Welcome to the fourth day of The Twins of Devonshire and the Curse of the Widow blog tour. It will run until August 17th and will feature excerpts and new author interviews each day. But first, here is the obligatory blurb about the novel to settle you into this strange world:
A plague has covered the land, a single word on the lips of the frightened masses: the Widow. Washing a wave of terror over the countryside and then disappearing like a thief in the night, the Widow holds a kingdom in the palm of her hand. The eyes of Chaos have settled on Prima Terra and heroes must rise. Xeno Lobo, enigmatic and cryptic, hunts the Widow, seeking an object taken from him years before. Will he be able to stem the tide of violence and horror that sweeps the land?
A few questions for the author:
When was the last time you noticed the sound of your own breathing?
Quite often actually. I am a practitioner of Wing Chun and an avid fitness enthusiast, so I am always cognizant of the sound and intensity of my breathing. I think that we become accustomed to the regulatory nature of our lives that we lose touch with basic bodily function. There is also a practical component to not paying attention to autonomic processes all the time. If we had to monitor our own breathing every second of every day, we would find we had time for little else.
What do you love? Have any of your recent actions openly expressed this love?
I love writing and being a part of the process for other writers. All of my recent actions are toward this end. I am very fortunate to be involved in the very things that I love. Also, I love spending time with my wife and recently returned from a trip to the coast that was a wonderful change of pace.
In 5 years from now, will you remember what you did yesterday? What about the day before that? Or the day before that?
I have a very precise memory that I hope holds up to the test of time. The minutia of the day will no doubt disappear, but the important moments will linger.
Here be an excerpt for your enjoyment:
The castle was an oddity in the poor country. Wicker shacks and weathered woods that held the measly buildings together were a drastic contrast to the smooth, carved architecture of the castle upon the hillside. The providence of Me’lein was the most populated region this close to the western shores––it had fallen under threat since the coming of the Widow.
The path leading to the castle had been plowed in the early hours of the morning; several feet of snow had fallen during the night. No tracks had yet graced the way. The main bay doors were guarded by a pair of dark-garbed soldiers, their steel armor reflecting neither soul nor compassion. Pikes––gripped tightly––rose far above them; their other hand brandished a shield with the crest of Me’lein emblazoned across its center: the essence of a dragon king drifting lazily into the mist.
Past them was a hall that extended deep into the darkness––scores of doorways and spiral staircases on either side. The hallway narrowed toward its completion, the intricate stone walls ending in a wooden door at its center.
The same crest depicted all about the mighty castle was emblazoned here as well. The door opened inward. Within was a grand hall far taller than any manner of dragon, and darker than the depths of underworld. But, it was lit brightly by thousands of carefully-placed candles; at the center of the room was a brilliant white throne. The rests, the back, and even the cushions were bleached whiter than anything should naturally be.
The man who sat upon it was clouded in shadow. His gaze was that of a shroud. Bearded chin rested on closed fist, royal robes covering his sinewy flesh. His face was contorted into a frown and black eyes looked far into the distance, past the guests who shuffled about the room. The congregation was a mix of all the people of Me’lein. They were the poor and the rich, the beautiful and the desperate.
The crowd parted as a tall man approached the throne. His light purple hat extended far above his head and his moustache extended down the sides of his face, past his mouth like drooping lines. He knelt before the man upon the throne, his head bowed and his right arm across his bended knee.
“Rise, Gaition. What news do you bring my humble court?” rumbled the man, his head rising from his fist and leaning against the marble back of the throne.
“My lord, I bring a traveler. This man says he has killed the Widow’s beast, the Nighen. The destroyer of our lands,” responded Gaition. His light green eyes harbored both deceit and fear. Hands grasped one another, twisting against each other nervously. The king leaned back in his throne and closed his eyes. His throat exposed for a moment, the crest about his neck visible as he paused.
“Let him in,” returned the king, departing from his thoughts and staring ahead.
“As you wish, Lord Verifal. He waits as we speak.” Gaition bowed and turned from the king, his light blue robes swishing across the polished floor. His movements were more a scurry than anything else. Gaition gripped the iron ring that held the door in place and pulled it forward, revealing the shadowed hallway and the solitary figure of the hooded man.
He walked forward, his brown hair hidden beneath the robes once again. In his left hand, he gripped a cloth bag drawn tight with a string. As he walked through the congregation, some members grasped their noses, others covered their mouths. And some even became ill as the man walked past.
It was considered disrespectful to allow your hair to grow longer than that of a king. Verifal’s coal black hair rested around his shoulders, far shorter than that of the wary stranger who had graced the hall. The stench that emanated from the cloth bag reached Verifal’s nostrils and he rose quickly, pointing a finger at the approaching man.
“What manner of devilry do you bring upon my doors?” roared the enraged Verifal, as he stepped down from his throne to intercede in the robed man’s way.
The man stopped in his tracks. Reaching his hand into the bag, he produced the mangled head of the creature he had bested. “The Nighen.”
“You have defeated the Nighen?” queried Gaition, astonished. His thin face was drawn bloodless, and his hand covered his mouth at the putrid smell.
The king looked from Gaition to the hooded stranger who stood before him brandishing the head of the Nighen. “How did you defeat the Nighen?”
“Steel: the blade can defeat even the greatest creatures of the shadow,” replied the hooded man, tossing the putrid head to the bewildered Gaition. Wiping his hands along his cloak, he pulled the hood completely from his face. Gaition let out a panicked scream as he caught the head, and then dropped it unceremoniously upon witnessing the horrid image of the deceased demon.
“Are you a hero of Me’lein?” queried Verifal, regaining his composure and sitting back upon his throne.
The hooded man looked from side to side and then moved forward, closer to the throne. He coughed lightly into his hand. “I am from a place far from here. But I have heard of the Widow who plagues Telen, especially the providence of Me’lein. I came to aid you in your peril, for a price,” returned the warrior.
“A man in pursuit of wealth, I suppose it matters not. You have destroyed a powerful monster that has ravaged the people of Me’lein for many moons, and would have for many more without your intervention. What is your price?”
“I do not desire your money, King Verifal, but rather a trinket stolen by the Widow. I have come to kill her,” returned the hooded warrior. Laughter echoed in the crowd and was silenced quickly by Verifal.
“That is a tall order for a man who looks more the part of a beggar than a warrior,” called a voice from behind the hooded warrior. A man approached the throne, his armor tarnished silver and his head hidden beneath a steely skull cap.
A sheath at his side supported a grand broadsword almost as tall as the man himself. His dark brown eyes were hidden beneath the confines of the skull cap, and his size was obscured by his armor. But as he neared the hooded warrior, the size difference was evident.
The knight was certainly the larger man.
“Captain Uthen, this man deserves respect for destroying the Nighen,” commented the king as he rose from his throne once again.
Uthen placed his hands on his hips and towered over the warrior. The captain moved one of his hands over the hilt of his broadsword.
“I can see we have a problem here. Let me make it simple for you. You will lose that arm before you can even draw that sword,” cautioned the hooded warrior.
Uthen’s face darkened and his lip curled in anger, the grip on his sword tightening. The ripples of his glove made an abrasive sound.
“You might watch your tongue…”
Before the man could finish, the hooded warrior’s blade was in his hands and he had cut the sheath from Uthen’s side. Returning the blade to his back, a smirk was planted firmly on his face. Uthen glared at his fallen sword. Bending to retrieve it, he noticed the astonished glances of the gathered townspeople and the bewildered face of Gaition in the corner. He rose and met the warrior’s eyes, but did not speak.
His gaze went immediately to his king.
“Most impressive, warrior. You must pardon the brashness of Captain Uthen. Many have come before the court and announced such things. Some have turned to evil upon witnessing the power of the Widow,” spoke Verifal.
“I can understand such things, but I am here for that one reason and that reason alone. This beast was merely in the way, a spawn of the Towers of Darkness. Your captain…” replied the warrior, but was interrupted by Uthen.
“Pardon my inability to control my tongue. I have witnessed the horrors of the Widow first hand and know that she can turn a great man into nothing, no matter his skill with a blade. Please accept my apologies,” spoke Uthen, extending his hand to the warrior.
The warrior gripped it loosely and then let go.
Lord Verifal sighed with relief and sank into his throne. “With that aside, I feel that introductions are necessary, mysterious warrior. You have us at a bit of a loss. You know who we are. But we know nothing of you, not even your name.”
“Xeno Lobo. I am hunter from a faraway land,” replied Xeno, his eyes roaming the gathered masses. Their attention had already returned to their idle, individual conversations that had enraptured them before his entrance.
“What is this trinket you seek?” queried Uthen.
“That is my affair and will stay as such,” snapped Xeno. Uthen nodded, not wanting to provoke the man who had so easily disarmed him.
The king saw the tension and broke into the conversation. “When do you plan on leaving for the Tower at Sel’verene?”
“Tonight, by the light of the moon,” returned Xeno.
“But the Widow’s were-beast hunts in the night,” spoke Uthen.
“Karian’s playthings are no concern of mine,” replied Xeno dismissively.
“Karian?” queried the king.
“Who is Karian, Master Hunter?” asked Uthen.
“The Widow, the master of the Tower of Darkness at Sel’verene,” replied Xeno, his attention brought back to the conversation after realizing his words.
“You know the Widow by name?” asked Uthen.
“I am afraid so,” replied Xeno uncomfortably.
“This is why you go to Sel’verene?”
“In a way, but she had taken something from me the last time we met. I am going to retrieve it at any cost,” replied Xeno as he moved away from the throne and paced the small area in front of the royal seat.
“Last time,” whispered Uthen to himself.
“We are in your debt for killing the Nighen. If the Widow has truly taken something from you, then we would be honored to help you defeat her,” replied Verifal graciously.
The townspeople whispered among themselves.
Xeno looked at the boastful king and pondered for a moment. “How could you possibly aid me in my quest?” queried Xeno, and then continued. “No army can enter the windy paths that lead to the Tower, and there is no weapon that I can use better than my own. No magical artifact or incantation will suffice to defeat Karian, the Widow.”
“Then what can we lend you? We wish to help you,” pressed the king.
The presence of the dark lord Chaos flooded the land in shadow. The appearance of the Widow was another test of humanity, to see if they could truly outlast the dark tides of malevolence.
Xeno parried the question and looked around at the apprehensive gazes of the court of Me’lein. “What of Chaos? Surely his coming far outweighs my journey?”
“The Widow is a part of the evil that is Chaos, and all must be cleansed in order to restore peace across the land. Allies must be chosen and lines draw in the sands of war,” replied Uthen with his grand arms across his chest.
“Indeed,” returned Xeno with equal dissatisfaction at the options. “So be it then. Let me reside in Me’lein for the duration of the night, and then in the morning provide me with a fresh mount and supplies. This is how you may aid me.”
“Very well,” replied Verifal with a grand sweep of his hand as he rose from his throne. “Your request is granted. Gaition, prepare the guest chambers for Master Warrior Xeno.”
Gaition bowed and exited the chamber in haste, a spiteful glare upon his features as he pushed past the congregation of citizens. Uthen nodded to Xeno as the chatter and conversation of the antechamber was restored. The vagrant warrior melted back into the surroundings, awaiting his journey to the north.
Bio: A psychologist, author, editor, philosopher, martial artist, and skeptic, he has published several novels and currently has many in print, including: The End of the World Playlist, Bitten, The Journey, The Ocean and the Hourglass, The Path of the Fallen, The Portent, and Cerulean Dreams. Follow him on Twitter (@AuthorDanOBrien) or visit his blog http://thedanobrienproject.blogspot.com. He recently started a consultation business. You can find more information about it here: http://www.amalgamconsulting.com/.
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