Having covered both of my FREE series starters, we’ll now swing around to my only novel (until I finish Swordsmaster Deception; I may change the name to Swordsmaster: Awakening in advance of Deception’s release – we shall see…)
In 2015, I started writing Swordsmaster, and here I am, three-and-one-half years later, putting my first novel out there for all the world to see. Well, it’s not entirely true that I started writing it in 2015. Swordsmaster really first came into my mind in 1979, and I managed to generate eighty hand-written pages. I set the story aside at that point (the character of Dragor had appeared in the manuscript ten pages earlier and was riding toward his death – a death I didn’t want to write.) I don’t have those original eighty pages anymore, but the main part of the story – Svaerd’s imprisonment in the haeld, Sandrik’s exile and finding the sword, and Svaerd’s escape – were all there, and I rolled the story over in my mind every so often over the intervening thirty-seven years.
My point is, this story was more than four years in the making – it was four DECADES. Fact is, although that timespan is obvious in the case of Swordsmaster, that isn’t unusual for a book. When you write, you bring much of your life into your work. So even if you don’t start writing the story while you’re a child, parts of your childhood will still influence it, if not outright appearing on the page. So, my whole life is in here somewhere, and in my case that gives Swordsmaster over sixty years of development.
Here’s the Blurb
Fate is neither something to run away from, nor is it something to run towards.
The sorcerer Svaerd destroyed the Aurae Council in his quest to take the power of Taernfeld for himself. He almost succeeded in his designs, but was defeated by the council’s lone survivor. Trapped within a haeld-sword, he plots his escape.
For four-hundred years, magic has been outlawed by Tor-Haval. Sandrik is the first bright-eye to be seen in Caladon in living memory, and he doesn’t want anyone to think of him as they did the ominous Aurae of legend, so he keeps his special abilities hidden. But there is more to Sandrik than even he knows. Now he is about to enter the ancient ruins of Taernfeld to be declared a man, but another fate awaits him. Will he escape it?
And Here’s This Week’s Excerpt
The soldiers took back to the road and proceeded briskly, the clash ahead of them becoming more audible as they advanced. Finally, they crested a hill that overlooked Reithal and saw the battle.
Lord Brennan’s forces were outnumbered. Sirs Niederwuhl and Doulet were further north on the road and fought a gathering of near six hundred Jarrun who had come south from the direction of Reithal to meet them, while Sir Oglebert was fighting a rear-guard action against the two-hundred Jarrun that Dragor and Lavignon’s force had been pursuing. Not quite the dream engagement that Sir Lavignon had envisioned, but still, the smaller part of the Jarrun force was now trapped between Oglebert’s men and their own.
“For Allemande! Attack!” Sir Lavignon shouted.
“Filian, let us join them! For Caladon!” Lord Dragor shouted.
Swords were drawn, and with a great shout, they advanced downhill toward the weaker force, Sir Lavignon at the head of his men, while Lord Dragor and Captain Filian led the Guard. The Jarrun became aware of the new arrivals, and seeing that they would soon be in the same predicament that Lord Brennan had gotten himself into, they broke off their attack on his troops, to face their new foes. Oglebert’s men hesitated at first, but when it was apparent that the Jarrun would be kept occupied by Lavignon, Sir Oglebert ordered most of them into the more heavily contested fray against the Jarrun to the north.
The Jarrun were not the cowards that Lord Brennan had declared them; despite now being overmatched, they did not take the opportunity to flee the scene – instead they bellowed and charged to intercept their attackers and hold them back from the main combat. The two sides came together with a clash of steel, and Sandrik once again found himself in battle, only this time he was part of an orderly army with his fellows before him and all around, so that he did not have the freedom of movement he had enjoyed in earlier, small-scale fights. Still, being mounted was an advantage. The sword managed to impale one poor soul who slipped through the line to him, and he shared its surge of triumph.
Slowly but surely, they took out their opponents, and then moved forward to join with the main melee. It was dusk by then, and the battle had become less regimented than during the initial encounter; this was more of the man to man type of fighting that Sandrik had become accustomed to, and he was able to move about more freely, seeking out gaps through which he could find more opponents. Three more of the enemy fell before him to feed the sword’s thirst, and with each killing, Sandrik felt more driven to find even more.
The tide turned against their foes as the sun disappeared in the west, and finally the Jarrun broke and ran, most of them headed west on the North Road, but many into Reithal. Sandrik pursued those without a care for his own safety; he and Demon were a deadly, unforgiving pair, picking off one on the outskirts of town, another further in, and within sight of Laurent’s shop a pair gave up running and turned to face him with their spears.
With all the lives he had taken, his head was swimming so that it had the feel of a dream. And in this bloodlust-sodden haze, he saw two Jarrun in front of Laurent’s shop, one of them carrying a bound and struggling red-haired young woman over his shoulder.
“Merith!” Sandrik shouted.
He wanted to ride to her aid, but the two spearmen blocked his way. As he succeeded in cutting one of them down, he saw the unencumbered Jarrun mount a horse by the shop, then drag Merith from his companion’s grip so that he also could mount, and the two went racing their horses north up the street.
Sandrik could not spare any time to deal with the final spearman, and for once the sword did not insist on another kill as he backed Demon away and made a wide circle to avoid the Jarrun. He urged the horse to a gallop in pursuit of the two who had taken Merith. He passed Dharvish’s trading depot, where he saw Petron, Kalban and the others driving off a couple of Jarrun, but he did not have time to spare for them.
His quarry fled town on the road north toward the mountains, and no matter how hard he pressed the horse, he could not seem to gain on them – they stayed tantalizingly ahead of him in the moonlight, leading him – egging him on. He could feel Demon’s heart pounding as he left the road and continued to drive him up the wooded path that led toward the home he had been banished from nearly four years ago. Up, and up he rode, through the shadows, through the foothills, everything a blue-tinged blur around him. He practically flew through the center of Closest, his childhood neighbors startled from their sleep by the clatter of Demon’s hooves in his sudden passing. He paused for nothing. Merith’s captors led him up the path, through the pasture, on and on up the mountain. Sweat poured off Demon’s neck, but when it seemed the horse would falter, Sandrik reached inside and drove the beast to its limits.
Within your body is the potential to harness so much power. I have not told you this before, but that is the reason you must go to Taernfeld, the sword said.
“I cannot think of that now!” Sandrik wailed.
And yet we are on our way there. You cannot deny your fate, it said.
“I care nothing about fate – I must save her!”
They cleared the trees then, and he could see the rock face of the cliffs below Taernfeld. The two Jarrun were still on horseback, carrying Merith up the ramp that crisscrossed the cliff front. Demon wobbled, and then shuddered. Sandrik tried to force the horse onward, but it had finally been too much; the poor creature’s heart burst, and it collapsed among the stones at the base of the ramp.
Keep going – we are almost there! The sword shouted in his mind.
Sandrik disentangled himself from the horse and charged after the Jarrun on foot. Even though it was now night, he imagined that he saw the sunlit line of boys ahead of him from so long ago, with Mikael leading them into Taernfeld. He reached the entrance himself and hesitated. He could once again hear the whispers that gathered in the shimmer under the arch.
Do not stop now! the sword pressed.
The two Jarrun reappeared in front of him, carrying Merith between them as they ran down the street toward the center of Taernfeld. He stepped forward, once again heard the whispers crescendo into “ABOMINATION!”, only this time the tingling he remembered intensified into a tangible barrier, as though the shimmer had congealed into an invisible wall. He tried to force his way through, but the power of that place would not allow him to move another step forward.
No! You will not stop me now! the sword declared.
Sandrik’s right arm rose along with the sword as though of its own volition, and then swept back and forth across the archway as he opened his mouth. Harsh sounds issued forth; he could only assume they were words, but their meaning escaped him. Sandrik could see parts of the barrier becoming thin, as though it was being folded on itself, and then there was a flash, and the archway’s resistance ceased.
Go on! After them! the sword insisted.
The Jarrun were ahead of him, taunting him, with Merith still trussed and struggling between them. Sandrik took a step out from under the arch, and another and yet another, until he was running once more. They rushed on ahead of him and into the central plaza. When he could see them again, they had stopped at the altar stone. Merith lay atop it, and they were standing at either end, swords raised above her.
“Leave her alone!” he shouted.
Will Sandrik reach Merith in time? Perhaps; or perhaps things are not entirely as they seem…
Swordsmaster is available today through this weekend at on Smashwords with a 50%-off coupon (use DU43U) at this link: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/954501
Honest ratings and reviews are, as always, appreciated. Hope you enjoy it!
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William Mangieri’s writing has been published on Daily Science Fiction and The Arcanist. His ninety or so short stories and related collections can be found at several online retailers, including, but not limited to:
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