Songs of a Warrior Priest by Teel James Glenn by Teel James Glenn - Read Online

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Summary

Welcome to the world of Altiva where young Lord Erique Shoutte has become a divinity student at the Academy Kova. Here the young man embarks on a lifelong adventure to serve his people, forming strong friendships and fighting terrible odds to bring justice to his flock. The tales follow Erique as he progresses from callow youth to mature man on quests for love, knowledge and martial perfection. With him on that journey is the pint-sized spitfire-swordswoman Dame Arinna Cabal, the bawdy herbalist Sister Ada and Myrran his ladylove. Along the way he fights crystal killers who murder with a song, a Vampyr family curse that leaves the victims drained of blood, mad dictators, a masked mystery man, demons and damsels that are more deadly than in distress. These tales range from the heroic, to the mysterious to swashbuckling adventure. In the classic tradition of Conan, Zorro and Captain Blood!
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ISBN: 9781611603262
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SONGS OF A WARRIOR PRIEST

by

TEEL JAMES GLENN

WHISKEY CREEK PRESS

www.whiskeycreekpress.com

Published by

WHISKEY CREEK PRESS

www.whiskeycreekpress.com

Copyright © 2012 by Teel James Glenn

Warning: The unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this copyrighted work is illegal. Criminal copyright infringement, including infringement without monetary gain, is investigated by the FBI and is punishable by up to 5 (five) years in federal prison and a fine of $250,000.

Names, characters and incidents depicted in this book are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, organizations, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental and beyond the intent of the author or the publisher.

No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.

ISBN: 978-1-61160-326-2

Credits

Cover Artist: Teel James Glenn

Editor: Melanie Billings

Printed in the United States of America

Other Books by Author Available at Whiskey Creek Press:

www.whiskeycreekpress.com

Across the Wasteland

Lastshot and the alluring Skorpion are stranded in the nuclear wasteland with a shuttlecraft of innocents and their deadly and Rokk, a rogue Exceptional. Will Rokk save them or leave them to die and take his only chance for freedom?

Gaslight Occurrences: the Steampulp Adven-tures of Augustus Argent

Who can the Crown call when a hideous curse has been caste on a nobleman in Regency England? Doctor Augustus Argent and his swashbuckling aid Jack Stone protect the empire from the forces of darkness in pulse pounding, pulp-style action and romance.

Dedication

This book is dedicated to Joan McNulty Pulver, a patient editor and wonderful woman who helped open the portal to Altiva for me and allowed all of you to enter...I will miss her forever...

Acknowledments

To all the friends who listened and encouraged, my patient Janis who listened so many nights of angst about it, to Kymberli, my warrior sister who encouraged me to return to Altiva, to my sword brother Ghostdancer, Terry (the real Conal Redbrand), and to the members of FALO who have always welcomed me to their own fantasy and allowed me to share mine I acknowledge that you got me to here...

Welcome to the World of Altiva!

Altiva is a place like no other in the annals of fantasy. A world where once a highly advanced technological society thrived, only to fall. Left behind were the twin magicks of Crystal Craft and warp portals.

The range of the Crystal Craft is wide and varied and the warps to across the world and to many other worlds beyond are controlled by the mysterious race apart known as warp wizards.

This is the world of Lord Erique Shoutte of Umbria who as a young man leaves behind his heritage as a lord to vast estates to pursue the arduous path to priesthood in the Kova religion. It is a hard but rewarding road and, dear reader, if you approve, a long and winding one....

Teel James Glenn

Union City, NJ, September 2011

When the elder son of Shoutte finds his calling to serve the Kova, he makes his way to the Academy Kova. Young Erique trains hard, with the dedication of a true zealot looking in himself for the inner strength equal to his faith where he learns—

The Song of Chastity

I’ve completely disgraced myself, the school, the religion, severely disappointed Master Braphon and embarrassed myself in front of Arinna, Erique thought. And destroyed my chance to ever be a Kova warrior. Thank the Kova Nasta’s that at least I’ll be dead by nightfall. Nineteen-year-old Erique, fourth-year divinity student at the Academy Kova, was in a bad way. He was bound hand and foot, gagged and lying on his side on the floor of the sword polisher’s shop. Beside him were the old sword polisher Maj’Leas and his friend Arinna, Master Braphon’s daughter.

Standing near the door was the bandit leader, Kandal, whose four cutthroats had subdued the trio.

I’ll never be able to face the combat instructors back at the academy, after being taken so simply, Erique thought.

Erique and Arinna had come into town that morning with Reverend Sword-Master Braphon to purchase supplies for the Academy’s School of Justice.

Erique wasn’t a student of the Master’s school yet, being only in his first year of Healer’s school. Three years of learning in the School of Song to memorize and sing the truth chants, three at the School of Healing and three at the School of Justice at weapons training would make him a full warrior priest of the Kova.

Can we go to the Red Hand Tavern to hear the singers, Father? Arinna had asked. Erique’s budding friendship with the girl was the reason he was along.

Not today, daughter, Master Braphon said, distractedly. I have to do buying for Reverend Newlon as well as myself; I can’t chase after you and your friend. The barrel-chested Master looked down at his daughter’s pout and added, Next time. I need you to go to the sword polisher, Master Maj’Leas, with Chastity for me.

Chastity was Master Braphon’s crystal sword. Now it lay unsheathed on the worktable of the sword polisher’s shop, its smoky emerald curve gleaming with accusatory intensity.

Young Erique stared up at the leather-wrapped handle of the sword and all but cried with frustration. When he and Arinna had entered Master Maj’Leas shop, the bandits had been in the process of robbing the establishment of the precious stones and powders used in the polisher’s art.

Erique was actually holding the scabbarded Chastity when they entered the shop, having persuaded Arinna to let him hold the near-legendary sword. He felt as if he could feel the energy of the master even through the carved scabbard.

Ten formal duels without a single loss and two years in the Coz’en Border Wars that earned the priest warrior Braphon a King’s Hero Circlet. As Erique hefted Chastity in its carved green crystal scabbard, he imagined the battles the master had been in, the clash of blades and the cries of fallen foes.

Young Shoutte had trained to be a swordsman with the village instructor at his home in Umbria. He had always wanted to be a great warrior for as long as he could remember, even before he knew he wanted to serve the Kova as a priest. He knew what skill it would take to wield so fine a blade as Chastity. He had heard stories of Crystal swords, grown to be attuned to the master swordsman who wielded them. Erique had always dreamed that someday he would have as fine a blade. He would name it Skullslash or Gutslitter or some name that told the world what a fearsome weapon it was.

Chastity is such an odd name for a sword, Erique was thinking just at the moment when the two burly thugs had appeared from the shadows of the cluttered shop and seized him.

Arinna had put up a fight at least, managing to break the nose of one bandit with a swinging kick before they had clubbed the petite girl senseless.

Erique had been held with a knife at his throat while the helpless girl was tied. He burned with frustration as the thugs took particular delight in the rough-handling of the girl as she was secured.

This is a fine blade, Kandal, one of the thieves said, drawing Chastity from its scabbard. I could be a great warrior with a sword like this!

You’d be a great ass with any weapon, Kandal said, taking the sword from the man. We agreed to take no swords from this shop—the city guard would be able to trace them with no difficulty—most of them are too well known! Finish tying the boy and find the jar of Jarnex powder; it’s the most expensive stuff these shops have!

The thieves secured Erique and continued to ransack the shop for booty, making lusty plans on how they would spend it all the while.

Arinna had come out of her stupor, her clear blue eyes wide with anger, her teeth clenched behind her gag. She fixed Erique with her stare as if to say, "Well, what now?"

She thinks I’m a complete fool, Erique thought. I should have put up a fight! Erique wished he’d been free enough to kick himself, but all he could do was squirm his legs a bit. One of them must have been a sailor, he thought bitterly as he tested the knots. Probably a pirate.

Hey, Kandal, one of the thieves barked. There’s another one coming down the path, big one with a scar on his cheek. I think he’s coming here.

That must be Master Braphon, Erique thought. He is unarmed. They’ll get him too. He stared up at Chastity, almost crying in shame and frustration. Saints of the Kova help me, he prayed. I must find some way to warn him! He could see the same thought in Arinna’s eyes when he looked to her.

I led us in, I had Chastity in my hand when we were caught, Erique thought. I should have done something. I must do something!

He’s almost here, Kandal, one of the thieves said in an excited whisper. What do we do?

Kill ’em, Kandal said disgustedly. This whole thing is taking more time and trouble than it’s worth; the mid-meal crowds will be upon us soon and we will be discovered.

Kill him? Erique thought. I can’t let them kill Master Braphon! He looked around in a panic as the villains settled in to various shadows to wait in ambush.

Kandal crouched barely a meter from Erique, beside the table Chastity was resting on.

Erique locked eyes with Arinna and could see the urgency in her stare. He knew she was even more desperate to warn her father than he was. He made the determination then that, I must warn the Reverend Master; they will surely take vengeance on the one who warns him. At least I can save her that! But how to warn him?

They could all hear Master Braphon now.The Kovar priest was softly singing the Truth Chant of Denu. "...though measured step without number bring me to a portal where there is no entrance I have no confusion; the step is enough, the path its own reward. Level, steep or staggered, the step is its own reward."

Level step, Erique thought. That’s it!

He had to work swiftly while the bandits’ attention was averted. Master Braphon was almost to the door. Erique looked up at Chastity to fix its position in his mind, and then quickly squirmed his body to turn around.

Live or die, Erique thought, it will be by the Rhythem! He pulled his bound legs up so that his knees almost touched his chest, then kicked against the near leg of the table hard enough to splinter it.

The blow sent the table to wobbling as the leg folded.

Chastity slid right off at Kandal’s back.

Master Braphon opened the door.

At the sound of Erique’s kick the bandit leader turned and reflexively threw up his hands to catch the naked sword. But as Erique had hoped the razored edge was toward the man and he was sliced badly on one hand.

Omran’s boots! Kandal yelled. He drew his bloody hand back and the sword clattered to the wood floor.

It was enough.

At the sound of the scream the first bandit, crouching by the door, sprang at the priest.

Master Braphon reacted with the speed of thought and long practice; he became a blur of motion. The priest dodged the sword thrust and drew his belt dagger to slash the sword hand and disarm the man.

From his place on the floor, Erique could follow little of what happened next. He was only aware of bodies in collision, flashing blades and, one by one, weapons and bodies hitting the ground. At last only Master Braphon stood in the center of the room.

Master Braphon loosed the bonds on his daughter, then the sword polisher Master Maj’Lea.

When Master Braphon cut Erique’s bonds, the student couldn’t speak fast enough.

Reverend Master, I’m sorry, I didn’t see them before they grabbed me; I tried to warn you; I really didn’t mean—

Whoa, lad, Master Braphon said, accepting another hug from his daughter. I can see by the table what you did, and it did the job of warning me. He bent to pick up Chastity, snatching it just as a moaning Kandal attempted a grab.

Arinna, go bring the magistrate for this bunch straight away. The Master gave a grim smile and shook his head. No great harm done. The Rhythem has been fulfilled. He grimaced at the blood on his sword. I guess I’ll just have to rename her.

Rename? Erique asked as he watched the priest kneel to examine the thieves’ wounds. Why is that?

Master Braphon looked up at the student, saw his puzzled look and laughed. You’ve no doubt heard I have a fearsome reputation as a war hero, eh?

Erique nodded, hoping he hadn’t looked as nervous as he felt, or as frightened.

Well, it is all tveckwash; I got my circlet in the war as a healer to the King’s brigade; I carried no sword.

But the duels—

I study the sword as a means to self-perfection, Erique, the Master said. His practiced fingers were busy, seemingly of their own accord, bandaging Kandal’s hand. It is true I was challenged, fought and won ten duels, but I did so without drawing blood with my sword. I called my sword Chastity because it had never bled in passion. He smiled broadly. It seems, fellow warrior, we both were blooded on the same day.

The priest chuckled while he finished bandaging Kandal and Erique blushed an embarrassed crimson.

Many are the ways a priest may serve the Kova. Sometimes that service is in the most unusual and covert ways as Erique learns the—

Song of The Black Dragon’s Return

In the shadowed halls of Myth, the storytellers mention one name with hushed awe—the masked man called The Black Dragon! Freedom fighter, criminal, murderer, hero! Is he all of these things or none of them? In the country of Valdesta on the world of Altiva the forces of evil are about to find out...

In the dark of the moons,

In the shadow of pain,

Comes a creature of darkness,

Proceeded by fame,

When the Mephan glove clenches

And their blades draw to strike

Comes a creature of hope

In the dead of the night

A Black Dragon he pounces

On the wicked and cruel

’Til he drives out the tyrant and restores a just rule!

Song of The Black Dragon—Vladestan Folk Song

Prologue

The dark clad figure raced along the wall of the war ministry building at the palace of the Emperor of Cozen. He was a strange sight. He was all dressed in black, from the long kidskin gloves that went to his elbows, loose silk shirt and a leather jerkin whose shoulder epaulets had the aspect of claws. Strangest of all was the molded black leather facemask. The leather surface on the mask was sculpted to look like a hideous reptile, its wings wrapped around to the back.

The figure moved with the grace of an animal, leaping lightly and soundlessly from the outer wall to the ground to head for the building.

Suddenly, a military guard stepped around the corner of the building and caught sight of the figure.

The Black Dragon! the guard screamed. The soldier drew his sword but before he could bring it up to bear, The Black Dragon had sprung forward. He kicked the blade from the guard’s hand and, in a brilliantly executed move, spun in the air and kicked the man in the head before the weapon had hit the ground. The guard’s helmet absorbed some of the kick and he rode the attack into the building’s wall.

The guard, a former Imperial Marine and pub boxer, all but bounced off the wall straight into an attack on the masked man. He threw three powerful punches in rapid succession, which Black Dragon just barely managed to evade.

The Black Dragon counterattacked with an open palm strike to the man’s floating ribs. This staggered the guard. The Black Dragon dipped his head to the ground and whipped his body into the air in a butterfly kick. His feet swung like rocks on a rope and each hit the guard in the chest and again in the head, slamming him to the ground unconscious.

A second guard raced around the building, blade already drawn. The masked man scooped up the fallen guard’s sword and spun to face the new threat.

The speed of Black Dragon’s footwork surprised this second guard, who drew up so quickly that he almost threw himself backwards. He slapped at the masked man’s sword point with his wooden and leather shield and then hacked at the intruder with a roar of annoyance. His furious assault drove The Black Dragon backward till he slammed into the compound wall.

Now it was the masked warrior’s turn to take the fight to the enemy. He advanced on the big guard, cutting first right and then left on the diagonal with the fallen guard’s heavy saber blade. The guard warded with his shield at first; then, as he saw chunks of the wood being sliced off from the angled cuts, tried to bring his sword up to meet the masked man’s blade.

The guard barely managed to parry several cuts, then with a cry of defiance, threw the shield at Black Dragon’s head.

The masked intruder dodged the flying disc by inches, and barely managed to get his saber up to parry a following cut.

The sound of more guards approaching dictated a desperate strategy for The Black Dragon; he rammed forward to lock his blade with the guard’s and then smashed his masked forehead into the man’s face. The molded leather concealed steel under the surface layer and the guard’s nose and cheekbones broke with a spray of blood.

The guard dropped to the ground in pain and the masked man quickly turned to flee, but not before he carefully removed a roll of parchment from his jerkin and placed it on the ground beside the moaning guard.

In a flash, the masked man had made it to the top of the wall and just before he disappeared over it he heard, There he goes—and he dropped this paper!

The Black Dragon smiled and disappeared into the night, as usual....

Chapter 1: A Feast for Carrion

In the steamy jungles of the southern portion of the northern continent of the world of Altiva the last night of the twin full moons is not much different from a moonless night. Here and there a ray of lunar radiance carved a path through the foliage to touch the jungle floor, but the rest of the rainforest was shrouded in the darkest black.

The single road that cut through the Valdesta wilderness for the entire length of the tiny country was called Liberation Highway, though when the Mephan Empire had built it with slave labor from Valdesta’s conquered people it had had a darker name. Among the conquered people who had died by the hundreds to make it a reality so that the legions of the empire could move freely across the country it was called The Blood Road.

The highway was surfaced with cut paving stones laid carefully over crushed stone and fitted together so perfectly that in the years since the Empire had withdrawn its forces there had been no apparent erosion or damage to the thoroughfare at all. It was lined with the images of The Five, the ancient gods of the native people, and was the only speedy means, other than warp or riverboat, to get from one end of the country to the other. It was the only means of travel that did not cost money. So, for that reason, it had gained a more popular, unofficial name: The People’s Road.

On that twin moon night someone was trying to get from the frontier outpost at Octar to the capital at a frantic, desperate pace. A coach-and-four raced down the road, its driver heedless of the potential danger of urging the harnessed vorns to insane speeds in the inky night. The steel-rimmed wheels kicked sparks from the stone of the highway and the regular clattering on the paving stones was like a rattle being shaken by a madman.

I’ll kill you, Halkuan! the driver screamed at the jungle, his shrill voice rising above the rattle of the wheels and the clatter of the vorns’ hooves. You throw me to the tveks because of one damnable pamphlet! Ten years of service!

The antlered coach-team responded to his fury, twisting and weaving on the two-lane road, fortunate that there was no other traffic. Even as the sole transport on the road, he managed to avoid disaster by only the narrowest margin.

Disaster appeared in human form, however, as the speeding coach rounded a turn. A squad of soldiers came into sight ahead manning a roadblock made of two felled trees stretched across the road.

Stop! In the name of the proconsul, stop! the lieutenant in charge of the roadblock yelled. The soldier waved his drawn saber in futile challenge.

The coach vorns bleated in alarm as the driver yanked their reins causing them to swerve onto the narrow shoulder of the road. The calculated yet erratic maneuver spoiled the aim of the crossbowman that suddenly appeared from behind the barrier. The coach raced past the obstruction, killing one member of the squad who was too slow to leap out of the way of the steel-rimmed wheels.

I’ll kill you, Halkuan! the driver ranted again, when the hail of arrows had fallen too far behind to be effective. I will find a way to destroy you!

The coach raced through the outskirts of the city of Valdia and one more hastily arranged roadblock before turning onto Embassy Row, the main street of the capital. There, the cobbled street surface stuttered an aria of protest against the wheels of the coach. The vorns’ labored breathing was accompanied by flecks of frantic foam and bleats of terror. The driver answered their protests with a curse and a vicious lash of the whip.

A flaming hay wagon pulled across the road proved to be the final obstacle to the coach’s progress, placed there by another squad of stalwart troops. The soldiers clustered around it with drawn crossbows and dared the charging coach to halt.

The coach and its driver had nowhere to go but forward, so even when he received a flesh wound from a fired quarrel, the driver lashed the beasts forward. One of the crazed vorn was shot in the flank but under the whip sped on, scattering the troops like ten pins, clipping the end of the hay wagon to send it careening over with an explosion of sparks.

The coach crashed through the gate of the Morranian Embassy in a storm of twisted metal, splintered wood and screaming bloody vornflesh. The driver was thrown clear of the wreck itself, slamming into the stone walkway with a cry of agony.

He had to crawl the last few feet to the door, but when it opened the driver said, I, Manu Estrala, claim the immunity of this Embassy and of Morranian citizenship.

Then he collapsed before the startled door attendant and was carried inside.

* * * *

The Reverend Lord Erique Shoutte of Umbria fidgeted in the over-stuffed chair. He folded the pamphlet he had been reading in half, marking the place with a finger. He tugged at his thick black hair braid in concentration. Myrran! he called. By the Fansavs, are you ever coming out of there?

When he had no immediate answer, he reached across to a crystal freshbowl. The bowl was so called because any food in it was preserved indefinitely. He pulled out a fresh blue Julka fruit that was months out of season and called again, Myrran?

From the open doorway of the privy room that adjoined the suite, a feminine voice answered him. What did you say then, my lord?

The soft voice added, I was brushing my hair.

Shoutte’s rawboned handsome features lit with a smile when he looked up.

Framed in the doorway, illuminated by the glowgem sconce on the wall was a vision of beauty that never failed to bring that same smile to Shoutte’s lips. She was dressed in a radiant white evening gown that showed off her narrow waist and set off her dark auburn hair. It also highlighted the