- Kindle Serials: I stumbled upon the Kindle Serials section on Amazon a few weeks back. Even though I’d been there before I’d some how forgotten about it. Looking at the competition, it seemed there was a real good chance to break out. After all, in the fantasy genre there were only a dozen titles to choose from. Checking this out made me remember a blog post I’d read earlier about Kindle Serialized Fiction on Lindsay Buroker’s site, and things started to click.
- Wattpad: About a week after I re-discovered Kindle Serials I discovered Wattpad. This is a cool site that will allow you to put up chapters for others to read for free. If you do it often enough, and your work is good enough, you might be able to build up a sizeable following. I also managed to read a pretty good blog post about this, which was also on Lindsay Buroker’s site.
- Goodreads: I’ve been actively taking part in goodreads.com discussions for several months now. I started to get a feeling that people were looking for a little bit more from the fantasy genre. I got the sense that people wanted darker fantasy, grittier fantasy, and fantasy with an attitude. I thought that was pretty interesting, so started formulating some ideas.
- The Expendables: During my last month living in China I watched a lot of movies and drank a lot of beer. Hey, I wasn’t working that much, so it didn’t really matter. One movie that I downloaded was The Expendables. I’d never gotten around to it before, but I enjoyed it. And what’s more, it made me think that a team of mercenaries would be kind of cool in a fantasy novel.
The result is The Hirelings, a different take on the fantasy novel. I may or may not put it on Wattpad, and I may or may not go the Kindle Serials route with it. Hell, I may just get a cheap cover (like the one I have) and throw it out on Amazon when it’s all finished.
Who knows? Below is the first chapter.
Chapter 1 – The Plan
“Curses, almighty man!” a crusty dwarven voice called out as quietly as a whisper would allow. His dented helmet didn’t hide the scowl or the dark look in his eyes. His long white beard itself seemed to tremble in anger as he shot an angry glare back behind. “How many times have I got to tell ‘ye to put out that damned cigar?”
Dorn folded his arms across his chest and gripped his cigar between his teeth with a smile. Then he sucked the stub back behind his teeth, closed his mouth, and twirled the cigar about. By the time the right end was visible again the cigar was out.
“Show off,” Beldar mumbled under his breath as he turned his attention ahead once again.
A lithe female spellcaster walked up behind Dorn and hit him over the head with the flat of her hand.
“You trying to get us all killed here or something?” she said in a voice tinged with both anger and amusement.
“Beldar’ll do that easily enough,” Dorn snorted.
“Why are you still even here?” the woman asked.
Dorn chuckled. “Same reason as you, Glinny. The money.”
“This’ll be the last job I see you on,” Glinny said as she stalked angrily past Dorn. She passed by Ziggy on here way up the hill. “You pay attention to him,” she said in passing. “Learn what not to do if you want to be a mercenary.”
Ziggy looked forlornly at Dorn but he only shrugged. “Listen to her,” Dorn said.
Glinny reached the crest of the hill and knelt down beside Beldar. “What do you think?”
Beldar scratched at his beard and adjusted his helmet several times before speaking. “It’s not good.”
“You always say that before a job, while it’s happening, and especially after it’s done.”
“This time’s different,” Beldar said with a shake of his head. “Something smells funny.”
“Yeah, that would be that smelly orc you brought along,” Glinny said with a frown as she pinched her nose and waved her hand in front of her face. “They’ll smell him before they ever smell Dorn’s smoke.”
“Boom’s pure muscle, and we’ll need him once we get inside,” Beldar said without taking his eyes from the mansion ahead.
“Is that what you call him, Boom?”
Beldar nodded. “It’s his name, or at least the only word he knows. Sudar claims he bellows it out in battle, scaring off those smart enough not to get in his way.”
“Well, we won’t need him outside, that’s for sure,” Glinny said as she crept up closer to Beldar. “There’re no guards.”
“Oh, they’re there all right, you just can’t see ‘em is all.
“Where are they?” Glinny asked.
“There right there in front of the doors.”
Glinny peered forward then scowled down at Beldar. “Have you lost your senses, there’s no one there!”
Beldar smiled, a rare sight indeed. “They’re invisible. All fifteen of the guards are invisible and prowling the grounds, standing watch, and manning their posts.”
“How is that possible,” Glinny asked, “for that many men to be – ”
“Hey, what’s going on up there?” Dorn called up from below. “We’re getting sick and –”
“I’ll give ye something to be real sick and tired of here in a minute if you don’t shut up that bellowing real quick,” Beldar half whispered half shouted down the hill. He spun back around, panting from his effort. “I swear to ye, girl, that boy’s getting stupider and stupider each day.”
“I don’t want him on the team anymore, Beldar,” Glinny said, “do you got that?”
“Aye, I hear ye girl, but it’s not easy.”
“You better make it easy, or he’s going to get us all killed here soon.” Glinny looked back over her shoulder and then at the mansion again. “Ziggy’s a more than adequate replacement for Dorn, and what he don’t know now he can learn.”
“There’s no replacing Dorn and you know it,” Beldar said with a shake of his head.
“There’s no replacing me and you either.” Glinny braced her arm across Beldar’s shoulders and the crusty old dwarf looked up at her with the most emotion she’d seen from him in some time. “He’ll get us all killed, if not on this job then the next.”
Beldar nodded and several moments of silence passed as they both stared down at the mansion again.
“They’ve got a supply room in the basement, a whole lab for juice,” Beldar said after a while. “They keep it running day and night, and twice a day a wagon train comes in, dropping off one load and picking up another. What they use around here on invisibility potions is nothing.”
“An operation that large and you think we’re going to take it?”
Beldar scoffed. “Do we have a choice?”
Glinny nodded. “Not really.”
Beldar nodded. “There’s no way to it; we’ve got to get into that house and get enough viles not only for Chancy but for ourselves as well. I figure we get an extra bag of those starter beacons we’ll make more than double our take on this job already.”
“That much, really?” Glinny said with surprise.
Beldar shrugged his shoulders and chuckled. “Maybe more.”
“So how do we do it?”
“Toes is already out there scouting the place,” Beldar answered, peering out as if he could somehow spot the elusive elven scout.
“How can he scout around what he can’t see?” Glinny asked skeptically.
“He can hear, can’t he?” Beldar grunted. “By jeez, woman, sometimes I wonder as much about you as I do of Dorn.”
Glinny scoffed. “You should, we’ve all been together that long.”
Beldar’s reply was cut short by a faint whistle from Ziggy below.
“Toes and Theo are comin’ up,” Ziggy called up as quietly as his deep barbarian voice would allow.
He didn’t need to speak at all; Toes and Theo were already upon the two, though their approach had been so quiet and hidden that both Beldar and Glinny were taken by surprise.
“They’re everywhere,” Toes said without preamble. He was a handsome looking elf with short, dark hair but several scars marring his still-youthful face. His dark cloak was wrapped tightly about him, enabling him to blend in with even the rocky backdrop of the hill.
“He says they’re walking circuits back and forth in front of the place,” Theo said. The elven thief was smaller and uglier than Toes, if you could call an elf ugly. He purposefully kept his blond hair short and disdained elven attire and manner in general.
“How often,” Beldar said, perking up at the bad news.
“Every six minutes by my count,” Toes replied.
“That’s enough time to sneak past ‘em, right?” Both excitement and anxiety tinged Beldar’s voice, but his eyes glimmered nonetheless. Glinny couldn’t figure out if it was the lust for battle, the perceived riches, or both. She studied Toes for a moment, noticing none of the same responses. At best he was withdrawn; at worst he wasn’t there at all.
“And what’s beyond them?” she asked of Toes.
“Why riches of course,” Dorn said, coming up behind the four. “Riches for all, like always, and battle aplenty, isn’t that right, Beldar?”
“Keep it down fool!” Toes said behind him, not even raising his voice.
Dorn finished his laugh, although it seemed a bit cut off. His smile also faded rather quickly.
“How many do we have to fight?” he asked.
“If we can time it and miss a patrol, just eight men. If a patrol spots us then we’ll have to go against twelve,” Toes replied.
“And inside?” Theo asked, his earlier excitement for the job suddenly gone at the mention of fighting.
“Another ten fighting men, at least.” Toes looked up at Beldar. “It better well be worth the risk.”
Beldar clasped him on the shoulder. “It will be.”
“Where are the other three?” Ziggy asked. “You said there were fifteen men guarding the outside perimeter.”
“He’s right,” Glinny said. “Where are they, Toes?”
“I don’t know,” Toes shook his head. “I didn’t notice any trace of them at all.”
“Could they be inside,” Dorn asked, serious for a change.
“Aye, they could,” Beldar said, “and it also could be they got the night off for a change.” He laughed but his grin quickly faded. “Most likely Sudar got his information wrong.”
“Let’s hope so, and not that there out there waiting to jump on us when we least expect it,” Glinny said.
“Boom!” Boom said from down below the hill. “Boom!”
“He’s ready, and so am I!” Dorn said as loudly as he dared.
“So how do we do it?” Glinny asked once again.
“Well,” Beldar began, drawing them all in closer, “first we’ll…”