Heroes of Ravenford: Where It All Began
Updated: Aug 18, 2020
What do you get when you mix an elf, a gnome, a halfling, and a warrior? Magic, mayhem, and loads of sarcasm.
The world of an author is a funny one. You engross yourself in the creation of a story and the characters therein. The more you pour into them, the more those characters come to life to you. They become something akin to friends, almost a part of you. Thus it felt bittersweet when I finished the Heroes of Ravenford series. It felt as if I was saying goodbye to friends I had lived with for five years or more.
Flash forward two years later, and I am happy to say they are all back and they brought some new friends with them! City of Tears takes up the story not long after the end of Heroes. It follows the continued adventures of Lloyd, Seth, Glo, Andrella, Ruka, and a host of other characters from the original series, but this time they face enemies of epic proportion. This go around, the entire world of Arinthar is threatened by an invasion of demons from the infernal depths of the Abyss.
For those of you who have already read Heroes, you'll feel right at home with this new series. You'll recognize the references to past events and how they've affected the happenings in City. Still, City was written with the thought in mind that the reader may not be familiar with Heroes. It is fully possible to read City without cracking open any of the original five books. Still, for those of you who have not and would like to know what came before, I've put together a brief synopsis here of the Heroes of Ravenford series. Be warned though, there are spoilers ahead!
Heroes of Ravenford is a “popcorn” style fantasy adventure. It was written purely for fun with tons of action and nothing truly deep or gritty. The characters and plotline are loosely based on a roleplaying campaign involving my friends and family. A combination of sheer wackiness and amazing feats colored those sessions, making it something we all truly enjoyed. In fact, we had so much fun that I wanted to share it with the rest of the world. Thus began the rather long and arduous task of drafting it into novel form. In the end, the Heroes of Ravenford were born.
The Ruins on Stone Hill is the first book in the Heroes of Ravenford series. The story begins with the fateful meeting of Glolindir, Aksel, Seth, and Lloyd during an orc bandit attack. An elf, gnome, halfling, and human, they have a mixture of magical and martial talents, but are relative novices at their craft. Somehow managing to survive the attack, the four discover they share a similar desire to help others, all save Seth. The halfling is the pragmatist of the group and has little compunction about saying what is on his mind.
Ruins charts the foursomes’ adventures as they band together to follow their shared dream. Their arrival in the little seaport of Ravenford provides them with the perfect backdrop for just that. The companions proceed on a number of quests for the denizens of the small town, the first being for the irritable town wizard, Maltar. Enlisting the aid of mercenaries Brundon and Titan, they soon find themselves confronting a dark presence that has taken refuge in the ruins atop Stone Hill.
Animated skeletons, zombies, and bugbears are just a few of the monsters they discover in the ruins. The battle culminates in a confrontation with a pair of stone golems and a deadly necromancer. While this might sound like typical fantasy fare, the characters face challenges in clever ways often using unconventional approaches to win the day. Case in point is the unique way they capture and subsequently “tame” one of the stone golems. The “Boulder” as they decide to call him, becomes a potent ally in their fight against the forces of darkness.
The characters also begin to grow through their experiences. They learn to work together as a team, recognize their own weaknesses, and depend on each other’s strengths. Friendship, teamwork, racial tolerance, and faith are all running themes throughout the story. These are the things that bring people together and garner trust between them.
Heroes also has a smattering of romance. It is rather obvious that Brundon and Titan (Delara) are interested in each other far more than either appears to know. Sparks fly as well the first time Lloyd meets the Lady Andrella Avernos, daughter of the Baron and Baroness. A bit of flare is added later on with the introduction of the handsome bard, Elladan. The worldly entertainer is more of a realist than the others sans Seth, bringing a balance to the group that was previously lacking.
Ruins ends on a bit of a cliffhanger. Late in the story, the characters discover a dark cult is actually behind most of the strange occurrences that have been plaguing Ravenford. Despite the fact that they defeat a sect of the cult led by the dark mage, Voltark, the cult’s actual motives remain a mystery. The only clues they have lay with the cultists’ guide, Martan, who had been more of a hostage than a cult member. Still, Martan knew very little of the cultists plans, and thus the town of Ravenford remains in imminent danger.
Book two, the Serpent Cult, begins with the characters trying to find out more about the impending threat to Ravenford. Further complicating matters, the Lady Andrella’s eighteenth birthday is coming up and an extravaganza is planned. Not only are her parents the Baron and Baroness of Ravenford, but her uncle is the Duke of Dunwynn, a very well to do city to the north. Thus the little town is being flooded with guests and entertainers in preparation and this influx will be the perfect cover for a clandestine attack by the unknown cultists.
As the companions struggle to deal with the menace of the cult, another threat arises off the coast. A number of ships bound for Ravenford have disappeared. Rumors abound of them being sunk by a giant “sea monster.” With nowhere else to turn, the Baron enlists the aid of the young heroes. This is a bit of a turning point for the characters. Lloyd has grown obvious feelings for Andrella and the rest of the company feels beholden to the Baron and Baroness.
Thus torn, they decide to split forces to address both threats at the same time. Elladan stays behind with his new friend, the bardess Shalla, and the duo investigate all newcomers. Meanwhile, the others board the Endurance for the coast.
Their arrival is hailed by a fateful meeting with the Greymantle sisters, Ves, Ruka, and Maya. While the three appear rather ordinary, the characters soon find they are anything but. The sisters exhibit some strange powers including great strength and near invulnerability. They can also swim like fish and talk to marine life. Once again expressing the themes of friendship and tolerance, the characters befriend the sisters, enlisting them toward their cause. With the Greymantles help, the companions discover a devilish creature and an army of goblins bent on destroying them.
Between the Boulder and the sisters, the companions manage to fend off the goblin army and locate the remains of the sunken ships. After retrieving the remains of any cargo, they find a clue pointing to the wizard Maltar. Upon their return to Ravenford, the characters find Maltar’s house in shambles and his staff dead or gone. Maltar himself is nowhere to be seen. Worse, Voltark’s body, sent here for safekeeping, is gone.
With no other choice, the characters hatch a plan to safeguard the Lady Andrella’s birthday extravaganza. Yet before they can implement it, they meet with another roadblock, quite literally. The Duke has sent his right hand man, Sir Fafnar, to keep an eye on things in Ravenford. Fafnar turns out to be a pompous fool, not taking the threat of the cult seriously. Worse, he is a xenophobe and deems the companions as upstarts, attempting to block their efforts to protect the Avernos.
Thankfully Sir Fafnar’s efforts fail, but still, he and the Duke prove to be an unnecessary distraction. The characters must deal with politics, racial intolerance, and xenophobia while waiting for the cult to make its move. Luckily, they have picked up yet another ally in the form of the itinerant artist, Donatello. And old friend of Elladan’s, Donnie proves to be as handy with a sword as he is with a brush.
Donnie’s entrance comes none too soon as the cult attack does come as expected in the midst of the Lady Andrella’s party. What is unexpected is the how and who. The cult appears in the form of a group of black mages riding giant serpents. The group is led by none other than the thought to be dead mage, Voltark.
A battle royal ensues between the mages, serpents, the Boulder, Lloyd, Donnie, Glo, a pair of knights, and the town guard all while the others try to keep the guests safe. During the battle, Glo learns what it means to be a true hero. He nearly dies protecting the Avernos and their guests from the dark mages’ onslaught. In the end, the cult is fought off and the characters have realized their dream. They have become protectors of the town of Ravenford.
The third book in the series is entitled the Dark Monolith. The companions thought the cult vanquished, only to find out they might turn into an even greater threat. A hundred and fifty years prior, the Thrall Masters nearly destroyed the land of Thac. Now the cult is after the secret to the Thrall Masters’ power.
Enter Elistra. The golden-haired seeress turns Glo’s head and another romance blossoms in the group. Yet with her she brings dire news. An ancient monolith belonging to the Golem Master has been uncovered in the depths of the Darkwoods. That is where the cult is headed. The companions immediately decide to chase after them, but first they must deal with politics and betrayal. The Duke of Dunwynn has branded them traitors and they must prove themselves in trial by combat or be banished forever.
As it turns out, the arrogant Sir Fafnar is behind the accusations, driven by more than a bit of jealousy. However, the wedge he attempts to place between Lloyd and Andrella only brings the couple closer. An epic battle ensues between Lloyd and Fafnar, presided over by the Baron and Baroness. The clash is fierce and sways back and forth in favor of both contestants, but in the end Lloyd emerges victorious.
With the companions’ honor intact, Lloyd and Andrella bid a tearful goodbye as they head out to find the dark monolith. Elistra joins the group this time, as does the lady knight, Alana, and Ruka. The expanded group takes to the road toward the town of Vermoorden, a waypoint where they plan to hire a ship to travel upriver through the Darkwoods.
Along the way, relationships continue to grow. Seth and Ruka become embroiled in a match of invisible hide and seek. Glo finds himself more and more smitten with Elistra whom seems interested in turn. Donnie is drawn to the amazonian Alana, yet she appears indifferent to his overtures.
Though bonds form and strengthen, their path is fraught with perils. The lake Vermoorden resides upon is filled with monsters. With the help of an adventurous boat captain, the companions clear it out and then set sail into the Darkwoods. Yet once again their path is blocked, this time by the same demon they faced back at the coast.
After a bitter struggle, the companions continue their journey upriver until they run across a completely different type of demon. This new one is a seductress, her attacks designed to divide and conquer the group along gender lines. She nearly succeeds. Lloyd falls under her spell as does Donnie. Alana is injured in the ensuing altercation, and though they drive the demoness off, she succeeds in sowing dissension amongst the group.
Still dealing with the seeds of discord, the group reaches the dark monolith. They are met there by Alana’s fellow knight, Sir Craven, and a troop of their company, the Knights of the Rose. Though there is evidence of the cult reaching there first, the monolith is sealed, but the companions manage to find the entrance. With the troop watching the outside of the structure, the companions enter to search for the cultists.
What they find inside is a number of chambers, each filled with strange and deadly puzzles. Facing death at every turn, the small company winds their way through an intricate maze combining all their various talents to defeat each obstacle. The deadly path tests them, yet draws them closer as they follow it to the top of the monolith and then down to the depths far below. In the end they find the Golem Master’s secret, an enormous golem nearly ninety feet tall!
The story reaches its climax in a fierce battle between the companions and the cultists, their giant serpents, and the reappeared demoness. During the clash, the secret of the Greymantles is finally revealed as Ruka, in dragon form, ends up in deadly airborne struggle with one of the giant serpents. With the aid of the daring Donatello, the young dragon emerges triumphant, but is infected with a deadly poison. All their enemies are destroyed except a single mage who has fled the monolith, followed by an invisible Seth. The book ends on a bit of a cliffhanger with the cult beaten, but Ruka still poisoned.
The Princess of Lanfor is the fourth book in the Heroes of Ravenford series. The story begins outside the Golem Master’s monolith with a deadly attack on the knights stationed there. An adult green dragon lands in their midst and decimates the troops as observed by a shocked Martan. The dragon then plants itself outside the monolith and lies in wait for the companions therein.
Enter Cyclone. Lucky for Martan, the dragon hunter has tracked the dragon to the monolith. With his skills and knowledge of dragons, the hunter is able to distract the creature. He and Martan make it inside the monolith barely avoiding the dragon’s terrible acid breath.
Inside the monolith, Aksel and Elistra have managed to temporarily stem the poison threatening Ruka. Yet the tired seeress gets no respite in sleep, instead seeing a vision of the dragon and the death it has wrought. The destruction of the troop devastates everyone, but none more than lady knight Alana. Yet even with all their talents combined, the companions have little hope of winning in a direct assault against the green dragon. Thus a desperate plan is hatched with Donnie acting as the bait.
While Donnie tries to lure the green dragon into a compromising position, the others prepare themselves. The dragon’s vanity ends up its undoing as it falls for the bait and the companions launch an all-out assault on it. Though they end up winning in the end, the small company does not emerge unscathed from the fierce battle.
Finally free, a still poisoned Ruka leaves with Aksel to find a permanent cure for the poison. Yet even as the others nurse their wounds, a new threat appears on the horizon in the form of an airship armed to the teeth. The Princess of Lanfor has come to claim the Golem Master’s treasure. Princess Anya invites the party to meet and discuss terms with her in a nearby clearing. The still hurting group decides to send Elladan as an envoy with an invisible Donnie to back him up.
Anya proves to be quite the unpredictable antagonist, at first flirting with the handsome Elladan, but in the end transforming him into a little grey bunny. Things only get worse from there. When the others come to save their friend, a battle ensues with a few of her dragons. It is an unexpected turn of events since no one has ever been able to control a dragon sans the Dragon Thrall Master.
Thankfully it turns out to be only a test. The princess does not unleash all her dragons nor her deadly looking retainers. Thoroughly confused, the companions sit down with this complex antagonist only to find her true goal is to destroy the Golem Master’s colossus. It seems that she cannot abide anyone having more power than herself.
The companions have grown enough at this point to realize that brute force cannot solve all their problems. They attempt to negotiate with the princess and a tenuous truce is finally reached. The group then adjourns back to the monolith with the princess and a single retainer in tow. That truce breaks down, however, when the party discovers that Anya’s retainer is in actuality a red dragon – a dragon of the evil variety.
In the end, the princess’ ship opens fire on the monolith, bringing the entire structure crumbling to the ground. The companions, caught by surprise, barely make it out alive. The fickle Anya then surprises them once more by offering the group a ride back to Ravenford on her airship. It is not a decision they make lightly, but in the end expediency wins out over their distrust.
It turns out to be a fateful choice for once on board the characters discover that the princess has a hostage on board; a hostage that turns out to be none other than Ves. A daring rescue ensues with Donnie freeing Ves while the handsome Elladan keeps the princess occupied. Ultimately cornered, the group jumps ship, only to be followed by Anya’s dragons. It then becomes Ves and Ruka’s turn to rescue the others, leading the dragons out to sea with Anya’s airship in hot pursuit.
Torn at being unable to help their friends, the company is quickly sidetracked by a message from Seth. He has tracked the dark mage back to the Serpent Cult’s lair and they are planning something dreadful. With no other recourse, the companions head north to meet Seth and his newfound friend, Kalyn, outside the Bendenwoods. From there they travel farther north to a hidden valley in the mountains called Serpent’s Hollow.
An epic confrontation ensues between the small company and the denizens of the hollow, climaxing with a battle that involves a bevy of powerful demonic creatures. In the end, the companions come out on top, but not without casualties. At that point the cavalry arrives in the form of the Druids of Bendenwood. The characters accompany the druids back to their home town where they bear witness to some miraculous magical cures. Yet just when things appear to be looking up, the companions receive some terrible news – the Baron of Ravenford is dead.
The fifth and final book of the Heroes of Ravenford series is entitled the Baron’s Heart. The story begins with the companions’ arrival in Ravenford where they learn the Baron was murdered in a grizzly fashion with his heart cut out. Under normal circumstances, a skilled cleric might be able to resurrect him, but without his heart, its nigh impossible. So with the Baron’s body magically preserved for a time, the companions set out to discover who could have perpetrated this heinous act and where they took his heart.
In this novel, the Lady Andrella truly comes into her own. With her father’s death, she is left without her emotional anchor. Yet Andrella is strong and has a fair amount of magical talent. Thus the young lady joins the characters in the search for her father’s killer and becomes an integral part of the group.
A twisted plot ensues leading the group in multiple directions. Clues found out the scene lead Seth, Aksel, and Martan back to Vermoorden, while the others feel strongly that this is a crime of passion. They delve into the Baron’s past for clues to who might have been jealous of him. There are a number of suspects including the town abbot, the town druid, and Maltar, all former traveling companions of the Baron. The dirt they dig up leads the others to a teleportation circle in Maltar’s old tower which ultimately takes them to Tarsmoor, a town in central Thac where Maltar was last seen.
Meanwhile, in Vermoorden, Seth, Aksel, and Martan are trying to track down the Assassin’s guild rumored to reside in that town. Unfortunately, before they get very far, they run afoul of one of Anya’s dragons. The raging creature is on a vendetta against them since they killed her wyrmling. Barely escaping with their lives, the threesome head back to Ravenford only to run into another mystery of disappearing townsfolk.
One of Kalyn’s druid friends shows up after tracking the trail of a vampire to the town. Aksel, Seth, Andrella, and Kalyn then join her in searching out the undead creature which is most likely responsible for the disappearances around town. Their search turns up a frightening twist – the creature is somehow tied in with the town abbot. The other companions return at that point sans Donnie who disappeared during their transport. Unfortunately there is not time to search for him as the Baroness and their friends prepare to confront the abbot and his dark friend.
The ensuing skirmish leads to the discovery of a nest of vampires in the catacombs beneath the town. The characters marshal their forces and in a strategic assault wipe out the vampires’ nest. In doing so, they make a heart wrenching discovery; the abbot was behind the Baron’s death and his heart had indeed been taken by the Assassin’s guild. Yet before they can act on any of this, their plans are thrown into disarray by the arrival of Dunwynn forces.
With the Baron gone, the Duke has decided to annex the town of Ravenford “to protect” his sister and niece. This turns out to be a pivotal point for Andrella. She must decided whether to stay with her mother and protect her people, or leave with the others to continue the pursuit of her father’s heart. In the end she goes with the others via teleportation circle to Lukescros, the closest town they could find to Vermoorden.
The characters regroup in Lukescros and plan out their next move. Upon their previous visit to Vermoorden, Seth and Aksel had discovered the town’s government was most likely in league with the Assassins’ guild. Thus, they needed enter the town as quietly as possible. As it turns out, Lloyd has an old friend in Lukescros, Lord Hightower, and they seek out his aid before rushing to Vermoorden.
On their clandestine return to Vermoorden, the small company makes a startling discovery. Donnie is there along with a new friend, an amazonian warrior named Kara. They had met when Donnie had been transported to a strange tower in the mountains full of demons.
The pair join in as the companions connect with a small town resistance and discover the location of the assassins’ lair beneath Vermoorden keep itself. The group steals its way into the keep and a number of skirmishes ensue as they search through the place for the Baron’s Heart. Ultimately they find it hidden behind the altar in an evil temple beneath the keep. Upon their exit, however, the companions engage in a climactic battle with the heads of the assassins’ guild and their powerful monsters.
The small company emerges victorious, but not without some heartbreaking casualties. Still, they must press on if they are to resurrect the Baron in time. Andrella uses her position and influence to smooth things over with the town guard and even helps to set up a temporary government to replace the evil one they just dispatched. The companions then head back to Ravenford to retrieve her father’s body.
That proves to be no mean feat. Through sources still in town, they discover that the town has been placed under martial law. The Baroness has been taken away to Dunwynn and the Baron’s body has been relegated to the family crypt. In a covert assault, the companions sneak into town, recover the Baron’s body, and steal away in the dead of night with a virtual army of Dunwynn knights on their trail.
With luck on their side, they make it back to Vermoorden where Aksel must perform the ritual which might bring the Baron back. Andrella is fraught with fear since the ritual does not always work. Lloyd, having lived through something similar with his sister, does his best to comfort her. Everyone waits with baited breath as Aksel attempts the dangerous ritual, but in the end they are rewarded with success. The Baron of Ravenford is resurrected.
The icing on the cake is the retrieval of the Baroness using a magic item that Elladan found amongst the assassins’ stolen artifacts. The returned Baron uses the artifact and the Avernos family is reunited once more. Still, with many loose ends left undone leaving Glo and the others with a sense of uneasiness as to what the future might hold.
Well there you have it. If this has sparked your interest, the entire Heroes series is available on Amazon here: Heroes of Ravenford (5 book series). Beyond that, City of Tears will be released in both ebook and print format on September 10th.
Thanks again for stopping by. In the coming months I will be presenting more excerpts from City as well as new clips from the upcoming audiobook version of the Ruins on Stone Hill. Take care everyone and stay safe/healthy!