Light came flooding in, and cool air as well. Tyrion gasped greedily and tried to stand, but only managed to knock the cask over sideways and spill himself out onto a hard-packed earthen floor. Above him loomed a grotesque fat man with a forked yellow beard, holding a wooden mallet and an iron chisel. His bedrobe was large enough to serve as a tourney pavilion, but its loosely knotted belt had come undone, exposing a huge white belly and a pair of heavy breasts that sagged like sacks of suet covered with coarse yellow hair.
He reminded Tyrion of a dead sea cow that had once washed up in the caverns under Casterly Rock. The fat man looked down and smiled. He spat it at the fat man's feet. They were in a long dim cellar with barrel-vaulted ceilings, its stone walls spotted with nitre. Casks of wine and ale surrounded them, more than enough drink to see a thirsty dwarf safely through the night. Or through a life. I like that in a dwarf. The fat man sniffed. Then food and a soft bed, yes? My servants shall see to it.
Any friend of my friend across the water is a friend to Illyrio Mopatis, yes. The fat man made good on the promised bath, though. No sooner did Tyrion lower himself into the hot water and close his eyes than he was fast asleep. He woke naked on a goosedown featherbed so soft it felt as if he had been swallowed by a cloud.
His tongue was growing hair and his throat was raw, but his cock was as hard as an iron bar. He rolled from the bed, found a chamberpot, and commenced to filling it, with a groan of pleasure. The room was dim, but there were bars of yellow sunlight showing between the slats of the shutters. Tyrion shook the last drops off and waddled over patterned Myrish carpets as soft as new spring grass. Awkwardly he climbed the window seat and flung shudders open to see where Varys and the gods had sent him.
Beneath his window six cherry trees stood sentinel around a marble pool, their slender branches bare and brown. A naked boy stood on the water, poised to duel with a bravo's blade in hand. He was lithe and handsome, no older than sixteen, with straight blond hair that brushed his shoulders. So lifelike did he seem that it took the dwarf a long moment to realize he was made of painted marble, though his sword shimmered like true steel. Across the pool stood a brick wall twelve feet high, with iron spikes along its top. Beyond that was the city.
A sea of tiled rooftops crowded close around a bay. He saw square brick towers, a great red temple, a distant manse upon a hill. In the far distance, sunlight shimmered off deep water. Fishing boats were moving across the bay, their sails rippling in the wind, and he could see the masts of larger ships poking up along the shore.
Surely one is bound for Dorne, or for Eastwatch-by-the-Sea. He had no means to pay for passage, though, nor was he made to pull an oar. I suppose I could sign on as a cabin boy and earn my way by letting the crew bugger me up and down the narrow sea.
He wondered where he was. Even the air smells different here. Strange spices scented the chilly autumn wind, and he could hear faint cries drifting over the wall from the streets beyond. It sounded something like Valyrian, but he did not recognize more than one word in five. Not Braavos, he concluded, nor Tyrosh. Those bare branches and the chill in the air argued against Lys and Myr and Volantis as well. When he heard the door opening behind him, Tyrion turned to confront his fat host. Well, it was not King's Landing, that much could be said for it. You will have no need of such, my little friend.
Choose from amongst my serving women. None will dare refuse you. The fat man stroked one of the prongs of his oiled yellow beard, a gesture Tyrion found remarkably obscene. Still, they will not refuse you. I have the honor to be a magister of this great city, and the prince has summoned us to session. It is best that no man knows that you were here. My little friend and I shall eat and drink and make great plans, yes? He thinks to use me for his profit.
It was all profit with the merchant princes of the Free Cities. Should a day ever dawn when Illyrio Mopatis saw more profit in a dead dwarf than a live one, he would find himself packed into another wine cask by dusk. It would be well if I were gone before that day arrives.
That it would arrive he did not doubt; Cersei was not like to forget him, and even Jaime might be vexed to find a quarrel in Father's belly. A light wind was riffling the waters of the pool below, all around the naked swordsman. It reminded him of how Tysha would riffle his hair during the false spring of their marriage, before he helped his father's guardsmen rape her. He had been thinking of those guardsmen during his flight, trying to recall how many there had been. You would think he might remember that, but no. A dozen? A score? A hundred?
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He could not say. They had all been grown men, tall and strong Tysha knew their number. Each of them had given her a silver stag, so she would only need to count the coins. A silver for each and a gold for me. His father had insisted that he pay her too. A Lannister always pays his debts. The magister had invited him to explore the manse. He found clean clothes in a cedar chest inlaid with lapis and mother-of-pearl. The clothes had been made for a small boy, he realized as he struggled into them. The fabrics were rich enough, if a little musty, but the cut was too long in the legs and too short in the arms, with a collar that would have turned his face as black as Joffrey's had he somehow contrived to get it fastened.
Moths had been at them too. At least they do not stink of vomit. Tyrion began his explorations with the kitchen, where two fat women and a pot boy watched him warily as he helped himself to cheese, bread, and figs. The younger fatter cook gave him a shrug that time. He wondered what they would do if he took them by the hand and dragged them to his bedchamber. None will dare refuse you, Illyrio claimed, but somehow Tyrion did not think he meant these two.
The younger woman was old enough to be his mother, and the older was likely her mother. Both were near as fat as Illyrio, with teats that were larger than his head. I could smother myself in flesh. There were worse ways to die. The way his lord father had died, for one. I should have made him shit a little gold before expiring.
Lord Tywin might have been niggardly with his approval and affection, but he had always been open-handed when it came to coin. The only thing more pitiful than a dwarf without a nose is a dwarf without a nose who has no gold. Tyrion left the fat women to their loaves and kettles and went in search of the cellar where Illyrio had decanted him the night before.
It was not hard to find. There was enough wine there to keep him drunk for a hundred years; sweet reds from the Reach and sour reds from Dorne, pale Pentoshi ambers, the green nectar of Myr, three score casks of Arbor gold, even wines from the fabled east, from Qarth and Yi Ti and Asshai by the Shadow. In the end, Tyrion chose a cask of strongwine marked as the private stock of Lord Runceford Redwyne, the grandfather of the present Lord of the Arbor.
The taste of it was languorous and heady on the tongue, the color a purple so dark that it looked almost black in the dim-lit cellar. Tyrion filled a cup, and a flagon for good measure, and carried them up to the gardens to drink beneath those cherry trees he'd seen. As it happened, he left by the wrong door and never found the pool he had spied from his window, but it made no matter. The gardens behind the manse were just as pleasant, and far more extensive. He wandered through them for a time, drinking.
The walls would have shamed any proper castle, and the ornamental iron spikes along the top looked strangely naked without heads to adorn them. Tyrion pictured how his sister's head might look up there, with tar in her golden hair and flies buzzing in and out of her mouth. Yes, and Jaime must have the spike beside her, he decided. No one must ever come between my brother and my sister. With a rope and a grapnel he might be able to get over that wall. He had strong arms and he did not weigh much.
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He should be able to clamber over, if he did not impale himself on a spike. I will search for a rope on the morrow, he resolved. He saw three gates during his wanderings; the main entrance with its gatehouse, a postern by the kennels, and a garden gate hidden behind a tangle of pale ivy. The last was chained, the others guarded.
The guards were plump, their faces as smooth as a baby's bottom, and every man of them wore a spiked bronze cap. Tyrion knew eunuchs when he saw them. He knew their sort by reputation. They feared nothing and felt no pain, it was said, and were loyal to their masters unto death. I could make good use of a few hundred of mine own, he reflected. A pity I did not think of that before I became a beggar. He walked along a pillared gallery and through a pointed arch, and found himself in a tiled courtyard where a woman was washing clothes at a well.
She looked to be his own age, with dull red hair and a broad face dotted by freckles. She looked at him uncertainly. Tyrion settled on a stone bench with his flagon. The gates are guarded. Perhaps you might smuggle me out under your skirts? I'd be so grateful, why, I'll even wed you. I have two wives already, why not three? Ah, but where would we live? I could make rather a lot of mischief in Dorne with Myrcella. I could set my niece and nephew at war, wouldn't that be droll? Better if I sought the Wall instead.
All crimes are wiped clean when a man joins the Night's Watch, they say. Though I fear they would not let me keep you, sweetling. No women in the Watch, no sweet freckly wives to warm your bed at night, only cold winds, salted cod, and small beer. Do you think I might stand taller in black, my lady? North or south? Shall I atone for old sins or make some new ones? The washerwoman gave him one last glance, picked up her basket, and walked away. I cannot seem to hold a wife for very long, Tyrion reflected.
Somehow his flagon had gone dry. Perhaps I should stumble back down to the cellars. The strongwine was making his head spin, though, and the cellar steps were very steep. Perhaps he should have asked the washerwoman. Not to imply that you're a whore, my dear, but perhaps you know where they go. Or better yet, he should have asked his father. She loved me. She was a crofter's daughter, she loved me and she wed me, she put her trust in me. The empty flagon slipped from his hand and rolled across the yard. Tyrion pushed himself off the bench and went to fetch it.
As he did, he saw some mushrooms growing up from a cracked paving tile. I thought that a review would make a good first post of the year, while my memory is fresh. In particular, this was bought as an alternative to Heroquest , a classic fantasy board game once owned by my family back in the mists of time, but now lost. Dungeon Saga requires a Dungeon Master to be in charge of the campaign, and to control the bad guys. Unlike Heroquest, rather than one board, there are pieces which can be placed together in many ways to create different shaped maps.
We played the 2 introductory games, which involved learning the rules, and took at least 3 hours. All the heroes did was walk along a corridor and smite a few puny skeletons! Of course, it also allows for a keen player to make up their own campaigns. My son liked that idea, but was put off by the complexity. Pros: Co-op play for heroes; DM gets to control lots of bad guys and can win by crippling a hero; tactical combat; a linked campaign with a quest book full of campaigns; easy to design own campaigns. This was another new game bought for my son, who loves Horror.
We turned the lights out, and put on some scary music for this one. Everyone selects a character max 6 , with differing attributes: might, speed, sanity and knowledge. They begin to explore the House by picking up tiles and placing them down, either on the basement, ground or top floor. In this way, each game has a different shaped house.
Depending on what exactly has happened, the players are faced with a challenge that must be defeated, such as a monster out to kill them. It seems that one of the players will often become the enemy at this point, and try to kill the other players. There seem to be a large number of hauntings that can happen, keeping the game fresh. In our game, one of the players became invisible and began hunting down and killing the other players, who had to work together to stop them. Pros: easy to pick up the rules; each game has a different twist, adding to replayability; medium setting in terms of difficulty and length, making it a good choice for family play.
The Goonies is a film loved by all, so what about the card game based on the film? This is a co-op game, where each player takes the role of a Goonie from the film, who has certain skills to offer, and work together to find the treasures, before the Fratellis get them! For some reason, the game is only for players, though we managed to adjust this to 5 players and enjoyed a good game. In fact, my kids are both younger than this and enjoy the game, contributing well to collective decisions. But you need to think about the group who is playing, and make sure that no-one dominates.
Each turn, you are given 4 actions, such as searching for the treasures and mapping a path. You have to be very careful about what you choose to do. If not, you will lose. This game is not easy. Pros: Relatively short, so a good choice when time is limited or as a warm-up game; a fully co-op game, which promotes teamwork and can make a nice change from trying to kill each other. Malice , the first book in the completed fantasy series The Faithful and the Fallen , is a title that has been on my radar for a while, and I have finally got round to giving it a read.
I found it a really interesting experience. The covers for the series are quite similar to mine, with a weapon taking centre stage on each book. One of the obvious similarities is that there are a lot of characters and a lot of viewpoints. While these storylines do overlap, the characters are located in different kingdoms, with their own challenges and problems. Gwynne gives a chapter to each character, following the approach of GRR Martin, and personally I found it all perfectly easy to follow, but I am well used to and generally enjoy this approach.
Corban is a fairly typical fantasy character: a boy growing into a man, living in the capital of the King of Ardan, being taught how to fight by a mentor or two, with a crew of family and friends around him. It is pretty clear early on that he is destined to become a heroic figure. His sister, Cywen, gets her own chapters, but she is largely a support character in this book.
A third young fighter, Krelis, is located in a third kingdom, Isiltir, at the court of his uncle. Orphaned and isolated, he has an uncertain future. There are a host of other characters. Like the main characters, a huge proportion of them are men: kings, soldiers, bandits, champions, hunters and the like, many of whom are more than handy with a blade. A lot of attention is given to military aspects.
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I enjoyed it, though even I struggled at times to differentiate between all the characters, perhaps because some of them were a bit samey. Malice is set in the Banished Lands, occupied generations ago by humans who arrived by sea. The humans have formed several kingdoms, who can form alliances and rivalries with one another. One of the kingdoms, Tenebral, has a high king, whose authority over the others is vague. Between kingdoms are lawless forests inhabited by bandits. When the humans first arrived, they had to defeat several giant clans for control over the Banished Lands.
The remnants of these clans still exist, seemingly pushed into forests and mountains by the more populous humans. As a setting its more familiar than unique. But the impressive part of the worldbuilding is the many kingdoms that feature in this book. Each has its own internal and external politics. A lot of thought has gone into this, and it helps the reader to feel like the events are taking place in a real world. There is magic in the Banished Lands, wielded by humans, giants and other creatures.
But it is mysterious and in Malice the reader is kept at arms length from it: none of the main characters are wizards. I tend to prefer this approach, since it avoids the dangers of laboriously outlining a whole new magic system for a character to learn yawn. This is a traditional epic fantasy series in many ways. Driving the plot is a good vs evil storyline. Although we are not given too much information, we learn that in the past there have been two Gods one good, one evil.
A prophecy reveals that a Godswar is coming and two figures will emerge as champions of each God: a hero and an anti-hero. Malice reveals who these two individuals will be. It does feel a little corny at times, and the revelation of the hero and anti-hero is so heavily signposted the reader is not really given the fun of guessing. Again, it is not dwelt on too heavily, but part of this Godswar may well be the location of nine?
The search for these items may well form the plot for much of the three remaining books of the series. Yes, the search for magic objects can potentially feel old hat. But it injects purpose, conflict and direction into a plot, which in epic fantasy, with sprawling worlds and huge casts, might otherwise get lost. The plot of Malice did a great job of introducing the rest of the series, with enough going on to start pulling characters in different directions and as a reader I was interested to see where it would go next.
Overall, I would definitely recommend this book to fantasy fans, who have the added bonus of knowing that this is a completed series they can read to a conclusion. I will certainly be continuing with it. The quality of self-published, or indie, books is getting better and better. Not just the stories themselves, but the editing, covers and all the other professional aspects of the business.
So much so that the best of the bunch are, in every important respect, the equals of their traditionally published cousins. Here I review one of the leading indie fantasy books from the last few years. I would class this as character driven fantasy, in the sense that you feel that the author started with the characters and allows them to take centre stage. We follow the point of view of at least half a dozen as the story develops and all of them have well defined personalities.
Lannick de Veers is a broken ex-soldier with a dark past. Zandrachus Bale is another unlikely hero, living a safe life amongst his books in the Abbey until forced to go out into the world. Karnag is an assassin with no moral code. True to the theme of the series, none of the characters are traditionally heroic, and are often reluctant. This adds some complexity to their characters, but at times can be overdone, especially since the reader has the impression they are going to do the right thing in the end anyway.
I enjoyed the range of characters, though it does mean the plot moves slowly at times, since most characters have their own separate storyline. This would suggest that the series still has a long way to go. We are in fairly familiar territory here. The kingdom of Rune is under threat from evil forces from the past. There is a solid historical backdrop to the story, with the Sentinels, demi-god style characters, who have defended Rune in times past, banished by the High King some generations ago.
And they need to come back. It is a modern, Abercrombie-esque setting, with humans taking centre stage and no mention of elves, dwarves etc. Some considerable thought has gone into the politics, with a High-King gone mad we never meet him ; a Queen in peril; evil figures at court; and a mention of thanes, who sound like regional noblemen, who may well come into the story. I appreciated this attempt to flesh out and make a believable world.
In the end it felt secondary to the main storylines, since the principal characters are political outsiders unlike Game of Thrones, for example , but there are hints that this angle may be developed in later books. Finally, there is magic in this land, often quite dark and scary. Benem avoids incorporating a new magical system with detailed rules into the story, which I appreciated. As indicated above, this is an ambitious start to a series, with multiple plot lines started, and a story that slowly reveals itself to the reader.
This is thoughtful, meaty fantasy, and worth waiting for! The first book in the series, The Gunslinger , was released in A film adaptation has been in the works for several years, and is being released this year. The central character of the series is the Gunslinger himself, Roland of Gilead.
His old world destroyed, Roland is on an epic quest, to find the Dark Tower. He is the last of the gunslingers, and his quest seems to have been going on for countless years. He is, at first, equally enigmatic, but his backstory is filled in as the series progresses. There are a whole host of other characters in this series, but most important are the Ka-tet, the group he recruits to help him on his quest.
They are trained to be gunslingers. King does character extremely well, and the American characters add humanity to the single-minded obsessiveness of Roland. The world has turned, or gone bad in some way. We know that Roland must save it by finding the Dark Tower. But beyond that, much of the story is shrouded in mystery to begin with.
As a series, we follow the adventures of Roland and his new Ka-tet on their quest. But each book has a very different story to tell. No doubt this is partly because they were written so far apart in time. Each book, therefore, has a unique feel to it and readers can react very differently to that. Their quest for the rest of The Broken Key ultimately leads them to a place located deep within hostile goblin territory, a place where even the goblins fear to go.
They followed it for a few feet before the lantern's light revealed a sharp turn to the right. Moving forward, they turned the corner and came to an abrupt halt. The passage ended a short distance ahead where a chest sat against the end of the passage. Kevik glanced to the chest and said, "We are in a hidden area.
Bart sighed. It could hold what we came here searching for though I find that unlikely in the extreme. His senses were telling him that this wasn't right, but what else could he do. He took a single, careful step at a time towards the chest. His father had told him of situations like this where chests were placed in catacombs and other places as a lure to the unwary.
Almost his entire concentration was directed to the floor before the chest and where he's placing each foot. He worked his way gradually closer until he felt an ever so slight shift beneath his foot and froze. It was a pressure plate of some kind, he was sure of that. He had a few guesses about what it would do when he removed his foot, but there was nothing he could do about it now. He brought his other foot, which was still hovering in the air a couple inches off the ground, back down next to theother. Then he slowly crouched down into a squatting position. Beginning to slowly rock back and forth on the balls of his feet, he braced himself.
When he finally rocked backwards to the right angle, he leaped with all his strength back towards where the others were standing. As soon as his feet left the floor, a section of the floor stretching from one side of the passage to the other, and extending from two feet behind the point where his feet had been to just before the chest, opened up. His leap had cleared the trap opening by a solid foot and he quickly steadied himself. He turned around to face the others and said, "This place could prove quite deadly. He opened up his pack and pulled out the coil of rope. The pit as it turned out was fifteen feet deep.
When Riyan took the lantern to look into it he found the sides to be sheer all the way down and the bottom looked to be covered in long spiny spikes. The floor that had fallen in was actually hinged to the floor on their side. The gleam of bones among the spikes said this trap had caught the unwary before. Bart tied the rope to his pack and moved to the edge of the pit.
He swung the pack like a pendulum until he had enough momentum then released the rope so the pack would sail over the pit and hit the floor on the right side of the chest. The other end of the rope was firmly held in his hand so he could retrieve his pack after it landed. When the pack hit the floor next to the chest and nothing happened, he hauled in the rope. Then he did it again, this time having his pack land on the left side of the chest.
As soon as the pack hit the left side, the floor tilted towards the pit at a forty five degree angle.
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