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Curse of the Bastards by Brian Keene, Steven L. Shrewsbury (Saga of Rogan 3)

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Curse of the Bastards by Brian Keene, Steven L. Shrewsbury (Saga of Rogan 3) Read Book Online And Download

Overview: Rogan—the aging, jaded barbarian who gave up his throne—painfully realizes that his most storied childhood heroes are fading into antiquity, becoming mere ballads in the eyes of the younger warriors. And he might be next.


He stops at the hometown of his idol, but little remains to show of the man’s exploits … until he meets the hero’s daughter, Roan, riding her father’s infamous seven-hundred-year-old horse. Roan has a vendetta against General Tolin La Gaul, who harbors a dark secret. She tries to convince Rogan to join her in riding upon the Citadel of Nosmada in the land of Nod to confront Tolin, but Rogan has no interest in such a dicey plan. That is, until his nephew, Javan, goes missing, presumed captured. Now the Citadel has become a snare, and he has no choice but to spring the trap’s jaws.


Rogan’s path leads him into darker and more twisted schemes than even he could have imagined … gods, devils, and an undead dragon, forcing him to confront not only his own mortality and place in history—but even his god, Wodan.


Curse of the Bastards by Brian Keene, Steven L. Shrewsbury (Saga of Rogan 3) Read Online And Download Epub Digital Ebooks Buy Store Website Provide You.
Curse of the Bastards by Brian Keene, Steven L. Shrewsbury (Saga of Rogan 3)





Curse of the Bastards by Brian Keene, Steven L. Shrewsbury (Saga of Rogan 3) Book Read Online Chapter One


I AIN’T SUPERSTITIOUS


 

 

 

Twelve-year-old Rogan stood at the top of a valley, surrounded by the rest of the barbarian hordes, watching as far below soldiers prepared to rip the wings off a thrashing fallen angel.


One of his fellow tribe members grunted, “How the hell can they do that?”


“The angels are shapeshifters,” Ivor, the Oracle of Wodan, answered. “This one is wearing human flesh, and thus, it is vulnerable. Otherwise, those soldiers would be decimated.”


“It must have stolen the flesh of a giant, then. He’s a big fucker.”


Though Rogan didn’t comment, he snorted in agreement. The fallen angel probably stood ten feet tall, but it wasn’t so fearsome bleeding on the valley floor, its left leg sliced off at the knee by two soldiers from the axe corps of the opposing army, its long wings roped to the bridles of mammoths, an arrow lodged in its left eye, and two spears stuck into its groin. When the ropes went tight, the angel’s right wing tore loose, popping out of its back by the roots. The mammoth on that side stomped down on the appendage. Slowly, the mammoth on the left began to drag the being away. The dying angel howled, leaving a trail of black blood in its wake. The soldiers in the valley laughed and cheered.


“Which fallen one is that?” Rogan asked quietly.


The Oracle of Wodan cleared his throat. “They say it is Samual, but demons lie.”


“That so, Ivor?” Rogan’s father, Jarek, laughed. “Men lie, too. Especially when they’ve been caught screwing the wrong person.”


Ivor gestured over to the right side of the valley where the mammoth trudged on with the detached wing. Floating above it was a figure bearing the overall shape of a man but sporting scales, plates, fins, and many reptilian qualities. “Angels screw the wrong things, too, Jarek. You see Pergamus hanging in the air over there? He didn’t screw any women, just the saurian beasts of the field. That is why we have such things as that to deal with.”


Ivor then pointed to their left. All heads followed along. From over the valley’s far ridge arose a large beast, reddish in the sunlight. It flapped its massive, leathery wings and roared.


One of the youths near Rogan screamed and then was whacked on his hindquarters by his father with the pommel of a spear.


“Damn things.” Ivor sighed, gazing down at the army in the valley. “Now we shall see how good their magick works.”


Rogan felt a hand slap the back of his head.


“Breathe, boy,” Jarek grunted.


Rogan hadn’t realized that he’d been holding his breath. No matter how much his father beat toughness into him, the natural reaction to seeing a dragon couldn’t be stopped. In this case, he felt his bladder near to bursting but hated to ponder what the punishment would be if he pissed on the leg of the Oracle of Wodan.


“Jarek,” Ivor said, “see the priests down there?”


“I see them.” Rogan’s father nodded. His long tresses of auburn hair fluttered in the wind. “Would that they were all dead.”


“See what they do?”


“Waving their hands about and chanting. Isn’t that what priests always do?”


“Other than not get laid?” another barbarian chimed in.


Undeterred by the horde’s laughter, Ivor said, “See what they draw out to send at the dragon?”


The broken body of the fallen angel Samual ceased leaking black blood and began to emit something else. Mist rose out of the wounds like long ethereal eels. As the barbarians watched, the mist formed into humanoid shapes. The soldiers in the valley, while visibly awed, held their ground. The dragon hovered as if confused by these new arrivals.


“What are they?” Jarek asked.


Ivor folded his arms. “The escaping souls of all the flesh the angel used to walk around on earth.”


“People?” Jarek gripped the hilt of his sheathed sword.


“Yes. And a lot of them, given the size of that cage of flesh the demon wrapped itself in.”


Rogan frowned. “But the souls don’t fight. They just confuse the dragon.”


Ivor smiled. “Sometimes, young Rogan, that is enough.”


The soldiers in the valley made good use of the delay and shot several projectiles from bows at the dragon. These were not arrows or bolts, and not meant to pierce the creature’s hide but to wrap it. Within seconds, the beast sported eight lines of heavy rope that tumbled down to the earth. Soldiers rushed forth and quickly secured the lines to mammoths and horses. The dragon bucked and sent a few men aloft. One of the horses went airborne as well. The dragon twisted about, long neck extending, and bit the animal’s head off.


Rogan realized that he was holding his breath again. He let it out before his father noticed.


The mammoths trumpeted and turned, urged on by their taskmasters. The dragon was jerked out of the sky and crashed to the ground. As it struggled to rise, one of the mammoths galloped away, torquing the rope around the dragon’s left wing. The rope snapped off, but the wing twisted, folding in the middle, ruined. Like an army of ants, the soldiers in the valley ran forward and stabbed their lances into the beast’s limp wing. Soon they had the monster pinned.


Jarek shook his head. “They are dead men.”


Though it looked that way to Rogan as well, the taskmasters of the mammoths turned their great beasts and they thundered onward, stomping onto and into the dragon. The monster sank its slavering jaws into the leg of one of the hairy elephants, but the massive tonnage of the other mammoths pulped it, reducing the dragon to a wet, red carcass that steamed in the sunlight.


The barbarians around Rogan broke into applause.


Ivor grinned. “One would think they’ve done that before, aye?”


“Look there.” Jarek pointed at the floating Pergamus. “They’ve pissed off that dragon’s daddy.”


The devil in the sky glowed orange. Rogan’s hands shook, tightening his grip around his lance and sword pommel for comfort. He looked away from the angel and searched the sky. Rogan didn’t see their god, Wodan. He didn’t count on it, either.  


Ivor eyed Rogan. “Are you about to pray, boy?”


Rogan nodded. “To the All Father, Wodan.”


“The All Father doesn’t care for words. What are the words of a trembling cunt on the wind to him? You would do well to remember that, Rogan.”


“We just stopped to see what happened, Ivor,” Jarek reminded him. “The guides were off due to bad dreams. We should move on. That well-formed army down there and their priests? None of our affair.”


Nostrils flaring, eyes now aimed up at Pergamus, Ivor replied, “I wonder.”


“What?” Jarek cracked his knuckles. “We need to get the tribe back on the route home.”


Ivor frowned as the halo of orange light about Pergamus grew brighter still. “Damn, we are not here by accident.”


“What do you mean?”


The glow left Pergamus and floated toward the barbarian horde like a fast-moving cloud. As it settled on them, all talk ceased. They stiffened, spasming, and their eyes rolled white. Then, they became of one mind and knew their purpose. Like puppets on strings, all of Rogan’s tribesmen, his father, and their wizard charged into the valley with weapons drawn and smashed into the surprised soldiers.


Then came the blood. And the screams.


 

 

 

Rogan shook his head, blinking. His hair, once auburn like Jarek’s, was now white and gray. That twelve-year-old version of him who had once fought here was just a ghost—a phantom of the past. So were his father, Ivor, and the rest of his kindred. And though today there were hundreds of mercenaries and warriors present in the valley, none of them were his tribesmen.


And yet, it occurred to him, he still had kin.


Lowering his spyglass, he glanced at his nephew, Javan. The youth—a keen archer if somewhat sharp of tongue—crouched beside him. Javan squinted in the sunlight, peering down into the valley, watching men burning at the stake while soldiers killed other soldiers.


He turned to Rogan. “Sire, have you been here before?”


“Yeah, long ago.”


“Has it changed much?”


Trembling, Rogan checked the skies. No demons, no dragons. No Wodan, either.


“Not a lot really.” He stretched. “The ground is still covered in blood.”


“Forgive me, Uncle, but …”


“Spit it out, boy.”


Javan raised an eyebrow. “You seem … uneasy.”


“Oh? And what clued you in on that?”


“Well, for one thing, your hands are shaking. Your hands never shake.”


Scowling, Rogan raised the spyglass back to his eye, tightening his grip around the viewer.


“Are you filled with trepidation at this location, sire?”


“Not especially. I just fought here before, as a kid, younger than you.”


“That must be some tale.”


Rogan changed the subject. “The ropes on that wizard burning at the stake just gave out. Looks like he’s stepping off the woodpile. Business is about to pick up down there.”


“He still lives?”


Rogan shrugged. “For now. I reckon he’s pretty well fucked, though. He’s surrounded.”


The battlefield stretched for nearly a square mile, and the valley’s basin was littered with the dead and dying. Rogan and his troops were positioned on a ridge at the northern tip of the valley, which provided cover. They had hung back behind Rogan and Javan, but overhearing Rogan’s comment regarding the wizard, they now crept stealthily forward.


A stout man with a beard to his belly took a knee beside Rogan. “We’re all going to be pretty much fucked if we are caught up here watching this battle.”


Rogan continued staring through the spyglass. “Very observant, Thaxter.”


Javan wiped sweat from his naked face with his forearm. “A battle we were invited to and showed up late to attend.”


Thaxter put his metal helm over his bent knee. “Looks like we made the right choice being late, aye?”


Rogan nodded. “Well, them whores in Irem are good.”


The motley crew snickered.


Rogan shook his head and turned his attention back to the scene below. “Don’t distract me.”


The stake and the pyre beneath it were fully engulfed in flame, but the figure who had escaped the inferno was merely singed, smoke rising from his clothing and hair. Roughly two dozen fighters clad in chain mail armor and sporting short swords spread out around him, closing the distance slowly. The wizard opened his mouth, emitting a shower of glowing pinpricks that reminded Rogan of fireflies. The lights formed into small globes in the air then began to grow. The crescent of armed men paused at the display of sorcery but did not cede their position. Archers moved in behind their flanks and set their sandals, preparing to draw back their strings and fire arrows at the strange globes. But no thrum of bowstrings followed. Instead, there was only an ear-splitting squeal. The siren came from the hovering balls of light, loud enough to get the attention of all those on the battlefield. Even the stout pikemen, who were making great sport of their fleeing enemies, paused as the shriek grew louder. A soldier who had been struggling to free his boots, which were bound together by the bolo of a lucky shot from the slinger brigade, stopped his efforts. The opponent who had been about to spear him from behind turned instead, seeking the source of the cacophony.


From above, Rogan and the others watched as the globes suddenly shot forward, slamming into the archers’ chests and disappearing inside their bodies. The impact left no wounds or marks. Their armor and undergarments remained whole. Many on both the battlefield and the ridge drew a breath, awaiting the manifestation of magick. However, none of the archers burst into flames or fell over dead.


Thaxter laughed. “Guess that wizard’s spell failed.”


Suddenly, each of the archers dropped their bows and clutched their crotches. They staggered, a few going to their knees, others falling over in full. Blood flowed through their clasped fingers. Rogan’s eyes widened as he saw a green tentacle wriggle from one unfortunate victim’s bloody groin and thrash against his thigh.


“Wodan …” Jaw tightening, Rogan offered Thaxter the scope. “Want a better look?”


“No.” Thaxter stood and shook his head. “Judging by your expression? No, I’m good. If it can make you turn white as cow’s milk, then I don’t need to see it close up.”


Looking through the viewer again, Rogan saw the men with swords start to back away from the wizard. Again, the warlock raised his smoking arms and began to chant. Before he could complete the incantation, a great white draft horse, bigger than any Rogan had ever seen, thundered onto the scene. On its back rode a man adorned in blue plated armor and equal in size to Rogan himself. His helmet concealed his visage, but when he turned, Rogan caught a glimpse of his face. Gasping, he lumbered to his feet.


“It can’t be,” he muttered.


“Ah,” Javan said, “their leader arrives to deal with the wizard himself.”


Thaxter nodded. “That would be General Tolin, all right.”


Rogan clutched the scope in one hand. His other hand balled into a fist. He stood, gaping, and shook his head.


“What troubles you, sire?” Javan asked.


“I …” Rogan swallowed. “By Wodan’s ass crack, La Gaul … my …”


Javan shook his head. “That is Tolin La Gaul, sire. Not Gorias La Gaul.”


Blinking, Rogan crouched and peered through the spyglass again. “He wears armor like that of Gorias. The blue plated armor from a skinned wyrmling dragon.”


One of their troopers, a blond youth, only slightly older than Javan, muttered, “Who is Gorias La Gaul?”


Rogan growled, teeth exposed.


“Gently, Sorvac,” Javan cautioned, “lest my uncle rips your throat out with his teeth. Gorias was one of the greatest heroes of renown. A famed fighter and a childhood idol of Rogan’s.”


Thaxter nodded. “How can you have never heard of him, boy?”


The youth shrugged.


“Seven hundred years old!” Thaxter’s tone was incredulous. “Badass of all badasses! What did they teach you while you were still clinging to your mother’s tit? Gorias La Gaul wore armor made from the skin of a baby dragon and fought with swords made of angels’ wings.”


Sorvac rolled his eyes. “He had dragon skin armor and swords made from angel’s wings?”


“That is what the ballads say,” Javan replied.


Sorvac threw back his head and laughed. “What bollocks …”


Rogan didn’t even turn his head as he reached out with his free hand and grabbed Sorvac’s crotch. The youth howled as Rogan used him as leverage to pull himself upright. He then dropped the viewer, reached out with his other hand, and seized him by the throat. The old barbarian’s fingers nearly encircled Sorvac’s neck. Furious, he lifted the youth off his feet and glared into his eyes.


“Don’t … kill … me …” Sorvac wheezed.


“I ought to squeeze your nuts until they burst so that you don’t infect the world.”


Sorvac’s eyes widened as Rogan squeezed harder. Then, grimacing, the barbarian flung him to the ground. Sorvac landed on his back, the air whooshing from his lungs.


Rogan towered over him, pointing. “Next time you try and use that little prick of yours, remember that Gorias La Gaul fought and fucked his way across this planet before your grandmother was sucking cocks in Shynar.”


Coughing, his eyes welling with tears, Sorvac writhed on the grass.


Rogan studied the rest of the mercenary horde. “Anyone else in this company have anything to add?”


The assembled troops looked at the sky, their feet, and the valley below. As Sorvac crawled away, Javan, Thaxter, and Rogan turned their attention back to General Tolin. The big man on the field barked orders, and a battalion of pikemen left their sport of nailing the runners to the sand and returned to their leader. The wizard watched them approach as well, still spitting pinpricks of light from his mouth.


“He’s supposed to be Gorias’s son,” Thaxter said. “A bad seed.”


“It is said that he sports the soul of a dragon in that body,” Javan replied, “and the spirit of Tolin is long gone.”


Thaxter frowned. “How does something like that happen?”


Javan shrugged. “Wizards and witches … can’t abide them.”


General Tolin halted his horse in front of the wizard, seemingly unafraid of the dark magic. The wizard, his attention now focused on his foe, continued summoning more globes.


“Tolin will be struck down,” one of the mercenaries whispered.


“No,” Rogan said. “He’s offering himself as a distraction. Watch.”


One of the pikemen, a tree trunk of a man that almost mirrored Thaxter in size, moved away from his fellows and circled behind the wizard, whose attention was still on Tolin. The soldier brought about his heavy pike, a weapon thicker than a weaver’s beam and sporting a spearhead akin to a forged helmet. Without hesitation, he thrust the massive spearhead into the sorcerer’s midsection. The wizard’s mouth opened wider but now sprayed blood instead of light.


“Old witchy man looks kinda surprised,” Rogan said.


The pikeman raised the wizard off the ground and strode back toward the burning pyre, arms bulging and legs straining. The wizard struggled like a moth on a pin. Tolin watched impassively as the soldier drove the wizard’s head into the fire. The sorcerer’s hair was quickly ablaze. The flames spread to his eyebrows, beard, and clothes. Tolin gave another command, and the pikeman thrashed the body back and forth, breaking one of the wizard’s legs, then an arm, and his neck, and then burying his face into the fire. He pushed his weapon in further so there would be no escape.


“He knew the right way,” Rogan sighed. “Never put a wizard to the flames with his tongue still in his mouth. He probably conjured or chanted the ropes off.”


Sighing, Thaxter reached for a flask at his belt. “Well, that day’s work is over. We missed out on the pay …”


Javan shook his head. “We’d be dead or slaves if we had joined that fray. Tolin’s army crushed them.”


“Thank our stiff cocks then.” Rogan stowed his spyglass. “The whorehouse last night saved us.”


Down in the valley, General Tolin turned his steed and pointed up at the ridge.


“Sire,” Javan said, “we’ve been spotted. Perhaps we should depart, lest they turn their forces toward us instead of home.”


“Best thing you’ve said all day,” Rogan replied. “When we took this job, nobody said anything about Tolin La Gaul being the leader on the other side.”


Javan mounted his horse. The other mercenaries followed suit. Rogan grinned, looking down at Sorvac, who still clutched his groin.


“We came all this way for a war, and we’re going to ride away with our swords in our hands—except for Sorvac, who’s riding away with his cock in his hand.”


“We should make haste, Uncle.”


“Not back to the whorehouse,” Thaxter groused. “I need sleep.”


“There is a town several miles off,” Javan replied. “Ellivsulo, it is called. Or Immowtoau in the other tongue of this land.”


Rogan swung up into his saddle.


Thaxter took a swig from his flask. “So, what’s in that town?”


“It is the last place Gorias La Gaul lived,” Javan said. “The last place he had a stable life before he went off on his final years of adventure. Much like someone else.”


The youth glanced pointedly at Rogan, but the old warrior ignored him.


“I think they even have memorials there. A bronze statue of his countenance.”


“Fair enough.” Thaxter turned. “Well, boss? You want to visit?”


“What?” Rogan asked.


Thaxter reined his horse about. “It’s as good a place as any. Your nephew is right. We shouldn’t tarry here any longer, lest they decide to come up here and add us to the wizard’s pyre.”


Rogan shrugged. “Yes, let’s get away from all this. That wizard’s cooking head has stunk up the entire valley.”


Sorvac, climbing carefully into his saddle, muttered, “It sort of smells like ham.”


Rogan scowled at him and the others held their breath. Sorvac averted his eyes, unable to meet the grizzled leader’s gaze. Javan opened his mouth to speak, but before he could, Rogan burst into laughter. Then he prodded his horse and led them away.


“Curse you, Sorvac.” Grinning, Rogan patted his stomach. “Now I’m hungry for pork!”


He led them away from the valley. The company rode single file, and, one by one, they took a final glimpse of Tolin and his army.


They were unaware that a third force—a group clustered in a nearby copse of trees—watched them as well.



Curse of the Bastards by Brian Keene, Steven L. Shrewsbury (Saga of Rogan 3) Book Read Online Only First Chapter Full Complete Book For Buy Epub File.



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