To celebrate my excitement for the release of Book Two of Arcanum of the Dolmen Troll, I want to share a brief snippet of the book with you all! This snippet stands as a complete story and I promise no major plot will be spoiled by reading it. Thanks so much for all your support! Click here to check out the book.
Now here we go. I hope you enjoy!
A MOTHER DUCK’S webbed feet flapped up an arrow-riddled bogside. The light of the moon and stars made the mud of the bogside look blue, and the bog itself was a pit of blackness. A score of screaming horsemen completed a circuit around the bog and the mother duck pronked back down the slope in fright. She flapped her wings and quacked desperately. A train of yellow ducklings answered her from the middle of the bog, chirping and chirping as they kicked and kicked through the blackness towards the bogside. Looming high above the ducks, a crooked siege tower filled with men was groaning and creaking, taking volley after volley of arrows and bolts from distant castle walls. Yelps of cessation filled the night with a palpable misery.
A dying man fell from the top of the tower and splashed in the bog water beside the train of ducklings. In the throes of the splash, the teensy chirplings were yellow petals tossing in a rapid river. The man’s screams turned into bubbles as he drowned in his armor. The ducklings kicked and kicked away from his flailing arms, swirling in waves of madness.
On the bogside, the mother duck craned her head to show her babies a nervous eye and quacked. The screaming cavalry completed another circuit and their galloping hooves kicked up a splash of mud that pushed the mother duck into the bog. Soon she was floundering with her ducklings, quacking at their chirps in the waves. She bit one of her babies by the scruff of the neck and used her wings to gather others. As she quacked at a few who had been tossed far away by the splash, she caught eye of a passing sparkle.
One of the horsemen racing around the bog was brandishing a sword above his head. The sword shimmered in the moonlight and made the hen tilt her head for a better look. It was a momentary flash—a spark of determination. The man on the horse was wearing a black hauberk, and the twenty horsemen at his rear were clad in blackened plate. The silvery chanfrons on the heads of their horses gleamed brightly like wraiths. The chanfrons turned blue and white and blue again in the moonlight, and would turn red every time they passed the siege tower. Moments ago, shieldmen and engineers had been trying to unstuck one of the siege tower’s wheels from the mud, but the screaming wraiths had cut them all down. Now the foot of the siege tower was ablaze and the wraiths were throwing up jeers and japes at the men dying inside.
The rider in the black hauberk made another spark of determination as he galloped under the crooked tower. Dirty men were up in the wooden arrow slits, shaking their shields in anger at the circuiting wraiths below. But no matter how angrily they shook their shields, none of them were mad enough to jump down to the wraith’s level, not unless they wanted to get hewed. From the castle on the other side of the warground, arrows arced over the sky and bolts hissed long and true. Some shafts cracked or glanced off the wooden tower. Others hissed through loopholes and hit marks.
The rider in the black hauberk was determined not to quit until the tower was down. After each circuit around the bog, the tower’s groans became louder, the flames higher, and the mother duck and her chirplings were lost in the middle of it all. One man inside the tower knew he would die soon, and so he observed the ducks with love, placing his mind far away into a much more beautiful place. An arrow thudded against the wall by his head, but he didn’t flinch a bit as he stared down through a gap in the wood. He smiled at the mother duck as an image of home lingered in his mind. A bolt hissed through the gap and made his head jerk back. Mind-muddled, he got trampled by the dozens of desperate men swaying about in the crooked tower.
Every time the mother duck felt like she was close to gathering all her babies, another body would fall from the tower and scatter them all again. As the rider in the black hauberk showed yet another spark of determination, the mother duck made hers. Hope glistened in her watery eyes. She quacked and kicked and gathered her chicks all over again. She would not give up until her babies were safe.
One angered man in the tower had had enough. He crawled through a crevice in the wood and leaped down into the mud.
The fire at the foot of the wooden tower was roaring now, and so the surface of the bog was illumed with hundreds of snaking yellow streaks. The light was dancing off the wetness, glistening and splashing around the angered man’s boots as he trudged up the muddy slope. He swung his sword at a passing horseman. It bounced harmlessly off the rider’s greave. Anger rising, the man swung at the next rider. At that moment he too created his own spark of determination as his sword flashed in the firelight.
The approaching rider saw the flash and directed his stallion with a push of his knee towards it.
The angered swordsman was thrown by the horse’s shoulder. He went rolling back down the muddy slope and lost his sword before he splashed in the bog water. His spark of determination had been bright, but now it was gradually extinguishing for he refused to get back up. He decided to lie there and stare at the moon. He listened to the chirplings. They suddenly sounded so close. If he lied there in the water and pretended to be dead, he could walk away in the morning. That was his hope, until a sudden loud snap heralded his doom. His eyes opened wide to see the siege tower tilting. It was falling right towards him. In another life he would’ve tried to swim away, he promised himself, but not in this one.
The siege tower smacked the bog’s surface, devoured the loser and created an eruption of muddy water. The ejecta filled the air for a time, then came back down in flapping heaps as the tower settled into its new place. The tower was creaking and groaning like a capsized wreck and all the while men were spewing up out of the loopholes. Swords and axes hacked away to make new exits, and one by one men crawled from the wreck to gawp at the stars with faces raped by madness. One by one they came and one by one arrows and bolts from the commanding castle put them down again. Arrows thudded into them relentlessly and many slipped off the side of the wreck to die in the bog. A few who made it to the bogside were cut down by the circuiting wraiths. Soon the last dying man’s screams were quelled by the end of a broken lance.
The victor in the black hauberk remounted, then led his wraiths away. When their galloping hooves were far, quacks and chirps began to dominate the atmosphere. The chirps were frantic and the quacks were distressed at first, but after a time they collected and quieted and settled. The ducklings were safe with their mother again, waddling up out of the bog. Within a cozy tussock at the top of the slope, the chicks nestled under their mother’s wings and closed their eyes to sleep. Somewhere yonder, another battle was beginning. That was sure. But here by the bog, everything was peaceful.
There we go! That was just a brief taste of what Knights without Honor has in store. For those of you who prefer hardcover books, I’ll be creating box sets once I finish Book Three of Arcanum of the Dolmen Troll in mid-2017! Thanks again for all your love and support!