In the rocky stone of Shard Keep in the North Mountains, an evil stirs. As Bhaal sat quietly on his throne, the remnants of his once-proud empire crumbled away. Things that should not have been forgotten were left neglected for far too long, things that demanded his careful attention. Nevertheless, that was not left unnoticed by the authorities of such things.
Bhaal cheated Death in a most intimate way, a way that leaves a festering wound. In the end, Death will have her way. Or will she?
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.01(d)|
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Fox Elvensword and the Shard of Terraman
By George Allen Butler II
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2016 George Butler
All rights reserved.
Fox was up long before dawn. The cool wind blowing across the balcony had been just too good to ignore. Swiftwind was calling to him from the wooden holder by the double-paned glass doors.
Slipping from under the opulent white sheets of his bed, he crossed the room and threw open the doors to let the curtains flutter in the gentle breeze. Sitting down on his oak wood chair, Fox pulled his high-top leather boots on over his heavy canvas pants.
With Swiftwind, the renowned two-hander sword in hand, he walked out to greet the day. He looked from right to left out across New Tanger as he stretched in place. With the cool breeze and rising morning sun, now would be a great time to practice.
Sweat began to glisten on his bare chest as he went through the moves he had learned in college. The technique was there, just the speed was lacking. Taking breaks between each routine, Fox struggled to apply his best each time. He simply felt awkward with the unwieldy weapon.
Celenae opened the door to his room with the intention of asking him what he wanted for breakfast. Seeing that he was not in his bed, she walked into his room to see what he was doing. The shadow of her brother moving across the white gossamer curtains drew her attention and she moved to watch him through his open doors. Standing quietly behind the opaque curtains, Celenae marveled at how easily he moved. Seeming so graceful with his new weapon, it was as if Swiftwind and Fox were always meant to be together.
Fox noticed his sister as he went through yet another blocking sequence. He smiled as he thought of how compromising he must look in his canvas pants belted tight, with sweat running down his bare chest. It would have been less embarrassing if it were Flame or Niana who had caught him out here all alone.
His thoughts turned to Flame. She made it a habit to leave early every morning to oversee the construction of the new temple. It was clear she did not have time for him anymore. At least not the kind of time Fox wanted with her. Now that he had time for a relationship, she was too busy with training the young girls to become initiates at the temple. She simply had too many obligations to fulfil there for his liking.
His footsteps took him closer to the edge of the balcony than he wanted to be and he was forced to stop. His eyes crossed over the still-sleeping city. Confident that all was as it should be, he moved back to the center to give himself the room he wanted to continue his practice. Fox quickly stretched before starting his next routine.
With the improper thoughts still impressed on his mind, he thought of Niana. Someplace, far below and far away, she was holding his child. He let his thoughts trail back to the first night she had opened the door to magic for him. He thought about how she had undressed him. How she had touched him.
And yet everything she had taught him was true. He was more suited to the dark elf style of spells than the tougher, high elf ones. Without thinking, he tried his fire spell and was shocked at how smoothly it cast from his lips as he changed from blocking to attacking. As he stabbed Swiftwind forward, the fire erupted outward like a ball to dissipate upward.
Pleased with himself, Fox went into a strong, quick, spinning strike meant to decapitate his foe. He stopped, reveling in his execution of the maneuver.
"You're much better at that than you've ever been before," Celenae announced as she assumed he was taking a break.
"I hope so," Fox said, lowering his weapon.
"You can return to college and try again," Celenae said as she walked out into the cool air with him. "It's been two years."
"Lord Gammel has a spot open for me anytime I want it," Fox said. "I want to be ready."
He felt her hand touch and then rub his shoulder. His hand came up slowly to touch hers gently.
"What is it that my brother wants to be?" Celenae asked softly as she looked at him. "What is it that you want to be, now that you are free to choose?"
Fox looked into her eyes. "I want to be the champion they all want me to be: sthe ranger who keeps the wolves at bay, and the knight who guards the city. I want to be all of that and more."
"Then, I would say that you're right on track, if not already there," Celenae said as she quietly brushed his blond hair back behind his ears.
It was just then that Pellanor came stomping in, dressed in full plate and heavy steel boots, bringing the tender moment to a close. Fox looked at the knight, all proud in his heavy, restrictive plate armor. His tear-shaped shield was firmly strapped to his side, keeping his left arm pinned.
So much like a paladin Pellanor looked, that Fox almost entirely dismissed Lord Gammel's invitation to join the paladin class. Paladins were the most advanced soldier that civilization had created. Arrows would bounce off his heavy armor, as would swords and spears. On top of that he could heal his comrades and continue the fight indefinitely.
Pellanor embodied everything Fox hated about heavy cavalry. The ungodly heavy armor, as well as that cumbersome shield, always in the way. It made the whole set up uninviting to him. There was no need for heavy plate that slowed you down, if you could get away with the lighter chain. The shield was a waste, if you could just block with your offhand sword. None of it made sense to Fox.
But, there was something else. Something had changed in the knight that made Fox pause and look more closely. Pellanor had moved his sword sheath from his side to his back. Only the Knights of Te'are did that. Fox had to admit he didn't know enough about paladins to know if that was improper.
A wry grin crossed his face as he realized that Flame would know and would take offense at it. She took the whole Te'are knight thing to the next level. She would know the infraction if Fox didn't, and she would most certainly let everyone know instantly. He wasn't sure why, but it made him happy that it would irk her.
"I hope I'm not interrupting something," Pellanor said, feeling self-conscious that his lord was looking him over so diligently.
"Just morning practice," Celenae blurted out to cut the tension caused by Fox's scrutiny.
"Okay. I have to ask," Fox started out. "Is it proper for a paladin to wear his sheath over his shoulder like that?"
Celenae chuckled and turned around to collect herself as Pellanor turned red. He reached up to check the scabbard to see what his lord was questioning him about.
"He started doing that about the time we defended the hill," Celenae started to explain as she realized what Fox was staring at. "I think he does it simply because you do it," she teased.
Pellanor scrunched up his face, "I do it because it is faster to draw my weapon this way. And, no, it's not improper for me to strap my scabbard over my shoulder. It's not a Te'are knight exclusive thing, you know," Pellanor said, knowing where Fox was going with this.
It was Fox's turn to look and feel foolish. How could he be drawn to something so trivial? If Pellanor wanted to change something about his uniform, then who was Fox to question it? Once again, his lack of skill as a house leader was becoming apparent. He shook his head as he turned to start his practice again.
"I was hoping to join in the fun, Milord," Pellanor stated, watching Fox turn away from him.
"I think he just wanted to go over some moves," Celenae announced. "Perhaps you could give him some pointers."
Fox stopped and looked at her. It was not fair to point out that Fox was learning something the paladin did not know.
"Sounds great," Pellanor announced, to the shock of his liege. "Let me get stripped down and grab a practice sword, and I'll be ready."
The shock on Fox's face had Celenae smiling again. "Like he said, the two-hander is not exclusive to the knights of Te'are. My father teaches it in his classes and Pellanor has been practicing with Draggo's sisters while you were not around. He happens to have become very good at it."
"So, why in all the realms was it so important that I go to this school in the first place, if I could have learned that back in Treetop?" Fox asked incredulously.
"Better ask Grand Mama that one," Celenae answered. "It was her idea to send you there. I remember Father said you could join his class after Mother's book was read."
Fox's shoulders slumped. Had he done that, he would know more about knights, and how to run his house properly. It seems he had made a grave mistake by not taking the paladin's offer. Maybe he should still take that offer.
Fox looked away towards the City of New Tanger as it was in the business of awakening. Elves were leaving their houses to fetch wood for the fires and smoke started to roil from cold chimneys. Where would they be if I had not gone to Te'are? What would have become of me if I hadn't gone? Certainly not the position of Champion!
No, Fox thought. We are all far better off from the road I took and the path I left behind. He turned around with a renewed sense of confidence.
Fox had returned to his block routine and Celenae had fished his oak chair out of his room to watch the sun rise over the eastern mountain, when Pellanor returned. He was dressed similar to the same way Fox was, with buckskin pants and high-top leather boots. He had taken the time to braid his hair so it would be out of the way. A pair of heavy leather bracers protected his fore arms.
He flexed his muscles as he stretched his arms back, looking up to the sky and then clasped his hands together as he pinched his chest muscles together. He further straightened his back as he squeezed his arms in to make his pectoral muscles bigger for Celenae's sake, but she did not look at the posturing paladin. A single drip of sweat ran down his chest.
"I wonder what Lord Gammel would say about sword practice today?" Pellanor announced, simply to get Celenae's attention his way.
"He would say 'Get busy!'" Celenae answered without turning around.
"Well then," Fox said. "Show me what you know."
By late afternoon, Fox was beside himself at all of the techniques that the paladin knew. He had taught him particular moves Fox had only seen before in the school, but the counter spells Pellanor suggested casting after attacking were altogether different. It was becoming clear that the knights of Te'are were more offensive in nature than paladins. Attacks, blocks and traps designed to create opportunities for spell casting were now used to heal oneself, instead of blasting the opponent with some sort of damaging spell, like Fox's own fire spell.
"Why not use the stunning spell in conjunction with this routine?" Fox asked when they came to yet another blocking combination.
"Because you lose the opportunity that you're trying to create," Lord Gammel stated, as he walked boldly onto the balcony.
All eyes turned to the paladin who was dressed in the usual heavily fluted and decorative steel plate armor that he always wore. He held his hume comfortably under his right arm, and his left hand rested on the hilt of his longsword. Lord Gammel stopped a respectable distance from the French doors and fixed Fox with a comforting smile.
Pellanor backed slowly away and reached up to sheath his sword. He had the appearance of someone who had broken a rule, or done something he should not have.
Celenae jumped up out of her chair and stood up, smiling at her father. Fox just simply nodded his "Hello" to the warrior who had interrupted his practice session.
"Forgive me, Your Lordship, but I saw you from the courtyard as I was on my way to see my daughter," the elder said as he walked over to Celenae, keeping his eyes peeled on Pellanor, who was still feeling a bit embarrassed.
"We were just having a bit of sword practice, is all," Celenae blurted out, and then grabbed her father in a big hug to avert his attention away from the topless paladin.
Lord Gammel hugged Celenae, but positioned her body enough to get a good look at Fox, who was still looking as if Lord Gammel had walked in on something far more intimate. Then his eyes trailed down to the sword Fox held. Swiftwind gleamed, as if taunting him to possess it himself.
"You're much better off wielding that with a tower shield, like Pellanor uses," he said as he looked at the weapon.
"I will take that into consideration," Fox replied as he slid the precious weapon back into its scabbard on his side.
"You will not get the boy to give up his two-weapon style," Lady Murrell pronounced, as she too walked through her grandson's bedroom to the balcony, only to stop when she saw Pellanor.
Fox had to look at his knight to see what they all found so intriguing. Perhaps the sheath was out of place after all.
"It's just that we are unaccustomed to seeing one so undressed who is not related to us," Lady Murrell explained.
"Well, you did all invite yourselves into my bedroom unannounced," Fox retorted. "I would have been better dressed if I knew the whole council was coming to watch me practice."
Lady Murrell gestured to the city behind him. "Then I suggest moving the training downstairs, unless you intend to show the whole city what its defenders look like so scantily clad."
Fox turned around and seriously doubted that anyone from so far away could see him, or what was taking place on his balcony. Nor could he see where anyone at the wall surrounding his keep could see them from either.
"So, why have you come?" Fox asked, as he continued to look for any prying eyes other than those of his extended family.
"You were not at the council meeting this morning, Milord," Lady Murrell started out, trying not to sound as if scolding, but failing. "We were wondering why the Champion of Tanger was not representing his people."
"Because I dare say you really needed me there to discuss uniform requirements," he said scornfully, turning back to face the group. "Besides, as you so eloquently just pointed out, I can see the whole city from my bedroom, and they can see me."
Fox walked deliberately to the iron rail around the balcony and turned around to place his hands behind him on the rail to lean his bottom against it. He fixed Lady Murrell with a piercing stare as if to say "Don't cross me."
"Well," Lady Murrell humphed, as she turned around and walked out of the room. "They need to hear from you from time to time, not only see you. We will pick up the meeting where we left off, tomorrow."
Fox wanted to say something more, something abrasive. He wanted to say he would be there only if he felt like it, but he let it go. He already knew she had made her point and he did not want to let his new responsibilities go to the wayside, the same way he felt his House had gone.
He turned back and stared out at the city as it went about reconstructing the buildings that had gone to waste for far too long. His fist gripped the iron railing in a white knuckle grip and he ground away at the rust forming there. The action seemed to place a finality on the morning's activities.
Celenae guided her father out as if she had something important to tell him, and Pellanor followed a short time after.
With his balcony now empty of distraction, Fox looked across the expanse of buildings as he let the anger of the intrusions slip from his mind. Two years had changed New Tanger quite a bit. The center of the city was built up with new, stone block and mortar stores, and the new housing district had dozens of two story homes full of families. He watched as livestock was watered at the reservoir and fire wood was stacked after being split at the lumber mill. He smiled as draft horses trundled past, pulling carts loaded with fruits, meat, and bolts of cloth to the bazaar.
Looking over at the temple district, Fox watched smoke drift lazily from the chimneys of Bridget's Temple. The open air Basilica of the All Mother dominated the far side with its oak trees still in their infancy. Fox could clearly see her statue as it presided over the empty court. The shrine of Dianna the Huntress was empty as well.
The Cathedral of House Alandria rested imposingly on the far side of the city. Adorned in the magnificent purple and gold banners of its coat of arms, the cathedral had been diligently restored by dwarven and elven hands to its former glory. Gothic in construction, it had once served as the headquarters to some forgotten religion. Its beauty and ornate decorations were testament to the skills of the last owners and complemented the city nicely.
Squires of the order stood guard, dressed in plate armor and purple tabards, holding pikes as part of their training. Lord Curran Alandria had transformed his father's House into a respectable knightly order of paladins that any young aspirant would be honored to be a part of. The rigorous training he put his knights through ensured he had the best trained warriors in the whole city. He even went so far as demanding his knights be entrusted with the defense on the city's East Gate until its construction could be completed. It was clear he meant to outdo Lord Gammel in every way.
Excerpted from Fox Elvensword and the Shard of Terraman by George Allen Butler II. Copyright © 2016 George Butler. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
ContentsChapter One: The Balcony, 1,
Chapter Two: The Assault, 11,
Chapter Three: Beginnings, 21,
Chapter Four: Corrin Blackthorn, 39,
Chapter Five: Changes, 45,
Chapter Six: Terantheraxus, 53,
Chapter Seven: Dagothor's Cave, 57,
Chapter Eight: The Tavern, 101,
Chapter Nine: Council, 113,
Chapter Ten: The Camp, 117,
Chapter Eleven: Shard Keep, 127,
Chapter Twelve: Battle in the Chamber, 139,
Chapter Thirteen: The Return to the Camp, 153,
Chapter Fourteen: Castle Canterbri, 159,
Chapter Fifteen: The Dinner, 173,
Chapter Sixteen: Nightmare, 187,
Chapter Seventeen: The Way East, 221,
Chapter Eighteen: East Watch, 235,
Chapter Nineteen: The Satyr Wood, 257,
Chapter Twenty: Serrawon, 273,
Chapter Twenty One: The Swamps of Mythranthere, 281,
Chapter Twenty Two: Mythranthere, 313,
Chapter Twenty Three: The Retreat to New Tanger, 331,
Chapter Twenty Four: Discussions, 345,
Chapter Twenty Five: Dagothor, 351,
Chapter Twenty Six: The Chamber of Death, 365,
Chapter Twenty Seven: Swiftwind's Return, 379,
Chapter Twenty Eight: An Underground River, 385,
Chapter Twenty Nine: Rickturian the Dragon, 393,
Chapter Thirty: The Chamber, 415,
Chapter Thirty One: The Return Home, 425,
About the Author, 441,