Hi all, please find below the Prologue and first Chapter of the sequel to my first novel, Realmborn. *SPOILER ALERT* If you have not yet read the first novel, you may not want to read this excerpt. Go back, start the first one from the very top, relax with it, enjoy it, have a beverage of your choice and curl up in a cosy chair with it…then come back and read this.
I am hoping to have this released later in 2016.
Or, the Bit Before the Main Bit
He had waited for so long, and now his wait was almost over. The long years of toil, the endless warfare, fighting alongside a people he still considered alien to himself, it was all about to be worth it as he finally achieved his goal.
Just one Translocation, one epic feat of magic, focussing his Mind to move his body by sorcerous means, and he would be back where he belonged. He would finally have what his heart had ached for for so long.
With a dark thrill coursing through his blood Gaius Malvellan turned to survey the forces arrayed behind him, his avenging army.
His own Darkmage Knights, deadly in their magical armour of crimson, each consumed with the thought of nothing more than blood and death.
An entire legion of Solsiel Hunters, their cold, inhuman gazes sending a chill down the spine of even the hardiest of warriors.
A battalion of beastly Hak Urguk, the savage orcs living for chaos and carnage.
Finally, and potentially most devastating of all, the Solmages, bastard half-breeds born of rape, combining the magical talents of their kidnapped mothers with the amoral murderousness of their abusive sires.
A motley crew, it was true, but no less deadly for their mixed origins, and with them Gaius would cut a bloody swathe through the heart of the Realm.
Yes, he thought with a savage smile moving across his scarred and ravaged face, bloody vengeance would finally be his.
End of an Era
Or, How Things Start Very Badly for our Hero
Running alone towards the enemy, his legs aching, his lungs burning, his energy all but gone.
The dream was always the same.
Jesus, how was this possible? He was the bloody King of the Realm, he was Jake Ranidir, unsurpassed font of seemingly limitless magical mojo! Where the hell were his guards? Where was Rayne? And how could he be out of lifeforce? Knowing that no answers would be forthcoming from the mist around him, he struggled on, ever on.
Often he would awake at this point, his heart racing, soaked in sweat. Not this night.
The mist began to roil and writhe with half-glimpsed forms, and Jake knew they were his enemies, closing in. He concentrated his Mind, willing forth a wall of fire to burn away the surrounding fog, but his magic failed him. Fear coiled its withering grip around his heart and for the first time in two decades Jake Ranidir began to know the icy touch of terror.
Still caught in his nightmare the King of the Realm tossed fitfully in his sleep, his fists clenched tightly so that his knuckles burned white in the darkness of his command tent. Only rarely did the dream make it this far before he managed to escape to the somewhat less terrifying reality of the place he still thought of as Mad World. With sweat breaking out on his forehead his disturbing sleep continued.
Now the enemies in the mist were not the only problem as his feet became mired in thick, oozing mud, slowing his movements and leaving him trapped, helpless against the inevitable attacks from the creatures around him. Bloody hell, this was so unfair, he’d been so close! So close to saving the Realm, to fulfilling the bargain he had made with the old sorcerer in his head so many years before, to going home! Wait, where was Abram? Where was the old man’s voice in his Mind, the constant presence he had grown so used to, his guide in this bizarre life he had been forced to live?
Jake’s sleeping form began to glow as his Mind tapped into the vast well of Power he possessed. The Realmborn guard around his tent felt the gathering of lifeforce, but by the time any of them looked in it would be too late to stop his subconscious spell from completing.
So, alone and without magic for the first time since he had taken on the mantle of King of the Free Realm. No Mage-Knights to come and rescue him, no sudden bursts of Power to destroy his enemies, no magical Get Out of Jail Free card to pull his cojones from the fire.
As the menacing figures in the mist moved closer and the sucking mud swallowed more and more of his body, Jake prepared for the end, his mind turning inevitably to those he had lost. That he would never see his wife Cara again was a crippling blow, but it was his son, Tommy, who occupied most of his thoughts. As the oozing quagmire rose to the level of his chest his panic stricken brain wondered if perhaps his son might have been able to save him, if his son might have had the Power to pull him free. If his son had been in Mad World would he have been able to save the father who had deserted him?
The glowing intensified now, to the point that it could be seen beyond the confines of the tent in which Ranidir lay. But the nightmare was occurring so fast that no one had a chance to wake their King before the damage was done.
That thought became the only point of light in Jake’s mind as the mud closed over his face, forcing its way into his mouth and down his throat, cutting off his breathing and bringing death ever closer.
His son! He needed his son! As panic gripped him almost as tightly as the rising tide of muddy death, as the half-seen creatures in the mist closed in, as all coherent thought fled leaving only instinct, Jake Ranidir’s Mind reached across the very boundaries of reality, searching, seeking…and finding!
A confused jumble of images, a young man at different stages of his life, flashed before Jake’s eyes, almost too quickly for him to take them in, but he managed to see enough.
He had found his son. The mud now covered him completely and all he knew was darkness, but with one final effort borne of panic the King let all his Power burst forth from his Mind, completing the spell.
Though it should have been impossible from within his swamp-like tomb Jake let forth a primal scream of agony as pain swept across his entire body.
The pain and the scream were both to follow him into wakefulness as he was thrown from the dream back to harsh reality.
Ouch, shit and goddammit! As rude awakenings went this one was about a twelve on a scale of one to ten, which, Jake considered as consciousness painfully returned, meant it made it into his personal Top Five Shitty Mad World Wake Up Calls list. Not an easy thing to do, when all was said and done, so Jake forgave himself when he rolled straight over and vomited noisily on the floor of his tent.
While everyone watched.
Christ, that was the other thing about living in this bloody universe, or at least about being King of it; no privacy. No solitude, no alone time, and seemingly never the chance to throw up without at least half a dozen witnesses.
And there they were, crowding in the doorway of his tent, looks of concern etched into every face. Concern Jake tried to wave away with a sheepish smile and an “aw shucks” rolling of his eyes, only to intensify their anxieties as another flood of vomit spattered uncontrollably to the ground beneath him.
Suddenly strong hands were lifting him, and only then did Jake realise he had blacked out for a moment or two. As they picked him up from the floor and laid him back down on the Will-Formed bed he became aware of just how weak he felt. Weak and…strange. It took him a moment or two to pinpoint exactly what felt wrong, before realising the devastating truth.
For the first time in almost two decades the King of the Free Realm couldn’t feel the thrill of magic coursing through his veins.
Nothing, nada, zip, zero, zilch, not a sausage.
With a feeling of dread he tried the simplest of spells, calling a Will-Light into existence, an act which required minimal lifeforce and was one of the first things any Realmborn learned to do.
His world remained stubbornly gloomy. It had gone. His mystical, unasked-for powers had disappeared as suddenly as they had appeared on the day he had arrived in this hellhole.
Though he once might have wished for it with all his heart, now the loss of his magic was a devastating blow. For almost twenty years he had led his forces to victory after victory against the combined might of the Solsiel and Hak Urguk invaders, and often his devastating spells and seemingly limitless supply of life-force had been the crucial deciding factor. Without him the Free Realm forces would not have managed to take back so much of their territory, to take the fight to the enemy, finally reaching a point a mere stone’s throw from complete victory.
Sol Central, the vast city that was the heart of the Solsiel empire, and home to its mad Emperor, Paulus. Now within striking distance, the enemy having been pushed back, and back, and back again, until Jake’s forces were almost literally on their doorstep. So close to cutting the head from the snake once and for all.
Of all the times for him to go from Super Mage to Average Joe, this was very definitely the worst possible moment. And why? What had happened? And where the hell was Abram?
The old man’s absence from inside his head was perhaps the most worrying thing of all. His ghostly presence had been a constant in Jake’s life since his arrival in the Realm, his wisdom and guidance proving almost as invaluable as his friendship. Not having him there felt alien, unnatural, like waking up to discover one of his limbs had disappeared overnight.
‘So, any idea what the hell just happened?’ he croaked now, aware that his concerned visitors were still standing around being, well, concerned.
‘We were rather hoping you could tell us, your Majesty.’ The dry reply came from the other constant in Jake’s life, his cousin Rayne Ranidinir. The tall Mage-Knight had saved his life mere moments after Jake’s sudden arrival in the Realm, and had been loyally by his side ever since.
Well, not ever since. There had been toilet breaks, and Rayne had taken a few days to celebrate after his wedding, and then again after the birth of his and Layla’s twins, and of course they had separate tents…but, you know, generally speaking he’d been ever present.
He had worry etched into his handsome face now, a face which had barely changed since the day Jake had met him. Then again, neither had the Free Realm King, save that he was in better shape than he had ever been when still just a guitarist, husband and father in good old, non-magical Great Britain. The magical life-force which flowed through almost all Realmborn had kept both men young and vital, staving off the ravages of age. Though two decades had passed, Jake looked barely older than the day he had arrived.
‘Are you alright, sire?’ Another companion since the early days, Kaylana Gemine was Jake’s Protector, a Mage-Knight who had sworn to hold his life above her own, to protect him at all costs, to die in his place, if needs be. Her devotion to him had become legendary, and she had saved his life on over a dozen occasions.
Jake knew that the beautiful warrior was in love with him, but it was not a love he could return, not in the way she wanted. Not that she had ever asked him to, for she knew him too well.
For twenty years he had been trying to return home to the wife he loved, and he had become known as the Lonely King for a reason.
Hah, the Lonely King and his beautiful Protector…Jake was fairly certain there were tragic ballads being written about them. Probably badly.
He was just about to reply to his friends, telling them that his magic had disappeared, when a welcome return occurred inside his head.
‘Don’t tell them! It will only cause unnecessary panic, especially as your magic will return!’
Jake held up his finger to the visitors still crowding up his command tent in the universally accepted gesture indicating “one minute, please, I am communing with the dead old sorcerer in my head”.
‘What the hell happened? And why can’t I do magic any more?’
‘You happened, Jake, as you always do!’
‘What the hell does that mean? And seriously, bit rude for a man whose soul would be homeless without my head, don’t you think?’
‘Yes, yes, apologies, etc, blah blah blah. Now, this is important. Can you feel a vague sense of unease?’ As soon as the old man said the words Jake realised that yes, he did indeed feel an unexplained knot in the pit of his stomach, a formless anxiety he couldn’t explain.
‘Yeah, I do, what is that?’
‘Ask your friends if any of them feel the same thing. Then get everyone who doesn’t to leave. Except Ebers, he will need to be in charge in your absence.’
‘My absence? What do you mean? Where the hell am I going?’
‘All in good time. Now ask!’
Bloody irritating, cryptic old sod! Abram managed to make Obi-Wan Kenobi, Mr Miyagi and every fortune cookie ever written look concise and informative. Still, after twenty years of living with him, Jake had learned when to push for answers and when it would be quicker to just do as the old sorcerer said and wait for him to explain things in his own time.
Judging by the tone of his mental voice, this was very definitely one of the latter occasions.
‘OK, quick poll, hands up if you, like at least one character in every Star Wars film, have a bad feeling about something? Sorry, ignore the Star Wars reference, just tell me if anyone has a bizarre feeling in their guts, a worry they can’t explain?’ Five hands rose into the air.
Rayne, his open, honest face looking quizzical and curious.
Kaylana, her beautiful features clouded with worry.
Gavaine and Brannen, the two Knights so completely different in personality, but closer than brothers, and two of Jake’s most trusted advisors.
And Gurtfell Firstaxe, the short, stocky warrior from the Northlands, ostensibly with the army to lead the contingent of his own people, but in reality there as Jake’s friend…and because he couldn’t resist a good fight.
Five good friends, warriors Jake would trust with his life. He ushered them forward with a gesture.
‘OK, you guys stay, everyone else give us the room, please. Or tent, I guess. No, not you, Erick, you stay as well, please.’ This last was to Erick Ebers, the Boar of the North, one of the hardiest, most loyal and toughest men Jake had ever known, and his most trusted General after Rayne. The grizzled old Knight, almost at the flap which would exit the tent, turned and walked back, relief evident on his face that he was not to be excluded.
Soon it was just the seven of them remaining. Eight with Abram.
‘OK, what now,’ Jake asked, internally. It had taken him a while but he had finally mastered speaking in his Mind without also talking out loud. The others in his tent waited patiently, aware that he was talking with the ghost of their former Council leader.
‘Now,’ Abram replied, ‘now for revelations. And I need you to stay calm.’
‘Okaaaaaay…not sure I like the sound of that, you asking me to stay calm usually means you’re going to tell me something I don’t like. That what’s happening here now? You about to tell me shit’s going to hit the fan?’ There was a pause, obviously while Abram’s spirit decided how best to proceed. Jake almost felt bad, he knew that he didn’t make the old man’s afterlife a piece of cake.
‘There are two things, Ranidir.’
‘Ranidir, that’s never good, that means official Kingly “Good of the Nation Crap”, right?’
‘Yes, I am afraid so. Do you remember me telling you that a group of heroes close the portal to the Solsiel homeworld, many, many years ago?’
‘Of course I do. Ancient history, right?’
‘Ancient history and also current affairs. You and the five others who have felt unease are those heroes, Jake.’ There was a pause as the King of the Free Realm tried to take this in, without thinking of Deloreans, HG Wells or Tardises. Or perhaps Tardii, who knew what the damn plural was.
‘So…you think the six of us are going back in time to be heroes and close the breach? Back in time? Like time travel?’
‘I don’t think it, Jake, I know it. I will explain, but later. There is more, and this is the part you must, as you say, “stay frosty” for.’
‘Oh crap, if you’re quoting me back to myself I know it’s bad. Because I know you’re not a James Cameron fan off your own bat.’
‘The Ranidirs were always the most powerful Realmborn family, Jake, destined for greatness,’ Abram began, but his sometimes unwilling host had heard all this before.
‘I know, I know, royal line, most powerful, full of magical mojo, yada yada yada. So what?’
‘There is a finite amount of power spread amongst the Ranidirs. Unlike other Realmborn their power is defined solely by how many family members share it, not on any level of personal talent or training. You were so powerful because you were the last of your line, all the Ranidir power was concentrated in you.’ It took Jake a few moments to process this, following the revelation that he was expected Kyle Reese it up and head back through time.
‘I say again, okaaaaaay…so, what? Has an ancestor turned up out of the blue or something? Is that why I’m so weak?’
‘Not an ancestor, Jake. You expended a lot of energy on a spell of immense proportions, a spell you didn’t know you were casting. And your reserves of life-force are so low following that expenditure because they are being split, Jake. They are being split between you…and your son, who is here in the Realm.’