Rogue Magic, Paths of Heros Book One
By Brandon Barr and Michael Anderle
Daeken Zee Walton watched the black smoke drift over the treetops in the distance. It was the first thing of interest he’d seen in a long while, the last being a row of six bodies drying out in the sun impaled on sticks.
He’d seen a lot of things since leaving his home. None of it was good.
Whether these six dead men were murdered by a mage’s soulless raiders, killed by brutals, or awaiting consumption by a pack of ravers, he couldn’t tell.
A small rise in the distance blocked the source of the fumes. Daeken hurried along, cloak whipping in a foul northern wind, his great sword, Wickedbane, strapped to his back yearning to be drawn.
He swore the sword could speak to him sometimes.
There were two things that had kept Daeken grounded his entire life. The first were the stories, told to him by his grandmother, of his legendary great-great-grandfather Terry Henry Walton, the man who brought humanity back to civilization, bringing justice from the Unknown World. The second thing that had grounded him was his wife, Farrah and their seven-year-old son, Aldon.
If not for these people in his life, there was no telling what kind of man he might have become. Even as a child he had a mind that wandered naturally toward darker ends. Some remnant of the Age of Madness flowing through his veins. If left to his own tendencies, he might have become a soulless monster as dark-hearted as the mages.
The heroism and heart of his legendary ancestor had changed all of that. Terry Henry Walton was to him the light of revelation in his life, breathing purpose and meaning into a ragged mind, turning his eyes toward the many suffering people crying out for justice and hope.
Daeken stumbled up a ravine, his legs getting ahead of his nose which smelled the promise of blood and cleaving ahead for Wickedbane. The acrid smoke drifting through the trees made his mouth salivate like a predator chasing down a prey.
The smell of retribution and justice.
Cresting the top of the small hill, he came to a clearing in the sparse woods and looked out at a vast swath of green land.
Beautiful green land, just like the land his home had stood on in the grasslands beneath the crumbling ruins of the City of Wind.
He stared in momentary shock out at the farmland sprawled before him and breathed in the sulfuric fumes of homes burning along with crops.
Suddenly Daeken fell to his knees, consumed by the sight. His tears slid down past lips curled in rage. It was the same sight he’d glimpsed months ago—like a memory reborn—the day he’d returned to his own home from a three-day hunt only to find his neighbors’ homes burning alongside his own.
This was what he’d been seeking out these many months. Some last refuge of humanity. To find hope in that place. And to warn them of the danger.
Daeken stood, eyes zeroed in on the leather-clad men moving from home to home. The blood of his great-great-grandfather, whipped like a tempest through his veins.
These savages would pay dearly today, and with that last thought, he raced out of the trees.
“How long until they come crawling out into our loving arms?” shouted Rolf over the crackle of the burning house.
Thurston twirled a knife in his hand and grinned. “Another minute, I’d wager. They’re pretty girls and they know it. Even the old one!”
Rolf roared with laughter. “What do you say, Corbin? Do we have time to play?”
Corbin, the Elderhost, spat before eyeing his two men with a look that his master, Titannus, might have trembled at. “We kill and we move on to the next doomed home. We’re not pillaging today. Only destroying.”
Corbin watched through squinted eyes as the smoke poured through the open doorway. His men Thurston and Rolf held the opposite perimeters, making a triangular boundary of the squarish little farm home.
Rolf hooted from his angle. “Got one! No Two! Oh shit! Help!”
Corbin ran around the side of the house and saw a young woman climbing out a smoking window. Already on the ground were a man and woman who looked to be near forty years old. Each held a makeshift weapon—the two women held long carving knives, the man a rusty shovel.
“Put those nasty things down,” crooned Rolf, “and this will all go much easier for each of you.”
The husband waved his shovel like an outstretched torch, as if somehow the spade was a flame that could ward them off. Rolf and Thurston laughed loudly at the man’s effort.
Corbin moved steadily towards them, his sword drawn.
“Corbin!” shouted Thurston, and pointed his chin at something off to Corbin’s right, “Someone’s coming.”
Corbin stopped and half turned to look. At the edge of the woods was a cloaked figure running full speed towards them. The Elderhost gave a quick look back to his men, then peered at the family which was now huddled together, hemmed in by him and his men.
If he could have, Corbin would have liked to slaughter the family quick then deal with the mysterious incoming figure, but the speed with which the individual was closing on them didn’t lend them the chance.
“Careful,” growled Corbin, “You have my back while I deal with this newcomer.”
The cloaked figure slowed as he neared Corbin and flipped back his heavy dark hood. It was an older man, forties or fifties perhaps, with face shaved clean. He held nothing in his hands, but a long thick sheath hung strapped to his belt. The intruder continued to walk unflinchingly toward Corbin, and the Elderhost took a step back and raised his sword.
“That’s far enough,” called Corbin.
The cloaked man continued toward him without a word.
Corbin switched his sword to his left hand then reached with his right into his leathers and retrieved an amber colored stone. He held it out in his palm like a weapon.
This caused the oncoming man to pause.
A twisted smile formed on Corbin’s lips. “Ever heard of the name, Titannus? He’s Zarith Smith’s Master of War and he’s here with us now. You take one step closer and I’ll summon him. You don’t want that, trust me.”
The stranger cocked his head, and that’s when Corbin noticed the shade of purple in the cloaked man’s eyes.
“You ever hear of the legendary warrior, Terry Henry Walton?” called the cloaked man. The question was asked so calmly, it was as if everything Corbin had just declared had not caused the stranger the slightest amount of fear.
“What are you talking about?”
“I’m the man’s great-great-grandson, and I carry his mission with me.”
Corbin squinted at the man, then laughed. “I don’t give a shit about your dead grandpa. Not with a sissy name like Terry.” Corbin shot a quick glance over his shoulder at his two friends. “Do your jobs. I’ll take care of this little girl.”
The stranger’s eye darted over the Elderhost’s shoulder. The family, still huddled together, began to shout threats at his men who he knew were moving in to slay them.
Something flashed in the stranger’s hand and before Corbin could speak, it was thrown just wide of his head.
A blood-curdling cry spun Corbin full around. Rolf teetered for just a moment, sword frozen over his head, poised for attack. Only when the raider toppled forward did Corbin notice the silver handle of a knife jutting from Rolf’s right eye. Thurston’s face was ashen, and he made no attempt to pursue the family of three that rushed away past Rolf’s crumpled body.
“Get over here, Thurston!” called Corbin. “Help me carve this beardless bastard into steaks to feed to Zarith’s brutals.”
“Call Titannus” came Thurston’s quivering voice as he stepped up beside Corbin.
Corbin clicked his tongue against his teeth. “Not yet, let’s test what he’s made of first.” He turned to Thurston. “Flank him.”
Thanks for reading this new snippet! I hope you enjoyed this glimpse of Daeken Zee Walton? I’m Reeeeealy excited to release Rogue Mage on the 11th and give you the full story 🙂
Check out Brandon Barr’s other books at http://www.brandonbarr.com