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Of Quills And Kings
Book One
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ISBN-10: 1-55404-885-0
ISBN-13: 
Genre: Fantasy/SF/Medieval
eBook Length: 381 Pages
Published: October 2011



From inside the flap

Jonathan Quintain is a naďve young man reluctant to assume leadership after the Baron abandons the castle with his mistress and most of the staff. When a spell cast by the inept advisor and castle mage, Gamitof Pym, goes awry, the castle is turned upside down—freeing an underestimated hedgehog prisoner and displacing the magical Orb.

Pox, the youngest of a line of inept and arrogant deities, sets out on a mission to recover it. However, Pox’s seemingly easy task becomes botched when Walpole, the so-called Sacred Hedgehog of Yurle, steals the Orb and begins his mission for world domination.

Following a battle for the now-ruined castle, Jonathan learns that the demonic hedgehog has captured the realm’s child-king. With nothing left at home to satisfy a young man’s appetite for adventure, he and his friends set off into the desolate land of Yurle to save their king and hopefully recover the stolen Orb.

Of Quills And Kings (Excerpt)


PROLOGUE

Long after the beginning, much of the Kingdom of Everbright had become, ironically, a place of darkness and stinking swamps, fetid marshes, and rocky earth that could not grow a decent crop. The peasant bemoaned his terrible fate through parched, cracked lips, cursing the seven gods their fickle nature. And the gods, led by their father Rayon, cared not about their faithful, but were preoccupied with more serious matters such as how to create a killer plague of locusts to destroy the crops of the wicked and test the patience of the devout. When they deigned to, they looked down upon the people of the world from their lofty heavenly-homes where the temperature is a constant seventy-seven degrees with low humidity-and shrugged. Even to the casual observer it was quite clear that the gods took little interest in the world below any more.

That would soon change.

Jenundire, the last of a long line of dim-witted but ambitious giants, exercised his penchant for mischief and obsession with all things that didn’t belong to him. He discovered one of the secret strands into the realm of the seven gods while hunting for especially plump, slow-moving people and ripe boysenberries to eat and, moving with stealth rare in one so large, Jenundire boldly climbed the rope of unbreakable material up into the clouds. He slipped through the secret door with frosted one-way glass, admired himself in the hall of mirrors, and crept into the gods’ treasury and stole an Orb of enormous power.

Legend tells that one of the deities, Cathode, God of Machines and Invention, "acquired" the purloined Orb in ancient times from a little-known saint called Cuthbert, whose legend was as suspect as that of the true divinity of the gods, while being pursued by an angry mob along the shore of the Far Sea. He carried it back to his large extended family, and soon the amazing properties of the golden orb were realized. Cuthbert’s Orb, or as it was known by its more common title, the Orb of Immortality, became the source of the gods’ youthful good looks and longevity.

Liking how the pretty object sparkled in the sunlight, Jenundire quickly secreted it away and returned to his cave dwelling. There it rested for many years, infusing the already long-lived humanoid with an even more extended lifespan.

Where there are gods there must be demons, and the planes tied to Everbright were no different. Raylana, a cruel, ambitious creature from Yurle, a lesser known pit of the lowest hells, stumbled from her native land, heavy with the spawn that would be the beginning of her own personal horde. She fled the jealousy of the other minor demons, those that had not had the luck to obtain a spell of fecundity, which Raylana filched from the passing chariot of one of the great ones. Now, in this barren, stinking land, she sought a place to bring forth her brood. She would build a new Yurle, where her kind would rule the world of men, and she chose a desert place near where men were already building villages and scraping a living from the soil. Her children would not have far to go to find slaves to bow before them.

On the demon plane, she had stood the size of an elephant, with a broad back covered in quills. The rest of her body was covered in heavy, overlapping scales, from the end of her long snout to the tip of her short tail. Her mouth curled in a perpetual sneer, her needle-like teeth black, her beady, crimson eyes hate-filled. A transformation took place as she crossed the threshold between Yurle and Everbright. She took the form of a spiny hedgehog, and though her size, that of a badger, was immense for the common species of hedgehog, little notice was taken of her in the barren lands.

When her time came, Raylana deposited the first born of her kind in the new Yurle. Two tiny wretched creatures, upon the hard, cruel earth. They too had the appearance of common hedgehogs, one slightly bigger than the other.

Raylana smiled down at her progeny as she whispered their names into the wilderness. The wilderness whispered something back that sounded like a curse. For, having been born in the lands of mortals, they would be mortal unless she could find the magic that made the gods divinely immortal. She had heard of Cuthbert’s Orb and knew she must take it for her spawn. The dark and light planes had recently rang with the outrage of the gods when they discovered their loss, so all knew a theft had occurred. But where Cuthbert’s Orb had gone, no one knew.

The larger of the tiny creatures blinked its eyes stupidly and pushed aside his smaller brother, fighting his way to his mother’s nipple. His quills were of a golden hue and caught the sun’s light. "You who are big and strong and quick to suckle I will call Glimmer," Raylana stated. "The golden child who holds much promise."

She looked down at the other creature; a runt, whose wrinkled, scaly skin bore a sickly yellowish appearance. His quills were flattened and dull. "You I will name Walpole, the shriveled one."

Call it insensitivity or simply an unfortunate choice of nomenclature (and for a demon, it was a particularly horrible appellation), this seemingly inconsequential naming of names established a terrible friction between the two siblings almost at once, an animosity which would eventually lead to the one’s death and the other’s swift and terrible rise to power.

For as Glimmer and Walpole grew older, it became increasingly clear that Glimmer was their mother’s favorite. Walpole watched as his brother received his mother’s praise for finding the best patch of berries or rooting out the tastiest worms. Raylana resented the fact that Walpole, with his shorter legs, could not keep up when the family went hunting for beetles and the squirmy things that hid under rocks and inside rotting logs.

Like the men of old, the first hedgehog offspring were destined to live a long life and of course, Glimmer prospered and Walpole didn’t, which set the table for what happened next.

It started as any other day in the life of a hedgehog.

"Hurry, Walpole," she scolded time and time again. "You are so slow that all of the juicy bugs are getting away."

"Sorry, mother," Walpole apologized without remorse, barely able to hide his resentment. His eyes had become extremely beady and hate-filled and his lips held a frightening sneer, just like his mother’s, but she failed to notice.

Raylana shook her head in disappointment. "It’s too bad you couldn’t be more like your brother. Glimmer is so self-sufficient, so full of charm."

Glimmer smiled proudly at the compliment and skipped off into the darker, less-traveled part of the wilderness while his mother tarried at a boysenberry bush, chewing and swallowing several of the berries hanging from its branches. Walpole, feeling rejected and wrathful, followed his brother into the forest, concealing himself behind bushes and stumps whenever Glimmer stopped to survey his surroundings.

Before long, Glimmer came to a cave in the side of a rocky hill. A bright golden light emanated from its interior. Curious, Glimmer trotted eagerly inside. Walpole followed far enough behind to remain undetected.

It did not take long for Glimmer to discover the source of the golden light: a beautiful golden Orb. Resting near a small campfire, the Orb gathered and reflected the light of the small fire; its brilliance illuminating the interior of the rocky cave. Beside the campfire, his enormous lumpy head resting on a pile of animal furs, lay the biggest and homeliest creature that Walpole had ever laid his dark, beady eyes upon.

Glimmer let out a gasp. "I have found it, the prize all the creatures of the dark and light planes seek. I can sense great power in that golden ball of light, the possessor of which will control the very hands of Time, and eternal life will be his for the asking. That Orb is as beautiful as you are ugly, my great revolting fellow," Glimmer whispered. "I will take it home and give it to mother, for she who spawned me deserves such a wonderful gift."

Hearing this, Walpole stomped his tiny feet angrily. This was just another case of his rotten brother getting the tasty end of the bug. His already smoldering hatred flared up, and his mind lashed out at the giant.

Wake up, you big, stupid creature! A thief is about to steal your treasure.

Jenundire grunted and sat up, gazing about bleary-eyed. His enormous head with its wide, toothy mouth, sat upon a thick body just over twenty feet tall.

Hmm, Walpole thought. Interesting. Thought transference. The Overlord who made the demons of Yurle clearly wanted us to one day rule this world.

As is often the case, the mighty oak that is megalomania may grow from the tiniest of acorns. (Of course, it’s known now that Silesia, the Demon God of Nausea, had intended the mind control powers for armadillos, so they might cross highways in safety. It was an easy mistake for a goddess, and a tragic slaughter for armadillos).

Glimmer, hearing his brother’s squeaky voice in the thought command, looked back suddenly, squinting through the gloom of the cave. "Walpole, was that you?"

But before Glimmer could investigate the disturbance and verify his suspicion, the loathsome giant shook off his sleep and snatched a thick, heavy club from the floor of the cave. Jenundire growled and swung the mighty cudgel, smashing Glimmer to a bloody pulp upon the cold stone of the cavern. With the scent of intruders still heavy in the musty cave, Jenundire stood for a time listening and sniffing at the air, the single long eyebrow over his eyes bunched in a scowl.

Walpole crouched in the shadows, waiting and humming a lullaby. After an hour or so, the giant picked up the golden ball and curled up on his bed. "Bad kitty," he said, looking down at the smashed creature. "You oughten not to have done that. You make Jenundire mad."

The giant yawned and slumped back onto the stone floor, and began to snore. Taking this as his cue, Walpole tiptoed past his brother’s remains, grinning with satisfaction, and made his way cautiously to within a few feet of the giant’s gruesome head.

I am the demon lord, Walpole. I will give you great power over your enemies but you must give me the Orb of Immortality. Give it to me, you handsome monster, you.

Jenundire groaned in his sleep and opened his eyes.

"You no look like demon lord. You look like kitty."

"Hedgehog, you dolt. Never mind. Give me the Orb and no one gets hurt."

Jenundire blinked sleepily. "No one get hurt? That no sound like fun."

The giant rose and reached for his club as Walpole scampered for cover.

The sound of smashing furniture followed the short-legged hedgehog as he dove in and out of dark corners, finally finding refuge under an overturned bucket. The giant, having lost sight of his quarry, thundered outside in a fruitless search of the area.

Walpole poked his twitching nose out from under the bucket. He sneered.

"That was easy."