Fans of the Kaelandur series, behold! Joshua Robertson is back with the second book and it promises to be a fast-paced sword and sorcery fantasy that picks up right where book one left off. Here are three excerpts to whet your appetite.
A woman, unlike any Branimir had ever seen, emerged from the crowd and occupied the remaining chair. The bow slung over her shoulder, and the quiver on her back were the last things Branimir noticed. She was shorter than most Anshedar with an oversized head, a scrawny neck, and a sickly, thin frame. Yet her skin, smooth and colored a reddish brown, darker than Branimir, caused him to lean toward her. A sash, red as blood, hung across her shoulder, angled over her small chest.
She sat with her back stiffened and chin jutted forward. Pushing long black strands behind her ears, she introduced herself, “Hanna Bretka, daughter of Briv, from Danduher in Haemus Mons.” She sloshed her mug onto the table after taking a gulp.
“Branimir and Dorofej,” Bran said, “And, excuse my asking, but what are you?”
Her eyes swelled like an owl, a circular black center and the rest filled with a cerulean orb. The colored ring twinkled like the Ojenek in his pocket. “What do you mean what am I?”
Adamus and Dorofej merged in laughter.
“Kras,” she said, “I am a Lilitu. How would you not know my kind? The Kras frequent trade with the Lilitu in Halderon.”
Branimir rubbed the back of his neck with a crooked smile, and meekly shrugged. He could not take his eyes off of her.
“What are you?” Adamus repeated, wiping a tear from the corner of his eye. “Best thing I have heard in two months. Having you travel with me never tires, Hanna.”
“Glad to please you, Adamus,” Hanna muttered, rolling his name off her tongue. “Is this why we detoured to Cavell? I thought we were aiming for debauchery, not expanding on our alleged friendship.”
“You told me that I would never find joy,” Branimir went on. “I can’t help but think the rune staves might be right, mainly when I think of these past several weeks.”
“Oh.” Dorofej shuffled out from the shadows, rejoining them near the fire. He appeared disgruntled, despite his words. “We have shared pleasant times together, yes? I say, do not sum up all arduous times to be grievous.”
“I was only telling you what I was seeing,” Drak explained. “I did not mean anything by it.”
“All the same, your words have stayed with me,” said Branimir, scooting over to make room for Dorofej.
“I say, Hanna did warn us that we may create our own future by thinking that we know what to expect, yes? Emotions can create your reality if you are not careful,” Dorofej softened his gaze.
Drak sniffed through his nose. “The rune staves tell what will happen. Branimir cannot change it, no matter how he feels about it.”
Dorofej furrowed his brow. “Know that for certain, we do not. Regardless, whether our paths are fixed or not, we choose how we walk them. Dangerous, it is, to find comfort in sadness. Leads only to more sadness, it does.”
“I like that thought,” Drak granted, and then grinned wide. “Feelings are unseen and untouched by anyone or anything. Fate cannot tell you how to feel.”
Branimir held his face, pondering the wisdom of the two. “Telling yourself how to feel seems easier to think about than to do.”
“Such is the task of the living, yes? I say, our minds are riddled with grand ideas and limited enthusiasm to see it done. Driven towards the things we wish to avoid, men are. Drink, does the drunkard; fight, does the warrior; and on and on, it goes.”
“Is it not what they want?” Branimir asked.
Dorofej lifted his eyebrows, “What do you want, Branimir?”
“I want…” Branimir may have never thought about the question before. He had always been entertained with trying to survive, the question of what to live for was beyond his knowing. Yet, upon taking a moment to think, the answer was not hard to come by. “I want happiness, Dorofej.”
The demons of the Netherworld chased him. Four-legged, wolf-like creatures, known as Dreka, rammed their goat horns at Branimir. The gray, wrinkled skin clung to their gaunt frames. Thin lips were stretched back giving sight to the rows of teeth on the tops and bottoms of their bloodied gums.
Branimir tumbled, swinging his weapon and feeling it tear through flesh as easily as a hot blade through frost. For a moment, he may have heard Dorofej’s riddlesome voice—no, his cry—but Branimir had not the time to listen. Bran had to scramble, and sneak, and stab.
And stab. And stab. And stab.
The urgency of the battle and the demons thumped inside of his head.
“Stop!” A familiar voice, again, cried in desperation.
Crimson splattered his vision as his dagger cut through skin once more. His blade loved the taste of blood; he felt the need to drench it again.
Pain stung his leg, but it was quickly forgotten as demon after demon lunged for him. The Dreka were ever persistent in their attack. He spun, and twisted, and disappeared to avoid every demonic beast soaring through the air, vicious teeth aimed for his throat. They would not reach him. For a moment, he thought he saw a flash of Hanna’s wide eyes, but they looked unfamiliar. Treacherous. Evil. Besides, his dagger was already cocked behind his ear and he felt incapable of restraining himself.
Branimir emerges from the Netherworld as a living legend and learns the Ash Tree is still in danger from the cursed dagger, kaelandur. An old friend compels Branimir to finish what they started at Melkorka. Once again, the former slave must keep kaelandur out of uncertain hands, while struggling to separate heroes from villains and friends from foes. Some evils never lessen.
Joshua currently lives in Alaska with his wife and children. In 1999, he began crafting the world for Thrice Nine Legends, including Melkorka and Anaerfell. He is also the author of the A Midwinter Sellsword and Gladiators and Thieves in the Hawkhurst Saga. His short story, Grimsdalr, is inspired by the tale of Beowulf.
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