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Patrick Welch


Prelude I: The Catacombs

Mavix held the torch forward like a lance. Before him the passage through the catacombs of Cynnador twisted and turned like some possessed snake so the light illuminated only a few feet ahead. “What do you see?” came a voice from behind him.

“Just rock, my lord.”

“No signs of demons?”

“No. Just rock.”

“Good.” Master Magician Vynf clapped his hands, the sound echoing ahead and behind. “As I’ve suspected all along. The catacombs of Cynnador are protected by lies, not by the unholy. Continue.”

Hoping and praying the magician was correct, especially since he had just alerted any curious ears, Mavix walked onward. The floor beneath was uneven, the walls closing in at all angles. He didn’t want to ask the obvious: if there are no demons, then what protects the catacombs? There had been attempts to explore these dark caves before. Never successfully. When the magician had approached him about the expedition, he had been assured that Vynf had planned for every eventuality. “A small party is less likely to attract the attention of whatever lurks below Cynnador,” he had said. “I am sure that is one of the reasons why others have failed. For this venture there will be just the two of us.”

“Two? But what if we are attacked?”

“I will have magical sentries sent out ahead to warn us of any ‘demons.’ And we will both be protected by the strongest shielding spells. We will be safe.”

Mavix had been swayed by his arguments and the large amount of money and salt he would earn if they were successful. Although now, as he ducked under an overhanging rock, he was beginning to have doubts. Seconds later he heard the magician curse. “What happened?”

“I hit my head on that rock. I can’t see standing here behind you.”

“Do you want a torch?”

“The less light, the less obvious we are. Let me lead for a bit.”

The passage was narrow and Mavix had to set down the torch so the magician could squeeze by. “That’s better,” Vynf said. “Stay close behind and have your weapon ready.”

Mavix nodded and followed the magician onward. Yes, it was difficult to see, he realized. Thanks to the severe turns of the tunnel, about all that was obvious was the light reflecting off the ceiling and the shape of the magician before him.

The narrowness of the passage made carrying his sword difficult as it continually bounced off protruding rocks. He would have a long session with the whetstone ahead of him, he realized. Still he did what the magician bade as holstering the weapon, or, worse, withdrawing it, could prove difficult in these catacombs.

So they continued onward until the passage veered sharply to the left. Mavix watched the reflection of the light on the wall as Vynf turned the corner. And then the light totally disappeared.

Mavix stopped and his grip on his weapon tightened. “Vynf, what do you see?” he called out. There was no response save the echo of his voice.

There had been no warning, no sign or word from the magician. Had the demons attacked him? Mavix crouched down and, on hands and knees, slowly moved around the corner. Then he stopped and ice flowed through his veins. The magician was gone.

There was no light ahead, no shadows. Just overwhelming darkness. Mavix called out the magician’s name again, with the same results. I can’t fight demons! He crawled backwards, his gaze still forward, his hand on the sword in case he was attacked. But without the torch, without the magician, he was helpless in these catacombs. As soon as he dared, he turned, stood and dropped his weapon so he wouldn’t be encumbered by its weight. He started back, his hands outstretched so he could follow the twists and turns of the passageway. If he survived, he would tell all he knew that the demons had attacked and killed Vynf. And his great magic had been of no aid at all. They had to be warned: no one could survive the haunted catacombs of Cynnador.


"Cynnador" Copyright © 2003. Patrick Welch. Reprinted by permission of the author. All rights reserved by the author. Please do not copy without permission.



Author Bio

Patrick Welch received a B.A. and M.A. in English from Bowling Green State University. Proving the value of a liberal education, he has worked variously as a musician, dock worker, insurance salesman, full-time and substitute teacher, free-lance writer and assistant store manager.

He has published more than forty stories in e-zines and the small press. Currently, Patrick also has another book available from Double Dragon E-Books, Westchester Station and Brendell; Apprentice Thief will be available February 2002.

More information on his writing can be found at his web site.

TTB titles: Aegis of the Dragon
The Casebook of Doakes and Haig
The Thirteenth Magician




  Author News

Cynnador is a finalist in the Dream Realm Awards for the Fantasy category.



I've reviewed quite a few books in my day--none have been harder to review than Cynnador. Let me make it clear from the outset that I love this book. I've been reading Patrick Welch for a long time, and have always enjoyed his work. Cynnador is, in my opinion, his best. Despite that, I'm afraid this review won't do the book justice as I can't find any sane way to summarize it.

For one thing, there's a prologue and twelve preludes before the novel proper begins. That means before you begin reading, you've already read twelve seemingly unrelated tales. I had little doubt these tales would soon intersect, but they do so late enough in the book where I'd have to give away major plot twists to provide a synopsis.

So I can't tell you about the dancer who weaves a spell with motion, or the master magician who tries to foil a gambler with magic and fails, or the catacombs beneath the great bazaar called Cynnador that no one has ever been able to explore, ostensibly because the demons who live there don't allow it. And I certainly can't tell you about the merchant who has a foolproof method of making sales that works everywhere but in Cynnador.

The characters are fascinating, neither good nor evil but somewhere in between. However, the real star of the book is Cynnador herself, an unlikely marketplace between two great countries, protected by mountain and desert. Indeed as I read the book, my sympathy lay with Cynnador, who somehow protects those who call her home from those who would subdue her.

I never knew, nor even suspected, where the story might lead. This, in and of itself, is an accomplishment. When I reached the entirely satisfactory ending, all I wanted to do was read the book again to see how it all came together.

There are so many characters, you'd think it would be easy to confuse them, but Mr. Welch is up to the task of making them unforgettable. And his writing style is such that I was never once confused, no matter how intricate the plot--and it is intricate. It's a tapestry woven of many threads that forms a story of peculiar beauty. Each thread by itself is almost meaningless, but how they intertwine is so fascinating, it doesn't matter. This is no meandering, purposeless tale, though the meaning doesn't unfold till near the end. To that point, I was so taken with the characters and happenings, I didn't care that I couldn't see an overall plot.

If you've never read a Patrick Welch book (and you really should), Cynnador is a fantastic place to start. Yet even if you're a Patrick Welch fan (as I am), nothing he's written before, with the possible exception of The Body Shop, will prepare you for Cynnador. With its unique structure, a brilliant cast of characters and several unique plotlines, Cynnador places Mr. Welch firmly in my pantheon of great speculative fiction writers. I can't recommend it highly enough.
Reviewed By Steve Lazarowitz © May 2005 for Novelspot.

Cynnador is a place with a presence.

It stretches across the vast Istaghian plain. Many have tried to conquer it and all have failed. As swordsmen approach, filled with thoughts of gore and glory, the city just seems to vanish, leaving the would-be attackers to die of thirst in the desert. A mirage? Maybe. Or maybe the city is able to hide. The inhabitants are merchants, schemers and thieves. Yet, there is a source that dispenses justice in Cynnador: swiftly and without mercy. No one can plead his case, because no person sits in judgment. The arm of justice is both invisible and invincible.

Magicians and sorcerers are also present, but no magic spells can be cast in the city. The power that holds this place together is greater than anyone has ever known. Yet, there are those who will uncover the mystery of this city, and find the reality beyond their comprehension.

Author Patrick Welch takes readers to the puzzling and paradoxical city of Cynnador through his superb descriptions and dialogue. The book begins with a series of "preludes", graphically depicting life in this city through a variety of characters. Each prelude whets the appetite of the reader to know more. These vignettes are almost like "gates" leading into this strange world. As the reader passes each one, the lure of the city becomes stronger until there is no chance of escaping back to the real world.

The characters are diverse and often diabolical. Readers will find themselves repulsed, as well as nonplussed, by some of their actions. After the preludes lure the reader to the heart of this city, the author creatively ties the characters together in an unusual plot twist. A scavenger, master magician, merchant and barbarian swordsman team up to uncover a mystery that seems to threaten their existence. However, the answer lies in the catacombs, and no one has ever survived a trek through these caverns of twisting treachery. Or have they?

Let Patrick Welch take you on a journey to a place that you won't soon forget - no matter how hard you may try.
Reviewed by Joyce Handzo for In the Library Reviews.

Cynnador, Patrick Welch, With this book, Welch returns to the fantasy realm he first explored with his terrific The Thirteenth Magician and maintains the standards and quality of creation he set forth with that volume. He hasn’t let up in any of his other endeavors, but does truly seem to be at home in the environs of a fantasy landscape.

In Cynnador we meet an assorted group of magicians, sorcerers and barbarian swordsmen, many of whom would be at home in a novel by Robert E. Howard, but in my mind the inhabitants of Cynnador are but a step removed from the enchanted stories of ZOTHIQUE and HYBERBOREA by the magnificent and almost forgotten Clark Ashton Smith.

Welch has big shoes to fill with these criticisms, but he is able to pull it off with well-written stories and characterization that is seldom seen in a lot of books today. He is able to write a character and make you feel for them and with them as they make their decisions. Don’t ever let a book or story by Pat Welch pass you by, he’s one writer who always delivers on his promise, and his promise is a tale, well told.
Reviewed by Barry Hunter for




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