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       Passion of the Liger: Volume 3, p.1
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           Thuan Nguyen
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Passion of the Liger: Volume 3
The Passion of the Liger

  Volume 3


  Thuan Nguyen

  * * * * *


  The Passion of the Liger

  Copyright © 2014 by Thuan Nguyen

  Thank you for downloading this free eBook. You are welcome to share it with your friends. This book may be reproduced, copied and distributed for non-commercial purposes, provided the book remains in its complete original form, with the exception of quotes used in reviews.

  Your support and respect for the property of this author is appreciated.

  This book is a work of fiction and any resemblance to persons, living or dead, or places, events or locales is purely coincidental. The characters are productions of the author’s imagination and used fictitiously.


  The story continues from Volume 2. In the previous volume, we had left Anton in the great city of Firgenduke. He had ventured there in the hopes of tracking down, Maruska, the woman who had turned his wife into stone. I hope you enjoy reading Volume 3! Visit for updates on Volume 4 as it is written.




  Chapter 1

  Clarence lay there on the cold stone floor, his arms and legs outstretched. He was in the Firgenduke library, which was an eight story tower made of stone and asphalt. It was unique for two reasons. One, it was built to enclose a giant seven and a half story stone obelisk, and two, because the top of the tower was a beautiful glass dome. A great spiral staircase coiled up the walls of the tower like a giant spring. Each of the seven floors above the ground level was shaped like a donut with a big hole in the middle to allow the tall stone to poke through. It was indeed a unique and beautiful building.

  But it was nighttime at the moment, and not much could be seen save for shadows and a few twinkles of starlight that could be seen through the glass roof.

  But tonight Clarence, Firgenduke's most popular and renowned artist, was not observing the tranquil beauty of the library. He had another more pressing concern on his mind.

  "Oh inspiration," he spoke up to the night, "Why hath thou forsaken me?"

  There was the sound of a page turning nearby.

  Seated next to Clarence was a girl her late teens. She was seated cross legged and had a little oil lantern next to her. She had a book open on the ground in front of her and seemed to be deeply engrossed in it. She had long blonde hair which she usually had up in a ponytail, but today she had let it down and it draped across her shoulders. She wore a distinctive red cape.

  "A little over dramatic don't you think?"

  "Over dramatic?" said Clarence, "Hardly. It has been nine months and I still haven't a clue what I'm supposed to do with this giant rock! I was supposed to sculpt it into something good. Something amazing. Something that would make us Firgendyke's proud. Something that people would travel from all over the map to visit. And what have I done in the last nine months?"

  "Nothing," said Skaife, eyes still glued on her book.

  "Exactly," said Clarence, "Nada. Zilch. Zero." He sighed. "I know what's wrong too. It's too much pressure. When I do my own paintings, drawings, sculptures, I'm just doing them for fun. And if they are terrible, what does it matter? It's only my name I would sully and I don't care about that. But this... this is big, and I don't just mean in size. This, everybody is watching. If it sucks then it affects all of Firgenduke! And it's not like a canvas where if I make a mistake I can just get another one. There is only one Firgenduke Obelisk. A stone that has been in Firgenduke for hundreds of years. What if I make a mistake?"

  Skaife dog-eared the page she was reading then closed the book.

  "Remember that time you were teaching that class in the library, the one where people could come in and practice painting or sculpting, and you gave them tips?"

  "Yes," said Clarence, "What about it?"

  "Remember that boy that told you he always had trouble sculpting, because he felt too indecisive about what to sculpt? That the pressure of chipping at the stone and not being able to take back mistakes was too much for him."

  "What did i say?" said Clarence.

  "You said a lot of things," said Skaife, "But the gist was, close your eyes, let the stone speak to you. Somewhere in that stone , it already knows what it wants to be. Its true, beautiful, flawed self. You need to quieten your mind and see it. And once you see it, all you need to do is chip away the bits of stone until all that's left is what it was meant to be."

  Clarence was quiet.

  "That sounds like something I would say." He sighed again. "Sometimes it's easier to give advice than to follow it yourself."

  He flicked his eyes up to look at the mighty monolith that towered above him. It felt like time stood still at that moment. The whole world was paused and the only thing that existed or mattered was him and this rock. And he knew it was his duty to make it what it was meant to be.

  And then he got a glimpse! It was like walking down the streets of your town and you catch the tiniest of tiny whiffs of a smell. A pleasant smell that somehow reminds you of your childhood. You don't know what it is, but you know that if you keep sniffing it, it will eventually come to you.

  "Skaife!" said Clarence excitedly, still with his eyes closed, "I think I'm getting it! I see a woman. She is beautiful. Looks rather like you actually. She has a serene, wise look about her. She is standing tall with great posture. She is looking down at something in her hands. It is an open book. She is reading this book. She is wearing a dress and a tiara. Oh, Skaife! I can see it! I must start sculpting now! Before I lose this image. Now is the time! Hook me up to the contraption!"

  Skaife was smiling gleefully. She put down her book and ran over to the metal box that was near the wall. It had levers and buttons and all manner of dials. She grabbed a leather harness that was lying on the box and brought it back over to Clarence, who had run over and put his toolbelt on. He had hammers and chisels and all sorts of arty-sculpty stuff on it.

  Skaife helped him put the harness on.

  "I wonder if this is safe?" said Skaife, tightening some straps.

  "The best engineers in Firgenduke made this contraption so I could sculpt this giant rock," said Clarence," I have absolute faith in them."

  Skaife smiled at Clarence. "You know you really are cool."

  Clarence chuckled and looked rather chuffed.

  Just then the door to the library opened, which was a real surprise as it was about midnight.

  "Sorry, we're closed," said Skaife.

  Clarence looked concerned. "I can't afford any distractions. I must sculpt it now before the image leaves my brain."

  They both looked over at the front door. Out of the shadows emerged a beautiful woman. Lena Straud. Clarence's wife.

  "Wifey!" said Clarence, "What are you doing here?"

  "I come with urgent news," said Lena.

  "Can't it wait?" said Clarence, "I've finally gotten an idea of what to sculpt. I have to do it now. I can't risk waiting and letting it fade from my brain. Right now I can literally see it in my imagination."

  "It's about Anton," said Lena.

  Clarence's eyes bulged. "What? Anton? What about Anton?""

  "He has returned," said Lena, "He is waiting in Four-tooth's secret room at the tavern. The King is looking for him. he came to ask for our help. We should go to him before they find him."

  Clarence couldn't believe it. His best friend, Anton DiManlen who he had not seen for twenty years had returned. Was this a dream? He looked up at the giant store, the one that an entire city
had entrusted him to sculpt. He could see the image of the woman with the book inside the stone.

  "Wait for me," he whispered to the woman in the rock. Then he turned back to Lena, "Let's go."

  Skaife helped him take off his harness.

  "You'd better go home, Skaife," said Clarence, "I need to help my friend with something. If I have time, I'll come back to sculpt."

  "I'll be at home," said Skaife, "Swing by and grab me and Ill come help you."

  "Thanks," said Clarence.

  And with that, Clarence and Lena Straud left the library and began running back to the Encumbered Adventurer tavern as fast as they could.

  Chapter 2

  In a quieter part of Firgenduke was a quaint, two storey cottage. A man with dark hair, a wispy goatee and an eyepatch stood on the balcony admiring the view. On a hill to his right was the imposing shadow of Castle Aerie. To his left, the beautiful, serene panorama that was Firgenduke at night; a stark contrast to the bustling, beehive of activity during the day.

  The man took a sip from the drink in his hand. The concoction was so delicious he drained the entire wineglass. He reached for the two bottles that he had left on the table beside him and poured himself another glass. Three parts Erbaherd red wine, one part freshly squeezed orange juice. His favourite mix.


  Suddenly he felt a presence beside him; a beautiful young lady with dark brown hair , who was wearing an alluring sheer white nightdress. She came in close and slithered her hands around his waist, resting her head on his shoulder.

  “Javier,” she said, “Why come stay at my house just to spend the night on the balcony? I know Firgenduke is pretty, but do you not think I am prettier?”

  “I’m waiting for a message from my men,” said Javier, “I want to hear word on the whereabouts of a particular man. A man who the King desperately wants arrested.”

  “It’s nighttime now,” said the girl, “You are off duty. Worry about this in the morning.”

  “I am the Captain of the Guards,” he said, “I am never off duty. You should know that by now, Gwendolyn.”

  The young lady, who was none other than Gwendolyn, of the infamous ‘Three Sisters’, looked at this leathery-skinned, stern man and couldn’t help but admire his dedication. She took the wine glass out of his hand and took a sip. She handed it back to him and turned to leave.

  “Well if you want me, I’ll be in my room,” she said.

  Just then, there was the sound of a horse approaching the house.

  “Captain Javier!”

  They looked down at the front gate and saw that it was one of the Tuscan Advance. He wore the maroon and gold uniform, meaning that he was one of Javier’s most trusted men.

  “You have news for me, Henry?” Javier called out.

  “Sorry to disturb you, sir,” said the guard, “The man in the red robes has been located. The tavern owner of the Encumbered Adventurer is hiding him in a secret room in the basement.”

  “Encumbered Adventurer,” muttered Javier, “I knew they could not be trusted.”

  “Shall I assemble a squad and bring him in?” said Henry.

  “No,” said Javier, “The King desperately wants this done. We will take no chances. Fetch Cronax. I don’t care where he is or what he is doing. Tell him it is the King’s orders to bring this man in.”

  “Cronax is receiving Raleva at the moment,” said Henry, “They are up in his training cave up in the mountains. He said specifically that he was not to be disturbed.”

  “Go to the mountains,” said Javier, “Tell him Javier wants him now. Tell him the Iron Snake has returned to Firgenduke, and now is his chance to test his steel. He will understand. Go now and godspeed”

  Henry nodded and then galloped off in the direction of the mountains.

  “Iron Snake?” said Gwendolyn, “Do you mean that this man the King is looking for is Anton DiManlen? The who Matisse himself could not defeat?”

  Javier nodded.

  “I will go fetch my sisters,” said Gwendolyn, “We will help you bring him in.”

  “Good,” said Javier, “We need all the help we can get.”

  Chapter 3

  Anton stood in the darkness. He had pulled the torch on the wall as Lena had suggested, and to his great surprise, part of the wall had lowered into the ground, revealing a secret room.

  Anton had entered and pulled on a metal lever inside the room, that he had correctly guessed would close the secret door.

  And then he had waited.

  He could hear muffled sounds from the tavern above. People talking, chairs scraping here and there. He could smell the food also. Cheese, meats, fried chips. It made him hungry. He had been in such a hurry to track down Maruska, that he had not stopped for a proper meal in days.

  Time passed and it was obvious Lena was not coming back anytime soon. Anton took time now to look around the small square room he was standing in. His eyes had become accustomed to the dark, and so he could see a bit better now. In the corner of the room was a mattress with some blankets neatly folded on top of it. Near the bed was a little wooden table that was no higher than Anton’s knee. There was a big, unlit candle on it, as well as two thick books.

  The most interesting thing in the room, however, was an iron door on the wall opposite to where the secret entrance was. Curiosity got the better of him and Anton went over and put his hand on the handle.

  The door was locked.

  Anton wondered what lay behind this door and why there was a secret room in Clarence and Lena’s tavern. Then, having nothing better to do, he went over to the mattress in the corner, lay down and wrapped himself in the blankets. It was a cozy room. It would have been a great place to sleep when the weather outside was bad.

  The smell of food from the tavern above, once again permeated his attention. His stomach growled and took over his thoughts. He wondered if the roast boar he had ordered had arrived yet. He wondered if they still made the roast boar as deliciously as they did twenty years ago.

  If you don’t go and eat it now, who knows when you‘ll get another chance? Maybe never! said a little voice inside Anton’s head.

  Oh dear, he thought to himself.

  That voice.

  It probably originated from his stomach, or a part of his brain that loved food. All he knew was that voice was powerful, and probably wouldn’t go away. It was better to do something about it now, rather than do nothing and put up with a constant craving for wild boar.

  Anton got up and went to the lever he assumed would open the secret door again.

  Part of him felt this was probably a bad idea. There was probably a good reason Lena had told him to wait here.

  But another part of him wanted to eat some hot, juicy, roast boar right now. With mint sauce.

  I’ll be quick, thought Anton. I’ll go eat the boar, then come back down here and wait for Lena.

  He nodded to himself, and pulled down on the lever.

  To his relief, once again, part of the wall lowered silently into the ground, and the smell of food hit him strongly in the face.

  He wiped a bit of drool from the corner of his mouth and headed upstairs.

  His stomach was pleased with his decision.

  Chapter 4

  Henry had ridden his horse up the mountaintop. It was dark but there was just enough moonlight to half see. He had been up to Cronax’s training cave only once before, two or three years ago, but he was surprised to find he was able to find his way back purely from memory.

  He saw the dark craggy cave entrance before him and stopped his horse, Bethany, and tied her up to a sturdy tree. He approached the cave but his warrior senses told him that there was someone else around, outside in the surrounding forest. He drew his sword and began to circle around; so quiet it would have made a master thief proud.

  “Whoever you are,” called out a booming voice that seemed to resonate through Henry’s body, “Stay back.
I am busy dueling a fool. Come any closer and you may die. You have been warned.”

  Henry recognized the voice. It was Cronax. He looked at where the voice was coming from, and sure enough, with his eyes accustomed to the night, he could see the big massive frame of the King’s Champion, complete with gigantic battle-axe drawn menacingly.

  “So I am a fool now?” called out another voice. This voice was smooth, like melted chocolate, and musical. But at the same time, it was none less powerful or confident than Cronax’s manly bellow. Henry tried to look around where this second voice was coming from. It seemed to be coming from everywhere at once. He couldn’t tell if the voice was coming from behind, above or inside his head.

  “If I am a fool,” continued the second, “What will that make you when I beat you with one hit?”

  “Ha!” said Cronax, “One hit? In your dreams Raleva.”

  Of course! thought Henry. It was Ravela! Raleva and Cronax comprised of two of The Five. The Five people almost unanimously regarded as the strongest, deadliest fighters in the known world.

  There was silence.

  Henry waited.

  A minute passed, but it felt like ten.

  Finally, Henry spoke.

  “Cronax, Javier has ordered me to summon you back to the castle.”

  “Tell, Javier he can sod off,” said Cronax, “I am busy.”

  “He told me to tell you that the Iron Snake has returned to Firgenduke,” said Henry.

  “What?” said Cronax. He seemed truly surprised.

  “Anton DiManlen has returned?” said Cronax.

  Just then, there was a blur that moved through the forest, across Henry’s view. It moved so fast, by the time Henry noticed it-


  -it was gone.

  Cronax’s body flew up into the air and he landed on his back, his giant battle axe spinning dangerously in the air and piercing itself into the ground at least ten feet away from him.


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