Lands of Wanderlust, Book One

Shadow of the Arisen

An epic dark fantasy your subconscious is craving.

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What’s Inside

Once a thriving city—now a foul necropolis, ruled over by the arisen dead.

The fallen city of Brigganden now poses a threat to the neighboring lands, its demonic warlord slaughtering all who venture near.

Reza, a member of an elite code of knights, leads the only troop willing to stand against the hellish army—risking not only her life to the vile arisen, but the lives of her only friends.

As they struggle to survive the rising tide of evil, fulfilling their mission becomes the least of their priorities. The dead know of their presence—and this evil hungers for more than just flesh and blood.

1

Starlit Dunes

The metal rattle of gear against armor mixed with the entrancing sound of leather flapping from the violent wind droned on for what seemed to have been hours now. The lone traveler hunkered down in a dune depression in the middle of a vicious desert sandstorm with no shelter to protect him from the sting of the harsh pelting sands but a large, suede leather cloak he had wrapped around his body.

He was one no longer known by name, but by title, ever since he had left his homeland to the Far East. Since that time, others had just referred to the wanderer as “Nomad.”

Though his gear seemed adapted to be suited for life in the desert, it was culturally an oddity among the arid nation he currently was traveling in.

Kneeling there at the bottom of a dune to take as little abuse from the storm as possible, he retreated into his subconsciousness, leaving his outer senses, mentally melting away.

In his meditative state, space, time, cause, effect, energy, all became one, his meditation bringing him closer to eternity, slowly drowning out any outside stimuli, leaving his consciousness in an endless space of both repleteness and nothingness—an equal measure of light and darkness.

Slowly, just after reaching his portion of meditative eternity, he began to come back to the physical realm. Though it had seemed as though he had just entered his trance, what was day before his meditation, was now night, and though the sandstorm was dying down, a peek outside of his cloak that was wrapped around him like a small tent, revealed that the unrelenting desert winds were still patrolling the endless dunes.

Listening a moment, something instantly felt wrong. He put down his steel helm’s visor, sliding two notches on either side of the eye holes, two crimson-tinted glass lenses closing the gap. With his face protected, he unwrapped his cloak and stood up, his cloak now wildly flapping behind him.

It didn’t take him a great deal of concentration to single out what possibly could have pulled him out of his trance early—a sharp clang of steel on steel rung off over a distant dune, slicing through the din of the storm. He knew that sound so very well. It was the deathly beautiful interplay of weapons in the hands of combatants.

Sprinting in the direction of the clash, Nomad made his way up one dune and then another, stopping just at the crest of the second dune. Halting to listen again, he quickly determined that the fight was indeed over in the next valley.

By the sounds of it, the battle was a retreating one, and he guessed there to be only two combatants, the resounding steel sounding very similar each time and only sounding off once every few seconds.

Satisfied he wasn’t going to be facing an army upon revealing himself, he marched over the dune’s peak, exposing himself to an unconcerned duo, fighting through the harsh Tarigannie sandstorm.

The pair, though completely different in appearance, wore similarly heavy armor, both appearing as knights of differing factions. The oppressor, or advancing knight, wore full plate mail armor, tinted black, and the banners and robes that hung down out of the slits and joints of his armor were dyed a dark pitch, with the hems being a rich mahogany.

With the oppressor turned to its prey, Nomad could only see the oppressive knight’s back, but he could tell that he only wielded a large greatsword.

The prey seemed to handle herself confidently enough, but the fact that she was backing away from her opponent belied her conviction to the fight.

She was very beautiful—long, light-blonde hair parted to the side of a symmetric, clear-featured face. She seemed to be human, just as he was, though she was fair skinned, only lightly tanned, which was not a common skin tone in the harsh, sunbaked desert region of Tarigannie.

Her armor, in contrast to her opponent’s, was a polished steel. A white tabard stretched its way down her middle over her armor, clearly displaying the mark of her faith, which Nomad recognized instantly as belonging to followers of Sareth—a rare, exclusive cult centered on the Goddess of virtue and justice. Though their ways were a mystery to nearly all, and their presence unknown to most, Nomad had seen their influence, even as far as his distant homelands.

“A saren knight,” Nomad whispered in wonder to see the recondite, elite holy warrior of Sareth standing before him.

The dark knight struck again, coming down hard with an overhanded strike, the saren bringing her large shield up just in time to deflect the blow off to the side, thrusting her long seax into the arm opening in her opponent’s armor, sinking deep.

Nomad, who had been advancing to assist the saren, halted, seeing the deathblow just dealt, then watched in awe as the dark knight gripped the entrenched, sizeable blade, broke the grip the saren had on the hilt, and casually tossed it off to the side, lifting up its greatsword, beginning to advance once more.

Nomad began to race towards the two, seeing now that the saren fought against someone, or something, more formidable than perhaps even an elite saren was capable of dealing with.

She blocked another blow from the dark knight with her shield, unlatching a flail from the back of her belt as she did so. The blow forced her to her knees though, and the dark knight took the high ground opportunity to lay into her with successive hard-hitting attacks, sword banging off of her upheld shield.

Allowing for one final slam of sword and shield, the saren flung her opponent’s sword hard left with her shield, causing the dark knight to pause momentarily to steady himself for the next attack, but that moment was all the saren needed.

Bringing her flail in a wide arc, throwing all the force she could into the blow, the spiked, chained balls slammed hard into the dark knight’s head.

The ferocity of the attack sent the knight’s helmet flying off. The slam spun the knight halfway around, stopping just in time to meet a charging cloaked man who waited to draw his sword until the last possible moment, thumb releasing the curved sword from its sheath.

Nomad’s sword came indiscernibly fast, slashing a crescent pattern across the dark knight’s armor, clanging off steel the majority of the blow until the blade found purchase in the elbow joint of the knight’s armor covering its arm.

A limb fell to the ground, the heavy gauntlet thudding into the sand. The attack had taken Nomad far past the knight, placing him next to the saren who was justifiably stunned at the new addition to this private battle of theirs.

The last few attacks had happened so quickly, that the battlefield stilled for a moment as all three combatants tried to catch up to what had just unfolded, and that’s when Nomad and the saren simultaneously noticed something very concerning about their foe.

Under the whipping mop of black, ratty hair was nothing but bone—a skull atop a barren spine. The creature they faced off against was no man or other common race, but was strung together and animated like a macabre marionette.

A grounding, though brief, glance at one another, Nomad and the saren established their immediate alliance against their now unified foe. Both came in at the dark knight fast—Nomad striking first.

Nomad’s curved sword went high, aiming for the knight’s unprotected head, but the knight bobbed just in time, the sword only lopping off a small slice of bone, dried skin, and hair.

The saren’s attack however came in at the knight’s blindside, pounding the knight back, this time off balancing it completely, toppling it to the ground.

“Allow me,” the saren commanded, for the first time revealing her voice, which, to Nomad, was so stern that it seemed to disagree with her fair, youthful appearance.

Nomad stood watching as the saren walked up to the downed foe, lifting her flail, ready to deal the deathblow.

Before the flail could fall, the knight shot his hand up, spoke in a profane tongue, and shot a green cloud of gas directly in the saren’s face.

The saren stumbled back, the gas causing immediate respiratory fits as she choked her way out of the lingering gas cloud. Nomad sprang into action, seeing the knight working on getting back up.

The knight crouched over when an unbelievably sharp, curved sword sliced once, separating the top half of the knight’s cranium, and then again after coming back around to decapitate the vile marionette.

The dark knight stayed down this time, and it appeared that with the decapitation of the skull went all ties to animation it once had.

The rush of thumping blood from the battle slowly handing back his senses to reason and awareness, Nomad began to notice violent coughing and wheezing behind him. Looking back, he could see that the saren was in a horrible state, grasping at her throat, fighting with everything she had for breath.

Kneeling by her side, Nomad could already tell the saren was not consciously aware of her surroundings. Her mind was wandering some distant corridors of pain.

He took out a tin container from one of his side pouches. Unclipping her tabard, he found a breastplate underneath. Undonning her armor, gently turning her over, he lifted up her undergarment to expose her back. He popped open the lid and dipped a finger in a gel-like substance, drawing a symbol in both areas over where the lungs were located. Concentrating for a few moments, he hummed in a trance-like tone, speaking in a language only his eastern kin would understand, caressing his middle finger over the now dried gel, igniting it in a faint green glow, heavy black fumes seeping from the flame.

Sitting there, his healing ritual complete, he swept the flames out in one motion and covered her back again with her undergarment.

“This is a sickness I cannot heal. Not completely at least.”

Sitting her up, holding her head steady, there was a visible difference between her state of body and mind before his treatment and after. Her coughing had now completely gone away, and her eyes no longer receded up into her skull.

“Saren, can you understand my words?” he asked, knowing his heavily foreign accent probably made understanding him that much more difficult.

Luckily, she slowly nodded, indicating that she could hear him.

Beginning to shake violently now, dark colors were seeping into her complexion even as they talked.

“We need to get you to the nearest town. What direction is that?”

“W—west,” she was able to chatter out.

By now, the sandstorm had died even more so than before, and it only took Nomad a momentary glance up to orientate himself and locate a westward heading.

“Good. Try to stay conscious. If the mind wanders aimlessly through poison too long, there may not be much of your mind left after a cure is administered. I’ll collect your weapons and we will be on our way,” Nomad said as he got up and started to search for the discarded seax, shield, and flail, finding them all without too much trouble.

He sheathed her blade for her and strapped her flail and shield to her back, then hefted her over his shoulder and began to trudge to the nearest hill traveling westward—the direction he hoped the nearest town was in.

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Author Paul Yoder

About the Author

I’ve been writing about as long as I’ve been reading. Good stories are rare. Visual scene setting is difficult. Living characters in fiction are scarce. The ingredients needed to put together a truly moving piece of fiction is not an easy recipe to pull off.

I’ve attempted a bit of sorcery here with these collected stories. I hope I got the spell just right to warp you into a distant realm. Enjoy a slice of fiction, on the house. Happy reading!

Paul Yoder

Lands of Wanderlust, book two

Lords of the Sands

Power behind the undead army is growing stronger. A friend is falling into darkness. Strange allies band together to stop it.

Can this odd group of companions save the living from extinction?

The army of the dead has begun to rally from their recent defeat, slaughtering the nomads of the out-regions.

Reza and company have been preoccupied with mending their wounds from their last encounter with the arisen lord, but the task has drawn them thin, and to their wits end.

Met with indolence from the region’s leaders, they are left to make strange connections and allies to help in defending their home state from impending doom.

The dead are within the Southern Sands borders, and few have prepared for the imminent tides of war.

Lands of Wanderlust Series

Book One

Book Two

Book Three

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