Paul E. Horsman - Lioness of Kell - Virtual Book Tour
Date Published: March 16, 2016
Secure in his position as the Prince-warlock's son, seventeen-year-old Basil is content with his solitary life of study and magic. He has a comfortable set of rooms in his father's tower, he has his books and scrolls, and he is perfectly happy. Until the Warlockry Council summons him, and their demands sets his whole, safe existence tottering. Scared and unsure, he decides to run, and takes the first ship out of town. On board he meets Yarwan, the handsome midshipman, who awakens feelings he never knew existed.
Maud of the M'Brannoe, at eighteen already a mighty warrioress, is about to graduate as a Lioness, a special duty officer answering to the Kell Queen and no one else. The Prince-warlock asks her to fetch a certain boy from a pirate town, who could act as a double for his son. On their way back, someone sabotages their airship and the two find themselves marooned in an ill-reputed forest. Together, the young lioness and Jurgis the lookalike battle their way to the coast and a ship home, while finding solace in each other's arms.
Then the four young people meet, and Basil learns of a spell that might help him. Only the spell's creator, the infamous Arrangh Warlock, disappeared nearly a century ago. When the four young people decide to go searching for him, they start on a path leading to an old war and unsolved mysteries that will change the world. Or kill them.
A spirited fantasy story of high adventure and romantic love in a world where both magic and early modern technology flourish.
EXCERPT FROM CHAPTER 18
A loud noise much like the popping of a giant cork shocked him upright. On the box the driver cursed in desperation and wrestled with the wheel to prevent the steamcart driving off the cliff. With screaming brakes and the loud wailing of its siren he brought the vehicle to a halt, swerving around a massive creature in the middle of the road.
‘What the hells…’ Basil lifted his staff and stared at the monster barring their way. It looked like a misshapen human, a head taller than Maud, and covered in a thick grayish coat of hair. In spite of its size it moved lightning-quick. Before Basil could gather a spell, the monster banged with its two massive fists on the front of the steamcart and ruptured the water tank. Unfazed by the heat, it broke off the stack and started beating it on the engine housing. As steam escaped from the dying vehicle, the monster lifted its snout to the sky and uttered a deafening howl.
Basil crawled from under Yarwan’s motionless body. He raised his arms and lightning formed over his head. The monster yapped in anger and kicked the cart, making it rock. Basil lost his balance and fell, hitting his head against the seats. Maud vaulted over the side into the road. Her sword appeared in her hands and the battle cry of the Kell made the monster hesitate for a second. Then it roared its defiance. Without effort, it tore a young tree from the side of the road, and took a swipe at the lioness.
Maud jumped back, blinded as a hail of sand and stones from the tree’s roots pelted her face and upper body.
Basil stared at the lioness and the enormous monster and with a groan, he sat up. The monster kicked the cart again. It rocked, and Basil tumbled out of the back. Groggily, he felt hands dragging him away from the wreckage.
‘Can you stand?’ Jurgis said urgently.
Basil nodded and came to his feet. ‘Yarwan?’
‘He’s all right.’
‘Good.’ From a ledge halfway up the white promontory, a peal of mocking laughter brought hot color to his face
‘Don’t look,’ Jurgis said through clenched teeth. ‘It’s Saul. Do something about the monster, brother, before it kills Maud.’
Rage filled the Spellwarden. ‘The child wants to play?’ he snapped. ‘I’m game.’ With a magical word he snatched a breath of wind and gave it strength. Under his will, the puff became a small gale that tore at the monster. The fringes of its violence had Maud lose her footing and with a cry, she fell backward against the cart. The hairy monster roared. Its massive claws reached for Maud’s throat, but the winds fastened on its body, and lifted it up in the air. Using a surge of anger, the Spellwarden placed the monster on the ridge, next to the capering singer. Saul’s taunts turned into a frightened cry as the monster turned on him, and he jumped into emptiness. Basil gasped, but the singer’s carpet appeared in time to catch him and he fled away over the sea.
‘Begone!’ Basil pointed at the monster on the ledge, and blackness sped upward to meet it. The beast tottered, milling its arms, and with a pitiful yelp, tumbled down the mountainside to lie bleeding and still in the road.
‘Yarwan?’ Basil said, turning around. He sounded as anguished as the dead monster had.
‘I’m here, love.’
They embraced, and in Yarwan’s arms Basil felt both anger and fear drain away from him. ‘You’re all right?’
‘I hit my head, nothing to worry about,’ Yarwan said stoutly. ‘That was a magnificent trick you played on the little coward, love. You shocked him witless.’
‘Whatever was that monster?’ Maud said. She looked uncommonly grim, with gray spots of dusty sweat on her skin.
Basil shrugged. ‘No idea. I’ve never heard of anything like it.’ He looked at the cart and the driver on his knees beside his dead engine.
‘It’s ruined,’ the man said, still in shock. ‘My livelihood is ruined. What should I do?’
‘You shall report this whole thing to the Overcaptain,’ Basil said over Yarwan’s shoulder. ‘You have your logbook?’
‘Of course.’ The man produced a grimy notebook that contained every trip he’d made.
Basil stepped out of Yarwan’s arms. ‘Give it to me.’ He wrote a few lines and then affixed his glowing seal to it. ‘Here you are. Don’t worry; you will be compensated.’
Gingerly, the driver took his notebook back. He mumbled something and backed off, suddenly afraid of this strange youth.
Basil, his mind elsewhere, didn’t even notice the man’s fear. ‘Why?’ he said aloud. ‘What did the little creep hope to gain with this nonsense?’
‘Gain?’ Jurgis stared at his brother. ‘He wanted to kill us.’
Basil shook his head. ‘No.’ He looked up and saw Maud’s arrested look.
‘No?’ she said. ‘Why do you think so?’
He smiled. ‘Had Saul wanted to kill us, he’d have materialized the monster in the cart, to rip us apart. He would have dropped it from the top of the promontory onto our heads. Blow the whole steamcart with us in it over the edge into the sea. Or he would’ve done something else. We’d be dead. But this wasn’t serious.’
‘Not serious!’ Jurgis exclaimed. ‘The steamcart ruined? Maud nearly killed?’
‘The cart can be replaced and she wasn’t killed. No, dear, he knew I would stop the beast. He wasn’t planning to kill anyone; he wanted something else. But what?’
At that moment, two harbor guards on patrol came running and Maud went to intercept them. Basil wasn’t interested in the furious guards and he crouched down by the dead monster.
‘It’s a female,’ he said after a while. ‘But of what species? It’s not a bear, or an ape, and it certainly isn’t human.’
‘Perhaps it’s a troll,’ Jurgis said, smiling broadly.
Basil looked up. ‘You could be right.’
His brother’s face fell. ‘I was joking. No one has ever seen a troll.’
‘No?’ Basil rose and strode over to where Maud was in a heated discussion with the law. ‘You, guardsman,’ he said with unconscious peremptoriness. ‘Take this monster’s body to the Overcaptain’s mansion. My father is staying there. Request him to have a look at the body and let me know if he recognizes it. I’ll be at the Drunken Peacock when you return with the answer. That will be all.’
Maud bared her teeth at the outraged guardsmen. ‘His father is the prince-warlock of Winsproke, who is on an unofficial visit to the Overcaptain. I suggest you execute the Spellwarden’s wishes with alacrity.’
Basil returned to his contemplation of the dead monster, oblivious to the harbor guard running down the road to get transport for the carcass, while his colleague took up post guarding the body.
‘Are you finished here?’ Maud sounded on the edge of exploding.
Basil stood and dusted his hands. ‘Yes. How do we get to the inn?’
‘We walk,’ the lioness snapped. ‘Chalk it up to your chum Saul.’
‘It’s two miles, and steep going,’ Yarwan said worriedly. ‘Can you make it, love?’
‘If I must, I will make it.’ Basil gripped his staff. ‘Blast it, I want a flying carpet.’
Maud glanced at the posting harbor guard and grumbled something vitriolic.
Jurgis put an arm around her waist and squeezed. ‘What’s bothering you, my love?’
‘Those boneheaded idiots,’ the lioness said. ‘Witless imbeciles. “Why did you bring a monkey into Towne? Why didn’t you use a cage, so it couldn’t break loose? Flying carpets don’t exist, woman.” The lackwit was close to a broken nose when he said that.’
The others roared with laughter.
‘Those guards have their limitations,’ Yarwan said. ‘I know them well. They’re stout defenders of the peace, but they have neither imagination nor sense of humor.’ Then he took Basil’s arm. ‘Come on, m’dear; lean on me and we’ll get to the inn.’
It cost them the better part of two hours to reach the Peacock. Basil was near to tears from the pain as he limped into the taproom, but he made it.
‘I need that book,’ he said, before he collapsed into a chair. ‘I need that bloody spellbook.’
Paul E. Horsman (1952) is a Dutch and International Fantasy Author. Born in the sleepy garden village of Bussum, The Netherlands, he now lives in Roosendaal, a town on the Dutch-Belgian border.
He has been a soldier, a salesman, a scoutmaster and from 1995 till his school closed in 2012 a teacher of Dutch as a Second Language and Integration to refugees from all over the globe.
He is a full-time writer of light fantasy adventures for Y.A. and older. His books are both published in the Netherlands, and internationally.
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Lioness of Kell