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Bounty for the Taking, a fantasy action series in the world of Khara Thel now has its second volume complete. Available on Smashwords and on Kindle for US$6.50. There will be a special coming up for Christmas season.
A mission to assassinate an orcish king, the spirit of a great demiurge wants a new body, and ogre raiders with a bounty on their heads for the taking. The three brothers Skarsayer are drawn through action and adventure towards a life-shattering revelation. A Tale of Khara Thel.
Smashwords – http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/74740
Kindle – http://www.amazon.com/Bounty-Taking-Book…B005DERN76
A witch-cursed earring has seized the mind of a legendary sea captain. An uprising of bandits has seen a war-chest attract freelances and mercenaries to the fief of Anatol and Cavis begins to doubt if they are truly bandits that the lords are warring against. Staifcairn tries to fulfill his pact with the shade of a demiurge and complete his search for a Professor-Regent of the college of archmages. Kragor continues deeper on his path towards greatness and darkness. Join the brothers Skarsayer, and Kragor the Conqueror, on their trials and adventures across the strongly realised magical world of Khara Thel.
Smashwords – http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/265303
Kindle – http://www.amazon.com/Bounty-Taking-Book…B00AOF5WD6
After tracking the cultists into a fortress at the end of a grotto the party blitz-assaulted their base and routed the forces. Villagers were rescued and politicking carried out. It was the magic on one of the girls who shed light on the leader of the cultists, Milel, being a mage of some sort. Milel had been feeding on the girls essence. The forces were tracked to their rallying point at Anvil Rock. A defense was prepared and battle sought that night. A mantlet assaulted from the front and scouts tried to infiltrate the rear. It was another rout. Too well-organized and supported by a pack of summoned Dire Wolves the cultists never stood a chance. Until Milel drained the girl almost to her death and summoned a huge earth elemental. It collapesd the fortress around them methodically. All escaped with minor injuries and camped in the cold night. Milel escaped and probably with what ever they were trying to dig up.
The Sheriff took the villagers back to their homes. The allies (Lorco, the vampire hunter, Dalldra, the axe-woman, and Artan the wizard) continued to accompany the party. They had split ways and were beyond the borders of Vrim. Milel’s forces were tracked for two days when it became apparent they were headed towards the Keep of Kentos. That was one of the locations the Vampire Queen Marcelline could have been. It was only another day and everyone was convinced it was no coincidence: Milel was her servant.
One night they were awoken by Lorco calling out, “Be gone in the name of the Rose.”
He had turned some form of undead creature. Perhaps a wraith or a shade.
Later it came back and Felghanis rebuked it – gaining command. It was cemented now that the queen had sent this as a scout – this Allip. With agreement Fel’ pushed it away and Lorco destroyed it.
The next day they were within sight of the keep. Spells and familiars scouted the fortification. It was stout with an outer curtain wall and inner bailey where the donjon sat proudly. At least 40 lesser undead guarded the walls and manned the gatehouse. It didn’t inspire confidence. They had to act soon. Kalista was able to make out their shelter from the walls with her Arcane Eye spell. That meant anyone else could see it as well.
As they prepared the buzzing they had not noticed caught their attention as it rose to a thrumming drone. Lorco whipped open the shutters.
“Swarm!” He yelled, and loosed a fireball.
Slamming the shutters closed he looked pale and scared. “Locusts… a mountain of them.”
They fell upon the secure shelter like some kind of dark wave and the party shuffled closer together, touching shoulders, looking nervously at the roof.
“They can’t eat stone. We need more protection,” Don’ said. “That spell, the one that shapes stone.”
The roof was under assault. A multitude of nibbling mandibles were working their way through the old seasoned timber. Kalista shaped the stone floor up into a dome with fine holes for air. It was only a few minutes before the roof collapsed and the locusts filled the shelter with their angry insect noise. The cold was too much for them and before long they were silent. Goran was sent out by Fel’ to find out what happened. The locusts were all frozen in great swathes of icy chitin.
Dalldra freed them with a few swings of her axe and the gathered their supplies.
“We have to act now.”
They advanced through the strong wind driven snow. As the ground turned rougher and more steep they stopped to prepare their forces. Kalista cast speak with animals and as she was preparing a summons something fell from the sky exploding in rain of burning oil and potsherds.
“Catapult!” It was Lorco who yelled.
They broke and ran for their lives. The girl, Nullia had fallen and it was Don’ who bound her wounds and hoisted her over his shoulder.
Chests heaving and throats raw from the icy air they gathered in a gully’s steepest point between two hard rocky outcrops. The rest of the plan was put into action and Nullia was left behind.
The dire bats were enhanced and the flew out into the snowy gusts.
As the closed on the wall, a mere 200 feet away, large arrows streaked into their flight. The first bat fell, and then the second, but the others were fast enough to respond to Kalista and catch the falling allies.
On to the walls they assaulted the watch tower. Inside they fought skeletons and Felghanis seized control of their animus. Then they stormed the gatehouse. Dalldra’s axe splitting the door in one massive strike. Here they found a Rot Reaver, running for its hide, and skeletons poured down from above – only to be struck to dust by Lorco’s turning.
The keep’s walls were breached and the gatehouse taken, but the donjon remained to be stormed.
KW Jackson has finished the draft for the second book of Bounty for the Taking. In this book the brothers continue their journey to reclaim their estate of Veldon after the great revelation at the end of the first.
Cavis heads back to Kliom Nagar to find out what is lacking in his ability to fight well. Atriaxe and Staifcairn plan to head to Ferris to find out the legal status of Veldon and how they might then go about reclaiming their family lands. Adventures and complications ensue.
Keep an eye out for this sequel to a bone-crunching good action fantasy story.
Expected released: December 1st, 2012.
With their scouting done for Lord Tovran the party gathered their things that morning to meet Don’s obligations to the Fey. Sheriff Daeus was to go with them and they were told that Lady Sipran, Varnia not Murelle, would be joining them as well.
They waited at the edge of Vrim for Varnia. A courier had told them that is where the lady would meet them. And she did, albeit a little puffed, but excited.
Through a light snow they crossed the hills to the Lutemakers’ Wood. Hours passed as they chatted about the Fey and what each knew of them. Iron shaped without fire was one thing they all seemed to know but it was Varnia who stated that they were tied to the land through the old trees, but the most potent thing that would upset the Fey was the horn of a Unicorn fashioned into a weapon.
It was nearly dark when the reached the stone circle. Three figures appeared as dusk took hold.
“The worlds met in this time, it is said.”
They beckoned Don forward and he went. Felghanis was quick to follow, as did the rest of them. The goat seemed oblivious and munched at something under the fine snow.
“You have our offering?” Asked the Fey in silver scale armor.
“Yes, I see her now,” said the one in dark mail.
“The price must be paid,” added the figure in clothes that looked like leaves and bark.
“The goat is yours,” Don’ offered the animal.
“We accept her,” said the fey in dark mail, nodding towards Varnia.
“The huntress is appropriate.” She donned in plants confirmed.
“What we offer is the goat. Do you accept the goat as the offering?” Felghanis was getting angry yet he seemed to contain himself well.
“Enough!” yelled the figure in dark mail. “It is the huntress that we take.”
“Come to us,” called the one in leaves and bark, the Seelie.
Varnia was struck by forces of enchantment and began moving towards them. Chaos quickly ensued.
Entangle was cast and Don’ tried to tackle Varnia out of the circle but she had good training and was strong. She shrugged him off and he fell flat on the ground.
The Fey were unaffected by the Entangle and moved freely. The one in silver scale armor seemed to frown and separated from the others.
“Help us cousin, she resists,” Called the Unseelie in dark mail.
“No. The pact is broken. You have contravened it!”
With a snap the circle was empty. Only the party stood about. The Fey were gone.
Confused the left the goat in the circle at Don’s insistence. He wanted to make sure he had done everything to hold up his end of the pact. His power relied on it.
At the top of the hill Kalista glanced back. The sheriff was unhooking his cloak from a snag. The were all clear of the ring.
It was well dark by the time they made it out of the woods. Kalista called into being a Secure Shelter and they took their rest in it. The Daeus and Varnia were ready and willing to ride back in the dark. They both had commitments in Vrim. The sound of their horses’ hooves pounding off left the party’s ears quickly.
Uneasily the settled in the small hut of stone and clay but it was warm and the had good food. Soon they slept soundly.
It was just before dawn when they were awoken with a sharp snapping sensation. Some massive amount of mana was just poured into a spell. It was like a roaring storm of power that stank of time, ice and bitterness coming from the East.
In his mind’s eye Felghanis pin-pointed the location compared to the maps he had been studying a long time. It was the Iron Teeth Mountains.
“Oh no…” he despaired.
“Tell me it’s not,” Kalista was hopeful.
“I think it must be,” Don’ added.
“We failed. The ritual has been cast,” Kalista said, down-trodden but angry, too.
“The tear! It is there. Alabrahni told us it was there.”
“In the crypt of a Frost Titan. What do you think might be in there?” Don’ said cynically.
“What we need to break this curse,” Felghanis spat back.
Don’ conceded that well and nodded.
Aenir woke up, “What’s gong on?”
Of course, thought Kalista, they did not feel a thing. They have no sensitivity to the mana.
Kellor awoke too and the filled the Dwarves in on what had happened.
“It’s decided then.” It was Aenir who spoke. “We head to the mountains for this tear.”
They all nodded sombrely.
“Doesn’t seem to have made the weather any worse, yet.” Don peeked outside to the dim light of pre-dawn and saw it much as it was when they stopped here. “I want to see if the Fey have accepted the offering.”
Before they even reached the circle it was obvious something was wrong in the woods. Old trees that were vigorous just yesterday seemed to be dying.
“What has happened here?” Aenir asked.
“The Fey… they are gone.” Don was bewildered and Kalista’s face echoed his sentiments.
In the circle, with a small heaping of snow gathered about it, the kid lay dead. Its ribs pierced by a heavy dart of black horn.
“This is unicorn horn,” Don said pulling the dart free.
They tracked the area but it was only their own footprints from yesterday that they found.
It was the last rise that the dart probably came from.
“Daeus,” said Kalista. “He was last over the rise.”
“But why? And how did they get a dart made from a unicorn horn?” Felghanis asked, truly puzzled.
“Who knows? But we know that Lord Tovran knew about the gate to Stonecrest.”
Don’ kept the foul dart and they all left. More questions on their minds.
The beast appeared at the gate dragging a mountain goat. They launched their attack. Artan and Lorco hit it with fire spells. Lorco, a Fireball, and Artan an Aganazzar’s Scorcher. The bear was then trapped in the gateway by Kalista’s summoned dire wolf. It did not fight long before they killed it. Dressing the large carcass took some hours and they returned to the Secure Shelter to rest. Lorco agreed to go to Muddy Cape and hunt clams with them but he had to cut Dalldra in for a share as well as pay for her services – albeit at half-rate.
Overland the journey was tough. Exposed to the dastardly cold north west wind that came straight off the sea ice they took comfort that at least it wasn’t snowing. Digging about with their one shovel they found a clam after an hour. Then Kalista used Locate Plants and Animals and it was easy to find another score of clams. In all they had three pearls and it was deemed enough clam meat for Madam Lim.
When they returned to Vrim it was only three days to the full moon and Don’ needed to be ready to fulfill his role to the Fey.
It was Lord Tovran who added the complication. They should have known by the serious looking man with the scars and the old wound of a shallow fractured cheek bone, Sheriff Daeus.
“You may have heard that Sheriff was investigating something to the east. That much I know was being talked about. What you may not know is that he has found a troubling thing. Tell them, Daeus.”
The Sheriff complied and let them in on what had happened days ago. A young girl had wandered in from the east frostbitten and alone. She claimed that people had been rounded up and taken by the cult of Ath-Voarnus. Those who resisted were put to the sword, and those who fled were butchered from behind. They had found abandoned farms and buildings. No livestock and a few bodies in the snow. Then they had run out of food and had to return.
“I ask you to aid Vrim again and help us rescue these people, or at least put an end to this cult’s raids on Vrim’s citizens.”
“We have just enough horses,” Daeus said quietly to Lord Mikhail.
On the ride out the next morning they asked about Herath. Daeus had seen a man briefly but assumed it was one of the few lone trappers who lived on the margins. He didn’t try and talk to the man.
Cultists had moved into the area and at first kept to themselves. Then they had become aggressive at getting people to convert. It was the little girl, the lone survivor from the nearest village, that had told Sheriff Daeus the background. Many had fought on the fateful day but the cultists cut them down and that cowed the rest of the villagers. All were marched eastwards, with every last scrap of food and feed, for the livestock. Each village was bare of people and food. Corden, Villyme and Puldup; the farthest. Don’s tracking was superb, as always, and he followed the trails as well as a bloodhound might. They past no campsites but when the reached the fifth bridge, a marker of the furthest reaches of the fief of Vrim, they found heavy destrier’s tracks – as if the horse wore barding.
“A knight?” Don’ asked Daeus.
“Perhaps invaders. Maybe the Livruss and Kulvuss left a contingent behind.” The sheriff mused.
They weakened the fifth bridge, removing recently added bolsters, and did the same at the bridge near Puldup – hiding the material in the woods underneath snowdrifts. Then they rode hard back to Vrim as was promised by Tovran so that they might deal with the Fey in the Lutemakers Woods. The lord understood the need to Don’ and his peoples’ craft guild, and thus livelihoods. The Dwarves had secured the promise of the guildmaster to aid them and continue to provide a beast each full moon. All that left was to deliver the beast Lord Tovran had provided. As he left the area outside the stables Lord Mikhail announced that Daeus would be going with the party, and that Lady Varnia Sipran would also be attending – now that the Sipran family were back in their castle.
“Is she bringing the shield guardian?” It was an innocent enough question from Kalista.
“They have a shield guardian? Why was it not used when their keep was attacked?” Tovran was angry, infuriated actually. He stalked off muttering venom about letting innocents die.
It was the end of the 98th day since they left Felk Bay, that they dined with Lord Mikhail Tovran’s family and retainers, but not Lord Mikhail, who sent his apologies at being in a mood most foul that he would not be polite company. Freyald has many tales to sing, though, and regaled them with a long epic ballad from Iron Claw; Hadramyr the Griever. It didn’t help the feeling.
Lord Tovran had asked the rest of the party to lodge at his keep.
“You will be my guests and have my hospitality. Your services to Vrim are worthy and I wish to repay you in at least this way.”
When the party reformed they had been to the Whalers’ Retreat to find their arrangement settled by Lord Tovran and a message from Arthur.
“Lorco is looking for you lot. He seemed a little annoyed.”
Walking into the keep felt strange. They were moving up in the world. Guards eyed them carefully but were respectful. It was the retainers, Lord Mikhail Tovran’s knights, who were a little snide, but only the one named Freyald. They ate lunch and were entertained by a bard but Lorco’s annoyance was tugging at Kalista’s conscience.
“We should try and catch him. If he only left this morning he can’t be more than 6 hours ahead of us at most.”
Don’ agreed and they quickly assembled their gear setting off at once. They pushed hard across the foothills of the Great Frost Mountains and did indeed catch Lorco on a wide mountain trail. His distinctive hat giving him away.
Lorco was with Dalldra, the Corssiff mercenary, and another plain looking man, Artan – who bore the trappings of a wizard.
That night they slept in a Secure Shelter that Kalista conjured and were waited on by an unseen servant. It was a restful night not having to stand watch outside the warmth of the campfire. Heavy shutters made the hut defendable and strong. When they arrived at Highgate Monastery they were wary. A vampire queen was no trifling enemy. Even Jonas would be challenged, it occurred to the dwarves Aenir and Kellor, and would be careful in his approach.
Bear tracks were in the snow. Fresh and deep.
“It must be a big grizzly,” Don’ said checking them.
The creature had been lairing in the old stables. Inside the monastery they found it abandoned but in pretty good repair.
“Wait.” Felghanis was looking at the doors ahead. “I sense undead in there. Four of them, and strong.”
They carefully opened the doors and saw a large room with four translucent figures circling a raised pillar-like sconce, chanting in distant haunting voices. Lorco called to them and they talked.
“Bring us the abbot, let us have vengeance, for taking the bowl of Ath-Voarnus,” the ghost hissed.
Artan knew of Ath-Voarnus. It was a spirit, of sorts, that could prevent ageing and increase vitality to those that gave it services. Ath-Voarnus longed to be made physical and lured people to it wherever it went.
“Sumbrad told me of this in the Red Stagg. He is pursuing what he claims to be the cultists of Ath-Voarnus and looking for their hideaway & temple.”
“Another complication, then, it seems.”
They talked at length and then settled in to wait for the bear. It would be worth a lot of coin.
Five fingers of stone
Five swords of bone
Many yards of silk
Many of strange ilk
Two bears and three deer
Two trees and a titan’s tear
The five fingers of stone: the Hand of Gulresh. Houses a deep earth crystal mine that is worked by Goblins who are being controlled because Scours have all the goblin-females prisoner.
Kentos’ shouldermen guarded their liege’s tomb and a book of Fimbulwinter. Each of the fie shouldermen bore a sword of bone.
Silk draping through the Sipran keep library led to Stonecrest; a place with many of strange ilk.
All three books are in the possession of the Church. The two bears have the three deer.
The Titan’s Tear has been located by Felghanis after questioning Allabrahni. What are the two trees?
We’re in the final run, now, and the players need to figure out a course of action. I think they’re a bit lost as to what they can actually achieve regarding the books. With that in mind have some events planned which can help nudge, or have them trip over, a decent course of action.
There’s a real-world time-limit on this game. It has to be wrapped up in about 9 sessions. Given the ground we can cover in one session I think this is entirely possible, but probably not at L13-15 like we discussed at the table.
However, there’s some cool side-plots to resolve first. Some of which may tie into the main plot arc. I’ll keep you all posted.
Allabrahni was in front of Felghanis’ eyes when he awoke. Her visage at once gave him hope and sorrow.
“You have earned a reward, Felghanis. What would you have that is suitable in the eyes of Araytor?”
“I would know what the Church want with the books,” Fel answered as the sleep seemed to wash from his mind and body as if born away by Allabrahni’s aura.
“That is unclear. It is certainly possible that the collection of the books are for their use, as you well suspect. What else would you know?”
“Where is Jonas headed?”
“To Dwarf Town. They plan to use the altar there.” The angel seemed to be expecting more questions.
“Where is the Titan’s Tear?”
“In the final tomb of the Hrimpursar elders.”
“And where is that?”
“At the feet of the Iron Teeth Mountains, in the silver forest. The trail is marked with stacks of carved stones.”
“How does Hydraxus fit into this?”
“Unclear, although Hydraxus claimed to be beyond the reach of cold when he claimed the throne of water on this plane.”
Felghanis was troubled. Hydraxus was a god, and on this plane? Does that mean the elemental lord of water walks Kiltayre? He shuddered.
“Will Araytor accept my worship?”
“Araytor accepts all worship,” Allabrahni smiled and gently caressed Felghanis’ brow as a mother might. “Be at peace and have Aid for this day.”
Felghanis was suddenly looking at the ceiling for Allabrahni was gone.
In Kalista’s room the young animist-wizard awoke.
“Ah, my girl. Araytor is proud of you,” Allabrahni beamed and took Kalista into an embrace.
“Now, what reward do you think is suitable from Araytor?”
“Of course my child,” Allabrahni touched Kalista on the forehead. A silver glow swelled and Kalista felt an energy surge through her. It was like her mind removed blocks and needles complexes – her soul grew.
When Kalista opened her eyes it was to a murky room without the safe warming glow of Allabrahni.
Don’ was already downstairs in the common room eating with the Dwarves. They all seemed distant and quiet, yet happy and content. Allabrahni had left a mark on their hearts and the enjoyed its lasting warmth.
“I had some questions answered,” Felghanis said as he joined them. He shared his impromptu interview with the angel to nods and smiles of approval.
“What should we do next?” It was Aenir who asked it once they were all fed.
“I’m not sure but my components are thin so I at least have to visit the markets,” Kalista said.
“The library likely holds answers for me. I want to know where the Iron Teeth Mountains is exactly and find out more about the Hrimpursar elders. Goran’s body needs to be buried. I can’t leave it there.”
“Goran’s body can wait, or someone else can take care of it, Felghanis.” Donhallan’s distaste for this was clear.
“What about the Scours?” Kellor aksed. “We might be able to catch them.”
“They’re too far gone,” Don’ said. “They have nearly a day’s head start on us and in the high plains it’ll be almost impossible to catch their trail.”
“You’re a bundle of joy,” Aenir mumbled into his beard.
Don’ scowled, “What we ought to be doing is finding out if Lady Sipran intends to go back to Vrim and then inform Lord Tovran.”
“Yes. Then let’s go see her,” Felghanis said.
“All of this is in one direction and we can stick together,” Kalista put forward, pleased that there was no need to separate.
The did so and at the Beaming Censer found the pompador they met last time.
“Ah, hello again. How may I help you?”
“We would like to speak to Lady Murelle, or Varnia, Sipran.”
The pompadour sat them in the lounge and returned shortly.
“Did you see an angel by the library last night, by chance"?”
“We saw a woman in a cloak,” Don said quickly, as Kalista covered her mouth in surprise.
“Oh. There are people looking for her and they’ll pay well to find her. If you see her do let me know.”
They were all distracted by the heavy footsteps of the shield guardian that shadowed Murelle Sipran to the lounge. Pompador left with a hurried bow.
“My young friends,” Lady Murelle said warmly but there was no smile.
The conversation was brief. Lady Sipran would be returning tomorrow.
The door of the Beaming Censer closed behind the last of them.
“She really had no idea what a treasure was passed down to her in the books,” Felghanis mused.
“It’s her dreams that bother me. She has so many that she can’t interpret them all. It’s sad,” Kalista added.
“Whatever the case she has been gracious and helpful. We will tell Lord Tovran.”
In the library they approached the keeper of books: the Blakh who was in four places at once. It smiled briefly.
“Is there a book on the Hrimpurar’s last tomb?”
“Hmm, this one may aid you.”
History of the Hrimpursar, Meyendir Aravalon – archmage & scholar.
The book was well-written and led them through many facts about the Hrimpursar, their society, and how they were exterminated by Kentos and his army. What stood out most to them was the Wunder Trial and how it was a requirement to enter the moot where debate for leadership of the clan could take place.
To Felghanis it was something else that stood out. Some of the elders who went to sleep, from which some would rise as Frost Titans, died or never came out of the last tomb. What if Hrimpursar had a ritual like a Baelnorn; undead guardian of a people? It caused tumultuous excitement but he contained it.
Brannighan was there for farewells and they left through the ‘private rooms’ of the Sipran family. Felghanis collected Goran’s corpse, two day old entrails fell all over him, and only Aenir would help.
Lord Tovran was pleased with their report and sent two servants with Felghanis to make the burial. He was surprised when Felghanis said he would bury Goran in the chapel’s graveyard.
The ground was hard and icy. With the rest of his party away Felghanis took a few spells on the shovel. It had been almost a lifetime since he’d unearthed a grave, or even dug one, and all that strength was lost. The servants were well used to labour and they kept at it far longer.
When Goran was interred Felghanis said a few words and instead of the normal closing line he replaced it with, “May Davinus watch over your soul.”
Something flew out of the grave. But it was so fast Felghanis thought he was seeing things.
One of the servants laughed, “That’ll teach him.”
The other answered, “Worshipping the wrong figure head. Everyone knows Davinus is the true head of the church.”
Felghanis was shocked. Not only did these peasants assume everyone knew that he felt something inside him. It was calling.
“Avenge me and I will aid you with the power of death.”
“What are you?”
“I am Goran.”