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The Who’s Who on Shade 2: Part Two

Welcome back to the second part of the skinny on Shade 2.  This week we’ll dissect more of Shade’s allies and more importantly his enemies such as his arch nemesis in Shade 2: Kingsblood.

Here we have a mass scale assassination attempt painted in glorious display which includes two distinct and powerful factions of Covent. In the blue trunks, weighing in at 2,000,000,000 combined pounds we have the forces of mighty Doljinaar!  Ok, so maybe not all two billion pounds of the Doljinn war machine is represented in this picture or else it wouldn’t be much of a fight. The kingdom of Dolijnaar encompasses all of the western continent, so Doljinn guards are understandably spread across the empire.  This is but a tattered remnant of the guards present at the attempt on the king’s life.

It may be a small detail, but I was very excited at the representation of the Doljinnarian boys in blue painted in this picture. It’s far more inspiring to witness the guards’ noble desperate rally to save their king. They’re charging the enemy, they’re rushing to the king’s side and their infamous blue banner is blowing proudly in the wind. I couldn’t be happier. This portrait captures the true fighting heart of Doljinaar, the fighting spirit that conquered half the civilized world. It paints a stark contrast to the corrupt and lazy guards posted in Shade’s backwater outpost in Jile.  Ah here are those scoundrels, still passing around a bottle of brandy and warming themselves around the fire.

Good for nothing lazy Jile guards…sheesh!!!

And in the red corner, weighing in at a combined weight of 80,000 pounds is the Shaltearan Brotherhood! The Shaltearan Brotherhood is the largest and most powerful assassin’s guild in all Doljinaar. Known for its willingness to recruit anyone even women and children, the Shaltearan Brotherhood is widely feared for its ability to meld into everyday society. Shaltearan can strike from behind any face, even the most unsuspecting faces. They can be anyone, strike from anywhere…

The Shaltearan cloaked in red battle-gear in this picture are the Shaltearan elite! They live by a grisly code of murder called the Assassin’s Codex. For every kill they tattoo their flesh with another symbol.  For every one hundred symbols they ascend a rank in the guild. Under those red ninja-like uniforms are entire bodies covered in Shaltearan symbols. The Shaltearan Brotherhood employs a wide array of exotic weaponry, kill tactics and smoke screens. Shade has really stirred up a bloody hornet’s nest by attempting to foil a Shaltearan blood contract in Shade 2.

But we’re not done yet! Among the Shaltearan ranks lurks one assassin feared even by the head of the guild. His blades have become synonymous with death, his aura compared to a ghost. He is a young and ambitious assassin with his eyes set on taking Shade’s place at the top of the food chain. He has fashioned himself a set of weapons the world has never seen.
Introducing the world’s very first set of Hand Sickles! Shade’s opponent had these daggers custom crafted to resemble the shape of sickles and further enhance his growing deathly legend. Worse, he has mastered the use of these blades and become one of the most unorthodox killers in the world. And this is only the beginning of the list of his horrible talents…

Raithe is Shade’s worst nightmare. In addition to Raithe’s already imposing array of combat skills, he incorporates equally unorthodox magic into his attacks. Raithe is not called a ghost without good reason. He can float through the air, pass through solid walls, cause his body to dematerialize to avoid hits. Shade has never faced an opponent quite like Raithe…

My reader’s group is already saying that Shade’s duel with Raithe is the best back and forth duel we have ever written…

Shade 2: Kingsblood will be released late this year or early 2013.  Stay tuned:
http://www.chroniclesofcovent.com/shade2.html

Or catch up on old reading!  Shade 1: Waiting Game is available now:
http://www.chroniclesofcovent.com/shade.html

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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

 

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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!


 

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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.

 

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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!

 

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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

 

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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

 

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