Tag Archives: eoriel

The Freeport Mutineers Cover and Blurb

The Freeport Mutineers, by Kal Spriggs
The Freeport Mutineers, by Kal Spriggs

I now have the draft cover for my soon-to-be-released short story: The Freeport Mutineers.  This is an epic fantasy story set in the Eoriel Saga universe.  The basic premise is simple, a young man, faced with true evil, must decide what to do.

Troubled by the rumors spread throughout the Southern Fleet, the young officer turned to the Marines and Sailors under his command… yet he and they were betrayed, arrested, and convicted of mutiny, all under the orders of the ambitious Lord Admiral Hennings.
 
Faced with the prospect of not only his own death, but that of the men under his command, Wachter must somehow find a way to do the right thing.  Yet there is little hope with he and his men jailed, weaponless, and condemned, while the town of Freeport lies under martial law and the threat of dark sorcery.
 
Only one course lays open to him, to break his oaths and to swear allegiance to the cause of another, to become exactly what his enemies have accused him of being: a mutineer.
The Freeport Mutineers will be published on 23 January, 2016.
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Wrath of the Usurper Snippet Three

Here’s the third scene from Wrath of the Usurper for your reading pleasure.  As a reminder, Wrath of the Usurper comes out tomorrow, May 30, 2015.  The first two snippets are available here and here.

Aerion Swordbreaker

The Eastwood

15th of Pargan, Cycle 1000 Post Sundering

Aerion ducked under a blow and brought his shield around to block another. Aerion’s face was drawn in concentration. His opponent struck again, faster than he had expected and far faster than he could react, and the blow caught him painfully in the left arm. His wooden practice blade spun out of his numb arm, his fingers unable to hold its weight.

Aerion took several steps back and held up a hand, “Alright, enough, I yield!”

“So quickly, then, Swordbreaker? You may one day find yourself fighting without a blade, perhaps it wouldn’t hurt to practice that,” Simonel Greeneye said with a smile as he lowered his own practice weapon. The other man didn’t use a shield or another weapon in his off hand, instead he wielded the long blade ambidextrously and sometimes with two hands. Of course, his ‘practice blade’ was almost as ornate as his actual sword, what Aerion had heard called Mede Khmali. Simonel was tall for a Wold, a bit taller than Aerion’s own six feet of height, lean and muscular. His long, raven black hair normally hung free, though for their sparring session he had it braided, while his reddish bronze skin had a light sheen of sweat.

Aerion, on the other hand, was well aware that his blonde hair, pulled back into a tail for the sparring session, had come loose and was sodden with sweat. His skin and clothing were both drenched as well, and he caught a whiff of himself, a mix of rust and oil from his scale mail and sweat from exertion. The tall Wold was disgustingly capable, to the point that Aerion had come to judge his own success not on scoring hits, but upon lasting a few seconds longer in one of their sparring sessions.

It would have been disheartening, yet it seemed that the Wold King was just as effective against his own people, some of whom had not just decades or centuries but thousands of cycles of experience. As if to punctuate that thought, Aerion felt a hand clap his shoulder, and he turned to find another of the Wold. Ceratul smiled at him, “Well fought, young one. If nothing else, your persistence is admirable.”

Aerion flushed a bit, but he gave the other man a smile. Ceratul was the Wold’s Warmaster, their military commander, though, from what he had seen, Simonel took a large part of that authority himself. While Amelia, the other royal guest, had said that Ceratul seemed to dislike non-Wold in general and Starborn in particular, Aerion had found Ceratul to be nothing but friendly.

“Though if we doubted that, our first meeting would have proven your determination,” Ceratul said. Aerion shook his head at the reminder. The long, running fight that had led him to the Eastwood was almost a blur now. He was more amazed at his own survival than anything else, particularly after the fight in the ravine where he had faced a seemingly unending stream of Armen raiders and their Noric allies. Aerion had led them away from Lady Katarina and the rest of his friends, fully expectant that he would not survive, yet the Wold had appeared at the last minute, apparently drawn by the horn he had found in the ruined fortress of Southwatch.

Simonel seemed to notice his discomfort, “Ready to go again?”

Aerion bent to pick up his practice blade. It was new, made by one of the Wold craftsmen, and it was almost exactly the same weight, length and shape as the broken blade he had also found at Southwatch. When Simonel had first offered to spar and Aerion had declined with the excuse that he only had the weapons he carried. The next day, the Wold King had gifted him with the weighted wooden practice blade.

Aerion gave the other man a nod, still somewhat uneasy at the free ways of the Wold. They seemed to hold Simonel with great respect, but their informality still caught him off guard at times. Aerion settled into a defensive stance and waited, his feet set and his weight centered. Simonel gave him a slight smile, “You’ll never win if you fight entirely on the defense, Swordbreaker.”

Aerion felt his face flush at the title. He had told Amelia about the label given to him by his friends, for his knack of breaking every sword he’d ever taken into combat. The only exception was the broken blade he’d retrieved at Southwatch. Since that’s crafted out of star metal and already broken, Aerion thought dryly, that isn’t saying much. Still he hadn’t expected the Boir noblewoman to take such glee in spreading the story.

Yet the amusement that the Wold showed when they used the title was tempered with something like respect, Aerion knew, which embarrassed him all the more. I’m a low-born, commoner, from a remote village, who will never know his father’s name, Aerion thought, somewhat bitterly. He knew he had accomplished much, but he also felt uncertain about the praise, almost as if he took credit for the deeds of someone else.

Simonel gave a war cry and came in. His long practice blade flashed in a sharp, downward arc. Aerion caught the strike with his shield, confident that his own strength could match that of the Wold King. Despite the fact that they were nearly even in height, Aerion had a heavier frame, with muscle gained from cycles of working the forge as a boy and months of combat and training. Simonel backed a bit, “I forget how strong you are, sometimes, Aerion.”

Aerion smiled in return, “Best to play to my strengths.”

“Indeed,” Simonel said with a smile of his own. A moment later, without changing expression, he leapt forward into a lunge. Aerion managed to deflect it with his shield, but Simonel spun into a series of attacks, mixing fast slashes, lunges and blows from his feet and hands that forced Aerion to parry and block more and more desperately, until finally, the Wold King swept Aerion’s feet out from under him to drop Aerion on his back.

Aerion grunted as he forced his lungs to draw breath, “Well fought.”

Simonel offered him a hand and pulled Aerion to his feet. “Well fought, yourself, you’re improving, Aerion.” His voice was warm and reassuring, but Aerion didn’t miss an edge of something else there, almost concern, though he couldn’t guess why.

“I’ll take your word for it,” Aerion said with a snort. “I certainly can’t match your speed and skill.”

“I’m only human, Aerion Swordbreaker,” Simonel said with a frown, “And don’t underestimate your skills, I think you’ve a natural talent, and once you reach your full growth, by Amuz Nebeli, you’ll really be a monster to face.”

“Thanks,” Aerion said, “Though I think I’m done sparring for the day.” Aerion was only eight cycles of age, he knew, but he still towered over many older men and many of the Wold.

“Giving up so soon?” A light voice asked from behind him. Aerion turned to find Lady Amelia Tarken. “I thought the indomitable Swordbreaker would last longer.”

Aerion gave her a quick bow, “Thank you, Lady, but I’m afraid that King Simonel has the advantage.” While she had been friendly and seemed to adopt much of the Wold informality, she was still a Starborn noblewoman and part of Aerion rejected any notion of treating her as anything else. In the outside world, no one would care how he might interact with the Wold, who were almost mythical due to their isolation. However, a low-born commoner showing familiarity to a noblewoman was likely to have very bad things happen as a consequence. While he was unlikely to encounter Lady Amelia in the greater world, she wasn’t the one he was really worried about, he could privately admit.

And it’s a good practice to maintain here, he thought, to better prepare myself for when I rejoin Lady Katarina. Even at that thought he felt his heart ache a bit. He had known all along that he should never dream of friendship, much less the attraction he felt for the exiled heir to the Duchy of Masov. Still, her words at Southwatch had hurt, especially the acknowledgment that she felt that same attraction… and that they could never give into it.

Amelia’s companion cleared her throat and Aerion started a bit, realizing that he had paused longer than was socially acceptable. “Princess Tirianis,” Aerion nodded respectfully.

King Simonel’s sister gave him a wicked smile in return, “So formal, still, young Swordbreaker? We’ll have to break you of that, else the outside world will come to doubt our savage ways and decadent natures.” She was almost as tall as her brother, with the same raven black hair and bright leaf-green eyes, though her skin was a red-gold color somehow softer than Simonel’s. Instead of Simonel’s leather sparring armor, she wore a green dress that clung to her figure in a fashion that would have made him blush and stammer only a few weeks earlier.

Aerion flushed a bit, suddenly reminded of the bathing area where men and women gathered irrespective of sex. It had been an enlightening experience upon his first visit. Combined with the variety of behavior and the odd ways they had tried to make him feel welcome, he could only shake his head and smile, “Don’t worry, Princess Tirianis, I’m sure they won’t believe my tales anyway.”

***

Here’s the back cover blurb:

Civilization is dying.

The lands of the Five Duchies are in chaos. They are leaderless and each land stands alone. Besieged by barbarians, savages, fell beasts, and infighting, few doubt that the end times are upon them.

Yet all is not lost. In the East, Lady Katarina Emberhill has begun an uprising against the Usurper and those who follow her carry relics from the time of the High Kings. In Boir, Lord Admiral Christoffer Tarken forges alliances and defends his lands. And in the Eastwood, powers that have been silent for eons are stirring and turning their eyes to the outside world.

But the key is the Usurper Duke, a man drawn to savagery and battle. His victories in his personal war against the Armen have swelled the ranks of his army. Who will draw the wrath of the Usurper: will he turn it against his own rebellious people or levy his forces against the threats to all civilized men?

Once again, Wrath of the Usurper will be available tomorrow, 30 May, 2015.

Echo of the High Kings Book Sale

Echo of the High Kings, Book I of the Eoriel Saga
Echo of the High Kings, Book I of the Eoriel Saga

Just a friendly reminder that you can pick up my book, Echo of the High Kings, on sale this weekend for only .99 cents.  That’s four dollars off the normal price and as a bonus, the next book will be along in only two weeks.  So if you’ve been hesitating to pick it up, you have two great reasons to pick it up today and read it this weekend!  If you’ve already read it, tell your friends about it and let them know!

In Eoriel, the High Kings are legend: rulers who once stood against the darkness and ruled the world for two thousand turns of peace and prosperity. In the long turns since their fall during the Sundering, Eoriel’s civilization has faded. Dark men and darker beings have torn down and destroyed the old works. While some have held out against the grind of history, other places have been reduced to primitive tribes of savages, worshiping dark spirits and demons as their gods.

Yet a spark of hope remains. Some still believe in the old legends, some still fight to restore the old ways, and some will stand against the darkness, in an echo of the High Kings.

Echo of the High Kings

Upcoming Echo of the High Kings Book Sale!

Echo of the High Kings, Book I of the Eoriel Saga
Echo of the High Kings, Book I of the Eoriel Saga

Echo of the High Kings will be going on sale for the weekend in preparation for the release of the sequel, Wrath of the Usurper.  Echo of the High Kings will be available from 15-17 May for only .99 cents.  So if you’ve been on the fence about picking it up, now you’ve got no reason to hesitate.

In Eoriel, the High Kings are legend: rulers who once stood against the darkness and ruled the world for two thousand turns of peace and prosperity. In the long turns since their fall during the Sundering, Eoriel’s civilization has faded. Dark men and darker beings have torn down and destroyed the old works. While some have held out against the grind of history, other places have been reduced to primitive tribes of savages, worshiping dark spirits and demons as their gods.

Yet a spark of hope remains. Some still believe in the old legends, some still fight to restore the old ways, and some will stand against the darkness, in an echo of the High Kings.

Echo of the High Kings

Echo of the High Kings Second Sample

Here’s the second sample from Echo of the High Kings.  Once again, Echo of the High Kings will be published on 1 August 2014.  For the first sample, check here.

Lord Hector

Town of East Reach, Longhaven Barony, Duchy of Masov

Twenty-Ninth of Idran, Cycle 993 Post Sundering

 

Lord Hector pulled his cloak tighter against the damp air of the tavern as he read through the scout’s report. He wasn’t certain if the cool, damp fall air or the dire news laid out in the precise handwriting on the parchment that made the gooseflesh rise on his arms.

“You need to kill him tonight,” his spy said, his voice tight with strain.

Hector’s head snapped up and he met the blue eyed gaze of the source of the reports. “You seem eager for me to commit treason based on the Armen threat.” For a moment, he almost forgot that the dusky-skinned man across from him wasn’t one of the barbarians from the north. He had seen many such faces, often marked with ritual tattoos or brands, often blood-spattered from their work. Most of what he saw at little better than arms reach as they tried to take his life and he theirs.

Hector didn’t realize that his hand had dropped to his sword until the other man reached out and put his hand atop Hector’s, “I do not seek to drive you to treason… I seek to save these lands from the savagery that we both know awaits. You raised me to be your spy amongst the Armen and your scout on campaign. Believe me, father, the Armen will come with the spring.”

Hector failed to hide a wince. It wasn’t that he didn’t have pride, of a sort, in his bastard son’s accomplishments. Yet, the truth remained, his boy was a halfblood… and while half his blood came from Hector, the other half of that blood came from the enemy. Hector shot a glance around the all-but-empty tavern, but it looked like the old drunks at the bar had little interest in their conversation. Hector’s eyes lingered on a hooded man in the corner, but the hunched figure in the shadows looked to be too far away to overhear their conversation. Even so, Hector pitched his voice low so it would not carry, “I sent you to gather information. You brought back rumors and vague warnings, talk of sorcerers and the mutterings of Armen holy men. I can’t bypass Baron Estrel and go to the Duke with this, not without hard numbers.”

“Do not allow your hate for me to blind you to the truth, father,” his son said. For a second, he looked so much like is mother that Hector had to look away. His chest ached with a long-remembered pain and Hector’s left hand stroked a scar that ran along his left thigh.

“I don’t hate you,” Hector managed to mutter. “But as you said, if this is all I have, then I am left one option: kill the rightful Baron of Longhaven and take his place. Otherwise, there isn’t time to prevent his next tribute shipment.”

Hector’s son nodded, “You can’t go to the Duke without solid proof, or Baron Estrel will undercut anything you say. The barony will fall without a strong leader. Your cousin has whored away his father’s gains. The talk amongst the Armen is that his lands are ripe for raiding.”

Hector nodded despite himself. He had arrived two cycles earlier, sent by the Duke with direction to try to repair some of the damage Baron Estrel had done to his defenses. What he had found had made the most pessimistic reports of the Barony’s readiness look far understated. Little remained of Baron Estrel’s forces. Most of his soldiers were unfit for duty, and his Master of Arms was an old drunk. Hector had done what he could, but the truth remained that the Barony was in a state of disarray… a fact that the Armen raiders knew quite well. Estrel had held them off until now with bribes and tribute, but even the Armen knew that soon he couldn’t afford any more. Soon the Armen would descend along the coast. They would rape, enslave, pillage and burn, and Hector had seen what they left behind often enough to feel sick at the thought.

Hector’s mouth twisted in a grimace, “I know what I have to do, yes… and I know the cost. If even a whisper of this gets out, the Duke will demand justice. My head will be the one that rolls for this.” Hector looked down and noticed that his wine sat untouched. He took a sip of his wine and the liquid burned in his throat. He shook his head as his vision flared for a moment. His head felt a little light.

“You need not face that,” his son shook his head. “Have me do it, father. It will look like an Armen raid, I’ll even hire a few Armen to launch a distraction. Even if I fail, the worst anyone will think is that I’ve betrayed you.”

Hector heard the words as if through a tunnel. He shook his head again, and he heard his own response as if it came from someone else, “You think I lack the stomach for it, do you?” He hadn’t realized that he stood until he heard his chair hit the floor behind him. Some part of him wondered at his own reaction, yet it was a disconnected thought, one he barely noticed.

His son stretched out an arm, “No! I merely think that this is the best way to do this! Please, sit. I did not mean to anger you, father–”

Hector seemed to rush back into himself and his head cleared. Forgotten was the lightheaded feeling, replaced by a spike of rage, “Do not dare to try to placate me!” Hector shouted. “You think me too cowardly to do the business myself, you seek to make me skulk behind you and then you seek to insinuate that I’m unreasonable?!” Incandescent rage filled him, and only the shreds of his self control allowed him to rip his hand away from the hilt of his sword. “Begone,” Hector snarled.

He saw his son’s face go slack with shock and then firm with rage of his own. Even so, he tried to reason with him, “Please, do not do this. You need some cut out or this will all be for naught–”

Hector saw some movement behind his son, the cloaked man in the corner. For a moment, Hector met the other man’s dark eyes. Hector thought he saw the slightest twist of a smile on the other man’s shadowed face. He laughs at me, just as my son always has… The smile was the last straw, the catalyst that sent his rage to boil over.

Hector leaned across the table and struck his son twice, once across each cheek. “You are no son of mine. You’ve done your task, now begone, and let a man of honor do his duty.”

Hector righted his chair as his son turned away without a word. He saw that the drunks had given him their attention, but a glare from him sent them back to their drinks. Hector sat and stared down at the reports and ignored the sound of the inn’s door as his son walked out into the cold fall rain. Hector pushed the wine goblet away and stared down at the reports. A part of him wanted to get up, to go after his son.

Yet his pride and his anger kept him in his chair and his duty forced him to examine what he had to do. He knew how to do it and he knew exactly what it would cost him to do it right. He was right to tell his son that he must do the deed himself. Hector was sent by the Duke to fix things, and so it fell to him to make it right. If nothing else, he owed it to his cousin to kill him in person.

Hector rolled up the parchment report and his gaze went distant as he began to make plans. He went past the immediate deed and had begun to plan his campaign against the Armen for the spring within a few minutes. He never noticed the hooded man from the corner as he slipped out of the tavern, just as the tavern maid hadn’t noticed when he slipped a vial of amber liquid in Hector’s wine when he’d entered.

***

Blurb

In Eoriel, the High Kings are legend: rulers who once stood against the darkness and ruled the world for two thousand turns of peace and prosperity. In the long turns since their fall during the Sundering, Eoriel’s civilization has faded. Dark men and darker beings have torn down and destroyed the old works. While some have held out against the grind of history, other places have been reduced to primitive tribes of savages, worshiping dark spirits and demons as their gods.

Yet, a spark of hope remains: some still believe in the old legends, some still fight to restore the old ways, and some will stand against the darkness, in an echo of the High Kings.

Echo of the High Kings will be published on 1 August 2014

Building an Epic Fantasy World: Modern History, Trade, and Society

So up until this point, I’ve developed my world, Eoria, configured what technology is available, what magic works, and even what people populate it. See the last post, on the history and cultures here. Today I’ll design the modern history, talk a bit about trade & industry, and design the societies that make up Eoria.

First off, when I left off, the lowlands civilizations were disparate, which didn’t allow them to unify and push the highland barbarians or northern barbarians back. This was exacerbated by the southern jungle civilization, which I’ve named Vendakar, who prefers the other civilizations weak and uses the slave trade produced by the barbarian raiders for their own ends.

Now, into this, I want to introduce the start of modern times, the notion of a central authority or leadership. I could map out the rise of some great conquerer… but I want to give them more of a feeling of legitimacy, rather than someone who just beat everyone else down. I also want to show, again, that this world is part of a greater universe… and that mankind didn’t originate here. So, I’ll introduce a new people, the Starborn. The Starborn arrive at Eoria during a period of heavy raiding by the barbarians. They come to Eoria aboard their ship, and they intially seek little contact with the natives, establishing a secure colony on their own. However, as their technology begins to fail, they are drawn into the local politics. As a contrast here, some of the Starborn seek to remain apart, others think that they should use their weapons and technology to seize power and rule, and a third group wants to work with the natives. The three groups have a short but brutal civil war in which the group that wants to work with the natives is victorious, while the conquistadors are exiled, sent north, where they found their own nation, called Darkstar. The isolationists are discouraged by both groups and head off on their own, to try and preserve ‘pure’ technology, rather than the magic and mysticism they see elsewhere. The majority of the Starborn begin to work with the locals. In particular, they are drawn to help in the fights against the barbarians. The leader of this faction, from the previous civil war, helps to unify the smaller nations, so that they work together against their common enemies. In the process, he steps into the role as the overall leader of their alliance… eventually coming to become their High King as things solidify. The five lowlands civilizations become the Five Duchies, each independent in their own lands but unified under the High King’s leadership.

The Starborn also bring ideas of sanitation, crop rotation, fertilizers, rule of law, and other low-tech but still important elements of civilization. With the assistance of the starborn, the five civilized nations defeat the rising tide of barbarism. They also experience a population boom from the increased hygiene, improved economy, and higher food yields. The Starborn, partnered with the nobility of these lands, slowly move into leadership positions, often intermarrying with the locals. Some prefer to remain in isolation, living separately, but many become the leaders of these other nations over generations.

The reign of the Starborn High Kings is a time of peace and prosperity. The Starborn value individual freedoms and personal responsibility as well, so there remains some upward mobility in most of their lands. They also approach magic from a scientific stance, so they push the boundaries of magical theory.

Going into each of the Five Duchies, I can decide what their strengths and weaknesses are, what they trade for and produce, and what the defining characteristics are. I’ve named them: Marovingia, Asador, Taral, Boir, and Masov, roughly from west to east.

Marovingia is the furthest south, along the equator, and blessed with plenty of rainfall and good weather. It acts as the breadbasket for the rest of the Five Duchies, with huge farms that produce food over multiple growing seasons during the year. The Marovingians, unlike most of the Five Duchies, do not venerate spirits of places or ancestors… they worship their gods. Their gods are physical beings, men and women who are born with a natural connection to the spirit world, and who are able to manifest powers. Marovingians are the closest to the Vendakar Kingdom, so they are bitter rivals. Marovingia’s large population and large percentage of land ownership gives rise to citizen soldiers who fight in their legions.

Asador is a volcanic highland, of rolling plains and towering cinder cones. The people of Asador are as volatile as their lands, being known for fiery tempers and ancestral grudges. While they are likely to engage in bickering or feuds, they will work together against common foes. Asador’s plains give rise to herds of cattle and sheep and the people are split between the small towns, built like fortresses on the volcanic peaks and the roaming peoples who raise livestock and live on horseback. The volcanoes in Asador’s highlands provide power sources for their wizards, allowing them to harness that energy to power their magical inventions. Asador’s cavalry, both heavy and light, are their military strength.

Taral is another highland area. Taral, unlike the other Duchies, is much closer to barbarism. The people of Taral experience some of the strongest and fiercest winters on Eoriel, with snow depths reaching forty or fifty feet. Taral lies between two mountain ranges and the lake effect off the Boir sea buries the Duchy every winter in snow. The heavy run-off in the spring erodes Taral into steep gullies and ravines, floods fields, and feeds the multiple rivers and lakes. Due to the harshness of winter, Taral has developed expertise in enchanting, crafting sunwells which gather light all through the spring, summer and fall to allow them to grow crops underground to withstand the winter months. They’ve adapted their enchanting skills to other areas since, but each village and town is built around a sunwell and the sunwells are of extreme importance to them. The people of Taral are in constant skirmishes with the mountain barbarians as the two people feud over highland valleys to grow crops and run livestock.

Boir rests along the inland Boir Sea. The people of Boir are industrious and are often drawn to trade and exploration. They build the best ships and their shipmasters travel everywhere. Most cargoes in Eoriel travel in a ship from Boir. The shorter growing seasons mean they are dependent upon food imports to maintain their population, but they spend the long winters working and laboring, providing goods and items for export and trade. Boir’s naval forces are their primary military strength, designed primarily around defeating the northern barbarians sea raiders, who plague their coastlines.

The last of the Five Duchies is Masov. Masov is the largest and is separated from the rest of Eoriel by the Boir Sea and the Ryft, connected by land only at the Ryft Guard, a massive fortress which spans the Ryft at its narrowest point. Masov’s people are as varied as it’s terrain. In the northern lowlands, trade and industry are more important to the people, while in the southern highlands, farming and logging are what people do to live. Masov’s central area is thin, hedged on one side by the Eastwood and on the other by the ocean. Masov, however, is the oldest of the Duchies, and one of the first to support the Starborn High Kings and is seen as the cultural center for the Five Duchies. The main focus of magic in Masov is blood magic and the mages who practice their arts are the best healers in Eoriel. As a counter to this, those who stray into perversions of blood magic, sorcerers, are also more common here. The southern deserts and high mountain valleys are host to more of the barbarians in the south, while the northern lowlands are raided by the northern sea raiders, which gives the Duchy a unique perspective on threats.

With that baseline established, coming into more recent times, the High Kingdom has fallen into disrepair. The High Kings are extinct, brought down by betrayal. In the process, the Five Duchies have created their own feuds and have fought one another, setting the stage for no one Duchy quite trusting the other to have their backs. As a consequence, the barbarians and the Vendakar have been able to raid and attack more successfully. In particular, Taral is brought low by the mountain barbarians, with many of its towns and villages destroyed and its people surviving only in isolated mountain villages, small pockets of civilization against the barbarians. Since Taral lay central to the Five Duchies, it’s loss makes travel and communications between the others difficult, at best. Boir maintains travel by sea, but the increase in northern sea raiders makes that dangerous too.

The general decline of civilization means that knowledge and information are lost. The Starborn families that survived the fall of the High Kings associate less with the other people of Eoria. Lack of communication and trust means that civilization declines still more. The volatile people of Asador’s feuds erupt into full blown civil war when their Duke dies without a clear heir. Each of the Duchies is isolated and alone and the barbarians threaten to overwhelm them.

This, then, is the perfect place for my story to start. I have a rich history (which I populated with names, dates, and other fun historical stuff), I know what people are where and what motivates them. I know what magic works, what science and technology work, and how the different people can apply them. Civilization, on Eoria, is at the brink of collapse. Into this, then, I populate the characters, men and women who either want to give civilization that last push towards collapse or who want to bring it back from the brink.

That concludes my world building series, hopefully it helps other writers and, if not, then at least it proved interesting.

Free Stuff: Preview from Echo of the High Kings, Part 3

A third installment from Echo of the High Kings.  The section covers a skirmish between Lady Katarina’s followers and some of Duke Hector’s men.

Aerion set his back against the tree and took a deep breath.  Through the trees, the squeal of pigs and the rumble of wagons carried.  He listened to that sound, and he waited.  For a moment, he remembered his home.  Aerion remembered Old Taggart’s voice, rough and low, filled with caution, as if every word were some precious coin to spend.  He remembered the smell of his mother’s apron, the scent of stew and bread, and of smoke from the wood fireplace in the inn. 

And then he remembered the fire, and the screams.

At that moment, a clear trumpet clarion sounded as Gerlin signaled the attack.

Aerion leaped from behind his tree, and immediately spotted the wagons, only thirty feet away.  He ran forward, hands clenched on the greatsword.  One of the guards on foot, raised a drawn bow, arrow pointed at Aerion.  The guard released just as Aerion stumbled.  Aerion felt the arrow’s fletching kiss his neck.

The guard reached for another arrow.  Aerion felt his world narrow, as everything but that guard and his bow vanished.  He felt his legs pump him forward.  His heart raced, a steady drumbeat that drowned all else out.  Aerion felt a cry of rage and fear open his mouth, but he couldn’t hear it, couldn’t hear anything.

The guard, knocked another arrow.  The mercenary seemed to move in slow motion.  He raised the bow, drew it back.

And then Aerion had closed the distance.  He swung the sword downward, all memory of his training lost, he swung the four foot blade like an axe.

The sword struck the mercenary between his right shoulder and his neck.  The blade chopped down through his simple leather armor, and a fountain of blood erupted.

Aerion stumbled back, spitting blood and suddenly sickened.  He had to tug hard, foot pressed against the corpse to pull his sword free.  Some motion sensed as much as seen caused him to turn.  He ducked under a spear thrust and caught the shaft just behind the barbed head.  Aerion pulled hard, and suddenly stood, face to face with a blonde bearded mercenary, his eyes wide, pupils dilated.

Aerion saw him release the spear, hands going for a dagger at his waist.  He brought the pommel of his sword up into his opponent’s face.   The mercenary stumbled back with a cry.

A shout made him turn, and he saw one of the Jasen on the ground, a brutish looking warrior above him with an axe.  Aerion lunged forward, sword extended.

The iron tip of his sword skidded off of the axeman’s chainmail.  Aerion continued his move and slammed his shoulder into the larger man’s back.  The axeman stumbled away, and Aerion stumbled back.

Another man, his face drawn in a rictus of hate, swung a sword at him.  Aerion brought up his sword to parry, and a shock went down his arm.  The beserk warrior swung again, and again Aerion blocked.  He kicked out, desperate to get some room to move, but his opponent caught the blow on his shield and continued his wild attack.

Again and again the madman battered at him, Aerion desperately swung his larger sword to block blow after blow.  He backed away, tried to gain some space, but his attacker didn’t slow his own pace, and continued to press him.

His feet caught on something.  Aerion fell back over a still body.  Aerion hit the hardpacked road on the flat of his back.  The impact drove all the air out of his lungs.  Aerion brought his sword up to block as his opponent swung a powerful overhand blow. 

The sword struck just inches above the crossguard with a sound like a hammer striking glass, the brittle iron of his sword snapped.

Aerion held the stump of his blade up in shock as the berserk warrior above him raised his own blade for the finishing blow.  Aerion kicked out hard.  His leg struck his attacker’s knee, which bent backwards with a horrific crackle.

The warrior dropped with a scream, and Aerion stood, still clutching the stump of a sword.  The beserker still swung his sword at Aerion.  He crawled towards him, maimed leg dragging.  Aerion saw Jasen, a bloody gash down the side of his face, drive a spear down into the beserker from behind.

“Grab his sword, boy!” Jasen shouted.  He pointed over Aerion’s shoulder.  “There’s more of them, ancestors know where they came from, but they’re attacking lady Katarina!”

Aerion felt a jolt of ice water pump through his veins.  He looked over, just in time to see eight horsemen push through a cluster of fighting.

He saw her then.  She stood in the middle of the road, only twenty feet away.  She had her sword in her left hand, something else in her right.  She looked like a scene from a story.  She stood like a savage warrior princess, her dark hair back in a braid, her chain shirt spattered with blood.

Aerion blindly reached down.  His fingers found the hilt of the sword that had nearly taken his life.  He charged forward.  Jasen had already run ahead, but Aerion’s longer legs easily outpaced him.

He sprinted past Lady Katarina, just as she raised her right hand.  He heard her shout something as he raced past.  He couldn’t hear her words over the roaring in his ears and his own labored breathing.

One of the horsemen reared before him, and swung down with a blade.

Aerion ducked under the horse’s head, then thrust up on the horseman’s left side.  He felt the lighter blade skitter off the horseman’s greaves, then catch and plunge up under his breastplate.

The horseman sagged, just as the frightened horse sidestepped.

Aerion jerked the blade free and turned, just in time to see two more behind him.  Time slowed again as he saw the nearest had his hammer raised, about to descend upon Aerion.  Aerion tried to force his body to move out of the path, but he didn’t have time.

He heard Lady Katarina shout something, her high, clear voice cut through the shouts and screams.

Aerion watched the hammer descend, saw his death in that swing, with no time to move out of the way or block it.

Then the world flared white.