Category Archives: fantasy

Keeper of the Sword

The following is an excerpt from my novel, “Keeper of the Sword,” which is in rewrite mode at the present. I hope to have it uploaded to smashwords with in a couple of weeks. I wil keep you posted.

“Josh, Josh dear, it’s time for supper.”

Josh struggled awake, sat up, looked around for his book, and found it lying half-open on the floor. He picked it up and placed it on the bed, “I’m not very hungry mom.”

“You need to eat something,” green eyes misted over. “I made a chocolate pudding for desert. Do you want me to fix you a tray and bring it to your room?”

“No thanks,” he flashed a grin. “As soon as I wash, I’ll come down and have supper with you. Having company while I eat will be nice.”

She smiled the worried smile that only a mother can, hugged him, kissed his forehead, “See you downstairs.”

After helping to wash and dry the supper dishes, Josh watched TV with his mom until nine, returned to his room and booted up his computer. Gramps still wasn’t online. No email from him either.

He took a shower, went to bed, fell asleep as soon as his head settled on a pillowcase, smelling faintly of lilacs, and drifted into a strange dream. A boy about ten years old lay under a tall tree, crying.   High above him, four big birds, black wings folded, cyan heads flashing iridescent blues, purples and greens in the moonlight pouring through rents in the heavy clouds, kept sharp eyes on the child.

The largest of the birds spoke in a hushed husky voice, “Poor young princeling, first his mother was poisoned, and now his father the King has been brutally murdered.”

Another one grumbled, “We can’t take proper care of him. He needs to be with his own kind.”

“Besides,” growled a third, it was as close to a growl as a bird can come, “We have our own younglings to tend to.”

The fourth one asked, “What are we then to do?” If no one tends to him he’ll die, and we can’t let that happen because he’s King now.”

The large bird answered, “He’s far too young for us to take him back to the castle because his enemies will kill him.”

“I know, I know, I know what to do,” shouted the fourth one.   The other three spoke at once, “Well, tell us.”   “We can take him deep into the forest where the old man and old woman live. They don’t have younglings of their own. They’ll tend to him and give him their love.”

“That’s a good plan,” the others said, “We’ll guide him on his journey when the sun wakes, but we can’t tell them who he is.”

Josh’s dream changed, and now he looked down into an old hut. Four men, two with short grey beards, looking old enough to be his great-grandfather, a third, dressed in mottled grey and green, and a forth, sporting a shamrock-green hat, adorned with a long blue feather, sat around a table looking like the slightest sneeze  would make it collapse.

The man with the hat asked, “How am I to find my way?”

One of the old ones reached under the table and lifted up a leather bag. He took out a black stone with a bright blue light lancing out of one side. “This is the seeing stone of Kings. Sometimes it is called the finding stone, and it will guide you to where the two who are spoken of in the prophecy wait.”

Away in the distance, carried by the breath of the wind came the skirling of a single bagpipe, wailing a mournful dirge, reminding Josh of his great-grandfather, Donald McDonald. For a moment, he saw the old man standing on hillside, silhouetted against the ruins of a castle, a kilt, bearing the tartan of the clan McDonald flapping around skinny legs, his dark eyes, eyes that always flashed when the Stuart’s were mentioned, fixed on the setting sun.

Over the tune, so familiar yet so strange came a voice, sweet, poignant, brushed with an Irish lilt, whispering at first, growing louder, filling him with an aching, a longing to go on board the great black ship she sang about. He held his breath in the depths of his dream, trying to burn each word, each haunting trill of the voice into his memory.

“In the moonlight gleaming/the Uniaedean rests, dreaming. Sails furled, captain sleeping/no one is watch guard keeping. Anchor set, gentle wind blowing, the great black ship dreams of going/to a mysterious, distant land/guided true by her captain’s hand. Awake, awake, loud voice calling. War drums beat/flaming arrows falling. In fear Uniaedean awakens, shudders from deep wounds taken/looks long at moonlight gleaming/then returns to her dreaming.”

The men faded, the hut, and the words the men spoke faded , all the words of the song, except Uniaeden faded, but the aching caused by the voice lingered on, filling his dream with sadness, and he wept for the loss of the sweetness of the moment.

He stirred in his sleep, tossed, turned, and before he woke, a ship sailed into view. How proud and bold she looked, with her black prow cleaving through tall white topped waves like a scimitar slicing through soft lard. Her black sails filled with wind, struggling to free themselves from the ropes binding them, and a fiery-eyed black stallion figurehead, pawing the air with silver shod hooves, glinting in the moonlight, seeming to urge the ship forward, ever forward.

Closer, closer came the horse and ship, closer until he made out the name Uniaedean on the ship’s side. The raised silver and turquoise letters glowing in the moonlight seemed to be surrounded by an unearthly blue and silver flame.   For a moment, he stood on the prow, looking over rippling muscled flanks, over the broad back, out between the black stallion’s pointed ears, and heard a man call, in a gruff voice, “Trim the sails, hard to starboard,” over the cracking of sails, the rushing of the wind.

Salt spray splashing onto his face, soaking his clothes, stinging his eyes, cooled his fevered brow. His heart thudded like he’d just finished a ten-mile run, his throat tightened, he held his breath. Ahead of him, mist gathering up from the sea, spread out over the distant shore, swirling through strange looking trees, sweeping up towards far off snow covered mountains, not hiding the land, but adding a mystical fairy like quality to it.

He blinked sea water from his eyes, and stood on the shore, filled with longing, filled with a need to be onboard her, and as the last bit of dark sail slipped over the horizon, the voice, the sweet voice whispered to him once more.

He woke, sweat soaked, shivering, sat up, wiped tears from his eyes and tried to remember the voice, the words to the song, but the only thing remaining of his dream was the great black ship, and the fear and excitement of seeing her flying before the wind.

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Daramlhoardd’s War

Clang, sparks flew as the bright swords clashed. Parry, thrust, lunge and parry again.
Daramlhoardd used all of his weight and skill as he tried to overpower his son. He didn’t want Karodem dead, not yet. No it would give him much more pleasure to kill him after he watched his mother and sister raped. Raped first by him and then by his men, raped until they died from the shame and the pain.
Clang, again and again the swords crashed together as Karodem blocked his father’s savage blows. He could feel his arms weakening under the continuous barrage of cuts and thrusts. Karodem raised his broad sword to parry the next brutal lunge. He side stepped the next thrust and counter attacked.
Prince Karodem retreated four paces backwards and sucked air into his heaving lungs. The bright red juice of life dripped from a dozen cuts. He sucked in more air and readied him-self for the next attack. He brought his sword up to block his father’s blade. He realized too late that it was a feint.
No cry escaped the brave elf’s lips
As the cruel sword bit deep
A mother’s tears fell like rain
As Karodem went to his final sleep

As Daramlhoardd pulled the blade from his dying son’s body the dark veil of evil that had for so long clouded his vision with thoughts of hate, fell away from him.
For the first time in twenty-three years his mind was clear. Tears streamed out of his good eye and rolled down his cheek. “What have I done, what have I done?” He knelt on the bloody ground and cradled Karodem’s head with his left arm. He used his right hand to remove the golden helmet from the head and caressed the long brown locks.
The enormity of his deed whirled through his mind and heart. He was filled to overflowing with grief and the knowledge that he had been under the spell of the evil circle of five. A stray thought flew through his mind. “How can I make this right?”
As gentle as he could possibly manage he lay his son’s head back down. Daramlhoardd removed his hauberk and helm. They landed with a thud beside Karodem’s body. Death Bringer was placed firm on the ground. Clutching the blade tight the elf lord fell forward. As the last of life ebbed from him a shrieking and a wailing escaped the lips of the circle of five. They became translucent and then like puffs of wood smoke they faded away to nothingness.
The flames of two funeral pyres licked upwards towards the full moon.

The End

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Daramlhoardd’s War

Karodem could no longer keep quiet, “I may be from your loins,” he roared, “But you are no father of mine.”
Daramlhoardd glared at him, “Silence whelp, I did not come here to joust words with you.”
“You no longer command me Daramlhoardd.” Karodem placed his right hand on the hilt of his sword.
“You would challenge me whelp,” Daramlhoardd sneered.
Alldelham reached out and placed his left hand on Karodem’s right one. “No Karodem, this is between my brother and my-self. Besides your mother would weep for the rest of her life if death came to you.”
Daramlhoardd snarled, “Let’s have at it whelp, if you have the stomach for blood.”
Two swords were from scabbards drawn
Two blades gleamed in sunlight bright
Two warriors began their dance of death

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Daramlhoardd’s War

Defiant and looking as beautiful as ever, Angvaradel, dressed in gleaming chain mail stood at her husband, Alldelham’s right side.
The great sword “Dark Helm,” was held in her white knuckled left hand.  In her right there was a golden helmet, a plume of tail feathers from the blue Ostari on the crest waved back and forth in wind.
Prince Karodem, dressed in armour that was emblazoned with two crimson roses on a field of blue stood at her right side. The look upon his youthful face was as defiant as the one his mother wore.
“So it is true,” anger grew to be a mighty thing, filling Daramlhoardd’s body and soul with an overwhelming fullness. “The fruit of my loins has betrayed me.” For a moment another thought intruded into his dark, evil mind and brought with it a tiny ray of hope. “That loathsome witch, that cursed bitch Angvaradel, has cast a spell onto my son.”
“Well brother dear it is kind of you to visit me but you didn’t need to bring so many with you. I doubt if my larder can provide all of you with meat.” Alldelham, quelled his quacking limbs and gazed with steady, unblinking blue eyes into his brother’s green one.
“I did not come to dine,” Daramlhoardd roared.
“Pray tell, what did you come for?”
“Your head will do for a start,” Daramlhoardd spat the words, “And then I’ll have that of your bitch, your whelp and that of my son.”

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Daramlhoardd’s War

Angvaradel slumped forward and almost fell. Alldelham and  Karodem grabbed hold of her with strong hands and kept her from falling. Her voice was weak, no more than a whisper. “I have failed you my husband. I’m sorry but the magic of those evil ones is stronger than mine.”
“You have done all everyone could ever ask for my good wife.”
Karodem and Galowyn left their vantage point and descended to the plain.
A wedge of elves on horses raced towards the defensive square.
Alldelham cupped his hands in front of his mouth and yelled, “Archers to the ready, fire volley.”
A rain of black feathered death sailed toward the advancing horde. The falling elves were too far away to hear their shrieks.
“Fire at will,” was the command from the hill top.
No matter how many fell they kept coming. The mighty wedge fell like a blacksmiths hammer on a piece of iron on the protective square. Angvaradel’s army, caved then gave. The way was open.
Sword, lance and sharp war axe
Bit deep into yielding, bloody flesh
The air was rent by screams of death
On this afternoon of decision

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Daramlhoardd’s War

Paint twenty stones with the woman’s blood,” Aferton commanded. He had to shout to be heard over the neighing of the cavalry horses.
Stones were painted red in quick order. Twenty ballista arms were pulled back to their limit.
Aferton shouted, “Aim them all at the same spot and fire them one after the other. You best look away, my lord and order your army to do so as well.”
A two hundred pound, round stone hurtled outward. WHRAM, a deafening clap of thunder rolled over the huge army. This was followed by a flash of light almost as bright as the sun. Nineteen more times ballista arms were released, nineteen more bright flashes, nineteen more loud booms of thunder moved across the plain.
“You may look now my lord,” the evil mage had an ear to ear grin on his wizened face.
Upon the plains of Faranhold
Before the gates of Gladelhome
A mighty force was gathered there
Hauberks of bright silver gleamed
Plumes of Ostari feathers streamed
On helmets sparkling in the sun

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Daramlhoardd’s War

Aferton, head of the wicked circle of five, swaggered across the green meadow. He halted two paces away from Daramlhoardd. The mage pulled out his the tail of his red shirt and blew his nose. He hawked up a gob of green, it sailed through the air and landed on black boot on the elf lord’s left foo. “You summoned me?’ The evil wizard’s voice was so cold that the snot on his shirt tail froze.
Daramlhoardd, ignored the insolent tone, “The bitch witch has summoned a magic wall. My army cannot pass.”
Another green gob flew through the air. This time it landed on Daramlhoardd’s right boot. Anger welled up into the eye of the elf. “When this war is done,” the thoughts rumbled in his head. “When this war is done I will need find another wizard to lead the circle of five.”
Aferton chuckled, “Easy enough to deal with. Go and fetch Crawled, Tramith, Branbith and Tarwold. Bring a woman from the camp as well. She doesn’t have to be a virgin or even young for that matter.”
“Alabar,” the rage that had been building up inside the elf lord came roaring out into his words. “Bring the rest of the circle of five here, bring them on the triple.”
Aferton glared at Daramlhoardd, “I told you to do it. If I had of wanted Alabar to fetch them I would have said so.”
The elf lord reached for his sword hilt. His right hand halted half way there. Daramlhoardd knew how much he needed the circle of five right now. He let the rage die within.

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