A cursed city shrouded in mist. The power to level an army. A deadly race against demons to find it.
This month I'd like to present another excerpt from City of Tears, the first book in the Rise of the Thrall Lord (ROTL) series.
The original cast from Heroes of Ravenford return in this new series as the world of Arinthar suddenly finds itself plunged into a war with demons, undead, and more. All signs point to the return of the dread Thrall Masters, the incredibly powerful mages whose armies overran the isle of Thac a hundred and fifty years ago.
The first book begins with the companions trying to free Ravenford from Dunwynn occupation. Further, they must prepare to face a tower full of demons hidden somewhere in the mountains northwest of Ravenford. Realizing both issues are well beyond them alone, they decide to seek aid from their old friend Lord Hightower. Thus, they travel to Lukescros to consult with the Penwick Lord, only to be faced with other challenges, both old and new.
One of those challenges is the Princess of Lanfor who now accuses them of stealing something highly valuable from her. The second is a deadly attack launched by parties unknown at the opening ceremonies of the annual Lukescros Faire. The third involves a new adversary, possibly crazier and definitely more deadly than Princess Anya - Elistra's brother, Theramon.
When Anya and Theramon vie over the same item held by the companions, all hell breaks loose. Of course this is all compounded by Donnie, who is dealing with a crisis of conscience in his typical devil-may-care fashion.
So here now is the next excerpt from City of Tears:
Elladan was even more concerned than before. It’s bad enough Donnie’s acting strange, but now Glo, too?
The tall elf had turned exceedingly pale during their encounter with Theramon, though Elladan supposed he couldn’t blame him. Even without some foreknowledge about his globicidal tendencies and his desire to possess his sister, Theramon had a chilling air about him.
As for Donnie’s behavior, Elladan had his suspicions. It all started the night before, with the appearance of the Knights of the Rose. That had most likely sparked Donnie’s memories of Alana. The lady knight must’ve gotten under his skin more than he'd realized, and now Donnie was acting out to prove himself still carefree as ever.
After an unsuccessful attempt to talk sense into the thin elf, Elladan, Glo, and Donnie moved on. About another quarter of the way around the market circle, they spied the Purple and Gold Crown.
Donnie halted and spun to face them, his expression plaintive. “You guys are going to hang back here, right?”
Elladan tried to catch Glo’s eye, but the tall elf still seemed quite distracted. Guess I’m not getting any help there.
Elladan knew there was no stopping Donnie, even though he still felt this was not going to end well. He lifted his hands up in front of him in a conciliatory gesture. “We wouldn’t dream of horning in on your show. Break a leg.”
“Thanks!” Donnie broke out into a wide grin, then spun on his heel and strode off toward his luncheon with the princess.
“Break a leg?” Glo repeated with a questioning stare.
Elladan let out a derisive snort. “Heh. If that other girl shows up, he’ll be lucky that’s all Anya breaks.”
The two of them found a table in the center court—far enough into the crowd to be inconspicuous, while still offering a good view of the Purple and Gold Crown. The temporary tavern appeared quite packed this time of day, but Anya and Donnie were easy to spot, their table being separated from the rest.
Things didn’t seem to be going too badly, until the blue-haired Cym showed up. In a spectacularly frenzied maneuver, Donnie managed to head her off and seat her at a table on the opposite side of the tavern from Anya. The agile elf then proceeded to perform a frantic dance between the two tables.
The entire thing made both Elladan’s and Glo’s heads swim.
“How long do you think before that blows up in his face?” A familiar voice sounded over the din of the crowd around them.
Elladan turned to see Cyclone standing at the end of their table. “I give it a couple more minutes at most.” He gave the newcomer a half-smile as he slid into the seat across from them. “So what are you doing here at the faire—stalking the princess, by any chance?”
Cyclone let out a derisive snort. “Not my type. I’m looking for that red dragon friend of hers.”
Elladan chuckled. The dragon hunter certainly was persistent. He opened his mouth to make a crack about Cyclone and Donnie double-dating, when Glo interrupted them.
“You know those couple of minutes you gave Donnie? I think it may be sooner than that.”
Elladan didn’t like the sound of that. His eyes went wide as he spun his gaze across the court. Donnie had moved back to Anya’s table. In his hand he held a clear fist-sized orb—which shimmered with a distinct blue glow. “Now I know he’s nuts. What’s he thinking, waving around that blue dragon crystal in front of Anya?”
“Blue dragon—crystal?” Cyclone repeated, sounding unsure that he’d heard right.
“Think control all blue dragons, and be hated by all other dragons,” Glo explained, his voice tense as he rose from his seat.
“Tsk,” Cyclone clicked his tongue with contempt. “Sounds like a waste to me.”
Elladan grabbed Glo by the arm as he tried to pass him. “What are you going to do?”
Glo turned his head and met his gaze evenly. “Stop this madness before it goes any further.”
Elladan breathed a deep sigh. Donnie had been acting out for a while now, but he had to believe his intentions were good. “Look, I know this looks bad, but let’s wait and see how it plays out. I’m sure Donnie has some sort of plan in mind.”
Glo arched a single eyebrow at him. “Okay. I just hope you’re right.”
I hope so, too, he thought grimly.
Elladan watched with growing concern at the ongoing exchange between Donnie and Anya. So intent was his gaze on the pair that he didn’t see Cym coming until she burst in on Anya’s table.
An argument broke out between the trio that caught all the nearby patrons' attention. The initial tension between Anya and Cym quickly turned to animosity toward Donnie.
“That didn’t take long,” Cyclone noted with seemingly callous amusement.
Things suddenly took a strange turn when Cym made a grab for the crystal. Things went from bad to worse after Donnie managed to dodge her grasp. Cym abruptly began to glow. She swelled in size, her neck elongating. Two bat-like wings sprouted from her back, and a serpent-like tail extended out behind her.
Already alerted by the altercation, the surrounding patrons panicked and fled the tavern. As Cym continued to grow, the screams from the fleeing patrons alerted the folks in the center of the food market. Panic erupted amongst the crowd, and everyone around Elladan bolted from their seats. By the time he, Glo, and Cyclone broke through the crowd, the top of the tent had been ripped to shreds.
A huge dragon now stood on its hind legs in the midst of what remained of the tavern tent. Easily thirty feet tall, thick leathery azure scales covered the creature from the top of its serpentine neck to the tip of its long, lithe tail—all except for its underside, which shone a light steel gray. Long, thin bat-like wings extended from the dragon’s back, also a rich shade of azure.
With her transformation complete, Cym returned her attention to her intended prey. Except for Donnie and Anya, the tent now stood completely deserted. The brave elf positioned himself between the dragon and the princess, rapier in one hand, blue orb in the other.
As frightening a sight as it was, an even more terrifying thought occurred to Elladan. “I hope he’s not crazy enough to use that orb!”
Then the last thing Elladan expected to see actually happened. Eyes still on the dragon, Donnie passed the blue orb back into the princess’ hands.
Glo’s jaw practically dropped to the ground. “He’s even crazier than that. He just gave it to the one person who actually is nuts enough to use it!”
Sure enough, Anya stepped around Donnie, the orb held aloft in her hand. The crystal began to glow, then a brilliant blue beam shot out from it, straight at the advancing dragon. The beam caught Cym directly in the face. She immediately backpedaled, a loud roar emanating from her throat as if she were in a great amount of pain.
Anya continued her merciless advance as the huge creature thrashed about. Cym’s arms and tail whipped around, knocking down the rest of the tent and kicking up thick clouds of dust everywhere.
All of a sudden, everything went quiet.
Elladan strained to see what had happened, but the billowing dust continued to block his view. As the clouds thinned, he could just make out the shadow of a lone figure and a much, much larger shadow that loomed over it.
Finally, the dust settled enough to see clearly. Anya stood triumphant in the center of the wreckage with the great blue dragon bowed down before her.
Elladan felt a sense of awe mixed with terror at the incredulous sight. It was one thing to read about the power of these crystals, but seeing it cow one of the most formidable creatures in all the world was an entirely different story.
As Elladan stood there rooted to the spot, he heard Glo murmur under his breath. “No. No way. Not happening.” Before he could stop him, the elven wizard took off straight toward Anya and her newfound conquest.
Cyclone hefted his spear-like halberd and cast a quick glance Elladan’s way. “You do know your friend’s crazy, right?”
“Uh, huhhh…” Elladan barely managed, still in shock from the enormity of all that just happened.
Cyclone waved a hand in front of Elladan’s face. “You okay?”
The question broke him from his trance. “Fine. Just do something about that dragon before it eats my friends.”
“Gladly,” Cyclone said with a dark grin. The blue-clad warrior hefted his halberd and took off after the sprinting elf.
Glolindir couldn’t believe what he had just seen. Donnie had freely handed the dragon crystal over to Anya, and Anya used it to enslave her first adult blue dragon. Glo was certain that if left unchecked, the princess would continue to use the orb to further her ‘destiny’ to rule over all dragons. She had to be stopped—even at the cost of his own life.
Still, Glo wasn’t running blind toward certain death. He had a plan of sorts. If he could just wrest the orb from Anya’s hand…
The elven wizard pulled up short as a swirling blue hole appeared in the air before him. A familiar figure stepped out of that hole—a greasy-looking wizard in royal blue robes.
“Sigfus,” Glo breathed the wizard’s name as if it were a curse.
The sour-faced wizard fixed his dark eyes upon him, and without a word began to trace a spell through the air. Glo could see the mana fill into the complex tracing, energizing the pattern as Sigfus rushed to complete it. He had almost finished by the time Glo recognized the spell.
Glo’s heart nearly skipped a beat. Phantasmal Killer!
The spell would conjure an illusionary creature from your worst nightmares that would attempt to kill you. It would appear so real that even the slightest belief meant certain death.
Glo reacted from pure instinct. He leveled a finger at the pattern while gathering all the mana he could muster in a single second.
“Contra magicae,” he spat the words as fast as he could from between his lips.
A concentrated beam of pure blue mana shot from Glo’s outstretched finger. It rushed toward Sigfus, colliding with his spell pattern just as the wizard finished tracing it. The pattern fractured from the impact, then exploded backward, right at Sigfus.
The wizard’s face contorted into a mask of fear as his own spell washed over him. He froze for a moment as if he’d been stabbed, then fell to the ground in a ragged heap.
“No!” The harsh shriek reverberated across the empty courtyard.
Glo looked up to see Anya staring in horror at the tattered body of her fallen retainer. Her maniacal gaze suddenly shifted to fix on Glo. She pointed a finger at the elf and hissed in a bitter voice, “Kill him.”
The blue dragon instantaneously obeyed her command and lunged across the distance toward Glo. The elven wizard instinctively knew he had no time to get away, but there was one thing he could still do.
Swallowing his fear, Glo traced a complex pattern through the air. Blocking out everything else, he managed to complete it moments before the dragon reached him. Just as its enormous jaws bore down on him, Glo released the spell.
Sorry, but I'm afraid we'll have to stop there. If you'd like to read more, City of Tears is now available in print and ebook form at Amazon. Also, check back here in the coming months for more excerpts from City as well as news on the next book in the series, Raiders of the Dark Coast.