Tomb of the Gods: Deadly Diva
A young diva whose already died once, can Alys find the courage to save her city from a fate worse than death?
Photo Credits: Jackson Tjota
Alys Dunamal first appeared in Protectors of Penwick. The young lady’s fiery determination and incredible voice proved invaluable against sinister vampires, evil clerics, and wailing banshees alike. Protectors touched upon Alys’ sheltered childhood and the tragic events that set her upon the path of the diva with the deadly cry.
In Tomb of the the Gods, those who stayed behind in Penwick will become entangled with a pair of demon lords, face an army of undead, and deal with the maniacal dracolich that nearly killed them all the first time. Alys’ bravery and ingenuity will be sorely tested throughout the journey.
Is she up to the task? Having died already once, can she find the courage to persevere despite the dangers? With the fate of her entire city hanging in the balance, Alys must push herself beyond her limits. Here now is an excerpt from Tomb where the young diva’s bravery and quick wit are put to the test:
Alys had practically stumbled into “adventuring” this time around. She had been chasing after Pallas during the initial vampire raid on Penwick, but soon found out she could make a difference. She had actually helped save lives that day. Afterwards, she fell in with this little group, a long-stifled part of her still yearning for excitement.
Yet, the dangers of adventuring soon came back to haunt her. Two of her new friends had nearly died, and now the fate of everyone in Penwick, including her father, lay in the balance. The burden felt almost stifling, like a great weight lying on her chest. Yet, just when she found it impossible to breathe, the words of her mentor, Cassilla, reverberated through her mind.
Easy, girl. You’ve got this—you’ve got the talent. Just take a deep breath and assume the part. The rest will come naturally.
Of course, Cassilla had given her that advice before her first real concert, but it still applied now. There was a part here for Alys to play—the part of the bardess in the little group trying to save her city. As they wound through the next corridor, she took a deep breath and immersed herself in this new persona.
Instead of ending in a stone slab, this corridor opened to a long chamber. Ornate stone columns held up the low arched ceiling. Two rows of exquisitely detailed sarcophagi lined the center of the room. The path between them led to an alcove containing a pristine stone altar. Murals along either wall depicted epic battles between a host of angels and a horde of demons.
Caught off guard by the unusual sight, the companions stopped and stared in the entrance of the magnificent chamber. After a few seconds or more of gawking, Alys tore her eyes away from the surrounding opulence and fixed them instead on Aksel. Unlike before, the little cleric showed no signs of aversion to this place.
As if on cue, he reported in a soft voice, “There are no traces of evil in this room.”
His assurances sparked them all into motion. As one, the group crossed the room, admiring the elegant sarcophagi as they went.
When they reached the altar at the other end, Alys’ eyes were immediately drawn to a silver plaque affixed to its front. She bent down and squinted her eyes as she read the inscription engraved there aloud. “Herein lies the servants of truth and goodness.”
A number of familiar symbols had been carved into the plaque below the inscription. Alys immediately recognized two of them as the radiant sun of Arenor and the lightning bolt of Alaric. Glo confirmed the rest of them signified more of the gods: the hammer and flames of Caldorn, the winds of Cormar, the scales of Iustatia, the owl of Loric, the radiant crown of Rhea, and the stag of Thena.
Alys spun about and peered at the sarcophagi lined up behind them, her voice filled with a renewed sense of awe. “These must contain the servants of the Ralnai that fell in battle against the forces of darkness.”
Lloyd stepped forward and drew one of his swords, saluting the fallen warriors of the gods. “I can only hope when my time comes, I am worthy of such an honorable burial.”
Andrella glided up beside him and interlocked her hands around his free arm. “Hopefully that won’t be for a very long time,” she mildly chastised him.
Lloyd shifted his gaze to meet hers, then sheathed his sword and took both her hands in his. “Hopefully not, as you say,” he responded with a weak smile.
Something in the way he said that struck Alys as rather strange. She had known Lloyd for a very long time and he’d always been extremely confident. Overly so, in fact at times. Yet, his statement just now seemed uncharacteristically subdued.
Her thoughts were interrupted by the sounds of prayer. Aksel knelt before the altar reciting a quick supplication. As soon as he finished, Xellos announced he’d spied another doorway leading from this room.
The hallway beyond led to another chamber almost identical to the first. The major difference here was the bronze urn that sat atop the altar. The urn was rather beautiful, its rounded bottom decorated with colorful patterns that seemed to portray blowing winds. A long tapered neck rose from its base to meet with its ornate cap.
Glolindir bent down for a closer look at the urn. “Well, since Seth isn’t here, I guess it’s up to us to figure out the nature of this thing.”
He raised a hand to cast a spell, but before he could do so, Andrella caught him by the wrist. The wizard arched an eyebrow as he met the lady’s disdainful gaze.
“Um, what did we agree upon back in Sirus office?” Andrella reminded him.
A foolish smile replaced Glolindir’s surprised expression. “Oh, yes. Right.” He took a step back and ushered her forward. “You cast the spell.”
Andrella gave him a perfunctory nod. She then proceeded to make a great show of stepping forward and rolling up her sleeves before casting the spell.
Alys did her best to stifle a laugh. Lady Andrella could be nearly as much a drama queen as she herself. She’d have to compare notes with her when they got the chance.
Andrella’s spell revealed a dim aura around the urn, signifying it to be magical. Glo peered at it closely before declaring, “It’s some sort of conjuration magic.”
Andrella took a step back and eyed the urn warily. “Do you think it might be some sort of trap?”
The elf’s brow knit into a frown. “It’s possible, but I somehow doubt it.”
“I agree with Glo,” Aksel affirmed. “It’s unlikely that whoever built these chambers would include something that might desecrate them.”
The more she stared at the marvelous work of art, the more curious Alys became. “What do you think is inside?”
“There’s one way to find out,” Lloyd stated as he walked up to the urn.
A thin smile crossed Alys’ lips. Now there was the self-assured young man that she knew.
Lloyd grabbed the lid with one hand and tried to yank it off. Unfortunately, it would not budge.
“Oof,” Lloyd grunted, “that’s on tighter than I expected.”
Rubbing his hands together, this time he grabbed it with both of them. A harsh groan escaped his lips as he pulled on the stubborn cap.
All at once, the lid came free with a sharp pop. Lloyd nearly toppled backwards, but caught himself at the last instant.
In the meantime, a blue mist had risen from the mouth of the now open urn. The mist swiftly coalesced into a large cloud about five feet above the altar. Everyone stepped back and took up defensive postures—all except for Alys who stood mesmerized by the strange sight.
The top half of the cloud solidified into the upper portion of a large well-muscled man with bluish skin. Garbed in a fancy gold trim vest, long jet-black hair draped down those broad shoulders framing an exquisitely handsome face. Deep eyes the color of coal settled on Alys making her knees go weak.
Somewhere in the back of her mind, she remembered reading about such creatures. This was an air djinn based on its skin color and the markings on the urn. Possessing great magic, they were supposed to grant a wish to those that freed them. However, djinn were tricky beings, ofttimes granting wishes that caused more harm than good.
A warm smile spread across the djinn’s attractive features. “Oh my. What a beautiful sight to behold after all my many years of solitude.”
Alys felt her cheeks grow hot as the blood rushed into them. This djinn was certainly smooth, but she was no novice to this game. In fact, she might just be able to use it to turn the tables against him. Damping down her emotions, she fixed the djinn with a winsome smile. “I see all that time has not dulled your senses.”
The djinn smile widened as he bowed towards her in midair. “Fair lady who hath freed me, doth thou have a name?”
“I freed him,” she heard Lloyd complain over her shoulder.
“Shh, let Alys handle this,” Andrella chastised him.
A gratified smirk momentarily crossed Alys’ lips at the lady’s admonition of faith. Determined not to let her down, Alys drew in a deep breath and resumed the role she was playing.
Drawing herself up to her full height of 5 foot 7 inches, Alys placed a hand on her chest, her eyes widening as if in surprise. “Moi? Why I am none other than the Lady Alicia Lynde Dunamal, only daughter of Penwick’s Master of Coin.”
She waited to see if the djinn had been impressed by her title. If he was not, he did a rather good job of faking it. Satisfied she had made an impact, Alys lightened the mood by placing the back of her hand beside her mouth and speaking in a conspiratorial tone, “but you, my handsome djinn, may call me Alys.”
“Al-ys”, the djinn rolled it around on his tongue. “Simple, yet elegant—a fitting name for its ravishing owner.”
“Why thank you,” Alys replied, trying hard not to blush any further. The Stealle boys could learn a thing or two from this djinn, Alys thought wryly. Aloud she said, “Tell me, good sir, how may I address you?”
The question seemed to puzzle the djinn. He placed a large finger on his chin and hummed softly to himself. “Hmm, it has been a long while since anyone addressed me. Nonetheless, my true name might be hard for you to pronounce—it being a series of whistles after all—so you can call me Zantillis.”
“Zan-tillis,” Alys repeated. “A handsome name for a handsome djinn.”
Zantillis’ cheeks reddened ever so slightly. “Thank you, kind Alys. So then, since you have freed me from my confinement, I believe I owe you a wish.”
Finally, Alys stifled a sigh. Much as she enjoyed this little flirtation, time really was of the essence. Batting her eyes at the handsome creature, Alys made her dramatic pitch. “Oh kind and noble Zantillis, we are on a mission of utmost importance and must find the Staff of Law before great tragedy strikes. We would be most appreciative if you could help us.”
Zantillis continued to smile at her warmly as it spread its arms in either direction. “Well, my fair Alys, that is an easy request to fulfill. The staff is right here within these catacombs.”
Alys turned her head slightly and dipped her chin, letting her long hair partially cover her face. She then fixed the djinn with a coy smile. “Do you think you could lead us to it?”
Her demure pose had the desired effect. Zantillis’ eyes sparkled as he bent down closer to her. “Ah, for that dear Alys, you will need the key.”
Alys played up the shy role further by clasping her hands together and twirling back and forth. “And just where would that be?”
Zantillis drew even closer, his eyes now practically glued to her. “Why, in the Fount of Tears, of course.”
Alys reached up and gently brushed her fingertips along the Zantillis’ handsome cheek. “Would you be kind enough to lead the way?”
The djinn abruptly pulled back, his large face clouding over. “I can, dear Alys, but be warned—you will be tested along the way.”
“What else is new?” she heard Andrella murmur over her shoulder.
Alys stifled a laugh and waved a nonchalant hand at the companions behind her. “Do not worry, kind Zantillis. That is what my entourage is for.”
For the first time since he appeared, Zantillis tore his eyes away from Alys. He scanned the group behind her, then grunted. “They look to be adequate enough.”
“Just adequate?” Lloyd grumbled behind her.
“Shh, let it go,” Andrella admonished him yet again.
“Very well then,” Zantillis said with a wave, “follow me.”
He started to float away from the altar, then halted and peered down at Alys. “Would you be kind enough, fair Alys, to bring my urn?”
“Why, of course,” she gushed at the handsome djinn.
Keeping in character, she peered back behind her and waved a nonchalant hand at Lloyd. “Be a good man, and fetch the urn.”
Lloyd stared at her dumbfounded for a few seconds, then marched over to the altar. The tall man grabbed the urn and hefted it up off the altar with one hand.
“Fetch the urn,” he grumbled under his breath. “When did I become her man-servant?”
The rest of the company appeared amused by Lloyd’s sudden discomfort. It was the first time Alys had seen any of them smile since Glo’s and Seth’s return.
Andrella slid up alongside Lloyd and placed a gentle hand on his arm. “Just play along for now—unless you rather not save the city.”
Lloyd let out a deep sigh. “You’re right.” Swallowing his wounded pride, he lifted his voice and called out to Alys, “I’ve got the urn as requested, your ladyship.”
Smothering a sudden pang of guilt, Alys gave him another nonchalant wave. “Very good. Now follow us.”
She turned her gaze back to the djinn and gave him another winsome smile. “Whenever you are ready, kind Zantillis.”
“At your service, fair lady.” Zantillis beamed back at her, then floated off again, leading the small group through the catacombs.
Well that's all for now. If you want to read more about Alys, you can order the ebook version of Tomb of the the Gods at your favorite online bookstore. In coming months I'll have more excerpts from Tomb, as well as news on upcoming audio recordings, and progress on my next novel, Children of the Baleful Moon.
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