Welcome to the magical world of Fortannis-a place where adventure awaits to waylay you around every corner.
It’s a land where humans mingle with stubborn dwarves, mysterious elves, and feathered biata to battle against shape-shifting gryphons, necromantic zombies, and silly goblins. It’s a land where things are never as they seem, where good and evil are not always clear-cut, and where the strong do not always prevail.
In Fortannis, you can learn magic by summoning the power of the flow of order in the world, by tying yourself to the living cycle of all around you. Or, if your inclinations are darker, you might be tempted by the flow of chaos and entropy, which allows you to create undead abominations and cast substantially more powerful spells--in exchange for the corruption of your soul and the destruction of the land around you. The choice is yours.
The world of Fortannis was originally created years ago for a live-action role-playing game called the Alliance. The game has chapters all over the US and Canada, where players experience the adventures it provides. A few years ago, I began writing novels set in this world (although I admittedly ignored most of the rules of the game). Knowledge of the game is not necessary for your enjoyment of these books or the stories in this collection.
I am very proud of the stories collected here. There are grand adventures, humorous contrivances, and strong morality tales. You’ll meet clever con artists, suspicious spies, and pompous nobles. Unexpected twists and turns and danger lurk on every page. Enjoy the adventure!
Michael A. Ventrella
The Zombie King’s Plan
I backed away and swallowed deeply. Although I had faced zombies before, it didn’t reduce my fear of them. They were unnatural, created through chaos magic, ripped from the fabric of order. They felt wrong.
Plus, they had that ridiculous limited vocabulary.
The once-human creature struggled to place one leg before another as it stared at me with blank eyes. Clumps of dirt fell from its ragged clothing as it advanced, arms outstretched. This was once someone’s friend, someone’s father or brother.
I reached within myself and felt the power of the earth beneath me, all around me. I drew those energies into me and concentrated them, and hurled a pure Healing spell toward the abomination.
The power of order-of the natural progression of life-slammed into the twisted form. The burst of energy canceled the necromantic magics that held it together. The creature collapsed to the ground, a lifeless body once more.
"Terin!" Darlissa yelled. "Behind you!"
I spun around. My eyes grew.
Limbs askew, eyes vacant, and bodies smelling of rot, dozens more of the undead shambled our way.
Rendal screamed and charged the horde. His twin swords slashed from side to side. The undead creations were no match for his strength and speed. Arms, legs, and twitching bodies fell to the ground-but more zombies shuffled forward to replace the fallen.
Darlissa kept pace a few steps behind Rendal. A rancid zombie slashed at Ren. He cried out in pain. Dar tossed a Healing spell at the creature and it fell to the ground. Another spell healed Rendal’s wound. He never looked back.
Jumping from side to side like a trained monkey, I tried to get around Rendal. Zombies turned to moan at me. I aimed a Healing spell at the closest but missed. It continued toward me oblivious.
A scream came from behind. One of the braver town locals dashed past me. A bloody pitchfork stabbed into the zombie’s neck. With a twist of the pitchfork tines, the neck snapped.
Around me, other people jumped out of buildings. Rusty knives and heavy sticks crashed into mindless skulls.
Pitch-covered torches lit the area with bright fire. A young man to my right swung his like a mallet. It crashed into his target, tossing the zombie backwards. The creature fell to the ground aflame.
I continued to toss Healing spells at the zombies, although the effort weakened me.
One horrid-looking undead lumbered toward me. A young woman ran up to the slow-moving zombie and whacked it in the back of its head with a shovel. The zombie’s jaw fell to the ground. It moaned and turned toward its attacker. I dashed forward and finished it off with another spell.
The problem was that there were more zombies than there were townsfolk, and the zombies never tired.
A rotten undead hobbled around a building toward the battle. I ran toward it.
Rings? Had that zombie said ’rings’?
I stopped, puzzled. The thing continued toward me. I threw a Healing spell at it and enjoyed the sight of the abomination falling to the ground.
I zigzagged among the combatants. Five more zombies fell to my magic. Three villagers were healed.
For a moment, I paused to lean against a building wall. I breathed heavily, exhausted and positive I did not have the energy to cast one more spell. Then I realized there was silence.
I scanned the town. The battle had ended. Lifeless body parts filled the streets. Bloodied townsfolk peered nervously from side to side.
"Check and make sure none of the fallen are ours!" I yelled. Shaken villagers flitted from body to body and called out to family and friends to assure themselves that none of the corpses were familiar.
Rendal and Darlissa approached. Ren handed me a waterskin and I drank deeply. We wordlessly nodded to each other.
"Never a dull moment with you around, Terin," Rendal said. "The Duke said this would be a nice, peaceful trip into the countryside to deliver a message. Nothing to worry about. But no! When Terin is along, someone will always stop by to try to kill us." He gave me a sidelong glance and a bit of a smile. "This is all your fault, you know."
"Well, it’s a good thing we happened by just now," Dar said.