Authors: Norman Winski
romwell of Aragon sailed to the far edge of the world to raise the powerful and evil sorcerer, Xusia, from his thousand-year sleep, only to use him and then betray him.
But Xusia has made a vow to get even—in his own time, in his own manner, and in a new disguise . . .
ROBERT S. BREMSON
THE SWORD AND THE SORCERER
TOM KARNOWSKI & JOHN STUCKMEYER
BRANDON CHASE & MARIANNE CHASE
he entire world seemed to be ripping apart at the seams and toppling off its axis. The final, cataclysmic Day of Judgment had arrived.
Into this utter chaos came thousands of locusts, flying about the tomb in a clicking, buzzing frenzy. The two men and the witch used their fists to beat the swirling black mass of insects away from their faces. And through the terrible clamor of locusts, violent earth tremors, and their own shouts and curses came the blood-curdling baying of wolves and mad dogs.
Then, in a flash, the whirling tumult disappeared as suddenly as it had started. The locusts were gone. The earth was once more inert. The winds had vanished. And the tomb was as still as universal death. The only disquieting change, which each of them felt, was the presence of some new awesome force.
“Look!” the witch screamed in exultation. “Xusia lives!”
Cromwell and Malcolm rushed to her side and gazed into the casket, grimacing with revulsion and astonishment at the sight.
The slab of red marble was gone. In its place was a pool of blood inside the casket In the midst of this crimson broth stretched a long, thin, leathery-skinned creature whose bulbous head, closed lids, utterly hairless face and head, scrawny body and distended stomach made him resemble a jaundiced but newborn human—but one that was already fully grown and whose parents might have been ghouls. On his parched and pleated face were stamped the telltale signs of centuries of depravity and evil.
“The sorcerer!” Cromwell exclaimed.
“May we not live to regret this day!” Malcolm muttered, jumping back from the casket as if touched by fire . . .
THE SWORD AND THE SORCERER
1982 by BLC Services, Inc
All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book or portions thereof in any form.
An original Pinnacle Books edition, published for the first time anywhere.
First printing, March 1982
Printed in the United States of America
PINNACLE BOOKS, INC.
New York, New York 10018
T H E
S W O R D
A N D T H E
S O R C E R E R
t was an unholy and howling night, fit for neither the ancient gods nor ordinary men.
With each jagged burst of lightning across the rain-lashed heavens the enraged hydra-headed beast the sea had become seemed that much closer to crushing and devouring tiny Tomb Island. The coastal waters encircling this rocky site boiled and erupted with mountainous waves—the pounding and ripping claws of an advancing typhoon.
This barren strip of land was called Tomb Island because of its sepulchral rock formations and tomblike caves, and because the commoners, serfs, and shepherds on the mainland believed that the souls of demons, witches, wizards, and murderers resided there. The handful of mainlanders who were foolish enough to investigate whether this belief was pure myth or grounded in reality never returned.
Neither gods nor ordinary men would have dreamed of plowing through the violent upheavals of the sea on such a night and to such a fearful place. Yet even now a single, storm-battered galleon dropped anchor in a sheltered cove off Tomb Island.
But Titus Cromwell, the fierce warrior-king of Aragon who commanded the galleon in question, was far from being an ordinary man. The wake of his many years as a campaigning general was strewn with hundreds of men he had personally dispatched to eternity with his dreadful sword. In his heart seethed enough hate to propel him through several typhoons, while his mind burned with the single-purposed vision of usurping the richest kingdom of the known world—Eh-Dan.
It was the energizing combination of his monumental hatred and obsessive vision that had enabled Cromwell to brave the storm and now steel himself for an even more malevolent undertaking. Whereas the typhoon represented pitting his wits and mariner’s skills against natural elements, the immediate and dire challenge that awaited him on the island defied the natural, rendering his prowess as a soldier and cunning as a leader useless in the face of the supernatural.
For these reasons, Cromwell brought to Tomb Island, in addition to two of his top aides and a cadre of his best warriors, the wizened, loathsome old crone chained in the hull of the galleon. Without her black arts he had no chance of welding the universally dreaded Xusia to his cause—Xusia, who, because of his consummate evil, had lain for many years imprisoned by the powers that be in a deathlike trance.
Sheltered from the rain by an overhanging cliff, four cloaked figures stood impatiently watching the six soldiers in chain mail break through the outside cavern wall with picks and shovels. One of the figures was Cromwell. The heavy rains abetted the soldiers’ efforts by loosening the rocks and earth. Breaking into the tomb this way was vastly superior to attempting to clear the huge boulders that sealed the mouth of the cavern. That would have taken a whole battalion of Cromwell’s men.
“Faster, you dogs!” Cromwell barked at the diggers. “Or you too will end entombed on this vile pile of rocks!”
The soldiers redoubled their labors, for they had seen too many bloody results of Cromwell’s hellish wrath.
Each of the four figures held a torch and the dancing tongues of fire cast an eerie glow on their faces, which were beaded with rain and sweat.
Cromwell’s darting black eyes, set in features that seemed chiseled in cold stone, were reptilian in their coiled intensity. Nor was there any mistaking the creases of ruthless ambition on either side of his wide red rip of a mouth. Implacable resolve coupled with insatiable lust for power were qualities permanently etched into his fierce yet noble face.
The slouched, battle-weary figure closest to Cromwell was General Malcolm. Torchlight cruelly underscored the ravages of drink and drugs on his gaunt, strained face.
Directly behind the King of Aragon fidgeted Cromwell’s minister of finance, pudgy and effeminate Lord Buckingham. As usual in the face of any danger Buckingham was scared as a rabbit trapped in a cave. And although Cromwell found Buckingham’s cowardice and propensity for heavy perfumes and young boys distasteful, he tolerated his peccadillos. No one had a better head than Buckingham for inventing reasons for levying taxes on the rabble or for thinking up new ways of enriching Cromwell’s coffers with gold and talents.
The small, shriveled figure hunched in front of the king was that of Ban-Urlu, the aged but powerful witch he had had his soldiers pluck from her lair in the forest. Her hawkish face by torchlight was even more repulsive to behold than during the day. With long hairs shooting out of a large black mole on her knobby chin, stark white eyeballs surrounding blazing green orbs, and sunken cheeks, Ban-Urlu resembled a nightmare incarnate. Nor did the stench of her unwashed body and the residue of odors from years of living in dank, fetid forests lessen the revolting sight.
The howls and roars of the raging storm persisted as the soldiers’ shovels and picks continued to scrape and break rock. Suddenly a huge slab of stony earth and rock caved inward and Cromwell had his opening into the cavernous tomb.
“Follow me, oh mighty king!” Ban-Urlu excitedly shrieked, plunging into the womb of blackness inside.
Though the witch had never been on Tomb Island before, some dark sixth sense unerringly led her through the twisting tunnel. And as she scurried ahead of the three wary noblemen like a rat hurrying to where it knew there was food, Ban-Urlu’s beaky face and crooked frame grew increasingly animated with the fervor of adoration. For to Ban-Urlu the creature they sought in the tomb deserved adoration and worship. In the realm of witchcraft and sorcery to which she belonged, Ban-Urlu was a mere practitioner while Xusia was a demonic god.