Book 1 of the Tales of Fortannis.
When a cowardly young bard is called before the Duke and told that he must perform a task because of an ancient prophecy involving a mysterious Arch, he is certain there has been a grave mistake. When the Duke's own men later try to kill him and he is forced to run, unsure who to trust, he realizes that it may be his own grave that is in question.
Terin Ostler struggles to overcome his inexperience and limitations to figure out the meaning of the mysterious prophecy. His only friends along the way are two squires, who are torn between obeying the orders of the knight they have sworn to follow, and doing what they believe is right.
"Clever, funny and suspenseful. Normally, I would rather eat bees than read fantasy novels, but this one is great." —Mark Waid, Kingdom Come, Superman: Birthright
"A tightly written and plotted work that will keep the reader enthralled until the last word is read." —Christopher Hoare, Muse Book Reviews
Introduction to the New Edition:
Arch Enemies was my first novel, originally released in 2008. I had no idea what I was doing.
You see, I had helped to create a live action roleplaying game back in 1989 before anyone had ever heard of the term LARP, and over the years, the world and the magic system got very well developed. I decided since I had been writing in that world for almost twenty years for my players, I could put my novel in that world, giving the story power. However, I knew the first thing I had to do was throw out the rules of the game. Things that work in a game just don't cut it in fiction.
So Arch Enemies was born, taking place in the duchy of Ashbury in the lands of Fortannis. I finished the story, got lots of nice compliments from my beta readers, and sent it off to various agents and publishers, unaware of the way publishing works with all those fancy query letters and so on. I was not aware that I had written a young adult novel (since my main character Terin Ostler was a 16-year-old boy) and didn't know that young adult novels should also be around 70,000 words (and Arch Enemies was almost twice that).
A small publisher loved it and bought it, and it was released to very good reviews but mediocre sales.
The book was followed by a sequel (The Axes of Evil) which was within the range young adult novels were supposed to be in, and then I edited a series of anthologies called Tales of Fortannis, inviting some of my favorite authors to play in the world. I continued the adventures of Terin with a story in each one, and five were eventually published. One of those authors was Derek Beebe, who turned characters in one of his stories into a Fortannis novel called It's a Wonderful Death.
I eventually had two more novels published, a few nonfiction books, and I edited a bunch more anthologies which sold much better. And then Ian Randal Strock over at Fantastic Books said he wanted to reissue my Fortannis books.
What an opportunity.
The first thing I did was split Arch Enemies in two, since there was a logical stopping point about halfway through. I added in a new chapter that had been cut from the first version (yes, it was originally even longer), moved a lot of scenes around, and touched up things that needed touching up. I'm much happier with this version. (All writers are like that, though—we always see things we want to change. We just don't always have the chance.)
I touched up The Axes of Evil a bit as well, and then took all the short stories I had written that had been published in various places and collected them all in a fourth book. Then I picked my favorite stories that others had written in the five Tales of Fortannis collections and put them into one big collection.
So here's hoping you have a great time in the lands of Fortannis.
—Michael A. Ventrella
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