Fractured Fragment Friday: The Final Swordsmaster Preview (Or is it Goatsmaster?)

Well, now that Swordsmaster is firmly in release, let’s have one more excerpt before Fractured Fragment Friday returns to short fiction.

Here’s the blurb:

Fate is neither something to run away from, nor something to run towards.Swordsmaster4

The first bright-eye to be seen on the mountain in living memory, Sandrik didn’t want anyone to think of him as they did the ominous Aurae of legend, so he had worked hard to keep his special abilities hidden. But there was more to Sandrik than even he knew. Now that it was time for him to enter the ancient ruins of Taernfeld and be declared a man, what other changes might he be forced into?

And here’s this week’s excerpt:

Early the next morning, Sandrik stood by the Caladon Road and scanned the traffic moving north from the city. Several merchants kicked up dust as they set out, grouped together for mutual protection against the Jarrun. Sandrik counted four major companies among them and a large number of swords, but there was no sign of Merith nor Dharvish. After a couple of hours, the crowds thinned until the road was nearly empty. The air was warming; it was close to noon, and Sandrik wondered if they had decided to go on without him, but then he saw Merith walking toward him.

“Your priest told me that you would be here,” she said.

“This is where Dharvish told me to wait for you,” he said.

“There has been a change of plans; we need to head back to our campsite,” she said.

They walked west along the outer perimeter road, where visiting merchants and drovers would set up temporary camps.

“Dharvish was certain that you would come, but I thought you might have decided to stay with the priest. I am glad that I was mistaken,” she said.

“Why…?” he began, but then her smile made Sandrik’s heart race and his mind went limp. He didn’t want to seem as foolish as he felt, so he searched for a way past it. It took a few stumbling paces along the road, but he finally settled down enough to speak.

“Why the change of plans?” he asked.

“Dharvish thought we could at least make it onto the road without you,” Merith said. “But Ursael really does not get along with the goats.”

“There you are, boy! What kept you two so long?” Dharvish called from where he stood by his wagon.

“I am sorry, Dharvish. I thought he might still be in his priest’s barn, but he was waiting for us where you told him to,” Merith said.

“This delay does not bode well for us. It will take some of Kimar’s own luck to catch up with the other merchant trains before we are outside the patrols,” Dharvish said.

“Perhaps you should wait for the next group to leave,” Sandrik said.

“Surely I did not hire you for your brains. There is no telling how long we would need to wait for another caravan,” Dharvish said, then pointed to the field beyond his wagon. “Both of you – go help Ursael to round up those little beasts.”

They walked through the tall, tan autumn grasses, and found Ursael, where he knelt in the midst of a sizeable collection of goats. Alain, Harlan, and Liam – a clean-shaven, thirtyish, blonde Haval whom Sandrik had not seen before – brought in the stragglers one by one, while Ursael attempted to secure a rope around the neck of each of the new arrivals. Petron, Kalban, and yet a third, typically Haval swordsman Sandrik did not recognize hemmed them all in.

“You do know they’ll just chew through the ropes, don’t you?” Petron asked.

“Yes, but at least we can move them along for a while until they do,” Ursael said.

“Kimar the Fool will be pleased but, for me, it seems rather a waste of good rope,” Kalban said.

“I suppose that the two of you could do better,” Ursael said.

“No, but he could,” Kalban said, pointing at Sandrik.

Ursael glanced at Sandrik, then grunted while he continued tying ropes.

“Of course he could – they are his kin. His cursed majesty could control the little devils all by himself,” Ursael said.

Sandrik wanted to throw an insult back at Ursael, but insults did not come naturally to him; it also proved unnecessary for him to defend himself.

“Do not call him that, Ursael! He is just trying to help,” Merith said.

“Goats are small, hairy demons. They have tormented me in Shoulder and everywhere else that I have had the misfortune to encountered them. They are filthy, obstinate, evil –,” Ursael suddenly ceased his rant and threw down the tangle of ropes in disgust and grumbled, “They are all yours!”

“I cannot do this by myself,” Sandrik said. “I will stay here with these while the rest of you bring me the others.”

“But they will all just wander off again,” the third swordsman said.

“No, they won’t, Warren,” Petron said. “Let’s get after them.”

Sandrik stood by the herd while Merith and the others retrieved the remainder of the goats. Not only did the little beasts not wander off as Warren had feared, but they shifted into a tighter cluster around Sandrik. They waited contentedly as more were brought in.

Finally, when they could find no more goats wandering about loose, Ursael counted them, then cupped his hands around his mouth and bellowed, “Two hundred and sixty – that is all of them! Everybody in!”

“Now what, Master Ursael?” Petron ribbed him once they had all returned.

“Ask the cursed one,” Ursael said.

“Don’t call him that!” Merith said as she glared at Ursael.

“It is alright,” Sandrik said as he smiled at her. “I will walk ahead, and they should follow my lead. The rest of you come along behind them in case they get other ideas.”

Sandrik worked his way out of the tight knot in the center of the herd and started walking toward Dharvish’s wagon, and as with the sheep back home, the goats followed. It wasn’t perfect; goats were a little more independent than sheep, and one or two of them would become distracted and begin to wander off, until one of the drovers blocked their way and encouraged them to rejoin their kin.

By the time they had reached the wagon, it was obvious that Alain, Harlan and Liam were more than sufficient to keep after the stragglers. The three swordsmen left the group and mounted their horses, while Merith joined Sandrik in the lead, as did Ursael.

“We are ready,” Ursael announced when they reached the wagon.

“Well, is that not a miracle?” Dharvish scowled. “Let us hope that we can make up some of the time you have wasted.”

Swordsmaster is a fantasy novel. It’s available at many online retailers, including, but not limited to:

Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/954501

Amazon:  https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07WNK79FM

(there is also a paperback on Amazon at https://www.amazon.com/dp/1691904910 )


William Mangieri’s writing can be found at several online retailers, including, but not limited to:
• Smashwords:  https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/NoTimeToThink
• His Amazon Author page:  http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B008O8CBDY
• Barnes & Noble:  http://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/william-mangieri?store=book&keyword=william+mangieri

• His site on WordPress:  https://williammangieri.wordpress.com
• “William Mangieri’s Writing Page” on Facebook at:  http://www.facebook.com/NoTimeToThink
• His Goodreads author page:  http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6893616.William_Mangieri
• Or on twitter: @WilliaMangieri

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