"Bounty" is book 2 of the Crazed Trilogy. This is the first draft of the first chapter. Please keep in mind that it will be edited numerous times before being published.
I hope this preview keeps you excited for the coming of the book.
I'm including an updated map of Nulanea, a northern continent in the world of Ryallon.
Year 1393, Fifth Age
Being two years after the events of “Kethril”
Early morning rays shone on the bottom of scattered thin clouds over Oimryi, capital city of Mayncal. Birds darted from manicured trees along the wide avenue to catch insects that braved the cool morning air. Fancy horse-drawn carriages passed wagons filled with goods from all over the world. The shouts of drivers rang out over people conversing from the steps of clean white buildings adorned by colorful bright roofs. Multi-hued mosaic tiles decorated the corners, eaves, windows and doorways.
Beyond the avenue, noises of the city rose with the sun. Perfumes wafted in the air behind people walking along stone sidewalks. Sir Danth strolled among them, occasionally nodding or waving to citizens wearing pastel linens and silks that flowed to the ground. Most stared in astonishment at his full black armor and long red cape.
Sir Danth Wazmordian was a Knight of Morhain, charged sixteen hundred years earlier with guarding the Crown of Morhain. A tragedy called “The Great Disappearing” had annihilated the citizens of the Morhainian Empire. Near the end of The Great Disappearing, the greatest wizards and clerics made magical armor and sword for Sir Danth. The armor made him nearly invincible and nothing could stand against his sword.
In an oversight, his body died of old age after a couple hundred years. Sir Danth’s soul was bound to the armor. Therefore, he continued to exist even after his body disintegrated, leaving the armor hollow.
These days, he normally spent his time in poorer districts outside of the city, where the downtrodden lived. He had spent the night there, arresting a slave trader who was kidnapping homeless children. That is to say, he had tried to arrest the man. Sometimes criminals fought rather than go to jail. That was inevitably a fatal mistake when confronting the dark knight.
Shortly after arriving in Oimryi more than a year ago, Sir Danth had gone looking for something to do. Being a noble knight, he chose to help those most in need. It was a shock to the city guard when thugs, gang members, pimps, slavers and other lowlifes started showing up in a bloodied and beaten condition after having been arrested by the knight.
People were quickly recruited to teach Sir Danth a lesson. Those people were dead, as were the ones who hired them. Next, specialists, wizards and adventurers of astonishing capabilities came after him at all times of the day and night. They were under the impression Sir Danth had to sleep sometime, but they were wrong. Even if an assassin were to get pass the extraordinary magic of the armor, there was nothing to slay.
Corrupt guardsmen and nobles were paid to drive Sir Danth out of town. However, Sir Danth had been one of the people who had rescued Princess Anilyia the year before, bringing peace between Mayncal and Brindlyn after centuries of animosity. That and his reputation for driving out the scum of the city gave him immunity from political consequences.
King Ullbra of Mayncal appreciated his daughter’s safe return. He also appreciated the wonderful work the knight was doing making his city a better place to live without even requesting pay. The first nobles, judges and city guard leaders who tried to have Sir Danth banished or arrested were put to death when the king found out about the attempts. After that, the knight was free to come and go as he pleased.
Currently, two individuals followed him down the pleasant avenue. A man and woman dressed in dark capes that stuck out from the airy colors of citizens. Their attempts to sneak from buildings, to trees, to other buildings were just as conspicuous among the leisurely walk of other pedestrians. The behavior had everyone looking at them in bemusement. When one added the fact that they were extremely noisy and tripping over their own feet, it was clear they were complete amateurs.
Sir Danth considered for a moment that they might be trying to lull him into a false sense of security, but when the man tripped over his own feet and knocked the woman down, he realized they really were that bad. The knight decided to end the little game.
“Get off me, you idiot!” the woman yelled at the man who leveraged against her back in an attempt to push himself up.
Sir Danth helped him to his feet then held out a gauntlet to the woman.
She took it and stood. “Thank you! At least someone around her has some manners.” She glared at her companion.
Then she realized who had helped her up.
Both would-be assassins lifted their heads to look up at him. Sir Danth was six feet six inches tall. In real life, he had been six-four, but the helmet added another two inches. His armor was black with intricate runes that were only visible if the light caught them just right. A greatsword was sheathed diagonally across his back with the hilt sticking far above his shoulder. When drawn it was as long from hilt to tip as he was tall. A red cloak gilded with golden runes and clasped with a golden amulet of power finished off the effect.
The man foolishly drew his sword and swung it at Sir Danth. The knight caught the blade easily in his free gauntlet. He continued to hold the woman’s hand gently with his other. With a twist, he snapped the blade. The shriek of snapping metal reverberated off buildings. All activity on the avenue stopped as eyes turned to watch.
Sir Danth dropped the top half of the blade, leaving the man standing there with a broken sword.
A wet stain appeared on his crotch and flowed downward.
“Perhaps you should run like the stupid coward you are,” Sir Danth suggested.
In a surprising moment of wisdom, the man turned and took the advice.
“Please don’t kill me,” the woman pleaded in a weak voice. Tears welled in her eyes. It was obviously taking all of her willpower not to wet herself as her partner had done.
“Of course not, you stupid little girl,” the knight reassured her. “But you need to grow up and stop playing with bad men.” He led her to a nearby bench underneath a shade tree and then sat down. The woman looked at him in fear, wondering what he was about.
Sir Danth pulled her down over his lap and spanked her.
She forgot her fear. Screams of anger rang through the avenue while her legs kicked in outrage.
Their audience looked on in shock and amusement.
Even with sturdy leggings, the knight’s gauntlet was powerful against her behind. After the first few blows, the screams of outrage turned to cries of pain and pleas to let her go.
Twenty spankings later, set her on her feet and stood in front of her.
The would-be assassin held her hands gingerly on her buttocks, weeping uncontrollably.
Sir Danth held her chin up so she gazed into the hollow eyeholes of his helmet. “Now then, I’m sure you will remember this the next time someone asks you to do something foolish, won’t you, you silly little girl?”
She nodded vigorously through her heaving sobs. Sir Danth released her and pointed in the direction she had come. The woman took the opportunity to run away, holding her bruised bottom.
The crowd jeered and laughed at her departing figure.
Sir Danth ignored their reaction, including the cheers some gave him. It wasn’t long before he was past the worst of the throng and people ignored him again.
It bothered him that people would watch while he did all the work. Individuals took such pleasure in the misfortunes of others. They understood nothing of the woman’s past or circumstances, nor did they care to learn. Sir Danth knew that poverty and suppression of people created by governments, churches and the greedy created the very criminals they railed against.
There was a great weight upon his shoulders. That irritated him since he didn’t actually have shoulders anymore. He felt the pressure nonetheless. Centuries of solitude in a dark room guarding a vault that ended up being empty had made him cranky. He could feel anger in the hollow space where his body should be. Some days it was hard to control that anger or the gloom that came with it. At times, he would go someplace quiet where no one could bother him. Then he would brood awhile.
One thing that made him feel better was killing people. There was great satisfaction in running his blade smoothly through someone’s heart, or easily separating their head from their shoulders and watching the head fly through the air. It was almost poetic. His armor had magical vision that allowed him to see.
The helmet also enabled him to see magical runes, invisible creatures, and spiritual energy. When a person died, they left their body in spiritual form to continue their existence elsewhere. Sir Danth enjoyed watching those souls leave their body. It was a fun game he excelled at.
He could tell when there was a ghost in a building, or even if remnants of strong emotion remained in an area, such as a prison or battlefield. In the Willden Forest, which was where the Kingdom of Morhain had once existed, the ghosts of his people still resided, wandering through the trees.
He hadn’t known while standing guard in front of the vault for so long, but after leaving and traveling through the forest, he had gradually become aware of them. He couldn’t talk to them since the spirits were blind and deaf. It had nearly driven him mad when he realized, but his friends had helped him to keep his sanity. If it hadn’t been for their efforts he might still be lost in the forest, chasing spirits.
As it was, Sir Danth spent hours, days and weeks pouring over texts and scrolls in the royal library, hoping to find a way to rescue his people from the unnatural limbo they suffered in. He also perused the stores of antique dealers and wizards hoping for some clue. The one thing everyone told him to do was to go to Dralin where there was knowledge of everything magical in the world, or so it was rumored.
He had mentioned Dralin to his friend Tathan, a rogue of the worst sort. Tathan had quickly nixed that idea. Dralin was a dangerous city, especially for someone like Sir Danth. Wizards liked to take apart magical armor and study it. They would go to great lengths to capture the knight. In addition to that, there was quite the price on Tathan’s head there. Still, Sir Danth wanted to go. If there was a way to save his people, he would be willing to risk his existence . . . and Tathan’s.
A short, piercing noise caused everyone on the avenue to stop in their tracks. Another one sounded and everyone turned toward the palace in the distance. That was where Sir Danth was headed to sit with Tathan while he had breakfast. Something had set off one of the magical alarms, an occurrence which had only happened a few times in the history of the city.
The piercing noise continued in short bursts. It reverberated in his armor, tickling him. An alarm like that could only mean the palace was under attack or that the royal family was in danger. He increased his pace.
The knight turned to see Tathan crouched down at the corner of a side street, waving a gloved hand vigorously for the knight to join him. His other hand gripped the hilt of a thin, slightly curved sword sheathed at his waist. Curly black hair framed Tathan’s worried face, partially obscuring a small, opal tipped piercing in his eyebrow. The leather jacket he wore was pure black with runes down the front opening. It had no other markings or even seams. The rest of his clothes were of exquisite quality influenced by the style of Mayncal, but tailor-made to fit in a way that allowed him to move silently.
A glimmer of energy around the rogue let Sir Danth know his friend had activated the powerful ring of invisibility he wore. Not one to rush, the knight strolled over to see what was the matter.
His casualness only made Tathan wave more vigorously. The look in his intense grey eyes was frantic.
When Sir Danth reached the corner, Tathan grabbed his arm. “Let’s go see the world! There are adventures to be had!”
Sir Danth raised an eyebrow.
Tathan did a double take. “You know, you’re really going to have to tell me how you raise your eyebrows like that when you don’t have any. But not now. Let’s go.” He tugged on the knight’s arm.
When Sir Danth didn’t budge, Tathan grabbed the arm with both hands and pulled.
The knight still didn’t move.
Tathan yanked a couple of times, then put the arm over his shoulder and pulled with all his might.
Watching his friend strain to move him was highly amusing to the knight. He released the runes that sealed his arm to his shoulder.
With all resistance gone, Tathan flew forward. He tumbled at the last second and sprang to his feet, but the arm clanged against his head.
Sir Danth laughed mightily.
“I’m not giving this back.” Tathan waggled the metal arm.
With a thought, the arm attached to Sir Danth’s shoulder.
Tathan stared at his empty hands. He sighed. “Please?”
“Lead on, friend.” The knight gestured.
Tathan dashed down the street, avoiding pedestrians who couldn’t see him. Upon realizing Sir Danth followed at a stroll, he came back. “Please hurry! We have to go now!”
People shot worried glances at the night speaking to a disembodied voice.
“Why?” It occurred to Sir Danth the alarms still blaring from the palace might have something to do with his friend’s sudden need to leave the country.
“I don’t have time to explain, just . . . please, let’s hurry.”
The word startled Tathan. “What?”
“We go to Dralin. There may be information there that will help my people. If you want me to hurry, we’re going to go to Dralin.”
Tathan considered the words for a brief moment. He shook his head in refusal. “No. There’s no way I’m going back there. It’s too dangerous. We’ll die.”
Sir Danth crossed his arms and planted his feet.
Tathan sighed. “Please. I’m begging you. I don’t want to go back there, but we need to leave. There are other places that might have information.”
Tathan sighed again. He did that a lot.
A squad of guards appeared at the end of the street in the direction Tathan was trying to go. “There he is!” They were led by a wizard holding a circle of glass in his hands. It appeared to be a device that could detect invisibility.
“Fine! We’ll go to Dralin, but only if we run, now!” Tathan dashed the other direction
Sir Danth ran after his friend. They turned the next corner and ran full tilt down the avenue.
Two streets later, another squad appeared directly in front of them.
Tathan jumped. In midair, he placed one hand on the shoulder of the nearest guard and one hand on the head. He pushed down to propel himself up and over the others.
The move caught the man by surprise. His knees buckled at the unseen weight.
The rest saw Sir Danth barreling towards them. Without enough time to scatter, they threw their arms up to shield themselves.
Sir Danth had the ability to shift in space. He didn’t understand it, just like he didn’t understand how most of the magic in the armor worked. What he did understand was that it was very effective. One moment he was about to run into a helpless guard, the next he was on the other side of the squad, running next to Tathan.
The rogue grinned.
The two were able to stay ahead of the squads, but knew it would only be a matter of time before the mounted cavalry came after them.
After they had run half a mile, Tathan turned down another street and slowed. His chest heaved as he gulped breaths of air. He twisted his ring to banish the invisibility then walked into the entrance of a large stable.
Sir Danth mused that one of the nice things about not having a body was that he didn’t have to gulp in large amounts of air after exerting himself.
Tathan grabbed two stable boys by the arms. “Jufo! Take Arlen and get my horses ready, now!” He pushed a silver coin in each of their hands.
They looked at him in surprise, then stared at the coins with wide eyes.
“Now!” Tathan shoved them towards the back of the stable.
They ran off to do as told.
“You have horses?” Sir Danth asked
“Yeah, I bought them a while back. I always like to have an escape plan ready.” Tathan grinned as he followed the boys. He yelled, “Just the black and the brown! Leave the white one!”
“Yeah, just in case the princess wanted to come with.” He shrugged. “That’s not going to happen, so it’s just you and me.”
“I get the black one, yes?”
“Of course!” Tathan laughed. “Here he is, one of the finest stallions I’ve ever seen.” He gestured to a large stallion Jufo was putting tack on. Arlen was fastening a saddle to the brown. The white horse in the next stall was beautiful.
“You are going to tell me what happened, yes?”
“Yeah. I figure you won’t let it go until I do.”
Sir Danth smacked Tathan playfully in the shoulder, sending him staggering forward. “You are correct about that.”
The rode up to vast city gates. For the first time since arriving in Mayncal, they were closed. It appeared that the entire army had been mobilized to guard them.
Tathan turned away and rode through side streets to another set of stables. He flipped gold pieces to a couple of burly men outside the doors. They opened the doors, closing them once the two were inside.
Tathan and Sir Danth dismounted and led their horses underground into a tunnel that appeared centuries old. An hour later, they rode out of another stable far beyond the city walls.
“How do you find these things, my felonious friend?” Sir Danth asked as they rode casually toward the west.
“Felonious?” Tathan smirked.
“Yes, it means a person who is involved in illegal endeavors.”
“I’m aware of what it means. Let’s just say I’m resourceful and cautious.” Tathan winked. “Speaking of cautions, let’s stay off major roads. There are some back roads where we shouldn’t be disturbed.
“Shall I ask how you know these things?” Sir Danth raised an eyebrow.
“No. You shalln’t . . . is that a word?”
“It is most definitely not a word, but it is a nice effort to begin a new language.”
“Thank you!” Tathan grinned. “What shall we call it? Tathanian?”
“I have no intention of calling it anything. The word you’re looking for is shan’t.”
“Ahh, I knew it was something like that. I shalln’t be distracted from making my new language though.” He waggled a finger at Sir Danth.
The knight pulled his horse to a stop. “Now that we are no longer in immediate danger, what did you do?”
Tathan stopped as well. He blushed and chewed on his lower lip, not answering the question.
“It would be best to just get it over with, you know. You’re going to give me the details sooner or later.”
He sighed. “Yes, well . . . it’s just that . . .”
“Anilyia and I spent the night in the royal wine cellar. King and Queen Ullbra came in with Prince Albrato and a few assorted nobles and priests. They found us sleeping naked on straw with one of the more expensive bottles emptied nearby.”
Sir Danth buried his helm in his gauntlets.
“The king bellowed something about treason and gallows, and all sorts of bad things they do to criminals. Tathan spread his arms in innocence. He acted as though I had done something wrong.”
“How silly of him.” Sir Danth rolled his eyes.
“I know, right? . . . I really do want to know how you roll your eyes when you don’t have any.” Tathan jabbed a finger in the air. “Anyway, he drew his sword and started swinging it at me. Do you know how hard it is to get dressed when you’re fending off an angry king?”
“No . . . actually, yes. But that’s not important,” Sir Danth waved off the question. “Go on.”
Tathan opened his mouth as though to insist on more information, but decided to let it go. “Anyway; Prince Albrato was crying at his wife like a little girl, asking how she could betray him like that. Queen Ullbra had fainted. All the nobles were yelling and waving their arms.”
“That’s usually all nobles are good for.”
“I know, right?” Tathan laughed. “The king is old and portly, so it wasn’t too hard to keep him at bay, but I accidentally poked him with the tip of my sword.
“Oh dear.” Sir Danth buried his face in his gauntlets again.
“It wasn’t fatal or anything. I just poked him in the leg. It bled a lot, but I didn’t cut the artery. He certainly squealed like a stuck pig though.”
“Oh dear,” he replied again, not raising his head.
“Anyway, my lovely Princess Anilyia screeched and held her daddy as though I had killed him. Then she screamed that I had gotten her drunk and raped her.” Tathan sighed.
Sir Danth raised his head in confusion. “I thought she loved you? . . .”
Sorrow distorted his smile. “She does. She apologized with her eyes and gestured with her head for me to escape.” Tathan flicked his reins. He continued the story as they rode. “It was clear we wouldn’t be able to continue our affair. Sleeping with a princess and stabbing a king with a magical sword are usually punishable by death.”
“Poking a king with any kind of a sword is usually punishable by death,” Sir Danth pointed out helpfully.
“Yes . . . well, there is that.” Tathan chuckled. “She did the only thing she could to save her marriage and the peace between countries.”
Princess Anilyia and Prince Alberto had married as part of a treaty between Mayncal and Brindlyn. Together they were able to forge an alliance against the Empire of Iynath to the north. Anilyia had been kidnapped before the wedding could occur. Sir Danth, Tathan, Tathan’s cousin Liselle, and Vevin, a purple dragon in human form had rescued her from a race of mysterious beings called Rojuun.
“Claiming that you seduced and raped her makes you a criminal in their eyes though. Surely she knew that?”
“Of course, but even if she had admitted we’re in love, I’m still a criminal in their eyes. At least this won’t cost them peace. I don’t know that I could live with myself knowing that I had caused war and possibly even her death for treason.” Tathan hung his head. His shoulders slumped.
“That’s noble of you, friend.”
Tathan’s head popped up. “Actually, I would be able to live with myself. But I’d feel terrible about the whole thing.
Sir Danth rolled his eyes again and they both burst into laughter.