A wonderful welcome to the Blog Tour for The Blade of Absolution by Lou Yardley! So excited to be part of this tour, this book sounds amazing and so happy I can promote it!
Today I got some teasers + an excerpt + book/author information~
Let’s get started!
Shown on Page (things clearly told to the reader):
Gore (a lil bit)
Violence (a lil bit)
Some body horror
A touch of general grossness in places
Alluded to (things only mentioned in passing or hinted at):
Discrimination against Orcs
One sword… a whole load of chaos!
Part dungeon break, part magical sword heist, “The Blade of Absolution” kicks off “The Volkdrow Chronicles” with a hearty dose of monsters, magic, and mayhem.
Set in the monstrous world of Venari, deep in the sprawling city of Red Fern, “The Blade of Absolution” follows Everfrost as she goes in search of adventure and her ever-so-slightly nefarious father. Things don’t quite go to plan and, as chaos ensues, she meets Woodrow (a half-orc assassin), Pyggbe (an untrustworthy goblin), and Yelkrie (another untrustworthy goblin… but with a trick or two up her sleeve). Will they work together or will they be at each other’s throats?
For those familiar with Lou Yardley’s Venari tales, this book will introduce you to characters and monsters old and new. If you’re brand new to this world, get comfy and prepare yourself for some epic fiendish fantasy, adventure, monsters, foul-language, odd humour, and a splash of gore.
Caution: This fiendish fantasy may contain monsters and swearing.
Actually, it absolutely does contain both of those things.
(This is our attempt at a bit of fun. We ask our authors to come up with a few short, clever, possibly pop culture laden, descriptions of their books just to give a little taste of what’s to come for readers.)
Dungeon Break • Magical Sword Heist • Pesky Goblins
Buy here:Universal Buy Link
Lou is an author. And a weirdo. She’s sorta part Deadite and part Hobbit. Sometimes she feels like she’s four goblins in a trench-coat masquerading as a human.
Up until recently, Lou Yardley has lurked mainly in the horror realms, but now she’s taking her first gore-coated steps into the world of dark fantasy. Rather than just write one fantasy book, she’s creating a whole world… and a dragon’s horde’s worth of books.
“Banished” was released in 2020 and was her first adventure in the monstrous world of Venari. In 2021, it was joined by “Creep” (a novella) and “Everfrost” (a werewolf flavoured novel). 2023 has seen the start of two new Venari series called “The Volkdrow Chronicles” and “Glintsprock’s Quest”.
Now that those are out in the wild, Lou is busy typing away at new Venari stories. We can’t share too much about them yet, but we can promise they will be filled with monsters, magic, and mayhem.
Chapter 1 – Stepping Through the Door
Stepping through a door when one doesn’t know what waits on the other side is foolhardy. Idiotic, even. But then, Everfrost did grip a magical sword in her hand and she had just put an end to a vicious werewolf hybrid, so a random door didn’t seem to pose much of a threat. What did it matter what was on the other side? Even if an unknown foe awaited her, they couldn’t be worse than what she’d already faced. She’d be ready for anything anyway, especially with Absolution firmly lodged in her grip. She was a Monster Hunter now; brave and unstoppable.
Leaving the forest behind, Everfrost and her trusty dire-hog companion Hero, prepared to step through the mystery door. Aside from the fact it appeared slap bang in the middle of Taun Grove and didn’t seem to be attached to anything, the door looked the same as just about every door Everfrost had ever encountered. She supposed it was its absolute mundane normalness that made it seem all the more enticing as she’d been walking through a forest full of creatures that wanted to eat her. Not that she had much to fear in that regard, not with Absolution in her hands. It was still unclear if the sword had chosen her, or if she had chosen it, but holding the blade in her grip just felt right.
Holding her breath as if she was about to dive into a pool of water, she stepped through with Hero at her side.
The world closed in on her. Or, at least, that’s how it felt. An invisible force seemed determined to press against her in all directions. It pressed against her chest and face, making it difficult to breathe. Panic set in. Everfrost looked to Hero for reassurance, but she couldn’t see him.
She couldn’t see anything.
Fear tightened her throat, stopping any air that had made it through the invisible force. Oblivion was going to take her at any moment.
But then she felt Hero at her side. And her knapsack containing her precious, if macabre, cargo on her back. Both things reminded her of who she was, who she had become, and what she had accomplished.
Determination flooded her arteries, but still the invisible force pressed against her.
‘Just my luck,’ Everfrost thought. ‘After all I’ve been through, I’m going to die because I walked through a stupid door.’
Then, just as soon as the sensation had begun, it stopped. The invisible force pulled away, but slowly, slithering away from her skin, leaving her body. Dragging itself away, the strange force reminded Everfrost of the snot that had filled her when she’d last had a cold. Repulsed, she grimaced before taking a deep breath. She could breathe again. She was out on the other side. The world on the other side of the door was very different to the world of Taun Grove and, as Hero snorted beside her, she knew she’d made the right decision in coming through the door.
At sixteen years old, Everfrost wasn’t in the habit of walking through random doors that appeared to lead to nowhere, but that was what she’d done. Then again, she doubted that most people, no matter what their age, would wander through such a door, let alone believe where the door took them. She was struggling to believe it herself. The door had brought her all the way to the place she’d been intending to travel to, anyway. In front of her stood a gigantic wall and a sleeping guard.
Red Fern was in reach. Everfrost had arrived.
“We made it,” she said to the dire-hog. Hero simply snuffled in reply. The creature had only been in her life for a few weeks, but she already felt she could understand what he was trying to tell her. Right now, his snuffle suggested he wanted to explore his new surroundings and Everfrost found she agreed. She turned her attention to the guard.
Snoring softly, the guard slept on, unaware he was being watched. A substantial trail of dribble slithered out the corner of his mouth and crawled down his chin. Having decided not to bother with stealth, Everfrost stalked over to the guard and gently tapped his boot with her own. The guard snored again, muttered something unintelligible, but remained sleeping. Realising the sleeping chap wasn’t a threat, Everfrost placed Absolution back in its scabbard.
“I don’t think he’s going to welcome us to this fine city,” Everfrost said. Hero grunted. “Some guard, right? Absolutely useless… let’s hope the fate of the realm doesn’t rest in his hands.” Taking another step closer, Everfrost bent over to study the guard some more. He was unshaven, and his armour was dull and dented. Her experience with the Queen’s Guard was limited, but when thinking of the three she’d met, this man was more of a Burwood than a Gretel or Grub. He certainly wasn’t a member of the Knights of the Green Fire. As if reading her thoughts, Hero snorted and shook his enormous head.
“Definitely not the finest example of a guard,” Everfrost agreed.
“Nnyeah…” the guard mumbled in his sleep as if in protest. “Got… to…” A snore completed the sentence.
“Got to do what?” Everfrost asked. “Do your job? Guard the door? Stop me from just wandering in and doing whatever the gods I wanted?”
The guard said nothing in response, but something had changed. Any relief Everfrost had felt after walking through the door had dissipated. She looked over at Hero to see if he looked as uncomfortable as she felt. The animal shifted nervously from foot to foot, looking like he’d rather be anywhere else than here. In a way, she was glad Hero seemed uneasy; misery really does like company.
For the first time since she’d arrived, she focused her attention on that which was beyond the guard, the door, and the wall. If she was to walk forwards, she’d find herself at the gates to Red Fern. If she was to bypass the mysterious door and walk backwards, she’d end up in the woodland. All around her, shadows moved with malice, her marble-white eye picking up every shift. This was what she had, in the last few hours, taken to calling her ‘Shadowsight’, the result of a particularly unpleasant incident involving the pus of a pre-change-werewolf. Whatever was in that goop enabled her to see shadows that had been invisible to her before. Those shadows acted as a warning system, alerting her to Venari’s monsters before pretty much anyone else could see or hear them. Right now, they were telling her that danger lurked in the woods. ‘Just our luck,’ she thought, ‘and I thought Taun Grove was bad. This place is crawling with Abyssus-knows-what.’
“It’s probably best to stick with our plan, anyway,” she said to Hero. “Red Fern awaits.” Everfrost held out her hand, gesturing for the dire-hog to take the lead. The animal did just that. Everfrost followed, and to her relief, the menacing shadows stayed where they were. She signalled to Hero to stop and then turned to watch the treeline. The shadows didn’t move past it, seemingly unable to move any closer. Something held them at bay.
“Coulda done with that in Elkbury,” she said, trying not to think about how many lives could have been saved if her village had possessed defenses like that. Would her mother still be alive? Her friend Fenla? How many had died needlessly in the Banishment ritual? When she had lived in Elkbury, all she’d wanted to do was escape and see the world. So far, the world had just done everything it could to tear her apart. Deciding she’d stared into the shadows enough, she turned back and walked towards the large closed gates. The gates loomed over her, denying her access. It was easy to imagine guards on top of the wall, looking down at her. She wondered if they were as incompetent as their sleeping colleague.
Just as she was about to call out and demand to be let in, a strange smell caught her attention. All along the wall, small red toadstools grew, their tiny heads resplendent in the moonlight. The smell was repugnant, but there was something about it that drew her towards it. It was the same pull that had led her to her sword. Finding Absolution had been one of the best things Everfrost had ever done; it stood to reason these tiny toadstools would take her on a similar path.
“I wouldn’t touch them if I were you,” a voice said. The words floated towards her, almost dreamlike.
Everfrost looked up to the top of the wall, but could see no-one.
“Over here,” the voice said. Everfrost sighed as she realised where it was coming from. With her hand on Absolution’s hilt, she turned back towards the woodland. Just as before, at the forest’s edge, countless shadows waited. One of those shadows moved more frantically than the others, as if trying to get her attention.
“Come closer,” the shadow said, “please.”
“You’d best leave me alone,” Everfrost replied. Hero whimpered slightly at her side. “I’m a monster slayer.” Despite having slain a few monsters so far, Everfrost’s voice remained light and unthreatening, reminding her she was still a teenage girl and not an invincible being sent from the gods to rid Venari of monstrous creatures.
“A monster slayer, eh?” the voice said, seeming to think it over. “Well, I suppose you’re in the right place. You’ll find plenty of monsters here, both in and outside those walls…. but things are never quite what they seem. Why don’t you come closer? I think we can help each other.”
“You want me to come closer? No chance.” Everfrost drew Absolution from its scabbard to show she meant business. The young girl of only a few weeks ago probably would have spoken to the voice without question, but Everfrost had learnt that trust was a valuable thing. One that had too high a price when given away to the wrong person. “I won’t fall for your dirty tricks.”
“There are no tricks here, I promise you.” To its credit, the dreamy voice did sound sincere, but then again, that was exactly the way someone who was trying to trick you would sound. Everfrost squinted into the shadow, trying to make out details, but there were none to be found. “Please come closer,” the voice tried again.
“No. You’re wasting your time.”
“You’re probably right to be wary,” the voice said. “It’s not wise to trust strangers in these parts. So, I’ll do my best to stop being a stranger and to earn your trust. My name is Mildred Rutland.”
“Should that mean anything to me?” Everfrost asked.
“I very much doubt it,” Mildred replied, the shadow the voice appeared to be coming from stepping closer. “But I hope you understand I mean you no harm… but I also know it’s hard to trust a ghost you’ve just met in the Woods of Waiting.”
“You’re a ghost?”
A thin smile appeared on her translucent face. “I thought that much would have been obvious.”
“I suppose it is… but I’ve never seen a ghost before.”
“You’re not from around here, are you?” Mildred asked, but she didn’t wait for an answer. “And yet… you came through that door. I don’t see that often. Now that I think about it, I think I’ve only ever seen one person use that door. Everyone else acts like it’s not there.”
“What about that guard?” Everfrost asked, glancing back over her shoulder. The guard was still there, snoring like it was going out of fashion.
“He just sits near the door… or, rather, where he believes the door to be. His boss just pointed him in the right direction once and he gets into the same position whenever he’s working. Which has been more often in the last few weeks. It’s like he was expecting someone… you, perhaps.” Studying her face closely, Mildred moved closer to Everfrost. “Who are you?”
Everfrost didn’t answer, instead choosing to look between the sleeping guard and the chatty ghost. As far as she was concerned, neither could be trusted at all. Beside her, Hero grunted, showing his impatience.
“If you don’t feel like answering, that’s fine… but let me ask you something. Are you planning on heading into Red Fern?” the ghost asked.
“Of course. What else am I going to do here?”
The ghost sighed, and Everfrost was sure she saw her roll her eyes. “I’d almost forgotten what teenagers were like,” Mildred said with a small chuckle. “You remind me of my son, but he was never quite as sassy as I think you may be.”
“Okay…” Everfrost said, not sure what else to say. She didn’t know Mildred or her son, so she couldn’t really comment. And sassy? Who was she calling sassy?
“He’s still in there, you know,” Mildred said. “He’ll be old now. Far older than he has any right being, but he’s still there. I can tell. Or, at least, I haven’t felt him pass on.”
“You’ll be able to feel when he dies?”
“I expect so… You know what it’s like, the dead sense the dead. I’ve felt every death from within those walls for as long as I’ve been here.”
“How long’s that?” Everfrost asked.
“Too long,” Mildred said, simply. “Anyway, if you’re going within the walls, I’d appreciate it if you could get a message to my son. His name is Angus Rutland.”
Everfrost thought on this for a moment. “But I don’t know who he is. I don’t know who anyone here is. Why don’t you just tell him yourself? I don’t want to get caught in any family drama. I’ve got enough of that of my own,” she said, thinking about what she hoped to find within Red Fern’s walls. She hadn’t planned to use the magic door to get here, but it seemed fate was working on her side.
“Believe me, if I could get in there to see him, I would. But, I can’t. I’m stuck here… but that’s a story for another time. If you do happen to see him, tell him to come here. He knows I died, but he doesn’t know what happened to me or his father.”
Everfrost was about to ask why Mildred didn’t write her son a letter, but thought better of it. She didn’t want to cause offense if ghosts were unable to hold a quill. And, as far as she knew, the woman and her son could be illiterate. Just because she’d been lucky enough to be taught to read and write, it didn’t mean everyone had been.
“Very well. If I find someone called Angus Rutland, I’ll pass your message on. Is there anything else you want me to say to him?”
“No, that will be enough. The news I have for him is not good. Not good at all. I’d rather be there when he received it,” Mildred replied. “He doesn’t even know I’m out here, so I imagine that’s going to come as quite the shock.”
Next to Everfrost, Hero gave a loud snort.
“I think he’s eager to get going,” Everfrost said, nodding towards the dire-hog.
“I can’t blame him. This is no place for those such as yourselves. I know you think yourself a monster slayer, but I imagine you’d want a rest after your journey. The Woods of Waiting won’t let you rest; the place is crammed full of monsters.”
Half a dozen shadows lurking in Everfrost’s vision and the pulsing blue light of Absolution, her sword, told her that much already. “I can tell,” she said, holding up the weapon as if that explained everything. “It glows and my Shadowsight kicks in when monsters are close.”
“That’s just what I call it…” Everfrost replied, feeling slightly embarrassed. She’d said her made-up name for it out loud a couple of times, but she’d only been in the company of Hero. Dire-hogs couldn’t scoff at made-up words and, even if they could, it wouldn’t be in Hero’s nature to do so.
“It sounds like magic to me,” Mildred replied. “You would be wise to keep that a secret while you’re here.”
“Why’s that?” Everfrost asked. She was proud of her newly found abilities and the last thing she wanted to do was shy away from using them. They’d served her well already, and she imagined they’d come in handy when searching for her biological father. Especially if he was as bad as Lucien, her father in every way except blood, had led her to believe.
Before Mildred could give an answer, a twig snapped close by. Everfrost, Hero and Mildred all directed their attention to the place the sound had come from. There was no-one there. Not even a shadow.
“That bloody guard…” Mildred muttered, and Everfrost turned back to where she’d left the guard sleeping. He was gone. Her Shadowsight was good at picking up monsters, but useless when it came to humans.
“So, he’s awake,” Everfrost said. “How bad can that be?”
“Devastating if he saw your sword or heard our conversation,” Mildred replied. “They banned magic in Red Fern for all but the Queen herself and those in her direct employ. If that guard rouses the guards at the wall, you’re buggered.”
“But, I didn’t know the rule,” Everfrost said, hating the whine in her voice. “I’ve met Knights of the Green Fire from Red Fern and they never mentioned a thing about this… and one of them knew about my powers… well, some of them. He knew about the sword, at least.”
Mildred raised an eyebrow. “Hmmm… maybe they didn’t think you’d be coming here… or maybe it slipped their minds. As Knights of the Green Fire, they’ve got fancy licences and can use magic for just about anything.” The ghost’s words made sense, but Everfrost didn’t think she looked convinced.
“Do you think they could have kept it from me intentionally?” The thought made Everfrost feel uncomfortable, like she’d wandered into a trap that had been set just for her. ‘I’m such an idiot,’ she thought.
“I wouldn’t know, dear,” Mildred replied. “But I do know it won’t be long before that guard returns with back up. If you’re heading into Red Fern, I’d find a way in now. There are plenty of holes in the walls if you look hard enough.”
Everfrost nodded. “Thank you.”
“It might be worth changing your appearance too. You’re pretty easy to spot as you are… especially with your companion there.”
Hero grunted at that and Everfrost couldn’t tell if it was a happy grunt because he’d been mentioned or an annoyed grunt because it sounded like he’d have to hide away somewhere. Not that Hero was against hiding; that animal was damned good at avoiding danger when he wanted to be.
“Don’t worry,” Mildred said, noticing Everfrost’s concern. “They’re not all monsters in there. Someone will help you. Kindness is pretty common. Just stay away from the Queen and those close to her and you’ll be fine.”
“Thanks, any thoughts on where I should head first?” Everfrost asked.
Mildred checked over her shoulder before answering. Once she was sure the guard wasn’t returning just yet, she spoke in a low whisper. “I haven’t been inside for many years, but I do know of one kind heart. His name is Franklin… Franklin the Unclaimed… and you’ll find him at Ickne Noir’s Home for Lost Children. It’s in Duskwell Town. Well, they call it a town… it’s little more than a few streets, really. The city is full of little places like that. Places trying to rise above their station. Anyway, I’m sure you’ll be able to find someone to direct you… or just follow your nose to the farm that’s close by. If it’s anything like it used to be, those pigs stink like a daemon’s toilet…” The ghost looked towards the dire-hog and then added, “no offense.”
“Thank you,” Everfrost replied.
“You’re very welcome, young lady. Remember, Red Fern’s a dangerous place. Whatever happens while you’re in there, please don’t let the darkness in. There’s too much good in you. Now, please, go. That guard may have been sleeping when you arrived, but they’re not usually that inept. There will be hordes of them in these woods before you know it.”
Sparing a split second to nod her understanding, Everfrost and Hero raced away, aiming for the wall, but far away from the gate. As they ran, they heard the fast footsteps and eager yells of those keen to catch them. Everfrost had no worries about letting the darkness in. She’d never let it get close enough; her moral compass had always guided her well.