The Secrets Revealed-Excerpt, Ch. 3

Hey all,

Here is a teaser of Ch. 3 from my first novel, unedited. Boren and Courtar run into some trouble, and it’s only the beginning of things to come for them and the rest of the alliance. Enjoy.

Their pace quickened without another word spoken. The two continued their morning journey while a mouthful of flavorful raisins, cinnamon, and brown sugar watered Courtar’s tastebuds. “So, where are we headed now?” he mumbled.

“Not sure, laddie. Headin’ east is best. We travel as long as we can, then make camp at nightfall.”

“Sounds good,” Courtar said. He took a deep breath in and sighed. “I love cool days like these. They make me want to walk from here to the opposite end of Nanthara.”

During the day, the monotonous trek was broken up by horse-drawn carts and solitary passersby that moved along with each one giving an extended stare.

One rider trotted toward them as he headed west, mounted atop a somewhat filthy looking horse. Clad in tattered rags, his gaunt face bothered Courtar. The cleric’s attempted greeting was met with silence as he passed by in silence. Boren paid no attention to him.

Courtar frowned. “How rude. You think he would have had the courtesy to respond in kind. Besides, I don’t think he will get far on a mount so malnourished. He should try and feed it once in awhile.”

Courtar looked over his shoulder. The rider had vanished. Courtar spun in haste and examined the long stretch of empty highway behind him.

“Where did he go? He was just here.”

Boren stopped with an aggrevated sighed. “What are you fussin’ about?”

The cleric kept scanning the road and the woods when he heard Boren sniffing.  “What are you doing?”

The Dwergen’s eyes narrowed as he turned his head slowly in every direction, looking for something. “There’s a smell of death, laddie. That was no commoner.” Boren reached behind him and unsheathed his giant raxan and stood with a firm grip.

Courtar paused and cocked his head. His ears strained to pick up the noises of the surrounding woods: the birds, the rustling leaves, the breeze brushing his ears. He only heard silence. His nose wrinkled after catching the sickening scent of decay. “It smells like something died.”

“It did. And it’s lookin’ fer us. Stay close.”

Courtar’s heartbeat intensified. His hands trembled. His frantic eyes searched about, unsure of what to look for: a shadow . . . movement . . . a twitch. He pulled out his mace, wondering if it would do any good. A covey of quail rattled the nearby undergrowth, constricting Courtar’s throat with a choking lump. Several squirrels scampering up the flaking bark of a tree trunk scared him in just the same manner.

Boren never flinched from either of the noises. He stood and listened. “A Dark

Herald.”
Courtar took a step closer to Boren. “Wh-what is a Dark Herald?”

Boren’s head snapped left, right, and even behind him as if mounted on a swivel.

“They’re dark messengers. Unnatural life. They gather information fer their sender before they kill you.”

Courtar gulped. “Information?”

“They’re sent fer a reason.” Boren faced the cleric. “This one is here fer you.

It wants what you have.”

“What do I have?! I don’t have anything? Look at what I’m carrying—nothing!”

“You carry yer journal, laddie. It has things that the Dark Herald wants. This journey that yer takin’ is more than you think.”

A ghostly shriek shattered the silent woods. Courtar’s hair stood on end while

Boren spun around, unable to tell from which direction the hoarse wail bellowed. It sounded again. Courtar cowered in the road. Boren grabbed him by the collar and jerked him onto his feet.

“No time fer hidin’, boy. It wants you to hide. Yer easier to kill. If you believe in prayer, pray now.”

Courtar’s attempt at prayer sounded like gibberish.

Boren nudged Courtar firmly in the ribs with his elbow. “Pray!”

The frightened cleric took a deep breath and focused enough to chant words of protection. Within seconds, a dark image of the decayed rider appeared off to their right in the distant woods. It was heading toward them. Courtar froze. The image disappeared.

“Pray again, boy! Yer words are revealin’ that demon’s location!”

Boren’s reprimand startled Courtar and he continued to chant holy words through his quivering lips. A blood-curdling, hoarse wail echoed through the woods. Courtar followed Boren’s gaze as they spotted the wavering image of the evil rider bearing down on them with its nightmarish weapon held loosely near its side.

Courtar rubbed the stinging perspiration from his eyes, unsure of what he saw. “Is that thing passing through the trees?”

Boren growled with the ferocity of a bear. “Come at me, demon. My raxan is

thirsty and it needs a drink.”

The dark rider thundered closer, raised its weapon, and swung in a downward arc.

Courtar dove out of the way and rolled to a hard stop after thumping into a tree while Boren swung upward at the Dark Herald. A loud clang of steel indicated he missed his target. The decayed horseman rode a short distance before spinning its mount around and headed back for another pass.

The Dark Herald hissed in its demonic raspy voice like the combination of a dog’s deep growl and an old hag. “Give me the information.” It made its second pass and clashed with Boren once more. Each time it rode by, the nauseating stench of death and decay lingered longer.

The stalwart Dwergen and the deadly messenger clashed several more times, with Boren sinking his raxan into the rider’s mount as well as the assailant’s leg and torso, but to no effect. Courtar shook off the pain from slamming into the solid trunk and looked at his weapon with worried eyes.

I can’t fight that thing with my mace. Boren can’t even kill it! What can I do?

Then a peaceful voice filled his mind. Water.

Courtar looked next to him, thinking the voice generated from someone nearby. Nobody was there.

The voice rung in his head again. Water.

“Water? What water?” he said aloud. With a sudden revelation, Courtar grabbed one of his pouches and fumbled with the strap before pulling out a glass vial. “Holy water?”

Another clang of weapons garnered Courtar’s attention to the desperate matter

at hand. As he approached the two battling foes, the rider stopped the fight and turned its black eyesockets toward him. Its charred skin and malformed mouth smiled a deathly grin. A sinewy limb, stretched tight with mottled skin, gripped its horrid weapon.

Courtar could only think of excruciating pain when he gazed upon the wicked

blade.

“Give me the information,” it said again in its guttural wail.

Boren sunk his raxan several more times into the rider and his mount, but the Dark Herald ignored each lethal blow as it remained focused on the cleric. It reached out with its free hand, appearing to grasp Courtar in his clutches. “I want the information.”

Courtar’s hand shook. “You want the information? Here it is!”

With all his might, Courtar hurled his vial of holy water at the Dark Herald. The glass smashed against the rider’s weapon, spraying it with the anointed liquid. A deafening scream blasted the woods with a shockwave that slammed Boren and Courtar onto the road. Smoke bubbled from the creature in numerous white puffs. Within moments, bright blue rays shot forth from the demonic rider like sunrays bursting through a cloudbank.  As the Dark Herald’s corpse-like body shuddered, it exploded into blue flames that engulfed the mount as well.

Boren regained his feet and smashed his raxan into the rotting horse. This time his raxan bit deep as it almost severed the horse’s head clean off. It fell in a heap, tossing the burning rider into the dirt. The screaming Dark Herald’s retaliation was too slow. Boren’s blade sunk into its chest, snapping dry bones and splitting diseased flesh. A second swing decapitated the fiendish messenger. The flames soon extinguished, leaving behind a pile of black ash.

Courtar’s heart raced while Boren panted from his exertion. Suddenly, the eerie silence that blanketed the woods faded into pleasureful woodland sounds once more. It reminded Courtar of stepping from a quiet prayer room onto a noisy trade street.

“You saved me again, Boren.”

The Dwergen sheathed his raxan, kicked the black ash remnants, then walked over to Courtar. “Aye. But it is me owin’ you thanks, laddie. The vial you threw did the Dark Herald in. What was it?”

“Holy water.”

Boren nodded after giving his beard a gentle stroke. “You need more.”

Courtar took in a breath of fresh air as he wiped his head with a cool cloth dampened from his waterskin. “I’ve never seen anything like that before. I pray I never will again.”

“Unfortunately, laddie, I’m afraid there’s more comin’.”

Published in: on July 22, 2010 at 3:29 PM  Leave a Comment