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Universe of G-Minor - Ghibbore Title

Chapter 1

First appearances are deceiving. No one is what they seem.
– The Proverbs of Shedey’uwr

Thunk!Book Cover Universe of g-Minor

The deer staggered under the impact of the heavy war spear. He regained his balance then stood for a moment as if confused about which way to run. Storm didn’t give him time to decide. With an exultant shout, he burst from the bushes and flung himself on the stag, slashing with his boot knife.

His quarry lurched under this new impact as the heavy barbarian landed on his back. He recovered quickly, flinging his head from side to side. Storm hissed as the antlers gored his left shoulder. His grip loosened and he felt himself starting to slide. He scrambled madly and his foot found purchase on the spear embedded in the deer, who bleated in sudden pain. Before he could escape, Storm lashed out with blinding speed, tearing open the jugular then leaped away, wincing with pain as the landing jarred his wounded shoulder.

Although the stag was clearly dying, he danced back as it staggered forward several steps before surrendering to the inevitable. It dropped, quivered a time or two then quit moving.

Storm grinned. A stag this size would feed him for days.

His grin faded however as he surveyed his wound. It was foolish attacking with only his knife. One of the first lessons he’d learned as a child was even a timid animal would fight like a dragon when cornered. Living here in the civilized south was making him careless. He was lucky to get off so cheaply.

Striding back to his blind in the bushes he stuck in a long arm and pulled out a battered backpack. Pawing through it he pulled out his medicine pouch. Inside were the herbs, compresses, and bandages that made up the normal field kit of a T’thalian soldier, left over from his short stint fighting alongside their army as a mercenary. Washing his wound, he applied them with quick, practiced movements.

At more than four cubits and a span in height, Storm was three talents weight of pure muscle and power. His skin was bronzed from years in the sun. His shoulder length, black hair moved gently in the breeze as he dressed out the fallen deer. His short beard lent his face a rugged aspect but couldn’t hide his evident intelligence. He was dressed in the normal attire of his barbarian tribe to the north – leather vest, pants and high laced boots. Steel bracers covered his wrists and forearms. A great hand-and-a-half sword, sometimes known as a bastard sword, dangled at his side; the brilliant sapphire set in the pommel matched his piercing, blue eyes.

By sunset, the deer was expertly butchered. Small strips of meat hung drying over the fire while Storm tore at a thick steak, washed down with enormous pulls at his wine skin. His war-horse, a bay stallion, stood guard just beyond the fire. Specter’s flashing hooves and vicious teeth promised certain, painful death to anyone foolish enough to approach without his master’s consent.

As Storm hung new strips of meat over the fire he reflected the stag hadn’t really fought like a dragon but allowing himself to be wounded showed how far he’d drifted from the upbringing of his adopted barbarian family, the Bear Clan.

On the lower slopes of the great Rampart Mountains which spanned the northern edge of Gaia, the Bear Clan roamed the peaks and crags less than a hundred leagues northwest of the Shimmerwood where the elves of old still held power, creating many things of art and beauty.

He’d been found 24 years ago, lying on a rock in the midst of the worst summer storm in recent memory. He was barely a year old when Vamer and Nadia found him crying in the pounding wind, rain, and lightning. For 40 years Nadia had been barren and she’ seen him as a gift from the gods to ease the pain of an empty womb. Vamer, despairing of a son to follow in his footsteps, agreed to raise the squalling infant as their own and so they named him after the storm that was raging when they found him.

By the time he was 15 though, his hot temper, hatred of the gods of Gaia, The Six, as they were called, and implacable demands for justice, an unusual trait among the Clans, led to a final falling out between him and Vamer.

He left and never went back.

Shortly afterward, he came across a trade caravan camped for the night on the banks of a river. At first, he’d thought to raid them for weapons and food. Reason asserted itself quickly though. Caravans traveled through dangerous territory all the time, prepared for trouble at a moment's notice. If he was discovered, armed guards and trained dogs would be set upon him. He was powerful but only one man.

He decided to try joining them instead.

The next morning a startled caravan leader found a half-naked barbarian youth crouched beside the fire warming his hands, weapons laid carefully out of reach in an obvious attempt at peace. The grizzled old man, impressed at the stealth which got him into camp undetected and the bravery leading him to stay to face the consequences of his actions, crouched beside the barbarian youth to speak to him at length.

When the caravan left, Storm went with it.

He worked first as a general hand, chopping wood, hunting food, caring for the horses, loading and unloading wagons. Soon he became a night guard. Building on what Vamer taught him, he learned to wield a sword in a school where failure meant instant death. He picked up some scars but they were few and far between. His keen intelligence made him a quick study. He learned everything they shoved at him. His savage upbringing and natural prowess lent him a speed and stamina that became the envy of everyone, and the bane of his enemies. In battle, he easily wielded in one hand, weapons lesser men had to wield with two. He trained himself to use a dagger or short sword in his left hand while swinging his regular sword in his right, a style of fighting which baffled his many opponents.

His fighting skill soon earned him great renown among the caravan leaders who traveled the trade routes throughout the north and the east. They began struggling to outbid each other for his services for no caravan had ever fallen while he rode with it. He was given command of great numbers of soldiers. With authority came responsibility and the need to read and write. He learned quickly and was given still greater responsibility.

He rode in caravans visiting all the great cities up and down the shores of the Overdark Ocean. He rode inland too, reaching as far west across the River Lands as Sairaw, known as the City of the Winds, on the southern tip of the Sorgo Mountains which came down from the mighty Ramparts and south to Nahor, on the shores of Namak Lake and across the great plains of the Biqah, which the tribes there pronounced bĕ-kä'. He’d even become blood brothers with Crowsotarri, the chieftain of one of the many Biqah tribes (the prairie folk took their name from the land, so Biqah meant both the prairie and the people). For ten years he traveled with first one caravan then another until his purse was heavy with coin.

Then, in the T’thalian Empire, he'd nearly joined their army when they went to war with their ancient enemy, Carrzulm. The island empire depended heavily on the annual whale harvest to support their teeming cities while the corrupt Carrzulmans killed them only for the perfumes they could make from the scent glands. It was a war which had been fought many times before, and as always, both sides paid handsomely for mercenaries who could turn the tide of battle.

All in all, Storm reflected as he hung more meat over the fire, he’d seen more of Gaia than any ten men put together. His current mission, to lead a small caravan from Zered to Robling, the capital of Ingold, was a bit of a milk run for him. The mountain kingdom was heavily traveled by most caravans and well known to him; he’d been through it many times. What was intriguing was the princely sum he’d been offered; one hundred gold coins, usually known as crowns. At the standard exchange rates, it worked out to 5000 copper pieces. Since most inns charged 5 coppers for dinner and a night’s lodging, it meant he could afford to live high on the hog for over two years without lifting so much as a finger! It made him wonder what was so important – or dangerous. Not that he really cared; he’d lived with danger his whole life. He massaged his wounded shoulder. He could handle it, assuming he didn’t get killed by the first wild animal he encountered along the way.

Over the next several days he sought out wild boars, even a bear, polishing up long unused woodland skills. He ran through the mountains with Specter at his heels, pushing himself to the limit. By the time he rode down out of the Coast Mountains he once more felt confident of his ability to handle himself and his surroundings.

In high spirits he approached Zered for his next assignment, steadfastly ignoring the still small voice arguing he was wasting his life doing the same thing over and over again, just like before.

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