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Shard by W. Wm. Mee

Free ebook: epic fantasy
Genre/Category: Fantasy Books
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Shard by W. Wm. Mee
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Ebook Synopsis

How do you like your fantasy? Weak, witless and predictable; or dark, daring and different? 'Shard' is an epic, full of dastardly villains , stalwart heroes and kick-ass damsels! The good guys have a touch of 'bad' in them and the bag guys are bastards of the First Degree! Gritty, grungy and 'real', where blood runs freely and honour is worth more than gold --- or your life.

Excerpt:

A white, wet blanket of mist hung over the river. The current, sluggish in mid-stream, tugged against the dragon ship as it moved up the watery road. Through the swirling whiteness only the dim shapes of tall, ancient pines could be seen, and then only by squinting.

But it was not the distant pines that drew the man's gaze. Looking out from the carved bow of the Glitch Slath, the trees and river banks interested him not; rather, it was what they might conceal that caused him to cast about with his fierce, dark eyes.

Ragnol Halfhand was hunting 'Wee'ns'; 'Wee'ns and their 'black gold'!

Ragnol stroked his beard with his left hand. The missing three fingers no longer seemed strange to him. Such was the price of staying alive in a cruel world. The crack of a whip cut through the fog. Groans from the straining slaves made him smile. Their sweat and back-breaking labor at the oars only brought him that much closer to his goal. Behind him, like a pack of hungry dogs, two score of Slathland's elite killers waited to do his bidding.

He was close now. Something deep in his mercenary heart cried out that it was so. As 'leader of the forward thrust', Ragnol intended to be the first one to reach it!

The faint glimmer in the east hinted that dawn was near. Overhead the pinpoints of cold, white light slowly gave way to the rising of the sun; just as those smaller, weaker realms to the east had given way before the dazzling brilliance that was Slathland. Like the burning orb itself, none could long withstand the power of All-Mighty Slath.

And now he, Ragnol reg Das, wanderer, mercenary and hated foreigner, was leading a Glitch Slath of his own. Soon he would grasp the legendary 'Wee'ns black gold' with his own hands! The fact that the captain of the ship, a bloodthirsty bastard named Nex, hated him, bothered him not a bit. After all, the King of Slathland, the High Gnash Alexus V, had named him leader of the expedition. Ragnol didn't give a damn if Nex liked him or not --- as long as the fool followed orders.

***

For the tall, lean man chained to the oar of the Glitch Slath, the coming of a new dawn meant only the beginning of yet another day of misery. Awakened by the sting of the whip, Erin ap Conn and the other slaves greedily broke their fast on moldy bread and rancid cheese, all of which was served up with generous helpings of kicks and curses. The anchors were soon hoisted and the long, sleek ship prepared to push even further up-river.

For Erin, life had been reduced to an endless round of straining, sweating and pain --- only to be startled awake to start the straining and sweating all over again.

But today would be different. Erin could sense it all about him; in the way the bastard foreigner with the crippled hand watched the river; how the Slathers jumped to obey the pox-ridden captain's barked commands. Even the other slaves could feel something was amiss --- and though Erin didn't know what it was, when it came he would be quiffing well ready!

***

Around a bend, some distance up the river, a little boat floated on the still waters near the bank. It was occupied by three small creatures, about half the size of an average man. They were Kirkwean, or 'Wee'ns' in the Common Tongue. Two sat holding paddles, while the third stood in the prow, a fish spear poised in his tiny hand.

"Erg strike you, Timin!", the one in the front called. "Hold the skiff still!"

Timin, kneeling in the stern of the little craft, fumbled the large wheel of cheese back into his pack and slung it over his shoulder. Grabbing his paddle, Timin thrust it into the swirling river, trying his best to hold the small boat steady.

Sighing, Timin attempted to swallow the piece of cheese he had shoved into his mouth. He would do what his cousin Thorn had told him to --- he always had, ever since they were just tads. He would do it simply because Thorn was Thorn. No other reason was needed.

The second paddler, Norgi, was another matter. Norgi resented Thorn's commanding ways. Oh, he seldom came right out and said it, but Timin could see it in his eyes. 'No-Smile Norgi' the rest of The Root called him, and as Timin watched the uncommonly thin Kirkwean in the middle of their little boat, he couldn't help but agree. Norgi could be a real sourpuss.

Then Thorn hissed at him again and all thoughts of 'No- Smile Norgi' vanished as Timin bent to his work. It didn't pay to make his cousin angry, and Thorn had already missed a large river trout once this morning because they had not held the boat still. Timin was determined that it wouldn't happen again.

***

The tall, dark haired slave know as Erin ap Conn glanced quickly around. Something was indeed wrong --- and this pleased him greatly. Checking to see that none of the Slathers were looking, Erin once again began to work on the iron ring that held his chain fastened to the keel of the ship. Three weeks of working on it had twisted the ring almost free --- yet 'almost' was not good enough. The muscles of Erin's thick arms and broad shoulders bunched as he strained with the ring. In his mind he spoke to the rusted metal, the rich burr of his Loamin accent rolling off his inner ear.

'Be not timid, lass. Open yer tender arms for me now. Ah, there's my darlin' girl!'

Nothing --- then, with a sudden 'snap', the ring came free. A smile, not unlike that of a cat lapping cream, spread over Erin's lean, chiseled features. Then it was gone, replaced by a look of grim determination. Today would be the day. He could smell it in the wind the way a hound could smell a hare!

Then a Slather with a bushy beard and foul breath bellowed down to them to 'rash!' Though he knew little of their course tongue, 'rash' was a word Erin understood well. Quickly he pushed the pin of his chain back into the keel and grasped the long oar.

'Aye!', Erin thought to himself; 'I'll 'rash' for ye, but not for long, you great gutted by-blow!'

The long Glitch Slath began to move further up-river.