A first glimpse into THE OBLOERON SAGA. I give you the opening to THE QUEST FOR THE CHALICE, my first novel and (chronologically) the fourth story in the SAGA.
No matter where he went in his kingdom, Radamuck Rosar had difficulty escaping the whispers.
The taunting voices, all filled with sadistic vitriol, chased him throughout the realm of Lowbridge, the rock walls failing to absorb the echoes. Even a great grumble from the dwarf king’s gut, whether through his mouth or from his arse, couldn’t silence them.
In the fifty long years since Radamuck returned from the seemingly ancient wars away to the south, there had been no sign of a coming heir to the great dwarven kingdom, the one he now ruled as its 24th King. He and his wife had tried desperately to produce a male child, one who would take over the kingdom once Radamuck, like his father Ricanack before him, went to the Great Void Beyond.
For his part, though, Radamuck had ensured the day-to-day operations of the kingdom would continue by someone of royal blood and not a steward: upon his return, he immediately named Aidan, his nephew, as the heir presumptive to the Throne of the Golden Mug. Even so, it clearly gnawed on his nerves that he still did not have a son. He was now up there in age, and he knew that his best breeding years had passed far behind him.
If I do not have an heir soon, a true heir o’ me own loins and not me dead brother’s, he thought, the blame would lie with me.
Radamuck walked the corridors alone at night while the rest of the kingdom slept. It was a haunting thought, not being able to produce an heir. It attacked his nightmares and, at times when he was not busy, his daydreams. He wondered how he would solve this problem—he absolutely forbade himself to see a cleric about this; he knew their lips were a tad loose, even though the entire kingdom already knew what haunted Radamuck’s steps—when the idea struck him. The thought made the echoes that crept along his path cease, and instead the whisperings in his mind grew louder with each beat of his heart.
Immortality will embrace yeh, Radamuck Rosar, he heard.
He grimaced and grunted. He shook his head once as he resumed his pace.
Immortality may be the answer, he thought, but it would come at a price, a sad price: I would continue living while me beautiful wife, the Lady Rosar, would perish. I would go on in this world without her.
Another grunt poured from his lips, as if he tried to dull the sounds of his heart shattering against his ribcage.
It was a debate, a debate that he had never given heed to before: In order to produce an heir, he needed no stress at all.
I am always under such stress, he thought. The pressures of ruling me kingdom, the pressures o’ producing an heir, all on me broad shoulders. He shook his black beard. But should me loins not do the job with which they were tasked to do in the first place…
His thoughts trailed off with a tight grimace and a deep breath through his large, pockmarked nose. He made his way to his royal bedchamber, walking along the twisting passageways with his head down.
Radamuck didn’t even look up as he entered.
“It’s about time you got back from your stroll.”
He stifled a cry even as he jumped. He looked through the darkness until a tiny burst of light appeared near his bedside. The smell of cordite lingered.
“Yeh made me heart shoot into me throat. What are yeh still doin’ awake?”
“I could ask you the same question, dear.” Lady Rosar’s retort was sharp.
Radamuck grew silent; his left cheek twitched near the corner of his mouth.
“Ah, yeh know,” he said, scrambling for the words, his eyes darting around the room and not meeting his wife’s eyes, “just the affairs o’ the day; some thin’s that be on me mind ‘bout the direction of me kingdom.”
“You’re lying to me, Radamuck, and you know that I know you’re lying to me.”
“I’m not lyin’ to yeh.”
“You just did it again.”
The stern look she gave him, he saw, was as powerful a stare as he ever gave an underling. Radamuck’s throat went suspiciously dry.
“What do yeh want from me, love?” he said softly.
“The truth would be a nice start.”
She had said it so simply and without anger that he felt his burly, dwarven façade crumble under the weight of her words.
Lady Rosar slipped out of bed and walked toward him. He was defenseless now, and he knew this. She wrapped her arms around him. He felt the tension in his body evaporate under the heat of her flesh.
“What is it, my love?” she asked as she ran her hands across his back. “Tell me.”
Radamuck’s grunt filled the room. His mind kept whirling, the incessant vortex of thought—the thoughts that plagued his footsteps and his day-to-day life for the last decade—not shifting aside, not even for his wife.
“Don’t tell me now. Tell me later today; you need rest. Summon Aidan to you in the morning, and tell him he’s in charge of the kingdom for the day. You and I are headed out into the fields for a day of relaxation, and that means no axes,” she whispered; Radamuck slumped. “Then, you can tell me everything you need to tell me, because if you don’t tell me, I’ll hound you until you tell me.”
“OK, love. I’ll tell yeh then. Until then, I need some sleep.”
“Of course you do,” she said with a smile. “Come to bed, and we’ll sleep until the sun rises.”
Once in bed and his head hit the pillow, Radamuck was out.
But the thoughts—oh, those thoughts. The thoughts remained entrenched in his subconscious. The nightmares filled his mind with visions of what he thought would come to pass; the disembodied view of his corpse slowly consumed by magical flames without a son to mourn him, the kingdom run by one of his steward’s bastardy as they went after, captured, and killed Aidan. Sweat poured down Radamuck’s face as every image made his flesh tingle with unseen tremors.
Radamuck’s eyes eventually sprang open, the sweat dropping in and stinging them as he lurched upward with a heavy gasp. His lungs burned as he tried to suck the sweet air clinging to every crevice, every nook and cranny, even from the stone itself. He wiped his wrist across his brow; the tiny hairs were damp.
The king looked to his right, where his queen slept soundly, seemingly undisturbed by the fear gnawing at her husband’s insides. He took a deep breath and tried not to grumble; he didn’t want to wake his wife with troubles he felt were his and his alone. He returned his head to its soft mooring before finally falling into contented sleep.
Like what you've read? THE OBLOERON SAGA comes out TOMORROW... Monday, Nov. 2, 2015, on all ebook retailers.