Don’t Mess with the Gil-Gamesh – An Excerpt from “The Dark Tides”

People always underestimate one another, especially when it comes to outsiders or people who are different from them. I grew up feeling that way because I was different from most people I knew. I liked comic books, cartoons and sci-fi/fantasy movies while others thought those things childish and nonsense.

SolaresFrostI think that’s why I made Lord Bryan MoonDrake, the Gil-Gamesh, an outsider with a lot to prove in Forever Avalon and The Dark Tides. Though most of Avalon looks up to him as a hero and a champion, others scorn him as an Outlander and unworthy of wielding the Twin Swords of the Dragon Moon.

Here is an excerpt from The Dark Tides where the Gil-Gamesh’s power is tested by such an individual, but he proves himself once again as the champion of Avalon.

***

Anger filled his eyes as he looked down the street toward his attacker. Th e lone figure stood in the middle of the road, his face shrouded by a flowing black robe. In his hand, pointed at the Gil-Gamesh, was his wand, still pulsing with magical energy. Th e wand was a twisted branch of wormwood with a dark moonstone embedded at its base.

“I don’t know who you are, but you must have a death wish to attack me here in my own home,” Bryan swore.

“The only one who will be dying here today is you and your pathetic Outlander family Gil-Gamesh,” the attacker grumbled, his voice low and guttural. “Th e Cult of Darkholm will seal your fate once and for all.”

Th e Cult of Darkholm came to rise aft er the Gil-Gamesh killed Lord Kraven Darkholm in a wager by battle … A duel to the death. The death of Lord Darkholm meant the end of the line of Morgana le Fay. Th e cult believed that they must kill the Gil-Gamesh in order to restore balance to Avalon.

“How many more of you fanatics do I have to kill to end this idiocy?”

“You cannot kill us all Gil-Gamesh … Death cannot kill that which never dies!”

“Never say never zealot!” the Gil-Gamesh shouted as he leapt at his attacker, swinging Twilight down toward the cultist’s head. But before his sword strikes, he cried “Incandesco!” causing Twilight to burst with bright light. With the attacker temporarily blinded, Hunter and Nevan drew
their GunStars and fired a volley at the attacker. The spell shots erupted as a single fiery projectile that split into many fiery projectiles.

Th e cultist waved his wand and chanted “Caligo Obscurus Cimmerii”—an incantation Bryan had never heard before. Tendrils of darkness fl owed out of the wand like an octopus attacking its prey. It reached out to form a protective shield in front of the cultist, swatting at the meteor swarm to dissipate as it impacted on the barrier.

Th e Gil-Gamesh couldn’t believe his eyes. He’d seen spells that blocked magical attacks or deflected them, but never cancel them out like that. He knew he had to take a different tack against this madman. He sheathed his swords and motioned for Hunter and Nevan to back off . The cultist expected the Gil-Gamesh to attack him, swords swinging like a whirlwind, as he is known. He tried a different tack against the champion of Avalon.

“What’s the matter Gil-Gamesh? Are you afraid to use your vaunted swords against me? Th ey are the only reason you have any power on Avalon. Without them, you are nothing,” he taunted.

“You know, I’ve been here for more than 18 years …” Bryan lamented as he removed his gloves, tossing them to as he untied his cloak, letting it fall off his shoulders. “… One would think you idiots would take the time to do your homework.”

“Acheron Draconis!” he commanded. His body erupted with magical energy as it flowed around him until it takes the form of a dragon that acted as an extension of him. Th e people of Emmyr stared in awe of the Gil-Gamesh, but especially Ashley and Andrew. She had seen her father
do some amazing things before, but nothing like this. Th e cultist quivered slightly as fear raced through his body. He wondered if he made a mistake in taunting the Gil-Gamesh, but he
stood firm.

“I am Lord Bryan MoonDrake, Gil-Gamesh of Avalon, 17th DragonMage of the Wizard’s Council,” Bryan announced as he cupped his hands in front of him, drawing power from ground and focusing it through the dragon stone that hung around his neck. His eyes pulsated with magical energy in an unnatural glow. “You are sadly mistaken to think that I am powerless without my swords; but that is a mistake I will gladly help you resolve!”

“Aboleo evi Itum!” Bryan chanted as he released the energy through his dragon-form at the cultist. With a wave of his wand, the cultist reformed his dark energy shield but the blast hit with such a force, it pushed the cultist back. He grasped his wand with both hands, trying to hold off the Gil-Gamesh. He looked up into the sky and stared at the crescent moon, as if he were calling to it for help. The blast slowly began to break down the dark energy barrier.

SKU-000941753Bryan knew he had to press his advantage. He reached out with his right hand to toward a lit torchiere hanging next to one of the vendor’s stalls. “Draconis Infernus!” he cast, drawing the fire to him and adding it to his energy blast, igniting his dragon-form into a fire-breathing dragon. The explosion shattered the dark shield, igniting the cultist’s robes on fire. He dropped down to one knee, his garments burnt away, leaving nothing but a charred husk.

***

The Dark Tides is now available for purchase at Amazon, Barnes and Noble and iUniverse.

Hooray for Hollywood, now get to work and make my favorite book into a movie!

Hollywood has been on a roll lately with one blockbuster after another of sci-fi, fantasy or comic book origins; but lately, it seems like Hollywood is running out of ideas by remaking older movies rather than making new ones. It’s not like they’re remaking movies from 40-50 years ago. Instead, they’re remaking (or as they like to call reimagining) movies from the 80’s like Terminator, Point Break and Poltergeist.

With the success of Game of Thrones on television and The Chronicles of Narnia and The Hobbit in theaters, there are some great fantasy novels out there just ripe for transitioning to the silver or TV screen, that have yet to be adapted.

Unfortunately, some series are so huge and all-encompassing that adapting them would mean some parts of the books would be edited out and you know how fans hate that. In any case, here’s my list of the top five medieval fantasy novels that need a big screen adaptation. I know that some people will disagree with my choices but, if you do disagree, please let me know in the comments below. I would love to hear what I might have missed.

Sword_of_shannara_hardcover#5 – Sword of Shannara by Terry Brooks: Though some consider the series a direct rip-off of Lord of the Rings, I am one to let the Terry Brooks series to stand on its own. It takes you on an incredible journey through the Four Lands, fighting warlords and ousting wicked brothers from their throne … Everything a fantasy novel asks for. A visually stunning and epic story that deserves its own adaptation.

COMIC_elfquest_book_01#4 – Elfquest by Wendy and Richard Pini: I know most of you are wondering why Elfquest is on my list when there’s been a movie in the works for years. That’s exactly why it is on the list. This movie has been on again/off again since 2008. Let’s get it done already! Elfquest is an award winning, cult following comic book fantasy series that has been in print since the 70’s. The rights to this series has changed more hands than Kim Kardashian’s sex tape. Quit fussing about and get it done:  Live action, CGI motion capture or animated, I don’t care. Just do it!

102243#3 – Fafhrd and the Gray Mousrer by Fritz Leiber: This series is right up there with Lord of the Rings as one of the most influential fantasy series that started the entire Dungeons & Dragons genre. Fritz Leiber is even credited by many with coming up with the phrase “sword and sorcery.” Everything you want in a fantasy story is here … Wizards, thieves, warriors and the like fight through an incredible landscapes with plenty of skullduggery. There is rich history woven into the tapestry of the world of Fritz Leiber. It amazes me that this hasn’t made its way to TV or film yet.

673593#2 – Elric of Melnibone by Michael Moorcock: Without a doubt, Elric is one of the greatest anti-heroes ever written. Michael Moorcock has created a world so fantastic, it could only be created through CGI technology of today, like James Cameron waiting until he had the right technology to create Avatar. The warrior/sorcerer renegade searching for his place in a world that hates and fears him. The hard part is trying to translate the Elric series into a trilogy. I would recommend Elric of Melnibone, Weird of the White Wolf and Stormbringer. Elric would bring horror and fantasy fans together to see the world of Michael Moorcock brought to life.

The-Dark-Tower-Novel-Cover#1 – The Dark Tower by Stephen King: I know this is not a true medieval fantasy, but hear me out. This novel has everything and then some and, just like Elfquest, it’s been tied to a big screen adaptation for the past few years but nothing has come to fruition. Even Ron Howard and Russel Crowe have been tied to this at one time or another. Which leads me to ask, why the hell aren’t you making this movie?! The Dark Tower is King’s take on the Arthurian legend, mixing fantasy with sci-fi and a western. I mean gunslingers, swords and sorcery, knights and thieves … what’s not to love about this series. This is one of Stephen King’s most unique stories that he’s ever written.

I know many of you have your own opinions and your own choices for fantasy books needing movie/television adaptation. I, for one, would love to see my own novels, Forever Avalon and The Dark Tides, added to that list someday. I just wish Hollywood would stop trying to redo something that’s already been done and try something new for a change.

Who is the Gil-Gamesh? Legendary Hero or Feared Warrior?

Within many stories today, there are names that stand out when spoken, induce fear and awe into others and make a character imposing. Names like Gandalf the Gray, James Bond, and Elric of Melnibone are known all around the world.

When I began writing Forever Avalon, I wanted to create a protagonist with just such a name. A name that would be remembered by anyone who read my story. That’s when I created the Gil-Gamesh.

gilgameshIn history, the Gilgamesh was known as a hero, a Demigod and a King from ancient Mesopotamia. He was the main character of the Epic of Gilgamesh, considered the first great work of literature. The first half of the story discusses Gilgamesh, king of Uruk, and Enkidu, a wild man created by the gods to stop him. After an initial fight, Gilgamesh and Enkidu become close friends until the Gods kill Enkidu. In the second half of the epic, Gilgamesh’s distress at Enkidu’s death causes him to undertake a long and perilous journey to discover the secret of eternal life. He eventually learns that “Life, which you look for, you will never find. For when the gods created man, they let death be his share, and life withheld in their own hands.”

In Forever Avalon, I wanted to reimagine the story of King Arthur and continue the adventures after his death. As the last remaining member of the Knights of the Round Table, Sir Percival was to be a champion of Avalon, not its King, after Guinevere began her reign over Avalon. I needed a name to make Percival stand out and be recognized as the champion of Avalon. So this is where I took my own spin on history and the story of King Arthur and the Gilgamesh.

Before his death, King Arthur sent his knights out on a quest for the Holy Grail, the cup that Jesus and the disciples drank from at the Last Supper. In his search, Percival travelled through Persia and Mesopotamia. There, he heard the stories of the Gilgamesh, about his strength, his courage and his love for his people. That resonated within the knight.

Percival was given Twilight and Dusk, the Twin Swords of the Dragon Moon, by Queen Guinevere to take up arms against the forces of Morgana Le Fay and defend to Avalon. He accepted the task and took a name that would strike fear in his enemies and bring hope to the people of Avalon.

He declared himself the Gil-Gamesh, the champion of Avalon, protector of the realm and defender of the innocent. He took the name from one culture and brought it into his own, to honor the demigod King and bring hope to the people of Avalon.

This is something we do as writers … We honor and recognize the past by including their stories in what we write today. I know many people have never read the Epic of Gilgamesh and don’t know who he was; but I hope through my stories, they will.

The Dark Tides is now available for purchase at Amazon, Barnes and Noble and iUniverse.

Did you know Superman is vulnerable to magic?

Marvel's version of the sorceress Morgan le Fay

Marvel’s version of the sorceress Morgan le Fay

With the constant rush of superhero movies coming out regularly, filmakers are trying hard to bring the heavy-hitters to the big screen. The Avengers: Age of Ultron and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice are just the beginning of the now steady diet of comic book-based films and TV shows. Magic and medieval fantasy in these genres are often forgotten and mostly ignored.

NBC tried to bring the supernatural side of the DC universe to life in Constantine, fans loved it but it fell flat in ratings. Marvel is planning a Doctor Strange movie with Benedict Cumberbatch and DC has Guillermo del Toro helming Justice League Dark to add to his long line of magical fantasy-based movies.

Sorry, I digress … I don’t want to talk about the could have/should have but rather what comics have done with medieval fantasy over the years, specifically those characters from Arthurian legend. I think Marvel, DC and other independent comics have put their own unique spin on these classic characters and even integrated them routinely into their world. There are so many to pick from so I’m just gonna hit the highlights.

Morgan le Fay was introduced in Marvel Comics in Spider-Woman #2. She has been associated with Doctor Doom on more than one occassion but I think the best use of her character was in the Avengers where she used the Scarlet Witch’s reality-warping powers to turn the world into one of magic where she ruled with the Queen’s Vengance, a twisted version of the team. Seeing medieval versions of the Avengers (Captain America as Yeoman America for example) was great.

My favorite has to to be Iron Man “Doomquest,” a two-story arc where Iron Man and Doctor Doom are flung back to Camelot where Iron Man teams up with King Arthur to fight Doom and Morgan le Fay. In the end, the two have to work together to get back to their own time. It was made even better with a “What if” issue where Doom left Iron Man in Camelot and Tony Stark eventually became King Anthony of Camelot.

I would also like to mention Merlyn (as they spelled it) and his association with Captain Britain, Dane Whitman aka The Black Knight (an Avenger) and the Pendragon (a source of the magical power of England) just to name a few honorable mentions. Marvel has truly embraced the Arthurian legend within its pages.

Morgaine le Fey and her son Mordred from Justice League Unlimited.

Morgaine le Fey and her son Mordred from the TV series  Justice League Unlimited.

DC has had a bonanza of magic and fantasy, but mostly around the Greek gods (i.e. Wonder Woman) but Morgaine le Fay (as she is called in DC) and her son Mordred have both played a part in the DC universe. I always thought it was interesting that, besides kryptonite, Superman is also vulnerable to magic. That has played out in the many dealings with the immortal sorceress.

Morgaine was introduced in DC in Madame Xanadu #1 where she is revealed to be the sister of Madame Xanadu and the Lady of the Lake, three survivors of ancient Atlantis. Morgaine is also tied to one of most unique characters in the DC universe … Etrigan the Demon. The pet demon of Merlin was bound to a human Jason Blood, an ally of Morgaine, as penance for his betrayal. This puts Etrigan at odds with the sorceress for centuries to come.

One of the best stories from DC with Morgaine has to be “Kid Stuff” from the animated Justice League Unlimited series. Mordred betrays his mother by stealing the Amulet of First Magic and banishing all adults from the world. Morgaine turns to the Justice League for help but has to turn them all into kids to return them to the real world and stop Mordred. The rest is just a roller coaster of fun watching Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and Green Lantern (along with baby Etrigan) fight Mordred.

There are many others I could mention here … Lady Pendragon from Image Comics, Camelot 3000 from DC, even Excalibur from Marvel, just to name a few. They all have ties to Arthurian legend and magical fantasy. You may not see them translate to the big screen like the Avengers and Superman, but they have their place in comic books.

The Face of Evil – An excerpt from “The Dark Tides”

Morgan le Fay by Lisa Iris

Morgan le Fay by Lisa Iris

Every story needs a villian, but in “The Dark Tides” we have a whole slew of them–from both history and legend and some from my first book, “Forever Avalon.” Under the direction of Morgana le Fay, these unsavory types have one goal in mind … The domination of Avalon and the death of the Gil-Gamesh. Here is a taste of what they have in mind in this excerpt from “The Dark Tides” novel:

Deep within the bowels of Idlehorn Mountain, Mnenock the Goblin King looked in awe of his growing fleet of airships. More than 20 ships now filled the vast cave in Idlehorn. Its entrance, hidden by simple illusions, disguised the immense hanger for him to spread his evil across Avalon.

Though they couldn’t duplicate the Gil-Gamesh’s technology, they scavenged what they could from other ships they captured or destroyed.

Even then, the goblins needed help to make them work. They used gnome and human slaves to bring the ships back to working order as goblins didn’t have the skill nor coordination for intricate woodwork or the technical know-how for the steering and wings.

Their skills lay in ironwork. Goblins were known for forging the toughest iron weapons ever made. With pools of liquid metal pouring out from the lava pits under Idlehorn and their immense strength, goblin weapons and armor are prized by every thief, brigand and cutthroat on Avalon. They didn’t have the craftsmanship of the Dwarves or Elves, but their iron had no equal.

Sometimes, the Goblin King used human pawns to get him the materials and supplies he needed to keep his fleet up and running.

Today, though, he waited for his ultimate payoff that would aid the plans of Lady Heather and the great Morgana le Fay.

A horn bellowed from outside as his guards notified all of an arrival, one the Goblin King had been waiting for. He watched as his goblins guided the massive airship in. It was larger than any ship in the Goblin Fleet, albeit a familiar one … The Reaper, former flagship of Lord Kraven Darkholm. It was confiscated by the Gil-Gamesh for an insult his cousin made toward Lady Stephanie MoonDrake, but now it had returned home.

The canvas wings folded back once the mooring process began. The human sailors scurried about the deck, securing sails and tightening down the lines. Once the ship was tethered, it set down on mooring blocks and the gangplank was lowered. Sailors filed off the ship in a quick, disciplined manner, led by their captain as they rushed to a second airship waiting to be brought in.

pir-henryevery

The flag of the legendary Pirate King, Captain Henry Avery.

The captain walked up to King Mnenock, exuding confidence in the swagger of his every step, but Captain John Henry Avery was no ordinary man. He was the descendant of the most ruthless pirate to sail the Caribbean—Henry Avery, the legendary “King of the Pirates” as some say. When Avery disappeared around 1696, people thought he retired to a quiet life, living off his riches. Instead, Avery and his crew found their way through the barrier to Avalon. He continued his pirating ways, plundering the coastal cities around Avalon’s shores. He even made his own town in the hidden North Seas off Avalon. A haven for his pirates, their kin and any others who wished to join called Barbarossa.

John Henry was carrying on the traditions his family laid down by taking them into the air. The Gil-Gamesh’s airships opened a new chapter in pirating for the Avery family. He carved out a reputation for himself, hoping one day to surpass that of his ancestor.

Unlike some of his crew, Avery preferred a well-groomed appearance. His long black hair was flowing and carefree, his beard neatly trimmed and his clothes emulated his rank and status. He wore an eye patch over his left eye, a gift courtesy of the Gil-Gamesh during one of their many encounters. Around his waist hung his sword Crossbones, a broad cutlass with a jagged edge on top. Th is was the sword of his ancestor and signified his status as the Pirate King.

John Henry stepped up with his first mate Rajesh Singh, an Indian sailor and devout follower of the Cult of Thuggee—worshipers of Kali, the Hindu Goddess of Death. They bowed to the Goblin King, a sign of respect but nothing more. Avery was here to do business.

“As promised your majesty, I give you The Reaper, returned home to Idlehorn,” John Henry cajoled showing off his prize.

Mnenock smiled, something he rarely did. “Indeed Captain Avery … Your reputation precedes you. And tell me,” he cackled, “how did you obtain this magnificent ship from the shipyard in Emmyr?”

“Well now, if I told you that, you wouldn’t need me now, would you your majesty? I have to keep some of my secrets,” he remarked, holding back his sarcasm so as not to offend the Goblin King. “Let’s just say I called in a lot of favors to get this for you; and I hope you will hold up your end of the bargain?”

Mnenock’s smile turned to a snarl. He felt insulted by Avery and though every fi ber in his being told him to kill these humans on the spot, Mnenock knew he needed them. “I never disappoint an ally Captain Avery.

Gr-tah-ah!” Mnenock shouted to his goblins. They carried out two large trunks and set them down next to the Goblin King. He waved and the goblins opened the trunks; one was filled with weapons and armor—the finest to come out of the forges of Idlehorn—while the other contained gold and silver coins and an assortment of jewels. It was a fine “pay day” for Captain Avery and his band of pirates.

Mnenock watched as Rajesh picked up one of the swords and inspected it closely, checking its weight and edge, swinging it around him an experienced swordsman. When he was satisfied with the workmanship, he nodded to Captain Avery before placing the sword back in the trunk.

“It’s always a pleasure doing business with you, your majesty,” he announced, tipping his hat and spreading his arms as he bowed. “If you ever need anything else, don’t hesitate to contact me. I am your humble servant.”

“Well, that’s refreshing to hear,” came a voice from behind. Lady Heather stepped forward, examining The Reaper as if she were seeing an old lover for the first time.

“Lady Heather,” Avery remarked, bowing courteously to Heather. “It is surprising to find such a beautiful flower in this patch of thorns.”

“Why Captain, if I didn’t know any better, I’d say you were flirting with me,” she professed as she continued to inspect The Reaper.

“Not at all dear lady, I was just admiring what I see before me; but even the most beautiful of creatures can be deadly.

“I heard about what one of your followers did to the Gil-Gamesh,” Avery continued. “It was a nice diversion for me and my men when we went to grab The Reaper.”

“That was my intention,” Heather interjected, still ignoring Captain Avery as she continued to admire the airship.

“And how did you know what we were doing dear lady?”

Heather smiled as she finally looked at John Avery. “You have your secrets Captain and I have mine.”

“As I said … You are cunning and deadly but with an incredible lack of precision.”

“Really? And why do you say that?” she inquired.

Avery walked over to Heather, staring her down, face-to-face. “You left the Gil-Gamesh alive. I don’t know how you got your man on his island without being detected, but Lord MoonDrake will discover how and he will be more resolved than ever to hunt you down and kill you.

“And I for one do not want to be around when happens,” he reprimanded as he turned to leave. He signaled his men to pick up the trunks and bring them to the Flying Fancy.

“I left him alive for a reason Captain Avery,” Heather shouted. Avery stopped and turned around. “Don’t you want to know why?”

Avery’s curiosity had gotten the best of him as he motioned for her to continue.

“You are correct, I let him live; killing him was never part of my plan. But getting my follower on Emmyr undetected was. I now have the ability to bring an army to the floating isle without the Gil-Gamesh ever knowing about it,” she exclaimed, looking over to King Mnenock who cackled softly in agreement.

“I want the Gil-Gamesh alive so that when I destroy his precious Avalon right before his very eyes, I can watch him suffer the pain of failure. When I cut off the heads of his wife and children, I can watch him suff er the pain of grief. And when he has suff ered all the pain and all the heartache as I have these past eight years, I want him to look into my eyes and know that I have beaten him … Right before I cut out his still beating heart and hold it in my hand,” she extolled, twirling the Orb of Veles in her hand.

“How would you like to see that Captain Avery?” she concluded, flirting slightly as she touched him on the chest. “How would you like to see that and get your revenge on the Gil-Gamesh?”

Avery thought hard about what she said. He saw the confidence in her every word, something he rarely saw in people who tried to plot against the Gil-Gamesh.

“Alright milady, you have my attention.”