Guest post by Aiden L. Turner

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Risingshadow has an opportunity to feature a guest post by Aiden L. Turner, who is the author of the dark epic fantasy adventure The Banner of the Broken Orc.

The Banner of the Broken Orc (The Call of the Darkness Saga #1) by Aiden L. Turner
The Banner of the Broken Orc
The Call of the Darkness Saga #1
by Aiden L. Turner

A Bloody and Dark Fantasy set in a Medieval age.

Gymir, Death Dancer in the old tongue, stands before a horde of the enemy. The battlefield before him is littered with the butchered remains of Goblin. His great-sword has sung a song of slaughter, and his armour plate is scarred and stained with his enemies’ blood. From out of the jungles steps a greater Orc of monstrous size, a double-bladed battle axe in its hands. Its nakedness uncovered. Its savagery evident. It swings its foot-long tusks back and forth as it roars an incoherent challenge. Gymir, Knight-Captain of the brotherhood of the Order of Light, smiles, for there is joy in battle. There is no fear in his heart as he runs to give battle with the servants of the Dark Lord.

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Guest post by Aiden L. Turner

Hello, I’m Aiden L Turner and welcome to this post about my debut novel, The Banner of the Broken Orc. The book has a strong foundation in the traditional epic fantasy genre. At its core, it’s a struggle between the forces of good and evil and the heroes and villains that fight that never-ending war. So, what sets it apart from those classic themes? Primarily I’d have to say the action, both in the ceaselessness of it, the level of violence and gore, and the detail. I’ve tried to focus on the large-scale battles and the individual fights scenes, far more than what people are eating or the elaborate attire. Though I have been thorough with the world building, I haven’t allowed myself to get carried away with vast pages of detail concerning the grandeur in which I find a lot of epic fantasies lean towards. This has been done to create a fast-paced novel that keeps the reader thoroughly engaged from start to finish. Also, the book has an aura of darkness about it that would resonate with fans of grimdark, one of the key aspects of the story is that evil is almost like a disease, it seeps into the souls of all and corrupts and distorts the being from within. I have had someone remark that the level of cruelty and violence was very high but this is intentional and not just my overall writing style. The book is about evil and I have read far too many books that brush over the characteristics of evil actions in an effort to reach a larger audience. I really wanted to avoid this and so wrote in a way for the reader to view themselves, in detail, who was evil and why.

The storyline focuses on four main groups of characters from three different races and in multiple locations that each have their own agenda, goals, and motives, but which are ultimately linked. The Brotherhood of the Order of Light are the human warriors, and are a monastic order of men who are huge in strength, honour, and courage. These fearless and brave warriors are the shield between the kingdom of Man and the much feared and hated enemy, the Orc.

The Orcs, typically for their race, are savage and near animalistic in their ways, yet there is much more in their culture, traditions, and religion, than one would first suspect. Serving, willingly, the same Darkness that corrupts the hearts of men; they are a cruel and unyielding people who war without thought or provocation. They have many allies, some of whom even the Orc fear.

The Elves are quite untypical for their race. They abide far removed from any other peoples, though they have warred with Goblins, and in their isolation they have grown hard and vengeful. Once graceful and full of life, they now see the Darkness amongst their kind. With an inbred skill for martial art, combined with speed, claws, and ferocity, they are indeed blessed to have healing abilities that go far beyond what the humans would call mortal.

A short excerpt from The Banner of the Broken Orc:

Gymir growled low and deep. ‘Halcyon has the keenest eyes of any man I have known, which is why I named him hawk. This council is at an end. The time for war is upon us. Go back to your men and prepare to receive boar riders.’ He looked from face to face before saying in a voice filled with pride. ‘It has been the honour of my life to serve this order and the greatest honour to fight with my brothers this day. Let He who is Greatest guide your sword, strengthen your shield and, if it is His will, feast you in His hall tonight.’

The leaders of the army roared their approval at Gymir’s words, then separated to join their own men. Gymir bellowed loud enough for every man amongst them to hear. ‘Prepare to receive boar riders!’ The call was taken up by the other commanders and within seconds there was the sound of men in full plate armour moving into the preassigned position. One man in three took twenty paces forward, whilst the other brothers in the first rank shuffled sideways to reduce the gaps. The tactic to engage boar riders seemed simple, to these men whose life was warfare, but only a handful had ever had to put the manoeuvre into practice. The brothers who had advanced would be the target of the boar riders’ first attack. But the brothers would not stand and engage the beasts, they would dance away to their right, shields raised to protect themselves from the beast’s tusks and the rider’s weapons. They would allow the creature to pass and with all the might of the sword arm of Man they would hack into the beast’s rear leg, disabling the beast and bringing it to the ground, where the brothers waiting in the front line would fall upon the injured beast and rider with fury and steel.

The formation was set with Gymir taking his place in the centre. He spied the dust rising as the beasts began their charge towards the brotherhood. He turned to his left and then to his right and said in a soft voice that nevertheless carried, ‘He is with us. We do His work. Stay your fears and be one with Him.’ His voice rose as the colossal beasts came into view. ‘Let us send these creatures of Darkness into the abyss!’

As the creatures became visible, Gymir heard the audible gasps, and understood the fear that would spread like a plague through the hearts of his brothers. Men sired from warriors, trained and experienced in facing the horrors of warfare against the Orc they were, but men still the same, and what charged towards them were horrors from nightmare. Each boar had the length and girth of a large horse, only they ran on stunted legs. Their tusks reared from the face of the beasts, much the same as from the face of the greater Orc, only these tusks were disgustingly huge, each the length of a man’s entire arm. Metal spikes were drilled into the tusks along its length whilst the top of the tusk were covered in cruel barbs that, once gripped in flesh, would hold their victim, whilst ripping and sawing, as the creature swung its powerful head from side to side. They would gore and tear the poison-coated metal into flesh, they would trample with the weight of horse, and whilst the men were trying to keep a distance from those evil barbs and bring their swords to bear, the lesser orcs sat upon the beast’s back, upon a throne made from the bones of their victims, would strike at them with spears. The lesser orcs that rode the boars were much stronger and larger than the lesser Goblin, but were still inferior to the greater Orc. Yet these lesser orcs, who sat upon the beasts’ backs with ease, carried long spears and used them with surprising skill.

Gymir stood calmly as one bore down upon him. Its head flailing from side to side in a sweeping motion, seeking prey. As the rider stood in its saddle, a thing of bright green skulls adorned its shoulders and upper arms as it reared up, spear in its outstretched hand as it roared its challenge. Gymir remained silent and motionless as the thing came within fifty feet. Just when the rider and creature made ready to strike and smash Gymir into death, he danced with unnatural speed and grace to the right and the creature rumbled past. Both rider and beast screamed their frustration at being denied their kill. Even with the speed of Gymir stepping out of the dark creatures’ path, he kept his footing and turned with all his might to bring his great-sword down into the beast’s back left leg. Just above the knee, the sword hit true and bit into the flesh with force enough to break the bone beneath. The jolt of the strike and the motion of the now enraged beast dragged Gymir off his feet. The beast stumbled then fell, its head struck the ground, and it slid along the grass as a dozen brothers leapt into action, hacking down with powerful strokes whilst two men bravely fought the rider who still stood upon the beast’s back, as the wounded creature thrashed its head in anger and desperation as it tried to gore its assailants.

Gymir had recovered and having retrieved his sword and shield, he turned his back upon the first rank and returned to his previous position. The Orc were charging as they sought to find the gaps created by the boar riders. The greater orcs now ran like the winds of hell were behind them. Hundreds were charging. Hundreds of huge dark green skinned orcs. Gymir focused his eyes upon a vile creature. Its dark green skin shone as if covered in an oil. Tusks the size of a hand-span reared to the sky as it bellowed its challenge. A thick bladed sword in its right hand looked more like an oversized butcher’s cleaver. As the Orc ran, it occasionally leaned towards the ground and snatched at the turf, launching itself forward.

Gymir stepped to the right of the Orc, raising his shield as he did. He let the monster’s speed break upon the shield’s reinforced steel. As the Orc hit, Gymir used the motion to turn himself so he could strike at the Orc from behind, yet the Orc recovered with speed and met Gymir’s great-sword with its own heavy blade. The sound of the blades striking rang out through the morning. The Orc brought his blade down again. Gymir was content to let the Orc batter his shield as he sought an opening to end the fight with the point of his sword. The Orc continued smashing its monstrously heavy blade down again and again with little skill, just bare rage and a lust for man flesh. Sparks flew into the air as the creature brought its blade down again, bringing Gymir to one knee. Doubt arose in him as the strength of the Orc seemed unbeatable. It brought back the heavy cleaving blade again, but it lodged in a gash it had caused in the shield. The force of trying to free the blade dragged Gymir upright once more, as the Orc stumbled backwards. Gymir followed and brought his four-foot-long, double-edged, tampered steel blade up and held it as one would hold a spear. The Orc had recovered. It turned but its cleaver was held low and as it turned; it saw the point of Gymir’s great-sword enter its windpipe slowly, before Gymir gave a great roar and with all his strength lunged the blade until its point burst through the Orc’s spine at the base of its skull. Gymir pulled the sword back as he ripped it to the right, sending bright green blood gushing into the morning’s light.

Gymir looked around at the carnage that had erupted along the battlefield. The rear rank were in bitter struggles with the boar riders that had brutalised their way through the front rank, leaving mangled piles of flesh and metal in their wake. The remaining front rank were now involved in pitch combat with the greater orcs. Gymir looked back to the south, seeking a foe, but found a sudden bubble of calm. He turned back towards his men and saw Halcyon on the ground, his sword lost, both hands steadying his shield as he tried to hide as much of his body underneath its great size. Two great orcs beat at his shield with massive double-sided axes. They laughed as they heard the young man whimpering under the shield as it took their powerful blows. Gymir walked slowly and deliberately towards the rear of the orcs, naked steel in his hand. So, intent on tormenting their quarry, neither of the huge, green skinned orcs noticed Gymir approach until his blade took the Orc on his right through the spine. Gymir withdrew his blade and turned it with such speed that the second Orc had only just registered his comrade’s death when Gymir’s blade hissed through the air and sliced through the major artery in the Orc’s throat. Still, the Orc attempted to fight back even as his life blood sprayed upon the field of battle. The Orc took two steps towards Gymir and collapsed in a gurgle and spasm. Halcyon threw the shield off and jumped to his feet. ‘I am sorry, Capitan, they overpowered me.’ Halcyon grabbed Gymir by the arm and pleaded, ‘I am no coward, brother!’
Gymir bent down and retrieved Halcyon’s sword. As he handed it back to him, he said, ‘You are not a coward, brother, but you will find neither survival nor honour hiding beneath your shield. Now, go kill the bastards!’