Author : Scott Dennisen
Format: Kindle e-book
Links to buy: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B004SYA75W
Tell us the story behind the story. What inspired you to write this novel?
I’ve always wanted to be a writer, but of course, I’m sure you’ve never heard that before! I’ve always enjoyed reading fantasy novels, so it seemed only natural that my first effort should be in that genre!
I first got the idea to write this story many, many years ago. I went through the traditional publishing routine and actually had an editor offer to read the entire manuscript. They ended up requesting sever changes, so the manuscript underwent a major rewrite. After sending it out again, it ended up catching the eye of two different editors, but ultimately they wanted even more changes made to the book.
The thought of having to do another major rewrite was just too much at the time, so it got shelved and forgotten about. Now, however, with the ease of self-publishing, I decided to dust it off and make a few modifications, and now here we are!
Tell us about the book cover.
The book cover represents an important scene in the early part of the book. It indirectly leads to the introduction of an important character in the story. It is my hope that potential readers will see it and wonder why this shield was left there, and where do the footsteps lead? Perhaps it will make them curious enough to want to read the book to find out!
How does it represent your book?
The shield is only worn by the most powerful leaders in the army of the Raven, so when a roaming hunting party comes across it abandoned in the snow, it serves as an indicator that something very bad must have happened for him to have left it there.
How did you choose the artwork?
I contacted a graphic artist named Glendon Haddix about doing the cover for me. I had originally envisioned a more simple cover with the shield alone against a dark background. After reading the first chapter of the book, Glendon sent me this rough draft representing that scene, and I was immediately drawn in by it. He also sent me a sample based on my original idea, and I was so impressed with it that I decided to buy both of them!
He crept toward the small fire, visible ten yards distant through the trees, attempting stealth. The biting winds of the winter night pierced the furs he wore both above and below his weathered mail, driving the light snow into his face as it had for many hours now. Frost clung to his beard and he had to look to reassure himself that he still clasped the battle axe in his frozen hand. His joints ached from hours of exposure to the oppressive cold, but he paid little heed to the increasing discomfort. His purpose burned in his mind as brightly as the fire before him.
Forcing his numb limbs to carry him through the snow was difficult. The longbow on his back snagged in the heavy brush as he stumbled to the edge of the small clearing, fifteen feet from the fire. He silently prayed that the harsh wind had concealed the clamor of his unsteady progress.
He gazed into the clearing, cold fear welling up in his soul at the sight he had known he would behold. Burrowed beneath heavy furs at the fire side were the three men he had tracked for almost four days, their tethered mounts shivering at the opposite end of the clearing. Thirty feet to the right was the barely perceptible shadow, a wavering veil of dark mist. Suspended in the air, it was untouched by the flickering fire light that danced across the rest of the scene.
It was here. The dark mist was its link to this world, anchoring it to this location as it waited in another plane. He seemed unable to focus his eyes upon the shadow as it shimmered before his confused vision. It appeared to be a patch of nothingness in the real world, an undefined rift in reality. Its very presence was an impossibility, and yet here it was. Instinctively he knew that this was what he sought.
He had overcome fear many times before, as was suggested by the scars that crisscrossed his face beneath the iron helm, but he had never felt its hand so heavily upon him. The possibility of death in battle had never disturbed him, and had possibly even appealed to him, but the demon in the mist had the power to destroy more than his body. The sight of the unnatural sheath of darkness sparked revulsion and fascination. Although it was somehow nauseating, the thing had successfully captured his imagination in its unyielding grip.
The brisk night air was suddenly permeated by the stench of a decaying battlefield as he pondered the unholy shadow. The sound of the wind moaning through the pines seemed to form words, ethereal voices, beckoning his soul to the damnation of the mist. The world about him melted away and soon all his senses focused on the empty haze before him, his perception of time and awareness of self subtly distorted. He began to realize the futility of his hopeless quest, the idiocy of opposing this awesome, terrible power. Best to cast down his weapon and surrender his life to the great will in the mist, just as the entire race of man must ultimately do.
He tore his attention from the abomination. The sight of it had toyed with the very fabric of his reason. He was bitterly cold and feared he had stood there for a very long time. He had almost failed before the battle had even begun, but something had wrested his mind from the mesmerizing force before he could betray his purpose. He knew it to be the talisman that now burned warmly against his breast beneath his furs.
He put his hand to the stone dagger to reassure himself. At casual glance, the weapon was unremarkable. The gray stone blade was rough and unrefined, attached to a leather wrapped hilt studded with brass. Its warmth increased at the touch of his hand as if in answer to his growing doubts. The elder of the Khand had trusted its power to him, and he alone now bore the right to wield it. Within it slumbered a portion of the same power that existed within the original stone from which it was carved, a thought which made him glow with pride. But still, even as it burned against his flesh, the horror before him seemed to loom ever larger and the warmth was pervaded with icy fingers.
Again his attention seemed drawn into the shadow and he violently jerked his gaze away from it, unslinging his bow in the same motion. His most promising hope lay in eliminating one, or if lucky, two of the men around the fire with the longbow, then relying on his axe to finish the conflict at even odds. He rested the axe against a tree, notched an arrow, and chose the sleeper with the most throat exposed. He let loose the shaft to find its way into the hollow beneath the Adams apple, drawing a stifled grunt from the stricken man, immediately carried away by the wash of the relentless wind. Neither of his companions woke and the fearful shadow exhibited no outward change.
Surely the gods were with him. He drew another shaft and examined his remaining two targets. This would be more difficult, his prey both buried deeper beneath their furs than the first. One lay on his side, his back to the archer, his head completely covered by the heavy hides. The other lay on the far side of the first, his face to the archer but partially covered by the furs. An arrowhead could be buried in his forehead, but surely a cry would escape his lips before he died. There was no way for him to avoid it.
Even his numb hands could not impede the accuracy he had acquired as a child. The second missile drove into the skull of its victim, evoking a single cry of pain and shock. His remaining companion awoke with the honed reflexes of the warrior, leaping to his feet and shedding the furs, revealing the ugly horned helm he had worn even to sleep. The notched broadsword was already poised in his hands, the red jewel of his position gleaming brightly in the clawed pommel.
Damn the luck! He had killed two of the three with his bow only to find that the remaining was a Warmaster. As soon as he had loosed the second shaft, he had discarded the bow and picked up the axe. He charged into the clearing to engage the Warmaster, hoping to end the conflict before the demon in the mist awoke. The Warmaster had dropped the visor on his helm, leaving only portions of his mouth showing, leering above a necklace of human teeth. He wore black plate armor, and on his shield was painted the purple raven that adorned all of Dorgaiin’s lieutenants.
In moments the axeman was on him, bearing down with the twenty pound axe head in a sweeping arc across his body. The Warmaster’s sword was of the finest tempered steel forged in the bowels of NorAmen, and in his hand it could parry the blow without risking the blade. Instead he chose to sidestep the axeman’s lunge. Turning in a blurring circle, he hammered the edge of the broadsword into the shoulder blade of his adversary with a vicious backhand slash. In a shower of sundered mail links and blood, the axeman was thrown to the ground.
He lay there for a few seconds in shock and pain, not understanding what delayed the down stroke that would end his quest and his life. He managed to roll over on his back in the crimson streaked slush. The Warmaster towered above him, glaring down and brandishing the blood-smeared weapon that had brought him down so quickly. Gods! No one could move that fast!
“So, you would assault soldiers of NorAmen, eh?” The man’s speech was surprisingly articulate. “What should I do with one such as you? Steal your manhood perhaps?” His hand brushed the dagger at his belt playfully, and the afflicted man’s eyes widened. This amused the Warmaster greatly. “No, no, that wouldn’t do,” he said mirthfully, “we must administer punishment to fit the crime.” His face hardened, and his voice dropped to a dangerous level as he glanced towards the wavering shadow. “Perhaps he can think of something appropriate. You have forced me to wake him prematurely. Let him pass his own judgment upon you.” The Warmaster turned and strode to within ten feet of the shadow, sword and shield raised to it.
The axeman cleared his head and reached for the stone dagger concealed beneath his furs with his left hand, his right arm hanging limp and useless. Lying flat on his back, he raised the stone blade heavenward and recited the short spell he had been taught. The Warmaster ignored him, his back turned and his voice rising and falling in the chant that would summon the being in the mist. The warmth of the upraised dagger again increased, rapidly this time. It attained an intense heat, emitting a dull blue glow contrasting with that of the fire. In moments the blade and his hand were enveloped in the ghostly blue flame, but he was not burned. The flame built in intensity and then leaped from the blade to cross the clearing in a white hot flash, smashing into the back of the unwary Warmaster. His gigantic frame crumpled to the ground, no cry to mark his passing. Steam rose densely from his back, now a mass of twisted metal and seared flesh.
The wounded man climbed to his feet with great difficulty, the dagger in his hand pulsating very weakly now. He regretted having to squander so much of its power so quickly, but hoped that it still held enough to accomplish his task. Thirty feet before him waited the shadow, still outwardly unchanged, a fact that he found very surprising. Surely the power unleashed from the blade had alerted the beast within. He crept closer, not daring to hope, averting his eyes from the thing when possible.
“I sense you, wicked child.’ At twenty feet he was halted by the demonic, raspy voice that quietly addressed him from the mist in an unnerving whisper. “I am aware. I have watched you. I know that which you bear.”
The voice almost paralyzed him with fear and revulsion. It was so eerily quiet, but clearly audible even above the moaning of the wind. “You have followed for three days on your foolish mission, to bury the shard in my heart. Now you are here, child, what will you do?”
He had trouble thinking above the contemptuous, serpent-like whisper as it penetrated his brain and flooded him with a feeling akin to panic. The beast had known all along, but it had still allowed him to steal into the camp and slay the keepers. It apparently did not regard the blade as an object of fear, and that thought caused its bearer to quail beneath sinking hopes.
Again, as if in answer to his doubts, the blade increased its heat and began to glow more brightly. The warmth traveled up his arm and seemed to dispel much of the sickening influence affected by the horrible voice. The pain that sapped his strength seemed far away. Without consciously making the decision, he heaved the stone knife towards the shadow with all the ebbing might in his left arm. The blade shot across the clearing, not tumbling end over end, but straight. Its tip bore down on the exact middle of the mist, moving with the speed of a crossbow bolt, a velocity that could not be attributed to the weakened man who followed its path with awe filled eyes.
A foot from the shadow, the blade splintered in a flash of scarlet fire, as if struck in midair by an unseen parry. The fragmented stone fell to the ground to steam in the snow beside the battered handle.
The harsh, deadly whisper issued forth from the mist once again, unmoved by what had just happened. “I have destroyed it, manthing, just as my lord will destroy the wretched stone from which it was carved. I am Gaereth, and in this world I serve Dorgaiin, and none other. Know my name, behold me, and fear me.” The voice fell silent and for a while the battered axeman heard nothing, save the constant droning of the wind and his own labored breathing. Abruptly the campfire went out, plunging the clearing into total darkness.
The wounded man had slumped to his knees, weakened by the loss of blood, unable to do anything but watch and wait. Ahead in the darkness he could still detect the shrouding mist, a darker patch against the black of night.
Again the fear assailed him, and this time there was no aid in defending against it. His thoughts began to race as wildly as his weakened pulse, and a horrible sense of expectation settled upon him. He instinctively knew that the thing was about to emerge, and he was to face it weaponless and alone.
Flickers of light began erupting in the depths of the shadow, lightning streaks that lashed out from an untold distance, and he found himself gazing into the other world. Silhouetted against the wildly fluctuating glow of the lightning, he could make out a form moving to the fore from far, far away, but the distance diminished at a fearsome rate. Tongues of flame began to dance around the mouth of the orifice, which was becoming better defined with every passing moment. A warm burst of wind touched his face, bearing an acrid stench. Through the gateway he could see stars in a distant sky, beneath the starless night of his own world. The flames rose and fell spasmodically, and through them ran the human figure, cloak billowing about him. Two lupine forms accompanied him at either side and flashing teeth and eyes reached out from the darkness.
The axeman watched in horrific fascination, wanting so badly to drag himself from the clearing but unable to do so, paralyzed with a fearful dread he had never before encountered. A moment later the being called Gaereth emerged and stood before him.
“Gaereth walks in the world of man once more.” The demonic voice was the same, but now it was tinged with excitement. The nightmarish being stood well above the height of a man, crowned by a helm of inverted horns that shielded most of his dread visage from view. Even so, from deep within shone forth volcanic glimmers of red in harshly slanted sockets. His body was clad in the same deathly black plate armor of the Warmaster, studded and bound with leather. One difference was that the purple raven adorned his breastplate, for the shield that hung on his left arm was plain black, broken only with silver studs. A huge mace he held in his right hand, too enormous for any man to wield. At his side, the man-high wolves slobbered and danced, eyes intent on the frail creature before them.
“You have seen what no man should see,” rasped the demon. “You are the first to behold me in this form. Now you will taste the mace of Gaereth, and Fonren and Freatha will feast on the carrion of your soul.”
The man beheld all this in dismayed disbelief, his mind almost unable to function. He saw the mace rise, and through the panic, remembrance shone through. More than your life is at stake. The word slipped past his lips even as the mace began its downward flight. It crushed his body with fearsome force, white sparks erupting on impact. The wolves tore into his remains with frightening avarice, shredding the links as well as his bones and flesh. After moments of hideously mutilating the corpse, they hesitated, somewhat confused. They sniffed the wind and pawed at the crimson earth, searching. His soul was gone, freed to a clean death by the spell the Khand had given him.
The wolves were confused, but understanding settled upon their demon master. Above the fierce winter wind, his keening wail rose into the night.
Where can readers find out more about you and your work?
Scott Dennisen is a pen name for Steven. R. Drennon. I chose to use a pen name because I am in the process of writing a number of books in different genres, and I didn’t want to confuse my readers. I am expecting to publish two works of historical fiction within the next 90 days, and those will be published under my real name. Then I will be releasing a mystery/suspense novel under a different pen name, and later this year another fantasy novel will be published under the name of Scott Dennisen. You can learn more about me at the following web sites: