Read an Excerpt
Trio: Book Three'Ascension'
By Kevin Lee
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2011 Kevin Lee
All right reserved.
Chapter OneMalcolm Weelder reached down and grabbed a handful of soil. He knelt as he let the dirt fall between his fingers. It was dry, and had the texture of fine sand. A glance around the landscape confirmed his thoughts. The land was like a desert. Nothing grew out here, not even a meager shred of grass. Only rocks, dead trees, and patches of brown, withered shrubbery jutted out here and there. Something was wrong. He and the elves had been using their magic abilities to slowly restore all the lands ravaged by Helana. In every place, but here, Helana's old stronghold did the magic not work. Despite all their efforts, nothing changed.
Tony Merello, and Zach Thomas wandered over to rejoin the wizard from their little assignment Malcolm had asked of them. They had tagged along to give Malcolm a hand with investigating the land surrounding Helana's old castle. Apparently the wizard had wanted both of their opinions on whatever it was he was surveying.
The youngest of the three, Tony, had only bad memories of the place. He figured it was about time to return and put it behind him, once and for all. The last real vision he had of this dried out, barren landscape was of some creature impaling him with a sword. It was more of a blurred memory, but it was still there. On the occasional night he dreamed about the battle, and it felt like he was reliving his death all over. Around him the war raged, swords clanged against the other and he could see the monster, his opponent right in front of him. So real were the dreams he awoke screaming and clenching his abdomen as if the sword has just cut in. Mia would wake with him on those nights and she could see the anguish in his face, and wished there was something she could do to make the dreams go away. Tony was glad she couldn't. He wanted to overcome his vision on his own, without the use of magic. Since his return had been brought about by magic for which he was grateful, he thought that his mistrust of the practice would have eased. It did not. His home had been the streets, and even after his rebirth Tony still had faith in overcoming obstacles by ordinary means, and not by magic. Zach could never figure out why Tony acted that way, but who was he to argue. By coming here, to the place of his death, Tony wanted to face his past.
Zach didn't care for the place either. The battle against Helana had been a hard fought struggle and it was something none of them cared to relive. He knew why Tony had come, despite Malcolm's urging. He had heard about the dreams from Mia. Zach gave the kid credit for traveling with them. Coming to the place where you had died was something he himself would have rather avoided. Many had perished in the war against the witch. There was Tasha's family prior to their arrival on Avalon and countless others throughout the lands at the hands of Helana's assassins. The whole region looked worse now than at that final battle. Whatever it was that Malcolm was seeking answers to, it must be important. Both Zach and Tony shuffled up next to the kneeling wizard.
"Hey Malcolm, what's the story?" Tony asked.
Without turning to look at him, the wizard replied in quiet voice. "The magic is not healing the land as it should."
"No shit," cracked Zach. He kicked the dirt and a puff of dust blew away in the breeze. "I'd say it hasn't done a damn thing. There's nothing living out here except us. Boy, I think this place has gotten uglier since we were here last."
Malcolm glanced over at Zach. "What of the condition of the castle?"
Zach looked at Tony, "should I tell him or would you like the honor?"
"Well, those vines that covered it have pretty much fallen away and that swamp behind it has just about turned into a dust bowl. Only things still growing in the swamp are a few old marsh grasses. Other than that ..."
He was interrupted abruptly by Malcolm at that point. "And what of the castle itself?"
"Relax, I was just about to get to that. The castle seems to be in pretty good shape actually, if you can describe that creation that way."
Tony spoke up "It's kinda weird how everything around here is dead or dyin, and that misshapen hunk of rock looks as it did at the battle."
"Yeah," continued Zach, "hardly a sign of any breakdown from the lousy weather out here. No wear and tear on the walls, gate, oh yeah, and that canyon surrounding it seems to be actually getting narrower."
The wizard stood and started off towards the castle, "come, I must see for myself."
"Hey Malcolm, what's the problem?" Tony asked as he walked after him.
"I cannot say until I've seen the castle."
Zach trailed behind the two. He'd rather be off with his dwarf friends Axel and Ruskin taking part in the festivities at Kildare Castle, than out here trudging through the parched sand. He was also a little curious to see how Riane was doing in the first Unified Games. It was something Neil had come up with to bring all the races together for some friendly competition and hopefully, some fun! Riane was the Elf Captain, and Zach's 'girlfriend', in a manner of speaking. Until him, Tony and Malcolm finished their survey of this miserable wasteland he'd have to wait to see how things were going.
The three of them approached the edge of the canyon surrounding 'Livinia' castle. Malcolm looked the structure over and then removed a small sphere from inside his robe. He held it up and let it float just in front of them. It turned pitch black within moments, and then abruptly exploded. All three jumped back in shock from the blast. Nobody said anything, each were too stunned at the sudden event. The only sound was that of the wind blowing over the land and the dust it moved.
It was Zach who the silence first. "What the hell just happened?"
Malcolm looked up at the castle and shuddered. A blast of arctic air swept over the threesome and Malcolm drew his robes in close around him for protection. Tony and Zach could see their breath form a fog as they exhaled. Clouds moved across the sky to hide the sun and the abstruse mass of rock cast a shadow over the canyon and over them. The air changed once again and the stench of rotting plants and carcasses burned their nostrils. The odor caused all three to cough and gag.
"Geez," gasped Tony covering his face with his arm, "smells worse than the city dump on a hot summer day."
"Malcolm, you never answered my question. What the hell just happened?"
The wizard's eyes went wide and the look of absolute horror came across his face. "There is an evil presence amongst us here, more powerful than I have ever felt before. Something is happening here."
"That," coughed Zach, "we could tell. So what is it?"
"I can't describe what I feel, except that we are all in danger."
Tony pointed at Malcolm's staff. "Can't you just use the amulets to get rid of whatever it is?"
"I cannot use the magic against something on which I am unable to focus. Even if I could find the source, there is no guarantee the amulets can stop it."
A brisk breeze swirled around the trio and the stench vanished, allowing them to breathe without coughing. Malcolm went to the edge of the canyon and gazed up and down the walls of the ravine. It was as Zach and Tony had said. The gap was narrowing. The stones almost looked as if they were 'growing' new stone upon old stone. There was definitely something out of order.
"So, what the hell do we do now?" asked Zach. He took in a deep breath and wiped the tears from his eyes. "Thank goodness for that fresh wind. I couldn't take much more of that smell."
Malcolm turned away from the ravine and began to walk off. "In response to your question Mr. Thomas, we leave. I must return to Cambridge and consult with the elves. There is not much time before whatever this evil is, enters our world."
"Enters our world? Then it's not here yet?" checked Zach. He looked back at the castle and then back at the wizard. "Enters our world?" he repeated. Zach glanced over at Tony and he just shrugged. Zach ran after the wizard with Tony right behind him. "So then, any thoughts on where this so called EVIL might be coming from?"
"I have merely a theory."
"Care to share it with us?" Tony urged.
Malcolm stopped abruptly and turned to face the other two. "I believe," Malcolm nodded towards the castle, "That Helana may have found a way to free herself from her prison."
Both of their jaws dropped, and Zach spoke up. "I thought that spell you used to put her away was unbreakable?"
"So did I, Mr. Thomas, so did I. Quickly, stand next to me. I will transport first to Kildare where you must speak with the King and Queen about what we have discovered. I must go to the elves, and after speaking with Xanthus I will rejoin you at Kildare."
"The King! You know, I'm never gonna get used to Neil being called the 'King'," remarked Zach. He moved to stand next to Malcolm and Tony did the same.
"Makes two of us, okay wiz, ready whenever you are!"
Malcolm held his staff out in front of him and spoke the spell in a slow steady voice. The staff glowed with a white light that then surrounded the trio and in a flash, they vanished. For the length of time it takes to blink, they re-appeared in the throne chamber of Kildare castle. Zach gazed around the room and sighed.
"Whew, made it in one piece."
"Prefer to use horses?" Tony teased.
"I will take my leave and I will return as soon as I can."
"Later Malcolm," Zach nodded.
The wizard disappeared in a flash of light and the two of them went in search of the King and Queen. Judging by the amount of noise filtering in from outside they assumed that the two were likely out on the terrace watching the festivities in the courtyard below. It was the first day of the Unified games and all the races were involved in a series of sporting events to see who stood out in both ability, and determination. The cheer of the crowd roared in through the open terrace doors and both smiled. It sounded as though everyone was quite excited and getting into the spirit of the event. Tony stopped and motioned for Zach to go first.
"After you, mister second in command."
Zach gave him a light smack on the head, "and don't you forget it." He then proceeded to grab Tony in a headlock and dragged him out onto the terrace. Each saw the royal company immediately.
"Hey your kingship!" bellowed Zach. "How goes things?'
Neil turned upon hearing Zach's yell. "It goes well, and stop calling me your kingship. My name is Neil."
"Yeah yeah, sure sure your kingship. Who's winning down there?"
Zach leaned over the railing and the view below was quite interesting. Two riders were racing their horses around a series of barrels trying to see who could out maneuver the other and cross the finish line first. An enormous crowd of elves, humans, dwarves and gnomes lined the walls of the castle encircling the courtyard. Each had their own favorite and the cheers were quite deafening.
"Looks like our barrel racing from our rodeo's back home," Zach observed.
Neil grinned. "That's where I got the idea from."
The Queen, Tasha, added with her friendly smile. "It's quite entertaining. Oh Zach, you'll be glad to know that so far, Riane is in first place overall."
"Your queenship was there any doubt!"
"I think you are a little bit too overconfident old man. There's still a lot of competition to come," Tony ribbed. He slapped Zach across the back and chuckled.
"I'm sure she'll win. I've got a bottle of elf brandy that says so."
"You know you aren't allowed to do any betting, especially with the dwarves," Neil reminded him.
"I know that," Zach replied, "this is just a friendly bet, with Thatcher, a gnome."
"I can't believe Thatcher would bet on anything with you," Tasha said. "What does he get if he wins the bet?"
"A bottle of that goo that gnomes drink."
"Who did Thatcher bet on?" Neil queried.
Zach looked back down into the courtyard, trying to locate someone in particular. He found his target in short order and pointed out a rather tall, behemoth of a man they all knew too well. Jacinto stood a good two feet above them and the arms the size of Zach's chest, or so it seemed. Jacinto perhaps had the size advantage over the elf captain Riane, but the smaller woman was a lot more adept at horseback riding. So, Zach figured the elf, which he cared very much for, would come out on top at the end of the tournament.
"Jacinto?" Neil Pointed.
"The one and only."
"Do I hear the mention of my good friend Jacinto amongst the group?" Thatcher beamed as stood in the terrace doorway. He walked out to join them, a glass of the 'goo' Zach had just mentioned, in his hand.
"We were just talking about how Riane is going to whip Jacinto's butt," Zach cracked.
Thatcher sighed and adjusted his glasses. "His butt?" Thatcher shook his head. "Maybe she will, maybe she won't. I only took your foolish bet since you could not find anyone else to partake in the silly thing."
Neil glanced over at his friend. "Is that so?"
Zach blushed. "Um, well, you know, I, I, um. I just thought Riane was going to win and I just wanted to, you know, share my enthusiasm."
"Nice try at covering your ass," Tony kidded.
"Shut up kid, you aren't helping my cause here."
"You know gambling is off limits to you Zach. You nearly drove the entire dwarf nation into a gambling frenzy after you taught Axel and Ruskin to play poker," Neil stated.
"You know I didn't mean to do any harm. How would I know the little twerps would take such a liking to the game!"
Thatcher came to his rescue. "Never fear my lord I have no desire to teach the fine art of BETTING to any of my fellow gnomes. I only did this to appease Mr. Thomas's faith in the woman he loves."
Zach pointed at the gnome and nodded. "Yeah, what he just said."
"Okay, I'll let it go this time. And Thatcher, just call me Neil, please? No need to be so formal."
Very well," Thatcher snickered. He leaned in close to Tasha, "still a little uneasy with his title after all this time is he my lady?"
Tasha put her arm around Neil's waist and smiled at her husband. "I'm trying my best to make him feel comfortable with it. He'll come around eventually." She looked back to Zach and Tony, "By the way, how was your expedition with Malcolm? Is he with you?"
"He had to go off to see the elves about something, but he said he'd back as soon as possible. As for our little jaunt, well, it was pretty interesting," Zach said.
"How so?" Neil inquired.
Tony picked up where Zach had left off. "We went out there, and found a lot of nothing. No life anywhere. No grass no trees just dust and rock. And a real wicked smell that made us all sick. Boy, did it ever spook Malcolm."
"You should have seen him, all jittery and that globe he always uses for whatever magic trick he does just exploded after turning pitch black. It scared the hell out of me."
"What did Malcolm say about it all?" Neil had learned to trust the wizard's opinion, and judgment. The older man had not only won his respect but he valued him as a good friend too. If something upset Malcolm, it must have been significant.
"You sure you wanta know?" Tony asked.
"It would help," Neil urged.
Zach and Tony looked at one another and then Zach filled in the blanks. "He made some sort of reference to a very strong evil presence, and that, well, he said Helana may have found a way to escape from her prison."
"Is that possible?" exclaimed Tasha, shocked.
"He made it seem so. You'll have to ask the wiz when he gets back. He knows a lot more than we do. We're just the messengers," Tony said.
"Helana? Free? The thought alone makes me fear for what could very well happen. Until we hear from Malcolm with all the details I think we should just continue with our business as usual," said Tasha. Neil nodded in agreement. There was nothing they could do until hearing from the wizard.
"My queen, are you up for a little mingling with our subjects in the courtyard? I think we've spent enough time up here and away from all of the action." Neil held out his arm and Tasha put hers through his, and they started for the stairs. He glanced back at the rest, "Care to join us guys?"
Zach shrugged. "Why not, it'll be fun to annoy Axel for a bit."
"Adeena does that enough already, kinda hard to top her," Tony jested.
"Mmmm, yes, th' fairy does it quite well. However, at present she is busy with Shar at Eldridge. That leaves you to do yer best," kidded Thatcher.
Excerpted from Trio: Book Three by Kevin Lee Copyright © 2011 by Kevin Lee. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.