth and take that one breath that every ounce of her body so desperately craved.

She felt herself getting weaker, giving in to the pain – and then, just as she felt her eyes about to close, just as she knew she could not stand it one second longer, she suddenly felt herself turning, spinning rapidly upward, the wave shooting her up with the same force that it had used to crush her. She rose upward with the momentum of a catapult, racing for the surface, the sunlight visible, the pressure killing her ears.

To her shock, a moment later she surfaced. She gasped, taking huge gulps of air, more grateful than she had ever been in her life. She gasped, sucking it in, and then a moment later, to her terror, she was sucked back down underwater. This time, though, she had enough oxygen to survive a little longer, and this time the water didn’t push her down as far.

She soon rose back up again, surfacing, taking another gasp of air, before being driven down yet again. It was different each time, the wave weakening, and as she surfaced again, she sensed the wave was reaching the end of the city and petering out.

Dierdre soon found herself past the city limits, past all the great buildings, all of them now underwater. She was driven back underwater, yet slow enough to be able to finally open her eyes underwater and see all the grand buildings beneath that had once stood. She saw scores of corpses floating in the water past her, like fish, bodies whose death expressions she already tried to drive from her mind.

Finally, she did not know how much later, Dierdre surfaced, this time for good. She was strong enough to fight the final, weak wave as it tried to suck her back down, and with one last kick, she stayed afloat. The water from the harbor had traveled too far inland, and there was nowhere left for it to go, and Dierdre soon felt herself washed up onto a grassy field somewhere as the waters receded, rushing back out to sea, leaving her alone.

Dierdre lay there on her stomach, face planted in the soggy grass, moaning from the pain. She was still gasping, her lungs aching, breathing deep and savoring every breath. She managed to turn her head weakly, to look back over her shoulder, and she was horrified to see that what had once been a great city was now nothing but sea. She spotted only the highest part of the bell tower, sticking out a few feet, and marveled that it once stood hundreds of feet in the air.

Beyond exhausted, Dierdre finally let herself go. Her face fell to the ground as she lay there, letting the pain of what had happened overcome her. She couldn’t move if she tried.

Moments later she was fast asleep, barely alive on a remote field in a corner of the world. Yet somehow, she was alive.

* * *

“Dierdre,” came a voice, and a gentle nudge.

Dierdre peeled open her eyes, dazed to see it was sunset. Icy cold, her clothes still wet, she tried to get her bearings, wondering how long she had been lying here, wondering if she were alive or dead. Then the hand came again, nudging her shoulder.

Dierdre looked up and there, to her immense relief, was Marco. He was alive, she was overjoyed to see. He looked beaten up, haggard, too pale, and he looked as if he had aged a hundred years. Yet he was alive. Somehow, he had managed to survive.

Marco knelt beside her, smiling yet looking down at her with sad eyes, eyes not shining with the life they once held.

“Marco,” she answered weakly, startled at how raspy her own voice was.

She noticed a gash on the side of his face and, concerned, reached out to touch it.

“You look as bad as I feel,” she said.

He helped her up and she rose to her feet, her body wracked with pain from all the aches and bruises, scratches and cuts all up and down her arms and legs. Yet as she tested each limb, at least nothing was broken.

Dierdre took a deep breath and steeled herself as she turned and looked behind her. As she feared, it was a nightmare: her beloved city was gone, now nothing but a part of the sea, the only thing sticking up a small part of the bell tower. On the horizon beyond it she saw a fleet of black Pandesian ships, making their way deeper and deeper inland.

“We can’t stay here,” Marco said with urgency. “They’re coming.”

“Where can we go?” she asked, feeling hopeless.

Marco stared back, blank, clearly not knowing either.

Dierdre stared out at the sunset, trying to think, blood pounding in her ears. Everyone she knew and loved was dead. She felt she had nothing left to live for, nowhere left to go. Where could you go when your home city was destroyed? When the weight of the world was bearing down on you?

Dierdre closed her eyes and shook her head in grief, wishing it all away. Her father, she knew, was back there, dead. His soldiers were all dead. People she had known and loved all her life, all of them dead, all thanks to these Pandesian monsters. Now there was no one left to stop them. What cause was there to go on?

Dierdre, despite herself, broke down weeping. Thinking of her father, she dropped to her knees, feeling devastated. She wept and wept, wanting to die here herself, wishing she had died, cursing the heavens for allowing her to live. Why couldn’t she have just drowned in that wave? Why couldn’t she just have been killed with the others? Why had she been cursed with life?

She felt a soothing hand on her shoulder.

“It’s okay, Dierdre,” Marco said softly.

Dierdre flinched, embarrassed.

“I’m sorry,” she finally said, weeping. “It’s just that… my father… Now I have nothing.”

“You’ve lost everything,” Marco said, his voice heavy, too. “I have, too. I don’t want to go on, either. But we have to. We can’t lie here and die. It would dishonor them. It would dishonor everything they lived and fought for.”

In the long silence that followed, Dierdre slowly pulled herself upright, realizing he was right. Besides, as she looked up at Marco’s brown eyes, staring back at her with compassion, she realized she did have someone. She had Marco. She also had the spirit of her father, looking down, watching over her, wishing her to be strong.

She forced herself to shake out of it. She had to be strong. Her father would want her to be strong. Self-pity, she realized, would help no one. And neither would her death.

She stared back at Marco, and she could see more than compassion – she could also see the love in his eyes for her.

Not even fully aware of what she was doing, Dierdre, her heart pounding, leaned in and met Marco’s lips in an unexpected kiss. For a moment, she felt herself transported to another world, and all her worries disappeared.

She slowly pulled back, staring at him, shocked. Marco looked equally surprised. He took her hand.

As he did, encouraged, filled with hope, she was able to think clearly again – and a thought came to her. There was someone else, a place to go, a person to turn to.


Dierdre felt a sudden rush of hope.

“I know where we must go,” she said excitedly, in a rush.

Marco looked at her, wondering.

“Kyra,” she said. “We can find her. She will help us. Wherever she is, she is fighting. We can join her.”

“But how do you know she is alive?” he asked.

Dierdre shook her head.

“I don’t,” she replied. “But Kyra always survives. She is the strongest person I have ever met.”

“Where is she?” he asked.

Dierdre thought, and she recalled the last time she had seen Kyra, forking north, for the Tower.

“The Tower of Ur,” she said.

Marco looked back, surprised; then a glimmer of optimism crossed his eyes.

“The Watchers are there,” he said. “As are other warriors. Men who can fight with us.” He nodded, excited. “A good choice,” he added. “We can be safe in that tower. And if your friend is there, then all the better. It’s a day’s hike from here. Let us go. We must move quickly.”

He took her hand, and without another word the two of them took off, Dierdre filled with a new sense of optimism as they headed into the forest, and somewhere, on the horizon, for the Tower of Ur.

Chapter Three

Kyra braced herself as she walked into a field of fire. The flames rose to the sky then lowered just as quickly, turning all different colors, caressing her as she walked with her arms out by her sides. She felt its intensity, felt it enveloping her, wrapping her in a thin embrace. She knew she was walking into death, and yet she could walk no other way.

And yet somehow, incredibly, she did not feel pain. She felt a sense of peace. A sense of her life ending.

She looked out and through the flames, she saw her mother, awaiting her somewhere at the far end, on the opposite side of the field. She felt a sense of peace, as she finally knew she would be in her mother’s embrace.

I’m here, Kyra, she called. Come to me.

Kyra peered into the flames and could just make out her mother’s face, nearly translucent, partially hidden as a wall of flame shot up. She walked deeper into the crackling flames, unable to stop until she was surrounded on all sides.

A roar cut through the air, even above the sound of the fire, and she looked up and was in awe to see a sky filled with dragons. They circled and shrieked, and as she watched, one huge dragon roared and dove down just for her.

Kyra sensed it was death coming for her.

As the dragon neared, its talons extended, suddenly the ground dropped out beneath her and Kyra found herself falling, hurtling down into the earth, an earth filled with flame, a place from which she knew she would never escape.

Kyra opened her eyes with a start, breathing hard. She looked all around, wondering where she was, feeling pain in every corner of her body. She felt the pain in her face, her cheek swollen, throbbing, and as she slowly lifted her head, finding it hard to breathe, she found that her face was encased in mud. She was, she realized, lying face first in the mud, and as she placed her palms in it and slowly pushed up, she wiped mud back from her face, wondering what was happening.

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