Eskandar is the lowest of the low among the crew of the Navy sloop
Tipred. As ship’s boy, he runs messages, gets the dirtiest jobs and
tries to stay out of his betters’ way. It is a dull but safe life,
for the tired old Tipred patrols a shipping lane to nowhere and
nothing ever happens to disturb their peace.
lives the voice of Teodar, who has guided and guarded him all his
life, and who is teaching him magic. Teodar is a mystery; he won’t
say who he is or why he is helping him. Eskandar has stopped asking;
the voice is his only friend, and that is all that matters to him.
his ship, Eskandar has to use his secret magic and manages to defeat
the monsters. Now his enemies know him and his humdrum life becomes a
maelstrom of action – fighting monsters, desert robbers and even more
necromancer who wants him killed? And what about those mighty wyrms
in the sky, are they friend or foe? Follow Eskandar’s adventures as
he gathers a strange band of companions in his battle against
terrible enemies in The Road to Kalbakar, Book One of Wyrms of
We waited in silence. Naudin stood with his back to the stone coffin, polishing his glasses, Jem stared at the coffin, looking lost. I kept half an eye on the stairs to the outside world while I mulled over what had happened. After five hundred years, the king made himself a lich and walked away. Darn, where would he have found a sleeping god? How strong is a lich? Teodar… No, not with Wastrels around. Wait for Kellani.
At the sound of a cough and a suppressed sneeze at the top of the stair, I looked up.
‘You sure it’s only those kids down ‘ere?’ a gruff voice said from upstairs.
‘Yeah; there wasn’t anyone else around,’ a lighter, vicious voice answered. ‘Those pups just sent that call.’
Naudin’s face tightened. ‘That’s the guy who clobbered me.’
I gripped his wrist and looked around at Jem. ‘We must hide.’ Together, we ran past the king’s sarcophagus, deeper into the crypt.
‘It’s a dead end,’ Jem said.
I had expected as much; why would there be a back door to a crypt. ‘We’re stalling until Kellani comes. Let’s hope the Wastrels won’t follow us.’
The walls gave off a soft light like the glowing of the sea at night, when the weather was calm. Here among the dead it was even eerier, and I shivered as we hurried along.
Beside me, Naudin suppressed a cry as he caught a large, long dead cobweb full in his face. He gagged, but didn’t stop running. Nor did Jem. She had pulled up her dress to above her knees and raced without ever touching the ground.
We hurried around a corner and ran pell-mell into a large metal candelabrum some ancient visitor had left in the middle of the corridor. The thing clattered across the floor, echoing down the hall.
‘They’re there!’ Gruff Voice said agitatedly.
‘Those kids are as good as dead!’ Vicious sounded triumphant and a moment later a red bolt of energy splashed against a wall only a foot away from me. A chip of stone shot free and hit Naudin on the shoulder. He uttered a low cry.
‘I got one!’ Vicious shouted in triumph. ‘Quickly!’
We fled breathlessly through the narrow corridor, past ancient sarcophagi and walls full of niches with linen-wrapped remains. Twice, a deadly energy beam burned into a wall right behind us, showering bits of stone all over us, but we ran until we ended up in a circular room. Skulls, stacked and mortared together like bricks, made up the curved walls, their jaws grinning at our plight.
‘This is it,’ Naudin panted. ‘We must fight.’ He waved his arms and I felt rather than saw the dreadful illusion he hurled at their pursuers.
Gruff Voice cried out, but Vicious only laughed. ‘Nice trick, pup. Try this for size.’
A large beast came out of the corridor, jaws dripping stinking goo. Its hairy skin was covered in sores and its cloven hoofs ended in sharp claws. It came toward us, belly almost touching the ground, its forked tail swishing, the small round pupils of its eyes fixed unblinkingly on us.
Naudin shouted a spell that must’ve come from his belly, a deep, hollow incantation. The monster hesitated, then uttered a heart-rending snarl and crept nearer, its tail now still as the Tipred’s stern flag.
I formulated the loudest mindscream I could manage and cast it out into the world. Anyone out there – help! Wastrels at the crypt!
Kellani, he has no idea how much his dull life in the navy is about
mighty jinn and liberating Kalbakar Keep makes him aware of his past
– and his future.
the defender of Bodrus the Sleeping God. Quite a change for a
one-handed seventeen-year-old, five-feet-plus ship’s boy.
aided by the jinn and a bunch of pirates, threaten the Sleeping God’s
safety. As Bodrus’ defender, Eskandar is the one to foil their
plans. But for that he needs an army. An army of kids…
Pasandir, a grand fantasy adventure in a world of wyrms, steamships,
magic and mayhem!
‘They’re not the same kids,’ Naudin said one evening as he and I stood watching a massive game of tug-of-war on the little beach beside the fort. ‘They’re much more disciplined.’ He grinned. ‘In a good way, I mean; not like the navy’s trained monkeys. They look healthier, too.’
‘What a bit of exercise can do,’ I said slyly. Naudin had lost weight as well, and I would have sworn he’d even grown an inch or more.
He snorted. ‘A bit! I’m getting thin I tell you. It’s disgraceful! I’m a mage, not a brawn. I like being comfortable…’ He fell silent and stared over my shoulder.
‘What’s wrong?’ Surprised at his strange expression, I turned around.
An airship flew low over the treetops toward us. It was big; an enormous, shark-like monstrosity. From its underbelly protruded what suspiciously looked like gun barrels.
The game of tug broke off and all kids watched open-mouthed.
A whiff of malicious intent shook me and I saw the guns rotating toward us.
‘Get inside! Now!’ I shouted. ‘Lothi-Mo, to me!’ I knew if I didn’t hold her close, she was quite capable of attacking that airship on her own.
It was good to see our training bore fruit, as without a word, everyone bolted past us for the side door.
‘Bad, bad beast,’ Lothi-Mo snarled, as she landed on my shoulder. ‘Come to kill, steal, ravage!’
‘Inside!’ I snapped and pushed Naudin toward the entrance. When the last kids passed into the fort, I grabbed my broom I’d left against the wall and followed them. The door banged closed behind me at the same time a violent crossbeam of energy from the airship’s guns burned into the little stone quay.
I turned to the room full of naked kids waiting for orders. ‘Dress and arm yourselves – clubs and swords – then gather in the mess.’
‘We’ll use the inside stairs,’ Amaj said, taking the lead. ‘Watch your footing; it’s dark.’
Only Naudin and Kellani stayed behind.
‘You were darned quick, coz,’ the mage said shakily.
‘We all were,’ I said, lifting my broom like it was a spear. ‘Fleeing rabbits, that’s us. I want a closer look at that thing.’
‘Darn, I ain’t got my broom,’ Naudin said, chagrined.
‘The two of us is enough.’ Kellani’s face was hard and her eyes glittered. She prodded Naudin with her finger. ‘After you close and bar the door behind us, you go warn the sergeant he’s to leave matters to us. Then you go upstairs and wait with the others. We’ll return over the third floor balcony.’
The airship had turned over the bay and now approached the fort. A beam shot out and splattered against the stonework. Creepers withered and burned, leaving a pungent smell in my nostrils. Below, I saw the Ladybug had lifted anchor in a desperate dash for the open sea, all sails set. I grunted; Skipper had rightly decided his ship was too fragile for this game.
The dirigible disregarded the barkentine and a second beam bounced off one of the guns on the fort’s middle terrace.
Shield up, guy!’ Kellani shouted at me. ‘You’re too young to die.’
I waved and activated my force field. Then I followed her up toward the enemy ship.
capture a powerful Qoori fourmaster warship, and used her cannons to
blow up the pirate harbor of Brisa. Victory!
glory of a job well done, and soon the voice of Teodar in his head
summons him north, where new and even more powerful pirates create
havoc on the seas.
kids. Teodar sends them by airship to Smalkand, a deserted cave
system on the coast of their own Pasandir Peaks. On arrival, Eskandar
and his companions discover their new home harbors some
away, Eskandar and his small group find themselves under attack from
Bokkaners and other minions of their ultimate nemesis, the lich lord.
lands of the Hizmyran kingdom await our heroes in ‘The Bokkaners of
the North’, the third book of Wyrms of Pasandir.
‘You have pirate prisoners?’ Kellani said sharply.
‘I do,’ the lieutenant said, beaming. ‘My mid captured them someplace to the north of here. It was a felucca, almost a rowing boat with a sail. Four of the rascals on board, one of them a youngster shouting gobbledygook and waving his swords in defiance. My mid fired one shot and sank them. Then the fool fished them up and took them prisoner. I gave him an earful for saddling me up with those ruffians, believe me!’
Kellani and I exchanged glances. This didn’t sound like any pirates we’d met.
‘Have they talked?’ she asked.
‘Only the young rapscallion and he talked plenty.’ The lieutenant shrugged. ‘Of course no one here understands their lingo. I’m waiting for the next navy ship to take them off my hands. Let Seatome hang them; I lack the authority.’
Kellani looked at him, ‘May we see these pirates?’
The lieutenant spread his hands. ‘Well…’ Then he gave in. ‘I suppose it can’t hurt. The talkative rogue is fourteen, fifteen years at most. The others are surly rascals, but we have them cowed.’ He grabbed his saber from a hook. ‘Follow me; I’ll take you to our jail.’
I glanced at Kellani and saw her uneasiness. Three men and a boy in a felucca sounded unlike any pirate we’d seen.
We walked down a narrow corridor to the end of the building and a rough-walled room with an iron cage. Inside were three men dressed in simple smocks, and a boy who rose as we entered. He gripped the bars with both hands and spoke, his words commanding, but foreign.
‘Pirates?’ Lothi-Mi chirped. ‘No, no, no. You caught problem, commander of Port Naar. You caught mighty big problem. Declaring-war problem.’
The lieutenant looked at her as if he only now noticed her presence. ‘What’s that?’ he said. ‘A speaking pet?’
Before I could say something, Naudin drew himself up to his full length.
‘You will mind your manners,’ he said. ‘Lady Lothi-Mo is a wyrmling of royal descent, a friend of the Weal Council.’
The lieutenant stiffened. ‘Your pardon, I… It was surprise; no disrespect meant.’
Lothi-Mo disregarded him. She spoke a few words to the boy who colored hotly and beat the bars with his fists. He had a strong face–lighter than Naudin’s brown complexion, but not pale like a Garthan–with a hawkish nose, a stubborn chin, hot eyes and dark, wavy hair, shorn at the back and hanging low over his forehead.
‘Of course I speak Vulgar,’ the boy said in a heavy accent. ‘But I didn’t care to.’
‘You be silly,’ Lothi-Mo chirped. ‘Why languish in jail?’
‘They attacked me,’ the boy said, rather inconsequential. He drew his brows together in a scowl. ‘My uncle will not react kindly to this.’
‘Was a mistake,’ Lothi-Mo said. ‘Thought you were pirates, and you didn’t say no. Bit not-clever-much, I’d think.’
‘I take it you are not a pirate?’ I asked.
‘Certainly not,’ the boy snapped. ‘I’m Jazzaunt Hathwaari, Prince of Hizmyr.’
fire destroyed her parents and their business. Now the 15-year-old
orphan follows the wyrmcaller, using her mercantile genius to sell
his honestly gained loot and finance his battle against pirates and
branch out. A large cargo of confiscated foreign goodies brings in
much more gold than she had expected, and with that money she opens
her first trade center.
powerful trader, she dives into the business world of the Weal
Nations; battling scheming financiers and protecting the rights of
the people she employs.
land and at sea, conquering pirate vessels, islands and important
companies on her way to become a rich and powerful High Merchant.
After an hour, the warehouse crew was laughing and joking again, healed and proud of their strength, and happy with the bonus Shaw paid them.
Then Wyon reappeared, with six lads who looked and moved like soldiers.
Shaw saw them come in and watched the workers turn away from them. The boys didn’t seem to notice, but walked on, not exactly like they were on parade, but definitely as a unit.
As she went to meet them, they halted, and the foremost boy brought a hand to his heart in what was almost a military salute.
‘Here they are,’ Wyon said and he sounded strangely subdued.
Shaw lifted her chin and stared at the lead boy, her blurry eye magnified through her monocle. ‘Morning,’ she said. ‘And who are you?’
‘We’re the Axed, ma’am; I am Kennan.’ He eyed her with a quiet defiance she didn’t understand.
‘And what are the Axed?’ she asked.
The nearby workers froze. ‘Traitor kids,’ one of them said without turning.
The six stiffened. ‘Kids of traitors, please. There is a difference,’ Kennan said softly.
‘Sure there is,’ Shaw said cordially. ‘One of our friends in the wyrmcaller’s service is Justym. He is Vystyn’s great-grandson. The ultimate kid of a traitor, and he is as loyal as any of us to his goddess and to the wyrmcaller.’
Kennan stared at her, his eyes weighing her words. ‘Yes,’ he said. ‘My mother was in the army; an officer. I was brought up as an aspirant, destined to follow in her footsteps. Something happened. Let us say cowardice, killing a lot of her troops, but not her. She was court-martialed and shot. The same sort of thing goes for the others. After that we were disrated and kicked out of the army. It was a very public ceremony – the whole city knows we’re tainted; named untrustworthy. Yet it wasn’t through our own fault. Maybe my mother was a traitor,’ he said coolly. ‘But me?’
‘True,’ Shaw said, sensing the massive hurt in him, but she kept the emotion out of her voice and face. ‘You are trained?’
‘Melee only, ma’am; no archery or firearms. Swords, spears and axes. There are still those willing to train us, for a fee that is.’
‘Would you do ship duty? Overseas duty? Dangerous things?’ Shaw asked.
‘Of course,’ Kennan said without moving a muscle.
‘And you would be loyal to the PTC and the wyrmcaller’s service?’
‘To the death,’ he said.
‘Then you’re hired,’ Shaw said. ‘Forget that Axed, you’re now proud members of the Pasandir Trading Co Troops.’
She turned around. ‘Folks, listen well. I hired these guys to help defend us and our property. Their past is dead, their future are we. I want us to work together. Am I understood?’
‘Sure,’ the head girl said, turning to face them. She didn’t smile, but there wasn’t any hostility in her words either. The boy had professed his innocence, and like a true Kell she was prepared to judge them for herself.
‘Welcome, guys. The next round of bandits is yours, all right?’
‘We’ll get them,’ Kennan said harshly. ‘I promise.’
‘Excellent,’ Shaw said. ‘You’ll be squad leader. We’re still building up this place, so for the moment your barracks are a six-bed room at the back. I don’t suppose you possess arms?’
‘Cudgels, ma’am,’ Kennan said. ‘We’re not allowed any weapons.’
‘We’ll bring swords and things over and put them in a closet somewhere.’ Shaw sighed. ‘You will get uniforms, but not today. Or tomorrow. Now settle in, get to know the others, and I’ll leave the rest to you.’
With the acquisition of the great WyDir airlines company, she became
a power in the lands of the Weal, and now she is ready to expand.
and rich country to the north. This brings her into conflict with the
local guilds, who have a monopoly on all businesses in that kingdom.
hold over the king. Soon, Shaw finds herself embroiled in a battle
demanding all her grit and ingenuity to win.
rebellion. To save her plans, Shaw must not only defeat the guilds,
she must prevent a civil war as well!
HIGH MERCHANT: CHAPTER 17 – SEWERS
It was just past noon when Mage Enric came on board, leading a smelly, unkempt lad of uncertain age in a terribly dirty smock and bare feet.
‘Shaw,’ Enric said urgently. ‘This b-boy has something to t-tell you.’
‘What’s your name?’ Shaw asked, unfazed by the smell and the looks of the boy.
‘Aliq, great lady,’ the boy said, his eyes clear as glass in his grimy face. ‘I catch the rats in the sewers below the warehouse.’
‘You do?’ Nate said. ‘And when you’ve caught them, then what?’
‘I kill them.’ The boy grinned, showing two rows of strong, healthy teeth. ‘Fast and painless, mighty lord. They do not suffer.’ Then he turned his head to Enric. ‘Yes,’ he said.
‘He e-eats them,’ Enric added.
‘You can mindspeak?’ Shaw said, surprised.
‘That’s how he caught my attention,’ Enric said. ‘He wasn’t allowed to speak to me, so he used his mind. It was a bit of a shock; he’s quite strong.’
‘Excellent,’ Shaw said. ‘We can use every magic-user we can find. Take him to the troops’ restroom and clean him up. I suppose the rats don’t mind the smell, but most crew members do.’
The boy bowed. ‘Apologies,’ he said softly. ‘But me, I am insignificant. I would not bother you with my small tricks. There is something else I need to tell you.’
‘Magic is never insignificant, so I am glad you contacted Mage Enric,’ Shaw said. ‘What is it you want to tell us?’
‘Treason, great lady,’ the boy said. ‘I overheard him-who-is-father-of-us-all discuss a black plan with one who was a guild lord. They are planning an attack on the noble lords in the Guild House.’
‘Noble lords?’ Nate said sharply. ‘You mean Shar Khali and his men?’
‘The lord-from-the-king who is assistant to the high minister,’ the boy said. ‘The traitors will explode a bomb below the house.’
‘When?’ Shaw asked.
‘Today,’ the boy said. ‘They are there now, preparing what must be done. They had planned it for another day, but the father-of-us-all told the guildlord of the outlander visitors, and now they want to kill those too.’
Shaw looked around and called a sailor. ‘Get Lieutenant Hizar and Squad Leader Kennan with his guys over here on the double, ready for action. Run!’
‘Do you know how to get to those murderous brutes?’ Shaw asked.
Aliq nodded. ‘I know most of the sewers in this part of the city,’ he said. ‘I can take you there.’
‘I will c-come with you,’ Mage Enric said. ‘I know something about b-bombs and things like that.’
‘Father-of-us-all made it with his own hands, he boasted,’ Aliq said. ‘A memory from his years in the mines it was.’
‘Father-of-us-all?’ Nate said. ‘Who might that be?’
‘Master Zuuni,’ the boy said softly. ‘He always calls himself that, though his belly is too large to let him father anything.’
‘Haai-Bo?’ Shaw asked, shocked.
‘The rat boy speaks sooth,’ the wyrmling said. ‘It is what he heard.’ He came down from his temporary perch on the main mast and joined Shaw. ‘I don’t like boys eating rat,’ he declared haughtily. ‘Rats are mine; boylings must eat boyling food.’
Aliq’s clear eyes were filled with laughter. ‘But rats are nice,’ he said. ‘The good people pay me a copper for each tail and I can keep the rat.’
‘Give them to me,’ Haai-Bo said. ‘You can eat the strange foods from the kitchens.’
he now lives in Roosendaal, a town near the Belgian border.
he served for thirty years as a Scoutmaster. Professionally, he
earned his bread in various business capacities.
– where he explained to foreigners the wonders of the Dutch language
and customs – until Governmental budget cuts terminated both the
school and his job.
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characterized by their positive mood. Equality and friendship,
courage and determination, humor and growth form some of the colors
with which Horsman paints his stories. His worlds and their peoples
are diverse and full of adventure. And behind it all there is always
that dusty scent of old death so characteristic of dungeons, and the
smell of dragons, kobolds or other denizens of other worlds.
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