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’.”

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

The Relics of Nanthara: The Secrets Revealed

Hey all, this is an excerpt from Book 1. It is part of Chapter 1. Let me know what you think.

CHAPTER 1:

AN ODD FRIENDSHIP

Courtar clutched his precious leather-bound journal tightly to his chest with his right arm while emphasizing points with his left arm—as defiantly as an adolescent cleric could against an such argumentative crowd. A light rain had soaked the town for hours while Courtar spoke under gray skies. Some cast disbelieving smirks and rude chortles while others masked with angered expressions and irate jeers unsteadied Courtar’s position atop the small stack of crates that served as his podium next to a white washed dry goods store.

“All I’m saying is that this stuff is real. I’ve researched it. You must listen to me. For your own safety, for everyone’s future,” Courtar said.

Disturbed grumbles continued as curses were uttered back. Several groups of people began muttering within their own closed circles while Courtar gulped, his breathing shallowed, his palms moistened.

“And how do you know all this?” one man dressed in sawdust-covered clothes yelled. “Are you clairvoyant?” The comment drew laughter from the gathered crowd.

“Maybe he’s an all-seeing mage!” said a woman in a stained, brown plaid commoner’s dress and unkempt hair that frayed in various directions.

Courtar drew a slow breath. “I’ve been researching this for months now. I’ve found truth in more than one book that reinforces what the prophecies say. If something is not done, we will all perish.”

“They say mages don’t bleed. Cut him and see,” said the first man again. More laughter rippled across the crowd.

“If you believe so much in this coming prophecy, then show us in that book of yours,” said a short, hefty woman, pointing to Courtar’s journal. Others agreed with vocal outbursts, sending unpleasant glances toward his notebook. Courtar gripped the journal tighter.

“What’s in my book I already have shared with you.”

Several irate patrons began stepping toward Courtar with what he perceived were threatening gestures. He attempted to take a step back, yet he forgot where he stood; he was stuck. Out of the corner of his eye, Courtar spied movement. He turned his head in time to see a man in a red tattered sack coat, wielding a large knife. Courtar couldn’t tell if the blade’s browned stains were rust or dried blood. The man cracked a frightful grin that shown the large gap in his front teeth.

“I’m tired of ya speakin’ ‘bout all this prophecy junk. How’s ‘bout I cut ya a new smile, boy,” he said while slashing the air with his polished blade.

Courtar rubbed a nervous hand through his damp dirty blond frazzled hair. He was pleased that nobody could see the sweat running down his back and legs underneath his green homespun tunic and brown pants. For a moment, he was sure he saw his iron cross that hung from a leather strap around his neck bounce with his heartbeat. “Sir, I mean no harm. But time is against us. The darkness will be here sooner than you think.”

Courtar paused then thought out loud. “Or is it already here?”

The man failed to stop as he took slow steps forward brandishing his knife while Courtar noticed several others moving forward with clubs and clenched fists.

“Sovereign, I need your help,” Courtar whispered. He squeezed his eyes shut and waited.

The disgruntled citizens were about a jump away from the crate when a rumbling growl caught almost everyone’s attention from the back of the crowd. A disruptive murmur rippled through the mob from the back to the front as the mass stirred.

Courtar, his heart racing, looked up after opening his eyes to see a giant rift parting the crowd. Silence befell those gathered. At the pinnacle of the separation stood a burly armored Dwergen. A large scar cut diagonally from the Dwergen’s upper left eye to his lower right chin, revealing his malformed upper lip and nose. His beard, filled with golden rings and charm-like trinkets intertwined through the soft hair, covered his face well, allowing only his ruddy complexion and sharp nose to be exposed. His dark auburn beard and hair hung down in matching length just above his black leather belt. Regardless of his unique appearance, it did little to hide the aroma of dirt and stale ale that lingered about him.

The Dwergen’s left hand tugged on his ornament laden beard as his slanted emerald eyes scanned the situation. Courtar could see the Dwergen’s white knuckled grip on the broad shaft of a heavy weapon resembling a cross between a battleaxe and a warhammer propped against his right shoulder, the metallic edges gleaming from the morning sunlight piercing through the surrounding forest.

Courtar could hear the surprised whispers of the crowd staring at the rare sight of this being. Clubs were put aside and clenched fists eased open. Courtar stood a bit straighter as the Dwergen walked forward, casting stern glares at the crowd as he passed before stopping in front of him. The Dwergen looked the cleric up and down with a grunt before turning toward the mob with a determined scowl.

“It’s best if you leave this lad alone. He speaks of religious teachin’s and is doin’ what his heart tells him is right.”

The man in the tattered red coat sneered at the Dwergen, his knife still clutched in his hand. “We don’t need hearin’ that sort of junk. And ya best scat if ya know what’s good for ya, you freak.”

“Shut yer mouth, Ergen,” said the short heavy woman through clenched teeth. “Can’t yer dumb eyes sees that’s a Dwergen.”

“I don’t care a bit,” Ergen said. He took a step forward, brandishing his knife, when the Dwergen spun around with the flat of his raxan blade and smacked Ergen on his shoulder, sending the ill-tempered patron flying into the side of the dry goods store with a crash. Ergen crumpled into the mud in a silent heap.

The Dwergen spun around with a snarl and his raxan in a two fisted grip, the gold trinkets glimmering in the morning sun. “Any other maggot feelin’ itchy?”

Courtar watched in amazement as the crowd backed away. The Dwergen looked over his shoulder at the cleric.

“Best if you leave with me, laddie. This town doesn’t seem to take to yer words very kindly.”

Courtar sighed as he stepped down off the crates. “Thank you.” He picked up his backpack lying in front of his makeshift stage, slung it over his shoulder, and hurried after the Dwergen, who already had a head start trudging down the muddy road.

With his journal in hand, he scooted up next to the Dwergen who trudged northward at a steady pace. “My thanks again, sir.”

The Dwergen cast an unemotional glance at the cleric. “Yer welcome.”

Courtar held out a damp hand. “I’m Courtar.”

The Dwergen reached around with his thick deeply etched left hand and grasped Courtar’s softer grip.

“Boren.”

“Y-you are a, a . . .”

“Dwergen,” Boren said, looking forward.

“W-What are you doing out here?”

“Lookin’ fer somethin’ that belongs to me.”

Several silent moments passed with only the cling-clang echo of bobbling equipment before Courtar looked to Boren. “Uhm, you didn’t say what you were looking for.”

The Dwergen kept facing forward, trudging along the wooded trail as the town faded behind a curtain of trees. “I know.”

“If you told me, I might be able to help you find it.”

“It’s a personal journey, laddie. Somethin’ of my family long lost since our war with the foulskin two eras gone.”

Courtar’s head wrinkled in thought. “Two eras—that was at least over three hundred years ago.”

“Aye. And I mean to find it, or die tryin’.”

“You seem quite determined to find this thing, huh?”

Boren looked askance at Courtar. “Just as determined and passionate as you were defendin’ yer belief on them prophecies.”

A sheepish grin stroked Courtar’s lips. “Oh, you heard me talking?”

“Aye, I did.” Boren stopped and faced Courtar with his hands propped on his hips. “And what is a young human cleric wanderin’ alone blabberin’ about prophecies to the point of almost gettin’ killed?”

Courtar turned and continued walking, leaving Boren standing alone. “It’s something I have to do.”

“Called? Did you receive a message from a raven or courier?” Boren asked as he hurried to catch up. “Or were you provoked?”

Courtar stopped and spun to face Boren, heat rising from underneath his tunic. “I did this on my own. They wouldn’t let me, wouldn’t believe me. They have never believed in me. Always a slave. Do this, do that. Clean this, polish that. Study, study, study.”

Boren stood with arms folded, his head cocked with a smirk.

Courtar sighed. “It’s hard to explain. In my studies back at Temple Sovereign in Aldor, I ran across writings on the prophecy in a secluded portion of the library. I ended up finding more material on the matter, but they barely touched on the subject. More like legend or fireside myth, or so I thought. And then . . . then this burning deep in my gut kept pushing me to seek what I felt. And, well, two months later, here I am.”

“This trek yer on is personal as well as destiny,” Boren said. Courtar nodded. “So, you believe the prophecies to be true?”

“With all my heart. What about you?”

“From what I’ve seen, I know that thin’s are gettin’ worse. No matter. If dark-

ness is ready to fall upon us, foulskin will be close behind. The way I see it, I’ll just wait until they show their filthy heads, so I can have fun cleavin’ ’em off!” Boren said with bulging eyes, seemingly hungry to enter a bloody battle at a moment’s notice.

“Yeah, but won’t that be kinda, messy?”

“And yer point is?”

Courtar grinned at his bearded companion and swatted his hand. “Nevermind.”

Published in: on April 24, 2010 at 1:53 AM  Comments (3)  
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,