At long last, Amazon has heard my pleas to price match the Kindle version of Dreadknights: For the Love of the Game with the other ebook versions I have available pretty much everywhere else, so [drum roll please] Dreadknights is now free everywhere!
Free on Amazon. Free on Smashwords. Free on Lulu. Free everywhere else.
So get your copy today!
For those of you who are still here… I suppose you want more. Greedy, but OK. I do happen to have more I can offer you at this point; namely: reasons to download your free copy of Dreadknights. [What? You were expecting my meatloaf recipe?]
Now, if you’ve read the reviews, you’ll note that this book is apparently not for everyone. Most of my current reviews are titled something like “gamers will love it!” That’s probably true. The book is about a clever ogress named Bloodskull who joins the mostly ogre Dreadknights of Outland guild as they battle their way through the final matches of Guild Wars. So, yeah. Gaming. Gaming written by me so Action-packed gaming. That’s a given.
Otherworld fans know this book is a prequel of sorts to the entire series. The events in this book predate Luckbane. Guild Wars is basically another way to get into the live version of the Impworld game which is going to be played on an alien world terraformed to resemble the virtual fantasy world they’ve been playing thus far. So there’s both fantasy and sci-fi, because the book is also about the teenage girl who plays Bloodskull and how she navigates the politics and press that surround Guild Wars and, oh yes, her day-to-day life in my decidedly dystopian future. There’s murder, betrayal and teenage angst. Aliens. You won’t get bored.
So if an action-packed, genre-bending sci-fi/gamer/fantasy book is your thing, then, yes, you should definitely nab your free copy and start reading. The rest of you… I’m working on a children’s book. With pictures. Seriously, why are you guys even on this site?
For those of you who are STILL here, I’m just gonna shameless plug my family’s new geek-oriented T-shirt and decal company: GremlinGraphix.com. We have aliens, the Flatwoods Monster, a couple versions of the Mothman, dragons and more. All of our designs are original. You won’t find it anywhere else. There’s actually more coming out this month. Buy something nice for yourself. Feed your inner geek and show your geek pride. You deserve it.
If you weren’t turned off by that shameless, money-grubbing promotion (hey! I’m giving away the book for free. I have bills to pay and mouths to feed, guys), you can read as I eat crow.
It has come to my attention that there was an error in the most recent revision of Dreadknights. I was reformatting the book. There weren’t supposed to be any changes to content, but there was a lot of copy-and-pasting going on in that process and… basically, I replaced chapter 9 with another copy of Chapter 10. I know. I know. I could try to defend myself by pointing out that the last few reviewers apparently missed it too, but an entire chapter is a bit more than a simple oversight.
The good news is that it actually works out in your favor, because not only have I corrected it (in the FREE ebook you should be downloading right now), I’m posting the previously overlooked chapter here as an excerpt (although, seriously, you could just download the whole thing and and read that chapter after like the first eight. just a thought. no pressure).
So if you were missing it before or if you just want a free slice instead of the whole loaf (also free), without further ado, here is Chapter 9 of Dreadknights, entitled “Fire Fields.” Well, after my signature and those little lines anyway…
Until we reach The Last Door,
P.S. Free on Amazon. Free on Smashwords. Free on Lulu. Free everywhere else.
Christine tried not to panic at the sound of the hunting horn, but it was difficult not to think about the fact that within minutes every single Gear left in the game would be breathing down her neck. This was not the end game she had in mind. Her original idea had her carefully sneaking across the Fire Fields and nabbing the Gears’ battle flag before Gladi8r even knew she was there. Now pretty much everyone knew she was there – except most of her team.
She dared a quick look over her shoulder. Doubler was walking Martin across the bridge. Meanwhile a strange glowing symbol was appearing in the air over Kali’s position. It appeared to be a disc-shaped – on second thought, make that a gear-shaped portal – made of pure golden light. The frog-mouth helmed centaur was the first member of his guild to appear through the portal. As he dropped to the ground on the other side of Bellamy Bridge, Pod appeared. After that, more Gears appeared, including Helena Helstrom and Auric “Goldenboy” Lothario himself.
Christine’s heart sank until she saw the last member of the Golden Gears appear through the portal: Gladi8r. It took a second or two for her confused brain to catch up to the lucky break she’d just caught. The hunting horn rallied the entire guild to it, including the guy who supposed to be guarding their flag! If she could just stay ahead of them long enough to claim the Gears battle flag, the Dreads would win!
With a grin, she selected Anthem’s “Come Alive” from her playlist to get herself in a fighting frame of mind and took off into the Fire Fields at a sprint. The option to listen to background music while you played was yet another advantage of the heads-up display. It was a desperate gambit just running headlong into the fiery minefield, but she couldn’t very well just wait along the edge for the Gears to claim their prize. Besides, the first few yards were the easiest because the fire jets were relatively rare around the perimeter. It was the next fifty yards or so that usually did folks in.
Right on cue, the earth began swelling beneath her feet, forming a blister that was equally as big as an ogress. She rolled off to the side as it erupted, sending a column of fire blasting high into the sky. Another blister of earth formed while the first was still raging, but this one was in front and to the left of her now. Since they were caused by the progress of the vulcanopede Lucy, the path of fire jets would have to snake back around before she was in danger again.
Sure enough, the path of fire jets made a loop and came back around to intercept her. She doubled down, hoping to get ahead of the creature below just enough to make it come between her and her pursuers. Her luck held and she saw that the course of the fire jets would pass behind her and be forced to circle around for another try. Better still, her pursuers were running directly into the path of the line of erupting fiery columns.
To her surprise, none of the jets fired off when the Gears intersected the path of the fire jets. The ground swelled, but something was definitely keeping the blisters of earth from erupting. They passed over quite unharmed. At first, she was confused by this and slowed her pace a little. Then she realized what must be happening. A glance over her shoulder confirmed her suspicions. Helena Helstrom was flying over the Fire Fields, chanting a spell to prevent the fire jets from erupting so her teammates could catch her.
The centaur and minotaur reached Christine first.
“Prepare to feel the wrath of Sir Equinoxious the Bloody!” the metal centaur called as he closed in.
Bloodskull was forced to dodge this way and that to avoid blasts from Equinoxious’ power lance. This caused her to lose just enough ground for the minotaur to close in.
With an exaggerated “Yeehaw!” the mechanical bullman swung a double-edged battle axe at her. The redneck war cry spurred Christine’s memory. This one was called Billhilly Bullroar. Hoping that Billhilly was about as smart as his ridiculous name suggested, Bloodskull spun around, dug in her heels and deflected the attack with the pole of the Dreadknights’ battle flag. She followed that up with a blow from her war cleaver that lopped off one of Billhilly’s horns and would’ve taken his head clean off if her foe hadn’t dodged away at the last second. As the minotaur stepped back to recover, the frog-mouth helmed centaur charged in. Rearing up to his full height, Sir Equinoxious then drove the power lance earthward, intending to skewer the ogress. Bloodskull stepped into the attack, causing Sir Equinoxious to overreach. She used her momentum to plow into the centaur like a linebacker. Sir Equinoxious flipped over her broad back like a hapless ragdoll. Christine brought Bloodskull’s war cleaver down on her fallen foe before he could recover.
Unfortunately, this left an opening for Billhilly. The one-horned steambot minotaur swung his double-bladed battle axe in a powerful overhand stroke without so much as a warning, much less his trademark bullroar. Forced to react quickly, Christine, stepped backwards, dropped her weapon and brandished the flag pole in both hands to stop Billhilly’s axe. Enraged that his ambush had failed, Billhilly pushed away and swung again, this time laterally. Christine spun the metal flagpole 90 degrees to block him again, then jerked the pole back towards herself, catching the axe head. Billhilly was pulled off balance and sprawled forward. Christine stomped an ogress-sized footprint in his ugly metal face. Billhilly didn’t get back up.
Of course, in the time it took to dispatch Equinoxious and Billhilly, more Gears had caught up with her. In a matter of seconds, she found herself ringed in by most of the remaining Gears, including Goldenboy himself. Only Helena Helstrom and Spring-heeled Jacque held back. Helena was too busy concentrating on her spell to engage Bloodskull directly. Presumably, Jacque stayed behind to guard Helena Helstrom so she wouldn’t be interrupted.
She did a quick review of her foes. She’d already seen Doubler, Gladi8r and Kali. She recognized Pod and Auric “Goldenboy” Lothario, of course. The other two were a mechanical man about the size of a half-ogre barbarian and an anthropomorphic beetle type steambot. The latter’s body was covered in round bumps. The briefings said something about a character named EvilWeevil who could launch orb shaped bombs, so that’s probably what the bumps actually were. She’d be Edged if she knew the other guy’s name – this was hardly a meet and greet affair!
Bloodskull gripped her guild’s flag tightly in one meaty ogre paw while she waited for the first attack.
“You know, I have been looking all over for you, girl,” Auric said with a snicker. “Why you running?”
She growled in response.
He raised an eyebrow and looked at his buddies. “Oh, we’ve got a live one here. This should be very entertaining.” He returned his gaze to her. “Of course, if you prefer, we could do this the easy way.” He held out his hand expectantly.
“Trollbogies, MikeMonkeyMike, Rosco,” she hissed into her commset. “If anybody out there can read me, I’m in the Fire Fields. I had to run the flag, but I’m surrounded by multiple hostiles.”
Auric scoffed. “Calling for reinforcements? You should really learn to accept when you’re beaten, you know. You played well. I’ll give you that. But take a good look around: You’re sorely outnumbered. There’s nowhere to run. No one will reach you in time. You cannot hope to win.”
“What are you proposing?” Bloodskull asked.
“You know what I want. Just hand it over,” the Gears’ guildmaster said.
“I’m sorry,” she said. “Maybe it’s just the ogre in me talking” – she knocked on her forehead for emphasis; most folks still thought of ogres as big and dumb – “but why would I do that?”
“Because it’s six to one, ogress,” Auric said. “If you’re smart, you can at least walk away with your life.”
“If that were six ogresto one, I might be worried. As it stands, I think you’re underestimating me,” she said. Her statement wasn’t mere bravado. It was said that ogres could best their weight in dragons. In theory, at least; dragons were a pretty certain form of death and most of them were much bigger than the average ogre, so who really knew how such an ill-conceived match would end? Still, the point was that ogres were a lot tougher to beat than the average foe – and everybody knew it.
Auric snorted. He looked at the one who looked like a robotic half ogre. “Tank, she needs some persuasion.”
Tank stalked toward her without a word. As he approached, his fists grew bigger until they were the size of treasure chests. He was fast. Almost unbelievably fast actually, even if one took into account the fact that he was technically a machine. Still, she took the first two blows just to let him know she could and then plowed into him with a roar. She slammed her foe to the ground hard, jerked him back up and slammed him into the ground again. As he got to his feet, a cannon turret began sprouting from his chest. Bloodskull grabbed the turret and bent it upward. Tank fired a second later.
Bloodskull was knocked backwards from the force of the explosion from the blocked turret. Tank got to his feet shakily, gaping at the giant hole on his chest. After shaking her head to clear it, Bloodskull stomped toward her stunned foe. She slammed both fists into either side of his head, crushing his metal skull. Tank dropped to the ground, lifeless.
Bloodskull looked at Auric and held up a hand. “Five,” she said, breathing heavily from the exertion.
“What?” Auric asked, his voice strained.
“It’s five against one now,” she said. “And come to think of it, that makes the fifth Gear I’ve sent to that big Game Over in the sky, too. Kind of poetic.”
Auric looked at her open mouthed for a few seconds, then shook his head and laughed. “Oh, this is just slaughter,” Auric said. “You’re telling me – to my face! – that you’re the one responsible for the bulk of my guild’s body count.” Despite his laughter, his eyes were murderous. “Who are you?”
She held his gaze. “My name is Ogress Bloodskull.”
He considered her for a moment. “You were with Doomsmack at one time, weren’t you?”
“Then I shall consider this a prelude to my victory over the rest of Havok Hurtlocker’s sorry guild,” Auric said. As he spoke, one arm transformed into an ominous looking cannon. There was nowhere to run, so Bloodskull dug in her back heel and prepared to take whatever ammo Goldenboy’s cannon was about to deliver.
“Any last words?” Auric asked.
He raised a metallic eyebrow.
She grinned. “You’re about to get whooped by a girl.”
Auric pulled the trigger. A shot of ball lightning erupted from his cannon. She turned and took the impact on her broad back. The electric shock was way worse that what she’d felt when Raiden Tesla attacked her. She fell to one knee for a moment, but then forced herself to get back to her feet. As she was recovering, Kali lashed her tail, tripping her. Sprawled on the ground, she was an easy target for
Doubler, who raised Martin’s foot high in order to stomp Bloodskull flat.
Something exploded across Martin’s back, knocking him off balance, despite Doubler’s frantic efforts to get him back under control. As a result, he missed Bloodskull entirely. She peered in the direction the attack had come from as she rose to her feet again and almost cheered at the sight of Killmore loosing another exploding arrow at their foes.
Killmore’s next arrow hit Gladi8r, causing minimal damage. In retaliation, Gladi8r fired off a plate-sized saw-edged disc from his center chest slot. For a moment it looked like Killmore was going to be sliced in half, but Tantrum stepped into the projectile’s path and blocked it with her shield. Spring-heeled Jacque bounded toward them, intent on neutralizing the newcomers. He was met in midair by the equally acrobatic Calabus Adams.
A shout from across the Fire Fields caught everyone’s attention. Christine’s heart warmed at the sight of Trollbogies’ team and MikeMonkeyMike. The only Dreads missing now were Rosco and the remaining two members of his team. Raising his weapon high, Guildmaster Trollbogies yelled, “Dreadknights forever!” At his command, they thundered onto the battlefield. And nobody thundered onto a battlefield like a bunch of ogres and trolls!
Auric Lothario laughed. “Goody! Your friends are here,” he crowed. “Too bad they’re too far away to save you.” He ran at her as he fired another volley from his hand cannon. She managed to dive out of the way of his first shot. He wasn’t tossing around lightning this time; that was an exploding shell!
“Oh, hold still,” Pod said. With a wave of his wand, the odd mechanical magus caused her to levitate off the ground. “She’s all yours, boss.”
“Thank you, Pod,” Auric said, levelling his hand cannon at Bloodskull. Hanging there in midair, there was no way she could escape Goldenboy now. Bloodskull put on a defiant face as she braced herself for her inevitable Game Over.
“Shake the pillars of heaven, Bloodskull!”
Christine snapped her avatar’s head around in the direction the shout came from. She turned just in time to see Killmore let loose the strings of his bow. The explosive arrow detonated across the metal back of Helena Helstrom, knocking her from the sky.
…and breaking her concentration. Helena’s spell of holding on the vulcanopede ended abruptly. The ground heaved and bucked as Lucy began to stir, breaking both Pod’s concentration and Bloodskull’s captivity. Auric fired his cannon, but missed, hitting Kali instead, blasting her metal head form her shoulders. Seeing Bloodskull was free, Doubler stretched out one of Martin’s giant hands to prevent her escape. Faster than anyone could’ve reacted, a blister of earth began blooming beneath the feet of those surrounding Bloodskull. Realizing what was about to happen, Bloodskull tried to get her feet under her to escape.
The earth exploded as the vulcanopede erupted into view.