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The Blade - a full length fantasy novel

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Topic: The Blade - a full length fantasy novel
Posted By: SFReader
Subject: The Blade - a full length fantasy novel
Date Posted: May-22-2015 at 12:11pm
the blade by david l feltsNow available on Amazon: The Blade, a full length fantasy novel.

Rorke Burgess returns to his homeland, Nemthia, seven years after the end of a civil war in which the old regime lost. The throne is now occupied by Prince Maren, who overthrew his father, King Broman, with the aid of a mysterious sorcerer known as the Necromancer.

When the Necromancer raised the dead and made them fight again, Rorke fled the battlefield, abandoning his country and his family. With such sorcery at their command, Maren and the Necromancer easily defeated King Broman, including his famed and feared Fifth Legion, also known as Broman’s Blades.

The Blades were warriors, but more than that; they were heroes to the people, justice personified and larger than life, so feared that their reputation alone had been enough to send most enemies scurrying. The Blades marked their members distinctly — a cut from temple to jaw on the right side of the face left a scar no one could miss.

Rorke has a scar almost exactly similar, but his came from a fisherman’s gaff during a tavern brawl after he’d fled Nemthia as a deserter from King Broman’s army. The scar has caused him no end of trouble, as there is a bounty on the few surviving Blades. He is often mistaken for one and forced to defend himself.

Now Rorke has returned to see if his sister and mother still live. Surely seven years is long enough? And it’s not as though Rorke was really a Blade anyway, he was just a deserter with an inconvenient scar. All he wants is to see if his family still lives.

What he gets is a lot more.

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http://www.amazon.com/The-Blade-David-L-Felts-ebook/dp/B00VM938H0" rel="nofollow - Buy The Blade on Amazon Kindle
Read Chapter 1 Below
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THE BLADE, CHAPTER 1

My name is Rorke Burgess and I was coming home.

The merchant ship Flounder sailed into Loshen harbor early on a clear spring day. I leaned on the rail, watching the small fishing boats bob on the swells, the fishermen standing with uncanny balance as they plied their nets. I saw a score of other round-hulled merchant ships and two sleek passenger sloops, one headed in and one headed out.

Three large warships–galleys with triangular sails and two banks of oars to a side–prowled the harbor, each flying at the top of its center mast a square red flag imprinted with a clenched skeletal hand. Beyond the ships, on a hill overlooking the harbor and city, the castle bore the same standard flapping from its dozen towers.

The signal of the Necromancer.

A cold knot tightened in my guts.

With an effort, I turned my gaze to the city, taking a deep breath to release some of the tension that had gripped my chest. Cormil was larger than I remembered. It nestled in a valley cut through by the Andune River. Clusters of dwellings climbed the hills to either side, the fine houses close to the river and center of town degenerating into little more than wooden shacks perched precariously on steep hillsides.

Trif wandered over to where I stood, his hair wind-whipped and sun-bleached, framing a ruddy seaman’s face. He stood uneasily at my side, fidgeting as I waited for him to speak. A nearby fisherman hauled in his catch. Sleek silver shapes gleamed as they wriggled, helpless, caught in the net.

“You need to be careful, Rorke,” Trif blurted out.

I faced him. He squinted against the sun, brushing a hand through his hair. I’d once been a passenger, but after two crewmen had vanished one night–it was suspected they’d gotten drunk and fallen overboard–I’d worked out a deal. I had some experience on sailing vessels, enough for Captain Anders to refund my money when I offered to work for him. The crew had been standoffish, all except Trif, who, as the newest of the crew, had been happy to have someone beneath him.

He fidgeted. “You’ve been seven years away, but people don’t forget.”

I shrugged. “It’s my home, Trif. Seven years is a long time.”

He nodded, staring across the water. “Not long enough, I think,” he finally said. “Most people in these parts still remember Broman’s Blades.”

I grunted. Broman’s Blades, the Fifth Legion, King Broman’s personal guard. A thousand troops whose reputation alone had been enough to send most enemies scurrying. Once you were in, dying was the only way out. First thing they did was mark you so everyone knew who you were and what you were part of. A straight cut on the right side of the face, from temple to jaw, left a scar no one could miss.

My hand went to my face, tracing the ridged scar that started at the corner of my eye and ran to the edge of my jaw. I’d gotten it in a tavern brawl only months after fleeing Nemthia and the war. It was too damned close to what the Blades did and it had caused me no end of trouble. After winning, the new King Maren and his pet wizard had put a bounty on the Blades–five gold a head. More than most people earned in ten years. It had been years since I’d heard of a bounty being collected. No doubt any Blades still living had long ago scattered to distant lands.

“I told you, Trif, I’m not a Blade. Never was.”

“I believe you,” he said with a nod. “And my mates do as well, but there’ll be those not inclined to ask first. They see you and they’ll see gold and they won’t ask questions.”

“I know.” Since I’d acquired the scar, eight had tried to collect, though it had been a long time since the last attempt. “I’ll be fine,” I said. I’d made a decision to return, and I wasn’t going to lose my nerve now. Seven years was surely long enough.

Trif’s face was troubled. “I hope so.” He blew out his breath in a huff and turned, gesturing at the deck. “You could stay on, you know. Cap’n Anders said so. Said he’d keep you, you wanted. Asked him myself.”

I smiled and rested a hand on his shoulder. “Thanks, Trif. But there are things I need to do.”

“Well,” said Trif, squinting again the glare, “we’ll be here the rest of today and tonight, loading, leaving with the tide mid-morn tomorrow. If you change your mind…”

“I won’t.”

“If you do.”

I turned back toward the city, staring, as if I could see past the buildings and hills to a small farm a hundred leagues inland.

There was nothing but the water, the sound of gulls, and my guilt.

 ***

 I was tired of the smell of the sea and the taste of salted fish and cheap watered wine, anxious to go. I said my good-byes and made them brief. Captain Anders pulled me aside and repeated Trif’s offer of a job. I thanked him and shook his hand, at first refusing and then accepting the coins he pressed into my palm.

“You deserve it. You worked well.”

He was fair and honest. I thanked him, shouldered my pack, and walked down the gangplank, turning to wave at Trif.

“Good luck!” he called. “Be careful!”

“I will,” I called back. I waved again and swayed off the dock and into the cobbled streets. After a month on ship, I had a bad case of sea legs. I paused only to strap my sword to my side.

Mid-morning and the water front was busy. I attracted no notice as I made my way through the press of sailors and workers, but they were used to strangers. Once away from the wharves, I would stand out more in my loose white linen shirt and baggy gray Menginese riding pants.

I paused to wrap a white scarf around my head and the lower half of my face. I had bought it for that purpose. Such a manner of dress was common in the far south, to protect the head and face from the sun. It looked unusual for Cormil, but I hoped it would blend with my already foreign dress.

Ten minutes of brisk walking and I was a good distance from the harbor, away from the smell of dead fish and sewage. I kept my head ducked and hunched my shoulders, staying on the less crowded streets. There were no cries of ‘Blade!’, no accusations. My fears were getting the better of me. The war was long over, I told myself, the bounty on Blades forgotten.

My stomach growled. I hadn’t eaten since dawn. Despite my uneasiness about being in the city, I needed a meal before beginning my journey to the farmlands. I considered buying a horse. Being mounted would cut my travel time considerably. With the extra coin Captain Anders had paid me, I could afford one.

A short distance up the street I saw a tavern. When I wandered in, the few customers glanced at me. All except two returned their attention to their plates and cups. One of the two was a young, brown-haired man, not much more than a boy. His face was pale, his brown eyes wide. He looked away when I caught him staring. The other was a fellow in the corner, an older man, dark-skinned and burly, who didn’t look away when I met his gaze. The worn hilt of a sword jutted up at his side.

I found a seat on the opposite side of the room from the staring man, my back to the wall. An old woman shuffled over, shoulders bowed. I asked for stew and ale. She shuffled back to the kitchen. I occupied myself by watching the dark-skinned man while pretending not to.

The woman returned with my meal and the dark-skinned man appeared to have lost interest. I turned my face toward the wall and unwrapped the lower portion of my scarf, sipping at my ale. It was bitter and poorly brewed, but I drank it anyway. I took a bite of my stew and chewed slowly, relishing the taste of beef.

A shadow fell across my table. I looked up to see the dark-skinned man a few feet back from my table, hands on hips. I didn’t bother putting my scarf back into place; from his expression he had already seen my scar. Conversation in the inn stalled. I felt everyone watching. I held my mug with my right hand while I slowly lowered my left beneath the table and slid my belt knife from its sheath.

He gestured at the cloth wrapped around my head. “I saw you wearing the turban and wandered over for a word or two.” His voice was deceptively mild. “I’ve done some traveling in the Mengin steppes and found it an interesting place. Not as interesting as that scar though.” His hands were large and knobby. A fighter’s hands.

“Got it in a fight,” I said, leaning back, feigning a casualness I didn’t feel. I continued to toy with my mug, turning it back and forth.

“You a Blade?” He watched me closely to gauge my reaction to the blunt question.

“No,” I replied. “I’ve heard of them, but I’m no Blade. I was never in the Fifth.” The hilt of my knife was growing slippery with sweat. My blood felt hot in my veins.

“Been a long time since a Blade’s been seen around these parts.” He edged closer. Behind him I saw the frightened eyes of the bar keep. He was talking to a young boy. The boy nodded and hurried off. Sent to fetch the city guard no doubt.

“There’s a bounty on Blades,” he added.

I nodded. “So I’ve heard.” I started him in the eye. “I’m no Blade,” I repeated.

He seemed to consider this a moment, then made his decision. His grin showed crooked and broken teeth. “Well, maybe you are and maybe you’re not. But looking at you, I think you’re close enough. I say we let the Guard figure it out.” He placed his right hand on the hilt of his sword. “Dead or alive, it don’t matter. I still get my five.”

I stood slowly, hands cupped, palms facing backward. I held the knife hidden in my left hand, blade up, extending along my forearm. The steel was cold on my skin. To someone in front of me I would appear to be unarmed. He stepped forward, beginning to pull his sword from its sheath.

I lunged. He didn’t get his sword out in time. I saw the surprise on his face as the blade slid into his guts. I stuck him twice more as he fell. The chest, the neck. He shrieked like a wounded horse, a shriek that rapidly turned into a gurgle as blood filled his throat.

My pulse thumped in my ears. I stood over his writhing form, panting, hand warm with blood. So quick. It didn’t seem right that a life could be taken with such ease. Back on the farm, I’d felt bad about slaughtering a pig for food. Strange how things changed. I could kill with the best of them now.

I swept my gaze over the room, seeing eyes with the shutters drawn tight. I couldn’t tell whether they approved of what I’d done or wished it were me lying on the blood-stained floor. The young, brown-haired man was almost to the door. He rushed out with a quick backward glance that left me puzzled. He’d looked pleased, almost proud. The dark-skinned man had stopped moving. I wiped my knife on his shirt before tucking it back into the scabbard.

“I’m not a Blade,” I said, feeling the need to defend myself. No one said anything. I’d killed a man. Though it had been in self-defense, I doubted if any in the inn would be willing to draw attention to themselves by defending me. I cursed myself for my overconfidence. I should have waited by the wharves and made my way out after nightfall. I had thought the turban and time would be disguise enough.

As I hurriedly grabbed my pack, I heard shouting voices: the guards. I glanced at the barkeep, but he avoided my gaze. I stalked over, pushed my way through the door and found myself in the kitchen. The old woman stared at me open-mouthed from next to the stove. Another door across from me. I opened it and looked into a narrow alley. When I stepped out, I heard a shout.

“Back here!”

I whirled to see a man at the end of the alley, dressed in a red tunic, a clenched skeletal hand embroidered in white on the front.

“Stop!”

I ran toward the other end. I heard the guard chasing. I stepped in garbage, slipped, almost fell. As I raced from the alley, I slammed into someone. We both went down. I dropped my pack. I caught a glimpse of red, a startled look on the man’s face, quickly replaced by anger. He grabbed my leg as I rolled away.

“I’ve got him!”

I kicked. My heel crunched into his face. He let go with a cry and I saw blood. As I regained my feet, the other guard hurtled from the alley, smashing into me, driving the breath from my lungs. My head slammed into the street. Sparks exploded before my vision. I tried to twist away. I couldn’t breathe.

“Ruttin’ bastard,” a voice said.

I looked up into the bloody face of the man I’d kicked. His nose was red and swollen. Blood dripped from his chin. His lips pulled back to expose his teeth as he kicked me. My ribs erupted with pain as his booted foot slammed into my side. I curled up, drawing my knees to my chest, covering my face with my hands. Again and again he kicked me. More blows hammered at my head and neck. The other guard? It was hard to think.

The blows stopped. I was grabbed roughly by my arms, jerked to my feet, body glowing with pain. It hurt to breathe. My legs wouldn’t support me, my head seemed too heavy for my neck. I was dragged into a building.

“This him?” a voice asked.

I looked up, recognizing the blurry face of the innkeeper.

“That’s the one,” he said, meaty hands nervously wringing a dirty towel.

The guards grunted and dragged me away.

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http://www.amazon.com/The-Blade-David-L-Felts-ebook/dp/B00VM938H0" rel="nofollow - Buy The Blade on Amazon Kindle
=================================




Replies:
Posted By: ghostposts
Date Posted: May-26-2015 at 11:52am
looks good.


Posted By: SFReader
Date Posted: May-26-2015 at 12:41pm
Well, it's pretty old. When I pulled it out and reworked it to get it up on Kindle, it wasn't nearly as good as I remembered it being... :)


Posted By: ghostposts
Date Posted: May-31-2015 at 2:31pm
passed this one along.    http://www.facebook.com/susie.hawes



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