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Warren Thomas

* * * * *


Rollicking Dragon Press

Copyright 2021 by Warren Thomas

Cover by Willsin Rowe

Cover Art by Vanette Kosman

This is a work of fiction. The names, characters, and locations within either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, or locales is entirely coincidental.  All characters in this story are 18 years old or older.


Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

Chapter 26

Chapter 27

Chapter 28

Chapter 29

Chapter 30

Chapter 31

Chapter 32

Chapter 33

Chapter 34

Chapter 35

Chapter 36

Chapter 37

Chapter 38

Chapter 39

Chapter 40

Chapter 41

Chapter 42

Chapter 43

Chapter 44

Chapter 45

Chapter 46

Chapter 47

Chapter 48

Chapter 49

Chapter 50

Chapter 51

Chapter 52

Chapter 53

Chapter 54

Chapter 55

Chapter 56

Chapter 57

Chapter 58

Chapter 59

Chapter 60

Chapter 61

Chapter 62

Chapter 63

Chapter 64

Chapter 65

Chapter 66

Chapter 67

Chapter 68

Chapter 69

Chapter 70

Chapter 71

Chapter 72

Chapter 73

Chapter 74

Chapter 75

Chapter 76

Chapter 77

Chapter 78

Chapter 79

Chapter 80

Chapter 81

Chapter 82

Chapter 83

Chapter 84

Chapter 85

Chapter 86

Chapter 87

Chapter 88

Chapter 89

Chapter 90

Chapter 91

Chapter 92

Chapter 93

Chapter 94

Chapter 95

Chapter 96

Chapter 97

Chapter 98

Chapter 99

List of other books by Warren

About the Author

Belly of the Beast

            Tane Kyleson lifted the glowing length of steel and eyed it critically. The blade was almost the right color for the final ritual to give the sword life and a good temper. The barrel of blessed bear’s blood sat to his left, with his father beside it watching him and the blade with a critical eye.

            “Steady, boy,” Kyle said. A little pride crept into his stern face. “Patience.”

            It felt good to see the pleasure in his father’s face. Kyle Raymondson was the greatest swordsmith in the region, swordsmith to princes, dukes, and barons. And Tane had to admit, the blade in his gloved hand was the finest he had ever made.

            A hero’s sword, for certain, he thought.

            It was a regular enough looking sword, nothing ornate like the nobility wore, but had a double fuller instead of a single. And if he ever decided to sell it, Tane could dress it up with a fancy hilt.

            “And there it is!”

            The color of the blade was perfect. Without hesitation Tane thrust the glowing sword all the way into the deep red bear’s blood, until his arm was immersed halfway to the elbow.

            Tane named the blade, “Bearclaw!”

            The blood hissed and boiled, foul smelling steam erupting up into Tane’s face. The whole shop suddenly reeked of cooking bear’s blood. The blood quickly rose in temperature as it cooled the precious blade at just the right speed, while he listened intently for that telltale ting that said a blade cracked during the quench.

            Nothing, until the very blood began to glow. Tane felt hot and cold flow up his arm. He almost released the blade.

            “Something wrong?” his father asked.

            Tane pulled the blade out and laid it across the shop’s small altar to Kamain, God of the Forge and Smiths. It remained perfectly straight and unblemished.

            “No. I just…” he said. “It was nothing. My mind wandered for a second.”

            His father leaned over to look at the sword. “It’s a beautiful blade.”

            “Thank you. I worked so hard on it.”

            A big grin spread across Tane’s face. I did it!

            Quickly removing the heavy, blood-soaked glove and wiping his bloody hands on a waiting towel to clean his fingers, Tane began drawing the Leltic runes of victory, bravery, and strength in the blood along one side of the blade while chanting the required prayer. Then flipping it over, he used a clean finger to write the sword’s name on the other side.

            “A good name, Tane,” Kyle said. “I, too, named my Master Blade after Kamain.”

            The bear was sacred to the God of the Forge and Smiths, and was His animal manifestation.

            A noble beast, Tane thought with a smile of pride, And my Master Sword is just as noble.

            Reverently carrying the blood-dripping blade over to the forge, Tane placed it in a wrought iron stand over the fire. The qualities inscribed in the blood would be imbedded within the steel once the sacred bear’s blood dried. Then Tane would clean, polish, and test the blade.

            “Thank you, Kamain, for guiding my hand and blessing my work,” Tane said, bowing to first the small altar, then the sword. Finally, he grinned at his father, “And I finished just in time for dinner, if my stomach and nose are any judge.”

            Kyle took a deep breath, smiling contentedly, “Smells like roast pork. By Kamain’s Hammer, I swear that woman can cook! And your uncle said I was crazy to marry a wild forest born Lelt! His civilized wife makes him do the cooking!”

            “I haven’t heard him complaining much,” Tane said, grinning just as fiercely as his father. “To hear him tell it, he doesn’t let her cook.”

            “Ha! No wonder,” Kyle laughed. “I ate her cooking once. I was sick for a week. She can’t boil water without detailed instructions. And adult supervision.”

            Tane chuckled as he stripped off his leathern apron before the rain barrel and began washing the blood, sweat and grime off his face, arms and bare upper body. Like his father, he had short-cropped brown hair and blue eyes, and the stout body and musculature of a long line of smiths. At six feet, he was a six inches shorter than his Jarlander father. His father’s side of the family always clicked their tongues woefully and lamented on how his “dwarfish” stature came from his Leltic mother’s blood. Then everyone would grin and wink at her.

            His mother gave him his pug nose and right to bear the sacred tattoos of her tribe and clan. Tane had already earned all he was allowed. Blue geometric tattoos encircled both wrists and the upper arms halfway up from the elbow to make him strong and brave. A vertical bar of intricate, interlaced geometric designs and oak leaves ran the length of his spine to give him the

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