The Wolf pack OFFER

Image by Ylanite Koppens from Pixabay

From today, The Wolf Pack, Book 1 of The Wolves of Vimar Series, is only 0.99 (£ or $).

This offer is for a limited time only, so be sure to pop over to Amazon and get your copy before it’s too late. The offer ends on Friday, 2nd July.

Here is the blurb

To end his apprenticeship and be admitted to the ranks of the mages is all that Carthinal wants and so he is excited to travel from Bluehaven to Hambara, where the tests will take place. He did not expect to end up travelling far beyond Hambara on a quest to find the long lost sword of the legendary King Sauvern.

Along with three strangers that he met on his journey, the beautiful but headstrong elven cleric, Asphodel, Fero, a dark foreigner from lands far to the south, known as the Black Ranger and a fearless dwarf, Basalt, Carthinal reluctantly sets out on this seemingly impossible quest.

Followed by Randa, the snooty aristocratic daughter of the Duke of Hambara and a very young runaway thief, known as Thad, Carthinal has to decide whether to send them back or allow them to continue on this dangerous quest. There will certainly be fireworks as Randa will try to take over the leadership of the group.

Faced with floods, wolf attacks and near death in the mountains, Carthinal and his friends will have to accept help from the least likely sources and face their innermost fears.

But this is more than a simple adventure. The fate of a nation hangs in the balance.

And a short extract.

Carthinal, a half-elf mage, and Basalt, a dwarf, have been trying to find out where the lost Sword of the legendary king, Sauvern, might lie. They are searching in the library of the Duke of Hambara, helped by his rather snooty daughter, Randa.

The next day, Carthinal and Basalt returned to the Palace to try to find anything about the whereabouts of the tomb. Lady Randa arrived again, saying that she had risen early in order to exercise her stallion, Storm, and she did not have any weapons practice that day. She should have gone to practice her music, but her music master had reported that he felt ill and so they had all day. Her expression said that she was glad of this excuse to get away from her music, even if it meant spending the day with “riffraff”. Truth to tell, she found the work interesting. She had never taken much interest in history before and it surprised her how fascinating she found it.

Carthinal and Bas exchanged a glance at this dire prospect, but both wisely refrained from making comment.

Lady Randa did not make it any easier, however. She did most of the time remember to call them by their names, but made it abundantly clear that she considered herself above them in all ways and that only her father’s request made her come to work with them.

Shortly after lunch, just after Lady Randa had returned from lunching with her father as usual and as Carthinal searched for a specific scroll, he noticed an unusual crack around a particular bookshelf. He called Lady Randa over and asked her if she knew of any secret passages in the house.

‘There are tales and rumours of course,’ she replied, ‘as there always are in old houses and this house is very old. It has been rebuilt, modernised and extended many times over the years. Why do you ask?’

‘Because,’ responded Carthinal, ‘unless I am very much mistaken, there is a hidden door here which may lead to a secret room.’

‘This is part of the old house,’ Lady Randa told him, ‘but I hardly think that a secret passage would have gone unnoticed by my father, or myself—or my grandfather come to think of it. Why would a half-elf find something in a few minutes that the family hasn’t found in generations?’

‘Elvenkind have very good eyes, and we are good at spotting such things,’ retorted Carthinal, keeping his temper with difficulty.

Basalt spotted the warning tone in Carthinal’s voice and glared at him. It would not do for him to lose his temper and anger the daughter of the second most powerful man in all of Grosmer. However, Carthinal managed to hold onto his temper and suggested that he try to open the disputed door.

‘If it will satisfy you,’ replied Lady Randa imperiously, and turned away.
A few moments later, a grinding and rumbling came from behind. She turned and her eyes popped. Where there had been a bookcase hole had appeared with steps leading downwards.

The three stood looking at each other in amazement. Carthinal had been sure that the bookcase concealed a hidden door, but not that it would open so easily, nor that it would reveal a secret passage. He had thought at the most that it would reveal a hidden room.

The stairs looked dark and cobwebby. Carthinal shuddered to think of the spiders running around. They had had generations to breed down there. However, he would not reveal his feelings of revulsion to Lady Randa.

Instead, he said, ‘Lady Randa, do you think it pertinent to explore this passage at this point. We are not sure that it will aid us in our quest.’
He secretly hoped not to have to go down the stairs with their cobwebs and spiders, and that she would say that others could explore. However, Lady Randa decided that since they had found the passage, they should be the ones to explore it.

‘Why give the pleasure of discovering something new to people who did not find the passage?’ she said.

Carthinal had to admire her guts. She reached for a torch on one of the walls and lit it, then made her way to the entrance.

‘My Lady,’ murmured Bas, ‘we don’t know what’s down there. Maybe we shouldn’t go down without some weapons.’

‘Are you afraid, Dwarf?’ retorted her ladyship. ‘If you are, then stay here. I’m going down.’ She started to move towards the open door.

‘Basalt is right, Your Ladyship,’ Carthinal backed up his friend. ‘At least get a sword or a dagger.’

‘Hmm… I suppose that makes some sense,’ Lady Randa eventually agreed. ‘You two stay there and I’ll get some weapons. What’s your preferred weapon, Dwa…er… Basalt?’

‘A battle axe, if you have one, your ladyship,’ replied the dwarf.

‘Typical. A rather messy weapon, but I understand the dwarves prefer it to a sword. A sword takes so much more skill to use.’

With that she disappeared through one of the library doors to go in search of weapons. It was just as well that she did, for she would have had Basalt taken to the nearest prison and the key thrown away if she could have heard him cursing at her condescension.

‘A battle-axe takes as much bloody skill in wielding as a bleeding sword,’ he spluttered. ‘Dwarves begin to learn at a very young age to become proficient. To become a master of the weapon takes years. That little minx knows nothing. How old is she? Seventeen? Eighteen?’

Fortunately, Carthinal had managed to calm him down by the time Lady Randa re-appeared with the weapons. She had a rather fine long sword, which she claimed as her own, and a rather less than fine battle axe, which she gave to Basalt, for once having the grace to apologise for it.

‘It’s the only one I could find,’ she explained. ‘My father captured it in some war or other, I believe. We don’t have anyone here that uses a battle-axe now. Carthinal, just in case, I’ve brought a dagger. I understand that mages often use one, as they do not have the time to learn more subtle weapons.’

This she handed to the mage, hilt first as was polite. It appeared she did know some of the niceties of life.

‘Diplomacy is not her second name, is it?’ hissed Basalt to Carthinal.

The mage grinned at his friend in reply.

After they were armed, and Bas had hefted his battle axe a few times and proclaimed it ‘Not too bad, considering’, they made their way to the hidden entrance to the staircase. Basalt insisted on going first, much to Lady Randa’s annoyance. She told him that she had trained in weapons with her father’s master at arms and could use the sword, and since it her father owned house, and she outranked the others in the group, she should lead the way.

Basalt pointed out be that as it may, but her father would have their heads if anything happened to her, and he was not going to allow her to go first.

Carthinal held his breath, waiting for the explosion from Lady Randa. She did not disappoint him.

She rounded on Bas like a whirlwind. ‘You…you…Dwarf!’ She said the word as though it were the worst insult in the world, (which to her it may have been.) ‘You DARE to speak to me like that! Me! The Honourable Lady Randa! I am my father’s only heir and will inherit this Dukedom. Yet you tell me you will not allow me! How dare you?’

However, she had not met with the stubbornness of the mountain dwarves. Carthinal thought they would remain there for the rest of their lives with the two arguing, and finally with Basalt standing, arms folded in front of the doorway so that no one could pass. Lady Randa tried to push him out of the way at first, but Bas stood his ground. A dwarf standing his ground is very hard to move, even for a grown man, and Lady Randa was no grown man.

Eventually her curiosity over the passageway overcame her anger and she said, rather reluctantly, ‘Go in front if you wish then—and hope that whatever’s down there kills you before I do.’

So the three crept stealthily down the stairs, Basalt in the lead, Lady Randa next, and Carthinal in the rear. Carthinal was grateful for that as most of the cobwebs had been swept away by the others, but he still had to steel himself not to cry out as a stray one swept his face. It would not do for them to think him such a coward as to be afraid of spiders, even if it were the truth. He kept a look out both to the side and behind, trusting to Bas to watch for anything in front, but they had an uneventful descent of the stairs, although the stairs were old. No one had passed that way in many, many years and their feet sent up clouds of dust, which made them sneeze. The stairs were not worn away either, in spite of their age. Another indication that they had not been much used.

To his consternation, Carthinal saw many small glowing creatures with his infra-vision. Spiders he assumed, that had lived and bred there for aeons. He shuddered, then suddenly, after what seemed like a very long descent, they found themselves in a passage leading straight ahead.
He called to Basalt and the dwarf looked round. ‘We seem to have come down a long way. You dwarves are used to being underground. How far down do you think we’ve come?’

Basalt frowned, did some calculations in his head and replied, ‘We’re very deep, Carthinal. Well below the foundations of the present Palace. If you ask me, we are at least two hundred feet down. This looks like old stone. About a thousand years, maybe a bit more, maybe a bit less.’

The three looked around in awe. The dry air in the room had preserved the stonework well. The fact that no more cobwebs hung from this ceiling pleased Carthinal too. The walls were well built, and strong. They walked slowly and quietly down the corridor. They passed doors on either side, but none of them could manage to open them, no matter how hard they tried. They walked until they came to the end of the corridor, where another door stood in the end wall.

‘Should I try?’ whispered Basalt. (It did not seem right to speak normally in this ancient place.)

‘Go on then.’ said Lady Randa and Carthinal together, and Carthinal added, ‘Although why this one should be any different Majora alone knows.’

He had hardly got the words out of his mouth when he saw that the door swinging open with a loud creak. Bas had hardly had to try. It had not been either locked or stuck. As they entered the chamber in front of them, each drew a breath of amazement.

Fabulous carvings decorated the room. Unicorns and satyrs played in woods where dryads peeped shyly from behind their trees. A Centaur appeared to be discussing something with a nymph, half in and half out of her pool. Dragons basked in the sunlight and elves and humans were gathering flowers and making garlands to adorn each other. Here a group of dwarves, hard at work, dug minerals from their mines, there some merfolk sat on rocks in a cove while the waves broke around them. The surf looked so realistic that they almost thought they could actually hear its booming as the waves crashed to the shore.

The room was circular in shape and in the centre stood a large round table. On the table lay a number of books, a quill pen in its stand, rather tattered after all the years that had passed, a knife for sharpening the quill and an ink well, which had dried up.

The books were stacked neatly, all except for one, which lay in front of a chair drawn up to the table as though the room’s occupant had been working there and just slipped out for a moment. A piece of paper in the book seemed to mark a place.

The three walked slowly around the room, gazing at the superb workmanship of the carvings. Basalt declared that it must have been dwarves who carved the stone, and no one, not even Lady Randa, disputed this statement.

Eventually, Carthinal left Lady Randa and Basalt admiring the room, as he felt drawn to the books. He picked up one at random. It was a spell book. He carefully opened it, and it crackled with age. It seemed to be the spell book of a powerful mage.

There were many very complex spells in it, which Carthinal could not begin to comprehend. He put it down in its place, and picked up another. This one he recognised. These were the simpler spells that he himself had in his own spell book, but it had been written in an archaic style and he had some difficulty recognising some of the words. Then he noticed that Bas had gone to the desk, and had picked up the book with the “bookmark” in it.

Basalt thought he would look at the book although he could not read. Maybe he would be able to recognise the word shape that Carthinal had taught him stood for ‘Sauvern’. To his surprise, part way through the text, he thought he recognised the word. He was not certain. These letters were formed in a slightly different way from the way Carthinal had taught him, but it was enough for him to call Carthinal over.

Carthinal looked over Bas’s shoulder, and Lady Randa came to see what Bas had found.

‘It certainly seems to say “Sauvern”,’ Carthinal confirmed.

‘But the rest?’ queried Lady Randa. ‘What about the rest? It looks like no language I’ve ever seen.’

‘No. You won’t have, and probably won’t again,’ Carthinal told her. ‘If I am not much mistaken, this is an archaic form of Elvish.’

‘Can you read it?’ asked Randa.

‘Unfortunately, no,’ Carthinal replied, ‘but I know someone in the Mage Tower who may, or at least, she may know someone who can translate it for us.’

‘There’s some writing on the paper that kept the place too,’ observed Bas. ‘It looks different.’

True enough, the writing was in Grosmerian. Again, it was an old form of Grosmerian, but Lady Randa had learned something of this during her extensive education as the heir to a Dukedom.

‘It’s a poem,’ she said. ‘Should I read it?’

‘We’d better not ignore anything. Especially in view of the fact that the book seems to mention Sauvern,’ Carthinal said. ‘Go ahead.’

‘It’s called “The Wolf Pack.”’, she went on.

“The wolves will fight ’gainst every foe
The balance to maintain.
Though far and wide the pack must go
All borders they disdain.

“The pack contains the strangest group
One whose pride comes with her,
And one who slips through every loop,
The wilful one, the tracker.

“The leader with his anger held,
The ones who hunt the horse.
The rock that’s strong completes the meld
And makes the pack a force.

“The wolf pack’s members are filled with zest
And all do have their place.
They hunt their foes with ruthlessness
Then vanish without trace.

“In times of danger, all must know
The wolf pack will be there.
They work as one; they keep their vow.
For each other they will care.”

‘Doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense. I think it’s just something the writer of this book used as a book mark.’

‘I think you’re right there, Your Ladyship.’ Basalt always seemed to make his use of the honorific sound like an insult, and Lady Randa bristled. ‘No reference to Sauvern or his Sword.’

Carthinal replaced the “bookmark” in the place in the book where it came from, remarking that they may as well use it for the job the original writer did.

He went on to remark that the books were all very old, and moving them may damage them, so, with the Lady’s permission, he would bring his friend to the Palace so she could translate it in situ as it were. Randa agreed, and with that, they left the hidden room, almost having to drag Bas out from his examination of the carvings.

When they came up the stairs to the library they found that darkness had fallen. The candles had been lit in the chandeliers and the light bounced around the room, split into colours by the glass, and making rainbows everywhere. The slight draughts moving around the room caused the candles to flicker and the light looked like thousands of fireflies dancing around.

‘This never fails to impress me,’ said Lady Randa, momentarily forgetting to be the Duke’s Daughter. ‘My grandfather had it done. Look at the way the windows reflect the light back into the room. Isn’t it beautiful?’

The others agreed, and reluctantly tore themselves away from the beautiful library to make their way back to the inn and dinner.

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