I’m delighted to be a guest here on Jamie’s site and hope to make new acquaintances here. This excerpt is from the third installment in Judgement’s Tale, epic fantasy set in the Lands of Hope. I realized in preparing for this blog tour, it’s hard to find passages that stand on their own! Epic fantasy is set around high stakes and interconnected themes. In the first two parts of this tale, Games of Chance and Strength of Conviction, you can meet the players for the first time, and most introductions make good excerpts. But now, by the third volume, it’s high time for the things that happen to mean something. It was fun to search the tale and think about the new reader. I hope you enjoy what I’ve come back with.
This excerpt features a noble knight who so far has been spoken of, but not seen. His name is Renan, and he’s been searching for the fabled Castle of the Chosen Wanderers all his life. This legendary order was supposedly created in ancient times to protect the helpless from danger, but in the settled city of Conar no one believes it still exists. Renan at last leaves his home forever to search further into the wild country than ever before for the secret company of knights he believes must be there.
The knight urged his mount over the outcrop and onto the small rocky niche, reined in and sat back straight a moment. He had crouched, chest parallel to his horse’s neck, scanning the stony mountain path for so long that his spine shouted its protest, but he was eager to look around. To his left and below, the mountainside with its nail-thin scratch of a path dropped away; further out, the eastern ridge of the Marble Swords loomed high beneath his position, and beyond that the knight could see the westernmost lands of the dread Percentalion. Cloud-ships moved by at a level with his eyes, and eagles soared only a little higher on the horizon. To his right, the stony path continued up and into the vast peak, and a few paces further on it disappeared into a solid wall of cloud, rising higher than he could see before him. The knight sat his mount and contemplated the measureless mass of white, looking as solid as down. He thought of a clean canvas before an artist paints, and mused for a time whether he was starting a new work, on himself. Or perhaps it would be his shroud.
The knight had worked his stallion slowly up this path since finding it four days ago. The food and any grazing plants had given out yesterday; the temperature steadily fell with each hour’s progress. More than once, the mounted man passed through clouds, and couldn’t recall the last time he had felt dry. Now, outside this looming portal of solid mist, he was soaked through his cape; drops fell from his helm, onto his breastplate, and seeped between the links of his mail to drench the tunic beneath. By rights, the man should have been shivering hard enough to lose his seat, but Renan Altrindur felt only a kind of searing elation within, a thumping certainty of nearness to his goal that burned from his center and warmed him. The Castle was said to be far above the earth, behind a wall of fog that always misled the unworthy, winding them around for days until they came out elsewhere. He did not know if he would succeed or be one of those so lost, but he did know that his human strength would not hold out against the cold, the wet and the hunger for another night. He would come to the fortress of the Chosen Wanderers today, or give his life in the attempt.
Urging Quester forward, he steadily and fearlessly entered the wall of cloud. Expecting the path to be just as thin, twisting and treacherous as before, Renan was surprised and then thrilled as it began to widen ever so little, and level off just so much. All around him the world was white, and the air seemed thicker than water, yet curiously refreshing. He thought that he was drinking and breathing at once, but could not muster a chuckle. The quiet of the mountain enfolded him: he heard not even the hoofbeats of his horse. It seemed an hour, but finally he saw not a thinning of the mist but the emergence of something so real, so marvelously substantial, that even the mist could not obscure the sight of it. A massive wall, blocks the size of a man, without mortar but tighter than would allow a knife’s blade between them. And in the center of the wall, an enormous portcullis of solid steel bars already rose, a foot-thick bridge of petrified wood lowering before him. Renan had to remind himself to breathe; then he urged Quester forward. On the middle of the drawbridge, the knight was bathed in a pool of radiance and a voice from above arrested his progress.
“Who seeks entrance?”
“I am Renan Altrindur, knight of Conar,” replied the rider. “I seek to join the holy order of the Wanderers.”
“There are no families, no kingdoms, no allegiances within these walls, young knight. Do you accept the rule of the Chosen Wanderers, forsaking all other bonds to clan and country?”
“I do,” the knight replied, and without a moment’s hesitation he reached to his left breast and tore loose his family patch. A single green sword on a field of gold fell to the wood beneath his charger’s feet.
There was a long pause before the voice resumed.
“Your sincerity shines clearly, Sir Renan. And yet… you are bound to marry.”
“I reject this claim!” the knight cried with heat. “I have sought to join this holy order all my life, it is my destiny as I know in my heart. I shall have no part of the unworthy pact struck by my family, which was without my will and against justice.”
“Aye, so we see, you speak the truth. And yet the view of the Wanderer cannot lie, young knight. It is troubling… but enter and take the path you have chosen.”
With a thankful prayer to Conar on his lips, Renan spurred on, and entered the Castle of the Chosen Wanderers.
Will Hahn has been in love with heroic tales since age four when his father read him the Lays of Ancient Rome and the Tales of King Arthur. He taught Ancient-Medieval History for years, but the line between this world and others has always been thin; the far reaches of fantasy, like the distant past, still bring him face to face with people like us, who have choices to make.
Will didn't always make the right choices when he was young. Any stick or vaguely-sticklike object became a sword in his hands to the great dismay of his five sisters. Everyone survived, in part by virtue of a rule forbidding him from handling umbrellas, ski poles, curtain rods and more.
Will has written about the Lands of Hope since his college days (which by now are also part of ancient history). His current epic is Judgement’s Tale; parts one and two, Games of Chance and Strength of Conviction came out in 2014 and part three, Reunion of Souls is available starting December 26th.
Will’s Weirdly Whimsical Website is where he posts news about upcoming releases and blogs about writing, classic fantasy works you’ve never read and the unique photo-based series “It Figures.”
The Lands of Hope Facebook page contains a chronology of the Lands.
Will’s Tales of Hope are available at many online retailers:
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