Please welcome author Danny Williams to my blog. I want to add a special thanks to him for filling a sudden opening in my featured author spot.
His book, Elves: Battle at Baader Hill, just released last week. (You can purchase it on Amazon.) Please enjoy this excerpt.
Chapter Five: Leviathan
Aken slipped out from behind the hedge. He felt naked as only intermittent darkness cloaked his movement. He wondered if going in a straight line would be better or trying to sneak to the objective by going from shadow to shadow. Just then a figure moved out from the hedge and he came face to face with a mercenary. But the flickering firelight revealed him to be a boy about his own age. Fear and surprise glistened in his face. For a moment Aken thought he recognized him as one of his school friends “Kill him!” buzzed Merlin’s voice in Aken’s head.
Aken’s sudden reaction to Merlin’s orders to draw his sword prompted the other boy to action. He pulled his own sword and swung it overhand in an attempt to cleft Aken in twain. Fortunately, Aken was quick to mostly block the blow with his own blade which caught Aken on the top of the head with enough force to draw blood. The pain was sharp and at the same time terrifying because there was someone at arm’s length trying to kill him. Aken swung his sword in a clumsy arc that glanced harmlessly off of the boy’s padded shoulder. Blood trickled down Aken’s face from the cut on his scalp; his breath was heavy and fast. Aken blocked another wild swing from the boy and countered with a slash that counted. Aken had swung this sword hundreds of times in practice and it had never felt like it did when the sword cut through actual flesh. The boy let out a scream as the blade cut into his neck, but not deep enough. Aken knew that all the commotion was sure to flush the other mercenaries.
“He’s making a mess of it!” A different voice buzzed in his head that sounded like Celahir.
Aken knew that the only way to get help was to dismantle the rock pile. Seizing the opportunity his opponent was momentarily giving him and bolted for the objective. The boy, however, wasn’t about to quit his post and took off in hot pursuit of the interloper. Perhaps it was the adrenaline or the fact that he was in better overall shape but he was able to catch up to Aken at the rock pile. The boy stood his ground between Aken and the pile of rocks. Both boys, out of breath and bloodied were in a game that they had only played at before. Anger began to boil up in Aken’s body and his vision was replaced by a flame. With a grunt more associated with beast of burden he charged the boy and bowled him over the pile of rune stones dispersing them. Unfortunately for Aken, the boy was quick back to his feet and began to swing his sword recklessly at Aken who dodged and rolled away. Noises of activity from the tents in front of him denoted the other mercenaries had been alerted and were at that moment gearing up for action.
After another series of dodges, Aken was able to regain his feet and face the boy for what he somehow instinctively knew would be the last time. His thoughts went back to what Merlin had said. Merlin’s prophecy has been fulfilled, blood had been shed. Was Merlin’s reticence a way of cloaking some horrible future? As he thought about such things he heard the word “DROP!” buzz in his head which he complied with immediately, face first. A mere split second after he hit the ground there was a whoosh and a sickly thud. He hazarded a look up and saw the boy with whom he had fought, standing, as he gently swayed back and forth. He stood there with a perplexed look on his face and about half a length of arrow going into his left eye. He then slumped to his knees and collapsed in a heap. Aken laid there staring at this boy who could have been his school mate. A boy that probably had similar hopes and dreams that he himself entertained. He probably had a mother somewhere that worried about him. These thoughts, among others, shielded Aken from the realization that the other mercenaries were exiting their tents in full battle gear. Eight of them began to approach Aken and the dead boy. Their approach was cautious because their man had been felled by an arrow and the lad they saw was carrying a sword.
“Why did you kill him?” One of the mercenaries asked.
Aken looked up in shock. In a split second three arrows were in flight and homed in on three of the mercenaries almost simultaneously. Two others took a defensive posture toward where the arrows had come from and received fatal shots of their own. The other three bet on discretion and ran for it and two of them were cut down by Celahir’s arrows. Aken quivered on the ground with the dust of conflict still settling as Celahir and Merlin walked onto the killing ground. As they approached, Aken could hear them talking nonchalantly and Celahir was making gestures mimicking an arrow in flight and smiling. Smiling was something that Aken had never seen Celahir do in the short time he had known him.
“You need more practice with that sword sport. I guess those pells don’t swing back.” Celahir said in a jovial manner and slapped Aken on the back as he crouched over him. Both ranger and Mage chuckled. Merlin was the first to regain his composure and went to help Aken to his feet.
A moan from one of the mercenaries indicated that there was a little life left in him. Celahir went over to the man. Aken assumed that Celahir was going to render some type of help. Instead a dagger thrust to the wounded man’s throat brought forth unearthly gurgling and then silence. It left Aken even more traumatized.
“I’ll check the tents for anymore bastards.” Celahir said as he scurried off.
“Here boy, let me help you up.” Merlin extended his hand.
Blood of the vanquished foes had splattered all over Aken’s face and outfit.
“I didn’t think it would be that way.” Aken said in a trembling voice as he reached for Merlin with equally trembling hand.
“It’s never like how you expect it to be. And that, my young friend, goes for just about everything in life. Now, let’s get you cleaned up.” Merlin replied as he heaved the boy to his feet.
“Did the Duke get away?”
“Only in a metaphysical sense, he was the first one Celahir downed. It was a good thing you looked up when you did.” Merlin said as he used his foot to overturn one of the dead men at their feet, “Meet Duke Charon-”
It was the man who had spoken to Aken. What Aken remembered the most was what he had said. It wasn’t angry accusations of curses or threats, but ‘why’? Aken was also confused by the fact that the Duke was one of the first to go down. Aken had formed in his head, without much effort, what the confrontation between Charon and Celahir would’ve been or should’ve been. Merlin had said that Celahir would indeed kill Charon but Aken was expecting something a little more…dramatic. It should have been a duel or perhaps an epic battle. It bothered Aken that an admittedly well aimed shot, robbed the Duke of his chance to go down fighting. The introduction was interrupted by a call by Celahir.
“There is a hot bath in here!” Celahir announced.
“There you go lad, get cleaned up and we’ll clear up matters out here.”
Aken went into the tent and began to disrobe. The blood on his leather armor made it sticky slick and made it difficult to unbuckle his breastplate as his fingers slipped trying to gain purchase. As he settled into the nice warm water he began to notice things. There was a letter on a desk that would never be finished or posted, food on the table partially eaten in futility and a warm bath drawn for a dead man. But try as he might he could not get the face of the boy out of his mind, Celahir’s dreadful execution of the wounded man or the stink of blood out of his nostrils that wafted up from the bathwater.
Merlin poked his head into the tent “Hurry lad, exciting things are afoot!”
Aken, momentarily startled, called out “Merlin!”
“Yes boy?” He said as he stepped into the tent.
“What’s wrong with Celahir?”
“Wrong?” Merlin asked with a quizzical expression.
“He’s acting strange.”
“Well I suppose it could be those magical arrows I gave him.” And then he leaned down to whisper as if to keep a secret, “Sometimes magically enhanced items have an unintended effect.” With that he put his finger to his lips as if to say hush, “But I think it’s more likely that he is in a better humor because he has satiated his blood lust. You see, warriors kept from fighting are not happy warriors.”
“Do you think he likes me more now?”
“Like? I’m not sure Celahir will ever ‘like’ any human or any creature. But I think he has a modicum of respect for you now that he did not have earlier. You stood your ground.”
“I ran.” Aken confessed.
“But you ran to your objective. That was a smart thing to do and Celahir respects that also. I wouldn’t worry about it. Now get dressed, we’re in for some interesting times!” With that, Merlin exited the tent again.
“Merlin!” Aken cried out again.
“Yes?” Merlin answered slightly anxiously.
“That man…the one Celahir…”
“Put out of his misery?” Merlin finished Aken’s sentence the way that Merlin wanted to answer.
“I guess…Was that…right? I mean, what if the roles were reversed?” Aken tried to get a grasp of this new reality.
“In war, right and wrong are not so easy to determine and you rarely have the luxury to reflect on situations for very long. Celahir made a decision and acted on it without hesitation. That is why he is as old as he is. If you were to ask him the ‘what if it were you?’ question, I can already tell you his answer. He would say ‘I would want it done quick!’” With that, Merlin departed.
The bath had grown a little tepid and the bloodstains on Aken’s hands were still there. He also tried to clean the blood off of his leather armor which was now stickier than it was slick and had taken on a more pungent aroma. He was also very hungry and the meat and mead that were on the table looked tempting but the mere thought of eating it made him even sicker to his stomach. Turning away from the table, he quickly got dressed and went to join his mates.
The story of a young man coming of age cast against the backdrop of a war that will determine the future of magic and mankind. Chronicling the struggle between the noble races and the evil that would enslave mankind. Elves: Battle at Baader Hill showcases the battle between magic and technology and a weapon that somehow uses both. Heroism, cowardice, greed and sacrifice. Forgotten heroes and lauded fools.
About the Author
I am a writer, photographer, and adventurer. I’ve conquered the Transylvanian Alps, strolled down the Champs Elysee, stormed the beach at Normandy, waltzed by the Danube and rode the Transfagarasan pass on a mountain bike. I was a middleweight boxer for seventeen years and have a penchant for Cuban cigars and European Absinthe. I’ve worked on drill rigs, been a truck driver and have been in the movie industry for the last three years. In living life on the edge I’ve experienced and seen things most people haven’t and wouldn’t want to see or experience. Nearly everything in my stories is fictionalized accounts of real events. Producing professional level books is one of the most challenging things I’ve ever tried. And I’ve been in the ring with heavyweights.