David L. Craddock writes fiction, nonfiction, and grocery lists. He is the author of the Gairden Chronicles series of fantasy novels for young adults, as well as numerous nonfiction books documenting videogame development and culture, including the bestselling Stay Awhile and Listen series, Shovel Knight by Boss Fight Books, and Long Live Mortal Kombat. Follow him online at www.DavidLCraddock.com, and on Twitter @davidlcraddock.

David L. Craddock writes fiction, nonfiction, and grocery lists. He is the author of the Gairden Chronicles series of fantasy novels for young adults, as well as numerous nonfiction books documenting videogame development and culture, including the bestselling Stay Awhile and Listen series, Shovel Knight by Boss Fight Books, and Long Live Mortal Kombat. Follow him online at www.DavidLCraddock.com, and on Twitter @davidlcraddock.

The Gairden Chronicles Book 2 - Point of Fate by David L. Craddock

Spring has come to the northern kingdom of Torel. No longer a fugitive, Aidan Gairden has claimed Heritage, the ancestral blade of his royal bloodline, and rules as Crown as the North. But even as the snows of winter thaw, darkness spreads across the continent of Crotaria, threatening its four realms with eternal night.

In the north, Torel's capital sits vulnerable as the Ward marches west to fight a misguided war, leaving Daniel Shirey scrambling to fortify the city against the undead gathering outside its walls. In the east, Edmund Calderon petitions Leaston's ruling guild to add their ships and steel to Torel's cause even as grief and inner demons overwhelm him.

In the south, Christine Lorden struggles to unite the Touched under Aidan's banner while her people, the oppressed Sallnerians, entreat her to lead an uprising against Torel. In the west, Aidan works to convince Nichel of the Wolf, now war chief of the Darinian tribes, of the plot to turn Torel and Darinia against each other. Torn between vengeance and love, Nichel wrestles with an ancient and malevolent magic that has awakened within her, stoking a bloodlust she fears will never be sated.

At the heart of every conflict, a one-time friend and counselor pulls strings as the Point of Fate that will decide the fate of the realms draws near.


Point of Fate was one of the most difficult books I've ever written. Writing from one character's perspective is hard enough. Juggling three or more—that's a feat. But I did it, and I'm as proud of the results today as I was when my publisher released the book in 2018. It's back with me, now, feted with a new cover, and for you to enjoy. -David L. Craddock, curator, StoryBundle



  • "By the end of the book, I had gained a newfound appreciation for Aidan and each of his friends, and for the skills, strengths, and weaknesses they brought to the group. I'm eagerly looking forward to their next adventure."

    – Amazon review



Aidan kindled the Lady's light streaming in through the window, closed his eyes, and shifted. A gust of wind scattered papers and toppled the stacked books on Tyrnen's desk. Air rushed over him. The scent of musty parchment was gone, replaced by crisp spring air. The shouts, no longer far below and heard through stone and glass, exploded in volume. He opened his eyes and stood at the base of the tower beside Daniel and the second Wardsman, a man his age whom Aidan recognized but whose name he could not place.

Daniel jumped as if Aidan had leaped out from behind the tower. "My hero," he said. He raised his Sard'tara, a smooth black pole with curved blades at either end.

Aidan gave no reply. He tightened his grip on Heritage and blinked. Sight draped over his vision, washing the world in charcoal-on-canvas shading. A wave of men, women, and children ran pell-mell over the courtyard, pushing and prodding and trampling in their desperation to get clear of the man whose face dangled behind his head like a lowered hood. Aidan saw the rest of his skull clearly through Sight, as well as the skulls of the vagrants charging up to stand on either side of the exposed undead. The three drew steel and waded in.

Aidan's feet carried him forward. He was dimly aware of Daniel and the other Wardsman shouting at him, but he could not have stopped even if he'd wanted to. With Sight came Ordine'kel, the second half of the Ordine gift, and with it, the presence of Ambrose Gairden. Aidan was like a marionette under the control of the world's greatest puppeteer. His grip on Heritage, clumsy and ineffectual without 'kel, became strong and sure. As if he had been holding a sword since before he could walk.

The first vagrant, fleshy mask askew, tried to veer past him. Heritage flashed in Aidan's hands, slicing through its decayed neck. It met no resistance, cutting as cleanly as a ray of the Lady's light through fog. The body slumped to the ground. Its head dropped a moment later, rolling to a stop against a bench leg. Aidan was not precisely sure how he had swung, how he had cut with such speed, precision, and strength. That was because he hadn't, in a way. His body was like a suit of armor that the Gairden patriarch had stepped across centuries to wear, the sword an extension of his arm.

—One down, two to go, Ambrose shouted.

Exhilaration heated Aidan's blood. He was enjoying this because his ancestor was enjoying it. He planted his feet and held Heritage before him, hands wrapped around the hilt, waiting to see which of the two vagrants would come for him first. And then, as if they were a wave and he a great rock, they split around him and raced at Tyrnen's tower.

—What under the shade?

Ambrose's confusion was an echo of Aidan's. He—they—turned in time to see the vagrants bear down on Daniel. The other Wardsman leaped in from the side and plunged his short sword into a vagrant's chest. The creature staggered to a halt, then cocked its skull, as if this new arrival had done something curious instead of lethal.

"The head!" Daniel said. Not in time. The other man raised his sword to deflect a blow that would have taken him in the right shoulder. Sparks flew as blades met. Caught off balance, the Wardsman stumbled and lost his footing. He raised his sword again, face pale with terror.

The vagrant spun and advanced on Daniel. Aidan's heart jumped into his throat, but Daniel appeared unruffled. The Sard'tara in his hands became a blur. Two sharp cracks rang out as each end of the weapon knocked away the sword of one vagrant and then the other. The blades spun over the pathways to land in the grass with soft thuds. The other Wardsman recovered, hauling himself to his feet and, face pinched in concentration, stabbed one vagrant cleanly through its skull. Bone cracked and fragments scattered along the stone path, skittering like stones. The body gave a jerk and folded. In the same instant, Daniel swung his Sard'tara up in an arc. One curved blade gleamed as it severed the remaining vagrant's head from its shoulders.

—A good fight, Ambrose said approvingly.

Aidan blinked. The patriarch's presence drained out of him, leaving him disoriented. When he opened his eyes, color had returned to the courtyard. His heart still pounded with the thrill of battle. A feeling of disappointment lingered. He breathed hard although he was not winded. With the patriarch in charge, he had wanted to cut down a vagrant. Both vagrants. All vagrants.

Daniel held his Sard'tara parallel to his body, face shiny with sweat. "We really must stop meeting like this," he said.

Aidan took one last deep breath. "I was waiting for you. Did you get the...?" His words died away as his gaze fell on a sword sheathed at Daniel's waist. Ordinarily his friend never carried a sword—he was about as proficient with a blade as Aidan was without Ambrose's hand to guide him—but the sword Daniel carried bore an eerie resemblance to Heritage. It was identical in form, but ebony instead of snowy. A sapphire was embedded in its curved guard. Its jewel-encrusted hilt stuck up from a scabbard as black as Kahltan's heart and was painted in bile-colored swirls. The Serpent's Fang.

Someone in his mind—he thought it was Ambrose—hissed a breath.

Daniel cleared his throat loudly as the other Wardsman, short with black hair that ended in a tail at the nape of his neck, hurried over to join them and gave an unsteady bow.

"Apologies, Crown," he stammered. "Aidan, I mean. I had never seen... those creatures, they..." He gulped air, his complexion still pale.

"They are what we're up against," Aidan finished. "Torel, and all the realms."

"Undead," Daniel said. "They're called vagrants. Aidan and I have fought them before, and there are more—"

"Under Tyrnen's command," Aidan finished. Daniel shot him a sharp look but said nothing.

The Wardsman glanced at them, back at the bodies along the ground. Dark, viscous blood oozed from their necks. He flashed a shaky grin. "Now that it's over and the Lady still warms my bones, it was kind of exciting, wasn't it? Fighting creatures out of stories." Toeing a corpse, he said, "What makes them move? How do they—" He cut off after noticing their grim expressions.

"Dark magic," Daniel said.

Aidan stayed quiet. He had placed the Wardsman: Jak Merrifalls. Sixteen winters, same as Aidan. Also like Aidan, he enjoyed a good story and pulling pranks. Now, however, Aidan felt removed from him. Distant. The events of the past few weeks had forced him to shed his childhood and childish distractions like clothes that no longer fit. Mere weeks, he thought, head swimming. He looked away.

"These creatures killed our friends, Jak," Daniel said, "and they would have killed us if it wasn't for our Crown, here." He nodded at Aidan.

Jak's grin faded. "You're right, Daniel. I didn't..." One look at Aidan and he lowered his gaze to the stone path. "Sorry, Crown."

Aidan patted his shoulder. "It's all right. Go back to your post. West gate, isn't it?"

"Yes, Crown." Jak snapped off the Ward's salute, making a fist before raising his forefinger and small finger and placing his hand to his heart, then set off at a run.

"Wait," Daniel called.

Jak skidded to a halt and looked over his shoulder.

"Go to the south gate instead of the west," Daniel said. "They're shorthanded there."

Jak frowned at him, his eyes wandering to Aidan. Daniel jerked as if pinched. "Oh. If that's all right, Aidan. Crown."

"Of course," Aidan said. "South gate, Wardsman. May the Lady keep you warm."

Jak saluted again and took off at a run. They watched him go. After he vanished, Daniel removed one of his gauntlets, fished inside it, and removed a crumpled and sweaty piece of parchment. "This key will put you about ten miles south of Janleah Keep."

Aidan said nothing. Daniel followed his eyes to the Serpent's Fang at his waist. "Don't be mad," Daniel began. "I'm only carrying it because, well, it doesn't seem the sort of thing to leave lying around even if it is a fake." He swallowed. "It is a fake, right?"

Aidan nodded tightly. "You should have it destroyed anyway."

Daniel shrugged. "I kind of like carrying it. It makes me look, I don't know, more regal. Decorated."

Aidan choked back a laugh. Daniel had a gift for dispelling worry. "Ten miles?" he said, gesturing for the key. "That far?"

Daniel handed over the parchment. "If there are tunnels that lead directly into the Keep, no sneaks know about them."

Aidan unfolded it. In the center was a crude drawing: an "I" with tiny black dots on either side. He stuffed it in his pocket. "Thank you, Daniel."

His friend shrugged. "Anything for you, Prince of Passion." He paused. "I keep forgetting that you're a king now. They'll let anyone sit on the throne these days."

"Watch your tone, or I'll have you exiled."

Daniel's face grew sober. "Are you leaving immediately?"

"Yes." Aidan waved at the vagrants. "Where did these come from?"

"The south gate," Daniel said. "That one was Stanwick Yarah." He nodded at the body nearest Aidan's feet. "I was on my way there. Soon as I arrived, a pack of vagrants charged. There were about five, but Stanwick and the others lost their wits at the sight of them." Daniel shuddered. "Can't blame them for that, I suppose, though it's the smell that bothers me most. Worse than a Wardsman who hasn't bathed in a month."

Aidan stared at the body. He knew Stan, or knew of him. He had made it a point to learn the names of as many of his mother's—now his—Wardsmen as possible, for a smoother transition when he, Aidan, took the crown. Stan Yarah. Forty winters, a wife and two daughters. "His family should know."

"I've already sent pigeons." Daniel hesitated. "One of those creatures was with them, Aidan. The ones with the empty eye sockets and strings of flesh over their mouths."

"Harbingers," Aidan said. The word conjured up memories of the blank, eyeless faces that had haunted his dreams, the creatures that had worn his parents' faces and his mother's soul.

"There was just the one, but one was enough," Daniel said. "I saw Stan die. And the harbinger, it just looked at him and crooked a finger, and Stanwick was back on his feet, only he wasn't Stan anymore."

"How many of ours fell?" Aidan asked.

"All three Wardsmen. Stan, and old Barty Klenger, and little Jaret Belgin." He barked a harsh laugh. "Little, I say. He was around our age."

"There were only three guards at the gate?"

"With the rest of the army marching to Darinia, we've got fifteen hundred soldiers to spread around all of Calewind," Daniel said. "Three men to a gate is all we can spare. We're reinforcing them as quickly as we can. Anders Magath assigned me to the south gate to relieve Stan. He'd been on duty for nearly a day and a half. Anders can't keep up with everything. He's pulling out the last few tufts of hair he's got, and I don't blame him. He's the highest-ranking officer left, with Brendon Greagor leading the march. I told Anders I'd spread the word at the gate but then I had to get back to you. That calmed him down a little."

Daniel shook his head. "Better him in charge than me. I can't wait until you kill Tyrnen so I can go back to guarding doors. It's nice and quiet in the throne room." He scratched behind an ear. "Well, not lately, I guess."

"What about the harbinger? Did it get inside Calewind?"

Daniel shook his head. "After it, cast, uh..."—he waved a hand to indicate magic—"on Stan, it did the same to the other two, and then it... it eyed me, and just disappeared. Shifting, I think you call it. Anyway, the square was crowded, people were panicking, so I tried to get the vagrants to give chase. It worked." He knuckled his back. "I'd better go. Anders is probably bald by now." He eyed the vagrants. "Three down, and only, what, another ten thousand to go?"

"If we're lucky." Aidan closed his eyes and pinched the bridge of his nose. Exhaustion was creeping over him. Aidan had no control over his movements under the sway of Ordine'kel, but his body still suffered wounds and fatigue.

Suddenly, Daniel pounded a gauntleted fist against the tower. "The shade take Tyrnen and his undead."

Aidan looked up. "You just gave me an idea."

He ducked into the tower and bounded up the stairs, Daniel following on his heels. At the top, Aidan found Approbation of the Moon where he had left it in his haste to help his friend. He hefted the book in both hands and held it out.

Daniel's eyebrows rose. "I'm afraid I have little time to read. I'm also afraid it would take me two lifetimes to get through a book that size."

Tucking the book under one arm, Aidan said, "Watch this." He knocked on the desk three times and lowered the book into the hollow cavity.

Daniel whistled. "We could have used that back when we were swiping your grandfather's ale."

"Which we only did the one time," Aidan said quickly, shooting him a meaningful look.

Daniel looked from Aidan to Heritage. "Right! Of course."

The Eye of Heritage flashed red.

Aidan opened the compartment again, removed the book, and stuffed it behind a bookcase. "I don't want Tyrnen coming back and getting his hands on that book. Find the most powerful Touched in Calewind and give it to him." He thought of Christine. "Or her." He stepped closer and spoke in a whisper. "It's full of dark magic. If word got out, it might start a panic. But the fact is, we need every advantage we can get."

Daniel nodded, though he appeared reluctant.

"What is it?"

"There aren't many Touched left in Calewind. Tyrnen—"

"Ordered them to march with the Ward," Aidan finished. He brought a hand down hard against a bookshelf. As the Eternal Flame of Crotaria, Tyrnen was the Lady of Dawn's will personified, and spoke with her voice. Christine, I hope you're well on your way.

"You know," Daniel said slowly, "you could probably use the prayers in that book. Tyrnen and your mother always said you were the most powerful Touched in... well, ever."

Aidan shook his head. "I can't. I need to speak with Nichel."

"The Ward is on the march. What makes you think the clans aren't as well? They're probably halfway here by now."

"I've got to start somewhere."

"Start here, then." Daniel's tone was strained. "You've sent Christine and your father on errands. Anders can't do everything himself. Are you sure you can't—"

Aidan held up a hand and fought to keep his tone even. "If I stay here and Nichel is on the move, I won't be enough to stop the clans from burning and pillaging every town and city they cross on their way to Sunfall's gates. If she's not there, then I'll look elsewhere. I don't want to go, Daniel. I have to. I have to try."

Daniel's lips thinned. "As you command, Crown."

"That's not fair. I'm doing the best I know how."

Daniel stared out the window. "I know," he said. "I'm just frightened." He gave a small smile. "I think I was less frightened when it was just the two of us out on the open road, hunted by dead bodies and a grumpy old man."

Aidan broke into a grin. "That makes two of us."

Outside, Daniel and Aidan crossed to a stone bench near the center of the courtyard. It had been pushed aside, revealing a hole that sloped downward. Daniel frowned at the bench. "Must have gotten jostled during the fight," he began, sounding doubtful.

Aidan's jaw tightened. "If we know about the tunnels—"

"Then Tyrnen probably does, too," Daniel said, scrubbing a hand over his face.

"You think someone came through," Aidan said. It was not a question.

Daniel let his hand drop. His eyes were wide and frightened. He shook himself as if throwing off his fear. "Maybe, maybe not. Nothing can be done about it now. What I can do is seal this one behind you."

"How will I get back?"

"You know." Daniel waved his hands in a flourish.

"Of course. What was I thinking?"

"You weren't. Lucky you've got me to do that for you."

Shouts caught their attention. Aidan, crouching to slip into the hole, began to straighten.

"Don't," Daniel said. "The sooner you leave, the sooner you get back."

Aidan tried to respond but could not. Tension wrapped iron bands around his chest. Leaving felt wrong.

"Go!" Daniel shouted, pushing him.

Aidan scrambled into the tunnel with Daniel close behind him.