The Black Fortress

The Black Fortress

Jim Melvin

March 2013 Free!!
ISBN: 978-1-61194-280-4

Centuries before the rise of Invictus, Torg fought another great war.

A short story--prequel to the highly praised Death Wizard Chronicles

Available in e-book only

Our PriceUS$0.00
Save wishlist

Synopsis | Reviews | Excerpt

Back Cover

". . . a masterful new fantasy writer . . .Jim Melvin’s series, "The Death Wizard Chronicles," creates the world of Triken, where the evil, demon-spawned Invictus reigns over a tainted city and plots to take over the world."


Torg, the Death Wizard and hero of The Death Wizard Chronicles, faces a hideous Druid Queen who controls an army of minions through the immense power of her will. Among those doing her bidding is a Stone-Eater: a fierce and powerful creature who obtains its powers from eating stone.

Jim Melvin is the author of the epic, six-book epic fantasy, The Death Wizard Chronicles. He was an award-winning journalist at the St. Petersburg Times for twenty-five years. As a reporter, he specialized in science, nature, health and fitness, and he wrote about everything from childhood drowning to erupting volcanoes. Jim is a student of Eastern philosophy and mindfulness meditation, both of which he weaves extensively into his work. Jim lives in Upstate South Carolina in the foothills of the mountains. He’s married and has five daughters. Visit him at: and


Coming soon!



The Black Fortress

When a man was accustomed to stone beneath his feet, sand felt too fragile. The knight named Taala, who weeks ago had begun the long journey from the black-granite fortress of Nissaya to the great desert Tējo, now trudged wearily on a white sea of sand. The contrasts between his homeland and this foreign place disconcerted him. To make matters worse, the sun blew down like flames from a wizard’s staff.

Taala had been entrusted with a crucial mission. If he failed, Nissaya would be in grave peril. Yet he wondered now if failure was the more likely outcome. His horse had perished three days before while in the midst of Barranca, the rocky wasteland that bordered the western portion of the desert. Taala’s insistence on an urgent pace had proven too much, even for a gelding bred for endurance. Now forced to walk on his own, Taala had run out of water. Could he survive long enough to deliver his message? If not, then many thousands might die.

In the distance, a jumble of boulders erupted from the sand—a sight as unexpected as it was welcomed. Head bowed, Taala marched with a relentlessness that defied his exhaustion, yet even then it took most of his remaining strength just to reach the natural shelter. He immediately was rewarded for his efforts. The boulders provided not only shade but precious moisture. He discovered a cool puddle of water cradled in an awkward crevice that was—Uppādetar be blessed—just within reach of his parched lips. Taala drank it all. It tasted as sweet as any forest stream. Then he sat down and rested his back against the stone.

He must have slept for a long time. When he opened his eyes, dusk had settled on the desert. At first he couldn’t seem to overcome his grogginess, but he was startled fully awake by the silent appearance of several black-clad apparitions, human-like but very large.

The Tugars had come.

The king of Nissaya had sent Taala to find the desert warriors, but they had found him instead.

Like a man-sized wormbursting to the surface, The Torgon emerged from beneath a blanket of sand. He rose to his full height, shook clean his shoulder-length black hair and brushed off his black jacket and breeches. In front of him lay leagues of desert baking beneath an uncharacteristically brutal autumn sun. Behind him towered the Simōōn, a whirlwind of dust and debris that had been magically conjured to protect the Tent City of Anna. Only Tugars could pass through the Simōōn’s slashing power unharmed. All others would be shredded to the bone within seconds of making the attempt. The Tugars’ secret? Their ability to slither beneath the surface of the sand just out of harm’s way of the deadly winds.

Chieftain Kapala, Torg’s second-in-command, had summoned him to this place with the news that a Nissayan knight had been sent to the desert in search of the Tugars. This made Torg curious, to say the least. In the half-century since he’d ascended to the rank of Death-Knower and become the Tugars’ king, little of note had occurred throughout the land. Torg enjoyed peaceful times, but it was in a warrior’s blood to yearn for more.

Torg marched across a wide expanse of sand to where the knight had been sequestered. Though barely breaking a sweat, he covered the distance with remarkable quickness. About an arrow’s flight from the border of the Simōōn, he entered a large open-air tent where Kapala and several other desert warriors waited. The camel-hide roof was tall enough for even Tugars to stand upright, providing plenty of room for the Nissayan scout, who was more than a span shorter than the average desert warrior. Torg studied the man for a moment, noting his dry and peeling ebony skin.

Ātapatatta. Too much sun.

In comparison, Torg’s darkly tanned skin appeared almost pale.

The scout knelt in deference. But being a king not wedded to ritual, Torg bade him to rise. Then they clasped forearms. Like equals.

"Tugarian amatam acchati tumhe(Tugarian nectar awaits you),” Torg said in the ancient tongue. This was a widely known greeting for newly arrived guests. Even non-speakers of the ancient tongue could recite it. The nectar was prized throughout the land. "But speak now before it dulls your wits.”

Taala smiled, then nodded wearily. "King Henepola sent me to seek aid from our Tugarian allies. The black fortress of Nissaya is under siege.” The scout stopped for a moment and took a long breath, obviously needing rest more than discourse, but this was too important for the luxury of delay. "The siege began with a clever diversion. A small force of Mogols snuck in from the northern foothills and set fire to many hectares of crops. In our haste to punish their impudence, we sent more mounted knights than were necessary to confront them.” As Taala spoke, his deep voice quivered. "Meanwhile, an army of more than fifty thousand monsters managed to march unseen over the plains from the east, coming within ten leagues of the city walls before our commanders became aware of its existence. Many innocent lives—mostly farmers and their families—were lost.”

Taala stopped and grew silent, as if the enormity of Nissaya’s loss was too much to bear. Then he drew in a ragged breath and managed to continue. "Yet even when our knights returned from their errand with the Mogols, we still lacked the numbers to face the army that had gathered in full strength in the open field. So we were forced to flee inside the fortress.”

A flurry of tears, uncharacteristic of a Nissayan’s typically stoic demeanor, leapt from Taala’s eyes. He wiped them away with a dusty forearm. Then he straightened his back and said, "You must forgive our incompetence, lord. We have not fought a major war in our lifetime. Now we huddle within our walls like frightened mice.”

Torg felt his power begin to boil. A threat to Nissaya, the black fortress that guarded the eastern mouth of the Gap of Gati, was a threat to the free world. He looked down upon the scout, the glow of his blue eyes reflecting off the Nissayan’s dark-brown ones. "There is no need to defend your worthiness to me. I am no judge.” Then he smacked his hand on the scout’s shoulder. "Fear not. The Tugars are at your service, as always.”

Taala smiled again, and this time Torg recognized the beginnings of hope in his demeanor. "Their general names himself Slag,” the knight continued. "He is a Stone-Eater—a bane from the bowels of Mount Asubha—and he commands a hideous host of monsters that he inspires with hate and rage.” Then Taala’s face took on a semblance of defiance, tempered with sadness. "The walls of Nissaya have never been breached, and Slag appears to lack the siege craft necessary to threaten us in this way. But our stored provisions are low. If help does not come, we will starve by midwinter.”

Torg had never seen a Stone-Eater, but he was learned in the ways of Triken and knew much about its inhabitants, including its monsters. Compared to someone the height of a Tugar, Stone-Eaters were not much taller than boys. But the creatures’ bodies were stout, and their hides were the texture of an elephant turned halfway to stone. Flames flared from their flat nostrils and smoke from their pointed ears. Their wicked magic made them formidable, even among the great.

Regardless, Torg was not deterred. "Help will come. The Tugars will arrive long before midwinter. In the meantime, the Asēkhas and I will serve as the Tugarian vanguard and begin the journey to Nissaya tomorrow morning.”

Torg knew that the scout was well aware of the import of this. The Asēkhas were renowned as the Tugars of highest rank, and although there were only twenty in all, together they were as deadly as an army of ordinary soldiers.

Taala’s round eyes sprang wide. "The Asēkhas! Ah, that is wonderful news. And as I’m sure you have surmised, we are also seeking aid from the Jivitans. With the help of our allies to the west and from you to the east, victory is assured.”

"We shall see what we shall see,” Torg said. "For now, take comfort. Tugars never forsake their friends. But time is of the essence. The Asēkhas will travel quickly, though even then I believe the Jivitans’ vanguard will reach Nissaya before ours does—and well before the rest of our Tugarian army. The white horsemen’s journey is far shorter. The aid you seek will come first from the west.”




Please review these other products:

Forged in Death
Jim Melvin

August 2012 $14.95
ISBN: 978-1-61194-168-5

Book 1 of the Death Wizard Chronicles

Our Price: US$14.95

click to see more

Chained By Fear
Jim Melvin

November 2012   $14.95
ISBN: 978-1-61194-216-3

Book 2 of the Death Wizard Chronicles

Our Price: US$14.95

click to see more