The night before his Coming-of-Age, Ghyll and his two friends escape their castle on a clandestine boar hunt that will forever change their lives. The hunt proves a disaster, and with one of them badly wounded, they return just in time to see their island castle destroyed by macabre warriors from a dragon boat, and by flocks of fire-breathing birds. Ghyll’s eighteenth birthday turns into a nightmare as they flee into the night.
Now begins an epic journey to find out who is trying to kill them – and most importantly, why?
Fortunately, they can count on the help of new friends, including a sometimes overly enthusiastic fire mage, an inexperienced paladin and a young beastmistress who is also a ferocious mountain lioness. It soon becomes clear that not one but several sorcerers want to kill them. Are those blackrobes really followers of a terrible, long-forgotten organization?
~ Worldwind BT
And whose cold hand reaches across the boundaries of space and time to crush weakened Rhidauna?
How did his parents and brothers die? Where their deaths really accidents, or were they killed? These questions young Ghyll Hardingraud must answer before he can ascend Rhidauna’s throne.
Ghyll’s search for the truth leads him and his Companions on a journey back to the past as he slowly unravels a dark conspiracy.
Once crowned, the young King Ghyll still has to finish the mission his dead uncle imposed on him. The journey takes him and his trusted friends through inhospitable lands and dangerous swamps to the endless steppes of Zihaen, looking for the Voice from the West. He discovers he isn’t the only one. His vindictive enemy pursues him, aided by undead forces.
~ Worldwind BT
The fog gave no sign of abating. With a sigh, Olle turned around. He thought he saw something moving in front of them. ‘Torril.’
‘Do you see anything?’
Torril peered into the mist. ‘Shapes,’ he said with some hesitation. ‘Shapes in long dresses?’
‘That’s where Bo is!’
They ran to the place where they had spent the night. Three faint white apparitions danced around Bo’s stretcher. ‘Co-me… Cooome…’ they moaned, with voices full of terrible desire. ‘Cooome.’ One of the shadows grabbed Bo’s arm with a transparent claw and started pulling at him.
‘Stop!’ Olle let his sword cut the air with a humming sound.
‘No-oo… Nooo… Cooome…’ The shapes crooned, trying to drag Bo off the stretcher. With a cry, Olle fell upon them, Torril right behind him. To no avail. The weapons of the two Companions didn’t touch the apparitions, as if their forms were made of the fog surrounding them. ‘By Helgran, there’s more of them!’
‘N-o-o-o…. C-o-o-o-m-e… ‘
Soon there were twenty of the apparitions; they swirled around the two who were fighting them in a wild unholy dance. Even with their impressive muscles, Olle and Torril couldn’t touch the ethereal forms and soon they began to weaken. Their breathing grew difficult and their hearts seemed about to burst. Exhausted, Olle sank to his knees and waited for the end. Torril stood beside him, head bowed, leaning upon his axe. The apparitions stretched their greedy hands out to the two Companions. ‘C-o-o-o-m-e.’ The chill of those hands paralyzed their limbs, touched their hearts.
All at once, a huge flash bathed the surroundings in light. Olle smelled the pungent odor that sometimes follows a thunderstorm. When his sight returned, the shapes were gone. In their place, men and women in gray apparel surrounded them.
One of them, a young man of their own age, came forward. He wore a black headband and his hair lay in a ponytail on his back. His lower lip and his ear lobes were pierced with small silver rings, and his face was white like Uwella’s, with jet-black shadows around iris-less eyes. His glance met Olle’s and then looked past him, uninterested. ‘Come,’ he said, cold as an echo of the white shapes.
A woman of middle age, like the young man dressed in a gray leather uniform, held out her hand. ‘Your weapons please.’
‘Who are you?’ Olle’s heart was pounding from the past effort and the pain behind his sternum away took his breath. ‘You saved us.’
‘Hand me your weapons,’ the woman repeated.
Olle hesitated, but the drawn swords of the six fighters around him left him no choice. He handed her his weapon, then Torril reluctantly did the same.
Without a word, two of the strangers took Bo’s stretcher and carried him into the woods. The others surrounded Olle and Torril, and led them after the young man with the headband, who had walked away without another glance.
They left the fog behind and soon the sun was shining, the subdued light reflecting in the dewdrops on the leaves. Olle had lost all idea of time before he saw, through the trees, a wooden palisade. A girl in the same armor as their escorts guarded the entrance. She saluted and exchanged some word with the young man with the headband. Then she opened the gate and Olle and Torril stepped inside a ring of elongated wooden huts. One of the buildings stood apart from the others. His bearers carried Bo inside and the door closed behind them. The young man with the headband walked away without looking back. Beyond that first ‘come’, he hadn’t spoken. Before Olle could ask something, hard hands pushed him and Torril into a second, smaller hut. The door slammed shut and they heard a heavy bar fall into place.
‘Good morning,’ Ghyll said, and sat down. When the scraping and coughing died down, he looked up. ‘Well, ladies and gentlemen. Three vicious attacks against the kingdom: Tinnurad, Camp Dirdahn and now Yanthemonde. Without us ever having received a declaration of war, war has come upon us. A ruthless enemy…’
‘The Nhael,’ a stocky general said. The lancer cords on his shoulder shook.
‘General Qrill, you interrupt the king,’ Gard-Galleth said sternly.
‘It’s not the Nhael,’ Ghyll said quietly. ‘The Dar’khamorth is the enemy. They are an organization of sorcerers who see themselves as the successors of the Hamorth and the Revenaunt Emperor.’
The lancer snorted like one of his horses. ‘Nonsense. The Hamorth is no more. After the Fall of Abarran, we eradicated that gang. Eradicated, you hear. We’re at war with the Nhael, those pirates of the Drakenlanden. And you brought the Nhael into our country.’
‘Qrill, what are you talking about, man?’ another general asked, baffled.
‘That… that young villain who is always at his side, whom he treats as his squire. He’s a Nhaelish pirate. That knight in the temple had it right. This is not the king! This is a traitor, do you hear! A traitor. The real Ghyllander Hardingraud died in the ruins of Tinnurad!’
‘Silence!’ the marshal roared. ‘His Royal Highness had all the proof of his ancestry with him. You’re speaking nonsense, Qrill.’
The lancer general stood up and pointed a trembling finger at Ghyll. ‘He’s a fake! A traitor! Why don’t you see it, you fools!’
Ghyll rose. Anger surged through him and he felt his facial muscles constrict. Olle had risen too, but Ghyll motioned him stay out of it. ‘You go too far, General Qrill,’ he said in a tone calmer than he really was. ‘I am your king, crowned and anointed, blessed by the gods. My squire, Prince Torril, is a friend of my house and of Rhidauna. Although no peace has been signed with the Nhael Islands, the last act of war was eighty years ago. The knight in the temple was an agent of the Dar’khamorth, General. A falmage’s tool.’
‘Lies,’ Qrill said shakily. ‘All lies! Traitor! You are…’
‘Shut up!’ Ghyll’s tone was so relentless that even Olle was startled. ‘Qrill, your assertions are treasonous. You’re under arrest. I relieve you of your command and your rank. Marshal Gard-Galleth, strip him of his wrongful honors.’
The old marshal, stiff with rage, stepped forward. He yanked the golden lancer’s cords from Qrill’s shoulder, the general officer’s badge from his chest and a distinction Ghyll didn’t recognized from around Qrill’s neck.
‘You are no longer an officer. Give me your sword, Qrill.’ Ghyll held out his hand.
‘Filthy traitor!’ Qrill screamed and dived forward. Olle sprang to stop him, but Ghyll was faster than both. He sidestepped Qrill’s sword thrust. Childegard sang in his grip and the lancer’s head fell with a thump onto the conference table.
Frozen, the commanders stared at the grimace on Qrill’s face.
With Childegard still humming in his hands, Ghyll looked around the circle. ‘Are there any more who want to break their oath of allegiance?’ he asked coldly.
Gard-Galleth yanked his sword from its sheath and raised it in the air. ‘I am loyal to my king, so help me the gods. Long live Ghyllander III!’
Sixteen arms went up; sixteen throats swore their loyalty, sixteen pale faces tried not to stare at the head before them on the table and at the blood that trickled down slowly along the edges.
Ghyll rang. A servant came in and struggled to hide his shock.
‘Have this room cleaned,’ the king said. ‘We’ll continue our discussion in the throne room.’
About the Author & Links:
Paul E. Horsman (1952) is a Dutch and International Fantasy Author. Born in the sleepy garden village of Bussum, The Netherlands, he now lives in Roosendaal, a town on the Dutch-Belgian border.
He has been a soldier, a salesman, a scoutmaster and from 1995 till his school closed in 2012 a teacher of Dutch as a Second Language and Integration to refugees from all over the globe.
Being unemployed and economically overage, yet still some years away from retirement, he is a full-time writer of epic light fantasy adventures. His books are both published in the Netherlands, and internationally.