Trevor H. Cooley Author of the Bowl of Souls Series.

Author Archives: Trevor Cooley

The Ogre Apprentice – Chapter Two

Howdy folks!

I told you I would do this, so here goes. Chapter Two.

Some cool reveals in this chapter. This is stuff I have been wanting to get around to telling for a long time so this is pretty exciting. A lot of the chapters in this book are this way. There is so much information I want to tell the readers, it is a lot like Mother of the Moonrat in that way.

At any rate, here it is:

 

And SPOILER ALERT. If you haven’t read all the other books in the series, read those first.

 

 

Link to Chapter One HERE if you missed it.

 

Chapter Two

 

Fist sent threads of earth magic into the ground, causing a column of dirt to erupt from the ground under the oncoming giant’s feet. Charz, having seen Fist use this spell before, anticipated the attack and jumped, letting the force of the blast launch him into the air towards the ogre.

Startled, Fist dove to the side, barely avoiding the prongs of Charz’s trident as they pierced into the ground where he had been standing. “Hey! We’re not trying to kill each other.”

Charz chuckled and whirled to face Fist again. “You wake me up this early and expect me to go easy on you?”

“No,” said Fist. “But be careful. If you stab me with that thing, I might bleed to death before the wizards could heal me. I don’t heal as fast as you.”

Charz snorted. “I’ve been fighting for centuries. You think I can’t avoid a mortal blow when I want to?”

“I guess,” Fist said suspiciously. The real question was whether, in the heat of battle, the giant could control himself. He took several steps back and squared his shoulders. “Then let’s start again.”

Charz grinned and charged.

Fist sent threads of magic into the ground again, but enacted the spell sooner, launching the earth further in front of the giant’s feet. Charz felt the rumble under his feet and leapt, but this time the column of dirt struck him in the chest, knocking him backwards to land on his back.

Charz laughed. “Good one!”

But the spell had served a secondary purpose. The force of the eruption had also sent a cloud of dust into the air, setting up Fist’s next move. The ogre sent out a web of water, condensing in the air around the giant.

While Charz stood, the water and dust mixed creating a fine mist of mud that hung suspended in the air. Then Fist triggered an air spell and the mud was sucked against the giant’s body, hardening as Fist drew the moisture out. Within moments, Charz was encased in two inches of solid clay and looked like a sloppily formed sculpture.

Fist let out a whoop of excitement that the spell had worked. Darlan had been drilling the particulars into him for weeks, having him practice on various objects. This was the first time he had used it against a living combatant.

Fist paused, breathing hard. That spell had taken a lot out of him. In addition, his ear was bothering him again. The itch had become a throb. He ignored it as cracks began to appear in the statue.

The ogre took a few steps back and began preparing his next attack. He sent another web of water into the air. A cloud of fog-like mist began forming in the room.

Charz shattered the rock around him with a roar, sending pottery-like shards of hardened clay everywhere. The giant stepped out of the broken rock around his feet and swung around to face Fist, managing to look both angry and amused as he peered through the thickening fog towards the ogre.

“Good one, Fist. But I’m kind of mad that we haven’t struck any blows yet,” Charz said, shaking his trident, which was still encased in thick rock. “You have any magic left in you after that?”

“Yes,” the ogre replied, though truthfully he wasn’t sure whether he had enough left in him to make the next spell work. It was the biggest one and the most complicated. This spell was the main reason Darlan hadn’t wanted him to go with Justan and he definitely knew she wouldn’t like him trying it now, but he began to enact it anyway. He began increasing the vibration of the earth and air magic around him.

Charz smacked his trident against the ground but was only able to knock a chunk of rock loose. “And we’ll fight after you’re done messing around?”

“If I can still stand,” Fist replied, drooping slightly as he poured more and more energy into the vibration.

“You trickster, you’re about to fall over now,” Charz sneered and tossed his unwieldy weapon aside. He pointed at the ogre. “I’m gonna get at least one punch in, I’ll promise you that.” The giant charged again.

It was time. Fist roared, putting everything he had into the spell. He sent the vibrating and crackling threads of magic away from his body in a violent burst. Charz leapt toward him, his large arms spread wide.

The room filled with a blinding light as bolts of electricity blossomed into existence, arcing through the air using the thick watery mist as a conductor. For a fraction of a second, time stopped for Fist. He saw the spell clearly with his mage sight as well as his regular vision. White lightning filled the room, completely engulfing the oncoming giant.

He had done it. He had enacted the spell Darlan had told him about. The one that she had told him was too dangerous. Maybe now he could show her and she might change her mind and let him join Justan in Malaroo!

Then the fraction of a second ended and Fist was hit by the effects of his own spell. The same arcs of electricity that had struck the giant pierced through the meager barrier of earth magic that he had hoped to use to protect himself.

He barely registered the deafening crack of thunder that followed the lightning as the giant’s hurtling body struck him.

 

The next thing Fist heard were the words, “-you idiot!”

A hand wrenched his nose and the ogre’s eyes fluttered open. Darlan’s angry visage came into view and Fist grimaced. “Ow! What-?”

“That’s right, Fist. Wake up!” The wizardess pried back his eyelids and caused a flickering flame to appear in front of his face. For some reason she was kneeling beside him. She glanced away from him. “His pupils are responsive.”

“You mustn’t be so harsh with him, Darlan dear,” said an older woman’s voice. “He has been through quite a bump.”

Darlan didn’t look at the woman who spoke. “I will deal with my apprentice in my own way, thank you very much.” She placed her hands on Fist’s chest and he felt a slight tingle of magical energy enter his body. Fist groaned and tried to sit up but searing pain shot through him at the attempt and he collapsed.

“Stop moving, you big dumb ogre!” Darlan demanded, her face tight with concentration. “Stay still while I examine you.”

Where was he? He turned his head and saw a stark, empty room with gray walls. He was still in the testing center and he was lying on the dirt. Despite the pain, he felt sleepy and it was hard to focus his concentration.

Stupid! Squirrel barked and Fist felt the creature’s worry surging through the bond. He turned his head the other direction to see that Squirrel was sitting next to him. His little fists were clenched and one foot was tapping the ground.

I’m okay, Squirrel. I think.

Fist slowly realized that there were several other people in the room around him. It was hard to focus, but he saw Wizard Larus and Mage Ella standing nearby, both excellent healers. Charz was there too. Patches of his rocky skin were blackened and he was frowning at Fist while he spoke with Alfred. There were also a few others the ogre didn’t recognize. An old dwarf, a short-haired elf, and a female gnome were standing next to Charz, looking at Fist with their arms folded, amusement in their eyes.

The old woman who had spoken earlier was standing behind Darlan and looking down at him with a kind and sympathetic smile. She wore a white robe with an odd symbol embroidered on her sleeves in silver. Fist wondered why the old woman had just called Darlan by her chosen name instead of Sherl.

He tried to speak to the woman, but it was hard to stay awake. His deep voice was slurred as he said, “Wh-who are y . . .”

“Hey!” Darlan wrenched his nose again. “You look at me when I’m speaking to you.”

“Ow. I-I’m sorry Misstresss Sherrl,” Fist replied, forcing his eyes to stay open. He groaned. “Oh, I hurts all over.”

“Of course you do!” Darlan snapped. Her normally winsome features were pinched with anger and worry. “This is what happens when you get struck by a direct bolt of lightning.”

“Oh . . . right.” Fist’s eyelids began to droop. “Sso tired.”

“He has mild burns throughout his body,” Darlan announced, speaking to the others. “Even in some of his internal organs.”

“Ohh,” Fist said. The damage must truly have been extensive because there wasn’t a part of him that didn’t hurt. “Thhhat was how I feels. Like when I burnn my fingers, but all over. Hey, Misstress Sherrl. Whhhy do I sound drunk?”

“It’s a possible head injury, dear,” said the old woman looking over Darlan’s shoulder. Despite her sagging cheeks and wrinkles, the woman had vibrant blue eyes. Strange how much energy was in them at her age.

“You have prretty eyes,” he told her.

“Why thank you,” the old woman replied.

He returned his bleary gaze to Darlan. “Can I ssleep now?”

“No sleeping until after we’ve healed you,” Darlan said. “And focus on what I’m telling you.”

Had she been talking? “Sorry ‘bout that.”

“Don’t you ‘sorry’ me, Fist!” She waved the healers over. “Alright, Ella, you take his limbs. Larus, please see to his organs. You’re better at that kind of work than I am. I’ll work on his head. Let me know if you need my assistance.”

They crouched beside him and Darlan scooted over until she was kneeling above his head. She placed her hands at either side of face and nodded. All three of them began healing him at once. Fist cried out in surprise at the intensity of the magic that surged through his body. All thoughts of sleep ended and all he could do was clench his teeth and endure the sensation.

The healing went on for several minutes, Fist wincing as repaired nerves fired back up. The last thing that was fixed seemed to be his memory, because it wasn’t until they had nearly finished that he realized how much trouble he was in.

Finally, the tingle of their magic left his body and the healers stood. While Darlan thanked them, Fist climbed to his feet. He swayed a little, feeling almost as tired as he had before they had healed him. But this time, his mind was wide awake. The healers waved at him and he called out a thank you as they left.

Then Darlan punched him in the arm. “It was the ‘Cloud of Lightning’ spell, wasn’t it?” she demanded, shooting him a glare that he was sure would burn holes in his skin. He opened his mouth, but she didn’t bother to wait for his response. “Did I not tell you that spell was too dangerous to try on your own?”

“Yes, Mistress Sherl, but-.”

“Did you know that you stopped breathing?”

Fist’s eyes widened. “I did?”

“Indeed!” she snapped. “You are lucky that Charz was here to revive you.”

He turned grateful eyes on the giant. “You revived me? Thank you, Charz.”

“I ain’t talking about it!” the giant said.

“He was breathing the life back into you when we arrived,” said Alfred, holding back a laugh.

“I told you I didn’t want to talk about it!” Charz growled.

Darlan sighed, running a hand through her hair. “I was looking for you all over this morning. Luckily Alfred pointed me this way. I was right next to the testing center when Squirrel fell out of the tree next to me.”

“You fell out of a tree?” Fist asked in surprise.

Squirrel had climbed up the ogre’s body while Darlan was berating him. He was sitting on the ogre’s shoulder, his back to Fist’s head. I’m angry.

“He struck the ground, stiff as a stick!” Darlan said. “I fear the shock of what happened to you nearly killed him.”

Fist swallowed, a surge of guilt rising inside him. “I-I didn’t think-.”

“No you didn’t!” Darlan said. “You are a bonding wizard, remember? If you die, Squirrel dies too. Think these things through before you do something stupid!”

Fist’s shoulders slumped. I’m so sorry, Squirrel.

The old woman put her hand on Darlan’s shoulder and said sweetly, “Come now, dear. Look at the poor boy. He understands. You’ve berated him enough.”

“Oh have I now?” Darlan held her hand out towards Fist. There was something in her palm. “Tell me, Fist. What’s this?”

Fist squinted at the item on her palm. It looked like a small plant. “I . . . don’t know.”

“Are you sure? I found it in your ear while I was healing you,” she said accusingly.

“Oh, you shouldn’t put things in your ear, dear,” said the old woman, shaking her head.

“It’s a honstule sprout,” Darlan continued. “I’m surprised you could hear. Its little roots were digging into your ear drum. At the rate these plants grow, it could have done major damage in a few more hours.”

“Squirrel did it!” Fist declared, pointing at the beast.

Squirrel snorted and turned his nose up at the ogre.

“You shouldn’t place blame on others,” Darlan replied with a frown.

“He did!” Fist insisted. “He was being naughty last night. He shoved a bunch of seeds in my ear when I was sleeping.”

Darlan placed a weary hand on her forehead. “What am I going to do with you two?”

“Oh they’ll be fine,” the old woman told Darlan, patting Fist’s arm as she spoke. Her hair was silvery gray and she kept it tied back behind her head in a braid. She reached up to tuck a stray hair behind her ear and Fist noticed a rune on the palm of her left hand. This woman was named.

“Children always are,” the woman continued. “You know, your father was terrible with that kind of thing. Always sticking things where they shouldn’t go. His nose or ears, whatever holes were handy, really. Artemis was worried half to death about it. But I told him that the boy would be fine and I was right. He grew out of it.”

“I’m not a child. I’m twenty years old,” Fist said in protest, but then something she said struck him. “Did you say Artemis?”

“Yes, dear. My late first husband,” the woman said, smiling at some distant memory. “He was a sweet man. A good man. I still miss him terribly.” She shook her head, dismissing the memory. “But that was long ago.”

Fist blinked. Surely it was a coincidence. The woman was old, but surely she couldn’t be that old. Humans didn’t live that long. Did they?

Darlan cleared her throat. “Fist, I should introduce you. This is my grandmother, Mistress Sarine.”

Fist’s eyebrows rose. So he was right. “Your grandma? Then she was married to Justan’s great grand-.”

Darlan gave him a warning look. “Yes. That’s right, Fist. Not only is my Grandma Begazzi still alive, I found out last night that she’s actually better known as the ‘famous’ Mistress Sarine, one of the Prophet’s companions!”

Fist wasn’t well versed in human history, but he had heard Justan mention the Prophet’s companions. They were the group of warriors and wizards that had marched on the Dark Prophet’s palace. That meant that this woman would have been at the Prophet’s side when the Dark Prophet was defeated two hundred years ago.

“She is also our new council historian,” Darlan continued, a bitter note in her voice. “Another in a long list of facts I learned when she arrived last night.”

“Why Darlan, if I didn’t know better, I’d say you weren’t happy I’m here,” Sarine scoffed.

“I . . .” Darlan’s mouth worked for a moment before words finally spilled out. “It’s just sudden and bizarre, don’t you think? You’ve been alive my whole life without telling me. Even after my father and mother died and I thought I was completely alone! And suddenly you show up calling me, ‘dear’ like you had been around the whole time?”

“Firstly, I’m an old woman. I call everyone ‘dear’,” Sarine protested. “And I have been around! As much as I was allowed. I couldn’t come in person, but I sent you letters. And gifts!”

“Right . . . The packages from my mysterious auntie, living with the elves in Khalpany,” Darlan said.

“It was true. Except for the ‘auntie’ part,” she admitted. “But that’s where I’ve been. In the Pruball Elf Homeland.” She gestured at the elf standing next to Charz. “The olives I sent came from Kyrkon’s own vineyard.”

“Oh! You’re the one who sent Mistress Sherl the elf olives!” Fist said in understanding.

Darlan had been receiving boxes of Khalpany Olives every few months for years. The intense elven magic in them is what had been keeping Darlan and Faldon young for so long. As far as Justan had been able to figure, his mother was over 150 years old and his father at least a hundred.

Fist looked at Darlan. “But you said that an old client of yours was sending them.”

“My ‘auntie’ swore me to secrecy,” Darlan replied in a half grumble. “Her letters said that she was sending me the olives as part of a promise to my mother.”

“It was!” Sarine said indignantly. “I promised your mother that I would look after you and I did the best I could from afar.”

“I told you she wasn’t gonna understand, Begazzi,” said the gray-haired dwarf standing by Charz. He was dressed in brown travel clothes that looked like they needed a good washing and he had the oddest beard. His upper lip was clean-shaven, but the beard was so long that he had tucked the end of it into his trousers. “It’s gonna take a while.”

“Oh, Fist, I have been remiss!” Darlan said. “I should introduce you to these fine people as well. The dwarf here is named Bill. The elf is Kyrkon. And the Gnome is Maryanne.” She forced a smile. “They are Sarine’s bonded.”

Fist’s jaw dropped. “She’s a bonding wizard too?”

Darlan nodded half-mockingly. “Interesting how they left that part out of the histories.”

Sarine sighed, “Yes, dear. I am a bonding wizardess and a sorceress. Now do you understand why I had to stay in hiding? At the time of the ban, my name had become famous in the land as a wizardess, but I am a spirit magic specialist. I have no elemental talent whatsoever. I couldn’t hide in plain sight like some of the others.”

After the Dark Prophet’s defeat two hundred years previous, the Prophet had banned the use of spirit magic in Dremaldria. He had forbidden all of the Mage Schools from teaching it and had even taken all mention of it out of the schools’ libraries. The wizards that specialized in its use went into hiding. By the time Justan was born spirit magic was all but forgotten. Its existence hadn’t been acknowledged until the Prophet had lifted the ban just a few short months ago.

“I’d still be in Khalpany if John hadn’t sent me a letter saying that I could return,” Sarine continued. “The letter from Wizard Valtrek offering me the position on the council arrived only a week later.”

“Odd how he didn’t tell me about that,” Darlan said and from the irritation in her voice, Fist knew that Valtrek’s letter was news to her.

“Please understand, Darlan. I had no choice but to submit to exile,” Sarine said. “A command from the Prophet is a command from the Bowl of Souls itself. As a named wizardess, I could not disobey.”

Some of the hardness left Darlan’s eyes. “Please, Mistress Sarine, forgive me for being upset. Your dwarf-, uh, Bill is right. It will take some time for me to get used to this, but I’m . . . glad you’re here.”

Sarine put on a look of deepest understanding and grasped her granddaughter’s arm. “Oh, Darlan. I know. I know. It has been a difficult return for me as well. I never wanted to leave this school and now that I’m back-.” She waved an arm. “Well, it is so different. This big ugly building, for instance. It wasn’t here in my day. Do you mind if we leave this dreadful room and go outside?”

“Of course,” said Darlan, trying her best to sound as cheerful as Sarine. “Come, Fist. You should tag along while I think of a fitting punishment for your chicanery this morning.”

Fist blinked. “Uh, I think you mean skullduggery, Mistress Sherl.”

“Shut up and follow me,” she replied, leading Sarine to the door.

Sarine’s bonded began following after them, but the female gnome paused in front of the doorway and turned to face Fist. Maryanne looked young for a gnome, with long auburn hair that covered her droopy ears and a petite mouth that was turned up in an assessing smile. She was well over seven-feet-tall and lithely muscular, wearing a skin-tight suit of elf-made leather armor. She had a rune encrusted bow slung over one shoulder while a quiver bristling with arrows was slung over the other.

“So you’re bonded to Sarine’s grandchild, huh?” Maryanne said. She traced a finger down the muscles of one of Fists massive arms. “I think you’re kinda cute.”

She turned and trotted out the door and Fist looked back at Charz with wide eyes. The giant shook his head slowly and with a roll of his eyes said, “Gnomes.”

Alfred laughed.

 

END OF CHAPTER TWO

The Ogre Apprentice Cover Reveal

Howdy folks!

This one has been a long time coming. Or at least it has been a long time for me. I first came up for the idea of this cover back in August after polling my Facebook page. I asked whether or not Fist should be featured on the cover and I was surprised by the response. It was split with both sides equally enthusiastic. “Yes! I want to see Fist!” or  “No! Fist should stay in my mind’s eye where he belongs!”

Well, guys, I heard both of ya.

 

TOA-ebook

I decided to ask Renu to depict Fist, but not to show his face. Therefore he is facing away from us. Only Squirrel (wearing one of the vests Darlan made him) gets to be fully seen. The reason I chose this particular image is that I wanted to show the odd nature of Fist as an enormous ogre studying at the Mage School. He is wearing his black robes, denoting his strength in earth magic, and is also wearing his mace sheath strapped over the robes. It is a fashion faux pas to be sure, but what can I say? He’s an ogre.

Here are two of the most common I have heard from the few people who have seen it so far:

Q: Why isn’t Fist’s skin green?

A: He isn’t Shrek. Ogres in the Bowl of Souls world are big brutish neanderthal types with skin tones similar to humans.

Q: Why is Squirrel wearing a vest?

A: Darlan started making vests for Squirrel in Book Five. He has an assortment of different colored ones in his pouch and changes in and out of them often like a four year old who just learned how to dress himself.

Here’s the blurb on the back cover:

A Bowl of Souls Novel

Justan’s time in Malaroo isn’t going well. A deadly shape-shifting assassin seeks his life and he is struggling to win over Jhonate’s father.

Fist is the only ogre ever to train at the Mage School. He is determined to make the most of this opportunity, but his plans are derailed and his burgeoning powers tested when he receives a visit from the tribe he had long thought dead.

An army closes in on the grove, a new race of monsters emerges from the swamps, and a great evil grows in the mountains. The survival of the known lands may depend on the strength of The Ogre Apprentice.

 

I know you guys are wanting an update on the release date and I know I have been nothing but full of excuses the last two months. I’m sorry for that. What I can say is this. I am working on it. I am close. We are talking hopefully before Christmas. I feel terrible about the delay and I will post chapter two here on the site between now and then. Thank you all for your patience.

Please let me know what you think of the cover.

Trevor H. Cooley

The Ogre Apprentice – Chapter One

Howdy folks!

Well I was hoping to have the book finished by now, but I am still working on the ending. There is so much potential in it and I want to get it right. Unfortunately this means that the release is being pushed back a little bit more.

“How much?” you ask.

As little of a delay as possible. Once I finally have the book completed, my wife and I will do our final editing pass and we will release it immediately. When that happens I will let you know right here.

There have also been some delays in getting the cover finished. I hope to be able to reveal that soon.

So in the meantime, I thought I would try to tide you over with chapter one.

SPOILER ALERT if you have not finished Protector of the Grove, you should stop reading here. Otherwise, enjoy!

 

Chapter One

Fist’s dreams were disturbing and violent. This wasn’t unusual for the ogre. He had lived a life often filled with violence. It was part of him, something at odds with his gentle nature. What made these dreams stand out tonight was how vivid they were.

They began with a recurring dream. It was one that Fist had dreamt dozens of times since leaving the Thunder People tribe. It was always similar with only minor variations, and had become so commonplace to Fist that it didn’t cause him anxiety anymore.

He was wearing his apprentice robes and reclining, floating peacefully on a bed made of cloud, unafraid of being so high in the sky above the earth below. Life was perfect. After all, he was learning so many things and he had friends now and Justan had survived his meeting with Jhonate’s father. Fist relaxed in the fluffy softness, content just feeling the hot sun on his body.

His peace was interrupted by a thudding noise. He sat up and turned his head to see his father Crag running at him, his large feet obliterating the clouds beneath him with every step. Fist didn’t know how his father had gotten up there, but following closely behind Crag was an army of winged beasts, dark and terrible.

Crag yelled at him to stand up and fight, but Fist didn’t want to. He laid back on the cloud and closed his eyes, focusing on the warmth of the sun, the part of him that knew this was a dream willing the darkness to go away. But it didn’t work. The sounds of his father’s footsteps and the approaching army grew louder until Fist opened his eyes and Crag stood over him, blood running down his body from several open wounds. His face was as pummeled and swollen like it had been the last time Fist had seen him; beaten nearly to death by Fist’s own hands.

“Go away father,” Fist said sadly. “You’re dead.”

“Toompa!” his father yelled and swung his arm down in a mighty punch. Crag’s fist caught Fist in the chest and knocked him through the cloud. Fist watched his father’s disappointed face get smaller and smaller as he fell unprotected through the sky towards the earth below.

Normally Fist would plunge into water at this point, but this time the dream shifted and he never struck the ground. Instead, he was back in the mountains of his youth, at the edge of the Thunder People territory. His robes were gone and he was wearing only fur wraps like he had in the old days, but he was carrying the mace Lenny had made for him. It was a good thing too, because he needed it for the horde that approached him.

It was at this point that he forgot it was a dream. It was real and Fist was angry; angry and fearful because his tribe was under attack. His face contorted with rage as he swung his weapon back, its magic enhancing his speed. The mace was long and heavy with a spherical head. One half of the head was covered in wicked spikes, the other half with rough ridges and Fist put it to good use.

He punctured and tore through flesh with the spikes and bashed in the heads of the enemy with the ridges. He couldn’t identify the assailants right away. Their faces were blurry. But what did it matter? They fell around him as if they were made of melons, smashing and splattering to pieces, showering him with gore.

Fist exhulted. The battle was easy. The enemy’s attacks were weak, leaving nothing but superficial wounds on his skin. Why had he been so fearful?

He looked around for the rest of his tribe and found himself battling alone, surrounded by the enemy. Had the others fallen to the enemy or had they abandoned him? He didn’t know the answer, but he fought on, destroying the enemy with tireless strikes.

Then something caught his eye. A lone boulder rose above the enemy ranks. The faceless horde clawed at the rock, trying to climb it. Sitting atop the boulder was Squirrel’s leather pouch and by the way it contorted, Squirrel was still inside!

Fist shouted and began forcing his way towards his friend, but the enemy resisted. Something about them had changed. No longer did they burst apart and yield before him. They held firm, each one of them taking several strikes to bring down. Their weapons improved too. Several times Fist felt daggers pierce his flesh.

He ignored the wounds and fought on, bellowing for Squirrel to flee. The pouch continued to move as the enemy climbed toward it, but Squirrel did not come out. Fist arrived at the boulder and started to climb, pulling the enemy climbers down as he went, ignoring the fierce stabbings of the assailants behind him. Finally he reached the top of the rock and stood exhausted. Blood dripped from his body, some of it his, but most of it the enemy’s.

He looked down at the crowd surrounding the boulder and a haze lifted from his mind. The enemy was no longer faceless. To Fist’s horror, they were men and dwarves and elves and even ogres. These were people he recognized. Many of them he had met during the war. And he had mown so many down.

Fist shouted apologies, but their familiar faces didn’t seem to recognize him. They screamed mindlessly, clawing at the rock. Shaken, he picked up Squirrel’s pouch and peered inside.

Squirrel wasn’t there. In his place was a monster. It was a huge thing, a mix of wild beasts, and way too large to fit in that small space. Before Fist could drop the pouch it leapt out, increasing in size and bowling Fist over, sending him plummeting off of the rock into the howling masses below . . .

 

Fist’s legs spasmed and his eyes flew open as he awoke with a gasp. Breathing heavily, he realized that he was in his room in the Mage School dormitories. He was lying on his side in the oversized bed Darlan had procured for him and his head was pressed into his honstule flower pillow. He was also sweating profusely.

With a groan, he threw back his blanket and sat up. As he did so, a pile of seeds fell out of his ear, striking his shoulder and cascading down his hairy torso in a tiny avalanche.

“Squirrel!” he grumbled, brushing the seeds off of his body. Several of them had fallen onto his bed and he swept them off of his mattress with one large hand, knowing that he would have to sweep them off of the floor later, but preferring that to returning to a bed with little seeds in it.

This was a constant game Squirrel played. He had started it the day they had first met. Whenever Fist was asleep, Squirrel would hide nuts and seeds somewhere on the ogre’s body. In the beginning he had done it because he felt safe with Fist and it was his way of claiming Fist as his new home. But along the way as Squirrel’s mind had grown larger and more complex, his reasons for the little game had changed. For awhile it had become a test of his stealth as he tried to see how many seeds he could hide on Fist’s body without being caught.

Now Squirrel’s game was more of a prank, made all the easier because of large variety of food available at the school. People were giving Squirrel nuts and seeds all the time and as a result, Fist found them everywhere. Not just when he woke up in the morning, but everywhere he looked. Squirrel left them in the pockets of his robe, in his books, in his coin purse, and in every drawer Fist used. Squirrel thought it was hilarious.

Fist yawned and, from the stuffy sensation in his ear, he knew there were more seeds in there. He leaned over and shook his head, fumbling at his ear with one thick finger, trying to get them out but he was only able to dislodge a few. He smacked the side of his head, but to no avail.

Squirrel! he grumbled again, this time through the bond, not wanting to wake his roommate. Fist looked around for his bonded, knowing that the mischievous creature was close by.

A sliver of early morning light peered in the room through the one small window, illuminating a tidy place with two beds, two desks, and two wardrobes. Out of necessity it was the largest room in the dormitories and Fist shared it with his friend, Jezzer.

To Fist’s relief, he hadn’t woken the man. Jezzer had already risen, making his bed before leaving. The old man had a habit of waking early and was often up and gone before the ogre. Jezzer was sixty five and the oldest cadet at the Mage School in centuries. He claimed that the older he got, the less sleep he needed. Fist envied the man that ability.

Knowing that he was alone, Fist reached up and palmed the light orb that was mounted in the sconce above his bed. Wincing at the sudden brightness, the ogre’s eyes fell on Squirrel’s pouch. It was sitting on Fist’s desk where he had left it the night before, the runes stamped into it’s deerskin surface glowing softly to Fist’s magesight. It was a gift from Beth and she had made it well. It was nice and roomy, silk-lined, and had extra pockets for storage. The large lump in it told him Squirrel was still inside. The beast was ignoring him, pretending to be asleep.

Squirrel!” Fist commanded both aloud and through the bond. “I see you in your pouch. Come here.”

What? Squirrel replied innocently. His little head popped out of the top and he yawned, pretending that Fist had just woke him.

“You’re not fooling me,” Fist chided him. “Now get these seeds out of my ear.”

Squirrel let out a chattering laugh and exited the pouch, leaping from the desk to the bed to Fist’s shoulder in a series of bounds. His little laugh was an odd thing, sounding more like a snicker than anything else. He had just developed it in the months after the war. He was wearing one of the small vests Darlan had made for him. This one was red with tiny gold trim.

My seeds! Squirrel exclaimed, peering into the ogre’s ear.

“Yeah, you put them in there. Get them out,” Fist complained. His ear canal was itching now. “Why did you do it anyway?

It is funny, Squirrel said.

“No. Not funny,” Fist said. “And not nice.”

Though Fist couldn’t see him, he knew Squirrel was rolling his eyes as he reached one dexterous paw into the ogre’s ear. He messed around for a moment, pulling out seed after seed. It tickled horribly and Fist winced as he tried to stay still, hoping that the animal wouldn’t scratch him with his little claws. Finally Squirrel stopped.

“Did you get them all?” Fist asked, turning his head to look at him.

Squirrel stared back at the ogre, his mouth hanging open in a parody of disgust as he held out an arm caked up to the shoulder with clumps of ear wax. A small black seed was clutched in his hand. He let go of the seed, but it remained stuck to his hand. He shook the seed off and looked around for something to wipe his arm on, worried that he would stain his vest.

Fist could feel his irritation through the bond. The ogre snorted. “Don’t look at me like that, Squirrel. It’s your fault for sticking them in there.”

Sill stiffly holding his arm out to the side, Squirrel began walking down Fist’s arm towards the bed.

“Don’t wipe that on the blankets,” Fist warned. Squirrel let out a little grumble and hopped down to the floor, then went under the bed to wipe his arm on one of Fist’s dirty socks.

Fist stood and stretched. It was an abbreviated form of a stretch instead of the full stretch he wanted to do. When fully erect, the ogre was eight feet tall and the hair on his head brushed the ceiling. His morning stretch now consisted of arching his back and rotating his shoulders, his arms sticking straight out to the sides. His back popped in a series of cracks as he did so.

“I had such a bad dream, Squirrel,” Fist grunted and walked to the wardrobe to retrieve his clothes. “It felt so real.” Indeed, he had been able to feel the blood of the enemies sticking to his body. He’d smelled their viscera as it spilled to the ground. He felt a wave of nausea at the memory and swallowed. “Why did I have a dream like that?”

Squirrel didn’t respond directly, but Fist felt a trickle of sympathy come through the bond. This was often the way they communicated with each other. Even with the growth of Squirrel, many of the things Fist felt and experienced didn’t make complete sense to him. Yet the animal always tried his best to understand. Sometimes he even surprised Fist with his observations.

Fist tried to shake the dream from his mind as he dressed, putting on a button-up shirt and linen pants before donning his apprentice robe. The robe was voluminous and made of a light material so that it wasn’t too warm for comfort. The colors represented Fist’s magical strengths. The main color was black representing Fist’s strength in earth magic, while the blue and gold trim work on the sleeves and hem represented his secondary strengths in air and water. Darlan had even modified it, further since he was training to be a war wizard. She had added a runic symbol to the back, a large blue circle with a lightning bolt through it.

Fist looked at himself in the room’s lone mirror and shook his head. He had been wearing student robes for nearly six months and still didn’t feel natural in them. While wearing the robes he didn’t look like an ogre at all. Someone who had never seen an ogre might think him just a giant of a man with a brutish face.

He waved a dismissive arm at the mirror and turned to look at the large shield and breastplate that stood next to the wardrobe. Now those were the things he felt most comfortable wearing. Despite everything he was learning at the Mage School, Fist was a warrior at heart. At that moment he wished that he was in Malaroo with Justan. There were battles going on there. He could have been making a difference.

Frowning, he sat back down on the bed to put on his socks and boots. The boots were a gift from his half-orc friend Bettie and were runed to keep the leather strong and supple despite the punishment he put them through. He liked them. They were quite comfortable. The socks, on the other hand, were something he wore at Darlan’s insistence.

That thought reminded him of his first business of the day. He needed to tell Darlan what Justan been through the day before. He had spent the first part of the night talking to Justan about it through the bond and the ogre had promised Justan that he would let his mother know.

Fist stood and moved to the window. The dim light outside had told him it was early and a quick glance at the clock tower confirmed it. Darlan had told him she had a council meeting this morning and it would be at least an hour, maybe two before she was done. He scratched his head. What to do until then?

“What do you think, Squirrel? What should we do this morning?” Breakfast was being served at the Dining Hall. He could eat first, but then what? “Should we go to the library and study?”

No. Squirrel jumped back atop the table and shook his head, pulling a nut out of his cheek to chew thoughtfully. Boring.

As much as Fist enjoyed the library, Squirrel became stir crazy after just a few minutes. Lately this meant that the creature spent his time messing with people. The gnome librarian Vincent was his favorite target.

“Hmm.” Rubbing his itching ear, Fist opened the top drawer of his desk and pulled out a thin book. On the cover, written in Justan’s staccato handwriting was the title, Fist’s Book of Words. Justan had given it to him as a gift before leaving with Jhonate to work on rebuilding the academy. The pages were filled with complex words and their definitions, each word marked with a date.

Fist’s new word of the day was a tradition that had started back during their time at Coal’s Keep. It was a way for the ogre to expand his vocabulary and Fist enjoyed it. Justan hadn’t wanted the tradition to end while they were separated, so he had added enough words in the book to last the ogre a year.

“Let’s see,” Fist mumbled while flipping through the pages to find the current date. He ran a finger down the page. “My word of the day today is . . . skullduggery. Ooh. It means, ‘Underhanded and devious dealings. Trickery and scheming’.” He tucked the book away in one of his robe’s many pockets, a wide smile splitting his face. “That sounds like you, Squirrel!”

Squirrel cocked his head at him wryly.

“I know what we’ll do this morning,” Fist said, thinking of something that better fit his current mood. He pulled Squirrel’s pouch over his shoulder and held it open. “Let’s go visit Charz.”

Okay! Squirrel replied. He climbed to the top of the pile of books on the desk and dove inside.

Fist reached back into the pockets of his robes and withdrew a supple leather glove that he pulled over his large right hand. Then he used that hand to grab his mace from its resting place leaning against the desk. Protected from the weapon’s magic, he rested the haft of it on his shoulder and headed out the door.

The ogre didn’t get to carry his mace with him very often at the school. Though the increase in academy soldiers at the Mage School since the end of the war had led to a loosening of weapon restrictions, it was generally frowned upon for students to walk around armed. Darlan had arranged a few exceptions for Fist since he was training to be a war wizard, though. He was allowed to carry the mace with him when practicing war spells with her at the Testing Center or when sparring. This morning he planned to do both.

Fist smiled as he exited the building. It was the tail end of winter now and most of the region round about was still starting out each morning with a hard frost, but not here. Fist breathed in the fresh and balmy air of the Mage School and sighed. What a beautiful morning. He looked up into the blue sky and raised his arms, letting loose the mighty stretch he had wanted to do earlier.

One perk of staying at the Mage School was that it never got too cold in the winter. Or too hot in the summer, for that matter, thanks to the magic of the Rune Tower. Darlan had explained it to him once. Evidently, in a time long past, the Rune Tower had been infused with a special weather spell. Throughout the year it absorbed any excessive heat or excessive cold. It stored this energy, expelling it when needed to counteract the ambient temperatures and keep the Mage School grounds at comfortable levels. This allowed their gardens to continue producing food even in the harshest winters.

Charz’s quarters were located across the center square in a building next to Professor Beehn’s cottage. It was only a five minute walk from the dormitories, but Fist wanted to stop by the Dining Hall first and that would take him out of his way and all that walking around was going to suck away his time. Smiling, he switched the handle of his mace to his unprotected left hand and ran.

The magic of the mace increased his speed, helping him to run nearly twice as fast as usual. It had been an awkward feeling to get used to in the beginning, but he’d had the mace long enough by now that he was used to it. The downside of using the mace was that the increase in speed was tiring, which was why he carried it in the gloved hand most of the time.

Fist sped around the edge of the dormitory building and cut across the green towards the Dining Hall. The ogre made a fearsome sight, running at high speed with his wicked mace in hand. Luckily, it was still early enough that the area wasn’t crowded with students. Those few that were up and about took a few wary steps back when they saw him coming.

Fist switched the handle of the mace back to his right hand and slowed down just as he reached the open doors. He stumbled inside, his mace held high, causing several students to gasp. Breathing heavily, he lowered the weapon.

One old wizardess stood from her table and wagged a finger at him. “Be careful, ogre! Don’t you know that thing’s dangerous!”

“Sorry, Professor Landrine,” he said sheepishly.

“I don’t care what the new rules are. Weapons do not belong in the Dining Hall,” she grumped, sitting back down.

“Sorry,” Fist said again, bowing his head and hoping that she didn’t demand he leave and return without the weapon. Rules were one thing, but he was an apprentice. If Landrine told him to do something, he would have to do it. To his relief, she returned her attention to her breakfast and the open book beside her plate.

“Fist!” said a younger voice and the ogre turned to see his friend Neau sitting at a table nearby. Neau was a portly young cadet wearing a red and blue robe, showing his strengths in water and fire. Jezzer was sitting next to him in his gray robe. The two men had half-eaten plates of food in front of them. “Come sit with us. ”

“Oh, I can’t,” Fist replied. The two men were part of a small group of friends Fist had cultivated at the school along with Charz and Antyni the elf. He reached up and rubbed at his ear again. “I’m just grabbing something quick and then I need to go to Charz’s place.”

“He won’t like that,” Jezzer warned in his aristocratic tenor voice. “You know how he is about his mornings.”

“I know,” Fist said. The giant liked to sleep in. Some days he wasn’t up before noon.

“Then stay here instead,” said Neau. “We were talking about what happened last night. Did you hear about the newest council member?”

Fist’s ears perked up at that. There had been a lot of speculation over who the last member would be. The rest of the council had been silent on the matter, including Darlan. “Sorry. I’ll meet you at the library later for study. You can tell me then. I have stuff to tell you, too. You won’t believe what happened to Justan yesterday.”

The two students nodded and Fist went to stand in line. To his relief, the queue was fairly short and he didn’t have long to wait. He grabbed a dozen boiled eggs and all the cheese-filled rolls he could stuff in his pockets. The manager of the kitchens, Chef Richard, gave him a dour look and Fist explained that he was taking food for Charz. With a resigned grumble, the man stuffed a stack of sausages in a bag of waxed paper and handed them over.

The moment he left the Dining Hall, Fist switched the mace to his left hand and ran away, the sack of sausages clutched in his gloved hand. The quickest way to Charz would be to cut across the center square and head between the class buildings, but he knew there would be too many people there. So Fist took a more circuitous route, sprinting around the main part of the square.

He enjoyed the run. Moving at such a fast speed was the closest thing Fist could imagine to flying. He laughed as the wind whipped past his face, ignoring the stares of the passersby.

As he passed the buildings, the wide expanse of the grounds opened before him and he looked past the manicured lawns with their winding paths, to the wall that surrounded the school. Fist’s laugh faltered. If there was one obvious thing that showed the Mage School was different after the war it was the wall.

What had once looked like a fifty-foot-tall cliff hanging over the grounds was now only half its original height. Earth wizards worked on raising the wall higher every day, but it was slow going. The taller the wall became, the heavier it was and the more magic it took to get it to rise. In the beginning it had risen several inches a day, now it only rose a few inches a week. Some of the wizards predicted that, at the current rate of decline, it would take years to bring them to their former glory.

The other major change at the school was the academy presence. As Fist crossed the main road he could see the new cluster of buildings and barracks at the base of the wall. Until work on the new academy was finished, students were being taught here. It was part of a bold new relationship between the warriors and wizards, one that was hoped to be beneficial to all. Fist couldn’t see why it wouldn’t be.

Once he had bypassed the main square, he curved towards the storage buildings. While the class buildings were finely built with ornate trim work, these were little more than squat warehouses. Charz’s place was actually a section of one of the storage buildings that had been walled off for his use.

By the time Fist stopped at Charz’ door he was breathing heavily, his energy drained by the use of the mace. The last few months he had spent focused on magical studies had really reduced his stamina. Fist knew that Justan would have had him training more. He made sure never to bring it up during their late night talks.

He didn’t bother knocking. Charz would never have answered. So, his mace gripped in his gloved hand, Fist pulled open the heavy warehouse door and walked in, leaving it to hang open behind him to let some light in.

The interior of Charz’s place was dark and dank, almost cave-like. Wizard Beehn had built in a few windows, but Charz had boarded them back up. The light from the open door illuminated a room quite different from Fist’s. For one thing it was much larger, a necessity when housing a ten foot giant, with ceilings twice as high as Fist was tall. It was also a mess.

There were multiple dressers and wardrobes and desks around the room for the giant to use, but they were mostly empty. Charz was what Darlan called, ‘a pile person’. He kept his clothes piled on top of one table, his other various belongings piled on top of other various pieces of furniture. Scraps of garbage were cast around everywhere else.

As for the giant himself, Charz was sleeping in the corner of the warehouse farthest from the door. He was laying face down on a pile of fine mattresses that Beehn had hauled up from somewhere deep inside the Rune Tower. Charz thought the mattresses a hilarious waste since, with his thick rocky skin, he would have been just as comfortable sleeping on straw or wood shavings or gravel. Fist figured that the giant would have been fine with anything, as long as it was a pile.

The ogre walked up and prodded the giant with his foot. “Charz! Wake up.”

“Mpf,” The giant mumbled and planted his face more firmly into a mattress that looked to be covered with pink silk. The wide wet spot under his face told Fist that Charz had been drooling in his sleep. Fist nudged the giant again, but he refused to respond. The ogre pursed his lips, pondering the best way to wake him, preferably without getting beat on.

Me! said Squirrel and the fuzzy beast exited his pouch, a chunk of bread clutched in one hand. Fist raised an eyebrow. He didn’t remember putting a roll in Squirrel’s pouch.

Squirrel jumped down and scrambled across Charz’ back, heading towards the giant’s head. The little beast let out a little snicker of anticipation and Fist took a couple steps backward, knowing what was coming. “Careful, Squirrel. He might squish you.”

Squirrel crept in close, sneaking over Charz’s neck to press his furry face into the giant’s ear. He then let loose with a loud high pitched, “Chi-chi-chi-chi-chi-chi!”

Charz rose to his knees with a roar. Squirrel skittered away just in time to avoid the rocky hand that slammed into the side of the giant’s face with a thunderous crack.

“Gah!” echoed his booming voice. His mouth was wide open, his eyes confused.

“That’s enough!” Fist said in alarm. But Squirrel was already at the giant’s other ear.

“Chi-chi-chi-chi!”

Charz yelled again and grabbed for him. “Die, you fur-covered mosquito!”

One thing most people underestimated about the rock giant was his speed. Charz’s body was enhanced by magic and despite his size, he moved as fast as a man. Luckily, Squirrel was faster. The little beast darted out of his grasp, then slid down the giant’s back and skittered across the floor of the warehouse to hide behind one of the piles of trash.

“Calm down, Charz!” Fist said, holding out a pleading hand. He hastily began preparing a spell in the back of his mind.

“What the hell was that, Fist?” Charz demanded. He jumped to his feet, towering head and shoulders above the ogre. He was wearing nothing but a tight pair of small clothes and a heavy iron chain with a crystal pendant that hung around his neck.

“I came to ask for your help with something,” Fist said.

“Well that was a stupid way of doing it!” The giant growled, his lips twisted with rage.

“I didn’t know what Squirrel was going to do,” Fist lied.

“Yeah, right.” Charz said and some of the anger left his voice as he let out a wide yawn. “What time is it, anyway?”

Fist knew the giant wouldn’t be happy about the hour. He shrugged and generalized, “Morning time.”

“Morning? You woke me up early and you brought your mace?” Charz asked, eyeing the weapon. “You know better than this.”

“I know you like to sleep longer, but-!”

“And I was up late last night, too! The new council historian arrived and I had to carry all her heavy stuff into the tower!” Charz complained. “Blasted old lady with her trunks full of books . . .”

“I brought breakfast.” Fist lifted the paper bag. “Sausages and eggs and cheesy rolls.”

Charz sniffed at the savory smell rising from the bag and jerked it from the ogre’s hand. “I guess I do usually miss breakfast.” He stomped over to the nearest table and shoved a pile of empty liquor bottles off of an oversized chair. He plopped down onto it, causing the chair to creak in protest as he looked in the bag. “There ain’t that many sausages in here.”

Fist rubbed at his ear again. It really was itching something fierce. Maybe Squirrel had scratched him somewhere deep in there. “I was kind of hoping we could share them.”

“Don’t push your luck,” Charz grumbled, tossing a handful of sausages in his mouth. He spoke while he chewed, “You said something about eggs and rolls?”

Fist dug a half-dozen eggs out of his pockets as well as several rolls and set them down on the table next to the giant. He grabbed another roll out and bit into it himself. As with all Mage School food it was really good. The bread was crusty and the cheese was savory and, as he swallowed and took the next bite, he could already fill the stirrings of extra energy that only magic could provide.

Charz looked at the food in front of him and snorted. “More of a snack, really,” he said and tossed two eggs into his mouth, not even bothering to peel them.

Fist heard it crunching in the giant’s teeth and wondered what it was like? He had never tried eating them that way before. Did the shells have a flavor of their own? He pulled one out of his pocket and bit into it. He chewed, grimacing at the way the shell shattered under his teeth. Not pleasant.

Charz finished off another egg and bit a large roll in half. “What are you doing here, anyway? Ain’t you supposed to be studying with Sir Edge’s mom in the mornings?”

“She’s in a council meeting, so I thought I would come and get you to spar with me,” Fist replied. He took out another egg, but shelled it this time.

“Spar?” The giant raised a hairless rocky eyebrow as he chewed some more. “You mean you want to try out your new spells on me.”

Fist looked away from Charz and chewed the egg, wishing he’d had some salt and pepper. “While we are sparring, I will use my magic. So, yes. That too.”

The thing that made Charz an ideal sparring partner for Fist was the giant’s unique ability to shake off damage. The crystal pendant that hung from the iron chain the giant wore allowed him to heal from most types of wounds. Fist had seen huge holes blown into the giant by Justan’s bow. He’d even seen the giant half melted to glass. Both times, the magic had healed him back to normal.

“But you’re not supposed to be practicing those spells without Sherl around,” Charz said. He pointed a finger at Fist. “She says they’re ‘too dangerous’.”

“I know,” Fist said, rubbing his ear against his shoulder. “But we’re going to do it anyway and hope she doesn’t find out. It’s called, ‘skullduggery’.”

Charz frowned. “I don’t think that’s what that word means.”

“Yes it is. It’s my word of the day,” Fist replied. “It’s in my book if you want to look.”

The giant rolled his eyes. “Whatever you say. Still, you’re crazy if you think I’m gonna just stand there and let you shock me with lightning spells.”

“It’ll be more than that,” Fist promised. “We’ll fight, too. I need the exercise.”

“Yeah, right. If you really wanted to fight, you would have brought your shield and armor.” The giant upended the paper bag into his mouth, knocking in the rest of the sausages.

“I know you like the challenge,” Fist said in a tempting voice.

Charz’s attitude was quite different from the way it had been when Fist first met him. At one time, the thrill of the fight had been the only thing the giant cared about. That mindset had gotten him into trouble and he had spent a century imprisoned next to a cave. He was reformed now and wasn’t a danger, but the thought of a good battle still excited him.

“Hmph,” Charz said, his mouth full. He gave Fist a sideways glance, then swallowed. “You are one of the best fights in this place, I’ll give you that much.”

“Then you’ll come?” Fist said.

“I guess so. I-.” He slammed a heavy fist on the table, barely missing Squirrel, who jumped out of the way at the last possible moment. “Don’t you even think of eating my food, you little weasel!” He swung his hand, causing Squirrel to jump over to Fist and scurry into his pouch. Charz gestured at the ogre. “You tell him that I’m not forgiving him that easy. He’ll have to make it up to me.”

“He hears you,” Fist assured him. He dropped a roll into the pouch. Thanks for waking him. He received a satisfied chuckle through the bond in response.

“Alright, let’s go then,” Charz said. He stood and walked towards the door.

“You’re not going to get dressed?” Fist asked.

Charz’s shoulders slumped and he walked over to the table piled with clothes. He shuffled through them and pulled out a torn pair of pants and a shirt that wasn’t too badly stained. He began pulling them on. “I’m tired of these stupid wizards, insisting I walk around dressed all the time. I’m terrible on clothes.”

“I know what you mean,” Fist said. And he did. No matter how well humans tried to tailor clothes for him, they usually ended up damaged in some way. “Better material is what we need.”

“I know!” Charz replied. “I keep telling Alfred that all I need is a pair of pants that stretch.”

He bent over beside his pile of mattresses and picked up his trident. The three-pronged weapon was large and frightening, as tall as the giant was. The two outer prongs were sharpened like swords while the taller center prong was shaped like a spearhead. The metal had been etched with water runes and Fist knew wounds it made were slow to heal. His goal for the day would be not to get hit by that thing.

They left the warehouse and headed west towards the Magic Testing Center. It wasn’t too far away. Just a quick stroll and they were there. It was a large rectangular building consisting of rows of rooms specifically made for the purpose of testing out dangerous types of spells.

Fist stopped just outside the main door and opened Squirrel’s pouch. “You should get out, Squirrel.”

Squirrel didn’t argue. He usually liked to watch when it came time for Fist to fight, but this time he knew what kind of spells the ogre planned to use. He left the pouch and darted over to the nearest tree.

Fist and Charz entered the building. The female mage on duty saw the two of them approaching and smiled as she handed out a key. “Try not to break the place, you two.”

“Thank you,” Fist said as he took the key from the woman.

It wouldn’t be a problem. Each wall in the place was reinforced by multiple runes protecting them from magical or physical damage. They headed down the hallway and soon arrived at their assigned door. The rooms were all pretty much the same.

Fist opened the door to a space slightly larger than Charz’s place. It was wide and open and empty with a dirt floor. Perfect for the ogre’s purposes.

Charz walked to the center of the room and turned to face him, his trident at the ready. “Let’s get started.”

“Just a minute.” The ogre stabbed the spiky tip of his mace into the ground, then took off his glove and removed his robe. He then placed both the robe and Squirrel’s pouch into a rectangular trunk next to the door where it would be protected from his spells.

Fist picked up his mace, feeling the quickness of its magic overtake him.

“You ready?” Charz asked with an eager smile.

Fist sent out threads of earth and air, wrapping them around his body. He started the strands vibrating. Shimmering sparks of electricity flared up all around him. “Let’s fight.”

Charz laughed and charged.

 

END OF CHAPTER ONE

Chapter Two HERE

The Ogre Apprentice Update

Howdy folks!

I’m sorry that updates have been a bit sparse lately. October has been a rough month. My grandmother died and after I came back from the funeral it was difficult for me to get back into the flow of writing. It really sucks and writer’s block is something that I have had difficulty believing in in the past. For me it is usually just something that I can power through, but this time it was a bit different.

As a result, I am afraid there is going to be a delay in the release of The Ogre Apprentice.

I am up and writing strong again, but it looks like the release will be pushed back to mid November. I hate to do it, especially after posting here that it would be finished by the end of the month, but I have no choice. Fear not, there will be more upcoming news regarding the adventures of Fist and Squirrel soon. I will be posting chapter one later this week for your reading pleasure and I will be revealing the cover as soon as it is completed.

In the meantime, here is the back cover blurb: SPOILERS if you have not read Tarah Woodblade and Protector of the Grove.

Fist is the only ogre ever to train at the Mage School. Yet he forces himself to learn faster than the other students knowing that Justan will soon need him. Justan is far away in Malaroo, struggling to win over Jhonate’s father while a deadly shape-shifting assassin seeks his life, endangering those around him.

Fists plans are derailed and his burgeoning powers tested when he receives a visit from the tribe he had long thought dead. An army closes in on the grove, a new race of beasts emerges from the swamps, and a great evil grows in the mountains. The survival of the known lands may depend on the strength of The Ogre Apprentice.

Here is more information I can give you about the storyline. Like with Protector of the Grove, this will focus on two storylines. Mainly, that of Fist and Squirrel and that of Justan and his adventures in Malaroo. There is not much else I can tell you without spoiling a lot of fun revelations, but stay tuned.

Thank you for your patience,

Trevor H. Cooley

 

In the meantime, please check out the audiobook for Eye of the Moonrat, available on Audible, Amazon, and Itunes! Please give it a listen and leave a review. I need reviews!

 

Eye of the Moonrat Audiobook is available now!!

Hey folks! Great news.

Eye of the Moonrat is available on Audible right now! I had approved the audio files just over a week ago and I was just waiting to hear back from Audible. Well, surprise! It’s here.

Here is the link: http://www.audible.com/pd/Sci-Fi-Fantasy/Eye-of-the-Moonrat-Audiobook/B00OGHSQ54

EOTM-ebook
It will show up on Amazon and Itunes in the next few days.

EDIT: It is on Amazon and Itunes now. http://www.amazon.com/Eye-Moonrat-Bowl-Souls-Book/dp/B00OI2HPO0 and https://itunes.apple.com/nz/audiobook/eye-moonrat-bowl-souls-book/id929809441

I have already listened to it and James Foster, Audiobook Narrator does a fantastic job narrating it. Please listen. There is a sample on the page.

For those of you unfamiliar with Audible, here is how it works. It is a monthly subscription service. $14.95 a month and you get one audiobook a month at not additional cost, plus discounts on all the other books they have available. (Which is almost every book that has an audio form.)

They offer a one month free trial, so if you start the trial and get Eye of the Moonrat, you get it for free! In addition I get a bonus each time Eye of the Moonrat is someone’s first book as a member, so please go for it. I should note that I only get credit for it if the person who gets it stays a member for three months.

At any rate, IT’S HERE. Please share, especially if you have friends that only do audiobooks. I know there are many people that told me it is the only way they read.

Thanks,

Trevor H. Cooley

 

Early October Update and Eye of the Moonrat FREE This Weekend!

What a crazy month it has been since my last post. I have some cool news to share.

First, The Ogre Apprentice release will be late this month. I have been delayed a bit by the passing of my grandmother. She was a great woman and very important to me. I’ll miss her.

Second, I have received the finished audiobook files for Eye of the Moonrat. I am reviewing them right now and they sound great. James Foster did a fantastic job. You guys are going to love it. I will update you again when I am sure of the release date. As soon as I have finished my listen through, I will pass it on to Audible and their quality control review could take another week or two. I am hoping it is out by the end of the month but since this is my first go around with them we will just have to wait and see.

Third, the lovely and talented Renu Sharma is already at work on the cover for The Ogre Apprentice. I love the idea for the cover and I think you will too. I will reveal it as soon as it is finished.

EOTM-ebook

Lastly for now, Amazon is running a promotion for Eye of the Moonrat. The kindle edition will be offered for FREE from today, October 3rd through Thursday, October 7th. Please if you have not yet started the series, pick it up now. This is also a great opportunity for you to share the series with your friends. Please let them know that the book is free. They can pick it up and read it through the Kindle App on their phones, laptops, or tablets if they don’t have a Kindle. Link HERE

Thank you so much. You guys are going to love this new book. So much great Fist and Squirrel interaction!

Trevor

Book Eight Title Announcement and Audiobook Narrator

Howdy folks.

It has been a full month since the release of Protector of the Grove and the response was been wonderful.

August 20th was also the one year anniversary of the day I quit my day job of fourteen years to write full time. I really want to thank all of you for taking your valuable time and actually spending it on reading my books. And for those that tell their friends about them, thank you even more. It is crazy to think that this is my job. I still get a thrill every time I think about someone new reading about these characters that have occupied my mind for so long.

Now to the promised announcement. When I finished Protector of the Grove, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to name the next book. I knew the general plot, of course, but my wife and I argued back and forth about the title. There were several that I liked, but for one reason or another, they didn’t quite fit. Finally I came up with one that both my wife and I could agree on.

Book Three of the Jharro Grove Saga will be titled, THE OGRE APPRENTICE.

If you haven’t read Protector of the Grove yet, MINOR SPOILERS BEGIN

Yes, most of you have guessed what the title means. Fist has a major role in the next book. Somewhat like Protector of the Grove, it will mainly follow two parallel story lines. Fist’s and Justan’s, with Tarah’s adventures taking somewhat of a minor role for now. The release date is planned for October. (Sorry I can’t get more specific than that.) Stay tuned for more details as we get closer to the release.

END OF SPOILERS

Announcement number two has to do with the audiobook for Eye of the Moonrat. After going through many auditions, we found the person we felt best suited the job. His name is James Foster. He has a number of other books under his belt and he is professional and great to work with. You can read more about him and listen to samples on his site http://jamesnarrates.com/ or at Audible. Please contact him and tell him how excited you are to listen to Eye of the Moonrat.

He should be finished with the narration by the end of October and then we will need to submit it to Audible for approval. Again, stay tuned here for updates as we get closer.

Thanks,

Trevor

Mid-August Update and Kindle Unlimited

Howdy folks!

A lot has been going on since the release of Protector of the Grove. I have a couple minor announcements and one major one.

Auditions for the audiobook of Eye of the Moonrat are closed now. I will announce the narrator soon.

Work on book three of the Jharro Grove Saga is underway. I plan on an October release. I have a few titles in mind that my wife/editor and I are still debating about. I hope to announce that some time in the next week or so.

My major announcement has to do with Kindle Unlimited. As most of you know, Kindle Unlimited is a new program introduced by Amazon that is their attempt to create a Netflix-like program for ebooks. It is basically an online library where, for 9.99 per month, you can rent as many books  as you want for no additional cost. The program began last month and I have been unsure whether or not to join the program. LINK HERE

There is a lot of controversy in the independent author community about this program for a few reasons. In order for their books to be eligible, an author has to make their books exclusive to Amazon. This means that we can’t have our books available on any other platform. But since Amazon sales make up about 98.5% of my sales, that isn’t so big of a loss as it seems. The other concern is how much money an author makes from these rentals. The way it works is that Amazon budgets a certain dollar figure and puts this money into a big pot. This amount is divided up equally to all rentals where a consumer reads at least 10% of the book. So if Amazon budgets two million for the program and there are two million rentals, authors get paid one dollar for each time their book is rented.  This is good for writers that sell their books for 99 cents, but not so good for those of us who sell our books for 2.99 or more.

What writers get in exchange for putting their books into the program is added exposure. Hopefully readers that normally wouldn’t take a chance on an independent writer’s books because of the money cost involved will now download the book and give it a try. In addition all rentals count towards Amazon’s sales rankings and so far books that are in the program have been getting a nice boost.

Now I made Protector of the Grove and Tarah Woodblade part of the program a couple weeks ago to see what would happen and both books have been doing quite well. So after weighing the options, I have decided to make the entire Bowl of Souls series available starting today. I am giving this a 90 day trial at which point I will decide whether to keep the books in KU or not.

What does this mean for you, dear reader? Well, the only downside is that for the next 90 days my books will not be available on any other platform but Amazon. I apologize to those of you who prefer other devices, but there are kindle apps for your phones and tablets as well as your desktop computer. This will NOT effect books you have already downloaded (they won’t disappear) and it will also not affect the sale of physical copies. They are still available everywhere they once were.

The good news is that anyone who wants to give the series a try can do it for free as part of the Kindle Unlimited program. So please spread the word. If you have any friends that are fence sitters, this is the time to nudge them off. The downloads made using KU are rentals and not permanent purchases so keep that in mind. I think the most rentals you can have on your kindle at any time is ten.

I am excited to see if this helps increase the visibility for my titles.

Here is a link for those interested.

Please share your thoughts in the comments below. I’ll be sharing more news soon. Thanks!

Trevor H. Cooley

 

Post Book Release Update and Audiobook Auditions

Howdy folks!

So cool stuff is happening. Protector of the Grove came out last week. It is currently climbing the charts over at Amazon. Please spread the word, buy a copy, and post a review when you’re done. It’s how I stay afloat. Also feel free to contact me in the comment section (non spoiler please) or using the contact page (If you want to talk spoilery details or ask me a question)

I will get started on the next book soon, but in the meantime I am taking auditions for narrators for Eye of the Moonrat on audiobook. In order to qualify, you need to have your own recording equipment and go to ACX.com to sign yourself up as a producer. Then you can submit an audition recording to me there. I have a script segment you can download which is a scene from the beginning of the book. I’m not sure how long I will be taking auditions. It could be a couple weeks or days if the right fit comes along. https://www.acx.com/titleview/A3J0WX6LUKN6IQ

This means that hopefully we will be getting the Moonrat Saga books in audiobook format one by one starting this fall. Obviously several things have to come together before then, but I’m optimistic.

I will post more details here as they become available.

Thanks,

Trevor H. Cooley

Protector of the Grove has been released!

Howdy folks.

Awesome news! I just uploaded Protector of the Grove to Amazon.  It could take up to twelve hours for the book to appear but I often have readers tell me they see it within four to six. Please tell me in the comments below when you get it. I’ll come back and post a link when I know for sure the book is live.

UPDATE: It’s live. http://www.amazon.com/Protector-Grove-Bowl-Souls-Book-ebook/dp/B00M3I5EU8/

I have also already uploaded the physical copy of the book to Createspace. It should be available on Amazon within a day or two.

Whoo! This has felt like a long haul. The last month has been especially crazy with all the work I had to do. Twenty page days. Writing from noon to 3 AM. Exhausting.

POTGebook

Please tell your friends! Share on Facebook, Twitter, whatever. Get the word out. We need this one to be a hit!

Thanks for your support,

Trevor H. Cooley