The night before his Coming-of-Age, Ghyll and his two friends escape their castle on a clandestine boar hunt that will forever change their lives. The hunt proves a disaster, and with one of them badly wounded, they return just in time to see their island castle destroyed by macabre warriors from a dragon boat, and by flocks of fire-breathing birds. Ghyll's eighteenth birthday turns into a nightmare as they flee into the night.
Now begins an epic journey to find out who is trying to kill them – and most importantly, why?
Fortunately, they can count on the help of new friends, including a sometimes overly enthusiastic fire mage, an inexperienced paladin and a young beastmistress who is also a ferocious mountain lioness. It soon becomes clear that not one but several sorcerers want to kill them. Are those blackrobes really followers of a terrible, long-forgotten organization?
EXCERPT FROM: RHIDAUNA – CHAPTER 10: SOUTHERN LEUDRA
Olle sat concealed in the shadow of the willow tree, motionless. The stars cast a faint light over the sleeping field and it was quiet, very quiet. His thoughts went to his foster brother, and that murderous creep. Vasthul and the Dar’khamorth – what had Ghyll to do with them?
Some movement caught his eye and he saw a shape creeping towards the tent. A second and third followed. He recognized their jerky movements. Golems! Noiselessly he rose and raised his huge sword. Then he took a deep breath and hurled himself at the three shadows.
The golems’ reaction was slow enough for Olle to hit one of them full on the forehead. As he turned to the second golem, he saw Ghyll coming from the tent, sword in hand, with Damion close behind. The third golem lashed out at Ghyll, who parried the blow, stumbled and cried out, grabbing his wounded side. The golem raised its weapon for the kill, but at that moment, Damion sprang into action. He jumped the mademan from behind and clung to his back with one arm around its neck, while with the other hand he rammed his poniard into the golem’s forehead. Then he leaped away.
Ghyll tried to avoid the toppling golem, but his leg buckled and he fell. With a roar of despair, Olle turned toward his own opponent and split its head in two all the way to the shoulder blades. As he was about to run to his foster brother, a warning shout stopped him. From their tent, a fireball sizzled into the night. A blinding flash lit up the area, followed by a scream and the clip-clop of a running horse. From the brook rose the deafening croaks of a thousand frogs, protesting the disruption of their sleep.
‘Missed him, damn it!’ Bo’s voice shouted from the renewed darkness.
Olle, blinded, was for a moment disoriented. ‘Ghyll!’
‘It’s... all... right.’ His foster brother’s voice sounded full of pain. ‘I made a wrong move, that’s all.’
Olle resisted an impulse to run to his side and forced himself to inspect the fallen enemies first. After he had ascertained that all three were down for good, he strode back to the tents. ‘How is it?’
Uwella looked up at him. ‘It’s not so bad; his muscles aren’t up to these capers yet. He must be careful of that leg.’
His foster brother said something Olle didn’t hear, but Uwella shook her head.
‘Go back to bed. I’ll give you something for the pain and tomorrow morning we’ll see how it goes.’
Olle turned. ‘Was it... Vasthul?’
‘No idea.’ Bo ran both hands through his long hair. ‘I just saw a shadow in a cloak.’
‘Oh, yes, that was Vasthul all right.’ Damion came back from the direction of the road. ‘I heard him swearing and shouting as he fled. He had the same voice as that guy I chased in Theridaun – a voice like a file, and he wasn’t sparing with it.’
‘I could go after him,’ Uwella said, scowling.
Olle shook his head.
‘Too dangerous.’ He stooped and picked up something. ‘Here,’ he said to Damion. In his hand glistened a white crystal. ‘Keep it, you’ve earned it yourself,’ he said. ‘Idiot!’ He gave his friend a comradely punch in the shoulder and walked away. Moments later, he returned with two golems by the ankles. ‘Does anyone want to see them?’
‘Not me,’ Ghyll said, from inside the tent. ‘Only the crystals, please.’
‘I got two for you. Away with the muddies, then.’ With a casual heave, Olle dumped the makemen one after another into the stream, where they sank, gurgling, to the audible annoyance of the frogs.
‘That’s the end of the show, noble lords and ladies,’ he said as he sat down again under the willow tree. ‘Try to sleep; it’s an early day tomorrow.’ The others went back to bed, but the sounds of their twisting and turning betrayed that further sleep avoided them.
And whose cold hand reaches across the boundaries of space and time to crush weakened Rhidauna?
How did his parents and brothers die? Where their deaths really accidents, or were they killed? These questions young Ghyll Hardingraud must answer before he can ascend Rhidauna's throne.
Ghyll’s search for the truth leads him and his Companions on a journey back to the past as he slowly unravels a dark conspiracy.
Once crowned, the young King Ghyll still has to finish the mission his dead uncle imposed on him. The journey takes him and his trusted friends through inhospitable lands and dangerous swamps to the endless steppes of Zihaen, looking for the Voice from the West. He discovers he isn't the only one. His vindictive enemy pursues him, aided by undead forces.
EXCERPT FROM: ZIHAEN – CHAPTER 15: COUNCIL OF WAR
‘Good morning,’ Ghyll said, and sat down. When the scraping and coughing died down, he looked up. ‘Well, ladies and gentlemen. Three vicious attacks against the kingdom: Tinnurad, Camp Dirdahn and now Yanthemonde. Without us ever having received a declaration of war, war has come upon us. A ruthless enemy...’
‘The Nhael,’ a stocky general said. The lancer cords on his shoulder shook.
‘General Qrill, you interrupt the king,’ Gard-Galleth said sternly.
‘It’s not the Nhael,’ Ghyll said quietly. ‘The Dar’khamorth is the enemy. They are an organization of sorcerers who see themselves as the successors of the Hamorth and the Revenaunt Emperor.’
The lancer snorted like one of his horses. ‘Nonsense. The Hamorth is no more. After the Fall of Abarran, we eradicated that gang. Eradicated, you hear. We’re at war with the Nhael, those pirates of the Drakenlanden. And you brought the Nhael into our country.’
‘Qrill, what are you talking about, man?’ another general asked, baffled.
‘That... that young villain who is always at his side, whom he treats as his squire. He’s a Nhaelish pirate. That knight in the temple had it right. This is not the king! This is a traitor, do you hear! A traitor. The real Ghyllander Hardingraud died in the ruins of Tinnurad!’
‘Silence!’ the marshal roared. ‘His Royal Highness had all the proof of his ancestry with him. You’re speaking nonsense, Qrill.’
The lancer general stood up and pointed a trembling finger at Ghyll. ‘He’s a fake! A traitor! Why don’t you see it, you fools!’
Ghyll rose. Anger surged through him and he felt his facial muscles constrict. Olle had risen too, but Ghyll motioned him stay out of it. ‘You go too far, General Qrill,’ he said in a tone calmer than he really was. ‘I am your king, crowned and anointed, blessed by the gods. My squire, Prince Torril, is a friend of my house and of Rhidauna. Although no peace has been signed with the Nhael Islands, the last act of war was eighty years ago. The knight in the temple was an agent of the Dar’khamorth, General. A falmage’s tool.’
‘Lies,’ Qrill said shakily. ‘All lies! Traitor! You are...’
‘Shut up!’ Ghyll’s tone was so relentless that even Olle was startled. ‘Qrill, your assertions are treasonous. You’re under arrest. I relieve you of your command and your rank. Marshal Gard-Galleth, strip him of his wrongful honors.’
The old marshal, stiff with rage, stepped forward. He yanked the golden lancer’s cords from Qrill’s shoulder, the general officer’s badge from his chest and a distinction Ghyll didn’t recognized from around Qrill’s neck.
‘You are no longer an officer. Give me your sword, Qrill.’ Ghyll held out his hand.
‘Filthy traitor!’ Qrill screamed and dived forward. Olle sprang to stop him, but Ghyll was faster than both. He sidestepped Qrill’s sword thrust. Childegard sang in his grip and the lancer’s head fell with a thump onto the conference table.
Frozen, the commanders stared at the grimace on Qrill’s face.
With Childegard still humming in his hands, Ghyll looked around the circle. ‘Are there any more who want to break their oath of allegiance?’ he asked coldly.
Gard-Galleth yanked his sword from its sheath and raised it in the air. ‘I am loyal to my king, so help me the gods. Long live Ghyllander III!’
Sixteen arms went up; sixteen throats swore their loyalty, sixteen pale faces tried not to stare at the head before them on the table and at the blood that trickled down slowly along the edges.
Ghyll rang. A servant came in and struggled to hide his shock.
‘Have this room cleaned,’ the king said. ‘We’ll continue our discussion in the throne room.’
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About the Author
Paul E. Horsman (1952) is a Dutch and International Fantasy Author. Born in the sleepy garden village of Bussum, The Netherlands, he now lives in Roosendaal, a town on the Dutch-Belgian border.
He has been a soldier, a salesman, a scoutmaster and from 1995 till his school closed in 2012 a teacher of Dutch as a Second Language and Integration to refugees from all over the globe.
Being unemployed and economically overage, yet still some years away from retirement, he is a full-time writer of epic light fantasy adventures. His books are both published in the Netherlands, and internationally.