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The Storm Shield - Tales Of The Fianna: Book Two [MultiFormat]
eBook by Kenneth C. Flint

eBook Category: Fantasy
eBook Description: Warrior, outlaw, poet, lover, born in the midst of strife and sorcery, such is the legend of Finn MacCumhal, the greatest hero of Irish history. This is the tale of his perilous quest to the magical realm called the Land of the Fair, to win a weapon of awesome power... Storm Shield.

eBook Publisher: Double Dragon Publishing/Double Dragon eBooks, Published: Double Dragon Publishing, 2011
Fictionwise Release Date: December 2011

This is the second story in the trilogy about the legendary Finn MacCumhal and moves at breakneck speed. Finn, along with his retinue travel to the Land of the Fair to win the weapons to finally defeat Daire Donn, a self proclaimed king of the world, and his war host from conquering Ireland.

He and his companions embark upon a journey that is fraught with dangers real and imagined by the king of the Land of the Fair to play the cruel game he needs to win to obtain the legendary weapons. Many unexpected diversions occur along the way. Will he succeed or fail; will Ireland be overrun by those who will win her at any cost?

With sorcery and treachery surrounding him Finn has his work more than cut out for him! A genuine page turner that delivers!

Chapter One

* * * *

The dragon ships took the little sailing vessel by surprise, sweeping like monstrous sea creatures from the thick fog to strike their prey. Their long, sleek hulls slid up on either side of it, trapping it between. Their serpentine figureheads, eyes baleful, teeth bared in ferocious snarls, loomed high above its tiny deck.

From behind bulwarks lined with brightly painted shields, warriors leapt across onto their victim, shrieking their battle cries. They were burly men clad in coats of mail and pointed, iron caps. Some carried massive broadswords. Others wielded axes with wide, curved blades.

On the deck of the entrapped ship, a much smaller company of warriors prepared to challenge them. These men were taller, but more lean of build. They were elegantly dressed in fine cloaks of bright-dyed wool and silken tunics edged in golden trim. They were helmetless, sporting long and elaborately dressed hair. They set themselves to fight with slim-bladed swords and slender javelins as their attackers swarmed upon them from two sides.

The boarding warriors struck with ferocity. But, amazingly the small band of defenders was not overwhelmed. For all their delicate look, they fought with skill and savagery, falling back into a tight ring and holding their snarling foes at bay. Bodies began to form a mound about them. Hot blood, steaming in the coolness of the fog, poured across the deck.

Then a new figure appeared amongst the attackers. A wide, powerfully formed man, he pushed through his warriors, towering nearly a head above them. But it was his dress that made his aspect the most terrible.

His body was clothed in shimmering coat and trousers of silver mail. His head was fully hidden by a gleaming helmet of several skillfully joined pieces. A cap with golden crest covered the skull. A wide, flaring piece guarded the back of his neck. Hinged side-flaps shielded cheeks, ears, and jaws. The face itself was protected by a mask that had fierce human features. Above a stern mouth curled a mustache extravagantly worked in gold, while a long, sharp jut of nose ran upward to meet arching eyebrows crafted in bronze. Beneath these brows were the dark caverns of eyeholes. From these shone glinting eyes that seemed like polished iron.

With no hesitation, he drove into the knot of defenders alone, sweeping around him with a great war ax. Its haft was the thickness of a man's forearm, its blade a broad fan of iron, wider than a man's waist at its cutting edge.

He slashed down the first to face him with a single, sweeping cut and pressed on into the others. One of his adversaries wheeled to strike at him as he passed, swinging down a sword in a hard blow against his exposed shoulder. The blade hit the mail, then turned and slid away as if it had struck solid iron. It left no mark. The astonished warrior was still staring at the useless weapon in his hand when the ax swept back to slash away his head.

The other defenders were helpless against this force. Their formation was ripped open. The rest of their foes rushed in to surround them, and they had no more chance to fight.

They expected to be killed. Instead they were only disarmed, their hands bound behind them. Muscular warriors lifted them and slung them across to their fellows in the larger of the two dragon ships. They were herded together in an open spot in the center of the wide deck. Here the helmeted giant moved out from his warriors to stand before them.

He handed his gore-clotted ax to a nearby warrior. With great care he pulled huge, mailed gloves from his massive hands and passed them over too. The curious gazes of the captives were fixed upon him as he raised his hands to the helmet and slowly, slowly lifted it from his head.

The features he revealed were swarthy and crudely handsome, with wide mouth, broad nostrils, and a strong chin, deeply cleft. Cheekbones were prominent and eyes wideset beneath heavy, dark brows. A broad forehead was emphasized by shiny, black hair cut short and combed straight back over a large, high-domed head.

He tossed the helmet to the waiting man and stepped closer to the prisoners. His expression was one of arrogance, of command, of ruthlessness. The cold eyes moved from man to man, their sharp gaze probing, evaluating each.

At one man they paused. Clearly this warrior was older than the rest, his spare face marked by lines about the eyes and mouth, gray strands salting his dark blond hair. The mailed giant studied him for a time, then nodded, a smile tugging up just the corners of his mouth.

"Very good," he announced in a slow, deep voice of satisfaction. "You are what I have sought."

The older prisoner strode forward to confront his captor boldly, his tones angry and indignant.

"You pirates must be mad! It's a great mistake you've made in stopping us." He drew himself up proudly. "I am an emissary of the high king of Ireland, returning from a mission to Alban!"

"I know very well who you are, Glas MacDremen," the other said softly but quite distinctly. Each word was savored as if he enjoyed the dramatic sound of his own voice. "It is precisely for that reason we have followed you since you left Alban. We were waiting for just such a chance as this fog to come upon you by surprise. You see..." he smiled again, "...I wanted you alive!"

MacDremen's anger changed to astonishment at these words.

"Alive?" he repeated. "Why? For ransom?"

The armored giant gave a low chuckle of amusement. "No, my friend. What I seek is very much greater than that. It is for the conquering of Ireland that I need your help."

Now it was Glas who laughed, but scoffingly. "Conquer Ireland! Now I'm certain you're mad. What, you and this lot of brigands?"

The man before him abruptly ceased to smile. The mouth drew taut and cruel. The voice took on a chilling note.

"I have forged an army of the finest warriors from all the lands of the world," he said, lifting a hand and clenching it into a massive fist. "Already we have conquered more territories than could be filled by a score of your Irelands."

"By the gods!" one of the younger captives exclaimed in a voice that trembled with his sudden dread. "He must be Daire Donn!"

This seemed to please the tall man. Once more the smile returned.

"Well! I am pleased to discover that my fame has already spread so far! Yes, my friend, I am Daire Donn, High King of the Great World!"

Glas remained unimpressed.

"That is a title you have given to yourself," he said reprovingly. "You are the ruler of no lands. You have taken them only to plunder and destroy. You and your band are nothing more than common raiders!"

"And you think yourself better?" Donn hammered out, his voice rising nearly to a shout. "You, with your ancient lineage and your fine manners and your rich dress?"

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