With the release of Lore Master almost upon us, we thought you'd like a glimpse into the second novel in the Warrior of the Way series. Take a taste and then pre-order your copy now while it's only 99 cents, because on release day it will be $3.99.
Lore Master: Prologue
Mephalus stood, the Guardian Sword in his hand, blood dripping from the sword’s edge. Power flooded through him as he gazed around at the slaughter that made the voices of the four souls trapped inside the Guardian Sword screech at him to halt the massacre. Mephalus only laughed at them, ignoring their attempts to control the sword’s path, preventing him from moving in the course he desired. With ease, the elf shrugged off their feeble attempts to halt his rampage. Yet, they persisted. What choice did they have?
Nothing, however, would stop him, no matter how many of those puny Sidhe Warrior Masters they sent after him. They would all wind up just like the first batch of elven cronies they sent after him. Dead. Gutted like yesterday’s catch of fish.
“Mephalus, stop this foolishness,” Kendalais called out over the cries of the dying elves and men. “You are a Warrior of the Way. This destruction is not the path you chose.”
Mephalus laughed even harder, his head tilted to the sky, shouting his mirth to the gods, the gods he no longer cared for or even believed in. The night wind blew his hooded cape, whipping it around his thick shoulders. His dark hair flowed behind him, much like the cape, giving him a formidable presence as he stood there using his magic to pull power from the souls inside the Guardian Sword. When a Warrior died, their soul transferred to the sword, adding their experience and knowledge of battle and history to the magic of the Guardian Sword. The Warrior wielding the sword could then pull from their power to aid him in a fight. Mephalus didn’t need their assistance however, only their energy.
He turned back to Kendalais, gripping his sword with white knuckles. “Oh, but this is the path I chose, the path of power. Not the path of servitude that the Guardian thrust upon me. These poor souls don’t need protecting, Kendalais; they need guidance, lording over. They aren’t smart enough to forge their own path. They’ll only kill each other, those humans who think they’re powerful doing a failed task of subjugating those they believe to be weaker than them. We’ve watched it for centuries, have we not?” Mephalus laughed again. “Now, I am the powerful one and I will do the subjugating. They will bow to me, and you, Kendalais, you gave me the tool to do it.” He held the Guardian Sword up in the air in triumph, turning to the fortress behind him. He knew the townspeople stared out from atop the stone walls, watching how he decimated the Warriors who attempted to stop him from conquering the Irish water town. He gloried in it. It would only aid in his conquest of them later, as they recalled his power and quaked with fear.
Kendalais stood on a small knoll, his army of Warriors—those who were still alive, that is—standing behind him, their own Guardian Swords in their hands, ready to attack and join their brethren. They deserved it for being so foolish as to call him to be a Warrior, a position for which he had no aspirations. The others, oh they thought it a great honor to wage war on the Unseelie and protect the Guardian’s chosen creation. Not him. No, he thought it a disruption to his life when the Guardian chose him. While he followed their rules for a time, he merely waited for the opportunity to reveal itself and it finally did in the small town behind him. They sent him to protect it, but instead, he subjugated the pathetic humans, making them serve him, their superior. Now, for the elves’ mistaken zeal, Mephalus would be glad to stack them up beside them.
“Mephalus, it is our duty to protect these people, a duty given to us by the Guardian himself. He chose you; handpicked you to carry out his wishes and commanded you to safeguard his creation.” Kendalais waved his free arm at the people behind Mephalus as they stood gawking from the parapets and walls at the spectacle below them. “These people should not even know of your existence. You are to protect them. Instead, you broke every rule of the Seelie. You must return with us and face the King and his judgment.”
Mephalus barked out his indignation. “Go with you? Go with you? And just how are you going to make me go with you? Most of your Warriors are now dead at my feet. Even now, the rest are up there with you, afraid like little boys hearing a ghost story, terrified to come down and face me. Are they shaking in their boots, Kendalais?”
The cold night blew an icy wind over the valley that became a battlefield. The metallic scent of blood and death filled the air as well as the dying cries and whimpers of the fallen elves. Mephalus stood in the middle of the slaughter, the Guardian Sword dangling from his arm. He heard a whistle slice the air, the sure sound of an arrow splitting the sky on its way to end him. He only laughed as he raised the sword to deflect it, breaking the stem in two. However, the arrow head flicked end over end, gouging his right cheek. Blood, the first of his shed that night, gushed down his face to stain his jerkin. He growled at the array of elves above him. “From the distance? You fight with arrows? Cowards! Come and fight like Warriors so that you may die like Warriors.”
“We did not launch the arrow, Mephalus,” Kendalais said as he gestured to the hill to the south.
Mephalus turned and saw the townspeople lined up along the hill’s ridge to the south of the stone fortress. Torches lit the night sky as their cries of outrage and anger filled the air, a mob bent on retribution. They held swords, pitchforks, sickles, and even bows and arrows as they marched to encircle the one who wished to subjugate them.
Mephalus roared his menacing laughter. “You’re actually going to allow the people of this town to fight your battle for you? You’re even more of a coward than I thought. Have the Warriors gone soft, Kendalais?”
Whistling filled the air as flaming arrows launched from the townspeople, aimed at Mephalus—or rather, in his vicinity. Fire blazed trails of light through the black night, streaking their way toward the bodies that littered the earth around Mephalus’ feet. The arrows pierced the ground, the flames catching the dry earth and the bodies that lay dead on the ground. The flames flickered, sparking fires that engulfed all around the elven Warrior. More arrows sliced the air, igniting even more fires. The fiery rain continued.
Mephalus sent furtive glances around him; flames engulfed the entire area. He screamed at the townspeople, but more fiery arrows headed off every advance he made to escape the fire. He turned to Kendalais. “Is this how your king passes judgment?” he bellowed into the night. “You allow these…humans…to kill one of your kind?”
Kendalais slid his sword into its scabbard before crossing his arms over his chest. He stared down at Mephalus with cold, detached eyes. “You know the Seelie do not interfere in the affairs of humans. You crossed that line, Mephalus, and now the humans decided to handle it themselves. They are the ones who passed judgment and we will not interfere.”
“Cowards!” The flames caught everything in their wake, sending up smoke and flames in suffocating heat. Mephalus started to have problems breathing, the heat singeing his mouth and throat. He could no longer see past the flames, which grew to reach over his head. More arrows hit the ground around him, one piercing his chest, knocking him backward, the flames setting his hooded cloak on fire. The roaring flames drowned out his anguished cry. More arrows assaulted him, some hitting the ground, others piercing his body. “Kendalais!” His voice, a mere gurgle of boiling blood, faded away.
The pain of the flames seared his flesh, scorched him, and made it unbearable. He gripped the sword, trying to use its magic as a barrier against the agony, trying to hold the inevitable off as long as possible. However, the Warriors inside his sword screamed at him as they united against him to bar his path to the sword’s magic, cheering his death, even though they dreaded being locked inside the sword with him for eternity. The townspeople cheered as his screams filled the night. Yet, all Mephalus could hear was the roar of the flames, the sizzling of the blood on his cheek from where the arrow struck him. He fought to breathe, but only drew in heated air which scorched his lungs, devouring his oxygen. Then everything went black and he felt himself falling. He never felt himself hit the ground, however.
The pain disappeared. So did the sky and the ground, even the townspeople and those insufferable Sidhe Warriors. He glanced around and all he saw was darkness. He looked down, but not even his hands or arms were visible.
Then he heard the voices.
You shouldn’t have done it.
Wrong, Warrior. Wrong. You allowed the power to corrupt you.
Another now takes your place.
“Who is this that speaks to me?” Yet, his voice was silent, even though he heard it in his mind. He reached for his lips, but felt nothing. Panic seized him.
Only your soul remains. No flesh. No Power.
“I have a voice!” Yet, that wasn’t true. He didn’t have a voice. At least, not one he could hear. Where am I?
You dwell inside the Guardian Sword now, Mephalus. You are a part of its magic now.
Mephalus screamed. No! It couldn’t be. He lived. He would conquer the Irish water town, make the people his slaves. He couldn’t be dead. Kendalais!
No, Warrior. Do not blame Kendalais. You brought this calamity upon yourself by surrendering to the pull of the Void. You followed the path of the Unseelie and gave yourself to this punishment.
Mephalus ceased talking. Or thinking. Or whatever it was he was doing inside this new place that was the Guardian Sword. Another—Mobias—had already taken possession of the sword. He could feel the elf’s grip on what should be his sword, could feel the impression his mind was even now making on it, transforming it to fit his own temperament. Mephalus threw his soul at the boundary that he assumed was the sword, threw his mind towards Mobias’ mind, trying to usurp the elf’s control.
The other Warriors—four who preceded Mephalus—threw themselves against him, throwing up barriers against Mephalus’ attack. No! You will not do this! Here you are and here you stay! Cease this affront against the Guardian’s Warrior!
Mobias also fought back, using the magic of the Brintohar to erect his own barrier against Mephalus. The ensnared elf could hear Mobias chanting the words of power to protect himself and maintain control. Mephalus ceased his attack, but not until he practically exhausted himself in the attempt. He would break out of this prison, he vowed to himself. He would once again walk the world and finish his conquest of the humans. It was his right, his destiny.. He earned it One day, he would make the Seelie and those smug Sidhe Warriors rue the day they fought against him. And those Irish peasants. They would regret sending him inside the sword. He would make sure of that.
He merely needed to wait and time was plentiful. He had eternity, after all.
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Rhychard Bartlett returns as the wielder of the Guardian Sword in this long-anticipated sequel to Reaping the Harvest, not only to face a runaway elf, a ghost, and visions of flames that actually burn his body, but also another member of the Void wanting to open a Gateway to the Nether. Add to that a mysterious dark elf who just walks up and says hello, and it's been one hell of a Monday for our hero. Pick up your copy today of Lore Master so you don't miss the action!
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Until next time, keep chasing your fantasies!