Today is the second preview I’m offering of Scars of the Sundering, book one: Malediction. It follows immediately after the scene I previewed last week.
“What is that?” Kale bumped into Pancras as he looked down the pit. With a gasp the minotaur grabbed him and backpedaled. The drak saw spikes and a nasty-looking red morass at the bottom of the pit. He grasped Kale’s bandoleer and dragged him away from the edge.
“What?” Kale looked up at Pancras. He’d never heard of a bloodmaw before.
Pancras shook his head. “It is a beast born of chaos. It should not be in this world.”
Edric looked over the edge. “That thing’s making the ghouls?” The clicking noise echoed up the bloodmaw’s pit.
“No, no,” Pancras shook his head again. “I don’t think so. It can corrupt though, corrupt and devour. When the world was sundered, the shards of Calliome were surrounded by elemental chaos. Scholars called it The Maelstrom. Those rifts were all sealed with the healing of the world, but as with all grievous wounds, some of the scars festered and allowed bits of chaos to seep through, much like the portal to the Fae Realm in Drak-Anor. They allow what’s on the other side passage to our world. This chaos beast”—He gestured to the bloodmaw’s pit—”Must have come through one of those festering sores.”
“How does it make that sound?” Kale noticed movement in the corner of his eye. Dozens of ghouls shuffled toward them out of the darkness. Twisted and deformed, they were hunched over, their knuckles touching the ground. Dirty, elongated nails now served as cruel talons. He identified ghouls that were once dwarves, draks, and even minotaurs and humans. He tapped Pancras on the hand.
“We have company.”
The dwarf spun around, his sword at the ready. Pancras turned to regard the ghoul horde. “Aita’s bloody bones!”
Ghouls closed in from all sides, moving toward them with deliberate purpose. Kale drew a second dagger and crouched into a combat stance. “Why aren’t they attacking?”
The glow on the tips of Pancras’s horns grew brighter and greener. “They are being controlled.”
“Indeed.” A mellifluous, malicious voice answered. Kale did not recognize the language it spoke and was puzzled he understood it. The air around them grew ranker and as cold as the deep of winter as a shadow rose from behind the pack of ghouls surrounding them. “Welcome, Necromancer. Come to join my ever-growing army?” Kale shuddered, his stomach twisting in knots. Every fiber of his being screamed for him to run and hide from or cower in fear at this twisted abomination in the shadow as his brain told him to stand fast and help Pancras.
The minotaur stepped forward, interposing himself between Kale and the shadow. “We come to destroy it.”
The shadow laughed. “The three of you? You would make fine additions, despite your foolishness.” The shadow moved forward, revealing its true form: that of a slime-covered beast. Shadows cloaked it like billowy clouds of soot and ash. Kale found himself instinctively shrinking from it, though he did not recognize its form. Its slavering maw snapped, and hissing at the three, it bared its teeth.
Pancras stood his ground. The green glow at the tips of his horns flared.
Kale squinted to shield his eyes as Pancras threw open his arms and chanted. “Aita pairnei piso tee dyaenamee pou eiche klapei.”
The shadow growled and charged the minotaur. Kale leapt forward, throwing his dagger at it and drawing two more from his bandoleer before touching down. The thrown daggers punched holes through the shadow, holes which sealed themselves with a hiss and puff of greasy smoke.
“Ypoloipo, nekrees psychees. Peegainete sto aionio yeapno sas!”
A burst of emerald flame cascaded across the ranks of ghouls. They screeched and clawed at their skin as it burst it flames, consuming the horde in brilliant green fire. Edric stood at the edge of the bloodmaw pit. Kale noticed the dwarf’s legs trembling, but he held his ground, as did Pancras.
The minotaur’s horns continued to glow. “Aspida tou ravematos.” The shadow slammed to a stop inches from Pancras’s face. Kale noticed a thin shell surrounding his friend. Colors played across its surface, like a bubble of soap in a wash basin and then vanished as through the bubble popped.
Stepping back, the shadow shook itself and growled. It swiped at Edric, as one might swat a fly, but the dwarf dove to the side, rolling into a crouch, his sword at the ready.
“You are a worthy opponent, Necromancer. You speak with the voice of Aita. A pity. You could be so much more than you are.” The shadow beast’s sugary tone crawled under Kale’s skin. He shivered, feeling the desperate need for a bath.
“What I am is enough for me.”
Kale readied his daggers for another throw. For all the good it will do. The shadow beast lunged forward attempting to drive Pancras backward over the edge.
“Skia veema.” The minotaur vanished just as the beast reached him. Unable to stop its momentum, it tumbled over the edge of the pit. Pancras reappeared next to Kale and listened as the beast howled in rage at the ruse.
“Fooled by a childhood trick.” Pancras tugged at Kale’s bandoleer and gestured at Edric. “Come, we must find a way to seal the rift before it climbs out. The bloodmaw won’t devour that thing. They’re probably working together.”