Knight Eternal, the exciting sequel to Harbinger of Doom is now available in multiple electronic formats from Smashwords.com https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/glenngthater and in trade paperback format from CreateSpace at https://www.createspace.com/3399280. Within the next week or so the trade paperback version and a kindle eBook reader format will be available on Amazon.com.
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THE HARBINGER OF DOOM SAGA
1. THE GATEWAY
2. THE FALLEN ANGLE
3. KNIGHT ETERNAL
4. LORD OF THE DEAD (forthcoming)
HARBINGER OF DOOM
(Combines ‘The Gateway’ and ‘The Fallen Angle’ into a single volume)
Knight Eternal, the exciting sequel to Harbinger of Doom is now available in multiple electronic formats from Smashwords.com https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/glenngthaterand in trade paperback format from CreateSpace at https://www.createspace.com/3399280. Within the next week or so the trade paperback version and a kindle eBook reader format will be available on Amazon.com.
In Knight Eternal, Glenn G. Thater transports us to an age of high adventure where knights battle supernatural creatures, political intrigues abound, ancient fiends lurk in the mist, and the line between good and evil is all too thin. This next volume in the epic Harbinger of Doom series is certain to delight fantasy fans everywhere.
Lord Angle Theta, Claradon Eotrus, and Ob the gnome battle fanatical monks, deadly bounty hunters, and otherworldly fiends whose merest touch is death, in their relentless pursuit of Korrgonn, Lord of Chaos. Meanwhile, Korrgonn stops at nothing to acquire the fabled Orb of Wisdom, that ancient talisman that can return Azathoth and his kingdom to Midgaard. But the fate of the world turns when Claradon faces DeBoors, the ancient sword-master who has sworn to slay him.
“To sate my thirst, I’ll drink
thy blood - the blood of kings.”
A cloaked figure shambled through the Outer Dor, a vibrant town of some few thousands that encircled the stone fortress called Dor Eotrus. The people gave the shambler wide berth, suspicious of strangers in these dark times. Hunched beneath a black cloak that concealed its face, the wearer’s aspect remained unknown as he approached the entry to the Dor proper.
Several soldiers manned the guard post outside the entryway, passing the time with a game of dice. The tallest of the group, a gaunt veteran with a scar across his right cheek, stepped forward. He shivered from a sudden chill in the air.
“Halt, and state your business,” said Sir Marzdan, watch captain of the gate. With each breath, steam rose from Marzdan’s mouth, where there was none moments before. The shambler stopped before the captain, though he said nothing.
“Who are you?” said Marzdan after some moments. “Speak.” Marzdan’s fingers tapped his sword hilt.
“Messenger,” moaned the cloak, though no steam followed from beneath its hood.
Marzdan eyed him with suspicion and wrinkled his nose when he caught the fetid stench that emanated from the messenger. It wasn’t the stink of a beggar, but something fouler, darker. The other guards took notice, put aside their game, and took up positions some feet behind their captain.
“What is your message?”
“Only for the Eotrus,” he said in a slow, eerie voice that made Marzdan’s neck hairs stand up.
“That will not get you in.” Marzdan looked him up and down. “Who sent you here? Have you some token?”
“A token?” said the messenger. “Yes, a token I do have.” The messenger slowly reached out his arm toward the watchman. The hand that emerged from beneath that threadbare cloak wore no human flesh. No skin, no muscle, no sinew concealed its naked gray bones. This was no mere messenger, but some creature out of nightmare.
Marzdan’s eyes widened; his fingers locked around his sword hilt, though he didn’t pull the blade free. “What – what are you?”
“Messenger,” moaned the cloak once again.
Marzdan’s face blanched, but he stood his ground and stared at the skeletal hand and the gleaming contents it held. A ring – a golden ring that bore the symbol of House Eotrus, the noble family that ruled these lands.
“Make no move creature.”
Marzdan moved closer and plucked the ring from the boney hand, taking great care to touch only the ring.
“Wait here,” said the knight. “I’ll get word to the tower.”
The messenger stood still as a statue, silent as the grave. Marzdan backed cautiously away, his hand never leaving his sword hilt.
“I’m going to get Jude,” said Marzdan quietly to his guardsmen. “You men stand fast. If that thing holds his ground, leave him be. Not a word to him, understand?”
“Not a word,” said Harsnip, a skinny blond soldier not yet eighteen - his eyes wide, voice crackling with fear.
“If he tries to pass the gate, you’re to cut him down. Whatever it takes, you don’t let him pass. You‘re to protect the Dor. Understood?”
“Aye,” said Baret, an older soldier with white hair. “We know our job, Captain. That bugger will not get by us, to be sure, but you be quick.
“Right quick,” said Harsnip.
“Aye, I will,” said Marzdan, a wary eye still on the messenger.
“That arm – it’s nothing but bones,” whispered Graham, a stout soldier with big ears.
“Nothing but bones,” said Harsnip.
“This is some sorcery; some foul magic,” said Graham.
“It’s foul magic, it is,” said Harsnip.
“There’s no such thing as magic, you fools,” said Baret. “A damn trick is all, to fool us.”
“A trick?” said Harsnip, a glimmer of a smile coming to his face. “Yeah, that’s all it is. Just a trick. Not magic.”
“To what end?” said Graham.
Baret scrunched up his face. “How would I know what’s his mind, the stinking bag of bones? That’s for bigger men than the likes of us.”
“Bigger men,” said Harsnip, staring over his shoulder at the messenger. “Foul magic, I think. Not a trick at all.”
“What’s that, boy?” said Baret.
“Me grand-mum told me to steer clear of magic, she did. She told me the old stories were more truth than fancy. Steer right clear of anything magic, or it’ll be the death of you, Harsnip, she said. And she done told me not to join up with the guard too. Any magic already hereabouts will be at the Dor, she said, and any magic what comes around will head straight there, like a moth to a flame. She was right about that, it seems. She said the Dor’d be the death of me, old grand-mum said. Said it just last week, right over Thorsday’s dinner, she did.”
“Steady, lad,” said Baret, placing a firm hand on the young man’s shoulder. “Just a messenger it is, bones or not. Nothing much to fear, not yet, anyways.”
“—I’ll look out for you lad, if it comes to it.
“Thanks. I’m counting on that.”
“Just remember your training.”
“Aye,” said Harsnip. “I will.”
A group of men exited the keep’s central tower and walked toward the gate. Jude Eotrus, a dark-maned hulk of crooked nose and squared jaw led the way. With him, his youngest brother, Malcolm, long and lean; Sir Marzdan; and several other knights and soldiers.
The messenger still stood by the gate, unmoved.
Jude held the ring before the messenger, then stepped back, wrinkling his nose and coughing from the messenger’s stench. Marzdan stood protectively beside Jude, hand on sword hilt. The messenger, taller than most men, and as broad, more or less, came up only to Jude’s jaw, and was barely half his breadth.
“What do you know of this ring?” said Jude from a safer distance, his breath steaming.
“It be the signet ring of House Eotrus, taken from thy father’s hand the night he fell in the Vermion Forest, not one month ago.”
“Who are you and how came you by it?”
“I be little more than dust. The ring was entrusted to me so that you’d know that the message I bear be true.” The creature pulled a piece of dusty parchment from beneath its robes and handed it to Jude.
Jude unfolded the parchment. It read:
Aradon Eotrus lives and will remain so if and only if you deliver twenty thousand silver stars unto our messenger tomorrow evening at Riker’s Crossroads. Thence we will exchange the silver for the old Lord - no tricks or dead he’ll truly be.
Jude’s eyes grew wide. “It says father’s alive, and this creature’s master has him.”
“What?” Malcolm’s face flashed brick red and drew into a snarl; fists opening and closing at his sides.
“Are you the messenger that’ll make this exchange?” asked Jude.
“Perhaps, perhaps not; who can say?”
“How dare you hold my father for ransom, you stinking dog.” Malcolm pulled his sword, and before Jude could grab his arm, thrust the blade through the messenger’s chest.
The messenger stumbled back, and clutched at the sword with both skeletal hands.
Malcolm yanked the blade free.
No blood sprang from the creature’s wound. No cry erupted from its throat - its torn cloak the only evidence that the blow had been struck.
Only gray dust marred the sheen of Malcolm’s sword; but in no more than a moment, the fine steel blade turned to ash from tip to guard. Malcolm threw the hilt down as it too burned to ash before his eyes.
The messenger threw back its head, its cowl still cloaking its face, and laughed: louder, and louder still – so loud that the men cringed and crushed their hands against their ears. It was a horrid, cackling sound of such unnatural tenor and fearful intonation as could not be voiced by the throat of man – though, mercifully, it lasted but a few moments.
“Well struck. Well struck,” said the messenger. It shrugged off its cloak, revealing glowing, silver chains that criss-crossed about its body. From skull to foot it was little more than bleached bones affixed together by some strange gray tissue. It had two large eyes of blood-red pupil and sickly yellow sclera, and hands that ended in boney claws.
The messenger flexed its arms and legs, and strained against the chains. “Thy blow has freed me from my binding.” Another flex and several links shattered. The chain fell to the ground in a heap. “I can now pursue mine own course.”
The creature vaulted at Jude, claws flailing.
Lightning quick, Marzdan grabbed Jude and pulled him clear; no small feat, considering Jude’s bulk.
The messenger veered and raked its claws across young Harsnip’s chest; the boy’s face froze in shock and horror. The blow met no resistance, as if the claws were insubstantial like those of some ghost out of a fireside tale.
Harsnip loosed a bloodcurdling scream. His face grew ashen; his skin wrinkled and shriveled. His hair grew instantly white and fell about his shoulders. For a moment, before he fell, his eyes locked accusingly on Baret’s. Then Harsnip collapsed into a heap of dust, rotted clothes, and rusted armor.
The soldiers yelled, and hacked at the messenger, but their blades passed through it, doing it no harm. Each blade that touched the thing burned to ash, and those men too slow to throw down the hilts burned to ash with them. The creature struck again and again and more men went down and shriveled to ash. Its touch was death, no matter the victim’s courage, strength, or skill.
Whistles blew and calls of alarm
sounded about the keep. Jude led the men in a fast retreat to the central tower; the creature pursued at its own shambling pace. Soon, the booming claxon of the bell tower warned all the Dor of danger and roused the garrison to arms.
“Bar the door, and stand well back,” shouted Jude after the last of the soldiers dashed through the portal.
The men crowded about the tower’s entry hall and on the winding stair to the upper chambers. They heard screams and war cries from without as guards from other parts of the keep descended upon the messenger and died for it.
“What is that thing?” said Malcolm. “How do we fight it?”
“We wouldn’t have to fight it if you weren’t an idiot,” said Jude. “Some monster out of Nifleheim. It’s beyond our ken. I know not how to bring it down.”
The messenger stepped through the door, though the door did not open. It passed through the solid oak, banded and reinforced in honest steel and iron, as if it were but empty air. Startled, the men jumped back. Many went down in a heap as they stumbled over those behind. Several crossbow bolts went flying, passed through the creature, and embedded themselves in the door before they too burned to ash.
“To the chapel,” shouted Jude, “Run.”
Those on the stair turned heel and raced up the winding steps shouting the alarm as they went. Up and up they raced to the third floor, which housed the keep’s place of worship. What men were still with Jude dashed in, closed, and barred the big double doors.
“What do we do?” yelled Malcolm.
“Holy water,” said Marzdan.
The soldiers stood in a semi-circular line some ten feet from the barred door. Each held a basin of holy water, or one of the chapel’s holy symbols or relics.
“We’ve no priests to bless the weapons,” said Malcolm.
“Don’t worry, young master,” said Captain Marzdan. “They’ll work. They have to.”
Long seconds passed. A scream or two from without and below heralded the messenger’s approach. Then it passed through the barred door, again as if it wasn’t there. The room instantly grew frigid, the light from the sconces wavered and dimmed, and the air filled with the creature’s fetid stench.
“Begone, creature,” shouted Jude. “You can’t enter this holy place. Begone.”
“You be no priest,” said the messenger. “You hath no power over me.”
The men flung their holy water, dousing the spot where the messenger stood, though the water passed through it and the messenger paid it no heed. It moved forward, toward Jude.
Malcolm held a staff upon which was mounted an ancient, holy relic of Odin, father of the gods. He thrust it forward and pressed the end to the creature’s forehead. This time, the weapon met resistance; the relic seared the messenger’s skull and held fast.
The creature snarled and spasmed. It lashed out and grabbed the staff, howling in rage. Where its claws grasped the oak, the staff smoked and blackened and turned to ash. As a lit fuse, the destruction of the staff continued down its shaft. Eyes wide, Malcolm froze.
“Drop the staff,” yelled Jude, his breath steaming.
Captain Marzdan dived into Malcolm and pushed him aside. Malcolm fell clear but Marzdan landed atop the decaying staff.
The captain’s face froze in terror and he screamed - a lingering wail of agony and anger that no man there could forget for the rest of his days. Marzdan’s hair went white, his skin paled and shriveled. In moments, the brave soldier was no more than an ashen heap with the shape of a man.
Malcolm writhed in agony and clutched at his left wrist; his left hand smoldered, flesh hung loose, white bone tasted the air.
“Yes,” hissed the messenger. It thrust back its arms and its head as if in ecstasy, and then by some power born of hell, the creature grew – taller, thicker, darker. “Ah, the sweet blood of kings. I must have more.” Its eyes locked on Jude, boring into his very soul. It shambled forward, toward Jude, ignoring all else.
Jude backpedaled through the room, sword held at the defensive. The knights and guardsmen fired crossbow bolts at the thing and threw weapons at it from all sides, all to no avail.
“What do we do?” yelled one man.
“How do we bring it down?” called out Baret.
As he neared the very back of the chapel with little space left to run, Jude stopped and held his ground.
“What do you want?” he shouted. “Why do you plague us?” Jude’s eyes darted from the beast to his wounded brother. Baret and Graham pulled Malcolm up and dragged him from the room.
“To sate my thirst, I’ll drink thy blood - the blood of kings,” said the fiend, its eyes wild; foam dripped from its bony maw.
“To sate my hunger, I’ll burn thy body and devour thy soul.”
“Can’t we give you some mead and a chicken or two, perhaps a goat, and call our business done?”
“No,” said the messenger.
“Some fresh venison then? Some good gnomish ale to wash it down? We’ve a keg from ’58, brewed in Portland Vale.”
The messenger lunged forward.
Jude stepped back and tripped over a chest that sat beside the chapel’s lectern. The messenger’s claws raked through the empty air where Jude had just stood. Jude landed on his rump, the stout, ironbound oaken chest before him, and knew at once what to do. He flung the lid open and sure and swift from within pulled a strange glowing dagger of silver hue.
The messenger recoiled and sniffed the air. It locked its eyes on the glowing dagger and growled. It flexed its claws and they began to change. In moments, they passed six inches in length; darkened, black as pitch; and sharpened to a razor’s edge.
In one motion, Jude leaped to his feet and flung the ensorcelled dagger with all his power. It struck the messenger mid-chest, exploded through its sternum, and lodged there. The creature emitted a devilish wail to whither the soul and slay the spirit: a howl of such volume and pitch that near every man in the room dropped to his knees. It clutched at the dagger with both its taloned, skeletal hands, stumbled back a few steps, and collapsed to one knee.
“Curse you, Eotrus,” spat the beast. “And all thy line forevermore.”
Its eyes rolled back in its head. It fell backward, struck the marble floor, and exploded in a cloud of dust. The glowing dagger remained, embedded in a heap of foul black ash.