With the release of the Baron's Heart just a little over a month away, Kathryn and I are really excited! The fifth and final book in the Heroes of Ravenford series will bring a number of overarching plots full circle. We can promise you a climactic ending and the answers to many outstanding questions.
Still, this is not the end. As mentioned previously in this blog, a second series concerning the further adventures of the young heroes is in the offing. Loosely entitled Rise of the Thrall Lord, that series will pick up the story where things left off at the end of Heroes. Fair warning though, the new series will be a bit more intense -- think world level threatening danger intense. But once again, I am getting ahead of myself. For now, let's focus back on the Baron's Heart.
Last month's excerpt followed Seth and Aksel as the duo searched for evidence of vampires in Ravenford. Yet instead of undead, they came across a minor demon, an imp specifically. Still, that discovery was not for naught. Afterwards, the dynamic duo found clues at the scene concerning the Baron's demise.
Fast forward to later that night, and things got really interesting. For one, Glolindir, Lloyd, and Elladan have returned from their mission in Tarsmoor. Second, through a bit of magical sleuthing, they discover the location of a prime suspect in the Baron's murder and a shady individual who may very well be a vampire.
With that in mind, let's join Aksel and Lloyd as the two of them search Haltan's basement for the pair. Thanks again for stopping by and don't forget to come back next month when pre-orders for the Baron's Heart should be up.
Aksel climbed cautiously down the steep basement steps, waiting for his eyes to adjust to the dim light. Elladan’s ‘dancing lights’ had long since run out, leaving just the glow from a few scattered torches. Still, his gnomish vision was better adapted to the dark than a human’s.
The cellar was empty. There was no trace of the poisonous green cloud that had erupted from the vault and driven them from the basement. The little gnome gingerly sniffed the air. Even the noxious odor that accompanied the cloud was gone.
“Is it safe?” Lloyd whispered from behind him.
“As far as I can tell,” Aksel murmured over his shoulder.
An eerie silence surrounded the duo as they tread carefully across the floor. They passed the Boulder, the stone golem as motionless as a statue, its glowing eyes fixed on the open vault doorway. Qualtan’s body still lay at its feet in the same exact position they had left it.
Aksel nudged his head at the body and whispered, “Why don’t you drag that over to the door while I take a peek in the vault.”
“Be careful,” Lloyd whispered as he sheathed his weapons. He grabbed the former abbot’s arms and slowly dragged him across the stone floor toward the exit to the outside.
Meanwhile, Aksel continued his slow advance. He halted in front the entrance to the vault. Aksel warily peaked inside, his keen eyes sweeping across the small room beyond. At first he saw nothing, then his eyes fixed on a small cloud of dark vapor hovering near the second vault door.
“Lloyd—we’re not alone!” Aksel cried as he slowly backed away from the vault.
The vaporous cloud followed him, changing as it went. It swiftly expanded into human form—a man dressed in black with long dark hair, eerie red glowing eyes, and a pale complexion. The creature snarled at him revealing two large fangs protruding from its upper jaw.
“Aksel, get back!” Lloyd cried from across the room.
Yet before Aksel could move the creature lunged forward and grasped his arm in a vice-like grip. A strange sensation came over the little gnome. He felt as if a part of him was being pulled out of his body. A sudden weariness came over him, his head feeling light and his knees buckling.
Abruptly the creature let go. It vaulted backwards, hissing loudly as a flaming black blade swiped at the place where it had just been standing. Lloyd’s tall form suddenly appeared in front of Aksel, the blade in his right hand crackling with fire, the blade in his left glowing a brilliant white.
Aksel staggered backwards, his body weak and achy as if he were sick. Even speaking felt like a chore, but he had to warn his friend. “Be careful… Lloyd! That’s a… true vampire.”
The tall man responded with the briefest of nods. The vampire and Lloyd slowly circled each other, the creature’s red eyes fixed on the glowing white sword in its opponent’s left hand.
Abruptly Lloyd feinted with his black blade, then lunged at the creature with his holy sword. The vampire underestimated Lloyd’s speed, the warrior catching it in the shoulder before it could move out of the way.
The blade left a gaping hole in the creature’s shoulder, though no blood seeped out from the wound. The vampire hissed in a deathly voice as it pulled away. “You’ll regret that mortal. I’ll drain your life essence too.”
Aksel knew that was no idle threat. The creature moved in again, swiping at Lloyd from various angles while avoiding his holy blade. The young warrior scored numerous cuts with his flaming blade, but the vampire just shrugged them off. Each wound healed almost as fast as it was made.
Aksel had to do something before the creature overcame Lloyd. With a great effort, he forced himself to stand straight. The little cleric then slowly backed away until he hit something solid. Aksel gazed upward, the massive form of the Boulder towering above him.
At that same moment, the vampire finally broke through Lloyd’s guard. It grabbed his wrist, twisting the black blade right out of his hand.
Lloyd flailed at the creature with his gleaming white sword, forcing it to let go and draw back. Yet the damage had already been done. The young warrior staggered away, reeling as if the wind had been knocked out of him.
The vampire bared its fangs in a wicked grin. “I told you I would drain you.”
With frightening speed, the monster closed the distance between them. It knocked Lloyd’s other blade from his hand and grasped him by the throat.
Aksel watched with horror as the young man slumped in the vampire’s grasp, his skin visibly paling and dark circles forming beneath his eyes. Realizing it might already be too late, Aksel gave into gravity while grasping the golem’s ring in his hand. He hit the floor with a thud, but forced himself to speak nonetheless. “Go… help… Lloyd…”
The glow in the Boulder’s eyes flashed, then the creature stepped over him and lumbered forward.
The vampire leaned in to finish its prey, but looked up as the Boulder closed on it. The creature paused a moment, then negligently tossed Lloyd off to the side. The young man slammed into the wall with a loud crunch, and slid to the floor in a heap.
The vampire then turned to face its new opponent, throwing up its arms and covering its face. Moments later, two great fists slammed into it from either side.
Aksel had seen those same strikes stun a giant serpent, yet the vampire appeared unphased. It dropped its arms with a hiss, then lightning quick struck back at the huge golem.
A pale fist landed in the Boulder’s midsection with a loud crack. The force of the blow sent the golem staggering back a few steps. Small pieces of the stone creature chipped off from the point of impact, falling to the ground at its feet.
Aksel eyes went wide with disbelief. This is bad. Really bad.
The Boulder had barely righted itself as the vampire moved in for a second strike. Suddenly a red-hot beam arced across the basement. It caught the vampire in the chest causing it to recoil. A sharp cry escaped the creature’s lips.
It felt that!
Aksel glanced over his shoulder. Glo stood on the outside steps bathed in an aura of sunlight, looking like an angel descended from the heavens.
Though the wound Glo inflicted was only temporary, its effect sent a shock of renewed vigor coursing through Aksel’s veins. Ignoring the pain in every limb, he forced himself up as he pushed his palm outward.
“Lux… acribus.” The two words rolled off his tongue as a ray of white light shot from his outstretched palm. The blinding beam raced across the cellar, catching the vampire in the torso. The creature screamed louder this time.
Before it could recover, the Boulder swung at it again.
Unprepared this time, the vampire reeled from each blow. Still staggering, the nearly indestructible creature was caught off guard when a figure in red suddenly appeared behind it. A white blade flashed in the dark, slicing straight through the vampire’s abdomen.
The undead creature stared in disbelief at the blinding blade sticking out of its chest. It screeched in agony, the horrific sound sending continual chills up Aksel’s spine as it reverberated off the cold basement walls.
Lloyd held the blade there until the creature burst into flames, then pulled it out and fell back to the ground. The vampire continued to burn until its body collapsed to the basement floor. Moments later there was nothing left but a pile of ash.