SWORDCALLERS II - Hearts of Pain

The dragons have awoken and a new era dawns for Zaylund. The Dark Lord’s forces are closing in … war is now inevitable. The son of Zaylund, Kri, is at the mischievous age of four and has begun exploring his world away from the watchful gaze of his parents. But caution must be taken; the Dark Lord is eager to take Tulen’s son and transform him into the ultimate weapon to win the war over Zaylund. 

Prince Phoenix of the Water Tiger Valley Kingdom is suddenly commanded to return to his true home and race, the Eagoleons, to wed a fiery, mysterious girl who has waited for him for many years. 

What tragedy could possibly happen within the Swordcaller circle? What promises are broken? What secrets will slip out and who will be condemned for protecting humans? The war is here and many will fall, leaving behind a scattered few, wrenching Kri’s heart and releasing some dark creature from within him. Hearts of Pain … who will survive the war?

In Store Price: $AU25.95 
Online Price:   $AU24.95

ISBN: 978-1-921240-94-2  
Format: Paperback
Number of pages: 248
Genre: Fiction

Cover: Elena Petrou



Author: Nicolle Dinn
Publisher: Zeus Publications
Date Published: 2008
Language: English


about the author  

Nicolle Dinn was born late October 1987 in Southport on Queensland’s Gold Coast. She has lived most of her life in the beautiful Tallebudgera Valley with her parents and three sisters. They have three border collies, numerous birds and fish, horses and a black and white cat. 

She continues her karate, in which she now holds a 3rd kyu, brown belt. Early in 2007, Nikki received news that she had been accepted into the University of Tasmania to continue her Bachelor of Science degree. 

After the success of her first book, Nikki is pleased to present you with her second book, Swordcallers II : Hearts of Pain.

Chapter 1 (part sample only)

Days of Courage

Rain had settled into the valley protecting the Kingdom of Jurbeena. The droplets fell straight down from the heavy grey clouds above, in the absence of wind. On a laneway, two hundred strides wide, a familiar black Clydesdale rested patiently under the foliage of a large oak tree. On a tree bough above the stallion, sat a young noble savage entering his manhood. He was known as Romaeo. In his hands rested a brass telescope held up to his right eye allowing him to scan the distant foothills of the Cascade Mountain range.

The Cascade range was a rugged mountainous wall of sheer cliffs fringed by pines along the peak and base. In summer, it was said that at every hour of the day, the colour of the mountain would change as the sun reflected off the many crystalline minerals embedded in the mountain’s walls. But now the mountain was empty of all expression; the sun was hidden behind the thick suffocating blackness of the billowing clouds.

At the castle’s walls an alliance of men and creatures stood together. On the front line stood their heroes, the Swordcallers. Tulen, the reigning king of the Phoenix Crater had answered the call for help from the majesty of Jurbeena and came to offer aid with a small army. Behind their heroes, the city’s knights and guards stood still, fear quavering on their breath.

The kingdom had heard the drums and seen the torches of the enemy during the previous night, snaking their way down and through the valleys of the mountain. The women and children had been evacuated to hidden caves near the gorge at the back of the kingdom. Some men spoke of doubts and honour amongst themselves; they had been waiting in the showering weather since they woke that morning.

Then, like a pebble disturbing the tranquil surface of a pond, a deathly silence fell over the body of soldiers as a distinctive, haunting drum roll barrelled over the laneway towards them – the enemy was coming. Shortly after, Romaeo could be seen galloping bareback on Dimitri as he emerged above the hills of flattened grass. ‘They’re here, Tulen! No more than three hundred Horgbudgers and five hundred Merata-kats,’ informed Romaeo, breathlessly. Tulen smiled in appreciation, grabbed his friend’s wrist to help him off the tall horse and gave the younger Swordcaller a grateful pat on the upper shoulder.

‘Thank you, my good friend,’ Tulen told his comrade as the noble savage stroked the Clydesdale’s mane, whispering something into its ear; Dimitri whickered back. Romaeo, now at the age of eighteen, was a strong warrior and took his place by his oldest friend’s side. Zorac, the samurai Swordcaller of the wolf, was now a father of two children himself and married to his true love Sarfi, the werewolf heiress.

‘This shouldn’t be that hard, should it, Zor?’ asked Romaeo, flicking his animal-pelt hood over his head to protect himself from the rain.

‘It should be over soon enough … as long as the others don’t show up,’ remarked the samurai, blinking against the steady falling droplets as he tilted his head back to look up towards the uniform grey heavens searching for an unseen enemy.

‘Others?’ Some of the village soldiers began to question between themselves about who the ‘others’ were.

‘We only need to worry about them if they show due to the fighting, Zorac. In the meantime, prepare your sword,’ Tahli advised, seeing the soldiers stand uneasy at the samurai’s words. A dark line appeared on the horizon of the laneway.

‘Here they come,’ interrupted Tulen looking ahead, his left hand reaching across his body to his sword hilt fastened on his right hip. He was dressed in the Phoenix Crater’s ceremonial arms of the king, baggy black pants, wrapped with cloth around the ankles and waist. He wore no vest but a navy blue cape edged in ivory-white fur. This coloured cape was fastened with its Swordcaller brooch, a diamond with four triangles jewelled in earthly precious stones. The other Swordcallers too wore them. An eerie silence fell upon the crowd of villagers and soldiers.

The pitter-patter of rain on the soldiers’ armoury and the fearful breathing of the surrounding village men created more unsteadiness in the lines. Then, on the horizon, ghost-like shadows appeared, marching in filed lines spanning the entire width of the laneway.

‘On my mark!’ shouted Zorac, raising his arm in the air after seeing Tulen bend forward slightly, as if he were scanning the horizon for his first victim. All men and creatures went for their swords and weapons. The archers on the walls armed their bows and waited for the one swift downward movement of the warrior Zorac’s hand to signal them to fire. On the other side of the great stone walls of the Jurbeenian fortress, orders were being shouted and timber cranks and slots clunked in tension as the major utility weapons were armed and ready to fire.

Tahli, standing on the opposite side of Tulen to Zorac, mumbled something to himself as he gazed at the green-hued horizon, his lips moving ever so slightly. Kaasha, his tiger, crouched low, braced and ready to run out in front for the first attack. Soraya, Tulen’s golden eagle flew high in the heavens above, keeping clear of the enemy’s visibility. Dimitri, Romaeo’s stallion, pawed the ground and nodded his head and Argos, Zorac’s wolf, pricked his ears up and growled deep in his throat.

Soon enough, the ground was trembling underneath the alliance as the many stumped feet of the Horgbudgers marched on towards the castle walls. Some of the men looked around them, trying to find firm footholds in the mud-churned ground.

A horn from the opposing line sounded and instantly the Merata-kats jumped over the front line of Horgbudgers’ shoulders with their streamlined bodies. Swift as shadows they sprinted towards the men dressed in armour, the rain being no hindrance to their movements. ‘NOW!’ shouted Zorac, dropping his hand in a single striking motion. Instantly a shower of arrows was released from the high wall, heading for the oncoming devilish creatures. Many fell down screaming and screeching as the arrows pierced their frail frames.

The Horgbudgers were closing the gap, stepping on top of their dying comrades, crushing them. Another shout came from behind the walls, followed by three pillars of black smoke rising from the courtyard of the stone fortress. Shortly after, three large balls of damp oil-coated grass were slingshot toward the enemy’s advancing line. For a second, the enemy stopped in wonder at the oncoming balls of grass as the bundles burst into flame moments before impact, ignited by the archers firing their arrows tipped with oil and flame.

Like a wave surging forward, Tulen led the men and soldiers of Jurbeena alongside his comrade Swordcallers into another battle against the Dark Lord’s assaulting force. The battlefield became a skirmish of flames and bloodshed from both sides as the battle ravaged on. The catapults and trebuchets were hauled out of the fortress in front of the walls to fire over the heads of their allies and hit the back of the enemy’s lines. Pillars of smoke towered into the air and the stench of burning skin and hair wreaked the atmosphere.

Then, suddenly, a sound so penetrating to the heart bellowed over the noise from the battleground. So loud, both sides of good and evil were forced to stop and cover their ears as the air vibrated around them. This was a danger even greater than any fearsome creature the Dark Lord himself could conjure – it was the dragons.

‘Watch out! It’s comin’ over the tree line!’ a man screamed in sheer terror, barging Tahli in the shoulder as he ran past back towards the fortress.

All eyes were on the sky when a great burst of wind erupted as the gigantic reptile revealed itself. Many soldiers from both fronts ran into the forests to take cover, while others stood dumbly staring up at the terrifying Bevenstarr Dragunn, the most ancient of all the beasts. It seemed to smile in pleasure as its prey sprawled over each other beneath its blazing gaze.

Tulen knew the flames and saturated aroma of blood throughout the air would attract some kind of dragon, but none like this one. The King signalled for a small group of courageous Thorned Dwarves to aim a harpoon at the dragon’s neck. They heaved and hauled the unwieldy device into position. The large rod of the harpoon took three dwarves strong to load up and arm, and another two to pull the ropes back ready to fire. On the king’s signal, they released it with a clang as the square head of the monarch dwarf’s war hammer fell heavily down upon the trigger. All eyes were on the sharpened tip of the harpoon as it jolted through the air like a crossbow fired on a breathless day.

However, like many of the other large dragons, this one too had become accustomed to the weapons fired upon them by their prey. At the last moment, the large bull ducked, yet it had acted too late and the harpoon inescapably pierced the ridge of its neck like the blade of a sword through water. It roared out in pain, a terrifying hissing screech, opening its mouth wide and exposing the multiple rows of razor-sharp, jagged fangs.

As if on cue, archers from both sides began firing thousands of arrows into the roof of the monster’s mouth. Its eyes flew open in fright and surprise, the tongue flapped around attempting to rid its inner mouth of the prickling metal points as it twirled around, trampling the forest and those who sheltered in it. After a while the firing ceased and the dragon was left staring dazed onto the laneway. Blood trickled from the Bevenstarr’s mouth, nostrils and eyes, forming large puddles of warm, steaming blood below the Dragunn. Its gaze flashed over the many faces watching it, then stopped.

The Dragunn’s stare became focused on an individual standing amidst the slain of his own enemy. The brown eyes of the Phoenix Crater king met with the cat-slit eyes of the mammoth dragon. For a moment Tulen thought he saw the Dragunn’s permanent frown soften to a more apologetic expression, its golden scarlet eyes full of sorrow and misery.

Is it confused? Tulen thought. Has it awakened too many centuries earlier than it was meant to? Looking deeper into the dragon’s eyes, Tulen felt as if time had let go of all restraints on his mind and body; the world seemed to pause and fast forward as it pleased. He could feel the harsh bite of ice from the winter freeze strike his face, followed by the harsh heat of summer like the deadly heat on the Never-Dying Savannah.

Subsequently, the loss of blood and penetration of weapons in the dragon’s great body finally overwhelmed it. With a snuffled, blood-gurgling last breath released in a long sigh of exhaustion, the eyes of the beast rolled up inside its eyelids, which closed for one final time. A mad scramble began as the huge bulk of the reptile began to descend to the earth. Tulen, however, did not move. Is it trying to tell me something? the king thought to himself, still not moving from his position.

The body landed with a loud thud, flattening the forest from where it had originally emerged, its head landing only metres from Tulen’s feet. The twenty-three-year-old king suddenly felt the urge to approach the bleeding carcass. He ran his hand over its scaly nose and small horns. The eyelids were still partly open. Deep inside Tulen’s chest, he felt a great sadness come over him as the last glimmer of light left the twinkle in the Dragunn’s eye while its heartbeat faded away in the resumed clatter of battle.

The merciful king felt saddened by the sudden murder of an innocent animal not even a part of his world’s ridiculous war. He bowed his head in respect, feeling the raindrops once again dampen the hair on the back of his neck. His usual senses of smell and sound were slow to enter the king’s instincts. His chest grew heavy as he took a deep breath, but knew he could not show sadness, not now.

The kingdom of Jurbeena had for a long time been marked as a hot spot for dragon attacks; they had lost many villagers, livestock and crops to the fury of the beasts, although never before had a dragon so ancient, so majestic as a Dragunn emerged to show itself in front of a human battle. The Dragunns were known as the wisest of dragons; some believed they could communicate with humans and the other animals through telepathy. And now, Tulen had ordered the execution of one. The king knew he may never see another in his entire life.

All of a sudden Tulen’s body was shoved to the side by Zorac’s shoulder as the samurai Swordcaller blocked an oncoming blow from a Horgbudger’s spiked club. Stumbling clumsily to the side, Tulen’s instinctive warrior clicked back in allowing him to find his feet. He drew his sword and rejoined the battle, which seemed to have continued once the legendary beast was slain.

The war continued around and over the body of the fallen Dragunn as if it were just another hill in their way to victory. The battle reached its climax with both sides fighting with the last burst of their strength. Nobody backed down until the last of the enemy was disposed of. The laneway was churned to a pulp of bodies and mud, but the kingdom was proclaimed safe. Like so many small wars before this one, where the Swordcallers and warriors of the Phoenix Crater had been called to provide aid against the Dark Lord’s forces, they were left standing on the battle ground. Victory in the end was to the men and loyal creatures of the Crater. The clouds dispersed, allowing the lifeless sparkle of the night stars to shine their glory upon the victorious soldiers of the Jurbeenian kingdom.

The wounded and deceased were collected. Limp bodies of farmers, soldiers, fathers and sons were collected and stacked on an old cart pulled by two draught horses. Tulen, Zorac, Romaeo and Tahli were left standing in the field alone. Men and soldiers alike came and thanked them for their inspiration and help. The Swordcallers were polite and kind in both congratulating and sharing the sorrow and pity for any losses.

Especially the sons’ losses when they had seen their friends and fathers’ bodies lying still, stolen away from their sides that afternoon. Keeping his promise to the King of Jurbeena, Tulen decapitated the Horgbudger captain’s head and took the war oxen’s horn to show the lower king as an honorary gift for the victory. As they left the battlefield, the squabbling carrion of the small beastie dragons screamed in delight as they landed to feast on the deceased bodies.

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