from the back cover:
"In the northern part of this world, there was once a kingdom called Hagenspan. And in that kingdom lived a man named Roarke who, though he is little remembered now, was greatly honored during the days of his life. Roarke was the Dragon-Killer.
"Houses and lands were given to him, and much gold as well. Songs were sung of him. But these were not the things that Roarke's heart sought after.
"Roarke's Wisdom is an epic story of adventure and romance, of the deep yearnings of the human spirit. It rings not so much with the clanging sounds of warfare as it sings the sad songs of the heart.
"Follow Roarke's journey as he finds friends, enemies, love, and purpose, and is driven inexorably to his ultimate confrontation with the last dragon of Hagenspan."
Barnes & Noble.com
Robert W. Tompkins
The Hagenspan Chronicles
an excerpt from early in the story:
Stark grumbled to himself as he stalked from the relative safety of the outdoors, through the castle gate, and past the silent rows of Roarke's Men. He was deeply suspicious of the soldiers, all standing mutely at attention with swords drawn. He arrived before the throne and glared upward at the sober visage of Roarke, who regarded him with stern calm.
"What is your name?" Roarke asked.
"I be called Stark," the dwarf grumbled in his deep, guttural voice.
"You favor another person that I recently met, by the name of Mox. Did you know him?"
"Aye, that be me uncle's son." Stark paused. "What d'ye mean, did I know him?"
"I'm sorry to be the one to give you this news, if you didn't know it," Roarke replied, wishing that he had not asked the question. "Mox is, ah … dead."
Stark was shaken by the report of his cousin's demise, but feigned indifference. "He was always careless. I expect he didn't die o' natural causes."
"No. I'm sorry," Roarke said again.
"Do I get a piece o' gold or not?"
Roarke paused to regard the dark little man. "After you have fulfilled your part of the bargain, yes."
"What do I need t' do?"
"Bow the knee, and pledge that you will not raise your hand against Blythecairne again."
Stark grumbled huffily, but did drop to one knee and bow his head. Roarke asked him, "Do you swear that you will be true to the spirit of this gift, and turn back from warfare against Blythecairne?"
Stark had not intended to promise any such thing, but having been put on the spot in the presence of the warrior witnesses, he found the words rumbling out from beneath his beard, "Aye. I swear it."
"Well said. Will you give me your hand?"
Stark didn't expect this, but nonetheless, he extended his short, gnarled arm toward the throne, and Roarke grasped it firmly. He held Stark's wrist until the dwarf's gaze drifted upward to see Roarke's eyes steadily looking into his own. "Good," the knight said, smiling faintly. "Keet, please give our friend a falconet."
Paddy Clay looked longingly at the door of The Cold Fish as he rode past on his borrowed horse. He hoped the boys would still remember him, and maybe buy him a round, seeing as how he didn't have any money of his own. He wished he had thought to ask Captain Lirey for some, back when Lirey had asked what Blythecairne could do for him. They probably could have spared him a ruric or two. Well, no matter now—he had to go and beg Sarie to take him back, and it wouldn't help for him to come to her with liquor on his breath.
He tried to calculate how long he had been gone, and judging from the changing of the seasons, he figured it might have been about half a year. That wasn't too long, he supposed, not for fighting a dragon. He hoped Sarie felt the same.
He turned down the alley that led to the little house that he had shared with his wife. The features of the alley appeared comfortably familiar to him—homey. He noticed that Mulgrew had still not fixed his fence, and saw that Missus Fenter's cats were still lying in a crowded pile of fur outside her door, just as they had done since Paddy was a little boy. He saw a tangle of fishing poles leaning against the wall of Purley's, and suddenly wanted to go fishing so bad he could taste it.
Almost before he had realized it was happening, he was turning aside into his own dooryard … Sarie's, he meant. He saw the wash hanging on the line, noticed some colored bits of clothing he didn't recognize, and suddenly his sense of familiarity, of coming home, was lost.
Thinking that perhaps what he really needed, after all, was to head back to The Fish for a pint on credit, he started to turn the horse back up the alley in the other direction. Before he got the horse properly circled around, though, he heard her voice.
"Hello, Sar'." Paddy's heart thumped rapidly as he turned to look at her. "Are you glad to see me?"
"That's a nice horse," she said noncommittally. "I don't know if I'm glad to see you or not."
"It ain't mine," Paddy said uneasily. "It's borrowed."
She stood with her arms crossed, blocking the doorway to their kitchen. Paddy thought she looked a little tired, and said so.
"Well, you would be too, if you had to…." Her voice trailed off. "Are you going to get down?"
"If it ain't too much trouble," Paddy said hesitantly.
"Not for me," Sarie consented.
"Is it all right if I come in?"
"I don't know," Sarie said reluctantly. "What are you here for?"
"Well, I, ah … we're married, Sar'."
"That didn't stop you from runnin' off to fight a dragon when I didn't want you to do no such thing."
Paddy wore a pained expression upon his honest face. "I don't know what to say. I thought it was the right thing to do … when I done it."
"Is that all you have to say to me, Paddy Clay?" she demanded softly.
"Well … no, I guess." He wondered what words would convince her how earnestly he wanted to repent. "I'll beg if you want me to, Sar'. I'll get down on my knees and beg—God's my witness. There ain't nothin' in the world I want more than to just live with you, quiet and simple, for all the rest of our days."
"That's right," she said. "You'd better say that, if you mean it." She hesitated. "But it ain't so simple as that, Paddy. You've been gone quite a long spell, and … well … I've got another man in my life now, kind of."
"No, Sar' … don't let it be," Paddy said, his voice pale and wavering. He felt like he'd just been kicked in the stomach, like his last reason for living was fading like a vapor.
Sarie saw his pain, and felt a pang of remorse. "You've been gone an awful long time."
"But you said … you said—" Paddy choked. He turned and started to climb back up onto the horse, so she wouldn't see him break down.
"What did I say, Paddy?"
"I'm sorry, Sar'. I should be goin'."
"What did I say?"
He looked at her for a long, aching moment. "You said you'd always keep the door open for me." He fought to control the muscles of his face. "I can't tell you how many times I thought o' them words over the weeks."
She looked at him steadily, thinking, remembering. "I did say that, didn't I?" She unfolded her arms, and kicked open the door without looking. "You might as well come in."