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Protector of Penwick


A driven young officer, what terrible trauma from his past left him with the burning desire to be everyone's savior?


Pallas Stealle is a tortured soul. At the tender age of six, Pallas witnessed the death and destruction associated with the pirate invasion of Penwick. That horrific experience left a permanent scar on the young boy’s psyche. To this day, he still experiences nightmares and waking visions of the carnage he witnessed.


In order to cope with this trauma, Pallas promised to never allow something like that to happen again. He swore to protect his city and love ones from anyone and anything that would do them harm. From adolescence to early adulthood, he pushed himself to excel as both a spiritblade and a member of the Penwick Royal Navy.


Still, it had not been enough. Pallas’ younger sister and her friends died on his watch five years ago. Though all were resurrected, he nearly lost their dear friend Alys again earlier this year.


How does this tortured young man deal with the heavy burden he chose to shoulder? What lengths will he go to in order to protect those he loves? The events that unfold within Protectors of Penwick delve into Pallas’ trauma and his burning desire to save everyone. Here are a couple of excerpts that highlight the young man’s arduous struggles:


 

⁣Pallas Stealle had always demanded perfection, especially from himself. Anything less was an invitation to those who would harm others. He had already seen far too much of that in his short life. Even now, the dreams still haunted him.



Thick smoke hung like a grey veil in the air. Scarlet flames leapt from windows and danced across rooftops. Black husks of crumbled, burnt-out buildings sent smoke in all directions.


Corpses were strewn all about, some piled in great, decaying mounds. Cries and shouts echoed around every corner, mixed in with the ring of steel on steel. Dark shadows fled down side streets, some accompanied by cries of death.


Dozens of black-hulled ships sat in the harbor, as if watching the carnage with delight. The flags that flew atop their sails filled all that saw them with a sense of dread—the Clans of the Pirate Coast.



Pallas had only been six at the time, but visions of the pirate invasion were forever etched within his brain. He had sworn afterwards that no one else would die by the hand of those dread pirates. He worked and trained every day since, climbing the ranks of the royal navy and mastering the path of the spiritblade.


“It’s done,” Glolindir announced as he climbed up into the carriage. The elven wizard had resealed the watchtower after their failure at finding any vampires inside. “So where to now?”


Thea touched a finger to her chin. “I think I’d like to see how Lloyd’s doing.”


Pallas wanted to retch. She had coddled their baby brother since he was in diapers. He thought it a major contributing factor to Lloyd’s slow progression at just about everything. Thus, it came as a shock to hear all Lloyd accomplished since he’d been away. “He’s a big boy now. I’m sure he’s just fine.”


Thea bit her lower lip, a habit Pallas had come to recognize as a tell for when she was nervous. “You’re probably right.”


“If these vampires are anywhere in town, my money is on the crypts,” Pallas pressed further. It was his mother’s suggestion, and she seldom proved to be wrong.


“That’s where we found them in Ravenford,” Elladan just had to add, with that infuriating half-smile.


“It does make the most sense,” Glolindir agreed, sitting with his hands steepled in front of him.


Pallas appreciated the wizard’s input. He seemed rather intelligent, much like his mother. He could have done without the bard’s opinion, though. Something about the overly handsome elf just rubbed him the wrong way.


“I’m with Thea,” Seth chimed in. “Let’s rule out these other places first.”


Pallas sighed. That’s all his sister needed to hear. He could see by the look in her eyes, her mind was already made up. “Fine. Let’s go.”


As the carriage took off back toward Penwick, Pallas’ mind drifted back to his own accomplishments and failures. As a spiritblade, he was on par with Carenna, both second only to his father. Further, at the age of only twenty-six, he had attained the coveted role of Captain of the Avenger, the finest warship in the fleet. Yet despite all that, his sister and her friends had died under his watch five years ago. Had it not been for the young dragon lass, Ruka, they would all still be dead.


Further, despite his best efforts, the town of Redune had suffered at the hands of the pirates less than a year ago. While in the end, Pallas saved Alys and the town, he nearly lost everything in a duel with a mere pirate captain. Pallas still berated himself to this day. He had to do better. Nothing less was an option.



***



Something snapped inside of Pallas when he saw the body at the vampires’ feet. That had been one of his people, a life snuffed out under his watch. He had failed that person, but he could still save the other innocents lined up on either side of the platform.


Summoning his spirit, Pallas pumped energy into his legs and took off at a dead run for the stairwell on the left. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw his brother streak through the air for the walkway on the right. Lloyd had proven to be surprisingly capable so far. Pallas just prayed he could save the folks up there.


Taking two steps at a time, Pallas vaulted up the stairs and sprinted down the walkway until he reached his fellow townsfolk. Weaving through them, he pushed for the head of the line and the vampires beyond.


Someone with brains, Glolindir most likely, had put up a wall of fire between the bridge and the platform. That effectively separated their foes, allowing Pallas to take on just a few vampires at a time.


As he broke through the line, a vampire dropped down from the wall, landing in front of him. Pallas deflected the creature’s attack, taking off its arm in the process. He then destroyed it with a quick thrust of his flaming sword.


Hearing footsteps behind him, Pallas chanced a glance over his shoulder. Glowing like some holy goddess, Thea had followed him up here. Good, he thought, she can save our people while I take care of these vile creatures.


As Pallas made for the bridge, a large figure suddenly swooped down from above. Though he hadn’t seen one in four years, he immediately recognized it as a bronze dragon. This one was smaller than Ruka, though, so he guessed it had to be her little sister. The real surprise was who sat straddling the dragon’s back.


Alys!


Pallas inwardly groaned. Once again, the impetuous girl had put herself directly in harm’s way. She had done the same exact thing back at Redune, though Pallas had cautioned her otherwise.


Pallas winced when he realized what was coming next. Alys let loose a shrill wail at the three vampires standing on the bridge. Pallas had his doubts as to whether her voice would affect vampires, but it worked surprisingly well. She even pushed one right off the bridge.


Pallas reached the bridge himself just as Alys ended her wail. The nearest vampire recovered quickly and launched itself at Pallas. This creature seemed different from the last one. Pallas could sense its energy, and it was far greater than its brethren.


Pallas dodged its two-clawed attack and struck back with swift, controlled strikes of his own. This creature was fast, but Pallas could match its speed.


The two of them went back and forth, twisting and dodging and striking out at each other. Pallas was careful to avoid those claws. He knew full well that a hit from a vampire would drain his energy.


The creature then made its first and last mistake. It threw itself at Pallas with both arms at once, trying to catch him in a bear hug. Pallas ducked under the attack and brought his flaming katana straight up into the vampire’s chest and out through the other side.


Confident he had won, Pallas chanced a quick glance over at Alys. Her last wail had been cut short and that worried him.


Another vampire had somehow managed to land on the dragon’s back; the dragon immediately retaliated with a lightning bolt. The vampire shrugged it off, but then in an amazing feat of acrobatics, Alys double-kicked the creature right off of the dragon.


Pallas felt a wave of relief flood over him, but it was cut short when something gripped him by the throat. He had made a rookie mistake. This vampire had not burst into flames like the first one.


Pallas strained to retract his sword, but his arms suddenly felt like lead. The vampire fixed him with a wicked grin as it pulled the katana out of its chest and threw it to the floor. It then tightened its grip and hoisted Pallas up into the air.


With his energy waning fast, Pallas knew he had little time. He tried to call upon his spirit to teleport out of the vampire’s grasp, but the energy he brought to the surface just as swiftly drained away.


Fading fast, Pallas had nearly run out of options. If he couldn’t teleport, maybe he could fade into the shadows? Pallas prepared to muster his spirit when he was hit full force with a high-pitched shriek. It felt as if his body had been struck with a physical blow. The pressure on his ears was tremendous.


It must have been worse on the vampire, though. The creature’s entire body began to shudder as it tried to hold onto Pallas, but after a few seconds lost its grip.


Pallas fell to the floor. He felt as if he could barely move, but forced himself to concentrate. Though the pressure on his ears was excruciating, he somehow managed to reach his spirit. Slipping into the shadows, Pallas breathed a thankful sigh. The pressure wasn’t nearly as bad in there.


The vampire had clamped down on its ears and turned to face Alys. It prepared to leap at her and the dragon, but the dragon responded with a sizzling lightning bolt. This bolt seemed far greater than the last, momentarily stunning the vampire.


Realizing it wouldn’t last long, Pallas mustered the last remaining vestiges of his spirit. Forcing himself to his feet, he came out of the shadows, grabbed his sword, and stabbed it straight through the vampire's back.


The vampire thrashed at him, but Pallas wouldn’t stop. Focusing his will, he lit the sword on fire and poured all of his remaining energy into the flames. The flames grew hotter and hotter, turning from red to yellow to blue. His body screamed for him to stop, but he couldn’t. Everyone was counting on him. Alys was counting on him.


Somehow, the vampire did not die. It continued to thrash on his sword, trying frantically to wriggle loose. Already at his limit, something broke inside of Pallas.


Visions of Penwick on fire passed before his eyes. Smoke everywhere, dead bodies, burnt-out buildings, black pirate ships—the nightmares that haunted him almost every night.


Pallas screamed. He pushed past everything and went deeper inside than he ever had before. There, deep within his very core, he found a white hot-spark of spirit. Desperate, Pallas reached out and touched it.


The intense power rushed through his body and out into his sword. The flames turned white hot, and all of a sudden the vampire exploded. The force of the blast sent Pallas reeling backward and everything went black.

  ⁣

 

Thanks for stopping by and feel free to leave your comments or thoughts below. In the coming months we'll delve into some final experts from Protectors. We'll also get a first look at the next book in the ROTL series, Raiders of the Dark Coast.


F.P.

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