Updated: Mar 30
Intended to be enjoyed by both children and adults of all ages, The Mighty Shall Rise is currently slotted for digital and physical release on July 15, 2020.
The following is an excerpt from "The Mighty Shall Rise" by Matthew Roland. It follows young Endurian Stonehelm, who is recruited out of his exile by Aragonez Ivronwine—former high-prince of the Kingdom of Ared’dor—and is swept into an epic quest to steal the Sceptre of Nórn from Ir-Murazôr himself: chiefest of tyrants. But even with all of Ared’dor at his mercy, Murazôr does not sit idle, and Endurian, who is tormented by memories of his bloodstained past, must eventually confront the Dark King, and in doing so, find his true place in the world.
ARAGONEZ STRODE THROUGH the dusty and gravely road that was supposed to the fishing village’s main thoroughfare, the one thought on his mind to find himself a hero.
The sky was a pallid grey, and long slashes of darkened clouds were draped across it. The wind wasn’t particularly biting today, but it still made being out in the cold air somewhat uncomfortable. Knee-high boots wrought sharp, grinding indentures within the ground as Aragonez passed weather-beaten house after weather-beaten house. His authoritative gait made those that wandered the uninviting street look at him twice, then scurry off.
That was well. He was here to make a presence anyway.
To his right, he could see clearly the object of his exertions come into view. The Common Hall was, like the rest of the village, a drab, colorless building that was solidly rooted in the hard earth that made up the land about them. Of note, it was much larger than those sitting alongside it, having been specifically designed––or thrown together––for village meetings, such as the one he intended to interrupt right now.
Two untried sentries stood in front of the doors, spears crossed at their sides in a lazy, half-hearted manner. At Aragonez’s approach, they jerked upright, low eyelids fluttering as they attempted to look somewhat dignified. Aragonez ignored them and strode up the creaky steps to the door beyond.
“Wait just a minute there!” said one guard, his helmet off-centered to one side of his head and a slightly bewildered expression on his face. “You can’t just––”
Aragonez didn’t so much as bat an eyelash, marching right past the two incompetent guards, and leaving them slack-jawed, seemingly helpless to hinder his approach. Perhaps it was his dusty attire, or maybe it was the jeweled sword strapped to his side, or possibly it was even the sharp gleam that resided deep within his eyes, which caused them to stop short. Whatever it was, it induced them to positions of mute incomprehension, and without a second look, Aragonez slid past them to the heavy wood doors.
Setting his palms across the seams, he flexed and then pressed, thrusting them inwards with one, forceful push. The doors slid inwards, falling back against the inner walls of the Common Room with a thunderous bang that shook the old building to its very roots.
At his ingress, many therein turned to eye him with startled expressions. Striding forward, Aragonez again ignored their many looks of surprise, marching through their midst to the front of the room. As one entity, they parted like water before a rock, leaving him ample room to walk. Gloved hand resting upon the pommel of his sword, Aragonez made his way to the small platform that rose in the back.
Several men who stood at the front looked at him in surprise, their weather-beaten coats and ragged beards bespeaking of a hard life. Then, their eyes hardened into pointed glares.
“Excuse me, gentlemen,” said Aragonez. “I hope you don’t mind if I take the floor for a moment?”
“You have no right to come barging in here like this!” said one.
“My thanks to you as well,” Aragonez replied with a grim smile. “I shall not use too much of your time, I think.”
Another one of the men barked something at him.
Reaching into his side-pocket, Aragonez withdrew his hand, holding out a small moneybag. Immediately, the men’s expressions lightened considerably, and one of them stepped forward, eyes eager. Without a second thought, Aragonez tossed it to the man who caught it with an outstretched hand. Upon this, the others rushed to his side, poking and prying, each one trying to claim a fair share for himself.
Aragonez stepped past them to look upon the gathered assembly, who were eyeing him with interested expressions, some curious, others calculating.
“I have come here with a purpose!” he said. “I am looking for a man: a stranger to your folk, perhaps, or not at all. I have heard tell that he makes his dwelling here among you. I wish to meet this man; indeed, I am most interested in acquiring his distinguished services, if he were amenable. Has anyone here heard of the name, ‘Endurian Stonehelm’?”
There was silence.
Aragonez twisted his mouth into a hard line. This, it appeared, was going to be harder than he had anticipated.
“Come now!” he said in a softer voice. “I know that some here know of whom I speak. Come! Stop hiding behind your closed countenances and give me that which I seek. There is much, much more available where that moneybag I just proffered to your leaders came from.” He eyed the crowds with a scrutinizing expression.
He was just giving up hope when one of the men stepped forward. “There is one among us who goes by the name of Stonehelm,” said he. “One who––”
“Mahúr!” yelled a voice not far from him. “Enough! Yrsti althvä!”
Another man stepped forward, the crowd making way for him. This man, though, Aragonez would have recognized anywhere. With a long, well-maintained beard that reached nearly to his belt and a smile that would light any room, Khaderas Awyrgen was recognizable by his voice alone.
However, at the current moment, his usual smile was nowhere to be seen.
“Lord Aragonez,” he said, eyes grim. “I have been expecting you. The Lady Lithariel was kind enough to warn me.”
“That is not surprising,” replied Aragonez. “And it is well you see you here. But urgent matters beg my attention, and I must see Master Stonehelm as soon as I can.”
“I’m afraid I cannot help you.”
Aragonez opened his mouth to speak, but Khaderas interrupted him. “But I can lead you to him, though it will do you no good. If even I cannot suffice to move him, then any chance you stand will be impossible.”
“We shall see,” said Aragonez, and at Khaderas’s beckoning, the crowd of fishermen stepped aside to let him through. Aragonez could feel their eyes on him as the door shut behind him.
When they were outdoors and walking in the street where none could eavesdrop on them, Khaderas said, “Because of your name, will I show you where Endurian makes his dwelling, and not for any other reason. But again, I must warn you: any proposition which you will endeavor to entice him with will in every likelihood, be rejected.”
“I was already aware of that coming here.”
“Good,” said the man. “Then, you are already prepared for rejection, although I will admit that it would do him much good to break free from where he now dwells confined.”
Aragonez frowned. “Why do you say that?”
“I say it because Endurian has become, in essence, his own worst enemy. Over the past four years, I have seen his mind deteriorate to the point that, well…you will soon see what I mean for yourself.” The bearded man shook his head. “Regardless, anybody would readily agree that holing oneself up and taking not an ounce of action for an extended period of time, can only be to their detriment. Which is what he is doing, for your information.
“You well remember Orendel. His sons have retained much of their father’s bearing, and Endurian most of all. He is like to grow moody and grim, at times; that has never surprised me any. But this time, though, there’s something…different. I’ll keep my own suspicions to myself, suffice to say that he’s afraid.”
“Afraid?” Aragonez arched an eyebrow. “Endurian Stonehelm, who was for a time, the most notorious outlaw in the Darklands, is afraid?”
“Aye. He’s afraid; that much I know for sure, and he needs help desperately. I’ve tried persuading him, but, unfortunately, he has grown too proud to realize it.”
Aragonez walked onwards in silence, somewhat stunned by what he had just heard. Endurian the Outlaw, afraid? He was so wrapped up in that thought that it took him a moment to realize that Khaderas had come to a stop.
“There,” said Khaderas, pointing past the village, and over a long gap of shoreline, to a cliff that overlooked the swirling sea below it. “You’ll find him there.”
Aragonez looked in the direction of Khaderas’s hand and saw a large, rickety, yet ornate house perched atop the edge of the cliff. The house was easily the most inviting in miles around.
“Just up that hill, you should find him. When you knock, give your name and state your business directly. Maybe one of old Pelendûr’s maids will let you in. For now, farewell and good luck.”
Khaderas saluted him, then turning on his heel, strode back the way whence he came, leaving Aragonez alone.
✶ ✶ ✶
Aragonez pounded his fist against the door. There was silence. He beat again, and then a muffled noise sounded from behind the door, and it swept back to reveal a young scullery maid, wiping a dirty hand on her stained apron.
“Hello?” she said. “The master isn’t seeing anybody the moment. But if you could come back at another time, perhaps…?”
“I have a prior appointment,” said Aragonez firmly. “With one who is called Endurian Stonehelm.”
The girl’s face whitened. “Lord Endurian is…come in, lord. I shall tell him you’ve come.” She made way, and he strode through, entering into a large, open-spaced entryway. He wiped his boots on the mat and turned, when the maid said, “As whom shall I announce you?” She eyed him nervously, then added a hasty, “Lord.”
“You may tell him that an old acquaintance has come to see him,” Aragonez replied, eyeing the room about him. “And that he would do well to come as soon as possible.”
“You want me to say all that?” The girl put her hands to her mouth, seemingly mortified at what she had just said. “Sorry, lord. I’ll tell him. Right, this way.”
She led him down the corridor into a large sitting room, wherein were set several cushioned chairs and an oak table.
Then she departed. Or fled.
Aragonez shook his head and made his way around the room, searching for a place to sit. At last, he settled upon a high-backed armchair that was nestled in the far corner of the room. Slowly, he sat himself down.
Then sat back up.
He did not need to be accustoming himself to comfort. The last thing he needed was to succumb to such temptations; there were important things he had to be about. So, he made his way to the fireplace and leaned against the stone there, arm resting against the inset beam of polished wood that stuck out of the wall.
“Who are you?” said a voice. “What do you want?”
Aragonez turned and there, in the doorway, stood Endurian Stonehelm.
It was like seeing a ghost.
Endurian’s eyes were sea-grey, a trait that he had inherited from his father, but his hair was more brown than black, strained throughout with streaks of bronze––unlike Orendel or his brother for that matter. A thin layer of dark stubble coated his face, and his clothes were mostly unkempt.
When looking upon him, Aragonez was faintly reminded of the boy he had once known so very long ago. But only faintly. For Endurian had changed in that span of years, and when looking into his eyes, it was immediately apparent that not much was left.
Endurian stiffened upon eye contact. “Lord Aragonez.”
“Endurian Stonehelm,” said Aragonez. “We have much to discuss.”
Endurian’s eyes immediately hardened. “What makes you so sure of that?”
“There is naught to discuss. This conversation was over as soon as it began.” Endurian looked away, and it seemed to Aragonez that he was attempting to conceal some emotion, but when he looked back, his eyes had the same look as ever before.
“I assume Khaderas led you here?”
“After some persuasion.”
Endurian nodded. “Khaderas was staunch once upon a time, but his hold is beginning to weaken.” He looked Aragonez in the eye. “I’m sorry, but you must leave. There is nothing here for you. Anything that you may have to say will prove to be utterly fruitless, and I am not in the mood to converse with anyone for that matter.” He inclined his hand to the door, motioning for Aragonez to leave.
“Very well. Your wish is granted; I shall leave,” said Aragonez, striding to the door––and subsequently to Endurian. “But first, you must allow me to say one thing.”
“Say it quickly, then.”
He came to a stop several feet away from Endurian. “I once knew a young boy who bravely stood over the bleeding body of his defenseless father. In spite of he who faced him, this boy stood firm in the face of those mightier than he, holding a shaking sword in defiance of the dark, holding his ground: utterly determined to protect him who could not protect himself. Tell me, what happened to that boy?”
“You haven’t a clue as to what you’re talking about!” scowled Endurian.
“No, but I do,” he said. “However, I could say much the same of you.”
“I say that you should not have come here, and I stand by my word.” Endurian again motioned to the door.
Aragonez walked through the door and into the corridor, Endurian close behind to hurry his departure. Coming to the door, he opened it and stepped out into the cold. Somehow, he found that refreshing. Quickly, he made his way down the steps and then turned to look back.
Endurian stood in the doorway. “I’m sorry,” he said. “But the Endurian you seek is not here.” He prepared to close the door.
“Endurian Stonehelm!” said Aragonez in a loud voice. “You cannot hide from the world forever. Sooner or later, it will find you, for you are apart of it just as much as it is apart of you. You cannot just disappear and decide that you are no longer one of us.”
The door swung back. “Yes, I can,” said Endurian, as if through gritted teeth. “The world kicked me out. I know when the time has come to let go. Unlike yourself, I have embraced my destiny; do not think to convince me otherwise. Besides, you are wrong. I am not Endurian. Endurian is dead; he died long ago from grievous wounds more horrendous than any mortal man could possibly hope to overcome.”
“I think not.”
“Doesn’t matter. Don’t care.”
“I care,” replied Aragonez. “And I think it does matter. I need you, son of Orendel. You have grown proud and haughty in your exile. Your maturity has brought its own wealth of complications, but do not think that you are any wiser than myself. I knew you when you were no more than an infant in your mother’s arms. I would not say that you dead but in need of resuscitation. Remember, the world once greatly benefitted from your acts. They can again.”
“In doing so, I lost a large part of myself. The world can go to Múspell’s Abyss, for all I care. I am done expending myself for this ungrateful world.”
“And yet here, I find you spending your time with lowly fishermen. Rumor has yet spread of your applied skill, and these pathetic villagers have shown their loyalty to you, for having supplied food to those who might starve otherwise.”
Endurian laughed almost darkly. “They treat me in a much different fashion than all others did. Here, I am at least respected, not cursed, and blackened by my own name.”
“I respect you. Why else do you think I have traveled so many leagues to seek out your services?”
“Anything you have to say will only––”
“The time to redress the wrongs wrought against our people has come again,” said Aragonez, voice rising in the cold air as he stepped forward. “Your people need you. The time has come that you answer their call.”
“Our people are dead, and you know it,” said Endurian. “They are an impoverished, weak, people who wander desolate lands in desperate search of something that shall never be. Their will is broken beyond remedy, beyond cure, and I consider it the greatest of luck to have never fallen into their present state of mind.”
“You are not wrong,” said Aragonez. “But, like you, they need resuscitation. They have naught to strive for, precisely because they have naught to strive to. Only one such as yourself or your brother could help me fill that role.”
“Then why are you here speaking with me, when you could be speaking with my brother? He is elder than I by some years if you do not remember rightly.”
“I have spoken with him,” said Aragonez. “And though he thought any attempt at reconciliation was futile, he recommended that I search you out.”
“Like our people, Orodeion longs for something that can never be. Our home was completely and utterly destroyed. That which was once held fair and beautiful is now scarred beyond repair and can never be restored.”
“Your brother said much the same, but he quickly realized it to be mindless speech and bereft of all wisdom. You––and our people––will continue to wander as you do, until you set yourselves to the grand task of reclaiming your lands of old. What is it to live? To die, knowing that you accomplished nothing, save for an unsated heart? Or to die trying? The latter is much more superior, for at least you can rest with the assurance that you tried. And even if you should fail in the end, you can rest assured that there was nothing you could have possibly done to change things for the better.
“I myself will admit that I, Aragonez Ivronwine, was once as you were: broken in mind, spirit, and yes, even in body. But as I lay gasping in my ruin, clutching for my every breath, I was able to grasp on to something. A thought, an idea, may it be. And since that day, that something has provided me with all that I have ever needed to persevere and move onward: to take that one, agonizing, painful step day by day. You are not the only one who has suffered, Endurian, son of Orendel. I too have suffered much on behalf of my kinsmen. I too have lost that which I held most dear to me. But I have a goal: a motivation: a purpose. It is this that drives me forward every day. And every day, I tell myself that one way or another, I shall, in time, dethrone that wretch, Murazôr, curse his name. One day, I shall fell him from his high seat. One day, I shall have my vengeance. And on that day, my thirst shall, at last, be utterly sated, and my heart set at ease.
“Oh, of ease! Of comfort! Of rest! These things I have neither felt nor known for many a year. Of these things, I both long and hope for. When shall I find rest? I ask myself. The answer is clear: when I have toppled that dark traitor from his accursed throne, then and only then, shall I find peace. So, tell me, Endurian Stonehelm, do you thirst for vengeance?”
For the first time in their encounter, Endurian looked to be somewhat uneasy. “I did…once upon a time,” he said at last. “But now…now there is nothing. It has grown cold within me, like the very stone of this fell earth. And as I told you before, you should not be here. I exiled myself from the world for good reason. It would not be right for me to come forth as I once did in times past, though indeed, my heart yearns at times to do just that.”
“You possess an Anakamäril.”
That stopped Endurian cold. “What?”
“Don’t bother denying it; your brother suspected for the longest time that your father bequeathed one to you ere he died.”
“Even if that were true, why does it matter to you?” Endurian said coldly.
“It matters to me because evidently, it matters to Ir-Murazôr. You are not safe, so long as it remains in your possession. No mountain, no hill, no cave will hide you from him.”
“You present facts without proof. What makes you so very certain that Murazôr would be after something so small as this? And how can you be certain that he would know of my dwelling here in the first place?”
“Even the smallest of things can change the course of the future,” said Aragonez. “And so many questions require so many answers. If you would but come with me, I shall illumine your thoughts when I can spare the time.”
“You are not safe here; he will come for you, and soon. Yes, he will come, and when he comes, there will be no denying him. Not now. Not this time.”
“I should very much like to see him try,” said Endurian. “But my words are set in stone, and my will is adamant; I have no wish for vengeance or to join your band of foolish fugitives for that matter. My place is here, and here I shall stay, regardless of the chances fate may play me.”