RSS

Category Archives: Assassin

The Who’s Who on Shade 2—Part One

Thanks everyone for the positive feedback on the cover of Shade 2: Kingsblood! We are very excited to be following up with the second installment of the Shade Series. Last week we simply pulled back the curtain and unveiled the cover. This week we thought we’d run a magnifying glass over the cover and give you the who’s who on Shade 2: Kingsblood.

We’ll start with the most out of place character on the cover: Jago.

Jago is a Dragol or a rat-man as they are sometimes called. Dragols are a cross-breed of unknown racial origins, just called rat-men for their humanoid appearance. Dragols are known for being one of Covent’s uglier races and have an insatiable appetite for garbage.  Hunted down for years, Dragols have proved to be extreme survivors and are slowly gaining a loose acceptance in Doljinaar.

Jago is from Jile, Shade’s town. He’s an orphan taken in by the kindhearted owner of The Pig’s Trough eat house in Jile.  He works as a dish boy, but has a mischievous streak for troublemaking and picking Starlilies from the Ice Marshes to sell to drug-dealers. Dragols are extremely agile and stealthy and his skills enable him to become an unwanted tagalong in Shade 2.

We were very happy with this concept picture, though we asked that the artist reshape the skull a bit to make it look more ratlike than catlike.  As you can see Thom Scott happily obliged.

Now we’ll move onto Aagren, captain of the Majesterium.
Aaagren is a Haradrik by blood, a clan of ice Vikings who live off the southern coasts of Doljinaar which lies on the shores of the arctic ocean known as the Haraglace. Haradrik are divided into two camps: Loyalists and Icefarers. Icefarers are known for rebellion and their stubborn wills in their efforts to sail south and colonize the frozen southern continent. They are trying to make a new country of their own, but most families don’t survive the harsh winters.  Loyalists have accepted life under Doljinaarian rule.  Aaagren is a Loyalist.

Aaagren is captain of the Majesterium, which is the royal guard of the king. He never leaves the king’s side.  Aaagren carries a two-handed battleaxe in one hand and a tower shield in the other. In this scene Aaagen has lost his axe, the wounded king leans on his shoulder and he waves his shield in a desperate last ditch effort to save the king.

Finally, let’s finish up with King Magnus…King Magnus is close to 1,000 years old. Unlike mere common humans, the eyes of the royal line of Doljinaar glow a solid white. The combination of their abnormally long lifespan and their ethereal gaze feed the perception that they are in fact gods in flesh. It is believed that the Doljinn kings ascend into godhood at death. The most memorable kings are worshiped as gods, as either a deity who stands for good or for evil, depending on the manner of their rule.

King Magnus has been a fair and wise king. He has had a long and hard rule. He has managed to keep a relative peace in Doljinaar, unlike many of the past Doljinn kings. He will be remembered well, but has been forced to spend much time on the battlefronts, stemming the tide of threats from entering the kingdom. His most controversial decision was the abolishment of magic, but there are many in Doljinaar who supported the bold decree. Doljinaarian history is filled with devastating magic wars that left entire towns leveled and left wounds upon the lands that have never fully healed. Magic is greatly feared.

Stay tuned for next week, when he dive into the other characters on the cover including the Shaltearan Brotherhood and Shade’s cocky nemesis in Shade 2: Kingsblood.

Need to get caught up on reading?  You can always start with Shade 1: Waiting Game:
http://www.chroniclesofcovent.com/shade.html

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Shade 2 Book Cover Reveal…

Greetings blog readers! Sorry I haven’t had a lot of time to blog lately. I’ve been traveling far and wide, but to make it up to you I’ve got some very exciting artwork to reveal. Our artist, Thom Scott, has been hard at work on the artwork for the cover to Shade 2: Kingsblood! Shade 2 reveals a cast of reoccurring characters both to the Shade Series and the larger Chronicles of Covent brand itself.

I’m very excited about the release of Shade 2, even more so than Shade 1 because the book takes our anti-hero to new levels of story-telling. Shade finally finds the trial he is looking for, but he is forced to play the unlikely role of hero. This allowed us to explore new dimensions of his character that just weren’t possible in Shade 1, which was aimed at merely establishing our cold confident killer.

And so without further ado, allow me to reveal the cover to Shade 2!

I won’t say too much this week about the story and its characters, but look for a more in depth blog next week that dives into far more detail. To whet your appetites, let me entice you with the book description and the FULL COLOR COVER WRAP down below that shows TWICE the scene!

Doljinaar.  City of Kings. A contract has been signed in the shadows of the great capital, soon to be sealed in the blood of kings. The Shaltearan Brotherhood moves to make good on this contract. It has unleashed its largest force of elite assassins in history.

Shade is sent to foil the assassination and waylay the conspirators behind the plot, but to do so he must venture deep into the bustling heart of Capital Doljinaar. A city the size of ten bustling metropolises walled together side by side. Thousands of eyes lurk at every corner, none trusting of Dark Elves.

Shade must take the deepest, darkest roads to reach the palace secretly and when he finally reaches the palace he must face off against the Shaltearan elite in an ultimate showdown. Among their number awaits a worthy adversary who has been dying to meet him. A ghost who moves silently among men…

 

Shade 2 will be out late this year or early next year (I told my loving wife I wouldn’t release our next book so close to Christmas again). Watch our website and the blog for more announcements and updates. We will be updating the Chronicles of Covent homepage with new artwork, new character, creatures and place reveals over the next 6 months. It’s going to be a very exciting time for the Chronicles of Covent!
http://www.chroniclesofcovent.com/shade2.html

Comments and feedback on the cover are welcome on the blog or by emailing me direct at jlficks@chroniclesofcovent.com.  We still have plenty of time to tweak the cover this time around, so any constructive feedback would be much appreciated!


 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

When the Dead Won’t Stay Dead…

Some people have been asking what does Shade fear? Given that he is the world’s most legendary assassin, he seems at many times capable of overcoming anything in Shade One. However, he is not above fear. In the scene above, a black and white illustration included in Chapter Four, we see Shade knocked on his rump. The scene paints a stark contrast to his ordinarily cocky self. A towering undead Minotaur raises his mallet over him. The Minotaur stands close to ten feet tall. Its nostrils spew shoots of steam as it charges trampling everything in its path, an untiring mass of steaming rage. Shade is surrounded by undead, hopelessly cut off and alone. The undead stagger closer, salivating mouths hungering for the taste of his warm flesh.

Shade’s passage through the Ruins of Garrlohan in Shade One is actually one of the most telling chapters of the entire book about Shade’s deepest, darkest fears He fears the mysterious otherworldly forces of Covent. He fears powers beyond his understanding or more so he fears powers that befuddle his comprehension and render him powerless. You see Shade is a practically minded Dark Elf. His thinking is very grounded in the natural world. As he said to the Shamite in Chapter One of Shade Two, “Slide an acute piece of metal into a vital organ and the victim will die quick and without much fuss.” The assassin makes a living sending people to grave and so to see undead crawling back from the grave is a grim reversal of the natural order of things. Shade believes in no god, but here dozens of death’s horrible heralds speak of a supernatural world beyond his understanding and that deep down scares him more than anything.

Worse, the way to kill undead is largely unknown at this time in Covent. There are no magical blades, no holy weapons to put them down. Clerics, and those who profess the silver robes, have lost the art of healing. All a mortal can do is run. Shade is forced to cripple them in the Ruins of Garllohan, but even then he barely escapes with his life. The physical bodies of zombies, ghouls, skeletons or various other undead can be maimed by physical blows, but you will never kill their restless spirits. You cut off their legs and they’ll crawl after you. You cut off their hands and the fingers will crawl after you. You cut off their heads and the headless body will still stalk you. You crush their bones into powder and they’ll body jump into a fresh corpse reanimating new nightmares. And if they have no physical body, what are you supposed to do with the likes of a ghost, but run?

I’m particularly excited about some of our new twisted forms of undead, the first of which we shall introduce in Shade Two. There is one such entity Shade fears in all the Ice Marshes…the Ooelm. The Ooelm, pronounced just like Doelm, but without the “d” is an undead monster that defies Shade’s understanding. The Ooelm wanders the south marshes feasting on the brains of any living creature unfortunate enough to fall into its hands. The Ooelm is one of the many abominations of ancient Gorgloth who wander the lands feeding off their restless hunger. Many saw these abominations are worse than undead, because they come out of their haunts and ruins of Covent. They are drawn to dark places of historic tragedy and magic, but have even been known to wander into towns.

You can think of the Ooelm has a monstrous hunchbacked Frankenstein, though its spirit remains a mystery. Its body has been warped and twisted, which can barely contain the monstrous spirit that has crawled up inside a once withering corpse. Shade can sense this spirit behind the Ooelm’s massive warped form, but he is unsure what to make of it. The Ooelm’s mind is numb, greatly dumbed down, as if its unending hunger has also consumed a far greater identity. Its mind has been reduced to an animalistic instinct to feed, rivaling that of any other undead, but its powers are frightening to behold.

I’ve included an excerpt from Shade Two for the blog, which includes the second half of Chapter Three of Shade Two. Shade has headed south through the Ice Marshes on his way to Doljinaar, City of Kings. Given he has to foil another assassination attempt, he has chanced the Mudline to save time. The Mudline is an old lost road that had been, up until now, swallowed by the watery southern swamps. The waters had appeared low on Shade’s departure, but he has been trapped in a floodplain close to the Ruins of Azranool. He is being stalked…


An Excerpt from Chapter Three:
Never Trust the Mudline

A horrible horselike squeal pierced the air.

Shade snapped back around. And then he saw it. An all too familiar monstrous form towered over the rise where he had left his horse.

Shade held his breath. His horse squirmed and flailed wildly like a small rodent in the monster’s oafish hands. The Ooelm. The fat twenty-foot monster stared back at him with solid black eyeballs. It seemed to remember him. He could see the huge tree-sized club it dragged behind by its nearly useless left arm. The Ooelm stared at the Dark Elf with a festering hatred. Shade had severed several exposed ligaments on the monster’s left arm on their last chance encounter. He had rendered that arm useless though he could see that the monster still managed to grip its club.

The Ooelm shrugged its huge shoulder and swung its dead arm around its body. The club hit the ground with a devastating force.

The earth shook.

The Ooelm seemed to have waited for the moment Shade turned around. The monster stared at him and lifted his once proud steed up to its flabby black lips. It roared, a noxious green mist sprayed the air. The horse winnowed in terror, its legs flailing wildly. The animal eyed the Ooelm’s immense wriggling maw as its jaws opened. The horses took one blast of the ghoulish breath and went suddenly limp.

“NO!” Shade shouted. He sprinted forward in a vain attempt to save his horse. He would be stranded without it and the Ooelm could surely run him down.

The Ooelm moved slowly, as if baiting the Dark Elf.

The horse’s head hung limply as the monster slowly lowered it into its huge writhing pallet.

Shade cursed and headed back up the rise. He drew his blades, but his mind leafed through a list of reckless battle plans, all of which spelled suicide. His breaths puffed out in desperate huffs. He could smell the Ooelm’s putrefying stench as he drew near. He could feel the Ooelm’s chilling air filling his veins with needlelike fear. His limbs iced over and his body trembled uncontrollably. His joints stiffened and he was suddenly paralyzed with dread. He stared up and up at his towering foe.

The Ooelm stood upright on two legs, but his entire body was covered in mud, muck and bits of dead plant matter. The twigs and dead weeds that stuck out of the layers of grime strangely resembled hair. Small patches of dead white skin showed bleakly, marred by grotesque malformed contusions and dead boils. The Ooelm resembled some manner of mutant Gorum, but it more than quadrupled their impressive size. It was a jumbled mass of bones, muscles, organs and dead tissues, like a dragon had crawled inside a Gorum corpse and wore him like a cloak.

Shade did not understand by what powers such monsters existed. The Dwarves claimed long ago that Ooelms were abominations birthed by the black arts of ancient Gorgloth. They reported having problems with Ooelms desecrating their catacombs and feeding on the brains of the dead. The name Ooelm suggested that these rumors held a grain of truth, but he had never heard of a tale of an Ooelm as large as this one.

The assassin could do nothing, but stare in wide-eyed horror.

The Ooelm’s leech black lips closed around the horse’s head. Shade heard a horrible sucking noise. The horse’s legs writhed and went suddenly limp. The animal’s limp head popped out of the Ooelm’s horrible mouth. The monster threw the horse’s body at Shade.

The assassin rolled to the side. The horse’s weighty body hit the mud and flopped like a giant dead fish. It nearly landed on him. He had to make two more evasive rolls to completely avoid the comatose projectile. He lost a dagger. The horse’s corpse finally came to a rest.

Shade rolled right into the horse’s rib cage. He hit the animal’s chest hard and stood up in horror. He stared at his mount’s lifeless face. The horse’s eyes and brains had been sucked out through its eye sockets. The assassin fell on his bottom and scrambled backward, reeling in shock and revulsion. He could see the flecks of brain matter oozing out of the horse’s snout. Worms, maggots and beetles crawled out of the animal’s lifeless head, as if swarms of saprobes had eaten his mount from the inside out into a rapid decay.

A tree-sized object rose overhead

Shade snapped out of his shock.

The Ooelm gripped its enormous dead arm and raised the club.

The assassin dove forward.

The Ooelm brought its club down.

Shade closed his eyes. He could only pray he dove far enough.

Thud!

The earth shook and mud splattered, but Shade could still feel his legs. He scrambled to his feet. He saw the Ooelm lift its giant club again. The nimble assassin darted through the monster’s fat legs. He looked desperately for a place to hide, but bogs cut him off in every direction. The only way out was through the Muckhog path and the only way back to that path lay through the Ooelm.

Shade spun around and gaped up the Ooelm’s huge knobby back.

The Ooelm started to turn around, but it was so immense it turned slowly.

The assassin retrieved another blade. He dashed towards the Ooelm and leapt at its huge calf. He drove his right dagger deep into the Ooelm’s giant muscle and held on. The stab made a shucking noise, but broke into dust as easily as a husk. Worms and maggots came spilling out of the hole in the monster’s dusty leg. Shade nearly slipped off. He jammed his left dagger in and pulled himself up. The assassin felt cold slimy wriggling bodies hit his lips. Shade turned his face to the side and spit. More worms!

The Ooelm howled in pain. It loosed a horrible sound that resembled the tortured song of a dying whale. The wretched sound, the unbearable stench caused insects and leeches to come writhing out of the mud.

Shade ground his teeth and regained his concentration. He pulled his right dagger out and thrust it into the Ooelm’s back thigh. And then his left. He scaled the monster’ spine rippled back ice pick style.

More worms and maggots poured of the Ooelm. The monster dropped its club. It yowled in rage and made grabs for the nimble assassin, but he evaded them. He nearly reached the creature’s fiendish shoulder. His eyes remained focused on his goal. The Ooelm’s dead arm hung by a signal ligament. If he could finish what he had started months back, perhaps the putrid monster would retreat.

The Ooelm flailed.

Shade’s right dagger flew from his hand. He grabbed his parrying dagger with both hands and held on for dear life. He glanced down. He dangled thirteen feet up in the air. Almost there. Just another foot.

The Ooelm made another grab for him.

He quickly pulled himself upward and grabbed a protruding bone sticking out of the monster’s dead flesh. He pulled himself up on its broad shoulder. He reached the ligament. The Ooelm tried to shake him off, but he fell to his knees to stabilize his balance. He raised his dagger up prepared to cut the arm clean off.

Shade felt gigantic fingers close around his waist. The assassin tried to slip away, but the Ooelm caught him fast in its clasp. He wanted to stab the monster, but his arms were pinned to his waist. He felt like a little ragdoll as he was pulled away from his target.

The Ooelm brought him back around its front. The monster glared at him, its horribly white skin drooped off its warped skull, giving it an expression of pure furious, freakish horror.

Shade trembled. For the first time since his youth, he had the sudden overwhelming urge to lose his bladder. He felt reduced, reduced to that once terrified boy time had widdled away.

The Ooelm raised him and stared straight into his terror-filled eyes. He stared back into those deathly black eyeballs. It was like staring into a vacant hungering abyss, devoid of soul or conscience. He felt like his spirit suddenly froze solid, but the hatred and envy in those eyes was unnerving. Lathers of drool oozed out of the Ooelm’s black lips. It dribbled down its huge sagging cheeks and oozed into pools of saliva on its hill-sized potbelly. The Ooelm brought him close to its huge horrible face. Its terrible lips parted.

Shade closed his eyes and meditated on a sacred discipline of the Kuula. A stomach-turning blast of death and decay blew back his hair. His nostrils burned, but his discipline saved him from passing out. The stench was like being sealed off in an airtight Dwarven tomb, the dead freshly rotting. He nearly lost consciousness.

The Ooelm loosened its grasp. Shade slide down, but the Ooelm caught him by the heel.

The assassin cursed himself for the missed opportunity. He opened his eyes just as he was dangled over the monster’s huge gaping maw.

The Dark Elf gaped into the untold horrors that stirred within. The Ooelm’s mouth was toothless, tongueless and yet it writhed and moved like a sea of squirming tissues. Not tissues he realized, but a wriggling bed of maggots, worms and carrion beetles. He was mere seconds away from being dropped into that horrible writhing maw which would no doubt devour him from the inside out like his poor horse.

Shade stole a glance at the monster’s weak point. The bad ligament lay eight feet away. He gripped the dagger in his hand. He had only one shot at this. He struggled to focus on his target. The blood rushed to his head as he dangled upsidedown. He felt disoriented. The world spun around in his head. He tried to focus on the one ligament that looked like three, no six.

The Ooelm dropped him.

Shade threw the dagger as he fell downward. It whisked through the air. The world spun around and around, but then he heard the ligament snap.

The Ooelm’s arm fell clean off. The monster roared. Saprobes spewed everywhere. The Ooelm leered to the side and unwittingly moved Shade.

Shade slipped from its fingers. He landed hard in the mud, but allowed his knees to absorb the impact. It took the wind out of him, but he scrambled upward. He stared up at the Ooelm who clutched its shoulder and was still roaring with a terrible unclouded rage. The assassin had no time to catch his breath. He turned and ran.

The Ooelm beat its huge fists against the mud.

Shade’s lungs screamed in protest, but he pushed on. He darted for the Muckhog path. His lungs felt sore, as if every breath dragged across his ribs, but he refused to quit. He reached the reeds and stumbled through. He could hear the Ooelm’s huge footsteps behind him.

Boom. Boom. Boom.

The assassin glanced back behind him.

The Ooelm charged after him, wielding not its club, but its severed arm. The enraged monster’s frothing spittle sprayed the air. The Ooelm was only thirty paces back, just six monstrous strides away.

He heard even more monstrous footsteps.

Boom. Boom. Boom. The ground shook.

He doubled his pace.

Shade felt the Ooelm’s scalding ice breath blow down the back of his hood. He ducked. The arm whiffed overhead just as he sighted the gully. He kept his eyes focused on the log, if he could only get across… He veered to the side on pure instinct.

The Ooelm slammed the arm down right next to him. He heard bones snap and crack, but it missed him by but hair.

Shade reached the log at last. He sprinted across it and spun around. He stared up at his awesome foe.

The Ooelm charged forward. Its huge foot stepped onto the log. Snap! The monster plunged into the gully. It hit the water with a giant splash.

Shade saw the Ooelm go under, but the muddy cliffsides were not far off the ground. The monster sprung from the water and made one last grab for him. The Ooelm was too far away. The muddy banks crumbled under its huge weight and it slipped back under. The Ooelm tried again and again, but the mud could not handle its mass. The Ooelm slid back into the water and then the waters went finally still. Shade fled down the path, a crack of a smile dawning on his cheeks. He owed those pigs a big sloppy wet kiss.

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Free Stuff! The Fantasy Epic Continues…

Greetings blog-readers! I’ve been traveling a lot this week, so I’ve included an excerpt from Shade 2: Kingsblood due out late 2012 or early 2013 as my blog entry this week. Our artist, Thom Scott, is hard at work on the cover as you listen to my mindless drivel! I’ve included only the first section of Chapter One in the blog entry to ensure the entry is not too long, but if you want to read the full chapter, check out the sparkling new link that contains the full sample chapter here.
Also don’t miss the Shade One free Giveaway!!!

Sorry I had to make that abundantly clear! If you haven’t already, don’t forget to enter the Waiting Game book giveaway at the Book Review Club.  Only 2 days left to enter!

So without further ado, the opening to the oddly anticipated sequel to Shade One–Kingsblood:


Chapter One:
A King Among Thieves

In the wee hours of the night, a man lay captive. His wrists and ankles had been tied to his bedposts. A shadow sat over him. The shadow’s face housed a pair of glowing yellow eyes that burned in the darkness. The two prostitutes who had tied the man up in a harmless game of lewder pleasures lay unconscious on the floor. The man was a handsome Shamite, a competent conman, a mere twenty-nine years of age. He had long curly blonde hair and a charming grin that had been the undoing of many maidens. His lips found no smile this night. He fought against his binds, but they would not budge. He opened his mouth to scream, but his tortured throat exuded nothing but an indistinct numb choking.

“Scream,” came a callous voice.

The man’s heart jumped.

“Scream,” the voice said again. The shadowy figure leaned forward from a chair beside the bed. Those piercing yellow eyes carved into the man’s soul.

The man tried to scream again, but it came out as nothing but a miserable muffled shriek. He trembled and stared at the door, eyes wild with desperation, but no one came. There was no escape. Not from the hands of this assassin. An Unseen killer whose very name had become intertwined with fear.

Shade grinned darkly at his latest victim. He leaned further in. “Your guards are right outside your door, Oisleean,” he whispered in the Shamite’s ear, “they could still save you if only they could hear you, so, scream.”

Oisleean struggled for words, for the familiar peal of sound off his tongue, but nothing came. The shadow of one of his bodyguards in the hallway shifted in the torchlight that shone from under the door. The man whimpered.

“What’s the matter, Shamite?” the Dark Elf mocked him, “Don’t you want to live? You can scream, can’t you?”

The Shamite thrashed his arms and legs, but his restraints held fast.

“Muffle Juice,” Shade said. He leaned back in his chair. He shook a half-empty vial of an amber-colored goo. “It’s a wonder back in my own dark country. Sprinkle a dash of freshly ground Mummel Flower in molasses and you have the world’s only known mute agent. It finds much use in the dungeons of Aaagdensool when our ears tire of our victims’ screams of horror.”

Oisleean yanked so hard at his binds he burned his wrists.

Shade watched him and chucked softly. His victim had not come to terms with the hopelessness of his situation. He supposed he could not blame the man. After all, few men understood the many secrets of Jui-Sae. Muffle Juice caused aphonia—a bilateral disruption of the recurrent laryngeal nerve, which supplies nearly all the muscles to the larynx. In layman’s terms, it strips the voice box of all sensation and motor function. Of course, he would not bore his victim with some dry old scientific explanation. The inability to call for help in the company of one’s executioner was terrifying enough.

“You really should hire better help, Oisleean,” Shade mused, “one of these days someone dangerous might come looking for you.”

Oisleean whimpered at the cold hard door.

“Oh don’t feel so bad,” he patted the man’s chest. He tucked the vial away and retrieved a dagger.

Oisleean watched in arrested horror as the assassin played the blade over his fingers. The razor edge flashed in the darkness reflecting off the moonlight that poured in through the window. The Shamite gasped.

“You see, I’m not usually so sophisticated in my methods of execution. Slide an acute piece of metal into a vital organ and the victim will die quick and without much fuss,” he continued as he rubbed the razor sharp edge against his thumb, “crude, but effective. Assassins have neither the time nor the creative vision to entertain so elaborate deaths as, say, your common serial killer.”

The man stared vacantly at Shade.

Shade leaned forward in the chair. He traced the tip of the blade across the man’s smooth features. The Shamite shook even more violently. The Dark Elf’s voice died to a hiss, “But I’m afraid your lifestyle has made it personal.” The assassin flicked the blade drawing a trickle a blood from the man’s cheek.

Oisleean breathed out a short hoarse soundless scream. He kicked and yanked at his binds, but he could not escape. He wept hot desperate tears.

Shade stood up and casually paced the room. “You see my father was quite an accomplished thief,” he said softly, but his voice had not lost its hard edge, “he acquired a mass of wealth before he died, just as you. He grew rich robbing the helpless, the blind, the foolish,” he paused and turned around, his glowing eyes ablaze with anger, “he too preyed on weak-willed women and fathered many orphans. He too surrounded himself with thugs and filled his bed with whores, but in the end nothing could save him.”

The Shamite blubbered like a pathetic wretch.

The assassin stopped and leaned over the bed. He brought the blade to the Shamite’s neck to ensure he kept the man’s rapt attention. “Do you know the difference between me and you, Oisleean?”

Oisleean flailed and kicked desperately at his restraints.

“I no longer prey on the weak,” Shade whispered in the man’s ear, “I have evolved, moved onto larger, more worthy prey. I am now the hunter of hunters, the killer of killers—the very top of the food chain.”

The Shamite shut his eyes tight. He held his breath and prepared himself for the killing blow. Two tears squeezed from his eyelids.

Shade traced the tip of the blade down the man’s neck and across his chest. He paused at the man’s ribs. “Arctavian sends his regards.”

The man shuddered and gasped.

“Tisk, tisk, Oisleean,” Shade whispered in the Shamite’s ear, “you could have gotten away it. A young naïve lovesick daughter. An only child. A perfect target. You could have swindled her out of her father’s inheritance, and left, moved onto to the next town, like you always do, but that wasn’t enough for you. Not this time. Instead, you had to murder her and dump her out on the streets like a common whore.”

The Shamite trembled with violent sobs.

Shade turned the blade suddenly. He drove it deep into the man’s spleen.

Oisleean’s eyes shot wide open. He opened his mouth and cried out in voiceless pain. He managed a faint indistinct scream, barely a whisper.

The assassin yanked the blade out. The Shamite would bleed out in a matter of minutes. The Dark Elf retrieved a long rolled up cloth from the back of his belt-pouches. He quickly unwrapped the cloth revealing a black rose native to his homeland. He laid the rose on the Shamite’s chest and closed the man’s fingers around the stem.

Oisleean shook violently as his life slipped away.

The Faelin turned his back in remorseless indifference. “Consider it his bride price,” Shade said coldly. He walked over to the window. He climbed up onto the windowsill and disappeared. Just then a bloodcurdling scream rang out loud and clear from the bedroom cutting deeply into the night. Shouts of alarm sounded as Oisleean’s bodyguards barged into the bedchamber. The Dark Elf grinned darkly. It appeared the Muffle Juice had finally lost its effect…

To finish the full chapter one excerpt of Kingsblood, click HERE!

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

A Troll in the Kissing Booth…

That’s right! Line up ladies and try not to push in line! We’ve got a surprisingly winsome Troll in the kissing booth this week and he’s very, very rich…

So pucker up ladies…he’s got very nice, eh um, teeth? That’s it! One flash of those pearly whites is enough to bedazzle you! The Sewer King did not win his throne without showing off a bit of flash and flare. In fact, he can be quite charming once you get past his initial Trollish features. He’s the world of fantasy’s very first charismatic Troll. What does that even look like? Well, the Chronicles of Covent® would tell you it looks like Warlord Lewd.

Don’t let his name fool you! He has the most disarming smile and he really does have a perfect set of white teeth. If you were to sit down with him to discuss let’s say a hostile criminal takeover, you would initially cringe at your choice of a dinner party guest. But then you would admire his courtly bow and his well-mannered polish to which you would drop your jaw in amazement. After you picked your jaw up off the floor, he’d flash his perfect white teeth at you. You would catch the alarming brightness in the reflected torchlight and you’d undoubtedly flinch. You’d flinch because Lewd’s winning grin should compliment the face of a handsome prince, certainly not a hideous Troll. His wit and charm would befuddle you through the rest of the meal and by the end you would swear your allegiance. You would make sure he didn’t leave without a handsome tribute and the choicest of your subjects.

It appears all the ladies who originally fled are flocking back to the kissing booth. Again ladies, it’s not polite to push and shove in line!

Now before any maiden gets too carried away with the hopes and fantasies of marriage, I have to warn you about Lewd’s Palace. His kingdom is, well, a sewer. It may have a slight odor. Kurn is actually a very nice city on the streets above, well in the rich parts anyway. But as queen, you’d have to settle for living UNDER the nice parts. Lewd would certainly fashion you a throne and maybe a splash of red to go with his purple tapestries and royal runner. Although as soon as the décor was rolled out, it might make you sad since the mold and filth of the sewers is quite thick. That said you could always enjoy a leisurely stroll in the underground Black Markets, which are thriving with dark, monstrous races and other villainy (just bring a lot of bodyguards).

Warlord Lewd rose to power through a mixture of force and diplomacy.  He was a Trollborn child in the Kurn sewers when a Doelm fell in love with a human woman. Trollbreeds are ordinarily butchered at birth, since it is said a human and Doelm half-breed yield the most hideous race imaginable. The couple tried to flee the Kurn sewers immediately following the birth to protect the child. Lewd’s father was butchered trying to stop other Doelms from slaying his son.  Lewd’s mother hid with him until he was eleven years old in Karus Forest.  She sacrificed herself as a band of human cutthroats also tried to butcher the Trollborn child.

Lewd wandered the forest alone and learned to trust his wits to survive.  He befriended Kishrub and Zulbash who protected him, as he had a keen mind by which he kept them well fed.  He eventually led his own camp of forest brigands.  He earned the title of warlord in a Thieves War that united all the competing factions of Karus Forest. Lewd used this force to seize control of the real crown jewel of the underworld—the Kurn sewers.

The Kurn sewers had been divided by centuries of power struggles prior to Lewd’s rule. The Minolord, Tantarus, had a very shaky reign in which the wrath of the Minolord spawned an endless series of mob wars. Lewd eventually slew Tantarus with his dagger after Kishrub and Zulbash held the Minotaur down. Tantarus’ head and those of the other warring crimelords have been stuffed and mounted above Lewd’s throne. He thinks they look quite nice.

Gents, watch your step around the Sewer King. He warms up to a bit of well-buttered flattery, but watch what you say behind his back. Lewd has ears everywhere in the Kurn Sewers. You don’t want to wind up with your head stuffed and mounted above his throne or have Lewd’s Hand, which is his hand-picked assassin, make off with your tongue. Worse yet, you could be thrown into the Sharkgates. There is no way out of those gated off seaside corridors. Lewd has a shatter-proof viewing window in which he enjoys watching these amphibious monsters rip malcontents limb from limb. Nothing like a pack of Sharlak fishing you INTO the water by catching you with one of his roped spears and those rows of nasty teeth are quite hungry to tear you apart!Ladies and gents, you have but two lessons to learn to survive in the Kurn sewers!

1) Malcontent = chum chum
2) Kissy Troll = yum yum

Now enjoy another killer interior black and white illustration of Lewd’s throne room from Waiting Game. And this is how you lay the flattery on extra thick, ladies and gents!

“What a handsome smile you have, Warlord Lewd! What lovely décor you have! What smarmy flatterers you have! What fine wine and serving wenches you have! What bandaged brutes you have…my my how greatly Shade handed their butts to them, oh lowly Sewer King! Oh dear, now I have to run…”

For more do’s and don’ts on Lewd’s Syndicate and other factions go here:
www.chroniclesofcovent.com/factions.html

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Shade’s Kind of Town…

A lot of readers have noted that our towns possess as much character as our people. Jile is a seedy, remote swamp town located in the heart of the Ice Marshes. The men of Doljinaar have always stuck to the roads that wind far around the marshes, which transformed Jile into a breeding ground for criminals, night mortals, half-breeds and others in hiding.  Of course this makes Jile a very dangerous and undesirable place to visit. That said, if you can get past the thug filled taverns, the back alley thieves and the powerful drug cartels you would find one of the most rare cultures in all Doljinaar.

If you were lucky enough to go unaccosted down Jile’s dark streets, you would have quite the eye-opening experience. Jile is the only town in all of Doljinaar where night mortals live among men (well if you don’t count the stinky sewers of Kurn that have been converted into an underground black market).  Perhaps, we should rephrase: Jile is the only town in all Doljinaar where men and night mortals live side by side, house next to house, under the sun.

Under the moon might be a more befitting description. Jile has a thriving night life. Drunkards and thugs fill its streets; too much frosty ale burning in their bellies. Harlots acquire quite a lot of business by making catcalls off porches and balconies. Night mortals who cannot stand the burning glare of the sun creep out of their homes late at night. They make useful bodyguards and debt collectors, which hound the frivolous throngs of drunken ruffians.

But wait!  Before I move on let me give you what everyone came here for today…tourist information!

Jile offers a wide array of tourist attractions! For happy hour, don’t miss out on The Dragon’s Den Inn & Tavern! It’s the safest place to drink, provided you don’t stare too long at the hooded Dark Elven assassin in the back of the room. The Pig’s Trough Eathouse is the best place to eat in town, and don’t miss out on their infamous Mudcrab Medley! Drazel’s Goods and Wares is a great place to find souvenirs; especially recrafted trinkets made of trash and scrap metal that prove surprisingly useful. Oh, and if you want fireworks, get some scrolls from Mizban’s Tower of Magic, but you’ll have to sign a release form just in case a spell blows up in your face. Just don’t break any of the local customs or you’ll end up in the barracks or cartel dungeons where prisoners have been known to drown or freeze to death in the far too frequent backups of subsurface water.

As you can see, Jile is an old city. Jile is slowly sinking back into the Ice Marshes. Its walls and buildings are retreating into the mud. Many of the long winding roads to Jile have been swallowed by the marshes long ago. The sunken remains of wagons and the skeletons harness animals are at times the best indicators of an Ice Marsh road. The south edge of the city is being inundated with floodwaters. Poor families have been pushed to the uncomfortable mosquitoe-infested edges of town, and although many of them work reputable trades, they lock their doors come nightfall. Every window in Jile is heavily barred and every door is bolted with a minimum of four locks.

Now Jile isn’t all bad. The town has many diamonds buried in the rough. Jile has the strongest tolerance of all the great cities of Doljinaar. Here night mortals and half-breeds can live and work freely among humans. Many men and night mortals who seek refuge in Jile are runaway slaves. Slaves who can earn a large enough living to bribe the corrupt city guards, might even have a chance of staying if a bounty hunter ever bothers to come looking for them. Doelm runts who take asylum in Jile live better here than anywhere else in the world, as long as they don’t cross the rough and tumble Doelm Drug Cartel.

The Shamite Drug Cartel is the worst of the cartels and is backed by the powerful resources of the Merchant Guild. All of Jile’s drug cartels deal mainly in Stardust, which is a strong hallucinogen that can be harvested from the Ice Marshes. Stardust drug addicts are called Dustheads. They lean over steaming bowls of water mixed with Stardust, with towels over their heads, and inhale the fumes for a good high. Many Dustheads have been known to wander out of town under the influence of powerful hallucinations and suffer horrible deaths in the Ice Marshes.

Jile’s most unwanted population is the Dragols. Dragols are short hunched little rat-men with nearly bald scraggly heads and rat shaped snouts. They move quickly through alleys and sewers, making themselves immensely elusive and a general pain the neck. They are worse than raccoons and dig through garbage cans leaving behind piles of spilled trash. Dragols were once hunted down until the Shamite Drug Cartel discovered that Dragol agility enabled them to retrieve Stardust with ease. The drug is collected from the pollen of Starlilies that grow in the warmer months in the Ice Marshes. This has made some Dragols very rich, but of course, Dragols never lost their unquenchable taste for garbage. They can be found in the original Dragol overflow housing in the city outskirts or even paddling among the flooded south searching for fish and stashing treasure troves of garbage.

The Ice Marshes don’t live up to their wintry name in the warmer seasons. They become brown marshlands that bloom with ugly and thorny plants, but plant life nonetheless. This also awakens even more dangerous wildlife that hibernates through the long and harsh winters.  I originally got the idea for the Ice Marshes from Illinois, which is my home state, after I found out much of Illinois had once been marshland before it had been converted into farmland.

Shade, the infamous Dark Elven Assassin of Jui-Sae, has also come to call Jile home. Jile is the only town in all Doljinaar which permits him to walk its streets. Shade’s fearsome reputation in Jile is so well known by the locals that they often call it, “Shade’s Town”. He has a permanent room at The Dragon’s Den Inn & Tavern. Many of the locals come to drink at The Dragon’s Den since the fear of Shade’s presence delivers a sliver of law and order. The locals have grown smart enough not to cross Shade, so they can often drink unmolested at The Dragon’s Den.  You can read about The Dragon’s Den in Chapter One of the brand new sample section of this blog, which is an excerpt from Shade’s first book: Waiting Game.

Below is a picture of Shade walking through the streets of Jile. You can see the air of dominance he projects over all the locals. Two supposedly fearless drunken Braznian warriors grovel at his feet, begging forgiveness for blocking his way. A harlot and a witch still to quiet whispers as he passes by. Men stop at the doorways and thieves shrink back into the alleys. Corrupt Doljinaarian soldiers let him pass without a word. This is one of the killer black and white illustrations our artist put together for Shade 1 as a bonus for those who buy the book.

I will be posting chapter samples from Shade 2, which includes new scenes from Jile and the Ice Marshes as we get closer to launch.  For now feel free to explore many other great locales of Covent or enjoy the free chapter samples.

www.chroniclesofcovent.com/places.html

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

To Orc or Not to Orc…

In ancient Gorgloth, Doelms war amongst the scorched ruins of their lost civilization. The crumbled remains of black nightstone buildings rise above the fields of bone and barren fields stained with centuries of old blood. The rivers run dry. The trees wither and die. The black ships have been long since broken on the shores. The Doelms squabble among the rocks for the fast dwindling resources and lost treasures of their ransacked kingdom. The chieftains led them to raid and pillage one another. Their axes grow red with the blood of their own people. The Doelms have tumbled so far back into the tribal eras the mere rumor of their once great society seems only a myth.
To Orc or not to Orc was a question my co-author and I struggled with for years. Originally, we began with Doelms, as you can see from the first picture below.  The first sketch was first penciled by J. E. back in high school in the mid 90s. Our initial vision was a steroid pumped muscle-head of an Orc that rose far above the squat representations found in Middle Earth or Heroquest. The muscle was piled on extra top heavy, their legs seemed like they could hardly support such a freakish mass. They were actually monstrously huge versions of Orcs bred by darker forbidden magic, except we called them Doelms.

The second picture was drawn a few years later when we were thinking about just calling them Orcs. At that time they were more simple traditional fantasy caricatures, your basic ugly evil race to counter your more comely Humans, Dwarves and Elves. However, they were more apish; prone to beating their chests and taking massive leaps like territorial bull gorillas. And then as we tweaked and over-perfected our world, vision after vision of Orcs flooded the market from World of Warcraft, Elder Scrolls and Everquest, not to mention books. Orcs appeared in commerce in every size and shape. We kept going back to the drawing board, trying to make our vision unique.

Ultimately, we felt the traditional vision of an Orc was very one-dimensional, even if you disguised it as a Trolloc or whatever. We didn’t want to follow the fantasy norm of having good and evil races. It seems if you’re born twisted, ugly or scary in a fantasy world you’re doomed to do nothing, but rape and pillage. However, if you happened to be pretty and run around with a fanciful gay smile, you could do no wrong. Nature is full of many fierce, but beautiful predators—the lion, the bear to name a few. Why should fantasy races be any different? And people are far more interesting when they’re not what they seem.  I love the horrible fair-faced monsters of Game of Thrones. And so we wanted Covent’s peoples to have the appearance of your standard races, but at times break away from the norm by showing the good in the darker peoples and the evil in the lighter peoples.  You’ll see what I’m talking about in Shade 3.

At this point we had decided not to Orc.
Now I’m always going to love Orcs and props go to Tolkien for the original vision, but we wanted to do something that had the potential for both good and evil, something darkly beautiful. The Orcs of Middle Earth were WAY too ugly and wholly evil for us. We wanted something you could both fear and admire, like a roaring bear raised up on its haunches. At the same time this deadly beauty is fallen, so Doelms became self-mutilators with long black fingernails. Doelms score their skin with claw marks which they wear like war paint to display their frightening toughness and ferocity. There’s nothing like a savage mortal digging his claws into his chest to let you know how fast he’s going to rip you apart.

Our artist put together an awesome concept sketch on the left side below. The Doelm’s tattered and ripped clothing are one of my favorite features. The worn shorts look like something a member of a once civil society once wore, like a pair of frayed jeans in a post-apocalyptic world. We also added a patch of fur on their backs and hair that ran down their shoulders to their hands. This brought them back to their apish dark humanoid roots. We thought it was a nice touch, but the real answer came in our Doelm women.

Please ignore the face under the red “X”, I think our artist was trying to conceptualize a Doelmess and this face looked far too human, but his next move was a stroke of genius. A Doelm’s deadly beauty is most heavily personified in a graceful Doelmess. We thought it would be interesting if Doelmesses were surprisingly beautiful. The challenge came in trying to design a Doelm that was terrifying in battle, but balanced out by a shockingly attractive counterpart. In this key features were multi-fold. The glowing yellow eyes of a Doelm, which look frightening at night for instance, look exotic on a Doelmess, accentuating her dark and alluring mystique.

Now this Doelmess is far more scantily clad than you’d ever see one in Doelmish society. If you were to catch even a glimpse of a Doelmess a Doelm would rip your heart out and shout, “You soiled her!” You see Doelms revere the beauty of their women and are very overprotective. Doelmesses are covered from head to toe and wear hoods over their faces to completely conceal their secret beauty. Doelms do this to keep their surprising appeal secret from other races. Only a Doelm husband may remove the robes and enjoy his wife in private.

For the most part Doelmesses are treated with dignity and are held in high honor. The savage heart of a Doelm melts over the beauty of a Doelmess, so Doelms treat their wives better than humans do.  A Doelm caught beating his wife is taken out and beaten publically by the tribe. Doelm warriors take multiple wives as trophies, but every wife is still treated with respect. Doelmesses see polygamy as a method of breeding a bigger, stronger tribe. They are considered warriors of the home. Childrearing, homemaking, gathering, crafting, making remedies and medicines are well respected and highly valued skills. Don’t ever suggest these are lowly roles to a Doelmess or she’s likely to kill you for the insult.

A Doelmess is looked upon as a “Shaka” or Life-Giver, which is a highly revered, spiritual place in the household. Doelmesses respect strength and so hostile takeovers by other clansmen and the changing of husbands does not spurn them like their emaciated or slain ex-husbands. However, a Doelmess will fiercely fight non-Doelms to protect children. Doelm males will give their last drop of blood to protect a camp. Although Doelmesses are capable, the ultimate shame of a Doelm is the failure to protect one’s family. Family takeovers are a part of Doelmish life and the strongest Doelm usually has won the most wives and therefore has the largest family. The family is a Doelm’s pride.

The Doelm women are the unsung heroines of the Doelmish world. During the Fall of Gorgloth, the men of Doljinaar sacked every Doelm city and slew the Doelm king. Men put all of Gorgloth’s armies to the sword. This widowed all Doelmesses. Doljinaar had originally attempted to wipe out the Doelm race. They went after the families, but the Doelmesses fought them back using savage guerrilla warfare. The casualties were too high after the long war and so Doljinaar essentially gave up, figuring the families would not survive in a ravaged country, but they underestimated the Life-Givers of Gorgloth. The Doelmesses saved the race and raised new sons, their only mistake was submitting to young reckless male leadership, which led to decades of civil war as chieftains fought endlessly for dominion over a now largely divided Gorgloth.

Size does matter in Doelmish culture. Doelm children are raised primarily by their birth mother. A father offers limited guidance since strong males head multiple wives and offspring. Like the ancient Spartans, Doelms live in a cruel warrior society. Doelms discard unshapely babies as well, but there is a second culling at puberty. Doelm children are torn from their mother’s breasts at puberty. The size of the teenager determines the Doelm’s class. Doelms can range from seven feet to a stunted four feet tall. Tall Doelms are bred to be warriors, and become the honored leaders of the clans, but short Doelms are forced to be Runts.  Runts get no respect and are used as nothing but grueling laborers.  Of course, a Doelm adolescent can take still make the warrior caste if he sprouts late and proves himself. If a Runt never spouts he is castrated in early adulthood to prevent the outspread of his weak genes. Female runts are scored in a similar way and serve as slaves to the Doelmesses.

Despite their tenacious strength, Doelms have had great difficulty over the past centuries seeing the massive flaws in their dying society. They remain on the brink of utter ruin. Their people starve and clash over the rubble of ruins long stripped of their valuables. Doelmish warfare has degenerated to such an animalistic level that the word Doelm has been compared by other societies to having a reckless and doltish disregard for one’s own life. The people of Gorgloth were the once proud Dolem, as they were called in their own lost language, now Gorgloth is but a long forgotten legend.

Doelmish desperation has grown so great that many Doelms flee Gorgloth and resettle in the western lands ruled by the iron fist of their ancient enemies in Doljinaar. Unable to stand against the world’s greatest superpower, these Doelms lurk in the shadows of its hides and great wildernesses. This Doelm, in the pictures below, is a highwayman who lives in Karus Forest. He preys on travelers on the rural northern roads and shrinks back into the vast forest. He lives in a thief camp and the sewers of Kurn is his idea of a palace, but many Doelms see the rogue life in Doljinaar as preferable to starving in their ancestral home. He has become a Westernized Doelm and will probably never return to Gorgloth.

I’m unsure we’ll ever shake the stigma of “that’s a blue Orc.” Doelms and Orcs certainly have a lot in common, although we hope readers will one day recognize the dark unique beauty of the Doelm race. The people of ancient Gorgloth have left behind many lost secrets that remain to be unearthed. Their dark arts run deeper than they remember. Doelms was also a fitting name in a large part due to the monstrous abominations this once great civilization birthed, who share similar names. Some say these abominations still walk the lands in dark places. You’ll see the first of such abominations as the Ooelm in Shade 2, which will be out within the calendar year. The many ancient secrets of Gorlgoth will be unlocked in due time.

I’ll conclude with this jaw-dropping new art-piece of a fully colored Doelm warrior. The darkly beautiful, brutish humanoid has never seemed so realized as in this picture. For more great races and details check out our website here:
http://www.chroniclesofcovent.com/races.html

New characters, races, creatures and places with be revealed with each new book!

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Many Faces of Shade-Part Two

I’m afraid to admit that I am being held at knife point right now. Just a few minutes ago Shade broke into my home and is demanding I finish part two of last week’s blog or else! I’m not sure how he got out of the world of Covent and into the real world, but he’s here! There are no magic wardrobes or golden compasses linking our worlds together. I guess he was just that determined.

Shade says he didn’t appreciate me leaving him faceless last week. He’s been wearing this sack over his head all week and he’s none too pleased! So in the interest of me living—Part Two of the Many Faces of Shade. Last week we left our small, but faithful following hanging of the edge of a major cliffhanger. The Covent authors had widdled their final selection of artists down to two finalists who were about to square off!

Ouch!  Ok, ok!  I’m getting on with it!!!

The third artist we’ll call Mr. World of Warcraft. Now I gave him this nickname because this guy is an art machine. He has produced hundreds of major art pieces for top tier clientele like World of Warcraft, Clash of the Titans among a smorgasbord of other well known brands. We were quite surprised at his affordability, when compared to other major fantasy art names, given his legendary status. So we plopped down the money and sent the overseas art request along. We decided to go with a very simple cover concept this time of Shade emerging from the shadows like he was going to stab the reader.

We received sketch 1 about two months later and we were pretty thrilled. Although the armor looked different again, Shade had a good face and a very confident strut. We had pictured him emerging from the darkness, but the shining tunnel behind him was kind of cool. So we sent back a small list of requested tweaks: lengthen the grin a tad, shorten the dagger a smidge and add so more sheathed daggers. The sheer number of knives Shade wears on his person is one of his most intimidating features.

Another two months passed and I couldn’t believe the amount of artwork Mr. World of Warcraft could produce every day. Every day I’d watch in awe as he put out at least one full color art piece on Deviantart.com, but it seemed he never got around to us. I want people to understand I harbor no ill feelings against him, but I started to realize we were a very small fish in a giant pond. The trademark deadline was bearing down. After a brief discussion with Mr. World of Warcraft, I advised we would be using another artist for the 6 B&Ws because time was running out.

Mr. World of Warcraft sent us sketch 2 about two and a half weeks later. We thought it was very good. Shade himself jumped off the page, the hood and cloak had never looked better, but this picture wasn’t entirely accurate. The face looked very robotic; we had a few people asking if Shade was a cyborg? No one got that this picture was of a Dark Elf or even an Elf for that matter. Shade was using a sword rather than a dagger (this posed problems down the road since the crown prince of Jui-Sae, who is also a trained Unseen, actually uses a sword a lot like that one). And the background looked like one of my son’s cardboard cutout forts slapped together with Elmer’s glue (baring the exception of the slick lighting effects of course).

I’ll spare you the other details, but we basically let most of the issues go and requested a couple minor tweaks. We never received the tweaked image, hence the words “Not Received” above, but it was at that time that Mr. Thom Scott began to steal the show (that’s his real name BTW).

Now I want to be very clear that artist Thom Scott is not a new artist by any stretch of the imagination. He has also drawn professionally for Fantasy Flight Games, well known fantasy magazines and other book covers. Thom was fast and furious. He completed each B&W project in under a month, sometimes in mere weeks. Many pictures came with not just a concept sketch of each scene, but several character concept drawings and often a choice of scenes. Sweet!

Thom perfected his own version of Shade. Sketch 1 above is his original workup and sketch 2 is probably one of the most perfect full body sketches of Shade we’ve received to date. Thom completed Shade’s full color cover wrap, a rocking Elder Dragons color promoter image, the smoking color website template and 6 killer B&W interior sketches in the same time other artists finished just 1 or 2 pieces. He earned the words, “Featuring the Art of Thom Scott” on our cover and the full color cover itself after showing us he had the eye of the tiger! If you’d like to consider hiring Thom Scott, we highly recommend him! Visit him at www.ThomScottArt.com

Shade would like to thank Thom Scott for inking his final face and the assassin also wants him to know he put Thom Scott on his official “Do Not Kill List.” Thom started taking Shade’s face in the right direction in sketch 3. Shade’s face was finally dripping with confidence. The final color cover below pulled the Dark Elf’s features from the slight Lockjaw complex he was having in sketch 3 (for those of you old enough to remember He-Man). The final cover background is beautifully hand-drawn, the armor is darkly beautiful and finally Shade has been reunited with his frighteningly large arsenal of knives.

Visit us here if you’re interested in taking a gander at the final book showcasing more great art from Thom Scott!

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Many Faces of Shade–Part One

Shade, our main character in the Shade Chronicles, has been through many face lifts. Dragols and Fauns might say that’s what made him so grumpy, but they wouldn’t say it to his face. We went through quite a journey of artists when selecting the final artist for Shade One. I’d be happy to spin this tale for our small and faithful band of blog readers, but first let me tell you a little bit about the man in black himself.

First off don’t call Shade a man, not unless you want to catch a knife in the back when your head is turned. He is a Dark Elf from the black forests of Jui-Sae. He was trained in the legendary ranks of the Unseen, who are the most elite assassins in all Covent. You see Unseen live up to their fearsome reputation, and they can turn invisible, which is a nasty trick making them quite difficult to see them sneaking up on you. He also collects knives, lots and lots of knives and not the dull ones either.

Shade enjoys long solitary walks on the beach, just as long as those walks end with the bagging of his latest mark. He’s a Scorpio and he like all Scoprios has a fancy for pouring mud into his adult beverages (that’s a riddle you’ll have to read the book to solve BTW). Oh, and did I mention that he’s single! For any interested ladies, he’s rich, tall, dark and handsome, once you can get past his whole coldblooded killer wrap.

Now where was I? Oh yes, the pictures above. This was the first artist we hired. Names have been changed to protect the innocent. We’ll call him Billy. We were not very impressed with Billy’s first attempt shown in picture 1. Shade seemed stiff, wooden, more man than Elf. The armor also left a lot to be desired. Hard leathers felt all wrong, the knives in his straps didn’t feel reachable. I didn’t want to see this Shade stumbling awkwardly through a fight.

The background on the other hand was awesome! I love the bearded man drinking in the back. It kind of looks like they’re arm wrestling, but that’s just as cool. The Green Barrel, which is our cozy, quaint little sewer tavern is alive with barrels, cool lanterns and moldy sewer gratings. Brilliant! The problem is that the background is more interesting than the main character. This was a definite red flag, so we asked Billy to redraw it.

Months passed until finally we received picture 2. A stroke of brilliance! We were thrilled. Shade finally lit up the room, his armor was perfect, his pose far more interesting. He oozed with confidence. Finally after waiting another month we received the final black and white. We rejoiced! We danced around a bonfire like wild tribesmen! We sent additional requests for our logo and other projects, but Billy was in too high demand for us. Reluctantly, we were forced to start over with another artist.

Through a mutual friend we found the artist above. We’ll call him Willy. Willy’s finished works on his portfolio were rather nice, though admittedly he was more into drawing superheroes. Fantasy was new to him, but we gave him a shot. His first couple pictures came at lightning fast speed. A nice change from waiting on Mr. Billy before him, but the sketches left us searching for an art style truly befitting of the world of Covent.

The first picture was a complete sketch. I thought the ponytail was very cool. Our original vision of Elves related them to the far East, so the hair style seemed fitting. The armor was suitable, but was a bit too Dracula for me. Now Willy was very good at accepting feedback, a massive credit to his character. He sent us version 1.1 in a matter of days. We liked this piece much better than the last. That hood and cloak were quite good. The scene he was painting might work as an alternative cover, but once again we weren’t sold on the art style.

Willy sent us several other concepts and then we received version 1.11teen. Now 11teen is an old joke Josh and I shared back from our high school days. Version 1.11teen was a much stronger Shade than its predecessors. Shade had a strong face, strong eyebrows oozing with confidence, that awesome ponytail and another good hood and cloak. There was just one problem. Everyone who looked at it thought he was a character out of the Legend of Zelda. Meanwhile our trademark got approved setting a deadline for publication and so we had to canvass other artists.

We talked to names as big as Kerem Beyet, but they were all booked up or way out of budget, though I might add that Mr. Kerem Beyet is one of the most polite, professional and talented artists in the world today. After months of canvassing Deviantart.com we widdled our search down to two candidates. One had drawn for World of Warcraft, Clash of the Titans plus dozens of other major brands and the other for Fantasy Flight Games. They crossed paintbrushes and prepared to duel off. The final clash of artists had now come. Wham! Smack! Pow!!!

To be continued…

Will the caped killer ever find his true face? Will he have to spend the rest of his imaginary life wandering the lonely, white pages of an empty art canvas?

Find out next week on the exciting conclusion of the Many Faces of Shade. Same bat time! Same bat channel!

Or you can skip right ahead to the website and spoil next week’s blog if you wish by sneaking a peak at the final cover. Cheat and sneak a peek…

Cheat and sneak a peak…

P. S. from the mysterious intruder, “Hey J. L., the final cover is to the right over there  Up, up, up there!”

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Dumb grows, well, dumber…

Meet Kishrub and Zulbash, a pair of “hug at your own risk” big dumb brutes.  Well, here are the original Kishrub and Zulbash in their concept sketches. As you can see, the Gutter Dwarf that sold them their armor spared no expense. He assured them every piece of their armor sets was genuine Dwarven craftsmanship! The claim is not entirely untrue, you see, that furnace door which makes up Zulbash’s massive breastplate did in fact come off a Dwarven furnace. And that coal scoop on Kishrub’s leg was once used by Dwarves to shovel coals into that very furnace. And I think a Dwarf may have cooked some Wriggle Rat in that cauldron that rests upon Kishrub’s monstrous shoulder once or twice. But Warlord Lewd did not employ Kishrub and Zulbash for sound council. They supply the muscle behind Lewd’s syndicate just as long as the pair is directed away from any food stores or palace guests foolhardy enough to poke fun at their armor.

Now our artist, Thom Scott, did a bang up job of crafting the most ridiculous set of armor to ever grace the pages of fantasy history, but haven’t you heard scrap metal is all the rave? Kishrub and Zulbash are breaking in a new fashion craze. Just watch our two fat models as they strut the flashiest set of scrap metals to ever grace a runaway.  You catch those big yellow-toothed grins?

Kishrub sports a shield hammered flat at the ends to better tuck away that bulging beer belly. He wears metal chargers for his right bracer or a cluster of tin plates if you prefer. Zulbash shows off a set of striking window bars on his right forearm, which matches Kishrub’s left bracer or perhaps the bumbling duo got the set mixed up? Zulbash is a true trend-setter proving once and for all that tough guys can wear bows and carry dollies as they crack skulls like walnuts.

Words cannot describe how much we loved these concept pictures.  It was really nice to see the artist put so much thought and energy into their armor. However, the oafish bodies needed a bit of tweaking.  Kishrub and Zulbash belong to the race of Gorums. None of Covent’s people understood just who or where Gorums came from.  They just showed up one day and started eating. Many poor cooks, farmers and herdsmen have had kitchens, livestock and crops sacked by Gorum, but their forms are different than say your traditional fantasy Ogres.

You thinking we’re being too picky?  After all what could possibly be wrong with those awesome concept designs, so in reply let me tell you about Gorums.

Gorum walk hunched over like apes. Their arms are disproportionately long forcing them to drag their enormous hands on the ground behind them. Or they ball their fists and throw their huge bodies forward like overgrown banana-stuffed gorillas. Their huge hands are good for smashing down walls and handling other big races. Gutter Dwarves utilize Gorums to keep slaves inline. And so we relayed this information to the artist.  See images above.  Exhibit 1 shows our artist taking our Gorums away from Ogre form to Gorum form in Exhibit 2.  The result is Kishrub and Zulbash look dumber, more apish and capable of breaking down walls and bullying other brutes.

Kishrub and Zulbash stand as my three-year-old son’s favorite Covent characters.  I have not read him a word out of the book and I have shown him only the age-appropriate pictures, but these two dumb brutes seem to have stolen his heart.  There’s something about them that makes them lovable and brain-numbingly inviting. He asks to see them regularly and likes to point at them and say, “that’s Kishrub and that’s Zulbash!”

Below is the final B&W interior picture of Kishrub & Zulbash which is some of the top-tier quality artwork that is included in Waiting Game as a purchase bonus.

For other memorable characters, come browse our character informational pages.  New characters and artwork will be revealed with each new book!

http://www.chroniclesofcovent.com/characters.html

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,