Read Firehurler (Twinborn Trilogy) Online
Authors: J.S. Morin
Book 1 of the Twinborn Trilogy
By J.S. Morin
Copyright © 2012 Magical
All rights reserved.
Cover Art by Duncan
To my mother.
For being there for the first words I ever wrote.
Here are the first words I ever published
Table of Contents
Chapter 3 - After the Bloodless Night
Chapter 6 - Flight from the Battlefield
Chapter 7 - Bearers of Bad News
Chapter 8 - A Magnificent Curse
Chapter 9 - A Walk in the Woods
Chapter 12 - Masterless Apprentice
Chapter 14 - The Smell of Freedom
Chapter 16 - Some Explaining to Do
Chapter 19 - That Witch I Fear
Chapter 22 - Good Help Is Hard to Find
Chapter 24 - How to Start a War
Chapter 30 - Sand in the Dragon’s Eye
Chapter 31 - What’s in a Name?
Chapter 35 - That Awkward Morning After
Chapter 36 - A Feast for Heroes
Chapter 37 - The Last to Find Out
With his breath coming in ragged gasps, the soldier
crashed through the forest. He had ceased to hear any sound of pursuit several
minutes ago, but he knew they were still coming. In his heavy chain armor, he
also knew that the goblins would be able to keep up with him easily; they could
afford to be stealthy. Of course, they had little need for stealth, as there
were hundreds of goblins in the forests, spreading out to finish off the
The screams of his dying comrades still rang in his
ears. They were long, agonized cries, as the goblins ignored the mortally
wounded to pursue those soldiers still able to run. He was one of those
running. Running from the hopeless battle against a foe that had been expecting
them. Running to keep from hearing those gut-wrenching screams coming from his
own throat. Running with the hope of finding living allies before the goblins
got him. Running from the slaughter that he had just witnessed …
* * * * * * *
“Fine day, is it not, Sir Lugren?” Sir Brannis Solaran
called out as he approached the older knight.
Brannis Solaran was the youngest of the knights sent
into the Kelvie Forest to hunt for goblin scouting parties. He was also in
charge of the Imperial Army’s Eighth Battalion, with one hundred men at his
command. Brannis was tall and lean, traits common in his family, though he
carried a great deal of muscle on his frame. There was not a man in camp who
could do better than look him in the chin when standing face-to-face with him.
His straw-colored hair hung loose down to his shoulders, framing a strong face
with prominent cheekbones and a rather longish nose. A pair of bright green
eyes peered out, wide and alert, seeming to study rather than just see.
Lugren had seen forty summers and was greying a bit at
the temples but showed every sign of being in his physical prime. Broad and
muscular, Lugren had served the Kadrin Empire for more than half that lifetime
as a knight and before that as a squire. He turned to fix Brannis with dark
brown eyes that showed a bit of eagerness in them.
“Fine day for swordplay, do you mean?” Sir Lugren
asked in reply.
Lugren had a fondness for all things competitive, and
recognized the spring in Brannis’s step as a sign that his commander was
spoiling for a match. While Lugren was a loyal knight and served Brannis to the
best of his abilities, it chafed at him that his commanding officer was little
more than half his age. He enjoyed the chances he got to put the upstart in his
The youngest son of Maruk Solaran, one of the twelve members
of the Inner Circle, Brannis had been expected to grow up to be a sorcerer.
With Brannis born on the summer solstice under a confluence of unusual
celestial events, High Sorcerer Gravis Archon had foretold that extraordinary
powers lay in his future. What turned out to be there instead of sorcerous
power was years of frustration and humiliation at the Imperial Academy, trying
to learn magic without any real talent for it. When it was finally decided that
Brannis would never blossom into the prodigy the high sorcerer had predicted,
he was expelled. From there, after much argument with his stubborn father, he
had managed to get himself accepted to the School of Arms, the path to the
knighthood, and because of a keen mind for strategy, had risen through the
“I do indeed,” Brannis said. “What say you?”
“Any time, sir,” Sir Lugren replied.
The older knight retrieved his sword and a special set
of leather padding to cover the blade for the bout. While all the knights were
given goblin-swords for combat against their foes, none left behind their
“real” weapons. It was a matter of honor to carry a true sword at one’s hip,
since the specialized swords for fighting the goblins looked ridiculously like
pointed riding crops. Had the goblins’ reputation for quickness and ferocity
not been so well known, most knights would have refused to carry them
Brannis borrowed a sword from Sir Aric and another set
of padding for it. Using his own sword was out of the question. Brannis was the
only knight in any of the three battalions in Kelvie Forest to have the good
fortune of possessing an enchanted blade. Upon receiving his knighthood, his
father had given him the sword, named “Massacre,” as a gift. It was an heirloom
that a family of sorcerers had little need of. It was a misfit weapon, suitable
for a misfit son; Brannis's father was happy enough to be rid of both. It had
made him uneasy just to wield the blade when he had first gotten it. The sword
was wickedly serrated down its entire length, and the hilt was carved to
resemble a dragon breathing out the blade. When wielded, the blade glowed green
except where the runes were etched into it, and a pale greenish mist hung from
the sword and poisoned anything it touched other than the wielder. Even covered
in padding, it could be lethal to use in a sparring match. Brannis had since
grown accustomed to the sword’s brutal appearance, and accepted it as a
remarkably effective weapon when used properly.
Sliding the padding over his borrowed sword and tying
it securely to the cross guard, Brannis circled his opponent. Lugren likewise
circled his young commander, his sword held in front of him in a guard
position. Lugren was an excellent swordsman, and he watched for his commander
to make the first move, preparing to counter. While Brannis was easily the
strongest of the knights in the expedition and had an advantage in reach of
several handspans over Sir Lugren, he lacked the long winters of training his
opponent possessed and was a rather less-polished fighter.
As word spread throughout the camp that Sir Brannis
and Sir Lugren were going to spar, the soldiers not obligated to other duties
drifted into an impromptu ring around the combatants. For the knights to
practice swordplay was not uncommon in the camp, but their commander’s fights
always seemed to make for the best shows. There was something about the way
Brannis fought that was exciting, a ferocity that rarely entered into the more
subdued contests among the older knights.
Lugren’s attack came as a series of measured strikes.
First a lunge—more controlled than Brannis’s had been—aimed at Brannis’s chest,
followed by a feint to the same spot and a low sweep toward Brannis’s legs as
his opponent’s sword came across to parry the feint. Each strike was planned
before the previous maneuver had ended, Brannis knew; Lugren did not expect to
end the fight in one blow.
Brannis was working his sword back and forth in front
of him, rhythmically beating away Lugren’s attacks, which were starting to get
predictable. Every third lunge was a feint, which Brannis made certain to at
least flinch at so that Lugren would not figure out he was on to the pattern.
Brannis was impressed, as always, at the precision of Lugren’s moves; every
strike, every parry was executed cleanly and with no wasted motion. It was
almost pointless to wait for the older knight to make a mistake, since Brannis
knew his own technique could be generously described as serviceable. He would
slip up long before the more experienced Lugren so much as caught a poor angle
on a parry. Brannis needed to make a breakthrough in the fight.
Brannis knew he could never outdo Sir Lugren at his
own fighting style, but he needed to lull his opponent back into his routine.
Then, with a quick change of footwork, Brannis had his right foot leading well
ahead of him and slightly to his opponent’s left. He brought his sword around
in a wide arc at arm’s length, but with the sword’s point at an awkward angle
aimed straight at his opponent’s chest. It was a trick that looked like it was
angled to avoid a clean parry but Brannis had learned otherwise long ago. He
had tried the move with his first tutor in swordsmanship at the School of Arms
and had been neatly and cleanly disarmed. His tutor berated him severely every
time he had tried the maneuver, but every youngster had gotten it into his head
at some point during his training to try things that would get him killed in a
real battle. Brannis had learned that lesson well, and he had not had a relapse
in his match with Sir Lugren. However, he had baited a trap.
Sir Lugren had taught swordsmanship at the School of
Arms for several summers; Brannis knew that and counted on it. Lugren brought
his sword across point down in a parry that would look almost as if he would
punch the sword out of Brannis’s hand. He caught Brannis’s blade gave a fierce
push near the crossguard, strong enough to break Brannis’s grip on his sword.
But Brannis released his grip, and offered no resistance as his sword went
spinning off toward the watching soldiers.
There would have been no time for him to recover from
the awkward strike had he allowed Lugren to complete his defense properly.
Instead, Lugren overbalanced as the resistance he expected from Brannis just
was not there. Brannis caught the wrist of Lugren's sword hand as it went by
and bowled his opponent to the ground in a clatter of armor. Lugren landed
awkwardly on his left shoulder with Brannis atop him. With the fight reduced to
a wrestling match, the advantage was Brannis’s. Easily forcing his opponent
face-first onto the ground, he wrested the sword from Lugren’s hand.
“I yield,” came a resigned mumble from the dirt, and
it was over.
The fight had been a friendly match, so Brannis had
merely pinned Lugren rather than roughing him up. The two men helped each other
to their feet. Both were dirty and sweaty from the fight, and Brannis started
to remove his armor but paused as he noticed Sir Lugren staring at him.
“Who goes there?” came a shout from the sentries that
called away all attention from the sparring knights.
* * * * * * *
The errant soldier was insensible when the
sentries dragged him into camp. It was obvious from his clothes and boots that
he was one of their own; each of the common soldiers had been equipped with the
same gear from the army quartermaster just before they set out from Korgen.
Other than his clothing, though, he had nothing else with him, neither armor
nor weapon, nor even any personal effects. He was exhausted, hungry, and nearly
mad with fear. The sentries heard him muttering something about
goblins—something that sounded urgent.
Though Brannis wanted very much to give the man some
space to collect himself and gather his wits, he could hardly reprimand his men
for their curiosity; he shared it in full measure. Nearly every man in camp
gathered around the fire where the two sentries brought the poor soldier and
sat him down. Someone thought to bring the man a blanket, for he was covered in
a cold sweat. One of the cooks brought a fresh bowl of quail stew remaining from
the night’s meal, and the soldier gratefully accepted it with hands still
shaking from the aftereffects of what had to be fear.
As the wayward soldier downed a few mouthfuls of the
delicious dinner, the rest of Brannis’s men waited in respectful silence, taking
a cue from their commander. Brannis sat across the fire from the man and
watched his eyes. They seemed to clear as he ate, the delirium of a full day of
fearful flight no doubt being replaced by the reality of good food and friendly
company. The color started to return to the man’s pale face as the warmth of
the fire and the food in his belly replenished his depleted strength.
Drawing a deep, shuddering breath, seeming to remind
himself of the reality that he was now relatively safe, the man looked around
the assembly of faces that had gathered about him.
“Thanks. I … I need to talk to your commander—whose
battalion is this? I've got horrible news.”
“I am in command here; these are my men. I am Sir
Brannis Solaran. What is your name, soldier, and how did you come to find us
The man turned to meet Brannis’s intent gaze and
quickly lowered his eyes to the dirt.
“Jodoul Brect, sir, that’s my name. They’re gone, sir,
all of 'em.”
There was a collective feeling of shock among the
troops gathered around the fire, and a buzz of discussion started to grow and
steadily increase in volume with the passing seconds as Jodoul’s declaration
hung in the air. Brannis waved one hand in a downward motion, urgently
gesturing for his men to quiet down. The poor soldier—Jodoul—had obviously been
through some ordeal and had not quite recovered mentally. Being in the eye of a
storm of speculation and questioning would do him no good. Still, Brannis
needed answers, especially if his suspicions about what Jodoul meant proved to
“What do you mean? Who is gone?” Brannis asked in a
measured tone, trying not to upset Jodoul.
“Gone, dead, all of them. All of Sir Ferren’s
battalion, dead except for me. The goblins came and there was nothing we could
do to stop ’em. They was like evil spirits, sneakin’ up in the dark of night
and swarmin’ over our camp. There was fire fallin’ from the trees and the air
was filled with steel and screamin’.” Jodoul gritted his teeth and squeezed
shut his eyes. “I can still hears them, even now. I wish I could have done
somethin’ to help them, I—”
“How did you get away?” Sir Aric interrupted. “How is
it that you managed to be the only one, if it is as you say and all the others
“I think that is enough for now,” Brannis said. “Triple
the sentries; all men are to carry arms; everyone into your armor, even for
sleeping. I know it is uncomfortable but so is a spear-tip in your gut, you can
be sure. We must be ready for them to attack anytime now.”