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The Reluctant King


The King had a good head on his shoulders—for the moment, anyway.

Everyone agreed that King Jorian of Xylar had been a good and just ruler. In fact, many also agreed that, in this case, it was a pity that the laws of Xylar decreed that each randomly chosen King must reign for only five years and then, after due pomp and ceremony, have his head cut off! Understandably, Jorian himself was wholeheartedly in agreement with the second sentiment, so with the help of a spell provided by the wizard Karadur, he escaped from the beheading ceremony with his head still on his shoulders.

Unfortunately, his beloved wife, Queen Estrildis, was left behind, and getting her out of Xylar would be anything but simple—particularly with the Royal Guard of Xylar hot on the trail of their fugitive monarch. With Karadur's magic, Jorian might be able to pull off the rescue. But first, he would have to locate a trove of ancient spells, deal with an enemy wizard, steal an item from a 500-year-old (but still beautiful) princess who turns into a giant serpent at inopportune moments, repair the giant tower clocks of Iraz to fulfill a prophecy, break a pirate siege, and finally fly back to Xylar in an enchanted bathtub and whisk away his beloved Estrildis before the Royal Guard notices that their King (not to mention his head) has returned. Then things began to get complicated...

Cover Art by Ken Tunnell



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This is a work of fiction. All the characters and events portrayed in this book are fictional, and any resemblance to real people or incidents is purely coincidental.

First printing, October 1996

Distributed by Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas
New York, NY 10020

Printed in the United States of America

ISBN-13: 0-671-87746-1
eISBN: 978-1-62579-544-1

Copyright 1983 by L. Sprague de Camp
Previously published in three volumes as The Goblin Tower, copyright © 1968; The Clocks of Iraz, copyright © 1971; and The Unbeheaded King, copyright © 1983, all by L. Sprague de Camp.

All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book or portions thereof in any form.

A Baen Books Original
Baen Publishing Enterprises
P.O. Box 1403
Riverdale, NY 10471
http://www.baen.com

Electronic version by Baen Books
http://www.baen.com


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