Upgrade to a better browser, please.

Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Books

The Lonesome Crown

Added By: Slinkyboy
Last Updated: Slinkyboy

The Lonesome Crown

Purchase this book through Purchase this book from Purchase this book from
Author: Brian Lee Durfee
Publisher: Saga Press, 2022
Series: The Five Warrior Angels: Book 3

1. The Forgetting Moon
2. The Blackest Heart
3. The Lonesome Crown

Book Type: Novel
Genre: Fantasy
Sub-Genre Tags:
Avg Member Rating:
(1 reads / 1 ratings)


In the age of belief, magic is a myth. But when an apocalyptic crusade comes to the remote border of Gul Kana, that belief is shattered as is the tenuous peace that held the Five Isles together. Now, the prophecies that were used to justify this war are unravelling revealing a hidden agenda while the world lies in the wake of the degradations of this war.

But a slim skein of hope resides within the hidden truths, long kept secret, and scattered throughout the isles--truths less reliant upon prophecy than heroism, and great sacrifice.


Chapter One: Stefan Wayland

Only through silver and blood and the green elixir of life can the dead rise again. So I ask, would summoning the demons up from the underworld be a dread or glorious thing? For in the end it is life renewed. And that is true Absolution.




Scorch and blood and the cold taste of terror hung stark in the air.

"Who are you?" the frightened girl asked, shivering on the rocky slope below Stefan Wayland and Mud Undr'Fut. However, the question was not meant for Stefan or the small oghul in ragged leather armor crouching behind the lichen-covered boulder, hidden from view. Instead, the girl's fright-filled eyes danced between the five whip-wielding Aalavarrè Solas and the black saber-toothed lion on the crimson-splattered hillside directly above her.

There were a total of six dead fishermen strewn between the Aalavarrè and the girl, six innocent men cut down by silver whips of scorch, their mounts cut down too. The Aalavarrè had wasted little time in killing. And Stefan could tell that Mud's fangs were in dire need of quenching. The oghul's pursed gray lips concealed gums that were aflame and swollen, and his eyes were aglow at the sight of so much human blood. Mud gripped a small curved dagger in his gnarled fist, his entire body itching to go down and slake his thirst on the dead. Stefan put forth a hand, holding the small oghul back.

His own gaze was focused on the white sailboat bobbing in the quay below and the four familiar castaways: Nail, Val-Draekin, the broad-faced oghul who had taken the black angel stone, and the girl with the white feathers tied in her hair who had stolen Gisela, the bow he had carried from Gallows Haven.

"Where do you come from?" the girl repeated, panic and pleading in her voice.

"We come from a place far from here," Icelyn the White, firstborn of the blood cauldrons of Hragna'Ar, answered. The Aalavarrè's voice was silky and hollow, her pale white face hidden behind a silver mask of Skull, white dragon-scale armor shimmering under a long black cloak. Her scorch whip dripped quills of hissing silver into the grass.

Behind Icelyn were four other Aalavarrè Solas, also known as the Cauldron Born: Raakel-Jael the Green, Basque-Alia the Blue, Sashenya the Black, and Aamari-Laada the Red, all of them in colorful dragon-scale armor and similar black cloaks, silver eyes roaming the dismal landscape behind their own silver masks of Skull.

The black saber-toothed lion moved down the slope toward the girl, its own silver eyes naught but flat blank slates as it sank its cruel silver teeth into her ribs. The girl slumped to the ground, straining hands clawing at the sunbaked soil. A silent scream--and she tried to blink away the pain. Her slender body writhed as her terrified gaze searched the barren hillside for help that would never come.

"For a human, she had such soft, beautiful eyes," Mud whispered, still crouching behind the rock. Stefan watched the girl's lungs cease their heaving under the lion's long teeth. "And she bleeds so red." Mud licked his lips.

The white handkerchief tied in the girl's hair was soaked red now, her white dress, too. With silver claws, the large black cat tore open her stomach, exposing purple guts. The lion's previously flat silver eyes now glinted shards of warm sunlight as its long teeth bled the girl colorless.

Stefan was certain that once the five whip-wielding Aalavarrè were gone but before reporting back to Sledg H'Mar, Mud would creep down the slope and greedily sate his thirst on the fresh pallid neck of the girl, draining her of what blood was left. Though it would not be a pure bloodletting, what nourishment Mud could glean from the recently dead would be better than the squirming gutter rats and field gophers he usually complained about. Besides, One must partake in the blessed miracles of Hragna'Ar, Mud was fond of saying.

Stefan was also one of those miracles, born again of scorch and blood and Hragna'Ar sacrifice, or so Mud had told him. But Stefan was confused about a lot of things Mud related. Supposedly he had been fed the green elixir of life by the Cauldron Born, eyes once again opened, shattered legs fully healed, born anew of the blood cauldrons of Hragna'Ar. And like Mud Undr'Fut, Stefan was now a servant of the Aalavarrè Solas, beholden to them and the return of the Skulls. He had been appointed as such by the Hragna'Ar high priest, Sledg H'Mar, the most menacing oghul Stefan had ever seen, the one they reported to daily. Mud Undr'Fut liked to sneak around when dealing with the Aalavarrè, he liked to remain hidden. But Stefan was under no illusion that the Aalavarrè were being fooled. They were lucid and aware at all times. They knew exactly where Stefan and the oghul hid.

"Harsh and vibrant these humans are in this sacrament of death," Icelyn the White said, watching the black cat sift through the innards of the girl.

Stefan watched the cat feast. He felt a kinship to the large cat that he could not explain. Mud claimed the cruel lion had also been reborn through Hragna'Ar, pulled from the same sacrificial cauldron of scorch and blood as Stefan.

"Vibrant in life and then so pale in death," Basque-Alia the Blue, third-born of Hragna'Ar and the blood cauldrons, agreed. "Humans die beautifully, their smell in death like a perfume."

"Everything is so vivid and bright and clear in this new world, the Great Above," Icelyn went on. "The very landscape has been carved as though with a magical instrument, the water so crystal clear and full of silver fishes that sparkle in the sun. Not like the Great Beneath, the underworld, where the water pools so dark and dead."

Stefan had a vague memory of listening to a traveling Vallè minstrel sing tavern songs in the Grayken Spear with the same pleasant, poetic verse as these five Aalavarrè. Their talk soothed him, though it was often talk of death and blood. Mud always reported to Sledg H'Mar what the Cauldron Born said. That was why he and Stefan were here with them today. Hidden. Observe and report. Even though the faces of the five Cauldron Born were veiled behind silver masks of Skull, Stefan could still discern their individual voices.

"My eternal soul now quivers with life and purpose," Aamari-Laada the Red, fifth-born of Hragna'Ar and the blood cauldrons, said. One long hand gripping his own scorch whip tight, Aamari-Laada reached his other hand up to the red dragon-scale breastplate covering his chest, fingers tracing the myriad of circles, squares, crosses, crescent moons, and shooting stars that decorated his armor.

"We are roaming, stalking, hunting once again with Viper," Icelyn agreed. "And an enthralling hunt it is, to make extinct the race of men, to avenge the genocide visited upon the Aalavarrè so long ago, to erase the memory of the War of Cleansing, to make right that Vicious War of the Demons, to rid ourselves of all memory of the underworld and its black, colorless depths, to serve again the Dragon, to bring about Fiery Absolution, to worship again at the feet of our Immortal Lord."

"For I am no demon," Aamari-Laada said, "and dragons are no curse."

"This is what the eternal soul was created for," Icelyn said, motioning to the girl and the six dead fishermen on the slope, "To become one with Viper in the long hunt. For it is a hunt uncultivated and raw, shrieking with fiery pain. The song of Viper. And the severed bodies on the hillside below have sung that song. Their lifeless crimson bodies are shrieking it still, their sacred melody doing Viper honor."

"And I myself can hear that pure cry of the human dead sail high and loud toward starshine and moonlight," Aamari-Laada the Red agreed. "It sails high toward the eternal God of open blue sky, toward Viper, the one who carved out the underworld."

Icelyn said, "And that song also leads us toward the dreamer of dreams, the maiden with the wrought-iron soul, toward the Dragon, wherever he may be, the ones who shall guide us back to that cross-shaped altar and our Immortal Lord."

They were all alike, the five Aalavarrè Solas, all of them speaking in mysterious verse, all of them in their dragon-scale armor of red, green, black, blue, and white, all of them with their silver masks of Skull. Yes, they were all similar, they were like Stefan and the black saber-toothed lion, Mud claimed, all born of the sacrificial blood cauldrons of Hragna'Ar, all awaiting the arrival of the Dragon and his vast armies of Vallè, all of them born to usher in Fiery Absolution, all of them preparing for the cross-shaped altar and the return of their Immortal Lord. They seemed to worship some God they called Viper.

Mud Undr'Fut had explained it all to Stefan repeatedly. The diminutive oghul had also claimed he had helped the high priest, Sledg H'Mar, in the Hragna'Ar births of all five Aalavarrè. A task that did Mud and his long-dead kin great honor. As for the Aalavarrè Solas themselves, the killing of both humans and animals did Viper great honor. And, as Mud explained, Hragna'Ar was all about the sharing of honor and bringing about the return of the Skulls. And Stefan was part of that plan. Found dead some half-moon ago, he had been gathered up from the woods and born again with the saber-toothed lion. Stefan and the large cat had been a "test" for a greater Hragna'Ar resurrection yet to come.

Stefan recalled only some snippets of Gallows Haven and his life before, but through a haze darkly. The memories were all there, but covered over in smoke and mist. What he did remember of his last day alive was the Vallè maiden, Seita, betraying him, stealing Afflicted Fire and Blackest Heart and the red angel stone from him. He recalled clenching the black angel stone tight in his fist until a strange girl in a green cloak and white feathers tied in her hair appeared from the woods with a burly oghul and stole even the black stone and his precious longbow named after his lost love, Gisela.

Now he was here with Mud and the five Cauldron Born, watching as the two thieves drifted silently free of the quay in a small white fishing boat. And Nail and Val-Draekin sailed with them. Has everyone been born anew of scorch and blood? Stefan had watched Nail and Val-Draekin die in the glacier. He had watched the boiling river of ice suck them down into its murderous depths and kill them.

Or am I still trapped in Deadwood Gate? Is the curse of the mines still warping my brain as Culpa Barra said it would? Or has everyone been resurrected like me?

His mind was in turmoil as he watched Nail and Val-Draekin sail away. In some ways he wanted to call out to them. But he remained hidden behind the boulder with Mud, sweating under his leather armor, watching as the white vessel carrying his precious longbow and the four castaways sailed away, not quite knowing what to think of his new life, not quite knowing if any of what he was experiencing was real. "You have new friends now," Mud had told him not long ago. "Those who brought you back to life, the Aalavarrè Solas."

But were his new friends really these cold and merciless killers? Icelyn the White was clearly the leader of the Aalavarrè Solas. She was the firstborn, and like Sashenya the Black, a female. Icelyn was also the coldest of the Aalavarrè, pure venom living within her eternal soul. 'Twas Icelyn who had slain every single horse on the slope below with her barbed scorch whip of dripping starlight. 'Twas Icelyn who allowed the saber-toothed lion to feast on the flesh of the human girl, its long silver teeth now scarlet with death, silver eyes now shining and cruel.

On the barren knoll just below Stefan and Mud's hiding place, Icelyn removed her silver mask of Skull, revealing the stark white face and silver eyes of a Cauldron Born. Her metallic gaze traveled down the boulder-strewn bluff toward the small port nestled within the windy inlet. The other four Aalavarrè followed Icelyn's cold stare, all of them watching as the boat carrying Nail and Val-Draekin floated away. It was a relatively small vessel with a tall mast and an unfurled sail that now set out over the choppy bay.

"Are we to allow them such easy escape?" Sashenya the Black, fourth-born of the blood cauldrons of Hragna'Ar, said. Her voice was a hollow, silken echo from behind her mask of silver. "Death and decay. I feel the power of the black star stone goes with them. It calls to me."

Stefan could also feel the black stone's distant call. I should never have touched any of those cursed stones. Death and decay was what they were. One of the star stones killed Gisela. One of the stones likely killed me! He looked down at his own hands. Yet I live when I should not! Hovering at the edges of his memory was that image of a broken boy sitting against a white aspen tree, a thick oghul arrow lodged in his chest, red butterflies drifting up all around. The oghul riding in that boat with Nail and Val-Draekin had taken the black stone.

"Those on yonder vessel are of no matter to us now," Icelyn said. "For the Dragon, our master, watches over the black stone now. Do not fall into despair, Sashenya, for all the star stones will make their way into the hands of our Immortal Lord at Fiery Absolution."

"But the Aalavarrè Solas have arisen anew." Sashenya turned to Icelyn. "We should not be so passive. While human, oghul, dwarf, and Vallè seek their ‘salvation' underground, we Aalavarrè Solas have already spent a thousand years trapped there. Do you not remember the underworld was a vast and deep purgatory, oceans and rivers and cities unseen, the lifeless dead in need of an awakening, in need of blood sacrifice and the cauldrons of Hragna'Ar? I do not wish to return to such a state. The star stones are part of our keys to salvation, the keys to the marble quarry and the salvation of our lost and buried kin, the keys to the resurrection of our Immortal Lord. We should go after them."

Icelyn was swift to answer. "We must live with patience but a while longer. The star stones will be gathered when the Dragon arises to answer the Call of the Burning Tree. It is written in crystal vision, starshine that used to be silver. We have heard the stars whisper as much in the deepness of our long sleep, in the infernal depths and cavernous haunts of our underworld. Do you not recall? Our souls have spent an eternity living in both dreams and chains, forever moving through a silent windstorm of invisible dark, shattered, broken, and lost. But no more. For one by one we have all awoken, clawing our way from the infinite blackness of the underworld by the power of Viper, woken again through pure scorch and blood harvest and sacrifice in the cauldrons of Hragna'Ar, woken again by the only true and everlasting life--Blood of the Dragon. So patience but a little longer, Sashenya. Patience before the fullness of the light."

Sashenya bowed her head in acquiescence.

Icelyn hooked the coiled scorch whip back onto her silver belt, then drew a long silver dagger from the folds of her dark cloak and eyed the ravaged body parts scattered about with an eagerness and hunger. She stepped over a pile of horse entrails and crouched over the nearest dead fisherman. Her white dragon-scale armor creaked softly as she sliced away both of the human's ears with the dagger, then quickly moved to the next. Stefan drew back farther behind the boulder, for these strange knights were brutal in all they did.

"?'Tis an ancient ritual the Aalavarrè perform," Mud whispered. "?'Tis the ancient oghul way. Mutilate. Disfigure. Taking the ears of the enemy so as to make it hard for anyone to tell if the dead are human or Vallè. Those severed ears are then collected and later used in the Blood Cauldrons of Hragna'Ar. 'Tis quite normal, really."

Normal? Stefan listened to the oghul in cold fascination, figuring every corpse looked the same once the maggots had done their job, ears or no ears. The dead were dead. The rotting were rotting. And I am born anew!

As for the five Cauldron Born, one thing Stefan knew for sure: within the heart of their leader, Icelyn the White, firstborn of the blood cauldrons of Hragna'Ar, there clearly lived a need for revenge, for a devouring, for an absolution. And the heart of Icelyn had infected the heart of the other four Aalavarrè. For they were all savage killers.

Icelyn knelt on the hillside, face seemingly etched in joy, silver eyes squinting against the harsh sun as she cut the ears from the dead. She cast her gaze out to sea several times during her task, watching as the boat carrying Nail and Val-Draekin and the black angel stone sailed away. And my bow, Gisela, Stefan thought. Gisela goes with them, stolen by the girl with two white feathers tied in her hair.

Copyright © 2022 by Brian Lee Durfee


There are currently no reviews for this novel. Be the first to submit one! You must be logged in to submit a review in the BookTrackr section above.


No alternate cover images currently exist for this novel.