I've got a character by the name of Roland of the High Crags. He's a warrior-monk who happens to be a wizard. He's the typical heroic character usually found in most epic fantasy novels. He's loyal, brave, incredibly daring, with a sense of humor. But more than that . . . In my opinion the guy has a far, far more complex character to him. He's got strengths and he's got his weaknesses. And it is his one major weakness, which is his sudden plunge into blinding rage against those who would do evil things, which makes him interesting. And he faces characters, both good and bad, who are just as complex as he is.
The problem is this; I created this fantasy character to write a series . . . a long series . . . featuring him and a few of the characters he meets in his adventures. I wanted to create a fantasy series that ultimate postulates the idea that Magic is just another name for Science. Writing the first book of the series I fell into wonderful quandary of thinking about Time travel, Multiple Universes, and possibly meeting one's self from out of the distant Past and the far Future.
In short, one hell of a kick-ass fantasy series. Or . . . at least I think so.
But no one has read the first novel of the series (Roland of the High Crags: Evil Arises. See the right hand column of this page and find the book). So how do you write a series when no one reads it? How do you continue to write a series and generate ZERO INTEREST from any lit agent or book publisher who works in this genre? Why not just move on . . . forget Roland and his adventures . . . and go on to something else.
That's the rub. The conundrum. The kink in the grand scheme of things. I'm just too damn stubborn to set Roland aside. Roland deserves an audience (hell . . . for that matter, ALL the characters I've come with need to find an audience of their own!) Yeah, I know . . . I know. There are all kinds of reasons on why Roland has not taken off. One of them being that perhaps . . . just perhaps . . . the writing is atrocious and the writer himself is a talentless hack.
But, I read this stuff. Regularly. I know what's in the market these days. I can live with the charge of being a talentless hack. Sort of . . .
So, for your entertainment, I thought I'd share the open few pages of the prologue from book two of the series. Book two is called, Roland of the High Crags: Treacherous Brethren.
Know your enemy, my son.
Respect his skill; admire his cunning.
For the Dragon was built
-From the Book of St. Albans-
In the Beginning . . . . .
They hung in the clear blue winter’s sky like two glistening jewels. Two dragons. One a Winged Beastie, her giant bat-wings stretched out to the fullest, riding the thermal drafts of the rugged forest hills like some dreaded Dark Lord. Her wingspan was a good fifty feet. Her body, a charcoal gray color, with its long serpentine neck and equally long horned tail delicately balancing her in her flight, sat in the sky as if she was a natural part of it. She was a fire-breather. An old warrior. Supremely confident and master of the skies.
Her rider, strapped in the heavy saddle just in front of the Beastie’s forward shoulders, had wrapped himself in a heavy cloak to keep the biting cold at bay. The air was frigid cold. Winter’s harsh grip had taken hold of the land and would not let go for another six months. Snuggled close to his body was the heavy looking crossbow so favored by King Dragons. A weapon of immense power and range and very deadly in the hands of a marksman. And something else was held close to him underneath the cloak. Something important.
So important it required him to keep his crossbow strung and notched.
Two dragons riding the empty winds in maleficent grandeur. Terrible to behold.
Harbingers of Destiny.
Once a Bretan warrior-monk and accomplished wizard, now condemned and hunted by my brothers and all humanity, I rode in the saddle of my fierce Cedric high above and behind the unsuspecting Dragons. Cedric was a Huygens-bred Great Wing. A beast much resembling the smaller, but equally dangerous, Ferril Hawks which populates the forests and mountains of the High Kanris. But bigger, much bigger, and far more deadly. A powerful bird. Capable of carrying me and my weapons of war high into the skies to hunt Winged Beasties and their masters.
This was my Cedric. One does not own a Great Wing. Neither bird nor man is the other’s master. To fight the ravages of the Dragon, man and bird must unite in a common cause. They must blend into a well honed weapon with one partner knowing what the other will do in the heat of battle even before the other knows himself. Cedric and I had fought the dragon for decades. We knew each other’s soul as if it was our own.
Neither of us could believe a Winged Beastie and King Dragon rode the cold blue skies of theNorthern Hill Country. Yet there they were. Both radiating from their souls a sense of boredom and being lost at the same time. I sensed their half-hearted attempts to search the forests below for something they expected to find. They were on a mission. They were lost yet they were near to where they should be. Given time they would find what they sought. They would deliver the dispatches the dragon clansman clutched beneath his cloak tightly to his chest.
It was not that we were surprised in finding dragons. Dragon clans possessed baronies in the North Country. The Malawei, the Bruinii, and not too far in the west, along with the Marouth. Malawei and Bruinii were near. Small clans hardly large enough to keep the lands they had carved out of the enclaves of human kingdoms surrounding them as their own. Yet they too would have been an oddity to have one of its fabled fire-breathers riding alone in the clear skies here and now.
But this clansman was neither Malawei nor Bruinii. This clansman dressed in red and trimmed in black was Hartooth. The First Clan. A warrior of the fabled clan who first rose out of the swamps of the Far South. A warrior far from home. Far from the skies and forests he would be familiar with. A creature who was decidedly out of his environment. Yet more importantly these Dragons were enemies. The rider was a warrior of a legendary clan. Legendary in their intense hatred for all of things human. Wherever a Hartooth appeared, so too appeared death and destruction. He was, for me as an outcast Bretan warrior-monk or not, my sworn enemy.
There was but one option for my feathered comrade and I to take. We had to destroy the Hartooth courier and his fire-breathing companion. We had to find out why a warrior of his clan was so far north. It was imperative we snatch from his dead or dying body the messages he held so close to him and ascertain the real threat he represented.
Reaching for my bow I quickly pulled it from its leather pouch strapped to my saddle and strung it. Notching arrow to the string I said nothing, made no movement to signal my comrade, nor had to. We were a team. A well oiled machine. The moment his sharp sense of hearing heard me string the bow he waited long enough for me to notch arrow to the string. And then, in the blinking of an eye, he folded his wide but powerful wings and threw his beaked head down. We, like a massive stone, dropped from out of the skies in a steep dive. The cold winter air flew past my face at an incredible speed. I felt my face grow numb and the sense of touch in my hands begin to disappear. But this did no matter. Our enemies were rapidly approaching and our goals were simple. Destroy both dragons and allow neither to escape.
When it appeared we were about to crash into Dragon and fire-breather I sat up in my saddle, lifted the bow and pulled the string back to my ear before releasing the arrow. It was a swift, sure, and practiced move. One I had done a thousand times or more in my life. The arrow flew from the bow straight and true. It hit in the middle of the unsuspecting warrior’s back with such force it threw the warrior forward and actually penned the creature into the neck of his comrade. The fire-breather lifted its head and screeched in pain as it started to turn and look behind and above him.
Too late! The Winged Beastie had no chance to dart away. With talons extended my giant comrade and I slammed into the fire-breather’s neck with a horrendous jolt. The collision almost ripped me out of the stout leather straps holding me into my saddle. Cedric’s talons gripped the Beastie’s neck into a death grip and we, dragons and all, began plummeting to earth in a spiraling Dance of Death.
The fire-breather tried to twist out of my Great Wing’s grip. A stream of blue-white flame roared from the Beastie’s mouth as it tried to turn its head and engulf us in his fiery fury. The roar of the flame, the heat of the fire, and the smell of burning sulfur almost saved him. Close came his final blow to I and my faithful comrade. But Cedric’s grip was too strong. The Beastie could not turn his head far enough to hit to dislodge his tormentors.
Onward we plummeted to the ground below. I felt the life draining from the fire-breather and from the Hartooth. And then, only few hundred feet above the snow covered forest below us, the fire-breather expired and Cedric released his grip and twisted away at the same time. Hartooth rider and his Beastie crashed into the a small clearing with a thunderous finality. A dark cloud of snow and soil was thrown up into the air and momentarily hid our enemies from view. But we circled and waited, bow notched again with arrow, and both of us anticipating anything from below. But there was no need. The cloud of snow gently blew away. Below us our prey lay in a jumbled heap of broken bones and splayed limbs.
Cedric landed in the clearing some distance away from our fallen quarry and in a position which, if the fire-breather was still alive and wished to again use his hot breath against us, would be difficult for him to do so. I leapt from my saddle after unstringing bow and replacing it in its quiver. From my side I withdrew the curved blade of a Dragon scimitar and gripped it firmly as I approached the mass of flesh before me. No life force could be felt within the stilled heart of the fire-breather. But the Hartooth clansman was, for the moment, alive. His life force was draining from his soul rapidly. He had only moments left in this world before journeying over into the Netherworld. He, still strapped to his saddle, had been ripped away from his companion and lay to one side of the dead Beastie. As I stepped around the dying creature to face him I heard the clansman snort out of rattling chuckle of amusement as our eyes met for the first time.
“Ah! I travel to the Dark World thanks to the deadly aim of a Bretan priest. So be it. I go honorably. As it should be. We were destined to meet, human. Our destinies were set long ago. My life ends and yours continues on for a little time more.”
He coughed, blood trickling down his lips. From out of his chest the shaft of my arrow was visible. He held one hand to his chest and coughed again. And again chuckled in amusement.
“Destiny, our destines, human, are set in stone. It is the destiny of the Hartooth to rid this planet of all your kind. It is the destiny of all of your kind to accept your extinction.”
I nodded, frowning.
“What if I do not believe in destiny, warrior? What then?”
“Ha! Believe or not! It does not matter.”
He tried to laugh but had no strength as his life force deserted his physical form.
Using the tip of my sword I reached forward and slid part of his red cloak to one side. Lifting the heavy leather courier’s satchel from his body I cut the straps holding it to him. Picking the satchel up with the tip of my blade I stepped away from the dead and moved back to a position close to my comrade. A quick perusal of the dispatches made me frown even more. The Hartooth were coming. And they were coming in force.
Destiny. Our destines sat long ago. Set in stone forever and incapable of changing.
Did I believe that? Was it true? Was it the destiny of mankind to be eradicated from this world by the Hartooth? Was it meaningless to resist?