Sunday, February 12, 2012

Prelude & Prologue to Covenant of the Faceless Knights

Since I have released Distant Familiarity this month, (and in two weeks, will be releasing A Rose in Bloom, Book 2 of Wothlondia Rising) I have decided to post the entire Prologue to Covenant of the Faceless Knights here for folks that are interested. Distant Familiarity covers the events that happen just prior to the Prologue of CotFK, which sets the stage for the first novel and everything that follows. I have also included the Prelude which briefly describes the setting of the entire Realm of Ashenclaw for you!

So, I hope that after reading this, it will entice you to spend the 99 cents to see what happened to these aged heroes to put them on this path! Enjoy and have a great Sample Sunday and rest of the week!



            Many years ago, on the world known as Krotto, there was inter-racial peace among its many inhabitants. Wothlondia was the only continent on Krotto thought to have intelligent life and was home to all manner of beast and humanoid. This included four known species of dragon, which scholars referred to as storm, venomous, frigid and scorching drakes, respectively. These magnificent creatures kept to themselves for the most part and were rarely seen.
For many decades there was peace on Wothlondia, until a large contingent of scorching drakes emerged to lay waste to its inhabitants. The swarm was led by the largest fire-breathing dragon ever recorded in history.
This particular drake was given the name Ashenclaw, five times the size of any other dragon, and ten times as deadly. The dragons began burning and engulfing the nation in flames until it was all but incinerated. Ashenclaw was eventually discovered to be the queen of the scorching drakes just before she and her kin reduced the civilized world to smoldering embers.
Then suddenly, without warning, the dragons disappeared….
Once the attacks ceased, the survivors began to rebuild. There was a new age set forth upon Wothlondia, led by the humans, elves and dwarves, who are now referred to as the Races of Order. They put aside their past differences and began rebuilding their lands together, rekindling a once peaceful existence. They spent the following years working on re-opening the once-familiar trade routes and encouraging lines of communication, hoping beyond hope that the dragons would never return.
There have been sixty-six years of peace since the last dragon was sighted and the leaders of the new era decided to name the calendar year after this epoch, Post Ashenclaw.
A few major cities have returned to their former glory, while many others remain in various states of transition; many more still lay in ruin.
 Hope springs eternal and the outlook of the lands had never looked better, that is, until the orcs and goblins uncharacteristically and aggressively emerged to threaten that very hope.
This is where our story begins, in the year 66 PA….   



            The heavy oak door to the council chamber creaked open, swinging wide as three battered and bruised forms entered the room. They each sat heavily in one of the many plush chairs surrounding a conference table at the center of the room.
"Me thinks that could have gone better," Rolin Hardbeard sighed, wiping a contrasting bit of dried blood from his full and white beard. Even for a dwarf who was obviously past his prime adventuring years, Rolin was a ruggedly built warrior, but this hour had him looking haggard and tired. His age was evident, as was his broken spirit.
"You have a talent for stating the obvious my dwarven friend," slurred a beautiful half-elven woman with hair the color of polished silver through what was quite possibly a broken jaw. Rolin managed a brief laugh as he removed his heavy, steel helmet and ran his fingers through his blood specked and thinning hair. His hard, gray eyes lightened somewhat to regard his emotionally distraught friend.
"Me dear Nimaira Silvershade, after all the years we spent takin’ down giants and ogres, countless trolls and undead, and ye are only now realizin’ I be a dwarf of many talents?" Rolin asked sardonically.
Nimaira began to laugh, but the pain in her jaw immediately distorted that laugh, twisting it instead into a grimace as tears slowly welled in her sapphire eyes. Rolin's light hearted visage turned down sympathetically at his friend’s obvious pain.
The human priest, Tiyarnon, directed a weak smile at his two closest friend’s familiar banter as he tugged thoughtfully at his ever-graying beard. It was comforting for him to have his friends nearby at a time like this, having dealt with the pain and guilt for so many years himself. It also brought a bittersweet twinge of nostalgia.
How long had it been since the three of them had time to spend together outside of official duties? Tiyarnon thought. By The Shimmering One, it had been too long!  If they survive this nightmare he silently pledged to ensure that they would make more time for camaraderie and reminiscing in the days to come. Tiyarnon's musings were interrupted by the arrival of a servant, standing within the shadows of the doorway.
"My Lords, My Lady,” he began with a reverent bow and then continued. “We did not know you had returned; forgive us for our incompetence," spoke the servant humbly, keeping his eyes down and bowing repeatedly from beneath a hooded, brown robe.
Rolin Hardbeard, never comfortable with being doted on, waved the groveling attendant's concerns away and directed a comment toward him. “Stand up straight ye durned fool! How many time must we be tellin’ ye that we are folk just as yerself? Just bring Nimaira some medicinal balms, for my beard’s sake!” Rolin barked after a short pause, then continued, “Tiyarnon here has exhausted himself and we got nothin much left.” The servant retreated backwards through the door, still insisting on bowing the entire time. "And bring me some durned ale while yer at it!" The dwarf shouted after him as the man disappeared into the hallway and out of sight.
"Now what do we do?" Nimaira said, addressing the topic at hand. Rolin simply shrugged, resigned to the fact that they had given a superb effort in their task.
"Get some rest, and try again on the morrow. What else can we be doin?" Rolin responded confidently, his pride obviously still at the forefront of his fa├žade. The dwarf, despite his age and markedly weakened frame, was not one to give up. Stubbornness was evident in all dwarves and this one doubly so, thought Nimaira as she shook her head in clear respect for the brave warrior. She had witnessed that bravery firsthand hundreds of times throughout their careers.
"I'm afraid it won't matter,” Nimaira admitted as she shook her head gingerly. “You were there Rolin! You know as well as I do that we do not have the resources or the raw ability to succeed," Nimaira continued and winced at both that realization and her smarting jaw.
 The thought of failure sat heavily in the dwarf's heart. Never being comfortable with losing a battle or even an argument and always willing to fight to the very end for his beliefs, Rolin started to protest. All of his objections died before passing his lips as he recalled the scene in his head and recognized that any further attempts would ultimately end in failure. Rolin knew Nimaira was right. Neither of them knew the answer, and both of them looked just then to Tiyarnon.
Tiyarnon was wise and calculating beyond his years despite his shorter lifespan compared to the others in the room. While not nearly as old as the dwarf or the half-elf in years, they always thought of Tiyarnon as their patriarch, as did many others in Oakhaven.  He had an intuitive way of looking at a situation from multiple points of view, and making the proper decision based on what was best for everyone, even in times of personal grief. Because of that, his two closest friends were looking to him for a solution now, during what certainly was their darkest hour.
Tiyarnon sighed as he ran his hands across the gray stubble atop his head, the remains of a thick head of hair, further reminding him of his age. As he spun his chair away from them for a moment, he caught his reflection in the glass of the conference room window and saw the leathery skin and prominent gray beard encompassing his face. After a moment of silence, he sighed deeply and turned back to face his friends. 
Looking his companions in the eyes Tiyarnon said in a steady and serious tone, “We must appeal for help to the Inquisition,” he began.  “And not only the Inquisition, but the chapter of holy warriors that exists within the walls of Safehold.”
The half-elf woman’s eyes widened as a look of realization crept across her face, and then asked “Does that mean…?“
“Yes,” Tiyarnon said, picking up where the half-elf left off. “We must call upon The Order of The Faceless Knights."

 See you in Wothlondia! Cheers!

Please visit MY HOME PAGE to enjoy an extended reading experience, see direct links to purchase my full length novel, Covenant of the Faceless Knights, the short stories: Wothlondia Rising, and to see what else Ashenclaw Studios, LLC has in store in the future!

Cover art on Distant Familiarity provided by William Kenney!

All maps, names and content copyright Ashenclaw Studios 2012 unless otherwise noted.

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