I’ve mentioned it before on the blog, but I’m working on the follow up to Two Destroyers. However, following the tenets of any successful book, I am writing it as a stand alone project. Sure, the events of Kingless Country follow Two Destroyers, but I feel a reader should be able to read either book without relying on foreknowledge.
In fact, I think it is a curious phenomenon when a book has a different feel depending on what order you read the books. As such, I’d like to share the prologue of Kingless Country with my blog audience.
Currently I’ve written about 25 chapters of the planned 45.
Memory Zero — Dimanagul
Derrek Graymer strode through the forest, head held high with a hand draped on the hilt of his red steel blade. A small escort of bandits led them to face their filthy faced compatriots. They who eyed their arrival at the front gate. He forced back the hesitation in his heart behind a calm expression.
Zammela, the self-proclaimed Magician Extraordinaire, walked at his side. She hid her fatigue well, standing straight, and her chin lifted with pride. At barely five feet tall, a head shorter than Derrek and many of the bandits, she stood out in other ways. Her powder blue mage robes and immaculate carrot-colored hair made her impossible to miss among the drab garb of their escort. The bandits leered at her, but Derrek assumed their impure thoughts surrounded her robe’s value in gold.
At his other side, the desert-dweller Shay Maah towered over the band. She hid no worries or fatigue. A simple animal-skin vest stretched across her breasts, an alluring contrast to her muscular arms and torso. Her warhammer rested on her back, bound by a thick leather shoulder strap, matching every bit of her natural ferocity. Short pants cuffed at the middle of her thighs, hinted at the sculpted tone of her legs but steel boots covered her from knee to heel. While Derrek shared her skin color, the smooth brown skin of the Dendargian people and black hair cut into small curls, he could not claim to be her kin.
His armor was a piecemeal cuirass made of leather and chain, similar to their escort’s brand of protection. She, like him, had been a stranger in the land of Geldbane— but he had been a stranger to the world of Pange itself.
They paused before the camp’s entrance and the head of their escort traded words with a raven haired young man with a broken nose. The blood on the bandage told Derrek it had been freshly given.
Zammela glanced over at Derrek, nodding. Naida.
Shay Maah let out an annoyed sigh. “This is a waste of time. These men are poorly trained. Let’s crush them and be on our way.”
The men around her backed away slowly, but made no move to reach for their weapons.
Derrek ignored her, instead turning his attention to a stone statue at the edge of the camp. It represented the Goddess of Luck, presented in the form of a life sized effigy of a beautiful woman, dressed in light robes. He approached, noting the shrine had been well cared for, scrubbed clean of dirt better than any of the camp’s inhabitants. He clapped a hand on her stone shoulder as one would greet an old friend.
“So you’re religious now?” Zammela said, smiling.
“A little luck never hurt anyone.”
“You can enter,” the raven haired boy said. “The King will see you now,”
Shay Maah snorted her disapproval.
“Derrek and I will do the talking.” Zammela waved a scolding finger before Shay. “There will be no blood shed. Understood?”
Shay Maah deepened her scowl, but nodded. “You mean I will shed blood second, but I will humor your request.”
The raven haired boy lead the way, pausing to speak into a nearby tent. “King Beapou, we have guests, two Dendargians and a noblewoman from Geldmoore.”
A man shuffled from the tent, larger than any Derrek had ever laid eyes on. The Bandit King stood no less than nine feet tall and appeared just as wide. His arms were thick with muscle, big around as tree trunks. A heavy layer of fat cloaked his torso, highlighted by his barrel-shaped belly bubbling out of a brown vest. The garment did little to cover the modesty of his massive breasts. If not for dusty stubble framing his mouth, a stark contrast to his bald head, one could mistake him for a particularly ugly woman. Un-dyed wool pants covered his stubby legs. Despite their thickness, they looked too flimsy to hold up his immense girth. His lazy brown eyes settled on Zammela, and scratched his belly over drawing the steel axe dangling from his belt on one side nor the length of chain at the other.
Beapou came from the tent, followed close by a priest of the Goddess, one Derrek knew as Tartagin Tolten. He was a tall, thin man a few years older than any of them with pale blonde hair worn in tidy ponytail just long enough to brush against the shoulders of his gray robes trimmed with silver. The priest stole a glance over his wire rimmed glasses at Derrek and nodded in the direction of a massive cage. Inside, Naida Holderin fixed her gaze at him, unharmed and angry as a hornet.
She tightened her fists around the bars of her cage, straining the muscle in her bare arms. Plates of metal hid her broad shoulders, but did nothing to color her as a brute. Derrek had seen his protector fight and win; she was lithe and dangerous as a cat. He saw a brief glimpse of relief on her round and attractive face but her intense gray eyes scolded him for his foolishness for coming for her.
Beapou let out a massive belch and scratched his stomach, settling amidst the clearing at the center of his camp, and ripped Derrek’s concentration towards him. The Bandit King blinked slowly and deliberately. One eye shut before the other, sending a jiggling wave across his obese brow.
“What?” Beapou said, raising a finger to dig through a nostril.
The raven haired subordinate gestured to them. Derrek stepped closer, stealing a glance at Naida. She still has her weapons?
“Your majesty,” Zammela said, stooping her head.
Beapou answered with a derisive snort. A blob of snot erupted from his vacant nostril and splattered on the ground at her feet.
Zammela paused at his insolence and cleared her throat. “It has been brought to my
attention that you have captured one of my fellows. I humbly request her
“No,” Beapou said.
“Excuse me?” Zammela said. “I have come prepared to compensate you for—”
“No. Kitty is Beapou’s now.” He drummed a hand against his belly.
“You are graced with the presence of Lady Zammela Glemeis,” Tartagin said, smiling. “She is the daughter of a Baron, and may have something to offer his grace.”
The giant grunted. “Beapou King. Better than Baron. King want kitty.”
Zammela glanced over to Derrek. “I understand but—”
“We’re not asking. We’re telling,” Derrek said, stepping forward and steeled his courage. “Naida is tasked to protect Lady Glemeis. She doesn’t have time to
rot in a cage.”
Derrek stood straighter, hand resting on the hilt of his red-steel blade.
Beapou plucked his finger from his nose, leaning in for a closer look.
Derrek smirked. “Is the fat in your head blocking your ears? We can carve some out if it is a problem.”
“What are you doing?” Naida said, tightening her hands around her bars. “He’ll smash you into the ground.”
“He can try. Everyone knows that the Dimanagul is invulnerable. That’s without my pride as a Dendargian.”
Beapou raised a brow. “What is Dimagoo?”
“Surely you jest,” Zammela said. “It’s a monster without magic. Completely impervious to all forms of damage.”
Beapou scratched his head. “Impoo—”
“Impervious? Surely you as a King understand—”
“It means he can’t be hurt,” Tartagin said, clearing his throat.
“You lie. All things squish for Beapou.”
“I can prove it.” Zammela held her hand out, conjuring a white-hot ball of flame. “Both of you touch this, if you dare.”
Beapou plodded closer, stuck a finger in the flame and waited. The smell of burning flesh filled the air. Zammela flinched against the stink. He blinked, oblivious to the pain until one of his men walked over and urged him away. He caught the hint, pulling his hand back, and investigated the damage.
Derrek approached, pulling up his sleeve and thrust his hand in the fire without hesitation. The flames did not burn him.
Beapou eyed his finger, rubbing a thumb across the scorched flesh, and took in Derrek’s show of power.
Derrek kept his hand in the flames, swallowing back his fear.
Not of the fire, but of the giant before him. Please, work. “Now that we have your attention, we want Naida back.”
The Bandit King scratched his belly, considering.
“To be fair.” Derrek pulled his hand away and approached. “You have been played a fool, but not by Naida. By Lew Luster. Are you a fool?”
Beapou nodded, paused to consider, then shook his head.
“We will remember this cooperation,” Zammela said, “because we are working to save Pange itself. Geldbane is without a leader, but if you aid us, you will be the savior king.”
“Hmm, Beapou is King.” The giant shuffled over to the cage containing Naida and she drew her swords in response, fleeing to the far corner of the cage. He stooped over and lifted the bottomless cage with ease. Naida eyed the giant with caution and slipped under. She hurried over to Derrek, giving him a small nod. She stole uneasy glances at Shay Maah. That’s going to be one hell of an explanation.
Beapou released the cage, letting it crash back to the soil. He plodded back over to Derrek and stared him down.
“You’ve made a good choice.” Derrek sighed in relief. “So—”
Beapou reached down to his belt, pulling his axe free and pain exploded into Derrek’s shoulder. Naida pulled her swords free and shouts rose around them filling the air with frenzied shouts. Blood blinded Derrek on the right side of his face, and Beapou stared down at him frowning. “You not Impoo.”
Naida let out a shriek of rage, pouncing at Beapou in blind fury. His free hand grabbed the chain at his hip and stretched it to protect himself, catching her crushing dual bladed strike.
Beapou wrenched the axe free, leaving Derrek to stumble backwards as, sending a spray of gore into the air. Zammela wrapped her arms around his falling body. Her face went pale, frozen in shock and grief. “It wasn’t supposed to—”
With Derrek clear, Naida focused, channeling both her gift of fire and water into her blades. A gout of furious steam poured forth. She twisted her swords against Beapou’s chain parry and drove her blades around to strike at Beapou’s other side. His axe handle splintered under the impact and the strike dug into his stomach. Gouts of blood poured from the wound but Beapou looked nonplussed. He tossed aside his useless axe handle, yanked his chain free from his belt and twisted it to collar Naida. She dodged narrowly, left no choice but to abandon one of her blades.
The Bandits watched in stunned silence. Beapou yanked the remaining sword free and tossed it aside like a splinter. He stooped over, grabbed a handful of mud and slapped it onto the wound. The filth mixed with the running blood and froze. Even a simple giant like him can use magic. The gift of Water and Earth.
“Just a scratch. Bad Kitty.” Beapou said, smiling.
Naida offered a wary glance to Derrek. No mud would save his wound, his immunity to magic went both ways.
Shay Maah let out an annoyed sigh, reached over and pulled the red steel blade free from Derrek’s sheathe. “What’s your next move? Bandit King?”
“Stay out of this,” Naida said. “I—”
“Can protect him? You have already failed.” Shay Maah said, readying the blade to fight by her side. “Now there is only justice. Your penance comes from revenge.”
Naida and Shay pushed forward, taking the fight to the Bandit King.
Derrek’s eyes grew heavy, the loss of blood took its toll.
“Stay with me. You can get through this,” Zammela said. The look on her face eclipsed the pain shooting through his body, and scared him worse than the icy numbness spreading through him. He focused on her dark green eyes, reminding himself that every second of survival counted. Her carrot ringlets had his blood on them, framing her pretty features. Crimson life blood seeped onto her blue robes, to which she paid no mind.
“S-sorry,” Derrek said, sputtering. Four times. This be the fourth time I’ve failed to stay alive. I guess I should dodge the axe next time.
Zammela gaped at him, stunned by his audacity, and pulled him into a gentle embrace. “Why are you apologizing? This is my fault. You need to focus on getting through this. Stay with me Derrek. I need you to set things right.”
Derrek forced a smile. “It’ll be fine. I’ll do better… next…”
His voice left him. All he could do was watch and remember. Every death time had to count, because he didn’t know which would be his last. He endured as long as he could, focusing on Zammela’s fading calls to come back. He would come back. He could at least fulfill that promise.
He could see nothing through the veil of blood. The clashing of steel sounded so far away. Zammela’s warmth turned cool and empty, but nothing more icy than a drop of moisture on his cheek. Zammela weeps? For me?
He wished he never had to leave in the first place.