The Road to Kalbakar
Wyrms of Pasandir Book 1
by Paul E. Horsman
Genre: Fantasy Adventure 190 pages
Seventeen-year-old 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.
None aboard know Eskandar's big secret. For he is not alone. In his head 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.
Life goes on placidly - until the sea monsters appear. To save himself and 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 fearful enemies.
Will Eskandar's barely tested powers be enough against an undead 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 Pasandir.
Note: This series is the next-generation sequel to Lioness of Kell.
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!
The Pirates of Brisa
Wyrms of Pasandir Book 2 228 pages
When young Eskandar leaves his ship with the tough broomrider girl Kellani, he has no idea how much his dull life in the navy is about to change.
Being chased by desert robbers, delving through ancient tombs, fighting mighty jinn and liberating Kalbakar Keep makes him aware of his past – and his future.
He is a Wyrmcaller; a person of great magic, a speaker with wyrms, and the defender of Bodrus the Sleeping God. Quite a change for a one-handed seventeen-year-old, five-feet-plus ship’s boy.
And that’s not all; an ancient lich lord with an army of mad minions, 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...
Follow Eskandar and his friends in The Pirates of Brisa, Book 2 of Wyrms of Pasandir, a grand fantasy adventure in a world of wyrms, steamships, magic and mayhem!
Stay alert! I told myself as I crossed a square full of moving shadows.
‘Closer, come closer, kid!’ a mental voice whispered from the dark ahead of me. I froze, and a flaming spell appeared in my hook-hand, ready to use.
‘Danger!’ Lothi-Mo was awake now and wriggled her way onto my shoulder. ‘Bad man lurking. No hunting us... other prey.’ The little wyrmling sounded angry and with a soft wing-clap, she took to the air. ‘Lothi-Mo go look.’
I cast my mind around and this time I caught a mass of loathsome emotions. I shivered as I felt the greed, the fear of a big guy in a brocaded tunic and the glee at the sight of his intended victim almost within grasp. He’s under a compulsion! I thought, noting how all thoughts swirled round in an unnatural mental fog. Someone’s put a spell on his mind. He’ll not be a common footpad then.
I searched for any others in the area. There! Mountain’s Breath, it’s a kid!
I had found a young street kid, the same age as I was when the navy got me, and with a skin as darkly gray as mine. He was on his way home to Clam Street, just tired and hungry as I remembered. Unaware of any danger, his thoughts were on his empty stomach and a little black kitten. I broke into a run.
Skirting an empty grocery stall, I almost missed a step as the child’s panicked cry battered my senses. Then I rounded the corner and stopped as I recognized the place. This was Old Wharf, a long row of high, narrow warehouses facing the Tome River. It was a perfect spot for a trap; a maze of shadows and dark spots, where the gods know what might be hiding.
A second cry broke off, but now I saw them. In the shadow of a boarded-up building, a fellow in bellbottoms was trying to pull a sack over the head of a struggling child. Hot rage exploded inside me as the image of the boy became mixed-up with my memories of my own orphan life, and all at once it was very personal. I screamed as I rushed forward.
The villain looked up, cursing. He drew his belt knife, at the same time trying to maintain his grip on his victim. It made him clumsy and left his defense wide open. Immediately I spell-punched a fist of air at his upper torso that set him tottering. The kid slipped from his grasp and melted away into the shadows.
I went all hero and ran at the man, waving my hook as I yelled. Stupid, for he was a big fellow, head and shoulders taller than me, and his reach was far greater.
As I came close I noticed his eyes were like the windows of an empty house. Clumsily, he tried to catch my iron limb in his sack.
‘Mountains aid me!’ I prayed, and jumped aside, letting flames leap inside my hook. The ruffian didn’t even notice them. He growled, waving his knife at my midriff. I danced away and jeered in his uncommonly pale face. This time, I must have penetrated the compulsion in his mind, for his eyes showed some awareness and he snarled. ‘Die, cur!’
His knife hand nearly slashed my throat and then, in one fast, unexpected move, his left foot crunched my kneecap.
My right leg buckled and I fell. As I went down, little Lothi-Mo’s war cry echoed my scream while she dove, claws first, into the man’s face. Her talons gashing his cheeks proved too much for the ruffian. He turned and fled, protecting his head with the sack against Lothi-Mo’s furious attacks. The wyrmling followed, flapping round him and screeching like a demented owl.
‘Run!’ I yelled after the fleeing villain. ‘Run wile you can! She’ll get you!’ Then the pain of the kick came back to hit me, and I followed up with some choice expletives.
The Bokkaners of the North
Wyrms of Pasandir Book 3 220 pages
Against all odds, Eskandar and his bunch of ragtag youngsters have managed to capture a powerful Qoori fourmaster warship, and used her cannons to blow up the pirate harbor of Brisa. Victory!
But his enemies won’t give the young wyrmcaller time to bask in the 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.
Two thousand miles north... that means finding a new base for his army of 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 surprises...
Once inside Smalkand Keep, and with his main force in the ships still days away, Eskandar and his small group find themselves under attack from Bokkaners and other minions of their ultimate nemesis, the lich lord.
New adventures in the mighty, snowcapped Peaks, at sea, and in the rich lands of the Hizmyran kingdom await our heroes in ‘The Bokkaners of the North’, the third book of Wyrms of Pasandir.
With our business finished, we walked to the market square to do some shopping before going back to the fort. As we crossed the busy main street, something small shot out of the shadows between the houses and crashed into me.
‘It is you, it is you!’ a hysterical voice whispered. ‘Cat thought he’d seen you, an’ he had! Come! Come quickly, soldiers arresting everyone. Come to the Clam!’
It was Brat, the little boy from the Clam Street Orphanage, his face screwed up and wet with tears and rain as he clutched Cat, his kitten, with one grubby hand and my clean tunic with his other.
‘Soldiers?’ I said. ‘Seatome soldiers?’
‘Yes, yes!’ he said, tugging at me. ‘Come, we must hurry.’
‘We’ll port,’ I said. ‘Brat, give me a hand and take a deep breath. Cat will be all right, kittens handle porting easily.’ Before he could protest, I sent us away to that dingy street, with its crooked houses and starved looking trees I remembered so well. The times I’d been in Seatome as a ship’s boy I had wandered everywhere, but I’d avoided Clam Street.
There was the orphanage; a tall, badly kept building standing in the rain in a small paved garden. This area of Seatome had suffered hardly any damage during the war, and as a result saw little or no renovation afterwards. The effect was depressing.
Soldiers in the green-and-red uniforms of Seatome stood in a large half-circle, watching the front of the building, with halberds and swords ready to strike. Their faces were determined; radiating a strange, empty resolve that gave me the creeps. I touched their minds and found their fear adrift in a familiar fog which made them see not the orphans, but hideously deformed shapes capering and jeering at them, making obscene gestures.
‘They seem under that same compulsion,’ I whispered to Kellani. ‘You stay outside with Brat. Gather any kids who escape. I’m going in.’
Kellani began to protest, but I shook my head. ‘I can do it. Please keep the orphans from running off,’ I said. ‘We don’t want to chase all over town for them.’
‘You’re an idiot,’ she said exasperated. ‘But go alone if you must. I’ll be outside the front door.’
The soldiers looked through me when I passed them, and I hurried inside, into that awful memory smelling of turnip stew and unwashed youth. Nothing seemed changed since I’d left this place. The walls, papered in dreary patterns dirty with the imprints of thousands of smudgy hands and the dim light of the cheap oil lamps, all was as I remembered.
Only there shouldn’t be soldiers in the hall.
In the corridor, the sounds of crying and shouting children assaulted me. Then I had to jump aside as a crowd of kids ran for the door and the waiting soldiers outside.
‘Arrest them all!’ a high, hysterical voice yelled. I saw a small Vanhaari army captain waving his sword and kicking out at the howling kids trying to get away.
Beside him stood a fat man in a stained robe, whispering and smiling. It was Llynsing, the creep from the pawnshop, who had tried to swindle Tangrid. The gods know what he was doing here, but his malignant expression promised little good.
‘Outside!’ the captain screamed. ‘Take them outside and we’ll drag them to the castle. They’ll be locked up and in the morning Master Llynsing will take the beasts away. Then, finally, Seatome will be safe again.’
Building a Trade Empire
Wyrms of Pasandir Book 4 322 pages
SHAW: A GIRL’S GOAL TO BECOME A WEALTHY MERCHANT
Trade had been Shaw’s life, her dream, her future – until a terrible 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 jinn.
When Wyrmcaller Eskandar leaves for the north, she gets the chance to 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.
Armed with her inborn stubbornness and her fire-hardened will to become a powerful trader, she dives into the business world of the Weal Nations; battling scheming financiers and protecting the rights of the people she employs.
Aided by Nate, the only true love in her life, she fights her enemies on land and at sea, conquering pirate vessels, islands and important companies on her way to become a rich and powerful High Merchant.
This Old Wharf Quay must have been a grand place once, Shaw thought. She had shoved her eye patch up as she inspected the building. Seatome wasn’t known for its architecture, but these buildings looked different, warm and graceful beneath the grime and the bluewing droppings.
‘They’re beautiful,’ she said aloud.
‘Yeah,’ Nate said, staring narrow-eyed at the two steel derricks on the pier. ‘Rusty, though.’
‘What? Oh, those cranes.’ Shaw sighed. ‘When we’ve cleaned it up, this place will be a proper home for the PTC.’
For a moment she watched the play of the setting sun on the slim pillars lining the front, with the city wall as a grim, solid background. To the left, Mariner Tower watched; a big, square tower with loopholes and a large flagpole on top. Beyond it, sweet-scented honeysuckle turned the city wall in a living bulwark of pink-flowered greenery.
‘Yes!’ Exhilaration clutched at Shaw’s breast as she walked to the main door. To her surprise, the lock opened without a sound and the ever-intriguing smells of a big warehouse greeted her. With pounding heart, she stepped inside.
Nate got out his matches and began lighting the gas lamps. ‘We need mage lights, like we have in Smalkand,’ he said. ‘This isn’t efficient.’
‘Those stains!’ Callogan said, and his voice sounded uneasy.
‘Blood,’ Keena said with a careless wave. ‘That captain guy said there’s been a battle here.’
Shaw glanced at the large patches of dried blood, the dropped weapons and a plumed slouch hat. Then she turned her attention back to the tall shelves; many still stocked with old trade goods.
‘Ample space,’ she said.
‘Look, canned fish-bombs,’ Nate said, pointing at a cluster of swollen food tins.
‘Don’t touch them,’ Shaw said absently. ‘We will clean it all out, keep the good stuff and dump the rest.’ She walked into the second room.
‘Must have been quite a fight,’ Callogan said, goggling at the bloody trails everywhere.
‘They were pirates.’ Keena had picked up the hat and smoothed out the dents with her hand before donning it. ‘Those deserve ten deaths.’ She struck a pose. ‘Well?’
‘Fearsome,’ Shaw said, inspecting her friend.
Keena smiled. ‘Then I’ll keep it.’
Past the empty loading space, where incoming and outgoing goods would be sorted and packed, they walked through the repair workshop. Several workbenches waited for damaged goods, though the tools in their racks looked old and worn.
Then they climbed the wooden stairs to the entresol with the offices.
A clerks’ room with two standing desks, a cafeteria that could seat fifty, and a restroom, dirty but strangely modern with its flush toilets. Beyond that a boardroom with a large table and chairs, and at the end the manager’s office, wainscoted in redwood, with several paintings of dubious quality and a nice wooden desk.
‘Yes,’ Shaw said. ‘I like the place.’
‘I wonder who owned it,’ Callogan said. ‘It’s not at all a Vanhaari building.’
‘Whoever it was, they made a special place,’ Shaw said. She spread her arms wide. ‘Our place.’
‘Now we need people,’ Nate said as cheerfully as she felt. ‘Let’s go to the Labor Exchange.’
Callogan pulled a fat timepiece from his pocket. ‘It’s seven o’clock. Are those guys still open?’
Nate laughed. ‘They never close. Much of their business is done at night, when employers have time.’
High Merchant Wyrms of Pasandir Book 5 279 pages
Fifteen-year-old Shaw is already at the head of a fast-growing transnational business. 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.
She manages to get an airship concession from the king of Hizmyr, a large 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.
The Guilds of Hizmyr are ruthless and go to any length to maintain their hold over the king. Soon, Shaw finds herself embroiled in a battle demanding all her grit and ingenuity to win.
Meanwhile the populace, fed up with their poverty, is on the brink of rebellion. To save her plans, Shaw must not only defeat the guilds, she must prevent a civil war as well!
Shaw emerged from the Old Wharf dormitory house rubbing her eyes and yawning. On the threshold she stopped abruptly. The sun smiled at her; from the warehouse, the happy voices of the worker kids greeted her, and the honeysuckle on the nearby city walls did its best to bewitch her with its smell.
‘Darn!’ she cried, chagrined. ‘I overslept!’ She always got up at daybreak; there was so much to do, and now...
‘You needed your booty-sleep,’ Haai-Bo said in her head.
‘Booty?’ Shaw said. ‘Not beauty?’
‘Wyrm girls have beauty, humans don’t,’ her wyrmling said blithely. ‘You have won much money and want more, so booty.’
Shaw couldn’t suppress a chuckle. ‘You’re wide-awake, aren’t you?’
Haai-Bo cackled. ‘Wyrmlings no sleepyheads. Go get some food, girl. No mice on the menu, but good porridge today.’
Shaw pulled a face. Many of the other orphan kids swore by porridge, but to her it was a memory of home and her late parents. Well, there would be other things as well; bread, jam, eggs, and more. She patted her pockets and got out the eye patch and monocle. Her lazy eye was getting slowly better, but the eyeglass had become part of her image, and a great tool in handling pretentious opponents. Then she strode into the warehouse.
‘Morning,’ she said to the portal mage in his little office below the stairs. ‘What time is it?’
Kier looked up from the newspaper he was reading and grinned. ‘Nearly ten o’clock. What did you do yesterday; made a night of it?’
Darn again; she couldn’t even be decently angry. ‘Business,’ she said haughtily. ‘Important business.’
Kier held up the paper. ‘Catching saboteurs. It’s all in the Gazette.’
‘Already?’ she said, giving up being mad. ‘I’ll read it later. Is Nate around?’
‘Up with the birds. He told us you weren’t to be disturbed for any reason. Lady Ruth is in the office. Why don’t you go and have some breakfast first?’
Shaw sighed. ‘You’re the second one to say that. Do I look starved?’
‘No,’ Kier said earnestly. ‘But we know you tend to forget those little details.’
‘True.’ She touched her eye patch and hurried up the stairs. At the cantina door she nearly collided with Ruth, who stepped aside and caught her as she stumbled.
‘Good morning,’ Ruth said. ‘Up and raring to go, gal?’
‘Sorry,’ Shaw said. ‘I was thinking.’
Before Ruth could reply, a raucous blare outside made them jump.
‘What the heck was that?’ Shaw cried and hurried down again.
‘Signal from Mariner Tower.’ One of squad leader Yens’ young guards came running, trying to keep his sword from tripping him up as he went. ‘We found a real signal horn to warn people.’
She stared at the boy. ‘Warn of what?’
‘A ship,’ he said. ‘We don’t want no more pirates surprising us, do we?’
‘No, of course not,’ Shaw said hastily. Only last month they had stopped a bunch of pirates and a jinni burgling one of their houses. Old Wharf was within Seatome’s city borders, but in such an out-of-the-way corner they could as well have been on an island.
Both Squad Leader Yens and Stationmaster Varan were already at the pier and Shaw joined them. There lay a fog over the sea that hid everything below a frigate’s topmasts. Only the tower guard would have spied anything coming.
‘What’s that about a ship?’ she said.
Paul E. Horsman is a Dutch and international Fantasy author.
Born in Bussum, a quiet little suburbal village in the Netherlands (1952), he now lives in Roosendaal, a town near the Belgian border.
After finishing school and doing a stint in the army in tropical Surinam, he served for thirty years as a Scoutmaster. Professionally, he earned his bread in various business capacities.
From 1995 to 2012 he was an instructor at a large educational institution - where he explained to foreigners the wonders of the Dutch language and customs - until Governmental budget cuts terminated both the school and his job.
Since then is Horsman a full-time fantasy author.
His first three Dutch books have been trade published in The Netherlands by Zilverspoor.
His English books and later Dutch books are self-published under the Red Rune Books label and appear at Amazon and many major on-line bookstores, both in print and e-book.
His tales are a mixture of high fantasy, mythology and steampunk, and are 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.