The cover for Gavain's Proving is here, and I think it's turned out quite nicely! Many thanks to Don Saunders for another great job!
With the cover here, we're getting ever-so-closer to the release of Gavain's Proving! Keep your eyes peeled to this website and to Amazon.com in the coming weeks when the novella is released!
In the spirit of previewing Gavain's Proving, I've decided to do a new character overview, this time featuring one of the new characters from Gavain's Proving, along with providing a small section of the novella.
(Caveat: This preview material is from a nearly-complete manuscript. While the general content of this preview will appear in Gavain's Proving, there may still be grammatical errors or typos that haven't been caught, and the wording may be altered slightly.)
I hope you enjoy this character overview and preview of Gavain's Proving, coming soon to Amazon.com!
Burr of Kolnjar
Nation of Birth: Valdaran
Eye Color: Slate gray
Hair Color: Blonde
Religion: The Church of Alluman
Physical Characteristics: Burr is a thin and wiry fellow, built more for speed than brawn. He has the standard height for a Valdaran man, standing at about 6'-3" but weighing only 180 pounds. He wears his hair in short, military style common among the Valdaran guardsmen. His time in the Wastes has left him with a tan, weathered look to his skin.
Personality Traits: Burr can be an abrasive fellow, particularly when he feels needlessly saddled by some duty or chore. He is quick to mock anyone who lets their pride get in the way of asking for help. Burr's years as a scout have caused him to move quietly as a reflex where ever he goes, and he keeps water with him even when he is in Valdaran.
Personality Quirks: Burr dislikes showing respect for his superiors, often responding to their orders with sarcasm even as he sets about following commands. This has gotten him into hot water over the years, but his skills as a veteran scout on the southern border of Valdaran have always managed to get him through any reprimands relatively unscathed.
Burr is the eldest of three children. His father was a hunter, and his mother a tanner. Burr spent his youth hunting the woodlands and mountains of Valdaran beside his father and, eventually, his younger brother Hrojimm. Burr preferred to spend his time in the wilderness and away from the city-folk of Kolnjar; his sarcastic attitude often made trouble for the young man. Thinking that life in the Valdaran military would curtail his son's penchant for letting his mouth get him into trouble, Burr's father suggested that he go to Wyvernholme and volunteer for the guard.
Burr soon found himself serving as a scout in the Valdaran guard, his honed hunting skills making him a natural for the role. Initially the guard assigned Burr to the western border, but his attitude quickly proved problematic whenever he was required to interact with the Deldanari merchants that frequently traveled into Valdaran for trade. The captain of the western border keep had Burr re-assigned to the southern border, believing that it was unlikely that Burr's attitude would prove a problem for the hrimthaar than inhabited the Wastes.
It was in the Wastes where Burr's talents for scouting flourished, and he quickly mastered the techniques needed to survive in the inhospitable Wastes. Burr became the most accomplished scout on the southern border, capable of ranging further than any other scout at the border keep. Most of his fellow guardsmen learned to adapt to Burr's sarcasm, and the captain of the border keep, Captain Jarloss found that he cared more for Burr's talents than he did about the scout's abrasive tongue.
Recently, Burr has found the reports of increased hrimthaar activity near the pass leading into Valdaran from the Wastes troublesome. He has lost many friends as the officers and nobles in Wyvernholme have ordered more and more scouts sent into the Wastes to confirm the hrimthaar activities. This has made Burr's attitude of late even worse than normal. And learning that Jarloss intends to send Burr into the Wastes to babysit some brat of a squire hasn't helped either...
Gavain's Proving - Preview
Gavain shifted uncomfortably as the goat’s saddle rubbed his inner thighs raw. While he knew how to ride a goat, Gavain much preferred wyvern saddles, which placed the rider in a position where they leaned forward on the wyvern’s back, reducing the amount of drag the rider’s body placed on the wyvern’s speed. After years of training, his body had comfortably adjusted to the wyvern saddles. He could ride on one for hours without discomfort. Goat saddles were a different matter entirely.
Alluman, it feels like my thighs are on fire!
If Burr was experiencing any discomfort, he didn’t show it. The scout led the way through the twisting mountain path with an ease that proved the experience of which Captain Jarloss had spoken. Though the keep was close to the border, the pass down to the Wastes twisted and wound its way around multiple mountains. A wyvern could have flown the distance in a matter of minutes, but on goatback the journey took several miserable hours.
Just find something to keep your mind occupied. “Maybe we should start talking about what sort of survival skills I’ll need to learn in the Wastes,” Gavain suggested to Burr, wincing as his goat jostled him to one side.
“Why?” Burr asked.
“I need to learn about the Wastes, don’t I?” Gavain asked through gritted teeth.
Burr pulled his goat to a stop with the reins and turned to face Gavain. “Where are we?”
“On the pass down into the Wastes.”
“So you do in fact realize that we are not yet in the Wastes?” Burr asked. Gavain repressed the urge to throttle the scout. If Burr noticed Gavain’s irritation, he paid it no mind as he continued. “You recognize that we are still in the mountain pass, where mountain streams provide plentiful water, and small game is abundant to fill our bellies? That the most dangerous predators are wolves, which stay away from people for the most part, and maybe a bear or two? And even if there were more dangerous hunters about, this pass is patrolled regularly, so we can trust that it is relatively safe.”
“What is your point?” snapped Gavain.
“My point? This isn’t the Wastes. The Wyvernpeaks will take care of you. Surviving in their wilderness isn’t that difficult. The Wastes won’t take care of you. They want you dead, your bones bleaching the cracked ground. How do you imagine it will feel being in the Wastes?”
“Dry. Hot. Uncomfortable.”
Burr snorted. “Only the tip of the truth, m’lord. Only the tip. You think it will feel dry? You’ve lived your whole life in the mountains where the air is thick with moisture. You don’t know dry. Hot? It is as if there were a lens put over the Wastes, making the heat of the sun a thousand times worse than what it should be. Uncomfortable? You’ll spend your time wishing for even a second of cool breeze, only to curse the dusty wind that scours at your skin and makes ‘discomfort’ into misery. Truth is, you’ve only looked at the Wastes through a piece of glass. The reality of the Wastes needs to be experienced, and until that happens any talk about what you’ll need to learn is moot. You need to learn everything.”
“Have I done something to offend you?” Gavain demanded. “Alluman as my witness, I’m truly sorry if I have. Why are you treating me like this?”
Burr watched Gavain for a long moment. “The Wastes are no place for games. The hrimthaar are not to be taken lightly. I’ve lost three friends, each good scouts skilled at surviving in the Wastes, all of them trying to provide more confirmation that the hrimthaar are preparing to attack through this pass, and yet the Wing Lords demand that another scout go out and risk his life. To make things worse, they’ve saddled me with you, someone who knows nothing about the Wastes. You’re likely to get me killed with your ignorance, all just because someone thought throwing you into a completely unfamiliar environment was a good test of your abilities, even though you will likely never set foot in the Wastes again.” Burr shook his head and spat on the ground in disgust. “Have you done something to offend me? Being saddled with you offends me!”
“I didn’t ask for this to be my Proving!” Gavain’s voice was hot with his anger and his frustration toward the scout. “But don’t assume that I’ll be such a burden to you! I’ve spent my whole life taking lessons from others. I’m a good student. If you’d just tell me what I need to know, I’ll learn it!”
“You still don’t get it,” Burr said with a sneer. “Let me try this another way. The packs on your goat have plenty of water and food in them for our mission, correct?” Gavain nodded. “Wrong,” Burr snapped. “You think those are enough supplies. So does Captain Jarloss. You both think that because you’ve never experienced the Wastes, never had your throat burning for more water because the very air sucks the moisture from your body. You don’t know how to conserve your water - you’ve never needed to! I can’t begin to explain how to get water in the Wastes because you aren’t going to be willing to accept what needs to be done to find the water! Hells, look at your equipment!”
Gavain glanced down at himself. He wore the traditional metal-studded leather armor that all squires wore while waiting to earn the right to wear the wyverbone plate armor worn by full Wyvern Knights. A pair of steel bracers adorned his forearms. His bow was slung onto his back, a quiver of arrows hung from his right hip. His sword was belted on his left hip.
“What’s wrong with my equipment?” Gavain demanded.
“Your armor is thick leather, designed for the cold of the Wyvern Peaks.” Burr gestured at his his own simple leather armor. “My armor is only as thick as it needs to be to provide protection, and it was cut to allow as much air as possible to keep my body cool. Your armor will broil you, making you thirstier than you otherwise would be - which is already damned thirsty. Your bow? The game in the Wastes are small, smaller than most Valdaran rabbits. When you miss your mark - and you will, no matter how skilled an archer you are - how will you replace your broken arrows with no trees to supply wood?”
Gavain opened his mouth to reply, but thankfully Alluman gave him wisdom enough to stop himself. Burr never broke stride.
“I use a sling when I’m in the Wastes. Is it because I can’t shoot a bow? Alluman piss on that idea, m’lord. I’m Valdaran through and through. I can hit a target with the best of them. I use a sling, because if there is one thing the Wastes is happy to provide, it’s stones. So long as I can take the time to look around me, I’ll never run out of ammunition.” Burr pulled his spear from where it rested on his back. “As for your sword… If we are forced to fight the hrimthaar you’ll learn just how little use that blade is when your foe can keep out of your reach and still strike at you. Of course, you might not realize it until a hrimthaar spear is already buried in your chest, with me dying beside you because I’m supposed to keep you alive! So I ask you, m’lord, do I have any reason to be offended by all of this?”
Gavain considered his next words. “You will not always get along with everyone you must deal with,” Penevyr had once told Gavain. “Even your fellow Wyvern Knights will contain men who offend you with their every breath. You push that aside, get past it, and realize that whether you like someone or not is immaterial next to your duty as a Wyvern Knight. Look to your friend, Laeryk. It is plain to anyone who can see that he and his uncle despise one another, and yet both swallow it because they must. If those two can work together, no matter how dysfunctionally, then you should be able to work with anyone.”
It wasn’t Gavain’s fault that his equipment wasn’t appropriate for the Wastes. Squires were expected to wear their standard armor and weapons during their Provings. It was unfair that Burr would judge him so harshly just because - no. Those were excuses. Gavain’s Proving was beyond the norm for a squire, and he was certain that Penevyr would have accepted modifications to Gavain’s equipment due to the circumstances. Gavain hadn’t realized how inappropriate his equipment was for the Wastes, and Burr should have said something before they left, but Gavain was gaining the sense that Burr didn’t like to volunteer information. He wanted to be asked.
“I’m not trained to use a spear,” Gavain said carefully, “so I’ll have to stick with my sword and hope that we avoid conflict with the hrimthaar.” Burr snorted. Gavain ignored him. “I hunted with a sling when I was too young to draw a bow. If you have a spare I can practice as we head down the pass. As for my armor…” Gavain paused. “It’s probably too late, but is there anything we can do to mitigate its drawbacks in the Wastes?"
Burr gave Gavain a weighing look. “The spare sling I can manage,” he said finally. “And just as well you think about avoiding the hrimthaar than foolishly planning to fight them. As for your armor… that’s a lost cause. You could avoid wearing your bracers, but any modifications to let that armor breathe better would render it worthless in a fight.”
“Then I’ll just have to suffer the consequences,” Gavain said. “Is there anything that I can do now to prepare myself for when we first enter the Wastes?”
“You a religious man, m’lord?” Burr asked.
“My name is Gavain, and yes.”
“Pray that it’s a cloudy day. Maybe it will cool the Wastes down somewhat.”
“Does it ever get cloudy in the Wastes?” Gavain asked.
“It would be a first time, but you can pray for it anyway,” Burr said as he started his goat down the pass again. Gavain followed him in silence.