Young Shoenia of Ga must keep the promise she made to The Plantimal to find Xebec and somehow unpower The Staff before it is too late. Plus she must do this with the help of a strange assortment of friends that she meets along the way, including the young ladfolk Tiptin, who seems to fancy her from the moment he sets his seers upon her. From Thwack, the giant cyclops with attitude, to the tiny Weetykes, the questers must band together to bring an end to Xebec's reign of lunacy.
Of course, they must also do this while avoiding capture by the glumdreary sorcerer's servants, the big and burly Bullybeasts - who turn out to be quite different than what Shoenia had expected. Not so 'smard', they sure 'dooz likes noogies'. Yet can they be convinced to do the right thing and take sides against Xebec for the good of all?
|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.73(d)|
Read an Excerpt
The Staff of The Demon Chaser
By Deron Rennick
Trafford PublishingCopyright © 2011 Deron Rennick
All right reserved.
(pronounced - Chebek)
Xebec peered thataway from the tower of his pinkish coral castle, which squatted atop a steep plateau at the extreme thisaway end of his island.
A dim sorcerer by choice, Xebec's appearance can only be described as glumdreary, with the most-wickedest grin and the most sinister stare that there has ever been. Or ever will be.
Patience had never been one of his few assets, and this bright would prove to be no exception to this rule. He paced back and forth across the tower balcony, pausing at long intervals to view across the marshy terrain, as far thataway as his sights could see. He viewed beyond the Bay of Seabeasts to the distant coastline.
Vapors of mouthmist smoked from his silent lips. His mind, as per usual, was absorbed with a single thought. As it had been for many cycles, since he first switched from white magic to dim sorcery. He was drawn to his choice by an unquenchable thirst for power, like a famished finner unto bait. Unable to alter course, even if he so desired, he was a virtual prisoner of his own greedy ambitions.
He often remained awake during black. Pacing, always pacing. Deeply engrossed in thought, until the break of bright shattered the spell and his mind moved to other matters. Yet, the primary thought never really went away. It simply napped, awakening often to once again menace his mind. He was truly obsessed.
BOOM! BOOM! BOOM!
The pounding upon his chamber door annoyed him. But then, everything annoyed him. He entered the relaxing realm of napvisions annoyed and returned to the realm of reality equally annoyed. Skywater certainly annoyed him. The sphereshine also annoyed him. Bright and Black equally annoyed him. Skysheep. Wetrollers. Wind. Calm. Napvisions. They all annoyed him. In fact, even he annoyed him.
"Enter!" Xebec shrilled.
Slowly, the door creaked open, exposing one of the multitudes of bullybeasts that served and feared Xebec. Burly characters with skinny legs, huge hairy torsos and thick arms that dangle to the ground, they propel themselves upon their hard knuckles, and whatever advantages they lack in intellect are well compensated by their sheer strength and numbers.
Smart like sticks, their superior ignorance is only surpassed by that of their senseless sidekicks, the Cruel Critters: which are only called cruel because of their swampy stench. Scaly-skinned creatures with enormous jowls and long, slurpy lickers which roll from between filthy fangs, they have webbed digits for swamp dwelling, as well as transparent lids that can cover their piercing yellow peepers. YUCK!!
"What!" Xebec snapped. "Why have you disturbed my thoughts?"
"Mastoor Xebec ..." The bullybeast donned a look of utter denseness. "Sez comes from Isle. Duh — dooz find meld thing."
"The melted wall? Braindolt, are you certain?"
"Duh - ????" The bully was baffled.
"Are you sure?"
"Duh — beez sure." Braindolt replied with a nod.
Sparks ignited in Xebec's seers. "Could it be true?" he wondered. He must go and find out for himself — at once.
"Braindolt, have my Griffin readied for flight. Now!"
"Me dooz, Mastoor Xebec." The bullybeast turned and knuckled from the chamber, neglecting, as usual, to shut the door behind him.
For once, Xebec was undaunted. "Can it be?" he muttered aloud, snatching his black cloak and skullcap from wallpegs. "Have they really found it at long last? Is it possible?"
Next he scooped a black sack from the coral floor, slung it over his shoulder, and likewise exited the chamber, also neglecting to close the heavy sinkwood door.
With youthful haste, the old sorcerer bounded down a spiraled stairwell before passing through a narrow archway and slippersliding on into a wide coral antechamber. Then he strided with purpose down the long, winding corridor that descended in stages to the courtyard; indifferent to its many grim wall paintings, the meanings of which are known only to magicians and sorcerers. Others dare not ask.
His loyal griffin eagerly awaited him in the beautiful courtyard. It was a magnificent beast, with the silver body of a mature saber-tooth, and pure gold wings and the head of an eagle. Xebec had forged it himself and breathed it into being by way of dim sorcery. Many attempts had failed before he finally met with success. Subsequent efforts to produce a mate had always met with more failure. Yet, the sorcerer was still somewhat satisfied, having under his control a metallic beast capable of streaking across the above with him upon its back.
Avoiding speech, he motioned two bullybeasts to armswing aside. Paying them no further mind, he seized the flying beast's reins with one wrinkled hand, while stroking its neck with the other. With the agility of a folk half his cycles, Xebec threw a leg across the griffin's back and drew himself upright. Then he heeled it into flight.
Even at streak speed, almost a full rotation of the palesphere would elapse before they reached the Isle of Countless Caverns, which loomed atop the whitecapped wetrollers off the thataway tip of Xebec's Island.
Xebec grinned sinister as they passed over the thin ribbon of white, which separated the marshy land from the green wetrollers of the Bay of Sea Beasts. Below, several enormous spouters rolled through the wet, spitting geysers into the wind.
"Soon," Xebec muttered, "even your kind shall obey me."
Black came and retreated and came and retreated before they reached the far shore, yet they rested not. Beasts forged of precious metal were quite immune to fatigue, and its creator was himself accustomed to napping only half of his own body at any one time during long flights. Thus one wary seer could keep constant vigil for the other, whilst one hand always gripped the reins.
No, there would be no stops on this trip, at least not until they reached the Isle. Even if such required rising well above any angry black skysheep to avoid a drenching.
Eventually the marshylands gave way to Fern Forest. Covering fully one third of Xebec's Island, it sprawled in all directions like a rolling carpet. Its emerald and blue form was only broken by shinesilver aquaveins and its inner body crawled with creatures, both big and small.
Xebec muttered, "Soon, all below shall serve only me."
Bright and Black fought many pitched battles before the griffin cleared the far edge of Fern Forest. Again passing over marshyland, it straddled the upaway rim of The Baobabs, where the treefolk grow so large you can get lost in their trunks. Entire communities of chirpers nest upon every bough. Sphereshine seldom strikes soil. The Baobabs were indeed a most dark and mysterious place where peepers peek from the shadows and scary sounds shiver your skin.
Xebec himself had never dared venture into that place. Nor would he, unless he possessed the staff. Even then, conquest in the Land Of Ranidae had priority.
Finally, after what to the impatient sorcerer seemed like forever, they at last cleared the last ribbon of sand which divided soil from sea and veered due thataway.
Not far distant loomed the bleak outline of the Isle of Countless Caverns, its grey peaks stabbing holes in the body of soupmist, which always choked its base. Always. Be it Bright or Black, warm semicycle or cool, be there sphereshine or skyshowers, skytwinklers or naught, the thick soupmist never waned. It steamed one's skin and boiled one's bones.
Even though the metallic griffin would itself be unphased by the soupmist, it nevertheless rose well above the scalding spray. Many past visits had conditioned it so Xebec needn't utter commands. The loyal beast simply avoided the hothazard by instinct and flew directly for the highest peak.
Scald Summit, with her flowing orange ooze cooking in her bowled apex. The mountain, who, when awrathed, spat glowing cinders at the sky and spilled white, molten magma over her rim. And often caused the entire isle to tremble.
Like the lingering soupmist, Scald Summit never waned. Always, she hissed and crackled, and breathed smoke — an ominous warning to intruders. "CHALLENGE ME NOT!!"
Xebec wondered if the staff could tame her?
But for now, the griffin heeded her warning' maintaining a safe distance from her apex, and flapping towards that of her slightly smaller sister, Slumber Summit, whose bowled apex was cooled, bumpy and hard. She never uttered a sound, not even a gaseous yawn.
Several bullybeasts stood stooped within Slumber's bowl, supporting their huge, hairy torsos upon their hard knuckles.
Near them lazed some cruel critters, their long, slurpy lickers licking the ground. YUCK!
As the griffin touched solid, the biggest bullybeast knuckled up to Xebec. "Mastoor Xebec, we dooz find meld thing."
"Show me!" Xebec demanded. "And have my griffin wetsponged and polished."
The big bullybeast frantically motioned with his huge, hairy hands and all others took to the task. Except for the cruel critters, of course; they being much too tardy of wit to risk attempting such tricky chores.
Xebec glanced about the bowl. "Where?"
"Dooz go blue path ..."
"Don't tell me!" Xebec snapped. "Show me!"
The big bully turned and knuckled his way across the bowl's bumpy surface, declining further comment, lest he be scolded. Or worse ...
Slightly shy of the bowlsides, the big bullybeast and Xebec entered a yellowish cage, which was weaved of strong hollow chutes. A thick vine was knotted to a metal ring on the roof, from which it stretched straight upward until it reached the sturdy boom of a huge overhead hoist; which jutted well out past the upper lip. Many beastly faces peered down at them.
Somewhere beyond the lip, unseen hands commenced cranking a creaky winch and the cage began to rise. It swayed and spun slightly as the vine slowly slid through the grooved rims of sinkwood pulleys, enroute to the spindle. Only the wind answered the winch.
Xebec stewed in serious silence. Could they have truly found the melted wall? Was it possible after all these cycles of seeking? Or did he once again travel the breadth of his island for — FAILURE?
The very word caused him to gnash his biters. It reddened his cheeks. Quickly, he erased the vile thought from his mind and patted the black sack. Could its contents burst through the wall? Could anything?
"I shall succeed," he muttered as the boom swung about and cleared the bowl lip. "I shall. I shall. I shall."
Xebec stepped from the cage without acknowledging the presence of others. His serious stare stayed all speech, save for his own. "Make haste."
The big bullybeast nodded, then turned and knuckled his way over to a huge slab of stone. A blue arrow was dyed on the side of it. Aiming down the steep and rugged incline, it pointed precisely at a boulder far below. A second blue arrow on the boulder indicated a slight change of direction, guiding whosoever obeyed it to yet another arrow. And so on. And so forth. All quite necessary to keep one from becoming hopelessly lost in the terranean maze of crevices, craters, chasms, cliffs and corners, each of which appeared much like the last. Even so, a good many bullybeasts had vanished trying to find Xebec's prize.
Plus there were the caves – more than a hundred scholars could count in a hundred cycles. Home to silkspinners and blackwings, they served as black mouths for the tunnels that led down into a labyrinth of countless caverns and catacombs. Where green stoneswirls twisted from ceiling to floor and drips echoed like skybangers. It was an eerie, awful place where the dampness chilled breath and shivered skin — a place where no breeze had ever blown.
This was the mythical dwelling den of the Chimera, a ferocious, hoofed monster with a maned head and a dragon's tail; which only awakened to the smell of fresh flesh.
Together, Xebec and the big bullybeast zigged and zagged their way down from the summit, guided by the blue arrows. They struggled with great difficulty to maintain their balance whenever the pitch of the hazardous trail dropped down too steep, or narrowed to a squeeze. As it most often did.
Occasionally, they were forced by circumstance to straddle bottomless rifts, or tippydigit along narrow ledges to avoid an abyss.
Being accustomed to armswinging, the big bullybeast in particular found such moment's breathbating at best. Always mindful that one errant step of his unskilled foots could mean an early meeting with Morgue, he was also wary of the obsessed sorcerer at his back. So, with many a gulp, he pressed on.
Eventually, their tricky trek led them to the gaping mouth of a tunnel. A pair of bullybeasts and a cruel critter stooped sentry outside whilst an unattended torch flickered within. Secure in its metal bracket, the torch bent light in silent rhythm for a troop of dancing wallshadows.
Xebec ignored all gestures of greeting and stomped directly for the torch. Snatching it into one wrinkled hand, he then nodded for the big bullybeast to lead on.
Despite the torch flame, a chilldamp breeze nipped at their nostrils and hearers. Nip. Nip. Nip. Like frosty breath rolling across ice.
At least until they rounded the first bend. Then the wind slept and all was still. Still and silent and cold. Very, very cold. Blue crystals coated the walls.
"Lead on," Xebec prodded, seemingly indifferent to the temp.
As the pair descended deeper and deeper into the Isle's innards, the stillness and silence grew. And grew. AND GREW. Until they could hear themselves shiver in sync with their chattering biters.
Yet Xebec refused rest. Drawing fresh torch sticks from strategically placed supply barrels, he pressed onward. Down and around and down again, until suddenly the temp began to climb — rapidly.
Finally the big bully braved a question. "Mastoor Xebec, dooz beez so hot?"
"We have passed into Scald Summit's belly. Molten magma flows through her veins."
"Huh? Dooz ye sez?"
Xebec was annoyed, yet simplified his explanation. "The mountain's belly is so hot that it melts stone. See how the wall crystals are melting."
It was true. Little blue droplets glistened upon the tunnel walls and ceiling. The surface became slippery as dew upon ice. Breath ceased spouting in vapors and hearers burned from a thawing. Yet the silent stillness stayed. The pair could almost hear each other's thoughts.
Soon the tunnel surface became patched by slushpuddles, but planks had been placed across the deeper ones, and the pair's progress was unhindered.
Eventually they rounded a bend and sighted an orange brightbeam far in the distance, beyond a steep incline.
Xebec quickened his pace as the brightbeam shone nearer. His breath grew labored and skindew soaked his garments. Both legs stretched and pained as he hastened to exit the now sweltering tunnel. He could feel its walls closing in about him. Squeezing him. Trying to trap him like the insides of a serpent.
Suddenly he was free. Huffing and puffing, he stood on the narrow licker beyond the tunnel's inner mouth, grinning and gawking at the strange spectacle before him.
He had entered a cavern unlike anything he'd ever imagined. Bigger! Beautiful! Brilliant!
Its concave walls were highly luminous. Sparkling orange and clear crystals provided plenty of rosy light. Blushing pink stoneswirls twisted upward to support a refulgent red ceiling, which was likewise decored with colorful clusters of crystal. A green, mossy mat covered the flat floor and effervescent pools shone like turquoise gleamglass.
Freakish flowers grew near the pools, with stems not unlike limbs and flushed petals about emerald peepers. They blinked up at the intruders, and Xebec was certain some moved.
"There," Xebec stated, pointing at some flowers. "One must have just submerged itself in that pool. See how the surface is now rippled."
"Beez bad thing lurks in pool." the bullybeast said.
"Like what?" Xebec inquired.
The big bullybeast merely shrugged his broad shoulders.
Xebec would have pressed the issue, except just then he spied the upper rungs of a vine and floatwood ladder, which had been spiked to the wall adjacent the ledge. Grabbing hold of the ladder, he carefully stepped out onto the first rung and eagerly began his descent.
Excerpted from The Staff of The Demon Chaser by Deron Rennick Copyright © 2011 by Deron Rennick. Excerpted by permission of Trafford Publishing. 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.
Table of Contents
Contents1 — XEBEC....................7
2 — SHOENIA....................41
3 — TIPTIN....................83
4 — BAOBABS AND BEAKERS....................153
5 — MADNESS....................181
6 — THISAWAY THEN UPAWAY....................185
7 — BRAINDOLT'S BOOB....................245
8 — HUGS AND TAGLEZ....................251