Wither War Book One: A Far Lands Adventure (April, 2018)
Watcher must face a dangerous wither king in the first book of a new Far Lands Minecraft adventure series from New York Times bestselling author Mark Cheverton.
Life is peaceful and calm in the Far Lands, a mysterious area on the edge of the Overworld in Minecraft. The monster warlords have been destroyed, and the NPC villages are flourishing. But an old warning still echoes in the young NPC Watcher’s mind: “Krael, the new Wither King, will bring back his army, as the monster warlocks predicted, and take their revenge on all of the Far Lands.”
Watcher is right to be suspicious. Krael, the self-proclaimed King of the Withers, and wearer of the Crown of Skulls, has a plan to bring back the vast army of withers that lie imprisoned in the ancient Cave of Slumber. With the help of a dozen ancient zombie warriors rescued by Krael, they seek to release the withers from their slumber and wreak havoc on the Far Lands. And the only thing in his path is a skinny little archer named Watcher.
Excerpt from The Wither King
Watcher ached of a deep weariness, not just of body, but of spirit as well. Fencer and Planter had been glaring at each other all through the night, and his girlfriend’s glances toward him clearly suggested he had to do something . . . but what?
I can’t send Fencer back to their village without sending a couple of soldiers with her, he thought. But keeping her here doesn’t seem like a good idea, either.
The whole situation had him completely confused.
He looked around wearily and took in his surroundings. They’d ridden hard all night and everyone was exhausted. The villagers had made it through the forest until they came across their enemy’s tracks. Now, they’d followed them into the desert, the sun already past its zenith.
“Watcher . . . look out!”
He stopped daydreaming and looked ahead: his horse was heading straight for a cactus. Watcher pulled on the reins at the last second, causing the animal to veer to the left, narrowly avoiding the prickly plant.
“Maybe you should pay attention,” Cutter chided.
Watcher could feel his cheeks turn red.
“It’s not like we need Watcher’s expert tracking skills to follow our friends’ trail.” Blaster pointed at the sandy ground. Footprints were burned into the surface of Minecraft as if something so incredibly evil had walked by and had damaged the landscape.
“That does make it easier,” Cutter added. “What do you think is making those tracks?”
“The Eight.” Er-Lan’s voice was almost like a moan, drawn out and sad. “It is the mark of the Broken Eight. All zombies have heard the stories about the terrible enchantments used to create these warriors. The evil magic used to bring these creatures into existence cannot be contained within their golden armor. It leaks out and scars the land.”
“Great . . . you’re making me really excited to meet these creatures.”
“The forest is ending up ahead.” Planter pointed with her axe, then gave Watcher a glance. She neither smiled nor frowned.
What was that supposed to mean? Watcher was even more confused.
“Look, It seems as if they stopped her behind this sand dune.” Mapper leaned so far out of the saddle to stare at the footprints that he almost fell off his horse. Many of the soldiers laughed.
“Maybe you should try to stay on your horse,” Blaster suggested with a grin.
The old man nodded, embarrassed.
Watcher glanced up at the sun; its heat pounded down on the NPCs like a blacksmith’s flaming hammer. Their armor was hot to the touch, and the air burned his throat a little as he breathed. It was a harsh environment, but they had to follow the trail, no matter where it led. On the ground were the remains of the cactus, the green, spiny body shattered by the charred footprints.
One of the Broken Eight must have crushed it, Watcher thought. But why would it want to do that? Maybe they—
“There’s a village on the other side of this dune,” the forward scout shouted from atop a sandy mound. The NPC sat on a light brown horse, his leather armor a dirty white, courtesy of Blaster. The villager and his mount blended in with the pale surroundings, making him hard to see when he stood still. “Hurry . . . something’s happened to them.”
“What do you think he means by that?” Watcher asked.
“I don’t know,” Planter said from behind them.
He turned and gave her a smile.
“I’m sure you’ll figure it out. You always do.” Fencer rode up next to him and matched his pace, guiding her horse so close that their legs were brushing against each other. She gave him an adoring grin.
“Grrr . . .” Planter growled like a zombie, then snapped her reins and galloped up the hill, her face a visage of anger as she passed.
“She seems so angry all the time,” Fencer said softly, only for Watcher’s ears. “Planter should be more respectful . . . in fact they all should be more respectful to you. You’re a wizard after all.” She leaned toward him, bringing her horse even closer. “I know how important you are. I’ll never mistreat you . . . like the others do.”
“Look, Fencer, you need to understand something.” She had such an innocent expression on her face. Watcher felt like he was about to do something mean and hurt her. He glanced ahead at Planter. Her blond hair shone bright against the afternoon sun; it was beautiful. He turned back to Fencer. “You see, I’m with—”
“Oh no, Watcher, come quick!” Planter didn’t even turn to look at him, she just shouted and then rode down the other side of the sand dune.
A jolt of fear surged through his veins. Watcher instantly nudged his horse into a gallop, then into a sprint as he charged up the sandy mound. When he reached the top, his heart sank.
Strewn across the sands were the remains of the village. Charred footsteps could be seen all throughout the area, as well as paw prints from the vicious dire wolves embedded in the sand.
Riding down the dune, he caught up with Planter, then shot past her.
“We need to search for survivors,” Watcher shouted.
Someone else yelled commands to the other NPCs, but Watcher wasn’t listening; he was scanning the flat, sandy plane, looking for anyone moving or crying out for help. But the village seemed completely still . . . like a graveyard.
Leaping off his horse, Watcher dashed through the smoky ruins of what looked like the blacksmith’s house. Only a couple of furnaces had survived the destruction; the rest of the houses were burned to the ground. Running up to what resembling a baker’s house, he kicked through the brittle remains, hoping to uncover someone hiding in the rubble. But there was no one. With panic rising in his soul, Watcher ran from house to house, digging through the wreckage, looking for any living thing.
It was hopeless.
This entire village has been erased from the surface of Minecraft, just like the one he’d seen when he used the Eye of Searching.
“Why would they do this?” Planter asked. “I don’t understand.”
“It is the Eight.” Er-Lan moved toward Watcher, careful to step over the charred footprints left behind by the ancient warriors. “Their hatred for everything drove the Broken Eight to do this thing. There is no plan here, no strategy or goal . . . just destruction. That is why these ancient warriors were put in the Eternal Jail. It was the only way to stop their destruction.”
“But these people did nothing.” A terrible sadness rose up from within Watcher, but mixed in with it was also guilt. He should have been here to stop them.
Even though he knew that to be impossible, he still felt responsible for this destruction.
These creatures may have been made by the monster warlocks hundreds of years ago, but this wizard is going to destroy them. Watcher’s thoughts raged with fury within his mind. He wanted to shout and scream, but it would not change what had happened.
There may be a way, the ancient voice from the Flail of Regrets whispered.
“What?” Watcher said.
“I didn’t say anything,” Blaster replied.
Watcher shook his head. What did you say?
There may be a way to stop the Broken Eight, the Flail said. But it will take some thought. Likely we’ll need some friends from the old days.
What are you talking about? Watcher asked, but the voice was gone.
“You okay?” Blaster put a hand on Watcher’s shoulder, startling him and making him jump. “Sorry, didn’t mean to scare you. Don’t blast me with any of your magical powers.” He gave Watcher a smile.
“Sorry, I was talking to . . .” he lowered his voice and glanced around, “the Flail.”
“Of course, you were talking to that inanimate object in your inventory.”
“It’s true, there’s something inside it. I just don’t fully understand, yet.” Watcher pulled out the weapon and stared down at it. The leather-wrapped handle was worn, as if it had seen many battles, but the chain running from the handle to the spiked cube looked brand new, with each spike still razor sharp. The enchanted weapon seemed as if it had just been made, even though it had actually been constructed hundreds of years ago, during the Great War.
“Everyone, come over here.” Cutter’s booming voice carried across the desert with ease.
Watcher and Blaster ran toward what would have been the center of the village. Where the community’s well once had stood was now just a huge, blackened crater. Watcher stood next to Cutter and stared down at the destruction.
“Why would they have destroyed the well like this?” Mapper started to move down into the crater, but Planter stopped the old man. “Did any of you notice what’s at the bottom of the crater?”
Watcher held a hand over his eyes to shield them from the afternoon sun. They slowly adjusted to the dark, charred blocks of sandstone, sand and gravel . . . and then he saw it. There were steps leading down into the darkness. Everyone was pointing at them and talking all at once, but Watcher was instead looking at the landscape around them. On one side of the village was the large sand dune they had just crossed, but on the opposite side of the village was another one, identical in size and shape.
“The Dual Dunes.” Watcher moved to Planter’s side, then pointed. “Look . . . the Dual Dunes.”
She followed his finger and stared at the two huge sandy mounds, then realization dawned on her. “It’s the entrance to the Hall of Planes.”
She pulled out the Amulet of Planes and found the red gemstone in the middle, blinking as if it had a heartbeat. Stepping into the crater, Planter moved closer to the dark stairway, Watcher at her side. The ancient relic pulsed faster and faster as they moved near the shadowy passage.
Watcher glanced over his shoulder and nodded to the rest of the NPCs. “Everyone gather your things. Our path now leads downward.”
The villagers moved down into the crater in complete silence. Watcher knew they were scared; he could somehow feel their tension through the magic pulsing through his body. When they reached the bottom, the company stood around the staircase, staring down at the steps disappearing into the darkness.
“This is the entrance to the Hall of Planes.” Watcher turned and look at each member of their party. “We have no idea what dangers we’re heading toward, but as you saw from the village around us, these creatures must be stopped, and we’re the only ones here. If we don’t stop these zombie warriors and stop the king of the withers from releasing his army, then the Far Lands will likely be in the greatest danger it’s faced since the Great War.” He paused to let his words sink in. “We can do this if we work together. Now follow me.”
“I’ll be right behind you,” Fencer shouted.
Watcher rolled his eyes as the rest of the warriors laughed.
Drawing his enchanted blade, Needle, he headed down into the darkness.