"We have lost much of what we once were." A new alliance... After escaping the dwarvish prison in Brekken Dahl, Aaron, Lorik, and two dwarves continue their quest to recover the Book of Aleth, now fallen into enemy hands. To avoid Therion's forces, the band forges deep under the shattered hills into long-forgotten passages, where foul creatures wait in the darkness. An ancient prophecy... Although each step is fraught with danger and betrayal, the mission must succeed. The travelers encounter beings, both friend and foe, straight from myth and legend. And when a member of the group falls, a new ally of a race thought extinct joins the quest. In the ruins of Kellen Dahl, a discovery is made...to restore hope and a future a new protector must rise.
|Publisher:||Pelican Book Group|
|Product dimensions:||5.00(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.64(d)|
About the Author
Michael Duncan is a Christian author and pastor and has served the Lord and the church for nearly 25 years preaching and teaching God's Word. He has shared God's message across the U.S. and beyond and is currently the senior pastor of his church and a co-host on the Alive In Christ Radio Network. He is also on the executive board of the Northwest Baptist Convention and a board member of the Northwest Christian Writer's Association. When Michael is not preaching or teaching God's word, he spends time writing. He is an apprentice-level alumnus of the Christian Writer's Guild. Michael is also a member of the Northwest Christian Writers Association and serves as a board member. Given the opportunity, he also enjoys time on the golf course.
Read an Excerpt
Revelation: Book of Aleth, Part Two
By Michael Duncan
Pelican Ventures, LLCCopyright © 2012 Michael Duncan
All rights reserved.
A New Direction
Rayn was gone. Aaron sat with his companions in the bitter chill of the day, shivering in the cold, biting air, grieving the loss of the young soldier. High overhead the sun kept its relentless march to the west, providing little comfort or warmth to the four who remained. When their little watercraft shattered in the torrent, most of their supplies were lost down the raging river. Only a soggy bag of rations and two flasks of the dwarf's restorative draught remained from the wreck. They had their weapons, but the cold steel offered little comfort in the bitter chill of winter.
All around them the forest glistened in the frost and snow, reflecting the light of the passing sun like the sparkle of a million cast-off diamonds. Evergreen trees, heavy with snow, provided some protection beneath their canopy. Under the trees the ground was dry and crisp, littered with pine needles and branches. Aaron's muscles ached with the cold, and he was sure the others suffered the same as each one shivered uncontrollably from their plunge in the river.
He looked to his companions. "If we are going to survive this night, we will need a fire. Garam, Braden, I want the two of you to gather as many fallen branches and dry tinder as you can find. Lorik and I will try to make a shelter."
The two dwarves stood, bodies shaking, and went in search of firewood. Aaron and Lorik quickly attacked some nearby trees, hacking at the branches with their swords in order to use the limbs to frame the shelter. It wasn't long before they had erected a sizable lean-to that could house the four companions. By the time Lorik and Aaron were done, Braden and Garam had gathered a considerable amount of dried branches, piling them in the center of their little clearing.
The activity helped stave off the sense of cold, but now it returned and bit Aaron's limbs with renewed strength. He suffered a violent headache and could barely keep his attention on his tasks. Waves of pain seared Aaron's already tired muscles. All of his companions shivered, and he watched Lorik's hands tremble as the sergeant tried to weave the branches tighter.
Braden surveyed the pile of sticks and branches in the center of their camp. "Well, now," he said through chattering teeth, "we've built quite a monument." Rubbing his arms, he continued, "Anyone know how we're going to set this pile on fire?" Glances went from one to the other, each man looking rather despondent, almost comical in their soaked garments as they stared again at the large mound of wood.
Without a word, Garam shook his head at the others and then stepped up to the pile of firewood. Rubbing his hands together he knelt down and touched the base of the mound, palms outward. Then, in a whisper, the dwarf spoke some unintelligible words in a language that Aaron had never heard. Immediately he felt something like a warm breath of air cross his cheek as the words Garam spoke conveyed a sensation of heat. Then, with a flash of blue flame from the palms of his hands, the pile of fuel rushed into a blazing fire.
"For the love of the King!" exclaimed Braden. "How did you do that?"
Both Aaron and Lorik were speechless. The two soldiers stood staring first at the fire then back at Garam, wondering what powers he possessed to allow him to call fire from thin air. Aaron cautiously reached his hand toward the burning pile, and the warmth it radiated felt wonderful. He quickly stepped nearer to the flames, eager to beat back the chill, and dry his freezing clothes. Lorik moved in closer to the fire, no reluctance at all. Rounding the fire, Braden also came near, standing a step more distant from Garam, gazing at his counterpart with a hint of suspicion in his eyes.
The heat of the fire collected under the protection of their makeshift shelter, keeping the four companions warm and drying off their river-soaked garments. Aaron sat next to Lorik, scratching his beard and glad to have the wooly covering on his face as a slight breeze wafted through the grove. He turned to his sergeant. "Lorik," he began, "you said that you know this region. Where do you think we've ended up? Certainly we are in the north province. How far north do you suppose?"
"Captain," returned Lorik, "I suspect that we are about fifteen leagues above North Village. We are near the uppermost border of the Shattered Hills. The river that we fell into must be the Hoppe. I'm actually amazed that any of us survived the fall; the Hoppe River is one of the most treacherous in all Celedon." He paused and stared at the fire. "I only hope that Rayn finds some shelter and is able to escape these frozen reaches."
Aaron's heart felt like a lead weight in his chest as he thought about his young private. He understood Rayn's anger and, years ago, might have acted just like the private. But his time as captain had left him with a sense that his only purpose was to be the attack dog of the emperor. He looked over at Lorik who sat beside him. "We're all that's left of our regiment now. We need to plan our journey and we must not give up on finding this artifact."
Lorik shook his head. "No, Captain," he said. "If he survives, I think that Rayn is actually all that's left. I doubt that you and I will ever be able to go back into the service of the emperor again."
Aaron reluctantly nodded. "But I think that we are, maybe, finally serving our nation." Lorik gave a quick smile and both men sat quietly and enjoyed the radiant warmth of the fire.
Aaron's thoughts drifted far away, back to the capital and the city he called home. He wondered if he would ever wander through the markets again and hear the welcoming voices of the many vendors calling out to the passers-by. He could almost feel the ocean breeze on his face as the gentle wind continued through the trees. He closed his eyes and could picture the harbor filled with the boisterous activities of the many ships along with the myriad of sailors jostling along the wharf. His heart longed for the strong wind and powerful roar of the ocean.
Quietly, almost whispering, Lorik spoke up. "Captain," he interrupted, "I wonder if I could get your thoughts about something?"
Snapped out of his daydream, Aaron looked at his sergeant. "Certainly," he replied. "What is it?"
"It's about this book that we're after," Lorik continued. "What is the true nature of this item?"
"What do you mean?" the captain's tone was filled with curiosity.
"Sir," Lorik continued in hushed tones, "I've been talking with Braden, and he spoke of this book as more than just some ancient tome. To these dwarves, this book contains power beyond imagination."
"Yes, I know," Aaron's anxiety resonated in his voice. "I am sure there is more to it than we suspect. Rayn and I had the opportunity to learn more from a seer named Kaylan. These dwarves are waiting for a time called the restoration. Somehow the Book of Aleth is a key factor. Without it, that time will not come. It is meant to bring harmony and peace to the nation. Don't ask me how a book can do all that, but these dwarves have placed all their hopes on it."
Lorik looked thoughtful as he stared into the fire. "Well, sir," he continued, "if you ask me, our nation could use a little peace. With all the uprisings and border wars between the provinces, I sometimes wonder if the entire country is not sitting on the edge of rebellion."
"It certainly seems that way." Aaron looked at his sergeant with tired eyes. "I know that I've grown weary of the continual anarchy that floats just below the surface in every region. I've met the assembly of governors and to the emperor's face they are loyal, but behind his back there is the hint of revolt."
Lorik nodded. "Could it be, Captain, that the only reason the emperor maintains control is because of the Royal Guard?"
"Perhaps," Aaron responded, then drew away from the subject and turned his attention, instead, to the situation at hand. The fire still burned with great energy, crackling and sizzling with the fuel being thrown on it. White smoke rose up in a great column, drifting through the tree branches into the dimming sky.
Garam retrieved the satchel and found what useful food was left in the pack. He distributed a handful of what used to be dried fruit and meat. Now, everything was soaked. "We are going to need supplies for this journey," he said. "I don't think we will survive in these extremes with what we have."
Aaron nodded and turned to Lorik. "You say you know this region. How would you suggest we proceed?"
"Sir," Lorik replied. "There is not much along the path that we've chosen. Our surest hope would be to follow the river back toward North Village and receive aid from the local guard."
Aaron thought about this but quickly dismissed the idea, "No. We must not risk discovery or the possibility of having our mission waylaid. Besides, I don't think we want to risk exposing Garam and Braden."
Lorik agreed. "But for us to follow the northern perimeter of the Shattered Hills, then make our way south toward Mount Sonna will require a journey of several weeks on foot. We will need to regain some supplies for we will find nothing on those bleak, barren plains. Perhaps you and I can enter into North Village and then return here with supplies. It would only be a few days that our journey is delayed."
Aaron thought about his decision. "No," he said. "We won't venture into any communities where questions would have to be answered. We can forage in these woods and try to gather the supplies we need from the wild."
"Then," responded Braden, "let Lorik and I explore these woods while you and Garam go to the river to refill our water bags and, perhaps, find any gear that might have made it to the water's edge. I am, or at least used to be, quite able to find edible foliage even in the deepest of winters. I won't promise that it will satisfy your taste, but it will sustain your strength."
Aaron sized up the matter, thinking quickly, and replied, "Very well. Do not stray far from our camp, however. We are nearing sunset and have no more than an hour before nightfall. Keep your wits about you; we don't know what might be prowling these woods."
* * *
The four companions paired off, disappearing through the foliage. Braden and Lorik scouted north, looking through the undergrowth for any sign of edible plant life. It was cold, and the sun had fallen beneath the peaks of the Shadow Mountains, leaving the world in the dim twilight just before evening. To Lorik's amazement Braden would dig through the snow with both hands, eagerly scavenging after some hidden treasure like a puppy digging for a rabbit hidden in a hole. Then he would rise from off his knees, brushing the dirt and snow from his trousers with an exceptionally pleased look on his face as he held aloft a passel of mushrooms or a bundle of some potato-like root cluster.
Only twenty minutes had passed and Braden had collected such a large amount of food it required both men to haul it. Braden took off his cloak, folding it to make a handy tote and filled the garment with his vegetable plunder. Lorik, more affected by the cold, kept his wool cloak close about him, but stuffed his satchel to overflowing. When Braden finally sat down on a fallen tree, Lorik joined him and welcomed the opportunity to catch his breath and relax.
"Lorik," Braden said, "we need to talk about Garam."
The tone of his voice sent a chill through Lorik, He cast a questioning glance at the dwarf seated next to him. "What about him?"
"Do not think that he can be trusted," Braden warned. "This escape, this deliverance from captivity, could never have been accomplished without Lord Dunstan's approval. No one ever escapes from the Hidden Valley; the realm of Brekken Dahl is too well guarded for us to have left it without trouble."
"Pardon me, but it seemed that we had our share of trouble. We certainly didn't walk out with a parade," Lorik said.
"Lorik," Braden continued, "in the barracks where we lived, twenty guards stood between us and freedom. Do you think that Garam could have dispatched them without incident?" Braden's voice quivered with his anxious words as he talked of their escape. "Do you think that your weapons were simply lying around for anyone to pick up? They were in Lord Dunstan's treasury. And what about that wagon, those clothes, they were not simply random findings. I didn't want to say anything, because my only hope to get out of that dungeon was to leave with you, but we didn't leave without the approval of Lord Dunstan."
"What you're saying sounds like a conspiracy." Lorik didn't want to think that they were duped into some trap, but Braden's words were persuasive.
"Not one for which you are the prize. No, Lorik, I believe that Garam and Dunstan hope to recover the book. It is the only means of conquering your emperor and I believe Garam is here to ensure that the treasure we chase finds its way back to our realm, probably at any cost."
As the words sunk into Lorik's imagination, he was taken with a sense of dread at the situation. "Are you sure ... do you have any proof of such a plot?"
"Nothing tangible," Braden said, "just two hundred years of imprisonment without any success of escaping. I warn you, keep your eyes on him; I'm sure his aim is to possess the book and bring it back to Brekken Dahl. And to that end he will not allow anything to get in his way." Braden's keen eyes, deep under his heavy brow, looked intently at the sergeant.
"I will keep a watchful eye on our companion, of that you can be sure." The sergeant's voice trailed off as they stood and made their way back to the camp.
* * *
Aaron walked silently toward the river, accompanied by Garam. His thoughts were miles away, as distant as the southern sea. Again his mind turned to the memory of warmer days and easier times, days when he only knew one pursuit: to become a man of renown in the Royal Guard. Now, however, his desire for personal glory faded into the frozen mist of the river before him. He glanced down at Garam; the dwarf was busily looking through the ice-covered brush on the bank of the raging rapids.
The Hoppe River rushed southward, its torrential waters heading to warmer climes. Massive whitecaps hammered against huge boulders that stood against the current, thundering as they broke upon the stone. The heaving waters flung a heavy mist into the air, covering everything in a thick, frozen blanket, even their garments.
The sky was clear and crisp, with the deepening hues of purple and red spreading out from the western horizon. The sun neared the peaks of the mountains, and cast long dark shadows through the woods. For several hundred paces the two walked along the river bank, hoping to discover some relic from their doomed vessel. Nothing — no packs, no gear, not even the splintered remnants of their shattered little boat — remained to be found. Aaron began to wonder if their efforts were in vain, a foolish attempt to try and recover items permanently lost in the maelstrom. Then, suddenly, Garam shouted over the roar of the river.
Aaron hurried as fast as his cold muscles would allow and looked at the discovery that prompted his companion's outburst. "What do you make of this, Captain?" Garam's voice carried the tone of a school instructor who already knew the answer to his own question.
There, clearly imprinted in the frost and snow, were the indications of someone who had clawed out of the river and into the woods beyond. Hand and boot prints were obvious and broken branches showed where someone had grabbed them to climb up the embankment.
"Garam," Aaron said, dejected. "That is where I pulled myself and Rayn out of the water." He shook his head as his mind turned again to the private, who now roamed alone in the dark woods. Alive or dead, Aaron did not know and it stung his thoughts. He had lost men in battle, but never in betrayal. In the fading light, Aaron gave one last glance at Rayn's footprints that disappeared into the forest, and just hung his head.
"Captain," Garam said, "your young private was building up to this moment. He never intended to go with us to find the Book of Aleth."
"How can you know that?" Aaron's discouragement flamed into anger.
Excerpted from Revelation: Book of Aleth, Part Two by Michael Duncan. Copyright © 2012 Michael Duncan. Excerpted by permission of Pelican Ventures, LLC.
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