Book One of The Death Wizard Chronicles, a six-book epic fantasy.
Only a Death-Knower can die. And live again.
Only a Death-Knower can return from death. And remember.
Only a Death-Knower can tell the world what he’s seen. Not all care to listen.
For a thousand years, none have rivaled the power of Torg, the Death-Knower wizard, as he ruled his people and kept peace on Triken.
Now a new threat has suddenly arisen. The evil sorcerer Invictus is greater even than Torg, and his greed and ambition threaten to engulf the land in eternal darkness. When Invictus imprisons Torg in a horrifying pit bored into the solid rock of a frozen mountain, the fate of Triken hangs in the balance.
Torg becomes freedom’s final hope, but first he must die to earn the victory.
Targeted Age Group:: 21-65
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
I wrote my first novel when I was 21 years old and Jimmy Carter was president. Sarah’s Curse was an artsy murder mystery bursting with passion and intensity. I shopped it around to various publishers and got no bites, but I wasn’t particularly concerned at the time. It’s usually the second or third novel that hits it big, right? So I went about the business of writing my second book.
At this point in my life, I was in love with J.R.R. Tolkien (and still am), so I decided that my second novel would be a high fantasy. My roiling imagination gave birth to a character named Torg, and he was to be king of a band of desert warriors called Tugars. I made up these names just because they sounded cool.
Needless to say, I was full of zest and excitement — but not necessarily of worldliness or maturity. Over the next several years, every time I sat down to write about Torg I’d get a few pages in and then hit a wall. Each time, my excuse was that I was just too busy. I already was married, raising a family, and working a challenging job at a big newspaper. That’s a lot for any young person to handle, right?
Years turned into decades. As I said, I wrote my first novel at 21. It wasn’t until age 45 that I wrote my second one. And my how things had changed over the course of that time. George Bush now was president, for one thing. I was remarried and had five daughters, the youngest three of whom were adopted from Cambodia. But most importantly, at least as far as my writing career was concerned, I finally had developed the worldiness and maturity to bring Torg and the Tugars to life at the level of quality they deserved. After almost 25 years of starts and stops, The Death Wizard Chronicles was born for real. I wrote the first page of Book 1 in September 2004. Almost 700,000 words later, I wrote the last word of Book 6 in late 2007.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
Countless hours, days, weeks, months, years of thinking, thinking, thinking. Plus, my epic fantasy series has a lot going on between the lines, and the characters reflect that symbolically.
(The warrior Sōbhana attempts to rescue Torg, the Death-Knower wizard, from the clutches of the evil monster Mala. She follows Torg as he is paraded by Mala to the doorstep of Avici, home of Invictus the sorcerer. In the following scene from Forged in Death, Sōbhana witnesses Torg’s encounter with the most powerful dragon who ever lived.)
From where she hid, Sōbhana could now see the southern bridge, which rose steeply from the main wall, towering above the churning currents. As Mala approached the bridge, the main strength of Invictus’ army greeted his brigade. Sōbhana guessed that more than two hundred thousand lined Ogha’s steep banks, some of whom stood ten-deep on the bridge and wall. Having a warrior’s ability to discern the extent of an enemy’s forces, Sōbhana quickly recognized that the majority of the army was made up of golden soldiers. But at least a fifth of it appeared to have been recruited from other places. The druids of Dhutanga, who had spent centuries rebuilding their numbers after their failed war with Jivita, probably numbered ten thousand. The wild men of the Kolankold Mountains had provided another five thousand, and at least five thousand Pabbajja, the Homeless People who lived on the fringes of Java, were there. Added to the horde were five thousand Mogols, who dwelled in the Mahaggata Mountains. Many wicked creatures from Mahaggata’s interior also had answered Invictus’ call, including dracools, Stone-Eaters and wolves. There were dark places beneath the mountains, as well, and from there Invictus had lured cave trolls and mud ogres, and apparently given them potions to enable them to tolerate sunlight. There were smaller numbers of other zealots: demons, ghouls, and vampires from Arupa-Loka; murderers, rapists, and thieves from Duccarita; Warlish witches and their servant hags from Kamupadana. Also included in the hideous menagerie was a slew of misshapen monsters that Sōbhana had never before seen: a pair of three-headed giants who dwarfed even Mala; creatures who were part human and part animal or insect; and beasts with mouths full of sharp teeth that hungered for human flesh.
The sheer numbers staggered Sōbhana.
But her dismay was minuscule compared to what next appeared before her. Apparently the Chain Man wasn’t Invictus’ only favorite pet. As if the sorcerer needed any more weapons in his vast arsenal, another mighty ally had joined his army. A great dragon perched on the highest framework of the bridge. Even so far away, she could see the beast was fully two hundred cubits long from head to tail and probably weighing several thousand stones.
Though she had never actually seen one, Sōbhana had heard tales of the great dragons. The eldest among them was named Bhayatupa, who was said to be as powerful as he was ancient. As the legends foretold, Bhayatupa had ruled sprawling kingdoms, fought countless battles and slaughtered many brave warriors during his millennia-long existence.
Could this be that dragon? How could it not? It was huge beyond comprehension.
With the vast gathering watching Mala’s every move, the Chain Man strode toward the bridge. The army cheered. Invictus was its king, but Mala was its general. It was obvious that this army had been bequeathed to him. When it came time to unleash its power, the ruined snow giant would be at its helm, and Sōbhana and the Tugars would face their sternest test .
Since departing Dibbu-Loka, Sōbhana had been barely able to tolerate watching Torg endure such ruthless torment. But seeing the dragon pained her even more. Mala was frightening, but not invincible. Invictus, whom she had yet to face, still felt more like legend than reality. The golden soldiers, despite their daunting numbers, were not nearly as well-trained as the Tugars. The other monsters presented certain difficulties, but they could be defeated. The dragon, however, was far more perilous.
From her hiding place in a thick copse several hundred paces from the bridge, Sōbhana saw the behemoth as the coming of doom. As she gazed at the dragon, she felt true fear the first time in her life. This creature was beyond her in all ways.
Finally she understood Torg’s mind. Her king had recognized before any of the rest of them that the Tugars could not prevail against Invictus by force. The legions of good had enjoyed many years of peace and superiority on Triken, but the Sun God, in a mere century of life, had changed all that. Sōbhana recognized that the world now approached a dangerous crossroads, and higher forces—karma, truth, love—would play the determining roles in the outcome. She now understood that Torg had surrendered to Mala in order to set those forces in motion.
What happened next caused her to tremble yet again. When the dragon spied Torg, it spread its colossal wings and sprang off the high bridge, landing on the ground in front of the wizard, who still was confined on the wagon by the magical restraining device. Its crimson head alone was twice as long as Torg’s entire body and each of its fearsome eyes was more than two cubits in diameter. The beast bent its long neck, tilted its right eye toward Torg and glided within a finger-length of the Death-Knower’s face.
All went quiet. Even Mala dropped his arms and froze. There was magic in the air—born in a time long past.
Sōbhana was close enough to make out the details of Torg’s face, and she saw that he did not flinch. His courage smote her heart.
When the dragon spoke, some fell to their knees. Its voice assaulted the senses. It reminded Sōbhana of the dust in a hoary crypt. “Te tam maranavidum aacikkhanti. (They call thee a Death-Knower),” said the dragon, speaking in the ancient tongue.
“Te tam rakkhasam aacikkhanti. (They call thee a Monster),” Torg responded.
The dragon snorted. Blood-colored flames spewed from its nostrils, bathing Torg’s face but doing little visible damage.
When the dragon next spoke, it was in the common tongue that most understood. “I would learn more.”
“Tell my why,” Torg said.
“Abhisambodhi. (Enlightenment),” the dragon said.
“You fear death, as do most,” the wizard said. “But what you desire to achieve is beyond you—or anyone ignorant enough to take up with this rabble.”
The dragon was startled, and it rose to its full height, towering high above all in attendance. But Mala appeared to have heard enough. He boldly stepped in front of the dragon and slapped Torg across the face. “Shut up, little fool. Do not speak again unless my king demands it.”
Then he shook his bulky fist at the dragon’s titanic presence. “Until we stand before our king, all interrogations of the prisoner will be carried out by me. Do you understand?”
The dragon’s head and neck made loud swishing sounds as they swayed through the air. Sōbhana thought the beast might bend down and devour Mala whole. Instead the dragon said, “I understand . . . Adho Satta. (Low one.)” But before returning to his perch on the bridge, he said one more thing to Torg: “Bhayatupa amarattam tanhiiyati. (Bhayatupa craves eternal existence).”
So it was Bhayatupa.
Sōbhana was so amazed, she failed to hear if Torg said anything more.
About the Author:
Jim Melvin was born in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., but grew up in St. Petersburg, Fla. He graduated from the University of South Florida (Tampa) in 1979 with a B.A. in Journalism. He now lives in South Carolina near the Blue Ridge Mountains, a pleasant setting for writing, to say the least.
He was an award-winning journalist at the St. Petersburg Times for twenty-five years. He is married with five daughters.
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