A faceless, nameless assassin. A forgotten past. The Hunter of Voramis–a killer devoid of morals, or something else altogether? (The Last Bucelarii–dark fantasy with a look at the underside of human nature)
The Last Bucelarii (Book 2): Lament of the Fallen
The Hunter of Voramis is no more.
Alone with the bloodthirsty voices in his head, fleeing the pain of loss, he has one objective: travel north to find Her, the mystery woman who plagues his dreams and haunts his memories.
When he stumbles upon a bandit attack, something within urges him to help. His actions set him at odds with the warrior priests commanded to hunt down the Bucelarii.
Left for dead, the Hunter must travel to Malandria to recover his stolen birthright. There, he is inexorably drawn into direct conflict with the Order of Midas, the faceless, nameless group of magicians that holds the city in a grip of terror. All while struggling to silence the ever-louder voice in his mind that drives him to kill.
From feared assassin to wretched outcast, the Hunter’s journey leads him to truths about his forgotten past and the Abiarazi he has pledged to hunt. His discoveries will shed light on who he really is…what he really is.
Fans of Joe Abercrombie, Brandon Sanderson, and Brent Weeks will love the Hunter…
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Andy Peloquin: Lover of All Things Dark and Mysterious
Andy Peloquin–a third culture kid to the core–has loved to read since before he could remember. Sherlock Holmes, the Phantom of the Opera, and Father Brown are just a few of the books that ensnared his imagination as a child.
When he discovered science fiction and fantasy through the pages of writers like Edgar Rice Burroughs, J.R.R Tolkien, and Orson Scott Card, he was immediately hooked and hasn’t looked back since.
Andy’s first attempt at writing produced In the Days: A Tale of the Forgotten Continent. He has learned from the mistakes he made and used the experience to produce Blade of the Destroyer, a book of which he is very proud.
Reading—and now writing—is his favorite escape, and it provides him an outlet for his innate creativity. He is an artist; words are his palette.
10 Things You Need to Know About Me:
- Hot wings, ALWAYS!
- I never forget a face, but rarely remember a name.
- I’m a head taller than the average person (I’m 6′ 6″)
- Marvel > DC
- I was born in Japan, and lived there until the age of 14.
- Selena Gomez, Skrillex, Simon & Garfunkel, Celine Dion, and Five Finger Death Punch are all in my writing playlist.
- Aliens are real, but it’s self-centered of us to believe that they would come to visit Earth.
- Watching sports: suck. Playing sports: EPIC!
- I earned a purple belt in Karate/Hapkido/Taekwondo.
- I dislike most Christmas music, aside from Trans-Siberian Orchestra.
A Few of My Favorite Things
Favorite Books: The Gentlemen Bastards by Scott Lynch, The Stormlight Archives by Brandon Sanderson, Sherlock Holmes by A.C. Doyle, Warlord of Mars by E.R. Burroughs
Favorite Songs: Wrong Side of Heaven by Five Finger Death Punch, Prayer by Disturbed, I’m an Albatraoz by AronChupa, Look Down from Les Miserables, Shatter Me by Lindsay Sterling and Lizzi Hale
Favorite Movies: 300, Red Cliff, Shoot Em Up, Love Actually, Princess Bride
Favorite Comics: Anything with Deadpool, Wolverine or Doop in it
Favorite Foods: Hot Wings, Meat-Lover’s Salad, A good sandwich (made by me), Yaki Soba, Sushi
Favorite TV Shows: The Flash, Daredevil, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Hawaii Five-0, Brooklyn 99, Firefly (too soon!), The Last Ship, The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones
His website (http://www.andypeloquin.com) is a second home for him, a place where he can post his thoughts and feelings–along with reviews of books he finds laying around the internet.
He can also be found on his social media pages, such as:
“Creative, gritty, and beautifully dark…fantasy addicts will love it!” — Peter Story, author of Things Grak Hates — http://peterjstory.com/
“The fantasy world has a compelling new antihero…the Hunter will terrify and captivate you.” – Eve A Floriste, author of Fresh Cut
“From the first words on the page this fantasy holds the reader spellbound even after the book is finished…his character is very well-defined even if his past is a mystery. Root for an assassin? Oh, yes, one must!” — Carol Conley, for InDTale Magazine
“Oh the carnage! Fantastic bloodthirsty carnage! The fight scenes in this book were fast-paced, detailed and thrilling. I love a good sword fight and there is plenty of that here.” — Ami L. Hart
“One could get lost in this novel for its twisting plots, seemingly endless imagination, dark yet irresistible characters, or the mind-numbing paradox of its simultaneously dark and romantic world. One could follow the long and winding road of the dusky, fierce protagonist and fight tooth and nail not to sympathize with him. One could dance in the dizzying, intricate circles of Peloquin’s neo-mythology, or even basque in the black sunlight of a well-crafted gothic novel that both entertains and enlightens.” — Jesse G. Christiansen
He filled his lungs with the fresh night air. The taste of smoke mixed with the earthy scent of loam. The warmth of the fire soothed and relaxed him, the hypnotic rhythm of the dancing flames calming his mind. The fatigue of the day washed over him, and he allowed his eyelids to droop.
The visions came then; memories leapt out at him.
Within the bright depths of the flames, he saw the hell he had glimpsed in the Serenii tunnels. Lord Jahel’s face appeared in the fire, laughing, mocking. Bone and skin morphed into the faces of Lord Cyrannius and the First of the Bloody Hand. Shuddering waves of flesh and gristle writhed, shifting, transforming.
Demons roam Einan once more. People treat them as myth and legend, but I know the truth.
The Hunter retreated deeper into his blankets, his sword clutched to his chest. He told himself it was out of habit rather than fear.
He had left Voramis behind, not only to find the truth of the woman whose face plagued him, but to discover the truth of the demons. Curiosity drove him to learn of his past, and his own heritage as a Bucelarii—descendant of the Abiarazi horde.
The demon added its voice to the swirling maelstrom in the Hunter’s mind. ‘He disowns his blood, all to play the hero, the protector.’
The Hunter was too tired to fight it off.
I’m no hero. If it was up to me, they’d all rot.
He had no desire to save the world. He had no reason to save humans from themselves.
A vision of horror flashed through his mind. Creatures of nightmares seized a screaming child, tearing at pale skin with razor-tipped claws. Blood splashed across chitinous armor as the demons ripped the child apart in their haste to devour the flesh.
The girl bore Farida’s face. She lay bloody, mangled, discarded like refuse, gasping her last agonizing breaths.
Oh, child. I am so sorry.
He wished he could scrub the memory from his mind forever. With it gone, the sorrow would leave. He needed no reminder that he was once again alone.
He turned his back on the fire and buried his face in his cloak.
He could turn his back on those who had feared and hated him, yet he had not the strength to hide his face from the suffering of innocents. People like Old Nan, Ellinor, Little Arlo. They would suffer most should the Abiarazi find their way into the world once more.
The demon whispered in his mind. ‘Why must you protect them? You are not one of them, after all. You are Bucelarii.’
They do not deserve such suffering.
He squeezed his eyes shut and pushed back against the demon’s voice.
I’m doing this for them.
He pictured Farida the way he had seen her that day in the Temple District, with that same bright smile. She was happy. That was what mattered, and that was what he would remember.
I’m doing this for her.
A rough hand shook the Hunter from sleep. Instinct kicked in. Seizing his assailant, he pressed his sword to the man’s throat.
Visibos’s eyes flew wide and he held up his hands. “Easy, Hardwell. Just waking you for your turn at watch.”
The Hunter nodded and lowered the sword.
Visibos shook his head. Rubbing red-rimmed eyes, he stumbled toward his blankets with a yawn. Within seconds, the low rumble of his snores floated around the campsite.
Darkness hung on the campsite like a thick blanket. Only glowing embers remained of the fire, but the Hunter made no effort to rebuild it. He preferred shadow. Unseen, he could watch both the forest and his new traveling companions.
He filled his lungs with the fresh, clean night air and rolled his neck and shoulders to work out the kinks of sleeping on the forest floor. His blankets, while thick and warm, provided little cushion against the hardness of the earth beneath him.
Slinging his baldric over his shoulder, he buckled on his sword. A quick inspection of his saddlebags revealed nothing out of place. He ran a hand across the smooth surface of the iron-lined box. Soulhunger’s voice pounded in his mind, pleading to feed. A twinge of pain settled behind his eyes.
The Hunter savored the scents of the forest around him. The smoke from their dying campfire hung heavy in the air, and beneath it, he smelled muted hints of plant and animal life. A cool breeze rolled past, carrying with it the scent of decaying leaves, pine sap, and a sweet-scented flower he couldn’t identify.
The Hunter wrapped his cloak tighter about himself as the chill of the early morning wind sent a shiver down his spine. The crook of a large tree offered him a comfortable place to sit his watch, as well as protection from the occasional gust. He leaned against the thick trunk, curling his legs to his chest. The shrouds of his dark cloak hid him from his companions, and he was all but invisible beneath the forest canopy.
His eyes roamed over the sleeping forms of his traveling companions. Only the red tresses of Sir Danna’s hair were visible, her thick bedroll swaddling the rest of her in a snug bundle. Loud snores rose from the lump he knew to be Visibos.
The demon’s intensity startled the Hunter. The creature filled his mind with images of Soulhunger drinking deep of the knight’s heart-blood. His sword sliced into Visibos’ neck, spraying crimson.
No! The Hunter shook his head, endeavoring to shake loose the gory thoughts. His fingers traced the scar on his chest. I will not harm them.
‘Leave them alive, and they will discover your lie. You are no more Hardwell of Praamis than you are Danther the tailor or Lord Anglion the Foolish.’
Rubbing his eyes, the Hunter tried to calm the pounding in his head.
How could they know? They have no way to uncover the truth. No, they are no threat to me.
‘Foolish Bucelarii! How little you know. The humans you protect will be your undoing.’
The Hunter closed his eyes, massaging his temples.
Why will you not leave me alone?
He was so tired of hearing that voice in his head. He wanted freedom from that voice. He needed peace.
‘You know what you must do.’
The Hunter’s mind whirled.
Beggar Priests? Trained warriors, in service to the Beggar God? Surely, they can’t be—
Mocking laughter echoed in his mind. ‘Fool! You ignored my warnings, and look what happens.’
“Hardwell?” The knight’s voice pierced the Hunter’s thoughts.
“Y-Yes, my lady?”
“Is it your wound? Are you ill?” Worry painted Sir Danna’s face.
“I am fine, Sir Danna.” The Hunter tried to sound calm, though a maelstrom of fear, dread, and anxiety seethed in his mind. He scrubbed his hand across his face. “Just the heat of the day.”
The knight patted him on the shoulder and climbed to her feet. “Then rest, friend Hardwell. I will pray to the Beggar that you recover soon, for we ride in an hour.”
The Hunter gave Sir Danna a weak smile, which seemed to reassure her. Visibos stared at the Hunter, naked suspicion written in his expression.
Ignoring the apprentice’s scrutiny, the Hunter set his back against the tree and closed his eyes. He pretended to rest, but the demon in his mind denied him peace.
‘You must leave now! If you do not, they will discover your secret.’
I cannot leave. It will look too suspicious if I ride away now.
‘Then you have no choice. You know what you must do, before they find out who you are.’
Temptation warred within him. Caution warned him to heed the demon, but the Hunter had no desire to kill the priests. Not yet.
Soulhunger remains hidden. These featherglass lenses hide my eyes. My face is unknown to them, and they have no reason to suspect I am anything more than the simple soldier of Praamis I claim to be.
Who was to say the knights even knew of the Bucelarii? The truth of the demons and their offspring was a secret known to few. Could these warriors discover his true identity? Could he take that chance?
The demon raged. ‘They are servants of the Beggar God. They will kill you if you do not kill them first!’
A gentle throbbing in the back of his mind echoed Soulhunger’s desire. The blade, too, ached for death.
The Hunter would not give in. Not all priests of the Beggar God want my death! Father Reverentus—
‘The fool only used you to achieve his own ends! Even if he meant you no ill will, what makes you think these priests will be so understanding? Or have you forgotten the other priests?’
The Beggar Priests in Voramis had stared at him with naked hatred in their eyes. To them, he was worse than scum.
‘What if these two try to do what the priests of Voramis would not? Even if they do not kill you, they will drive you away.’
The Hunter wanted to protest, desperate to deny it. Yet in his heart, he knew it to be true.
The demon’s snarls turned to whispers. ‘This is why you hide your eyes. This is why you hide Soulhunger and the Swordsman’s blades. Not all who serve the gods are as accepting of you as the old priest in Voramis. You are afraid they will discover the truth. The day you are recognized for what you really are, that is the day you will be forced to kill them.’
The Hunter’s eyes fell upon the sleeping form of Sir Danna. Gentle snores rose from beneath the leather cap pulled over her eyes. Visibos had lost himself in the pages of a book produced from his bag. The peace and quiet of the scene seemed a heartbeat from shattering. Only a weak disguise prevented them from seeing the true Hunter.
So be it. I will bid farewell to these knights.
A great weight settled on the Hunter’s shoulders. Just that morning, for the briefest of moments, he had shared something akin to camaraderie with his companions. Now he had to give it up, all for the sake of survival.
But not now. I must bide my time. The masquerade of Hardwell of Praamis will suffice until we can part ways.
The demon snarled, impatient.
I can’t ride away now. When I depart, it must seem natural. Better to avoid arousing the apprentice’s suspicion. Or would you have them hunting us to our journey’s end?
The demon relented, and the throbbing in his head faded to a dull ache. Rubbing his eyes, the Hunter drew the hood of his cloak over his head. He retreated into the comfortable darkness. He needed time to think, to craft a plan.
A gentle breeze wafted past, pushing back the heat of the day, though it failed to quiet the turmoil in his mind. Visibos’ quiet muttering and Sir Danna’s snores added to the peaceful calm of the shade, yet the Hunter found himself anxious to move on. The faster they traveled, the sooner he would be rid of the Beggar Priests.
He forced himself to stay awake, unwilling to relax for a moment, lest he allow his guard to slip. The morning’s ride had sapped his energy. The chill breeze cooled and calmed him, and his eyelids grew heavy.
Feed me! Soulhunger screamed in his head. Its intensity startled him, and he jolted upright.
Keeper take it! Can the accursed voices never fall silent?
Soulhunger whispered in his mind, demanding death. The demon remained silent, but the Hunter knew well its desires. A red haze tinged the edge of the Hunter’s vision, turning the world into a blood-stained blur.
He knew what they wanted. Why not give them the death they craved? It would be so easy. Sir Danna slept. Visibos’s book occupied his full attention. They would be dead before they knew what was happening. He could picture the empty eyes and pale faces of the two knights staring up at him, crimson pools of gore spreading outward.
The Hunter ached to feel Soulhunger plunging into the hearts of his traveling companions. He craved the rush of power. And if it meant he would be safe on his travels, perhaps…
I will not! He clenched his fists. He had given in to the voices far too many times in the past. No longer.