On Monday, you’ll be able to get your hands on a copy of Conquest of Greystone Valley! If you preordered as part of the Great Greystone Valley Giveaway, you may also win a prize. In the meantime, with only two more days left on the countdown, it’s time for a somewhat longer preview than before.
I don’t pretend to be as skilled or swift-witted as the late Terry Pratchett, but that doesn’t mean I learned nothing from his decades of smart humor and ability to deconstruct the most clichéd of fantasy conventions. One of the goals of the Greystone Valley novels, though, is to serve as a gateway to other fantasy literature. In particular, a pair of dwarves that Sarah and her friends are destined to meet are meant to borrow a little bit of Pratchett’s style. If you find yourself liking these characters, I highly recommend Pratchett’s Discworld novels or other works. Heck, if you don’t like the characters, I still recommend those books.
Without further ado, here’s an introduction to Etten and Kytar, the first two dwarves Sarah has ever met.
Sarah guessed that some sort of chemical not unlike the strange suffocating powder was causing the fire. At least that’s what it smelled like. It definitely wasn’t wood, and it made her eyes water as though somebody had poured gasoline on a pile of old socks.
“Does anything involving these creatures not smell awful?” Sarah whispered.
“Silence!” said a man in a high, shrill voice. “You shall insult neither the people of the depths nor their aroma!”
“Well, it’s not really an insult, is it?” asked another man’s voice, this one sounding calmer and more reasonable. “It’s really more of an observation.”
The gremlins chuckled and whispered before hushing themselves up to hear the first voice’s reaction.
“Etten, do you really need to embarrass me like this every time we bring people down here?”
“Only if you’re going to embarrass me by pretending that we’re some sort of mysterious dark lords. Why not just be forthright about it?”
“Because we have an army of gremlins at our disposal! What else are we supposed to do?”
“Um . . . excuse me?” Sarah called. “Can we just get on with this?”
“See? There’s somebody with the common courtesy to sit there and be threatened.”
“Oh, shut up. She’s only saying that because those ropes are probably cutting off the blood flow to her brain.”
The higher-pitched voice took a deep breath before starting again, as if hoping that the companions would forget the awkward opening.
“Extinguish the flames!”
With a cackle and a sneer, the gremlins closest to the fire threw dirt on it. Smoke filled the inky blackness, leaving all the companions completely blinded. All the while, though, Dax never stopped trying to untie the ropes around Sarah’s wrists.
Footsteps approached in the darkness, and then the sound of a stick striking stone echoed through the chamber. In immediate response, several of the gremlins lit torches, illuminating a new cavern, larger and deeper than the one the companions had been in before.
Sarah remembered wanting to face an army of beast-men before. Now, if she got free in time, she would probably wind up facing a throng of gremlins. Dozens of the grimy creatures encircled them, lining up as far back as Sarah could see. Some of them had gray skin like the one that had attacked them in the first place, others looked warty and green, and still more had craggy faces that seemed to blend in naturally with the gray and white granite that dominated most of the cavern.
The two people who had been speaking didn’t look like gremlins at all. They stood in front of Sarah and Keeley, and they looked like very short humans . . . or rather, humans who might once have been normally proportioned but who had somehow been squashed downward. They stood barely over four feet in height and seemed almost as
wide as they were tall. Despite their girth, they both seemed muscular, although the more sensible one had a pot belly in addition to his brawny arms. Neither of them had any sort of hair on their heads, save for very bushy eyebrows. The shrill-voiced one had chalky-colored skin and had a slender blade at his side in a gold-lined scabbard. The other one wielded only a staff and had glossy brown skin like polished cedar.
“Do you see how helpless you are now?” the one with the sword said to Sarah. “Our gremlins listen to us because we provide them with these lovely diversions. If you aren’t careful, we might leave and let them have their fun.”
“Kytar,” the one who was apparently named Etten said, “let’s just get to the point.”
“What do you want?” Sarah asked.
“It’s not a matter of what we want,” Kytar started. “It’s—”
“Yes, it is,” Etten interrupted.
“It is a matter of what we want. That’s the whole point.”
Sarah glanced at Kay. The expression on his face told him that he was reasonably sure he was still unconscious and dreaming this whole situation.
“Fine,” the increasingly ill-tempered Kytar said. “You explain it.”
“I will,” Etten responded. Leaning in close to the companions, he said loudly and clearly, “We’re robbing you.”
Stay tuned for one last update tomorrow – then the countdown ends and Conquest of Greystone Valley goes on sale!