In the Young Kingdoms, shadow attacks have become more frequent, and murder is committed in Mystivia for the first time in five hundred years. The Veil has been lifted, and a horde of Shadowbeasts has been unleashed upon the land, submerging its citizens in a new Dark Age. Only the wickedness of the Shadowmaster could be capable of such carnage.
In this thrilling sequel to The Keep of Shadows, heroes Sinjin Storm and Valera team up to fight the forceful power of the Shadowmaster. They unite their powers to save the land, but their alliance is much more than a quest on behalf of the people-it is a quest to find their own destinies, as their true purposes unfold in a hidden plan set in motion two thousand years before their birth.
With the assistance of an unexpected company of outsiders, Storm and Valera must lead an assault on Dao Mines. Within the mines exists a secret plan of darkness, wrought by the Shadowmaster and his Shadow Realm, to extend the boundaries of their world, crushing goodness and light. The only hope for survival lies in the secrets of the Ancients, as Storm and Valera set forth on a journey that may prove more dangerous than either could have foreseen.
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.74(d)|
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Secrets Of The Ancients
By David J. Boseke
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2010 David J. Boseke
All right reserved.
Chapter OneThe Ruins Of Faldain
* * *
The land had recovered some from the chaos spreading through the Young Kingdoms just before the battle at Shadowkeep, but now after only a week, that recovery seemed as if it would be short-lived. The war had paused unexplainably, and the Torrians retreated to the lands of Chronin for no apparent reason. The troops massed at Akaar only two short weeks ago, could have leveled the city if they had wanted to, but instead they chose to pull back in their hour of victory. One thing that Jaxom realized immediately as he watched the endless hordes of Torrian soldiers retreating into the woods, was that this war was somehow tied to the ongoing battle between Sinjin Storm Torvaal, the surviving son of King Erlick of Chronin, and Jason Malachor Torvaal, the wizard who murdered Storm's father and stole his kingdom. Their personal battle seemed to affect the destiny of the entire Young Kingdoms.
The one thing that had remained stable since the Battle of Shadowkeep was the weather, which could only be a blessing from the Lord of Light. The snow had melted off in a day and a crisp fall breeze had replaced the biting winter wind that howled through the streets of Akaar only a short time before. With harvest for this season halved, still there would be no shortage of food this winter because the storehouses were full of grain and there were plenty of cattle and swine to go around. The sudden change in weather had caused hardships, but with the seasons returning to normal, anticipation for the coming spring was growing and hope blossomed in the Young Kingdoms once again.
The air was still frigid and icy above the clouds where Storm and Valera flew on the wings of the huge red and gold Dragon named Galen. In fact, he was the Lord of the Dragons and a Changeling as well, as Storm found out after their first meeting. Galen actually killed a Hell Hound that was about to attack Storm's grandfather, Sorrell. This huge Dragon melted into another form and became a man named Galen Faldain. Now he was a Dragon once more, and he was taking Storm to the highlands of Faldain, Galen's homeland, where Storm wanted to stay for a couple of days to try to get some perspective on all that had happened so far.
Storm knew that he needed to plan his next move and he knew that he had to go into the land of Chronin, a full hundred leagues behind enemy lines, and all the way to Dao Mines. Once there, he hoped to find some artifact of the Ancients to bring back to Mystiva. However, if he were able to find these artifacts, would they even be what he needed?
These questions, as well as Ben's condition, weighed heavily on Storm's mind as he felt the icy cold air slam into his face. Storm had thought that after the destruction of Shadowkeep and the Ghostblade, his mind would be more at ease and less worrisome, but he had been wrong. The entire Young Kingdoms, as well as his own thoughts, seemed to echo with the return of the Shadowmaster. Most people did not even know what had transpired in the dungeon of Shadowkeep that day, but somehow they knew that a dark cloud was descending over the lands. No one could tell what was happening; only that something had changed once again.
"Storm I'm freezing! Can I ask Galen to take us down for a few minutes," Valera said in her mental voice to Storm as easily as she had talked to the Dragon.
"Of course, I think I am turning blue myself." Storm gripped the large scales running down Galen's back and waiting for the inevitable dive toward the ground, knowing that Galen had heard the request as well.
A moment later Galen pulled his wings up straight, holding them to catch the air, and bringing them to a complete stop in midair. Hanging motionless just below the clouds, they could see the tops of the trees far below. The moment seemed to last forever, hanging in the air as if suspended from above on invisible strings. Unexpectedly Galen started the dive toward the ground, gaining speed with each second that went by, but then he suddenly pulled up short and angled back up toward the clouds.
"I am sorry my friends, but I do not think we should return to the ground just yet. Look down," Galen said in a deep booming mental voice to them both.
Storm and Valera looked down in unison and they saw what Galen was referring to; the woods were crawling with Torrian troops moving through the trees and away from Akaar. From this high up above them, they resembled ants moving through grass. They had crossed the Pine River just after taking a low dive over the ruins of Shadowkeep, which now was nothing more than a smoking hole in the middle of a circle of burned out woods.
After crossing the river, they banked left and headed due north which coincidentally was the same direction that the Torrians were retreating. The question was, would they go all the way through the Faldain Highlands and toward Grimmer Tor, or would they turn east toward Chronin. Unfortunately, it would take time to see what they would do. The troops were acting erratically; almost running through the woods. There did not seem to be any leadership, instead the troops seemed to be in a panic as if they were fleeing from something.
Rylar Village came into view in the distance to their left, but there was not much left. Rylar had once been a thriving city of nomads located in the heart of the North Woods. It was far enough from any borders to be free domain; which simply put, means that they do not fall under the rule of any Kingdom. They were a self-sufficient and self-governing people that loved life, and now they were gone, probably destroyed for sport by the Torrians on their march to Akaar. These people were not a threat to anyone and killing them was nothing less than a malicious act of cowardice. The more Storm saw of this war, the more he wanted to kill Malachor instead of bringing him to trial. Corruption would not rule his path though, as his predecessor Abba had allowed.
Galen slowed his flight considerably by the time they passed by Rylar, and now Storm and Valera both were much more comfortable with the ride. After flying north for another few minutes, the troops began to angle to the east toward Chronin as Storm had thought they would. They would cross the Pine River just below Shadow Lake. They would then take the Tora Pass, a wide plain between the Alanar Peaks and the Crystal Mountains, and from there they would be back in the Kingdom of Chronin.
Galen continued north, leaving the Torrians behind, and flying over the North Woods toward Alanar Peaks. Storm had requested him to take them to a place, quiet and serene, where he could think for as long as he needed to. Storm had no idea where this place was, but he trusted Galen to get him there. Besides, he did not really care where they were going. He just wanted to get away for a day or two, and then he would be in a better frame of mind to continue on this path, chosen for him before he was born. This is something that he had a lot of trouble accepting. For as long as he could remember, he had been very adamant about his own destiny and direction in life, but suddenly he finds out that his life is already laid out for him and he has no choice in the matter.
Valera coming along was unexpected, but he had to admit that he liked the idea of getting to know his sister, someone that he had not seen since they were babes before the fall of Chronin. He would have to make time to do his thinking. But then again, displaced during the war in the same way that Storm had, Valera might be able to help him get some perspective. She seemed to have a way of looking at things that took him by surprise, and to think of things that he had not even considered.
He already knew what lay before him and he had accepted that, his main challenge now was maintaining his own identity in the process. His first concern was to find the artifact of the Ancients that Masterhealer Anya had spoken of, and with that, she hoped to find a cure for the curse laid on his foster father Ben. The only place Storm knew of was Dao Mines, and then only because Malachor had mentioned that he had found something of the Ancients buried there. It was almost surely a trap. Why else would he give that information away if not to lure him there, a place within the borders of Chronin and less than a hundred leagues to Castle Chronin where the entire Torrian army was probably regrouping?
The information given was obviously a trap, but Storm could think of no other alternatives? There was no other place anywhere in the Young Kingdoms where a remnant of the Ancients remained, almost as if they had never existed. Once they did exist, but now only the legends remained. However, the legends from all across the land told the same story, giving evidence to the legends. They must have left something behind; it was just a matter of finding it and getting it back to Mystiva. That would be the trick if Malachor were there to stop him.
Storm returned from his thoughts as Valera tapped him on the shoulder, pointing to their right where the expanse of Shadow Lake appeared at the base of Alanar Peaks in the distance. The sight was majestic from this altitude, and knowing that no one else alive had ever seen this sight before just made the moment that much more magical. The tops of the Peaks faded into a puffy white cloudbank, hidden from sight as Galen skimmed just below the clouds to give a better view to his passengers.
Soon the highlands of Faldain would be sliding into their view over the horizon, and strangely enough, Storm was looking forward to seeing this old and forgotten land. He had never had reason to venture into the North Woods, and certainly not all the way to the Torrian Spikes, a mountain range lining the border of Grimmer Tor, but now he was able to see the size of the North Woods as a nearly endless expanse of treetops reaching for the light of the Sun. A sea of reds and yellows, showing the abundance of late season colors, and dotted with the green of an occasional pine or spruce tree.
Storm was literally overwhelmed at the changes that had occurred in such a short time, not only to him, but also to the land that he had known since childhood. It was hard to take, but at the same time, he knew that this war was inevitable. From the time that Malachor seized Chronin from Erlick, the dark wizard had been planning this, and short of Storm's complete surrender, he could think of nothing that would stop this besides an all out war with Chronin and Grimmer Tor.
The Highlands of Faldain began to appear, as the flat treetops of the North Woods became rolling hills. The hills then became rocky and the trees gave way to grasses and brush. The trees that remained were strictly Pine and Spruce, the kind of tree that can thrive in the colder rockier landscape surrounding the snow-capped peaks of the Faldain Mountains. Majestic in their height and smooth sides, the twin peaks of the Faldain Mountains climbed high into the clouds, and the valley that sank between them guided the Faldain River through them where it continued south toward the Peaks of Alanar.
Storm was breathless with the scene as he looked on for miles from this altitude and he allowed his mind to clear. The questions and concerns that haunted him for so long actually disappeared for a few moments. The clouds whipped by overhead so close that he imagined he could reach out and grab hold of them on their way by, but suddenly Galen began to spiral around the base of the west peak, gliding gracefully toward the ground.
Ruins could be seen on the ground just below them and growing in size as they continued their downward spiral. The mountains of Faldain towered over them as they settled to the ground near the ruins of Faldain Castle, Galen's old home. The castle itself had been nestled against the side of the mountain, with the main entrance facing down the slopes of the rocky hills known as the Highlands. Looking directly at the castle with the west peak of the Faldain Mountains rising up beyond the main gates, the intricately carved entrance to the main palace gave the appearance that the mountain was just another high tower and a part of the castle. Storm would have liked to see this place when the kingdom of Faldain had been at the peak of its glory and this castle whole and filled with people.
Storm and Valera jumped down from Galen's back. The thoughts and dreams of a time long gone were already fading and the stark and lonely cold of reality set in. He watched Valera marvel at the ruins as he had only a moment before and he envied her for it; she had no prophecy to fulfill and Malachor had not targeted her as he had Storm. After depriving Malachor of the Ghostblade, he will want revenge. Then there is the Shadowmaster, a side effect of the destruction of the Swords of Power that no one had even considered.
Storm did exactly as instructed, and now things were worse. There was no mistaking that he had to destroy the Ghostblade; the visions from the medallion were very plain, and the shade of Arden Marjor had given him explicit instructions. Even Sorrell had encouraged him to destroy the dark blade. He could think of no way to have done things differently.
"Storm, this place must have been amazing!" She turned toward him full of excitement and wonder, but then she saw his face, and noticed the haunted look immediately. "What is it Storm? What's wrong?"
"It's a long story Valera," Storm replied, shaking his head.
"Then I guess you had better start at the beginning," Valera said, moving in front of him and forcing him to look at her. Her long brown hair was wind-blown, falling around her shoulders. Her lean frame showed the muscles of a hard life growing up, but her face was as warm as her personality. Her eyes were deep and intelligent, but at this moment, they also demanded answers.
"Good! You two need to talk, but before you do, I must take my leave and return home for the night. I will be back early tomorrow," Galen whispered to their minds, and then he leapt into the air, disappearing silently over the treetops.
"Well it looks as if we are on our own tonight sis, but before we sit down to talk; I want to get a fire going."
"Good idea, I am still cold from our trip here," Valera replied as she looked at her brother, wondering about his life before he knew about their real father. She admired his tall muscular frame, and his lean handsome face, framed by long snow-white hair. Not bad little brother, she thought with a smile, but she could not help wondering about the hair.
A short time later, they had a warm fire going and a stack of firewood that would last more than one night. They sat on logs warming their hands and finally Storm began to talk to her. He began with the search for Sorrell and the battle in Tanis, and continuing with the battle for Akaar and the assassination attempt on Ben. This led him to their trip to Mystiva. Once he started he could not stop, and by the time he had finished, Valera sat speechless.
At first, she did not know what to say, then suddenly she said, "I don't know about you but I need a drink." She produced a bottle of Antarin Brandy from her pack. Pulling the cork, she tilted her head back and took a long drink. Storm looked at her for a moment and then they both burst into laughter.
"Now it's your turn. From the way you handle Antarin Brandy, I'm guessing that you have a story to tell as well," Storm replied as Valera passed him the bottle. He listened to her story, and had to admit that his jaw dropped when he heard that she ran the local Thieves Guild in Korla, yet no matter what he did or thought about his mind always came back to Malachor. He could not help wondering what the wizard was planning right now, and what influence the Shadowmaster had over him.
* * *
The ruins of Castle Faldain towered over Storm and Valera's campsite in the darkness. Their fire was now a glowing bed of embers in the pre-dawn hour, and both of them fast asleep as silent figures moved in the bushes just beyond their camp. Watched and surrounded in the darkness, the circle closed in on their sleeping forms.
Storm and Valera opened their eyes at almost the same time. No sound awakened them; it was their senses alone that alerted them. They were both aware of the movement in the bushes now, although whoever approached was very good. Storm turned on his wizard sight. He cocked one eye open and scanned the area immediately in front of him. Three men were visible through the bushes with the help of his magic, and Storm felt relief that they were men, considering the creatures he had seen recently.
"Come out Antimon," Valera said forcefully as she rose to a sitting position. "You are good, but I could hear you dragging that peg leg behind you in my sleep."
Excerpted from Secrets Of The Ancients by David J. Boseke Copyright © 2010 by David J. Boseke. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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