Authors: Lucas Thorn
Nysta #3: When Goblins Rage
For my Grandmother, a remarkable woman who taught me the importance of fresh veggies and dusty old grimoires.
First Digital Edition
published in September 2013
Lucas Thorn 2013
This book has taken longer than I thought to write. Mostly due to work commitments, but it has also endured numerous rewrites because I suffer from perfectionism and will never be completely satisfied with what I produce.
However, the road is one of love and I am happy with the final piece. I am deeply fond of Nysta and can't wait to unveil her story in its entirety. Please forgive me if it's a longer journey than you expect, but this is going to be a long series. Essentially because I see it as a series of adventures tied into an overall story arc.
You can already see some of the hints, and you've seen some of the characters slowly introduced. Even if only for a glimpse before they become important later on.
I have given you many questions. I've given you no answers. Please don't expect answers just yet. I am saving those for other books. Books which will hopefully knock your socks off.
In the meantime, I offer you this glimpse of a grieving Nysta as she prepares herself for a journey which, like yours, will be longer than she realises. And more incredible than she can guess.
Those of you who are Iain Banks fans might also pick up the references to many knife names in this novel. Consider this my homage to a great man, whose books made my jaw drop. I have always loved the ship names he invented, and they motivated my choice to have Nysta name all her knives.
Thank you, Mister Banks. Science fiction has lost a true master of the art.
I'd also like to think Amir Zand for the cover once again. And Chucky Hindle (aka EdPool) for continued support and criticism.
Also Chris Helenius for helping out with maps, which you will be able to view on my website at the link below.
And, last but never least, my wife, who keeps me motivated and continually pushes me forward when I feel I am flagging. So I would like to thank her again as I probably should with everything I write.
Without her, there would be no Nysta. And certainly no light in the shadows of my life.
My father was more than a thousand years old when the Dark Lord was felled. With Grim's death, more than a god was slain. A nation was reduced to ashes. Now only time will tell what rises from the destruction. Salvation? Or yet more destruction? Whatever comes, I doubt he has the strength to face it.
Memories of Doom's Reach
by the Imperial Princess Asa .
Blood drenched the snow, but there was more yet to spill.
The goblin was short. Standing fully erect, he'd barely reach her waist. Crouched in the snow, he stared up at her knees and spat bloodily at her feet.
Froglike. An impossibly wide mouth filled with bladed fangs like sawblades. Large green eyes burned hatefully in deep sockets. Muted green skin. Ears almost as long as her own, but with heavy points dragging toward the ground.
The goblinknife in his small fist was heavy. Possibly almost as heavy as the goblin himself. Made from a single chunk of iron crudely sharpened to a jagged edge. The kind of blade made for chopping rather than cutting. Spikes bolted to the spine. Rust spots and dried blood haunting the grooved iron.
An evil blade for evil work.
One which he swung with all his feral strength as he pounced.
Right at her head.
The elf called Nysta spat a curse and shook her head to clear the maddening fog which had been wrapping itself around her brain. She'd not been able to think clearly for weeks. Maybe months. It was getting harder to tell how long it'd been since she'd walked away from Grimwood Creek.
Working mostly on reflexes honed through years of training, she powered forward with a savage lunge, smashing into his attack to blunt his timing. And buried
into the goblin's rag-covered chest. His foetid breath blasted over her as it was punched from his lungs.
The force of her strike stopped him in mid-air and she let out a roar as she used her weight to slam the creature down on his back in front of her. Pinning him to the ground.
The heavy blade clattered away from his lifeless hand.
free, the elf spun toward the second goblin. Stunned by the elf's brutality, the goblin hesitated.
But not for long.
Go With My Blessing
shivered through the chilled Deadlands air, seeking goblin blood. But he was quicker than she'd expected. The slender blade spun past his snarling face and drove hard into a timber wall.
His own blade chopped toward her skull, shearing the air as she jerked herself back.
Wincing, the elf tumbled hard across the snow. Her shoulder protested as she hit something hard buried in the snow. Ignoring the fresh wave of pain, the elf aimed a kick which caught the too-eager goblin on his narrow chin, snapping his head back. His sharp fangs tore through his lip and dark red blood drooled quickly down his jaw.
“You fight good,” the goblin said reluctantly through the pain. “Fast. But Howling Wolves best there is. Eventide said so.”
The elf's breath fled her mouth in thick puffs of mist. Eyes flicked toward the three bodies already littering the snow. “Won't argue that,” she said, goading him. “On account of you all seem pretty good at dying.”
“I kill you.” The goblin's green eyes glowered as his body trembled with the need to kill. “Eventide take elf soul. Shit on it.”
“Shit on this, feller.”
Spoonful of Ants
sailed at his head, sending him flying to one side.
Hissing, the goblin recovered wickedly fast and pounced at her with a scream before she'd finished the throw. He swung his blade in fast repetitive chops. Efficient, but frenzied.
Driven by hate.
But the elf was a master of hate.
She'd learned to grip it tight. Mould it. Use it. In her guts, the icy ball of fear sharpened her senses to a deadly point and she dodged the goblin's snapping blows with impassive skill. Feeling the rage build in her muscles. Her bones.
Twisted her body, feigning retreat.
Drawing him close.
And only when her hands blurred did he realise he'd been tricked into approaching too fast too soon.
Eyes wide, he let out a shrill shriek and tried to bring the heavy blade up in a defensive gesture as she aimed a casual strike with
. The curved blade twanged off the thick spine of the goblin's blade as he flipped himself sideways to avoid losing his throat.
Which was what she'd wanted him to do. Because it meant he practically threw himself into her other fist. A fist which gripped a blade called
Lip curling in cruel satisfaction, she felt her arm shudder in grim finality as
ripped into his side, rushing upward to ventilate his lung.
Blood gushed like a warm spring.
Pooled at his wide rag-bound feet.
Staggering, the goblin's eyes dimmed and the snarl on his face settled into a resigned line. He gasped for breath, then dropped onto his back. Looked up at her.
“Eventide find you,” he said, voice a wet gurgle. “Kill you. I see elf in Shadowed Halls. Eat elf's ear forever.”
“Reckon that ain't a bad thing,” the elf said wearily. “Wouldn't have to listen to you talk.”
His face contorted as pain shuddered through his body.
, still buried in his side, trembled with every breath he tried to take as she turned to retrieve her other blades.
The taste of violence was a metallic tang in her mouth. Sweat prickled her forehead and under her arms. A slick heat which was quickly cooling in the relentless cold. She could feel every ounce of filth accumulating on her body from the past weeks spent fighting.
Goblins who never seemed to give in no matter how many she killed.
“Thief,” the goblin choked, desperate to speak. “We kill you. Kill you.”
She frowned. “What did you call me?”
Eyes rolling back in his skull, the goblin gave an agonised whine as he died in the snow.
Violet eyes studying the dead goblin, the elf breathed heavily. Then aimed her slitted gaze toward the line of trees beyond the small timber cabin. Searching for sign of more goblins.
Why so many of them were hunting her was still a mystery. Goblins lived in small mobs of maybe six or so. But this past few weeks she'd killed more than five times that. So it wasn't just one mob chasing her through the Deadlands. It appeared to be all of them.
And in all her life, she'd never heard of goblins working together like that.
Her gaze slid over the dead bodies once more.
The trees creaked against the wind, but otherwise even the shadows didn't move.
The elf's muscles tensed to their thinnest wires.
The moon cut like a sliver of glass through the clouds. Only for a few seconds. Then it, too, disappeared into the darkness.
“Huh,” she said at last. “Thief.”
The elf was small for her kind. Lean of body, but with strong shoulders and ropelike muscle coiling up her arms and legs.
Her clothing seemed out of place for the rugged wilderness of the Deadlands and looked to belong more in the urban alleys of a big city.
A city like the one she'd been born in. Whose crooked streets fed on the blood of the unwary. Lostlight.
Black and green pants and jacket. Patched so many times it was impossible to recognise the uniform it had once been. But she knew it was there. Had once worn it with pride. The uniform of the Jukkala'Jadean, an elite guild of assassins controlled by Lostlight's king.
A powerful weapon in the elf city's ruthless political game.
But that was a long time ago. Almost another life.
Her soft-soled boots were newer. Taken from the body of a Caspiellan scout she'd caught outside of Turner's Creek. He'd been watching the small town. Making cryptic notes on some scraps of paper. Hadn't expected the blade which flashed across his throat. A blade worn in a sheath on the elf's thigh. One of many sheaths which covered her body. Some of which were empty, but most were not.
Bracers strapped to each forearm. Left one loosely tied. Wyrmskin, like her pants and jacket. But hardened to serve as crude armour.
Her face was neither beautiful nor ugly, but was marked by a vicious scar on her cheek which began at the corner of her mouth and tore up to a point just below her eye. Then jagged out brutally toward a long sharp ear.
Her hair was a ragged mess of thick locks adding to the elf's grim appearance. Hair twisted around dozens of small strips of cloth. Cloth she'd taken from those she'd defeated. And, more often than not, killed.
One of the latest additions was a small strip of grey tied into her forelock. Torn from the body of a man who shared half her blood through their father. Their shared history had ensured he'd had all the benefits of a privileged upbringing while she'd been forced to survive alone on the street.
But it wasn't jealousy which had demanded his life.
Instead, it was that he'd committed a crime she could not forgive.
Moving slowly, the elf went around the side of the house. Ignored a couple more dead goblins cluttered around the doorway, and entered the cabin.
It'd belonged to a family. Young family. One man. Wife. Two children.
Kids between six and ten years old.
She judged this not out of some innate ability to read the devastation, but because they were still in the cabin. Or, more accurately, their bodies were.
The stench of old death had assaulted her nostrils long before the goblins attacked. She'd been about to enter when the first goblin had launched himself out of the darkness, goblinknife glinting hungrily.
A deep scar in the wood of the doorway showed how close he'd come to chopping deep into her spine.
The cabin had been built to a simple design. A single room. Table. Few chairs. Tall cupboards. A large bed the family probably shared. Curtains still half-closed in one corner of the room around a heavy tub. A practical house. For practical people, and not an inch of wasted space.