The Conqueror's Shadow

The Conqueror's Shadow

by Ari Marmell


View All Available Formats & Editions
Eligible for FREE SHIPPING
  • Want it by Wednesday, October 17?   Order by 12:00 PM Eastern and choose Expedited Shipping at checkout.


The Conqueror's Shadow by Ari Marmell

With The Conqueror’s Shadow, Ari Marmell brings a welcome seasoning of wit to the genre, proving that dark fantasy can address the enduring questions of good and evil and still retain a sense of humor. Playful yet intense, sharply sarcastic yet deeply sincere, The Conqueror’s Shadow announces the appearance of a unique talent—and an antihero like no other.

They called him the Terror of the East. His past shrouded in mystery, his identity hidden beneath a suit of enchanted black armor and a skull-like helm, Corvis Rebaine carved a bloody path through Imphallion, aided by Davro, a savage ogre, and Seilloah, a witch with a taste for human flesh. No shield or weapon could stop his demon-forged axe. And no magic could match the spells of his demon slave, Khanda.

Yet just when ultimate victory was in his grasp, Rebaine faltered. His plans of conquest, born from a desire to see Imphallion governed with firmness and honesty, shattered. Amid the chaos of a collapsing army, Rebaine vanished, taking only a single hostage—the young noblewoman Tyannon—to guarantee his escape.

Seventeen years later, Rebaine and Tyannon are married, living in obscurity and raising their children, a daughter and a son. Rebaine has put his past behind him, given up his dreams of conquest. Not even news of Audriss—an upstart warlord following Rebaine’s old path of conquest—can stir the retired warrior to action.
Until his daughter is assaulted by Audriss’s goons.

Now, to rescue the country he once tried to conquer, Rebaine once more dons the armor of the Terror of the East and seeks out his former allies. But Davro has become a peaceful farmer. Seilloah has no wish to leave her haunted forest home. And Khanda . . . well, to describe his feelings for his former master as undying hatred would be an understatement.

But even if Rebaine can convince his onetime comrades to join him, he faces a greater challenge: Does he dare to reawaken the part of him that gloried in cruelty, blood, and destruction? With the safety of his family at stake, can he dare not to?

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781625672940
Publisher: Jabberwocky Literary Agency, Inc.
Publication date: 09/20/2017
Pages: 398
Sales rank: 937,803
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 1.25(h) x 9.00(d)

About the Author

Avi Marmell has an extensive history of freelance writing, which paid the bills while he worked on improving and publishing his fiction. He has published a fair amount of shared-world fiction, including several short stories and Agents of Artifice, a Magic: the Gathering novel, but The Conqueror’s Shadow is his first wholly original published book. Marmell lives in Austin, Texas, with his wife, George, and two cats.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

The most wonderful thing about it was that it was a simple, ordinary house.

Not a large structure, but roomy enough for the comfort of its inhabitants, with a bit of space to spare. The walls were solid, dependable, fitted together over many months by loving hands. The builder had used no magic in the house’s construction, though certainly he could have. But that would, in a way, have defeated the entire purpose.

Windows sparsely dotted the structure, numbered and positioned perfectly. They were sufficient to admit the bright sunshine during the day, and the glimmer of moon and stars at night; to cool the house during the warm summer months, yet not so numerous as to make it difficult to warm against winter.

The house sat on the very outskirts of town. It was near enough to be neighborly, but retained a certain modicum of privacy unachievable in the heart of the small but bustling village. Chelenshire, it was called, a rather weighty name for a community of perhaps five or six dozen souls.

Another advantage to the house’s position at the edges of Chelenshire: It kept the inhabitants away from the slow but steady traffic that passed along what was once a major trade route. The odds of a stranger recognizing the house’s inhabitants were minuscule, but even “minuscule” was a risk not worth taking.

This morning, in particular, was a sunny one. The air was warm without quite crossing the fine line into hot, the sky a bright and cloudless blue. Birds wheeled above, droves of them, rejoicing in the last of the fine weather before the blistering heat and the rare but torrential storms of summer fell heavily upon them. Squirrels, gophers, and the occasional rabbit dashed across the grass, each on its own quest for fruits, vegetables, nuts, or whatever else might volunteer itself for lunch. An entire garden’s worth of food lined up in neat rows on two separate sides of the house. Lettuce, tomatoes, carrots, radishes, tomatoes, onions, squash, and more tomatoes—the lady of the house was abnormally fond of tomatoes—all beckoned invitingly. But though they would occasionally stop beside the garden, perched upon hind legs, to stare longingly at the repast calling to them, none of the rampaging rodents ever set paw into the garden itself. Something about the area itself kept the animals—as well as slugs, snails, and a huge variety of harmful insects—at bay.

There may have been no trace of magic in the building of the house, but the garden was another story entirely.

With a soft grunt of pain, the man currently at work yanking weeds from the bed of squash leaned back on his heels, one hand pressed to the small of his back. He was, he reflected grimly, too old to be spending hours on end hunched over the vegetables.

Hell, he didn’t even like gardening! It was his wife’s passion, she who spent so much of her time maintaining the place day after day. For his own part, he’d have been quite content to purchase the vegetables at the market. But though the money was not an issue—he’d enough saved from past endeavors to live many years in luxury—she had pointed out that such a lifestyle in Chelenshire would attract unwanted attention. And it was to avoid notice, after all, that they’d moved to Chelenshire in the first place.

Thus the garden, and their occasional hunting trips, and her embroidery and needlework, and his days spent in town, helping old man Renfro down at the forge or advising Tolliver on matters of policy.

But the forge was silent today, as was most of Chelenshire, in observance of Godsday. And she’d asked him, as a personal favor, to help in the garden. He shook his head, bemused, waiting for the pain in his back to recede. It was many years now since he could refuse her anything.

Of course, he reconsidered as he suddenly stood in response to another back spasm, maybe it’s time to start.

He wasn’t an especially conspicuous figure, not like in his younger days. He was taller than average—taller than most of the men in the village, certainly. In his prime, he’d been mountainous, his body covered with layers of rock-solid muscle; even Xavier, Renfro’s large son, was a delicate flower compared with what this man once had been.

Middle age stole that from him, though a combination of strict exercise and natural inclination saved him from going to fat, as so many former men of war inevitably did. He was, in fact, quite wiry now, slender to the point of gaunt. His face was one of edges and angles, striking without being handsome, and the gaze of his green eyes piercing. Hair once brown had greyed; it hung just past his neck, giving him a vaguely feral demeanor. Even now he could do the work of a man half his age, but he wasn’t what he used to be.

And his back still hurt.

“Daddy, Daddy!”

The grin that blossomed across his face washed away the pain in his back. Quickly he knelt down, catching the wiggling brown-haired flurry that flung itself into his arms. Standing straight, he cradled the child to his breast, laughing.

“And a good afternoon to you, Lilander,” he said mock-seriously. “What are you running from this time?”

“Monster!” the boy shouted happily.

Gods willing, he could not help but think, this will be the worst sort of monster you ever know.

What he said, though, was, “Indeed? Is it a horrible monster?”

Lilander nodded, giggling.

“Is it nasty? Is it gross and disgusting?”

The boy was laughing loudly now, nodding even more furiously.

“Is it—Mellorin?”

“Hey!” called another voice from just beyond the garden. “I heard that!”

Both father and son were laughing now. “Come on out, Mel. I’m just teasing.”

Her own lips twisted in a disapproving moue, a brown-haired girl, just shy of her teenage years, stepped from around the corner. She wore, as they all did, a simple tunic and breeches of undyed cloth. She was, her parents had decided, far too prone to dashing and racing around to dress her in skirts.

“Well, you don’t look as though you were chasing him,” the grey-haired man commented seriously. “You don’t seem to have been running at all.”

“I don’t need to run,” she said smugly, staring up at the two of them. “I’ll catch him eventually anyway.”

“Oh? And why’s that?”

“I’m smarter than he is.”

Lilander stopped laughing and scowled down darkly at his older sister. “Are not!”

Mellorin sighed theatrically. Her father, fully aware that he would soon have to be stern and fatherly, restrained a grin. She was so much like her mother.

“I refuse,” she said with exaggerated dignity, “to be drawn into that kind of argument with a child.”

The man’s lip quivered, and he coughed once.

“Are not!” her brother insisted again.

Her eyes blazed suddenly. “Are too!” she shouted.

All right, that was about as far as it needed to go. “Children!” the man barked, sharply enough to get their attention but not so loud as to suggest he was angry—yet. “What have I told you about fighting?”

“I don’t know,” Lilander said instantly. “Besides, she started it.”

“Did not!”

“Did too!”

Shaking his head, the children’s father gave them both another sound lecture—one he’d given hundreds of times previously, and fully expected to give hundreds of times more, possibly starting as early as lunch—and sent them both into the house. The windows weren’t quite thick enough to keep the recurring cries of “Are not!” “Are too!” from invading the garden.

“Louder than ogres,” he muttered with a trace of a smile as he turned back toward the vegetables.

“More dangerous, too,” came the reply from behind him. “They broke another window this morning. That’s why they were outside in the first place.”

She stood at the edge of the garden, leaning on a rake. She frowned at him, but he’d known her long enough to see the spark of laughter in her eyes. Her hair, a richer brown than his own had ever been, was braided in a simple tail. A few rogue strands fell across her face; she brushed them aside reflexively, unaware of the gesture.

“You’re beautiful,” he told her sincerely.

“And you’re trying to change the subject. I’m too tired to be flattered.”

He couldn’t help but laugh. “Well, I’d be more than happy to look after the children today. Of course, it means I’d be forced—reluctantly, I assure you—to skip helping you out here in the garden . . .”

“Oh, no! No, you’re staying out here with me if I have to stake you up like one of my tomato plants. You—”

A sudden shattering drifted from the general direction of the kitchen, followed immediately by “Mellorin did it!” “Did not!” “Did too!”

Their mother shook her head, sighing. “As soon as we go deal with whatever disaster just happened in the house.”

“Ah,” he replied, “normal life. It’s what we wanted, isn’t it?”

She laughed again, even as they started moving, the garden temporarily forgotten. It was amazing, even after all these years together. “I love you, Tyannon,” he said simply.

Tyannon smiled back at him, this man who had been her husband for half her life. “I love you too, Corvis.”

Corvis Rebaine followed his wife back into the house, pondering for just a moment how much things could change in seventeen years.

The celebration wound gradually down, leaving all of Denathere deliciously exhausted.

The westerly sun shed the last rays of the day upon the lingering vestiges of barely controlled chaos. Streamers of bright cloth littered the roads, as though a rainbow had shattered above the city, strewing shards carelessly about. Children, their exuberance not quite worn down by a full week of freedom and too much sugar, ran around madly, laughing happily or shouting at one another, determined to experience the absolute maximum of fun before their parents called them home for supper and bed. Even a few adults still danced in the streets, one hand clenched about a flagon of ale or mead or wine, the other clenched about the waist or wrist—or, in a few of the darker alleys, other parts—of a second like-minded citizen. Vendors shouted hoarsely to passersby, trying doggedly for one final holiday sale.

But most of the city residents, worn out from a full week of revels, were snug in their beds, beginning the painful recovery that all too often follows excessive jubilation.

At the edge of town, Guild-hired mercenaries cranked the handles of a huge wooden wheel. Chains clanked, gears rotated, wood creaked, and the gates of the city ponderously slammed shut. The sound, a solitary clap of thunder, rolled across the city. Drunk men sobered slightly at the sound, and the happiest citizens shivered briefly, for it was a palpable reminder of what they were celebrating—what they had so very nearly lost.

Outside those walls, atop the same small rise on which the regent’s tent rested so long ago, a figure stood, watching the city’s lights wink out one by one. The people of Denathere would sleep soundly this night, worn out from celebrating their liberation from the Terror of the East, safely ensconced behind their walls. And impressive walls they were, higher and thicker than those that had fallen before Rebaine’s assault, topped by guard towers equipped with catapults and ballistae. Even given Denathere’s poor position, the new walls alone made the prospect of taking the city a daunting one.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See All Customer Reviews

The Conqueror's Shadow 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 33 reviews.
jayiin More than 1 year ago
It's easy to create a villain. It's easy to create a hero. Just give them a noble cause or selfish ambition...right? Not really. Corvis Rebaine was the Terror of the East. An unstoppable warlord in armor of black steel and polished bone, he wielded a demonic axe, was advised by a cannibalistic witch and gained power from an imprisoned demon fed on unsuspecting souls. He ground a nation under his heel with an army of abhuman creatures and amoral mercenaries. The greedy guilds and corrupt nobility could not stand against him. Then he quit. He quit being a warlord, left his army behind, and took up farming. He married a pretty girl he just happened to kidnap during his daring escape, had a couple of kids and went about the serious business of not conquering the world. Though the reader is given a small glimpse as to why Corvis had the sudden desire to change careers, the world he terrorized isn't. Seventeen years later, Corvis' legacy is felt as a new warlord uses Corvis' own lieutenants, weapons and strategies to follow in his footsteps. Unfortunately, Corvis' daughter is caught in the wake of this new Warlord's campaign. This was a mistake. To protect his family from Audriss, Corvis once again takes up the mantle and armor of the Terror of the East and goes on a quest to keep Audriss from doing what he tried to do. Ari Marmell takes the reader on a fast-paced and dynamic journey through Corvis' attempt to take over the world and his attempt to keep Audriss from doing the same. Skillfully alternating flashbacks with present-day story, Marmell weaves a compelling story about a complex cast of characters. Corvis Rebaine is a character who isn't good or evil - he's just a man. He has a powerful will, lots charisma and intelligence. Marmell uses a mix of epic storytelling and dry, sarcastic humor to build his characters; through his characters, he builds a world. Imphallion isn't that different from most fantasy worlds. The characters - and WHY they do what they do - set it apart. Corvis has to reconcile who he was with who he is and he comes face-to-face with the consequences of his actions while trying to protect the world he had (sort of) wanted to save from someone even worse than he had let himself become. This is an original take on the fantasy trope of a warrior forced to return to war after finding peace and is the kind of story that takes the dark themes of modern fantasy and combines it with the epic tone that made the fantasy genre what it is - and he does it without sacrificing good storytelling on the altar of doorstop tomes or series that never end. Corvis Rebaine is a hard character to like but is even harder to hate; he's very visceral and very real and can't be pigeonholed with an archetype or a label. He is a character who is truly unique - which is something that is hard to find after reading fantasy for two decades. But Marmell delivers something even more than that - he delivers a powerful ending. The to his story is very poignant, very powerful and very true to the characters and tale he created. While it definitely leaves you wanting more, it also drives home just who and what Corvis Rebaine is - no matter if he's conquering the world or farming potatoes. If you're new to fantasy, this book will spoil you. If you're a long-time fantasy reader, this book is one you shouldn't pass up.
Arrat More than 1 year ago
This was a good book fantasy book. It moved a little slow at times. When he did flashbacks it could be a little confusing, needed to make it more apparent that Corvis was going back in time. As you read the book you come to understand that he was a good man who did bad things for good reasons, this was really good & gives more depth than good vs evil. There was some humor at times & the endless legion was really cool. I liked it & look forward to other books by Mr. Marmell.
harstan More than 1 year ago
In Imphallion, Corvis Rebaine led an army that killed anyone in his path. He used his demon ax and Khandra the demon slave and allied with Davro the ogre and Seilloah the witch. They won victory after victory. However, on the verge of total conquest, the Terror of the East as he was called lost and vanished along with a noblewoman Tyannon. Years later, Audriss the warlord has deployed Corvis' plan for world domination through mass damnation. Corvis has heard of his replacement, but ignores the conquests as he and his wife Tyannon raise their two children Lilander and Mellorin in love and peace. That changes when Audriss' thugs abduct Mellorin, which angers Corviss into action starting with killing those who grabbed his daughter. He gathers his former allies to ironically save Imphallion from the latest warlord. This is an amusing timely fantasy in which an amoral (except with his family and buddies- demons don't count as pals) antihero and his even less ethical friends save the same realm they almost conquered seventeen years ago from the latest conqueror. The story line is fast-paced, action-packed and though jocular raises questions as to what are true values. Though how middle-aged Corvis retained his warrior skill that he uses immediately remains questionable, he and his partners make the tale as they are sly, slick and will do any stunt to achieve their objectives; his being to return to his family. Fans will appreciate the efforts of Corvis to complete the job and go home. Harriet Klausner
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great book, the more i read the better it got and it was great to start..
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago