Havens in the Storm

by Stephen B. Pearl

Havens in the Storm - Stephen B. Pearl
Editions:Paperback - 1: $ 12.95
ISBN: 9781775364139
Size: 8.00 x 5.00 in
Pages: 344

Left for dead behind enemy lines, prince Dominel seeks refuge in an abandoned stronghold of the slaughtered wizards. There he is recruited and trained by undead mages in the once forbidden magics so that he can close the doors into the world of man and halt the advance of the horde of monsters known as the storm.
Can the strength of a lone wizard stand against a god of evil bent on ruling all the worlds of monsters and men.
Will other races stand as friends or foes in Dominel’s quest?

Can Dominel open himself to memories of his past lives without fracturing his sanity and becoming a worse threat than the monsters he seeks to halt?

And what of the man who is prince, king and wizard? What space is left for him in a life of crushing duty and wondrous enchantment?

For the answers read on

Excerpt:

Chapter 2
Perils on the Road

 

Dominel awoke, in the mud, his head throbbing. Through an effort of will, he slowed his heart and brought his pain under control. After a time he opened his eyes then rose to his knees. The bodies of monsters and men were on all sides. A dead ogre lay beside him, with his sword protruding from its belly. He looked towards the barricade that blocked Duran Pass, it was breached. Allowing his eyes to follow the pass he saw smoke rising from where he knew his father’s castle stood.

I must have been out a long time, he thought.

Struggling to his feet, he stumbled to the ogre and pulled his sword from its flesh. Blade in hand, he staggered across the battlefield. At first, he paused to check the fallen humans he saw. Finding none alive he soon put all his efforts towards leaving the field of his defeat.

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No use in going to the castle. He shook his head and felt metal scrape against his scalp. Pulling off his helm, he stared at a hole in it the size of his palm.

“Gods!”

Dominel continued his trek, collapsing in the tall grass by the side of the road when his legs crumpled beneath him. After drinking from a ditch, he fell into a haunted sleep.

When he awoke, he ached all over.

What am I going to do? Yesterday I merely wanted to get away from the battlefield. Now what? he pondered as he lay in the grass.

‘You are the last of our line. You must regain the throne,’ his father's voice admonished him.

Against the monsters, there is no hope!

‘You must survive,’ stated Scrantian's voice.

I'm hearing things, thought Dominel.

‘Live, my lord. The Border Mountains will be safe for a time,’ spoke the voice of his betrothed.

“That's silly. They were overrun months ago,” Dominel muttered.

‘The wizards made their last stand there. That magic still lives. It will keep the monsters at bay, my love,’ whispered Amber's voice.

“It's a goal at least,” he agreed.

By rocking back and forth, he turned face down on the grass then pushing up with his arms, gained his feet.

“Damnable plate! At least you can move in chainmail. I feel like a turtle when I lie down,” he grumbled and started towards the distant mountain range.

Hours later he stopped at the ruin of a village. Hunger gnawed at him, so he decided to search the landowner's house. Shuffling through the smashed-in doorway, he saw bodies and the splintered remains of furniture.

“Another abattoir. The Storm is consistent.”

The second room he looked in was in the same condition as the first. Heat-brittled bone crunched under his feet when he stepped through the doorway. A blackened section of floor marked where a fire had burnt.

Lucky for me the front has moved west. The beasts that made camp here have probably followed the fighting.

He crossed the room to another doorway that led to what had been a kitchen.

This does not look hopeful.

‘Search, and ye will find,’ echoed Scrantian's voice.

“I'm losing my mind. Scrantian, you’re dead! Why do you keep pestering me? I couldn’t save you. Gods, I wish I could have. What does it matter? I'll search, old ghost, maybe the monsters missed something.”

‘Down, my sweet Prince,’ whispered a voice on the edge of perception.

“Amber?” Dominel spun around looking for the peasant girl who had been his real love. “Still hearing things! Amber's as dead as the rest.”

‘Feel, love. The time to feel again has come,’ urged Amber’s voice.

With this his pain surfaced. He fell to his knees sobbing. Later he looked at where his legs had disturbed the dust and saw a seam in the floor.

What? he thought.

Kneeling, he swept the dirt away until he found an iron ring. Grasping it, he pulled. A trap door opened, revealing a stairway leading into a room that was a man's height square and full of shelves.

Dominel's stomach growled as he descended the stairs, closing the trapdoor behind him.

Something jumped from the shadows. A knife clanged against his armour. Leaping from the stairs, he grasped the wrist of his attacker and slammed it against the wall. The knife fell to the floor.

Dominel stared at his foe in the dim light from the pantry's small window. She was human, a girl of maybe thirteen summers, with brown hair, which hung in greasy strands obscuring her grit-covered face. She wore rags that might have once been a gown. Her breasts barely dented the fabric, and her dirt and blood-covered legs showed below the tattered hem.

“I won't hurt you,” said Dominel.

She swung her free hand at his face. He caught her arm and held it.

“Please stop. I won't hurt you,” he repeated.

A shudder ran through her, and she collapsed against him.

“What have you been through?” he murmured. Sitting her on the floor, he investigated the room.

The shelves were stocked with cheeses, salted meats, dried fruits and herbs. To Dominel's delight, a barrel of ale sat on the floor. Noticing that the girl’s eyes were open, he spoke to her.

“Are you hungry?”

She stared at the ceiling and didn’t move.

“I won’t hurt you.”

She remained motionless.

Dominel moved to her side and took her hand. “Please, speak to me,” he said then released his grip. The hand stayed suspended as if he still held it.

“Odd?” he whispered and lifted the girl’s leg. Releasing the limb, he watched the girl hold it in position.

“Strange!” He muttered and posed her in what looked like a comfortable position.

After eating he removed his armour and fell asleep.

Guttural voices arguing in a strange tongue woke him. The girl, on the other side of the room, sat still and silent. He drew his sword and waited by the stairs.

If they want me, they'll have to pay for me, he thought. After a time the voices grew dim as the intruders carried their argument away from the ruined house.

Moving to the girl's side, he whispered, “Are you all right?”

She stared straight ahead, as if he wasn't there.

“I'm Dominel, Prince of Bani. Who are you?”

The girl made no response. Dominel backed away and stared at her.

“Hungry?” he asked.

Still no response.

“Well, I am.” He took a bite from a cheese. Returning to the girl, he pressed a piece of cheese into her hand.

“You have to eat!”

She remained silent.

Dominel forced some cheese against her lips. She opened her mouth and accepted it without losing her blank expression. After she swallowed, he guided the cheese in her hand to her mouth, and she began to feed herself.

“That's better.”

Later that day Dominel finished searching the landowner's house. He found little of value, although in one room there was an iron mirror leaning against the wall. He stared at his reflection. His armour was caked with mud, while his blond hair fell about his shoulders in greasy strands. One side of his head was covered with dried blood and scabs. His angular face was filth-streaked and bore several half-healed scratches, while his pale-blue eyes looked haunted.. He mentally shook himself and returned to the safety of the cellar.

“They've fouled the well,” he told his silent companion.

The next day he searched the peasant huts, finding a pair of scissors. That evening he and the girl lost all but the scantiest caps of hair.

“That will keep it out of our eyes.”

The girl stared straight ahead and didn't reply.

A week passed with little change. Dominel sharpened his sword, cared for them both and waited until the dwindling food supplies convinced him to move on. Fashioning packs from sacks that had held dried herbs, he stuffed them with the remaining food. After donning his armour, he strapped a pack to the girl's back and shouldered his own. Taking the girl's hand, he led her up the stairs. She followed but showed no sign of life beyond that. After listening at the door, he pushed it open.

Once outside they followed the road towards the mountains until they could walk no further then took refuge in the remains of a barn. Dominel found a well of good water and saw to it they both drank their fill before they settled in a heap of straw for the night. Despite his exhaustion, sleep evaded him, so he was awake to hear the girl, who lay beside him, crying out. “No! No! Please no!”

He rose onto his elbow and stared at her.

“No!” she whispered then sobs shook her. “Father,” she cried then “No! No! No, please!”

Grasping her shoulders, Dominel shook her. She snapped awake.

“It was a dream. We have to be quiet,” he said.

She didn't move.

The next day they walked for hours before coming to a place where a stream split the road. The sound of the water as it splashed and gurgled over the rocks added a spark of life to the dead land that seemed to follow the Storm.

“We'll stop here to eat,” said Dominel.

He was refilling the packs when harsh voices split the air.

“Gods!” he swore, glancing around in search of a hiding place. The grass by the stream was trampled, and there were no trees or large rocks nearby. Muttering a curse, he reached for his sword.

Two mutties appeared on the road and seeing the humans leapt down the slope, swords clasped in their childlike hands. Dominel pushed the girl towards the stream. She took two steps and stopped with the water lapping about her ankles.

“Demon spit,” he cursed.

The monsters separated, flanking him.

“Come on, you filthy mutts, stand together,” Dominel turned to face first one enemy then the other.

Yipping, the creatures circled him, like dogs worrying a bear. Dominel lunged towards one of the beasts. The other jumped him, clutching his neck while trying to thrust its sword into the gap in his armour where gorget met breastplate. Dominel slammed the pommel of his sword into the small beast's arm and was gratified to hear bone crunch. The monster howled in pain before dropping to the ground.

The second beast lunged. Dominel thrust his blade through its throat. Grunting with the effort, he dragged the impaled carcass around and threw it onto its companion. The mutties fell, in a tangle of arms and legs, and before they could recover Dominel finished his bloody work.

“Pity it's not always so easy,” he mumbled, wiping his blade. “Sometimes it seems as if for every one you kill ten arrive.”

The days passed, and the food dwindled, but little else seemed to change. A week after leaving the cellar they drew near the mouth of one of the lesser passes into the Border Mountains.

“Something is wrong. I can feel it.” Dominel pulled the girl to a halt and examined the road.

“I should have seen it before. Those ruts, heavy carts have passed this way. Had to be monsters.” He turned to the girl. “What do you think? Not much. That's just what I expected.” Hiding the girl behind a bramble, he crept to the top of a rise that overlooked the road ahead.

His heart quailed at the sight of a company of monsters camped in the entrance to the mountain pass.

The mountains must be safe. Otherwise, why place them under siege. I’ll--. A rough hand closed about the back of Dominel’s neck, and his body was jerked into the air. He experienced a moment of blind terror before he was turned to face the horrid visage of a hill troll. Stinking, carnal breath issued from the troll's maw, which was full of razor-sharp teeth. The beast's nose resembled a pig's snout, and above it were two blood-red eyes. Its skin was the colour of a rotting corpse.

“Yum yum!” exclaimed the troll.

Dominel's mind filled with panic. All the troll had to do was close its hand, and his neck would be crushed, despite his gorget.

“You be Grim, yum yum, lunch, yes, yum yum,” remarked the troll.

Can't get my sword out in time, but maybe? thought Dominel.

“Maybe yes, maybe no,” he said.

“Huh?” asked the troll, a puzzled expression falling over its face.

“You Grim's, yum yum, lunch,” it added after some thought.

“Grim want, yum yum, lunch?”

The troll thought hard, obviously taken aback.

“Yes, Grim want lunch.”

“Grim want gold?”

Grim stared at Dominel before replying.

“Grim want gold, Grim have, yum yum!” The troll smiled as if he had succeeded in some incredible mental task. “Grim, eat now, yum yum,” stated the troll. It grabbed Dominel's arm with its free hand and prepared to pull it off.

“WAIT!”

The troll stared at him in a quandary.

Do it right, Dominel thought. “You can have gold and, yum yum, lunch.”

“Grim like gold.”

“Well you see, once you've eaten me, I won't need the gold I have hidden in the mountains. So I want to give it to you as a gift.”

“Gift? Why you give Grim gift?”

“Because you're such a handsome fellow and since you're going to marry my sister, you must have a dowry.”

“Marry sister?” the troll’s face was a mask of confusion.

“Of course. She's waiting for you below the hill. We can go get her now.”

“Sister not gold,” said the troll, now utterly slack-jawed.

“First we must get my sister, so she can help carry the gold to you. Since you can't go into the mountains.”

“Sister bring gold. Me bring sister!”

“Good! Good! She's just over there,” said Dominel, pointing to where the girl was hidden.

Grim was there in a few strides and picked up the girl in his free hand.

“How come she no move?”

“Well... umm... You see my dear fellow, it's, well... Um... It's because she's overcome with joy to meet you. We had better hurry. The sooner you get the gold, the sooner you can eat me.”

“Yum yum,” replied Grim.

“Oh, dear me. How are we going to get by your friends in front of the pass? I guess you'll have to share your gold and lunch with them.”

“No share lunch. Me, Grim, smart. Me get you through.” Grim strode away, a human dangling from each hand. “Me, Grim, have bag, use carry things. You fit good Grim's bag. You gold fit good Grim's bag,” explained the troll.

Dominel soon found himself set roughly onto his feet, with the girl beside him. Grim stared at them with a puzzled expression.

“You sure you bring, Grim, gold, yum yum?”

“Of course I will, Grim. You'll need the gold to care for my sister, now won't you?”

“Grim think gold in mountains. Grim like, yum yum. When Grim eat, yum yum, Grim start with head so, yum yum, don't hurt.” Grim pulled a large, canvas sack out from under a bramble and held it open. “Grim say get in sack.”

“Thank you, Grim, you're very kind.” Dominel led the girl into the sack. Grim's large hand closed the top of the bag, and Dominel felt himself hoisted onto the troll's shoulder.

I can't see anything and the stench! I mustn't vomit, thought Dominel as he was jostled by the troll's swaying gait. The sound of harsh voices speaking in strange tongues surrounded him. At one point he felt pawing hands examine the sack as it swayed on Grim's back. Half-panicked, he elbowed Grim through the fabric. He felt the troll turn and heard a growl. There was an answering phrase then Grim turned and continued walking.

When Dominel thought he could stand it no longer, the top of the sack opened. Grim looked in.

“Me, Grim, smart! Me bring you other side of camp. Now you get gold, yum yum.”

“Of course,” replied Dominel. Rising, he filled his lungs with clean air. Grasping the girl's hand, he dragged her to her feet.

“It's only a little way up the trail, would you like to come?”

“No! No. Grim go no farther. Magic strong, make Grim old.”

“Oh well. We'll be back soon,” said Dominel. Taking the girl's hand, he led her into the mountains. Grim watched them climb the pass.

“Thank you, Nanny Franks, for telling me all those fairy stories. The nightmares were worth it! And thank the gods that trolls are dumb!” said Dominel, once they were well away from the troll.

“Yum yum, come back. Me no want gold,” called Grim, just before he fell out of sight behind a bend in the trail.

“You wait there. I'll be back when I have your gold,” yelled Dominel. Then he added to himself, “and pigs fly over a blue moon!”

COLLAPSE

About the Author

Stephen B. Pearl is a multiple published author whose works range across the speculative fiction field. His writings often incorporate real places and focus heavily on the logical consequences of the worlds he crafts. He follows advancements in science because good science fiction is based on good science. His life-long association with cats has given him insights into the species.

Stephen’s Inspirations encompass H.G. Wells, J.R. Tolkien, Frank Herbert, Jim Butcher, Anne McCaffrey, Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, and Homer among others. He strongly believes that good fiction is based on good fact, so he can often be found researching elements of his next book. He also holds that to write one must read and that there is greatness in all forms of literature. One could say he pursues the great-- then to the best of his abilities tries to distil it down and express it as his own original work.
Stephen currently resides in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada and can be reached through his website: www.stephenpearl.com or e-mail: stephenwriter@rogers.com


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