The Merewyrm's Tooth
Animal Kingdoms Book 1
by Oliver Paglia Genre: Epic Fantasy
Faharen was a contented enough young lad, living a simple farming life with his adopted kin the Manxii, on the North Western Plain of the Animal Kingdoms.
After a mysterious blight begins to ravage the pastures of his homeland, he must embark on a perilous quest only he can complete; to cross the Great Forest, entering the Realms of Men to retrieve a piece of ivory with healing properties from a legendary monster, the Merewyrm; a creature so ancient it predates both man and animal kind.
Not long into his journey, it dawns on Faharen that he is part of a much larger, darker world than he thought existed and must mine hidden depths he wasn’t aware he possessed to survive.
Created by the gods to divide fallen men from the faithful animals and forsaken by them long ago, traversing the Great Forest will not be easy, for it hides many malevolent creatures such as the Satyrs to name but one; a half man, half cloven hooved beast that knows only spite and treachery!
With the body of a man and the heart of a Manxii, Faharen must do what is deemed impossible; cross the worlds to save his people.
The sun had cleared the horizon and any vestiges of violet had faded in the glory of a bright, radiant morning. Faharen walked next to Agnovis as they casually strolled toward the temple. They exchanged pleasantries with the other Ovispagians as usual, trying not to appear clandestine as to the nature of their morning’s activity.
Agnovis was doing a better job of it than Faharen.
After the initial revelations of last night, Agnovis had gone on to explain how he had been surreptitiously taken to one side by a group of priests, who had expressed the High Priestess’s
desire to speak with Faharen in confidence, though they didn’t say much more on the subject.
As they reached the temple steps, seemingly on cue, the Medius Priest appeared above them, his eyes full of knowledge that Faharen, as of yet, was not privy to. It started to dawn on him that maybe he was becoming part of something bigger than himself, something that had been playing out for longer than he had been aware of.
The inside of the temple far exceeded the grandeur of its exterior. It was a delicate blend of different crafts and artistic expressions, woven so intricately that it took an expert eye to see where one stopped and the other began. A stone and marble floor reached upwards in the shape of fluted pillars, but at about chest height, these morphed into marvellous wooden beams, arching toward the centre of the main chamber.
Agnovis, having already surpassed the aesthetic arrest of the place, followed the Medius Priest to the centre of the main chamber, where after a brief exchange, the priest left through a small archway to the side of the entrance. Still in awe of what was before him, Faharen proceeding cautiously so that his footsteps wouldn’t echo loudly, walked toward the centre of the space where his Manxii father was standing.
As he moved deeper into the chamber, a grand fresco of Ovis revealed itself above the empty seats of the Council of Priests. The Mother Goddess’s arms were outstretched, the procession of her godly offspring before her.
“Such a loving expression,” Agnovis muttered, his words gently reverberating around the chamber. Faharen looked again at the fresco. Ovis’s eyes and gesture seemed to be directed toward the very place where they were standing. He looked down at his feet to see that he was standing on a black circle of marble.
Feeling instantly compelled, he stepped away and immediately a phenomenal, swirling arrangement of interwoven, iridescent teardrop shaped pieces of marble became apparent. Faharen’s eyes followed the multi-coloured marvels in a shrinking spiral until they finally came back to the black circle in the centre. As he looked into it, the rest of the room darkened, making him dizzy. He wanted to look away but couldn’t, anxiety swelling in his chest. He felt helpless.
“All kneel for the High Priestess of Ovispagus!” The Medius Priest’s instruction echoed like thunder.
Faharen’s vision faded back into the richness of the temple’s amphitheatre. Agnovis was already kneeling, his head down. Before Faharen could take in what had happened, Agnovis’s hoof hand had grasped his woollen shirtsleeve and pulled him down to the floor on his knees. After what seemed like an age, the delicate caress of a ewe’s hoof hand pressed on Faharen’s shoulder.
“Rise,” said a ewe’s voice in a dulcet way above him. Faharen and Agnovis slowly stood.
Though dressed in a simple, off-white robe, the High Priestess was a remarkable sight to behold. She was tall for a Manxii ewe and her wool was white from horn to hoof. She had deep, green eyes that overflowed with wisdom and generosity. She seemed truly divined by the gods. Faharen noticed his hand was outstretched; he looked down, and saw that her hoof hand was clutching his own.
“Welcome, both of you,” she greeted. “Please follow me, time is of the essence.” With the brief introduction over, the High Priestess gracefully walked back through the archway. The Medius Priest beckoned for them to follow, bowing politely as Faharen and Agnovis nervously moved past him, as it was very rare indeed that anyone but a priest got to venture deep into the temple.
The short passageway led from the Main Chamber of the temple and opened up into a modest room of a less ornate nature. Arranged in a semi-circle in front of the entrance, in a formal manner Faharen wasn’t overly used to, sat Murtle, the Tauron emissary and half a dozen high ranking Manxii priests. An empty, high-armed wooden chair sat in the middle of the group, ready to receive the High Priestess as she took her place amongst the gathering. Faharen and
Agnovis stood dutifully before them.
“Hello, Faharen,” squeaked Murtle, the nearest expression to a Sus’s whisper.
“Murtle!” Faharen exclaimed, joyfully. Murtle didn’t reply. It was clear the Tauron was eyeing their personal relationship with interest. A quiet fell across the room. Faharen was aware that all present were examining him.
“Have you informed your son about the peril we face?” asked the High Priestess.
“Yes, my Lady,” Agnovis replied. She paused in thought. “And I understand you have schooled him in all of our Manxii ways?” came another inquiry. “Yes, my Lady,” Agnovis
repeated. “As best as I was able.” The High Priestess gestured to one of the priests, who
walked over to Faharen and produced a scroll from within his robe. As he unrolled it, a drawing of a terrifying serpentine creature was revealed, surrounded by writing in an alphabet Faharen had never seen before.
“Do you recognise this creature, Faharen?” the High Priestess asked.
“I can’t say that I do, my Lady,” he replied.
“If I told you it surrounded the Earth before Glaber created Gigas and Men,” she stated.
“The Merewyrm!” a terrified murmur came from Agnovis.
“Yes, the Merewyrm,” the High Priestess reaffirmed. “Fallen into time to live forever as a tormenter to both men and animals.”
A vague memory of such a legend simmered up from the bottom of Faharen’s mind.
“Must we skirt around the issue like this?” a deep, booming inquiry came from the Tauron emissary. Faharen had never seen a Tauron up close before, let alone hear one. The bellicose tone of his voice distracted Farahen from his thoughts. The Manxii present simply returned his question with a glance and then began muttering amongst themselves. The Tauron’s eyes widened in fury and he reared up on his cleft nails. The room seemed to shrink as he did so,
his muscular skin flexing in a ripple from neck to tail. Faharen had heard tales of their physical prowess but in such a setting the Tauron seemed god- like. Standing on four legs, with a seemingly disproportionately wide neck and shoulders, his short, black coat of hair glistened as the horned behemoth fixed his gaze unflinchingly on Faharen. “My people are dying!” he growled. “While we talk, thousands of my race wither to disease and hunger!”
Faharen stood stiff with fright, transfixed by the sharp points of the Tauron’s horns. Having voiced his concerns, his temper waned slightly, and he then turned to the High Priestess.
“Please tell him of the Merewyrm’s importance,” the Tauron begged.
The High Priestess reached out and stroked the Tauron’s neck with her hoof hand. As she looked at him, Faharen knew she felt his anguish as her own. She turned to Faharen.
“The teeth of the Merewyrm are said to have magical healing properties. They can bring fertility and cure sickness,” she explained. “If it can be brought back and prepared correctly, then the
Animal Kingdoms can be spared from this blight that ravages our lands.”
“Where is this creature to be found?” asked Faharen.
“It is written in legend that the creature resides in wastelands to the northwest of the Realms of Men,” replied the High Priestess.
“But that’s beyond the Great Forest,” protested Faharen. “How can we cross it?”
“As animals we cannot,” stated the High Priestess. The reality of the situation felt like a slap in the face. “But I’m no animal,” Faharen murmured to himself. He looked to his Manxii father for help. Agnovis was already looking at him with sadness in his heart, but acceptance in his eyes. So this is what it had been all about, he thought to himself. That Faharen had been born and raised in the land of the Manxii shouldn’t have happened, but it had. The only fact that mattered now was that he was the only one who could last a day in the Realms of Men and if he could get there, he might just be able to get back.
As Faharen pondered his fate, he felt his left arm rise into the air, followed by the sensation of bristly, thick skin on his hand. He looked down at his side. Murtle was there, looking up at him.
“Not to worry, lad, you can do it,” Murtle said with a light, reassuring grunt. “Besides, I’m coming with you some of the way.”
“I am truly sorry that we have to ask this of your son, Agnovis,” said the High Priestess, sympathetically. She rose from her chair and walked over to Faharen. “If we had another way to save the Animal Kingdoms from famine, it would be done. But we do not.” The High Priestess looked down at Murtle. “Are you sure on what is to be done?”
“Yes, my Lady. I shall prepare the lad for what is necessary,” Murtle oinked in reply. As he looked down at the kind eyes and jovial expression of the old Sus, Faharen’s foreboding gave way to hope.
Murtle had always offered the right guidance since Faharen was a child. He felt reassured that she would now, as he embarked on his new daunting undertaking.
Gauntlet of Wrath Animal Kingdoms Book 2
Residing in a monastery far to the east of the North Western Plain, troubling nightmares stalk Faharen’s sleep as he seeks inner peace and answers to profound questions, stirred up by his quest for the Merewyrm’s tooth.
But in the Realms of Men, all is not well.
Out of the deserts to the south, like a sandstorm on an ill wind, a force of occultists, led by an armoured giant calling himself the Ferra Demiurge, or Forged Lord, wielding the strongest ever blades made of a mysterious metal, have taken the Achaean lands by coup and sorcery. Their ambition and greed is insatiable and the Demiurge will not be satisfied until the entire known world is his, including what lies beyond the Great Forest.
With the worlds of the Animal Kingdoms and men alike set in flux by recent events, the ancient prophecy of the wild men seems to be unravelling.
Now, all those standing against the Achaeans will be tested in their defence of the sacred. Some will conquer, some will die, but all will struggle to survive.
Grundar the chieftain stood before the Forged Lord who sat on his throne, Fabius and the sorcerers looking on from the periphery. The Northman was taller and broader than most Achaeans, with a trimmed, neck length beard and sharp, blue eyes that vivified his whole demeanour, revealing a fierce intelligence. His hands grasped a thick belt about his waist, a few fingers resting diligently on a bronze axe head.
“I want some of your men to cross the river and assist with the construction of the bridge on the far bank,” the Demiurge ordered.
“You have more than a legion here,” Grundar asserted in his cool, northern accent. “We are paid to fight, not build bridges. How could you ask that of my men?”
“I’m not asking!” the Demiurge replied, raising a clenched metal fist.
“You are not my Lord!” the clansman stated as he puffed out his chest and took a step forward. The mood in the tent suddenly changed, but the Forged Lord rose to his feet and simply placed his hands casually on his hips; a dead stare behind his black rendered mask. “Show me the gold you promised, or I will take my army back home!” Armour creaked as the Demiurge leaned over the clansman,
making full use of his superior height.
“And how will you get home?” he asked. “In my ships that brought you from the shores of the northwest? I think not!”
“Ha!” Grundar scoffed. “Clansmen are not shy of a long walk. You southerners build your bridge with your own hands.” He walked for the exit, barging past Fabius.
“Can you run faster than a sail, clansman?” The words halted Grundar. “You must have been desperate to have brought all your best warriors this far south, leaving your women and children unprotected.” The chieftain turned to face the Demiurge, his eyes brimming with pure, unrestrained wrath, knuckles turning white as they clenched the axe head at his waist. “All I have to do is click my fingers and the whole Achaean navy will sail north.” He squared up
to Grundar again. “And even if you run all the way home, all that will greet you will be burnt out fishing villages, empty and lifeless, because I won’t have your people killed, oh no. After my sailors have had their way with your women, they will become my slaves. Then, I will have each of your warriors swear allegiance to me, to serve in the legion until the day they die!”
In the face of such an insult Grundar showed extraordinary dignity.
It was the only thing the Demiurge could not take from him.
“We will need boats to cross the river –”
“None can be spared!” the Forged Lord cut him off. “There are stepping stones not too far north of here along the river. You will go around and clear the far bank of Satyrs from there back to the bridge.” It was all too clear from the tone of his voice that he was enjoying dominating the clansman.
“Let me see the gold you promised,” demanded Grundar.
“You’ll see it once the bridge is completed and we have crossed the river in force,” came a dismissive response. The only act of defiance Grundar had left was to do nothing. He simply stared at everybody present, his eyes finally meeting with Fabius’s. They shared contempt for their ungrateful master. “Hurry now,” the Demiurge continued. “The days are still short and you don’t want to be unprepared in the Great Forest at night.” Then Grundar left, not wanting to be in such company a moment longer. Immediately afterwards, Fabius excused himself and returned to his hilltop
Oliver Paglia is a writer/filmmaker and was born and bred in Hampshire, south England, where he grew up on a small farm in the picturesque Test valley countryside. He now lives in Reykjavik, Iceland with his veterinary nurse partner, Snæfriður Stefanssdottír. For many years Oliver has worked as a videographer in England and has a substantial portfolio of commercial and artistic film work spanning a broad variety of subjects.
Oliver’s artistic preoccupation is with the mythic; it is his view that it is one of the highest forms of artistic expression. It can be vague, yet illuminating, without a contemporary context yet insightful as to the human condition, absurd yet wise and dark yet moral. The legends of old are the stories that resonate with us on all levels.
As the late Professor Joseph Campbell put it, “The myth is the public domain and the dream is the private myth. If your private myth, your dream, happens to coincide with that of the society, you are in good accord with your group. If it isn’t, you’ve got a long adventure in the dark forest ahead of you.” Also, “Myth must be kept alive. The people who can keep it alive are the artists of one kind or another.”
And that is what Oliver hopes to do, to keep myth alive in his own modest way.
Can you, for those who don't know you already, tell something about yourself and how you became an author?
I became an author because because I felt compelled to write a story of my own. Simple!
What is something unique/quirky about you?
I often talk to myself!
Tell us something really interesting that's happened to you!
I was once hit in the face by a Cheetah.
What are some of your pet peeves?
Noisy eaters, being unnecessarily ignored and people that revel in their ignorance.
If you knew you'd die tomorrow, how would you spend your last day?
Tell the people that I loved how I felt about them.
Who is your hero and why?
Joseph Campbell, for interpreting the world in such a rich, non-reductive way and telling it how he saw it.
What kind of world ruler would you be?
A mixture of Benevolent Jupiter and Old Testament Tyrant!
What are you passionate about these days?
What do you do to unwind and relax?
Youtube and read.
Describe yourself in 5 words or less!
5 words or less: A gun-slinging Maverick.
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
When my first book was accepted by my publisher.
Which of your novels can you imagine made into a movie?
Both of them
What literary pilgrimages have you gone on?
Several times to “Hay-on-Wye, where books go to die”, a small town in Hereford on the English/ Welsh border.
As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal?
A Ram, because I’m an Aries.
What inspired you to write this book?
I was watching a documentary about the hidden code Michael Ward had found in the Narnia books, and the entire world came into my head in a flash. Scared the hell out of me!
What can we expect from you in the future?
I currently have three books in the works, the most important being of course the third and final part of the Animal Kingdoms trilogy, and have an independent short film in post production as well, based loosely on the original Mad Max: Road Warrior films.
Do you have any “side stories” about the characters?
Many! I just haven’t written them down yet.
Can you tell us a little bit about the characters in the books?
In the Merewrym’s Tooth: Animal Kingdoms Book 1, the story centres almost entirely on the adventure of the central character Faharen, as he crosses the sacred divide of the Great Forest between the worlds of men and civilised animals, to find the Merewyrm’s tooth; a magical object that can cure a mysterious blight that has tainted the soil of his homeland. He is an unassuming enough young man, but is well aware that he is fundamentally different to his adopted kin, the Manxii; a race of creatures that stand upright, but have horns, wool and hoof-like extremities.
In Book 2, ‘Gauntlet of Wrath’, the breadth of characters increases quite considerably, good and bad alike.
The central bad guy, the Ferra Demiurge, or Forged Lord; a giant of a man sporting a suit of armour and a sword the length of a man made of a mysterious dark metal. Above all, he desires power, which he pursues relentlessly with an entourage of black robed sorcerers behind him.
I think one of the most interesting characters for me, is the tribal shaman Aquppak. Think of him as a Native American meets Obi Wan Kenobi. HE is wise, compassionate and a great mentor to the younger men around him.
How did you come up with the title of your first novel?
Wyrm is an old English term for serpent or dragon, and mere relates to water; so the mythical beast of the first book literally means a ‘Water-Dragon/Serpent’.
What did you enjoy most about writing this book?
I enjoyed the development of the characters and the world they inhabit.
Who designed your book covers?
My book covers are drawn by the wonderful Icelandic conceptual artist, Börkur Eiríksson.
If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
Not as it stands, no.
Did you learn anything during the writing of your recent book?
I´m constantly learning, it never stops. Mostly, how to be a better writer.
If your book was made into a film, who would you like to play the lead?
An unknown young actor
Anything specific you want to tell your readers?
Your imagination is one of the most important things you have.
What is your favorite part of this book and why?
The intensity of the action and battles, and how the character overcome adversity.
If you could spend time with a character from your book whom would it be? And what would you do during that day?
Aquppak the shaman; it would be great to get in touch with nature through a man like that.
Are your characters based off real people or did they all come entirely from your imagination?
Entirely from my imagination, believe it or not!
Do your characters seem to hijack the story or do you feel like you have the reigns of the story? Convince us why you feel your book is a must read.
Oh, I CERTAINLY feel I have the reigns on my stories. My book is mythic and myth, in my opinion, is the highest form of art., that’s why books like mine should be read. Whether its a good myth or not, I leave up to you to decide.
Have you written any other books that are not published?
Yes, but they aren’t quite finished yet.
If your book had a candle, what scent would it be?
Earth, water, air and fire!
What did you edit out of this book?
I don’t do much editing. I first cut my teeth writing screenplays, which require you to be very efficient as a writer, so there isn’t much fat on my stories.
Is there an writer which brain you would love to pick for advice? Who would that be and why?
I’d love to get some writing tips from Robert E. Howard, the creator of Conan the Barbarian. His style was best described as ‘electric’ with ‘sparks flying off the page’. Some of his opening paragraphs are just sublime.
What are your top 10 favorite books/authors?
Joseph Campell - Hero with a Thousand Faces.
|| - Pathways to Bliss
C G Jung - the Archetypes of the Collective Unconscious
|| - The Portable Jung
John Milton - Paradise Lost.
Most of the ‘Gotrek and Felix’ novels, published by Black Library.
My KJV Bible
Peter Hitchens - The Abolition of Britain
Edmund Burke - A vindication of Natural Society
Dante Alighieri - The Divine Comedy
What book do you think everyone should read?
Joseph Campell’s ‘Hero with a Thousand Faces’; it tells you pretty much everything you need to know about writing your own mythic adventure story.
Do the characters all come to you at the same time or do some of them come to you as you write?
Some come as I write, I certainly develop them all much more as the book progresses.
Do you see writing as a career?
At the moment, I see writing as a vocation. If I make any money from a book, I consider it a trade as well.
Do you read yourself and if so what is your favorite genre?
I like to read philosophy, politics, fantasy/myth and the occasional biography.
Do you prefer to write in silence or with noise? Why?
Silence, or with some great movie music blaring out, like Jerry Goldsmith or Alan Silvestri. It depends what mood I’m in.
If you could have been the author of any book ever written, which book would you choose?
My own, of course!
Pen or type writer or computer?
I wrote my first two books by hand first, then typed them. Now, I have the nerve to hit the keys from the beginning.
What made you want to become an author and do you feel it was the right decision?
I envisaged a story I felt compelled to write, so in that respect, my motivations were correct.
A day in the life of the author?
Sit at a keyboard and force yourself to write, make a cup of tea/coffee, stare at the computer, then finally, God willing, you hit the imagination vein and the thing almost writes itself....sometimes.
Advice they would give new authors?
Just do it!
Describe your writing style.
Concise, to the point, rolling, visual and sometimes I hit something sublime; that’s the best thing I feel I can give to my readers.
What makes a good story?
Something that transcends the everyday.
What is your writing process? For instance do you do an outline first? Do you do the chapters first? What are common traps for aspiring writers?
I outline the story with a kind of lengthy synopsis, then get on with it.
Some writers get too lost in the details and waffle too much. They need to keep their eye on the story and the emotional needs of their characters.
What is your writing Kryptonite?
Building work going on nearby....like my Land Lord has been doing for the past year!!!!
Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?
First and foremost, I try to tell a good story.
If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
See above (just do it!)
What’s the most difficult thing about writing characters from the opposite sex?
As a man, it’s harder writing women as you have to confront and come to terms with something that is objectively external to you, yet on some psychological level resides within you. I find understanding the fairer sex challenging but also greatly therapeutic.
How long on average does it take you to write a book?
If I’m on good form and I don’t have any other commitments, I can turn a book around in less than 6 months.
Do you believe in writer’s block?
Yes, but as long as you write something in a day, that’s what counts.
I enjoy how sometimes I surprise myself. I go into a writing zone, on a good day, and when I emerge I read over what I’ve written and it’s as if someone else has been sitting in my chair when I wasn’t looking...strange.
Follow the tour HERE for exclusive excerpts, guest posts and a giveaway!