The Orb Of Azcera

The Orb Of Azcera

by Tony Van Sant

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781449066352
Publisher: AuthorHouse
Publication date: 03/15/2010
Pages: 636
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.41(d)

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The Orb of Azcera


By Tony Van Sant

AuthorHouse

Copyright © 2010 Tony Van Sant
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-4490-6635-2


Chapter One

The great beast approached from the distant sky. Eleven men stood at the mouth of the dragon's cave, waiting for the battle that would soon ensue. Only a small silhouette of the giant winged creature could be seen against the backdrop of the afternoon sun, but soon enough it would be upon them. Sensing the nervousness of his men, Agostine Brynn, Captain of the small band of the King's knights, quickly turned the men's attention back to the task at hand.

"Let's go over this one more time to make sure we are all clear," Agostine began with an authoritative voice.

As he spoke, Agostine stood from a crouched position, his face bearing a look of determination. His men stood at attention almost instinctively as they heard their leader addressing them. Agostine was a man of his early thirties, tall in stature, and in peak physical condition. He wore his sandy brown hair at shoulder length, and bore a clean-cut beard and mustache. His face carried the scars of battle, which made him appear older than he actually was. Despite that, Agostine was considered a handsome man. His face was stern and rugged in appearance, yet his deep blue eyes somehow seemed to soften his face just enough to give him what could be described as an approachable quality. As he adjusted the metal breastplate that was strapped over his shoulders, he continued his instruction.

"The corridor just inside the entrance to the cave will provide us the best means of attack. Everyone will file in, hide in the crevices along the walls of the long narrow passageway, and wait. Do nothing to give up the element of surprise, or we will quickly lose our advantage."

The men encircled their leader as he went over the plan one last time. Agostine clearly saw the fatigue on the men's faces as he spoke, but he did not waiver. The King's knights were weary from the long journey that brought them to this point. It was Agostine's task to ensure that the soldiers stayed focused, and were ready for what was about to transpire.

"As the dragon enters," Agostine said, pointing to the cave entrance in front of the men, "and it makes its way down the path to its lair, we will strike from both sides. Wait until its head is past you and you have a clear shot at its underbelly. The narrow pathway will not allow it to turn its head to strike, so it will only be able to back up or charge forward."

The men listened intently as Agostine spoke. Faces that previously appeared tired and battered began to show signs of energy and confidence.

"Group two!" Agostine pointed toward four of the men circled around him. "Since you are in the middle of the corridor, you will strike first. If it backs up, then group one ..." he paused briefly, pointing to four different men, "... will strike next trying to keep it from returning to the outside. If it moves forward, my group, group three, will strike, hopefully finishing it before it can enter its lair and have room to maneuver. Are we all clear so far?"

Agostine paused to ensure understanding. The men all nodded and responded in the affirmative.

"Good. If it gets to its lair, or back to the outside, we lose the advantage, but we must continue. The creature will be wounded regardless, so this will still be our best chance to finish it off. If our attacks in the corridor don't kill it, at least do whatever you can to force it to move forward into its lair instead of backwards to the outside. We don't want it to be able to fly if it reaches the open air."

Agostine looked up to monitor the dragon's approach. There was still a little time left before they would be visible to the beast.

He continued, "Now, if we have to fight in the open, do not try to take it head on. Its mouth is its strongest weapon. Keep spread out and continue to flank to either side of the creature. Its jaws are incredibly powerful and could easily snap you in two. It can also shoot a venom from its mouth that will burn your skin like acid. We would be best to keep it disoriented by attacking from as many angles as possible. Just stay away from its front."

The command in his voice was clear. There was no room for error. No hesitation allowed. The men gathered in every word. While fear was still prevalent, the clarity that Agostine provided them seemed to help the men overcome any of their previous apprehensions.

Agostine's voice shifted. He spoke a little softer and more empathetic, but still clearly maintained his authority. "Remember what you volunteered for here. This creature has caused enough destruction and loss for us already. Our friends, our families, and our Kingdom are all counting on us. I know you are tired. I know you are nervous. You would be foolish not to be. We need to stay clear-headed on what we must do however. This creature will continue to reign havoc on our Kingdom if we don't destroy it. Let's get this done, and we can all go home as heroes."

The men filed into the cave to take their positions. The pathway was dark, only slightly illuminated from the sunlight shining in through the cave opening, and from a dim light at the end of the path coming from the dragon's lair. The rock walls offered many crevices to hide within, and stalagmites to hide behind. Agostine observed as each of the men readied weapons for the sneak attack. Swords and spears were drawn, and the men, one by one, crouched and hid in the darkness. Once he was confident that all were in position, Agostine slid into a crack in the wall near the doorway to the dragon's lair. There he would wait until the beast's arrival.

From his position, he could see clear to the bright light shining through from the outside. He would have an excellent vantage point to see all that was about to transpire. He found himself trying intently to control his breathing. The anticipation was wearisome. He was as nervous as anyone else in his regime, though he dared not show it. They looked to him for confidence. Now, as he sat seemingly alone in the dark, he feared his breathing would give him away. He tried to calm himself with deeper, longer breaths. In the passing minutes, which seemed like an eternity, Agostine reflected back on what brought him to this dreadful place.

* * *

Not long ago, on a seemingly average summer afternoon, Agostine went about his rounds on guard patrol at the castle of King Gamaeon in the Kingdom of Aadanea. Agostine was a Patrol Captain, a mid-level title of authority within the King's army, but was highly regarded and even on a first name basis with the King himself. Agostine was respected and feared for his abilities with a sword, but even more impressive was his natural born leadership ability, something that his superiors quickly took notice of. Agostine could read his men better than most, and understood what to say, when to say it, and most importantly how to say it, almost instinctively. His leadership style was poetic. He had a rare ability to display authority and demand respect while also gaining complete and undeniable admiration from his men. Agostine carried the confidence of a man who was being groomed for bigger and better things. He knew in his heart and mind that he would lead this army one day.

As Agostine checked in on one of the guard posts atop the castle wall, shouting and screams could be heard on the other side of the castle. Agostine, reacting quickly, instructed the guards before him.

"Stay at your post unless I call for you. I will check it out."

Agostine rushed along the walkway atop the castle wall until he reached the opposite side. As he rounded the corner, he stopped abruptly for just a second, completely unprepared for what he would witness. Hovering just over the village homes outside the castle was a dragon like none Agostine had ever seen. In fact, he had never actually seen one in person in his life, only pictures in storybooks or descriptions from the tales of travelers who passed through. Neither did justice to the sight of the magnificent creature before him. The beast was clearly aggressive, so Agostine had little time to gather his senses before moving into action.

The dragon began to rise higher into the sky. Its shimmering green and red scales looked almost metallic in the hot summer sun. As it circled around, its attention turned downward towards the men on the ground. The soldiers below moved in with bows and crossbows drawn, clearly ready to fight. The dragon leveled its flight, hovering almost even with the top of the castle wall. It flapped its wings slightly to keep a stationary position in the sky, and then reared its head back as though ready to strike. Agostine moved toward the closest guard post, and drew a loaded crossbow from the weapons rack.

"All together men, fire on my mark!"

As the dragon's head surged forward, Agostine shouted.

"FIRE!"

Arrows launched from both the castle wall and from the courtyard. The dragon spit venom from its mouth, mortally wounding several of the men on the ground below. It shrieked from the piercing of the oncoming arrows as they struck. The creature was only disoriented for a moment however. Appearing angered by the attack, the dragon lunged toward the soldiers in the courtyard as they readied their weapons for the next strike. Agostine could only watch as the beast swooped down and clamped its mouth shut on one of the men in its path, and then quickly fled away, carrying the arrow from Agostine's crossbow in its left eye. In just a short moment, nearly as quickly as it had started, the conflict was already over.

The brazen dragon would return again and again. It had discovered a feeding ground, and it would continue to be drawn to it. The Kingdom grew more and more prepared for its attacks, watching the skies and sounding alarms so bystanders could seek shelter, but their attempts to take the beast down were meek at best. The creature was too powerful and too agile to be significantly hurt by the attacks of the soldiers. Occasionally it would be discouraged and leave before getting its fill, but it would inevitably return. Even attempts to sacrifice livestock by leaving unattended cattle tied up outside the village limits would work at times, but at other times would be disregarded by the dragon. Many men lost their lives to the appetite of the great beast. It was on the occasion of the King's darkest day that Agostine would be called to speak with him personally about what would happen next.

King Gamaeon normally exuded a powerful presence, one that could intimidate even the most confident man, as Agostine could attest. At this moment however, the tall thick-statured man sat sloped over on a wooden bench in the corner of his throne room, far away from the majestic seat he usually occupied. His right elbow rested on his knee as his hand covered his eyes. His jet-black hair wore no crown. His bearded mouth quivered. Agostine approached.

"Ah, you are here. Thank you for coming so quickly," Gamaeon remarked, attempting to sound more enthusiastic than he actually was.

Fearful of breaking protocol, but clearly understanding that something was wrong, Agostine replied, "I am always at your service sir. Why do you despair?"

"My son is dead," Gamaeon answered in a cold monotone voice. "We were attacked again. It took my son." He paused. "IT TOOK MY SON!!!!" he shouted in anger. The echo reverberated in the large empty room.

Agostine waited a moment while Gamaeon sat quietly, clearly shaken and on the verge of tears.

"What would you have me do, my king?" Agostine said softly. "Whatever you ask, I will do it for you."

Gamaeon paused for a moment longer, and gathered himself to speak. He drew closer to Agostine, and quietly began, "As you know, we have attempted to track the origin of that 'thing' and I feel we have a good idea of where it nests." His voice began to rise. "I need you to gather some men, track it down, and kill it!" He sighed, seeming to realize how futile it was to get angry, and calmly continued. "Sir Bleidyn will provide you the information we have so far on its whereabouts. I fear now that we did not put enough effort forward, or this catastrophe could have been avoided. I will not make the same mistake again. I trust in you Agostine. You are the best man for this job, and I know that under your command success will be achieved. I need your full attention on this. Once you have met with Sir Bleidyn, gather what you need and leave as quickly as you are able. Return only when you have killed that beast."

Agostine simply replied, "It will be done," and began to head toward the door to exit. Gamaeon stopped him.

"I need something else from you. When you have slain the dragon, sever off one of its feet, and bring it to me. A front claw will do just fine. It will be a trophy to celebrate our conquest. I want to ensure that the entire Kingdom has the peace of mind of knowing that beast is dead."

"As you wish my King."

As Agostine again turned to depart, another figure entered the room. This was someone Agostine had no familiarity with. He was tall and thin, wearing a long black beard that was groomed to a fine point some six inches or so below his chin, and no moustache. His eyes were dark, almost black in appearance. His long, dark blue robe touched the floor as he walked, and he wore a hood that covered his hair and ears. The man exchanged glances with Agostine as he entered, but no words were spoken. His gaze gave Agostine an uneasy feeling. As the stranger approached the King, Agostine could clearly see that Gamaeon was expecting him, and sensed that it was time to depart.

The King stopped Agostine once more as he attempted to leave. "Don't forget. I need that dragon's claw. I am counting on you."

With that, Agostine departed to meet with Sir Bleidyn, the High Commander of the King's army.

Need? Agostine thought.

The King seemed very purposeful in using that word. It gave Agostine pause, but he soon dismissed it as the King simply wanting closure to help him deal with his grief.

Like King Gamaeon, Agostine and Sir Bleidyn had interacted on several occasions in the past, but this was clearly a different circumstance. Bleidyn was extremely serious as he provided Agostine instruction.

"I have sent several parties out to track the beast as long as they could after each encounter. Based on the reports I have received, we have narrowed its origin to somewhere in the Blackmar Hills."

Bleidyn pulled a large map and unrolled it on the table in front of them.

"Your journey will take you several days. You will cross through the dense forests here on your way to the mountain range."

Bleidyn pointed to a position on the map where the forest was represented, and then slid his finger to the mountain range positioned to the west of the forest. He circled a small section of the mountains with his finger.

"We have gathered that somewhere amongst this grouping of mountains is the dragon's lair. Our scouts have only been able to narrow it down this much so far. You will need to complete the search to find exactly where it comes from so you can set up your attack. The element of surprise will probably be your only hope of killing it, so scouting the best scenario possible is imperative. You have seen firsthand how difficult this creature is to stop. Patience will be key. You will have to be strategic and deliberate in setting up the strike so that it is effective. You may only get one chance at this. The dragon has demonstrated it is very intelligent, and I suspect will not be fooled twice."

"How many men do I have at my disposal," Agostine inquired.

"Only fifteen. I would send more, but we dare not spare them. We need all the men we can muster to defend our walls should the dragon return, or should the Morroks decide to advance on us."

"The Morroks?"

"Yes. We have word that they may be preparing to take up arms against us. They have coveted our land for some time, and in our weakened state since this dragon began its assaults on us, the rumors are circling that they feel the time is right to make war. They have never truly respected our claim on this land; however they have tolerated us thus far as they have had no distinct advantage over us. Now, we are weakened just enough to give them an edge, and I'm afraid they know it."

The Morroks occupied Cuhlich, the neighboring country just north of Aadenea. They were quite well known for their impressive army and for their desire to expand their occupied lands by force. King Gamaeon ensured his Kingdom was prepared to stand up against the Morroks by building a strong army of his own. In a straight fight, the Morrok hoard would be a tough opponent for Gamaeon's knights. With the multitude of dead and wounded from the dragon's onslaughts, Gamaeon's army would be hard pressed to defend their walls should a full assault come on now.

(Continues...)



Excerpted from The Orb of Azcera by Tony Van Sant Copyright © 2010 by Tony Van Sant. Excerpted by permission.
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The Orb Of Azcera 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I've met this guy and he is a great author. Read this book now.
scifireader38 More than 1 year ago
I loved this book! Great blend of past and present to create an exciting sci fi novel. Can't wait for the sequel to come out.
ApexReviews More than 1 year ago
After the valiant knight Agostine Brynn slays a vicious dragon that's been terrorizing his homeland, the remains of the formidable creature are used to construct a magical orb whose sole purpose is to protect the newly liberated kingdom from harm; however, the boundless power of the orb soon proves to be too much for the King to handle, and following a dramatic battle for its possession, the precious weapon mysteriously disappears and is widely believed to be lost to the ages...generations later, though, the orb is unearthed, and another climactic conflict for its possession ensues, ultimately bringing about an improbable merging of past and present as a long forgotten fantasy era makes its indelible mark on a modern world surprisingly primed for its arrival... The stellar debut of what promises to be a riveting new series, The Orb Of Azcera is a captivating read. Boasting a well-balanced mix of action, drama, and suspense, author Tony Van Sant's engaging tale combines equally compelling elements of Fantasy and Sci Fi as he offers a fresh take on the ages-old cautionary tale of the destructive temptation of evil. With taut, crisp storytelling, smooth transitions, and an imaginative cast of characters, The Orb Of Azcera successfully stokes the readers' imagination enough to leave them craving the next installment of the series - especially after being sideswiped by the surprise cliffhanger ending. Creatively crafted, The Orb Of Azcera is a must-read for fans of well told fantasy fiction. A highly recommended read. Chelsea Perry Apex Reviews