Sorrow Part 15: The Last King of Ghor – penultimate in the epic fantasy series

“Fear makes a foe, courage makes a king.” Fantasy Sorrow Part 15: The Last King of Ghor

Sorrow Part 15: The Last of Ghor is the penultimate part of the epic fantasy series and is now available from Musa Publishing. The final part – Sorrow Part 16: Son of the Stars – will be published 18 April 2014. Below is a brief synopsis and an excerpt from The Last King of Ghor .

An uneasy peace has descended over the World Apparent. The Winter Realm and the Old Kingdom are recovering from the cataclysmic events of the Twelfth Reconquest, while in the south, the Djanki and the Sharib retreat to lick their wounds from the battle at Temple Rock. To the east, the divided Empire of Temeria is nearing the end of a long civil war, in which rival Generals have fought like mad dogs to seize the long-vacant Imperial Throne.

Hoshea’s army is spotted by a High Blood lookout as it approaches the High Places. The High Bloods mount aFantasy Sorrow Part 16: Son of the Stars vicious ambush, but Hoshea unleashes a secret weapon, one that no living man could stand against. The mountain tribes retreat to their ancient fortress and look to their new leader, Bail, to make a stand. But can the newly crowned King of Ghor find the courage?

Excerpt

Hoshea sensed rather than heard the unspeakable pleasure of the thing he had unleashed. Sick with horror, he became aware of a pressure on his arm and looked down to see Shalita’s slim white fingers.

“I feel him too,” she breathed, leaning towards him, her eyes half-closed in ecstasy. “The hot rush of blood flowing down his throat, the screams, the snapping bones, the sucking of marrow… Gods, it feels good.”

Hoshea snatched away his arm and recoiled. What kind of monster had he created in her? She would have to be dealt with later, either killed or bundled away to some secure, remote prison where she could do no harm.

He turned his attention back to the matter in hand. The High Bloods were nowhere to be seen across the river, though he knew they were fleeing in rout, in blind terror from the invisible, stinking death that he had inflicted on them. The near bank was now crowded with soldiers, hundreds of horsemen and foot soldiers mingling, shifting uncertainly as they waited for the next move. Their perspiring sergeants rode to and fro, shouting men into ranks and plying vine rods on the stragglers, but they too looked for guidance. They looked for it from the gaggle of richly-dressed nobles and officers beneath the white banner; they in turn looked at Hoshea.

All things wait on me, he thought. For a moment he felt crushed by the overwhelming sense of responsibility, a terrible weight to carry even after his lifetime’s experience of service. With a great effort, he pushed it aside.

“Unleash the horse,” he barked at his waiting subordinates. “Lancers, heavies, bowmen, everything we have. Pursue the savages through the woods, allow them no respite. Scatter them, harry them. Spare those who surrender, wipe out the rest.”

Wipe out the rest. How easy it was to command death. Hoshea was surprised and not a little frightened to discover that his sense of guilt had vanished.

One of the nobles cleared his throat. “Lord, how do we know they are retreating?” he asked. “They could have fallen back a little way into the woods and be waiting in ambush.”

Hoshea almost smiled a bitter smile. “They are running,” he replied, and in his mind he heard distant screams. “They are running for their lives. Trust me on this.

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Sorrow Part 14: The Eagle’s Slumber

Fantasy Sorrow Part 14: The Eagle's Slumber

Coming Friday 21 February 2014

Threads of a patchwork king, unpicked by the eyrie’s wind.

Sorrow Part 14: The Eagle’s Slumber, the latest in the epic fantasy series is now available for pre-order from Musa Publishing and due for release on Friday 21 March 2014. Here is the blurb and an excerpt.

An uneasy peace has descended over the World Apparent. The Winter Realm and the Old Kingdom are recovering from the cataclysmic events of the Twelfth Reconquest, while in the south, the Djanki and the Sharib retreat to lick their wounds from the battle at Temple Rock. To the east, the divided Empire of Temeria is nearing the end of a long civil war, in which rival Generals have fought like mad dogs to seize the long-vacant Imperial Throne.

Colken’s mercenaries sign up to Hoshea’s army as it marches on the High Bloods to attack their ruined fortress, The Eagle’s Slumber. Meanwhile, the High Bloods are distracted by the fulfilment of a prophecy. Bail, with Sorrow’s help, has found their sacred relic, The Heartstones, and so must be crowned as their new king. But not everybody is convinced, and while his coronation descends into squabbling amongst the clans, war looms.

Fantasy Sorrow Part 15: The Last King of Ghor

The penultimate episode, coming Friday 21 March 2014

Excerpt:

Bail endured a scratchy uncomfortable night, haunted by bad dreams that felt like prophecies. All through the long hours of darkness he kept the Heartstones clasped tight to his chest, knowing his life depended on it. And on Sorrow, but the boy was nowhere to be seen. He had vanished when the clan stopped to bed down for the night, and Bail’s unsettled mind imagined him drifting through the pitch-black woods like a wraith, silently communing with all manner of ghouls and dark spirits.

He was jerked awake at the crack of dawn by the torturous bellowing of the bull horns and opened his eyes to see Sadaf standing over him. For a moment he thought the man meant to murder him, but then saw he held Bail’s cloak and crown. The hard lines of Sadaf’s lugubrious face split into a simpering grin, and he went down on one knee to offer the makeshift regalia at arm’s length.

“I liked you better when you despised me,” said Bail, wincing as his stiff joints cracked and complained. After taking a few gulps of fresh morning air, he took the crown and steeled himself to play the king.

The clan moved a little quicker this time, for all could sense they were close to the half-legendary Eagle’s Slumber and were eager to see the sacred place. The sun was high in the sky before Sorrow reappeared, trotting out of the woods with his cloak wrapped tight around him. He ran to Bail’s shield-bearers, cupping his hands over his mouth to be heard above the din of horns and chanting.

“The woods are full of High Bloods, warriors, and their families!” he shouted. “I tracked them all night. The nearest are less than two miles away, to the south-east.”

Amkur Beg heard him and limped forward with surprising speed to grab the boy’s arm. “How did they look?” he demanded, briefly dropping his mask of deference. “Did any of their warriors have paint on their faces? Did they carry their knives naked, or sheathed?”

“They did not look dressed for war,” replied Sorrow, gently disengaging his arm. “But they are moving fast and will catch up with us very soon.”

Amkur’s face creased into a hideous grimace, and he turned to shout orders at his kin. Almost immediately, the bull-horns and the chanting died away, and the clan sprang from a stately walk into a gallop. The unwieldy clan banner dropped into the dust, as did the horns, and for a moment, Bail thought he too might be dumped onto the ground. Instead, his shield-bearers picked up their pace without any apparent effort, and he found himself clinging to the rim of his shield with one hand and holding his crown in place with the other.

It was in this undignified position he first saw the Slumber, a mighty spur of rock surging up from the eastern flank of the nearest mountain. Much of the crest of the spur was taken up by a wide plateau, nestling in the shadow of a taller peak with layers of snow and ice crystals glistening at its summit. The remains of early morning mist clung to the spur, hiding much of the crest, but Bail could glimpse a number of decaying walls and stone buildings. These were perched on artificial mounds of soil and rock, much like baronial keeps back in the Winter Realm, but here the mounds were arranged into neat squares piled on top of each other, like the steps of a ladder.

The frantic pace of the clan slowed for a moment as each member broke stride to gaze in awe at the Slumber. Then the sound of bull-horns sounded faintly behind them, and Amkur’s cracked, harsh voice jolted them back into a run.

“Quickly! Quickly, now!” he shouted. “They are almost upon us!”

Interview & Giveaway – Win a free copy of epic fantasy The Best weapon

Epic Fantasy The Best Weapon

Epic Fantasy The Best Weapon

Fantasy Fiction Sorrow Part 1: The Ring of Steel

Sorrow Part 1: The Ring of Steel – coming 21 September

Check out my interview about co-writing a fantasy novel on Daniel Ausema’s blog. Comment on it before the end of the weekend and enter the draw for a chance to win a free copy of my epic fantasy novel The Best Weapon AND a free copy of the first part of the subsequent series Sorrow Part 1: The Ring of Steel.

CARAPACE – a 900 Club Short Story

Happy First Birthday to The 900 Club

Happy First Birthday to The 900 Club

Please join me wishing The 900 Club a happy first birthday. We have just posted our twelfth monthly batch of five  very different short stories, we would be honoured if you would pay The 900 Club a visit and have a read. Soon we will be publishing the 2013 anthology to mark a year writing together, so keep your eyes peeled for a unique collection of tales in all styles and genres.

Fantasy Sorrow Part 13: The Sack of Hasan

In other news, Sorrow Part 13: The Sack of Hasan, latest in the epic fantasy series was released today in ebook format by Musa Publishing. The story is nearing the end now, as part sixteen is the final part, and the plot thickens.

Below is my latest offering for The 900 Club, I hope you like it.

* * * *

Carapace

by Martin Bolton

The weatherman used the phrase “mainly windy”. That made me laugh, not just because it sounds like such a ludicrous phrase when considered out of context, but also because the weatherman was my husband, and that was exactly the sort of thing he came out with all the time. He made me laugh every day then.

I remember that laughter now like a distant dream, another life, a memory shrouded by the mists of time and the madness that comes with it – and time is madness when it is all you have. It seeps into you, it eats away all the tiny barriers in your mind until you are left with stark reality, and with that comes raw madness. I have learned that since I was trapped here, in the darkness, with nothing but the silence, the cold, and this… thing.

I was Professor of Arthropodology, specialising in arachnids, for The Department of Zoology, Oxford University. We were on an expedition to Laos to visit the caves in the Mekong Subregion and follow up on local reports of a species of spider thought to outgrow the biggest known – the giant huntsman.

Had I known what really existed, deep in the heart of these ancient caves, I would have stayed in England, safe in my laboratory, where my scientific mind could cling to its superficial pretensions that man’s innate fear of the dark is purely visceral.

Our intention was to explore beyond the mapped network of passages with the purpose of plotting more of the cave and discovering new species. We were about a mile into virgin tunnels when I came upon a vast crystal chamber about the size of a football pitch. As I shone my halogen lamp across the space, the light was refracted by huge, perfectly transparent crystals like cut diamonds. The effect was breath taking: the vivid display of colours, the dazzling kaleidoscope of alien shapes. The rest of my team were behind me, but I was transfixed, enthralled, as though in a dream, isolated from the real world. Then the floor of the cave opened like a trapdoor. The colours vanished, replaced by blackness.

I ran out of breath screaming long before I hit something. I must have struck a ledge or a protruding rock, because I felt my legs shatter, making a soggy crunching sound. The impact sent me spinning helplessly into empty, black space.

What I landed on was not rock, or I would certainly be dead. How I long for such a blissful end now. We go through life fearing death, all our instincts geared to towards avoiding it. I wonder if our primeval ancestors knew what I know now. Surely if they did, they would fear the end no more, because they would know as I do, there are things on Earth so much worse than dying.

After landing on this strange, springy surface, I lay for sometime. The pain in my legs was intense, and I passed in and out of consciousness. Either that or the dreams I had of daylight, laughter and fresh air were just hallucinations caused by agony and shock. I lifted my head to look down at my body. I could move my arms but my legs were a twisted wreckage. I moved my head from side to side, initially relieved there seemed to be no injuries to my back or neck. That relief turned to dismay, then terror, when I saw what I lay on.

On either side, stretching away into the seemingly infinite darkness, were taut, thin strands of some tough, flexible material. I tried to move my upper body and felt the surface give slightly beneath my elbows. I shook my head vigorously and felt myself, almost imperceptibly, swaying back and forth. There was only one thing I knew of that came close to the description forming in my mind.

A web.

No sooner than the dim light was finally extinguished by the inevitable death of the batteries in my headtorch, I felt vibrations. Something moved in the darkness. The web shook more violently, and soon I felt its touch. The way the web moved, either side of me, gave me the impression that whatever it was, it was behind me. It was on the underside. Then I felt a sharp pain in my neck, a bite, and just before I succumbed to paralysis I felt the web shake as the thing scampered away.

I wish I had been devoured then, but the grisly fate I had imagined for myself was nothing compared to the sickening reality. It is now apparent when that thing bit me, it set into motion a ghastly, insidious process; a metamorphosis more hideous than anything I have seen in my study of arthropods, or ever imagined possible. Nor did my paralysis bring with it the inability to feel sensations, so I have felt the realigning of my very molecules like a permanent, tormenting itch.

To my horror, the first parts of my body to develop their new form were my eyes. I can see again now, even in the total darkness, only this time I can see in all directions at once. I can see myself, or at least the thing that used to be me. My transformation is at an advanced stage: I have a complete cephalothorax, spiny carapace and abdomen, and the beginnings of eight huge legs.

Sorrow Part 13: The Sack of Hasan – latest in the epic fantasy series

Fantasy Sorrow Part 13: The Sack of Hasan

Between life and death, there lies but a heartbeat.

Sorrow Part 13: The Sack of Hasan is scheduled for release by Musa Publishing on 3rd January 2014. The sixteen part series is almost at an end, and the plot is nearing its climax.

Colken reluctantly takes charge of the mercenaries once commanded by the Gray Man and continues his journey towards the High Places. Hoshea, the self-proclaimed Protector, leads his army out of Hasan. His intention is to defeat the High Bloods and unite Temeria, but he has an ulterior motive known only to his shadowy acolytes and a certain demon. Meanwhile, Captain Wade smells an opportunity too good to pass up…

Excerpt

Captain Wade sat in his cabin, casually casting his eye over a battered nautical map. A long, elegant cigarette holder hung lazily from his pale, well-manicured fingers. A wisp of sweet smoke curled about his head, shining brightly in the sunlight pouring through the cabin window.

“Landfall is but a heartbeat away, Erlo, but a heartbeat.”

Erlo stood on a chair opposite Wade’s desk and passively gazed at the map showing the eastern coast of Temeria. As usual, the dwarf was silent.

“Soon we shall drop anchor just off-shore, a short distance from Hasan. If our increasingly erratic employer is correct, and I hope she is, Erlo, the city will have but a small garrison. The vast majority of the city’s army has left on this insane quest to find a child. Such insanity seems to have infected everyone, Erlo, but not me, not me.”

He paused to suck deeply on his cigarette. “I’m still unclear as to the reasons why everyone wants this Sorrow creature, Erlo,” he went on. “But I do know one thing. Whatever the reason, her desire for him has driven the Raven Queen even deeper into her particular brand of dementia. Whatever unimaginable properties this child possesses, they are enough to have Knights of the Temple coming all the way from the Winter Realm in a boat full of refugees, and enough to motivate a General to lead his entire army out of a city weakened by siege and civil war. So, naturally, that city is our first stop. We are pirates after all, Erlo, and some good, old-fashioned burning and looting is in order. If anything else, my miniature enigma, it will keep the crew happy for a while. Vile creatures, my crew, brute beasts. I think of them and shudder.”

Wade lounged back in his chair, taking a deep lungful of smoke, then propped his head artfully on one hand as though posing for a portrait which, being a man of not inconsiderable vanity, he had done many times. Unfortunately, none of the portraits he had commissioned had flattered him quite enough, so he had been forced to have the fingers and eyes of the painters removed to prevent them from causing further insult. In the past few years it had proven difficult to find a painter brave or stupid enough to put brush to canvas for him. At least not one who had eyes or fingers, which he considered essential for the job.

Erlo stood and watched his master, his tiny, beady eyes hardly blinking, like a murderous doll.

“They need a taste of blood and booty to butter them up a bit before our little jaunt inland. We can’t have them mutinying now, can we, Erlo?”

At that moment they heard Gristle’s rasping bellow from the crow’s nest, which was a fitting place for a man with such a voice. He had spotted land to larboard and his voice could be heard all over the ship from port to stern.

Wade slowly exhaled a thick cloud of smoke, hiding his head behind its haze, and smiled.

“But a heartbeat, Erlo.”

Cyber Monday – Get Fantasy The Best Weapon Half Price

Half Price Fantasy Fiction at Musa Publishing

Half Price Fantasy Fiction at Musa Publishing

Tomorrow is (02/12/2013) is Cyber Monday at Musa Publishing. Check out the website to get any publication, including epic fantasy The Best Weapon and the Sorrow series, HALF PRICE. This offer is on for one day only, and all Musa Publications are half price, so don’t miss out on the opportunity to get half price Christmas presents for fantasy fiction lovers.

Cyber Monday also marks the first day of the Thirteen Days to Christmas promotion. The release schedule of the 13 Days Free Reads is as follows:

The Silence of Reza by IJ Sarfeh 02/12

The Break-In by Carrie Russell 02/12

Christmas Crossroad By Viki Lyn 02/12

Out of Magic by CD Coffeit 03/12

Boughs of Halle by Holley Trent 04/12

Medusa by Kaitlin Bevis 05/12

The Terrible Mighty Crystal by Sharon Ledwith 06/12

Jump by Shannon LC Cate 07/12

War Crimes by Jennifer Povey 08/12

Dream Stealer by HL Carpenter 09/12

The Last Stage by Nicky Penttila 10/12

Looking for Home by Lyn Rae 11/12

Yesterday’s Tomorrows by Devin Hodgins 12/12

Sweet Revenge by Liese Sherwood-Fabre 13/12

Marisa Becoming Fourteen by Kadee McDonald 14/12

The Smartest Fish In The Ocean by Heather Lockman 15/12

The Wicked Duke and the Yuletide Gift by Emma Lane 15/12

Independent Author Promotion Month: Science Fiction / Fantasy Authors Get Listed Here

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