Indie Book Spotlight: Into The Undercastle, by Alexander Dawnrider
A young fisherman, an archer, a kingdom on its knees — can this unexpected duo save their people?
For Aedan, life as a fisherman by the Lunenshall River was dull. Alone with his father in the failing kingdom of Talidith, his only excitement was the occasional torn net, weekly trips to Castle Shieldarrow for market, and the ever present threat of attack by the local monster tribes, the vornuks.
For Savanah, life as a member of the Sovereign Guard, the first and only line of defense against the vornuks, was routine. She kept herself busy with patrols, teaching archery, and teasing her fellow soldiers.
Both their lives explode into chaos when an army of vornuks march on Shieldarrow, threatening to wipe out Talidith and her citizens once and for all.
Their only hope is the Undercastle, a subterranean fortress built long ago to protect the people during an invasion. But it has been sealed by a mad king, and entry is punishable by death.
Facing an impossible choice, Aedan, Savanah, and the rest of the kingdom flee into darkness, unsure of what they will find but unable to remain in their home.
But they aren’t alone. Something else has been trapped there for centuries. Something evil.
When the population’s presence unleashes the tentacled monstrosity, Savanah and Aedan find themselves thrust into a battle not just for their kingdom and people, but for the safety of the entire world.
Aedan and Desmund reunited and marveled at the secret tunnel like the rest, setting aside their earlier disagreement. With everyone fleeing, the question of aiding the castle’s defenses was moot.
Leda and Precious walked alongside them. She had removed the blade and rope from the ram’s head to avoid injuring anyone in the confined space. Aedan noted it wasn’t a single short knife but an old sword bent several times into a spiral, mimicking Precious’s lost appendage. “How’d you make that?”
The dark-haired woman smiled. “The castle blacksmith is a friend. I asked him to shape a weapon from that pile you came with into a ram’s horn. When he stopped laughing, he had an apprentice do it.”
“But why did you do it?”
She hesitated. “You’re going to think I’m mad.” Her eyes looked away from him, suddenly finding the wall beside her intensely interesting. “But I felt I had to.”
“You mean you knew this would happen?”
“No, no!” She spun back to the fisherman. “But every so often, I get, I don’t know, a feeling? My mind tells me to do something. I have an urgency to obey.”
Aedan’s mother had told him stories when he was a child, legends about magical beings and horrible monsters. They thrilled him as a boy, but as an adult, he realized they were just that, stories. He remembered one she would tell about creatures from another world who controlled people with their minds. Was that happening to Leda? He drew back involuntarily. “Are you being controlled?”
Leda noticed his reaction. It was how she figured he’d respond. Growing up, she had made a few attempts to explain the forewarnings to others in the castle. When she was a little girl, they simply laughed it off as the imagination of a child. As she got older, the attitudes were like Aedan’s: get away from the moonstruck woman. She scolded herself for thinking he would be any different. “No. I don’t have to do what it says. But it’s never been wrong or hurt me. Actually,” she reflected on the earlier times she had been mysteriously compelled, “it has always been helpful. One time it even saved someone’s life.”
“Oh. Well, that’s good,” Aedan said lamely. He tried to quell the notion of her being manipulated. “So, do you have any idea where we are going?”
“Into the Undercastle,” she replied, as if he should know what that was. She reached down and stroked her ram’s head, and the animal gently leaned into her while they walked, eliciting a brief giggle from her.
She has certainly tamed that beast. “What’s the ‘Undercastle’?”
Leda brightened at the question. At least he was still talking to her and not dismissing her as a few feathers short of a duck. “Long ago, when Shieldarrow was built, Talidith was regularly attacked by the local inhabitants. Like the vornuks. After a few major assaults, King Reamonn the First had the idea for a sanctuary. He and those living in Shieldarrow could flee there if the castle was ever overrun. So he hired men to help create an underground hideaway. It was called the Undercastle because many joked it was going to be grander than Shieldarrow. Just below the earth.
“When he retired, his son became king. He continued the work. He wanted to expand it to hold more than the castle’s inhabitants. He added larger rooms and kitchens in case they needed to stay longer. When that king died, his son took over and expanded it further.”
“So why’ve I not heard of it?” Aedan asked.
“Because it was closed, and anyone who tried to enter would be put to death.” She bent down and gave Precious a slight kiss on his head. That set his tail wagging. “When King Reamonn the Third retired, Tholan Bakrorn became king. But something changed, and he went crazy. People who questioned him vanished and were never seen again. He claimed ghosts were trying to kill him and sealed himself away in his chambers.”
“What happened to him?” Desmund, who had been listening to their conversation, leaned in. He understood little of Talidith’s history. His preoccupation was its rivers.
“He was murdered,” the woman told him, almost cheerfully. “They found him with his neck snapped in his room. No one could explain how or why.”
Aedan’s stomach knotted. “And now, we’re going to enter this fortress that a mad king banned, and we don’t know why he did that?”
“You’ve got it, duck.” Leda gave Precious a hearty head rub. “Fun, eh?”
“You have a unique idea of ‘fun’, my dear,” Desmund told her.
About the Author
Alexander Dawnrider grew up reading copious amounts of science-fiction and fantasy. Wherever he went, there was a thick paperback in his hands, or stashed in his satchel, or waiting beside his bed. He absorbed the works of Asimov, Heinlein, Tolkien, Foster, and countless others.
As he grew older, he applied his knowledge to the world around him. Each electronic appliance was really a robot ready to serve mankind. Each cat secretly knew how to walk through walls. It wasn’t anything so mundane as bears or foxes inhabiting the nearby forest, but fiendish orcs and goblins. And just beyond the stars was a young urchin with his flying minidrag.
Now Alexander dwells in a lofty tower of a northern province, endeavoring to contribute to that fantastical world with his own ideas. When he isn’t busy madly scribbling away on the scraps of parchment that cross his desk, you can find him enjoying a grilled-cheese sandwich and tinkering with his time machine. His companions are an assortment of gargoyles and a small dragon named Sea Glimmer.