Fall of the Western Kings Tirumfall Trilogy Book 1 by J Drew Brumbaugh Genre: Epic Fantasy
Gant is a commoner, forbidden from learning swordsmanship. He trains in spite of the law and ends up branded an outlaw. However fate intervenes while Gant is on the run and soon he is embroiled in an odyssey with forces of darkness that can only be vanquished with help from his friends, not all of whom are human. An epic that delivers the best in the tradition of classic fantasy.
Gant’s long strides carried him swiftly along the animal trail through the old forest. The cool shade under the leafy canopy was a welcome relief after the hot, sunny meadow where he’d secretly trained in swordsmanship with his uncle. The sweat dried slowly on Gant’s sinewy body, muscles developed by swinging a forge hammer in his father’s smithy. He had grown into a tall, muscular young man. His light brown hair fell loosely around his ears and his hazel eyes sparkled with enthusiasm.
He enjoyed the walk home almost as much as the sword practice. The solitude gave him time to reflect on his uncle’s criticism and advice. Certainly he had improved over the years but he still had lots to learn and doing it in secret limited his practice time.
A warm breeze fluttered the leaves, sending flickering shadows dancing among the roots and ruts at his feet. As he walked along, Gant snapped his wooden practice sword in vicious arcs, visualizing specific moves, defending against imaginary attacks. One day, he thought, he would carry the real sword he’d made that lay hidden under his bed. For now he had to be content to train with his wooden sword in secret and pray for the day that would change.
Voices drifted to Gant from over a slight rise in the trail ahead. Who could it be? What if he was seen? As a commoner sword practice was forbidden. Maybe he should hide or throw away his practice sword. The sounds grew louder, yells for help, sounds of a struggle. He recognized Gwen’s voice, his neighbor and friend. The other voice was Wendler, a nobleman’s son with a nasty reputation for deflowering peasant girls.
Gant sprinted to the top of the hill. Below he saw Wendler wrestling with Gwen, twisting her by the shoulders, trying to force her down. Gwen fought back, managing to stay on her feet.
“What are you doing,” demanded Gant, rushing down the slope toward them.
Over his shoulder Wendler snarled, “I’m about to take this wench. Go away.”
Wendler slammed her against a tree trunk. Her breath burst from her body in a single gasp. And then he flung her to the ground like a rag doll and leaped on top, his hands clawing furiously at her dress, ripping away bits of the fabric.
Gant ran up behind Wendler and grabbed him by the collar. He yanked the nobleman to his feet, spun him around and shoved him back away from Gwen.
Wendler staggered for a step and then caught his balance. In one smooth motion he had his sword out. The long, shiny blade flashed in the flickering sunlight. Wendler’s eyes flared.
“You’ve struck a nobleman. For that I am going to kill you. Then I shall finish with the wench.”
For an instant, Gant panicked. The sight of sharp steel in Wendler’s hand sent shivers down his spine. That lasted only a split second as Gant’s training took over. He cleared his mind, concentrated on controlling his breathing and shifted into a defensive posture with the wooden practice sword ready.
“Let her go,” Gant said.
Wendler’s dark eyes filled with contempt, a sly smile curled his lips. “I shall enjoy killing you.”
“We’ll see about that.”
Wendler poked his sword menacingly in Gant’s direction. “Attacking a noble is punishable by death so killing you will not even raise an eyebrow.”
Gwen jumped to her feet, stumbled slightly, regained her balance, and screamed, “Gant. No. If he doesn’t kill you here they’ll execute you for fighting him.”
Gant ignored her and inched closer, wooden sword ready, intent on drawing Wendler away from Gwen. “Run,” Gant shouted, “run home.”
“No,” she said firmly, “not unless you go with me.”
“Too late for both of you,” snarled Wendler and advanced past the girl. “This useless son of a blacksmith has drawn a weapon on me and I shall kill him for his insolence.”
Gwen grabbed Wendler’s arm from behind. “No. There’s been no harm. Let us both go home and nobody need mention it again.”
With hardly more than a shrug, Wendler cast Gwen off and closed in on Gant. He beamed with sadistic satisfaction. Lowering his sword tip he lunged in, the point aimed straight at Gant’s heart.
Gant could hardly believe Wendler’s foolishness. He swept Wendler’s sword up and out of the way and danced backward.
“Want to reconsider?” asked Gant. “We could go home and forget this ever happened.”
Wendler lunged in again. This time Gant swept the attack aside and smashed down on Wendler’s forearm. Wendler’s smile turned to a grimace. His sword fell uselessly into the dead leaves at his feet.
“You hit me,” screeched Wendler. “I’ll have you beheaded.”
“No doubt,” said Gant, surprised at how easily he’d dispatched his first real opponent.
Wendler picked up his sword with his off hand but made no move to attack.
“Never learned to use your other hand,” said Gant. “Too bad. Even I’ve been taught that.”
Gant turned to Gwen who stood petrified near the edge of the trail holding her tattered dress together with both hands. He stepped toward her.
“Look out,” she shrieked.
Gant whirled as Wendler rushed at him with his sword raised overhead. Gant parried the weak blow, twisting his wooden sword to deflect Wendler’s blade and in one continuous arc brought his practice sword down solidly on the side of Wendler’s knee. Crack! And Wendler toppled to the ground.
Gant grabbed Gwen by the hand and ran up the trail dragging her along. “You’re coming with me,” he said. “Mother will make sure you don’t get blamed for this.”
Gwen twisted free and ran on her own. “What will you do? They’ll execute you.”
“Only if I’m around to be caught,” he said between rasping breaths. “I’ll have to leave Netherdorf, but that’s better than letting scum like Wendler have his way with you.”
“I’ll go with you, help you escape,” she said with a weak smile.
“No. Just stay with my mother. Stay safe or this has all been for nothing.”
As they ran Gwen asked, “How could you best Wendler? He’s a trained swordsman.”
Gant glanced at her. “I am too.”
“You can’t be. Commoners aren’t even allowed to own swords.”
“True,” said Gant and slowed to a walk. “It’s my Uncle Jarlz. You know my mother is the king’s cousin.”
“And your father is a commoner which makes you a commoner. He may be the king’s sword maker but that doesn’t allow you to be a swordsman.”
Gant nodded. “Yes but Uncle Jarlz happens to be the best swordsman in the kingdom and he decided that I should be a swordsman, illegal or not. So, he’s been teaching me.”
“They’ll kill you if they find out.”
“And now they’ll know. Which is why I’ve got to get out of Netherdorf.”
They crested the last rise into the clearing behind Gant’s home. Smoke rose from the smithy’s forge fires. The clang of the smith’s hammer on hot metal rang like harsh music. They passed the shed and the corral where his father kept horses waiting to be shod, rounded the corner of the house and went in through the front door.
Once inside, Gant lurched to a stop. The adrenaline drained away and his hands shook. Seeing his mother busy cooking made the battle in the woods seem unreal.
His mother turned, took in Gant’s face, noticed Gwen’s torn dress, and a piercing glare crystallized in her eyes. “Gant,” she demanded, “what is going on?”
Gwen stepped in front of him. “It’s my fault, really,” she started.
“He can speak for himself,” ordered Gant’s mother. “Now what is going on? Have you two been up to something?”
“No,” said Gant. “It’s Wendler. I caught him with Gwen in the woods. Trying to force himself on her.”
“So you brought her here,” said his mother, her mood transforming to serious concern. “Good for you.”
“Not exactly,” replied Gant. “We got in a bit of a fight. I think I broke his arm.” After a moment’s pause, he added, “Maybe his leg, too.”
Gant’s mother’s face darkened. “That will mean trouble.” She stood silently for a moment, unconsciously stirring the stew. Finally she said, “Come along. I’ll take you to the king and we’ll get this cleared up.”
“No, you won’t, “ said Gant’s father who had entered unnoticed through the side door. “The king will have him executed. He can do no less. It’s the law.”
“But the king is my cousin. He can’t execute my only son.”
Gant’s father shook his head sadly. “Second cousins really and cousin or not, he’ll have Gant executed because the rest of the nobles, especially Wendler’s father, will give him no choice. We are near enough to a civil war over the way the king has treated commoners. Letting Gant off after attacking Wendler would be all the excuse they need to rally against the king. And with Barlon massing troops in the mountain castle the king cannot allow civil strife. No matter how much he’d rather let Gant off, he won’t risk the kingdom over one person.”
Even as he spoke, Gant’s father gathered up a side of meat, a loaf of bread, a skin filled with well water, and finally, from the crock beside the fire pit, a few silver coins. He slid the coins into a tattered, leather purse and drew the drawstring shut.
“Well get moving,” he roared at Gant. “The king’s men will be here soon enough and you’d better be far down the road by then. Get a bedroll, clothes, whatever you think you’ll need and can carry. You won’t be coming back.”
Gant studied the room, his parents’ faces, memorizing each facet, knowing he’d never see them again. And then Gwen hugged him.
“Thanks,” she mumbled into his tunic.
Gant hugged her back, wondering why he’d never hugged her before. “Tell Chamz I said goodbye,” he whispered in her ear.
Child of Evil Tirumfall Trilogy Book 2
The story started with "Fall of the Western Kings". Now "Child of Evil" continues the odyssey of Gant, the hero who killed Varg with his magical sword Valorious and who must now use his strength and cunning to find and neutralize the child born of evil. This child is prophesized to lead the demons of the western kingdoms to victory over the people of the east. Other characters accompany Gant to Ferd, the city where the child will be born. Amelia is a shape-changer who flies to the west to do reconnaissance only to be captured and imprisoned. Pris, the emperor and blossoming wizard, worries about the evil forces and knows the child cannot be allowed to unite the demonic powers. His untested magic will be key to stopping the impending doom. Dalphnia, Gant’s wife, is a woodland nymph who can control the trees of the forest and is determined to see her husband come through this journey alive. Can this unlikely group intervene in time to stop the child and the carnage that is sure to follow? Will it mean killing the child? Resolving this moral dilemma while outwitting the demons and getting back to the safety of their homes makes for a rousing adventure. "Child of Evil" is the second book in J. Drew Brumbaugh’s fantasy series, The Tirumfall Triology.
At that moment, tiny dots of golden light began to appear up near the ceiling. The swirling pinpoints circled and coalesced into a writhing ball of iridescent particles that settled lower and lower until the sphere hovered midway between the floor and ceiling. Suspended in the center of the room, the radiance congealed into a glowing sphere of cold, white fire. Inside the globe, a woman appeared dressed in white, so pure, so perfect, so flawless. She stepped from the brilliance into the room. Taller than even Pris, she was slender yet with a mystical strength about her. In her blue eyes was a sense of timeless knowledge. She wore a white gown so bright that they could not look directly at her. It was as if the sun had entered the house and this woman stood directly in its center.
Gant regained his composure first. “I know you,” he managed.
“Yes, Gant you do know me. We met last in Pogor tower when I came for my son’s body.”
“What do you want?” asked Pris.
She smiled, dazzling, radiant, marvelous. “I do more than retrieve the dead. I bring a warning. A child will be born in Scaltzland. A child of evil who will bring death and ruin to the world. This child will unite the minions of darkness in the West and lead them into the East to bring destruction to all you hold dear.”
I live in northeast Ohio where I write sci-fi, fantasy, and suspense novels, along with a few short stories. Mostly I write stories I think I'd like to read with characters that are interesting enough that readers want to find out what happens to them. I also spend time teaching and training at the karate dojo my wife and I founded, building a Japanese garden in the back yard, and taking walks in the woods with our dog. I have six novels in print, the most recent being "Bula Bridge," a collection of short stories, and a co-authored children’s book. I continue to work on my next book and seem to always have several stories in various stages of completion.
Can you, for those who don’t know you already, tell something about yourself and how you became an author?
As a kid I was the family storyteller, mostly ghost stories to scare my little brother and sisters. As I got older I wanted a wider audience. I knew the only way to do that was to get published and so I started writing short stories. I sent them out and got to paper my walls with rejections. Finally one day, a west coast magazine agreed to buy a sailing story if I would change the setting from Lake Erie to the Pacific Ocean off San Francisco. Of course I did and so collected my first check. For a while I continued to write short stories but an itch to write novels took over. I wrote my first scifi novel while at home recuperating from surgery. As soon as that novel was finished, I began sending it out to agents and publishers. Agents came and agents went and still my career never really got off the ground. Now I’ve found satisfaction in self-publishing and I’m glad I have. There’s something about holding a finished novel in my hands. Even more than that, I like hearing from readers about my work, especially those who enjoyed reading my stories.
What inspired you to write this book?
I love reading fantasy; the magic, the strange creatures, and the heroes in them. Favorites include The Lord of the Rings, the Dragon Riders books, and series like the Belgariad, authors like David Eddings and Raymond E. Feist. I also discovered Dungeons and Dragons and got hooked on role-playing in an epic fantasy setting. At some point I wrote a fantasy short story for an RPG fanzine. It was a simple action story with a hero, his magic sword and an evil beast he had to kill. After I’d finished that story I began to wonder who this character was, where did he get the sword, and why was he the one who went to kill the monster? Curiosity pushed me to answer those questions and that led to the novel that became “Fall of the Western Kings.”
But “Fall of the Western Kings” left some things undone. What came next? I knew then that there would be a second book and actually a third. “Child of Evil” began with a simple premise that I wanted to explore. Typically when a prophecy predicts the birth of a child, it is about someone who will be a hero for good and in that case the evil king goes on a killing spree hoping to kill the child before it can grow to fulfill the prophecy. What if the prophecy foretold of an evil child that would be born to, in this case, the demons in the west and bring them victory over all mankind? What could Gant and Pris and all their friends do to prevent it? They certainly could not go kill a baby. What would they do? And so this story, part two of the trilogy, began. When I started writing “Child of Evil” I knew how the story would start, a prophecy and a warning, but I did not know what my cast of characters would or could do. As the story developed, they let me know and their answers are in the book.
What can we expect from you in the future?
The third and last book in the fantasy trilogy that starts with “Fall of the Western Kings” and continues in “Child of Evil” is my current project. The first draft is done and round one of the revisions and rewrite is underway. It will bring a sweeping and maybe surprising conclusion to the stalemate between good and evil that has found only temporary resolution in Books One and Two. I am enjoying working on it and, as has been the case in past novels, things are turning out differently than I envisioned when I started. My gut tells that it will be the best book of the series.
Do you have any “side stories” about the characters?
I haven’t written any side stories about any of the main characters yet. I do have a short story set in the same world that includes a very minor character that will appear briefly in Book Three. I must admit that I have several pages of notes that might one day turn into side stories about some of the major characters. Perhaps someday I’ll write them.
Can you tell us a little bit about the characters in “Fall of the Western Kings?”
There are several important characters. Gant is the central character. As the son of a commoner, he is not allowed to learn swordsmanship though he’s been training in secret. To protect a friend he gets into a sword fight with a nobleman’s son and for that he’s branded an outlaw. Fleeing, he is determined to regain his honor and be allowed to return home. It will be a long road, filled with danger and adventures he never saw coming. How Gant manages is the theme that ties everything together.
Another important character is Dalphnia, a woodland nymph who for a time enchants Gant into a marriage that by himself he cannot break. While the world searches for warriors, he remains a romantic prisoner until strong magic releases him. And then, as he ventures back into the world to meet his destiny, Dalphnia too takes up the quest to stop the demons who threaten their world.
Others are Abadis, an old wizard, his granddaughter Amelia, Gant’s Uncle Jarlz and Zandinar, the knight in shining armor (so to speak).
In “Child of Evil” many of the same characters are present, a few years older, in some ways wiser. Gant and Dalphnia have a son. Pris is firmly in control of his empire and has become an accomplished wizard. Amelia plays a larger part and becomes Pris’ romantic interest. In addition, this book is filled with new characters; an evil priest, a pair of demon overlords vying for control of the west, a sad, beaten jailer who has a story of his own, and more from the Dark Elves. There are new wizards who serve the demons and a cast of creatures not introduced in Book One.
Do your characters seem to hijack the story or do you feel like you have the reigns of the story?
When I started working on “Fall of the Western Kngs” I had a rough outline for the plot and though all the characters weren’t named yet, I thought I knew who the story would be about. As I began putting words on paper, new characters appeared that I hadn’t foreseen and several characters who I had envisioned as being minor, took over the spotlight at various stages. While Gant is the main character and is the thread that holds things together, some of the other characters actually became my favorites. Pris, the child Emperor who is controlled by his “advisors,” takes matters in his own hands and grows into a character I admire. Abadis, the ancient wizard, brings a wisdom that seemed to spring directly from the character instead of me. I wish I had that kind of wisdom. And his granddaughter, Amelia, who can assume the shape of an eagle or owl, became more important as the story developed. Most of all, Dalphnia, the woodland nymph who captures Gant’s heart only to lose him to magic she didn’t understand, turns out to be such an important part of the war in the west that it’s hard to think now how I could have written the novel without her.
In “Child of Evil” I already knew most of the characters who would be forced on the quest that was the major plot line but I really did not know how the story would end. It was the characters who saved me. As the novel progressed, they seemed to find solutions to each dilemma that popped up.
Convince us why you feel your book is a must read.
“Fall of the Western Kings” is an epic fantasy with everything that makes that genre so much fun to read. There are wizards and magic swords and dragons and demons and heroes and twists that make the story unique, all wrapped up in a climatic battle between good and evil.
“Child of Evil” tackles a different slant on the birth of a child to fulfill a prophecy. In this case if all goes according to the prophecy, the world will fall into darkness and mankind will be forever enslaved. Simply hacking their way to victory will not work. The characters are forced to use cunning and intelligence if they are to succeed. And even with that, the magic and all that makes reading fantasy such fun is there.
Fun Facts/Behind the Scenes/Did You Know?'-type tidbits about the author, the book or the writing process of the book.
At one point while writing “Fall of the Western Kings” I found I’d written an important group of characters into an impossible situation. The chapter ended with them surrounded by overwhelming odds in the middle of the night with no way out. I needed many of these characters to be around for the conclusion so it was imperative that they survive. But how? I wrestled with the dilemma for several days and couldn’t find an answer. I forced myself to work on other chapters, other characters that were in other places, and then it hit me. Without knowing it, I had already put a powerful force almost right on top of the beleaguered group. It was like a miracle and I still don’t know how it all happened. The day was saved and so were my characters.
When I wrote “Child of Evil” I was so focused on the idea of an evil child destined to unite the powers of evil that almost before I had a completed first draft I had already decided on the title. Since then I’ve had second thoughts. Perhaps “Child of Evil” sounds too much like a horror novel, not an epic fantasy. Instead, I think it should have been titled “Child of Prophecy” which more clearly indicates that this is high fantasy. It is likely that I will reissue the novel with that title soon.
Do you read yourself and if so what is your favorite genre?
I read every day. I love science fiction and fantasy, but I also read a considerable number of mysteries, some poetry and an occasional odd piece that might not fit exactly in any genre. I just like to read good stories about characters I care about. That’s why I try to fill out my characters early on in my books so that readers are interested in them and interested in what happens to them. For me, if you don’t care about the characters in a book why do you care about the story at all?
Do you write one book at a time or do you have several going at a time?
Generally I work on one book at a time. I need to focus on one set of characters and one plot. When I start trying to do multiple projects I find myself confusing things, mixing plots, characters and worse. One at a time just seems to work best. However, I do keep notebooks where I jot down ideas that may go with a project I am not currently working on so that the ideas don’t slip away. I always have ideas in those notebooks for several other novels but very seldom do I actually write portions of them while I’m working on one.
Advice they would give new authors?
Write consistently and try to get better all the time. One important thing to remember is that a first draft only has one requirement – to be finished. Don’t start critiquing your work in that first stage or you’ll find yourself rewriting the same sections over and over. Don’t second-guess as you put that first draft down, plunge onward until you can say you have it done. And as you get closer to a final manuscript, find a good, critical editor that you can work with and listen to what they have to say.
Describe your writing style.
I write suspense novels that are character driven. My general method is to give the reader an intimate look into the characters early on. I want the reader to see into their lives, feel their joy and sorrow and then build the plot around them. As the story progresses I like to have chapters end with a cliffhanger, leave the reader wondering what happens next to that character. Some readers want to see something major happen on page one and in my books they are often disappointed. I try to get the readers invested in the characters first before the major plot twists hit the fan. If I’ve done it right, whatever happens will mean that the reader is happily engaged with the story.
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