Protectors of Penwick won out as the name for book 2 of Rise of the Thrall Lord. Also, the draft for the novel is now complete! Expect to see it released this September. I will put it up for pre-order though, sometime next month.
As you can see above, the most excellent Jackson Tjota has completed the artwork for this cover. Pictured on the cover is Lloyd's brother and sister, Pallas and Thea Stealle. The entire Stealle family plays a prominent role in this novel. Aside from Lloyd's siblings, we also get to meet his mother and father, the world renown swordsman, Kratos Stealle, and the High Wizard of Penwick, Lara Stealle.
Pallas followed in his father's footsteps, learning the path of the Spiritblade and obtaining a captaincy in the Penwick Royal Navy. Yet Pallas is a tortured soul. He was only six during the devastating pirate invasion of Penwick. The horrific sights he witnessed have stayed with him to this day, still haunting him in his dreams. Thus, Pallas has a burning need to protect his city and those he loves.
Thea, on the other hand, chose a different path. After a deadly encounter with pirates at the tender age of fifteen, Thea chose to join the clergy and has since become an Auric Priestess. While still a healer, Thea has the ability to wield the light of the god Arenor as a weapon. These abilities are especially effective against the undead.
Protectors takes up where City of Tears left off. Through the course of this novel, Pallas and Thea become embroiled in efforts to save their city from another invasion, this time by creatures of the night. Though both desire to protect Penwick, they are eventually faced with a monumental choice; stay and help defend their city, or join the quest to stop the demon incursion that threatens their entire world. It is not a choice either makes lightly, but it must be made nonetheless.
There are quite a few new characters introduced in Protectors, and we will get to them in the coming months. For now though, I'd like to share another excerpt from the novel. In this scene we get to enter the mind of Ves, the eldest of the Greymantle dragon sisters. Ves is a complex character with a bit of a different outlook on things given her heritage. Yet for all her differences, she exhibits some very human qualities:
Vestiralana ta Yatharia Greymantle had never felt fear before—well, at least not for herself. She had always been willing to do anything and risk everything for those she loved.
Ves had not been scared by the petty little Princess of Lanfor’s attempts at mind control. Nor had she been afraid to face Theraxia, the huge red dragon who could have snapped her in half. She hadn’t even batted an eye at battling the undead dragon that couldn’t be killed.
Yet now she knew there were things worse than death. What Theramon had done to her frightened Ves to her very core. Even now, despite the ejection of his dark seed, she still felt as if a shadow hung over her soul.
Mired in thought, the young lady dragon followed along, absently twisting the ends of her long golden hair, as Lloyd led them through the streets of Penwick. She barely noticed as they passed the tall white towers of Avernos Keep. She paid little heed as they crossed the arched stone bridge over the wide azure waters of the Penderbun River. She hardly blinked at the stark grey tower that rose above the Hault School of Magic and Wizardry.
None of these sights phased Ves until the golden capped spires of the Temple of the Ralnai came into view. The temple itself was set back into a wide complex surrounded by a tall outer wall.
As soon as Ves saw the temple grounds she halted in her tracks.
“What are you stopping for?” a gruff voice sounded behind her.
Cyclone stood with his arms folded staring impatiently at her. She had initially been leery of this rugged human; after all, he hunted her kind. Nevertheless, he had proved to be a valiant, if unlikely, ally. In fact, Cyclone had put his own life on the line in their bitter struggle with an undead dragon.
“My apologies,” Ves responded, politely moving out of his way.
Ruka stepped out of the line with her. “What’s wrong, Ves?”
Ves looked over the young teen as she debated how to answer. Even with her sandy hair and emerald green eyes, one could easily see the resemblance between them. Yet their temperaments were vastly different. Where Ves did her best to be calm and diplomatic, Ruka seemed to revel in being irritable and sarcastic.
The young lady wanted so desperately to talk to someone, but she couldn’t bring herself to burden her sister. Aside from their differences, Ves was the oldest and thus responsible for both of her sisters. She had to be strong; she couldn’t show weakness in front of either one of them. “Nothing. I…was just wondering if Thea would be at the temple.”
Thea Stealle was a Priestess of Arenor, the Ralnain God of Light. She had been the one to discover the dark seed implanted within Ves. All things considered, she might be the best person for Ves to confide in.
“My sister lives in the rectory these days. You’ll most likely find her there or in the temple.”
Ves gazed toward the front of the line to see Lloyd peering at her. The rest of the companions had stopped behind him and were now staring her way. Ves wrung her hands together, suddenly feeling quite self-conscious. “Please don’t wait on my account. I’m going to stop here at the temple for a while.”
“I think I’ll join you,” Aksel chimed in.
“Us, as well,” the holy knights Stolay and Renardo agreed.
Ves hadn’t expected any company on this side journey of hers. Now that she had made up her mind, she wanted to talk to Thea alone. Still, she couldn’t be rude to these people who had been so good to her and her family.
A wan smile crossed Ves’ lips. “That would be nice.”
Lloyd gave them directions to the inn, then started off with the others in tow. Ruka lagged behind, eyeing her sister intently. “Are you sure you’re okay?”
“I’m fine,” Ves lied. “Now go.”
Ruka eyed her a moment more, then shrugged and headed off after the others.
While Ves had been talking to the others, Aksel and the knights had already started toward the entrance to the temple grounds. What she hadn’t expected to see was Cyclone leaning against the outer wall, his muscular arms folded across his chest.
The hunter stared at her with those keen blue eyes as if he could see into her very soul. “Sure you are.”
Ves was taken aback. This human never showed emotions other than anger. What could he possibly know about how she felt? “What makes you say that?”
“Hmph,” Cyclone huffed. “I ain’t blind.”
Ves arched an eyebrow. Perhaps she had misjudged this human. Maybe there was more depth to him than people gave him credit for. After a moments debate, she decided to let her guard down just a bit. “I need to be stronger.”
“Why?” Cyclone asked brusquely.
The question was so simple that it caught Ves off guard. She struggled with how to answer this exceedingly direct human when he surprised her yet again.
“Let me guess. It has to do with that Theramon creep.”
“Yes.” Ves nodded, her eyes dropping to the ground. She felt so ashamed, but she couldn’t seem to shake this feeling of dread that hung over her.
“Tsk,” Cyclone clicked his tongue. “Ain’t nothing to be embarrassed about. That jerk’s unnatural.”
Something about the hunter’s words made Ves feel better. He was right; this Theramon wasn’t normal. She lifted her gaze, the trace of a smile spreading across her lips. “Perhaps you’re right.”
“I usually am.” Cyclone laughed as he pushed off the wall. He now stood very close to her.
Strangely, Ves found she didn’t mind. This human was different from the rest. “So what do you suggest?”
Cyclone shrugged. “We could train together.”
Ves mulled over the idea. The hunter was strong. He also exhibited dragon-like qualities at times—bronze dragon specifically just like her and her sisters. Perhaps it could work.
She met his gaze evenly. “I accept.”
“Good,” Cyclone agreed. “I’ll search for a place outside of town where we can train away from prying eyes.” He strode away without another word.
Ves felt oddly better as she watched him go. Something about his self-assuredness resonated with her. She wanted to be more like that.
Ves let out a deep sigh, then strode up to the temple gate and into the grounds beyond.
I'm afraid that's it for now. Thanks for stopping by and feel free to leave your comments or thoughts below.