THE GAUNTLET THROWN (Book 1 of the Gauntlet Trilogy)

Epic Fantasy filled with heroes, adventure and friendship

A bejeweled steel gauntlet sits upright in a stone archway. Cover art for The Gauntlet Thrown by Cheryl Dyson & Xina Marie UhlBrydon’s quest was simple. Borrow the fabled Gauntlet of Ven-Kerrick, bring it home to prove his worth, marry the princess, and ascend the throne.

He had planned for the dangerous terrain and Redolian assassins, but he did not count on slavers and werewolves. He did not expect the Gauntlet to be missing, nor to find the Kerrick royal family murdered, and he definitely did not anticipate the distractions of a sultry thief and a rescued slave girl.

Luckily, his worst enemy was there to help him out.

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Reviews

“This book is simply amazing. It should be made into a movie. Or at the least a video game. I could see some amazing combat mechanics using the Vai prowess.”- Tyer Hannah (full review here)

“It was a very good story, and the rest is yet to be told! I cannot wait for the second book to be published! The saltiness in Brydon and Toryn’s relationship is very amusing, considering you practically need the jaws of life to pull their friendship apart.”- R.M. Fraser (full review here)

“This book is so well written it’s hard to understand why it’s free. It has everything a good fantasy story needs – a knight on a quest, unlikely companions, and unforeseen trouble when they finally reach their goal. I’m looking forward to the sequel!”- Frost Schutz (full review here)

“This is a cracking read and I would pay good money to have it in hardcopy.”- Fantasyebookreview.blogspot.com (full review here)

Excerpt

CHAPTER ONE

THE FALARAN

Brydon sat up with a gasp. He peered into the darkness, senses straining for any hint of movement or sound. He strove to calm his apprehension as he listened to the chirp of crickets and the buzz of insects around his guttering fire, but something had awakened him. He slipped from his makeshift bed as quietly as possible and reached for his nearby sword, buckling it around his hips as he stood up.

He picked up his bow and pondered his makeshift bed for a moment. He set his bow down long enough to stuff the empty blankets with spare clothing pilfered from his pack, forming the general outline of a sleeping figure. Then he took up his bow again and slung the quiver of arrows over his shoulder. He eased into the trees and waited, watchful.

After long minutes, Brydon’s initial tension faded into impatience. The night seemed perfectly normal. He suppressed a sigh and leaned back against the nearest tree trunk. His fingers loosened around the leather grip of his longbow and his thumb idly brushed the line in a tuneless rhythm, silenced by his palm before its twang could vibrate through the still air. The tip of the arrow drooped, fletching caught loosely between his fingers. The red and brown feathers appeared gray in the darkness.

“Where are you?” he muttered after the minutes had dragged into something closer to an hour. The chill had seeped into his bones. Winter was not long past, and it was plenty cold enough to numb his extremities. He flexed his stiff fingers and half-hoped his premonition was wrong. Perhaps there was no one there, and he could continue his journey without senseless bloodshed—possibly his own. If Redolians lurked in the darkness, they would not hesitate to kill him, a lone Falaran. Brydon’s business and his route were hardly secret. He hoped they were relatively few in number, although he was confident of his skill. He could probably take on four, possibly five.

A breeze drifted by and ruffled his hair, carrying the scent of pine, forest mulch, and wood smoke from the dying flicker of his campfire. His eyes went to his makeshift bed and then back to the forest; the area was thick with shadows. He wished briefly for moonlight as the breeze sprang up again, more insistently. As if the wind had been a signal, four of the shadows came to life. Steel glinted in the starlight as the figures crossed the clearing and leaped upon the blankets. Brydon felt a flash of satisfaction even as he scowled. Bastards without honor, he thought, trying to kill me in my sleep.

He pulled the string taut as the first dagger stabbed into his bedding. The arrow hissed before it plunged into the man’s throat. Brydon smoothly nocked another arrow. The second man halted his knife in mid-swing and turned toward him. The second shaft drove into the man’s chest. Simmering anger drove the chill from Brydon’s blood. He held no hatred for his attackers, but their cowardly behavior had earned them no mercy. The third man was faster. He threw a dagger as Brydon tugged another arrow from his quiver. The dagger whizzed by Brydon’s ear and caromed into the trees as Brydon’s arrow pierced the assassin’s chest. He fell with a loud cry.

The fourth man stood his ground, peering into the trees where Brydon stood. He had not leapt forward with the same enthusiasm of the others. Brydon wondered why he had hung back when the others had attacked. Perhaps he had no liking for the job? Brydon stayed his hand and relaxed his hold on the bowstring. The would-be killer raised his sword and the blade reflected the orange glow from the fire as it moved.

“Well, Falaran,” the man snarled, “what are you waiting for? Are you hoping I’ll run?”

He stepped forward and Brydon drew back on the string. The firelight caught the man’s features for a moment and the sight deflated Brydon’s growing anger in a rush of astonishment.

“Kellyn?” he breathed. It was impossible! Kellyn was two years dead. Brydon had lit the torch at his funeral. He shut his eyes for an instant and then banished the image as he released the arrow. The man lurched at the impact and crumpled into the dust.

Brydon walked into the circle of fallen men and kicked the sword away from his final assailant. The man did not stir. Brydon unsheathed a dagger and knelt to press his fingers against the man’s neck; his pulse beat strongly. Brydon tipped the man’s head to the side and nodded in satisfaction. The arrow had grazed a nasty furrow in his scalp just above his left ear, but he would not die from such a small wound.

Up close he bore little resemblance to Kellyn. It had obviously been an odd trick of the light. Still, the incident left Brydon uneasy. Kellyn had been his best friend. Was it an omen that had caused him spare the man’s life, or simply a strange coincidence? He pondered the wisdom of allowing the man to live, but he was no cold-blooded murderer. He had killed to defend himself and felt some remorse for lying in wait for them in the darkness. It seemed dishonorable, even though he would have stood no chance against them in honest combat.

The other three were dead. Brydon had expected an attack since leaving his escort three days ago, but he had hoped to avoid it. His attackers were definitely Redolian; their appearance confirmed it, and their hostility came as no surprise—Falara had been at war with them for decades.

Brydon removed the man’s hidden weapons (four daggers) before stoking the fire and heating some water. He dragged the man to the nearest tree and tied him securely, using strips cut from his damaged and bloodstained cloak, and then he washed and bandaged the arrow wound. The laceration still bled, but not enough for concern.

When the task was completed, Brydon turned his attention to the fallen men. He grimaced and dragged the first corpse into the trees before returning for the others. His first arrow had been true, piercing the man’s heart, but Brydon took no satisfaction from his marksmanship. Killing a man was a far cry from loosing arrows at targets or hunting game. These men would never go home to their loved ones. Brydon spared a moment of sorrow for the unknown Redolians. What a useless waste.

Once he had dealt with the bodies, he returned to camp and knelt briefly before the fire. He said a quick prayer of thanks that his body was not cooling in the earth, and then he wrapped himself in his cloak. He spared one final look at the unconscious man before allowing sleep to claim him.

Maps and other extras available HERE.

Available Now – FREE

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Also available through Amazon.comBarnes & Noble NookiTunes, and Smashwords

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