Echoes of Light Excerpt – Wraithlings, the Pawns of Scourge

The first book in The Legend of Light trilogy will be releasing in early-mid 2018, so I’m planning all sorts of previews and snippets to show off as we close in on the publication date. Most will appear on the series’ Facebook page, which, if you ‘Like’, you automatically are entered for a chance to win a free copy of book one, Echoes of Light, just before the book’s release.

Other content will appear here on my webpage, most notably full excerpts from the story. In this passage, main characters Alamor, a young swordsman, and Tiroku, an elderly master of magic, uncover some disturbing information behind a deadly attack that happened earlier in the story. You’ll get some details on the nightmarish entity Scourge. that has inexplicably risen to haunt the land, as well as details on Wraithlings, the berserk, mindless creatures that have fallen under Scourge’s control.

I hope you enjoy, and that you keep coming back to this page and the Facebook page for further looks into The Legend of Light.

* * * * *

Alamor.”

Tiroku’s tone was so sharp that Alamor’s body went taut. He reluctantly looked up at Tiroku, whose eyes flared as they fell upon Alamor.

“This is not the time to wallow in self pity. The princess would be ashamed to hear you say such things. No matter whether you’ve failed or succeeded before, your duty as a warrior and as the princess’s friend is to protect her, but you can only do that if you have the courage and the confidence to do so.” Tiroku spun around and strode toward Cloudrun once again. “Now, you can sit here in this meadow and bemoan your shortcomings, or you can come with me to ensure that no other harm comes to her.”

Alamor had no response. Even though he couldn’t find the words to confirm it, he knew that Tiroku was right. It was not the first time he fell short in a task, and it surely would not be the last. He would have another opportunity to protect Raissa, to prove that he was strong enough to defend her.

He could not waste that opportunity.

With a grunt, Alamor lifted himself off the grass. His whole body ached, but he put the soreness in the back of his mind as he marched resolutely toward Nightmane. He placed one foot in the stirrup and pulled himself up into the saddle. As he grabbed the reins he noticed his sword and shield strapped to one of Nightmane’s thick flanks.

Alamor released a deep breath, if not mostly to relieve himself of the pain he had previously tried his hardest to ignore. He looked over at Tiroku, who now allowed a faint smile to cross his face.

“You have made a wise choice,” the Champion of Light said, and sent Cloudrun into a gallop. Alamor spurred Nightmane onward, racing off into the forest.

The pathways were particularly dark at that time of night. Alamor could hardly see anything beyond the first few trees that lined the pathways. He was never sure what direction they rode in or where they were within the forest, but Tiroku clearly knew how to navigate the dark forest roads without committing a misstep. Alamor kept his eyes locked on Tiroku and Cloudrun, the old steed a white blur within the gloom—a beacon for Alamor to follow through the night.

During their ride, Alamor briefly thought back to the strange dream he had before waking up in the meadow. He contemplated bringing it up with Tiroku, but he did not want to bother the Champion of Light with what was likely just an innocuous dream, and certainly not while there were other, graver matters to be concerned with.

Still, for some reason, the visions lingered with Alamor. He could vividly recall all of them in his mind—the falling leaves and sand, the glowing stones that emerged from the lights.

Then there was that woman who spoke to him, and the other person with her. Although neither spoke their names, Alamor felt that he knew their identities. He may never have seen them before in person, but their presence was very familiar to him. Despite knowing that it was impossible, he somehow knew that he had come face to face with Ralu and Xogun.

But why? Why would they, the Sage of Mercy and the Sage of Valor, appear to him?

And what were the “lights” that Ralu said would be his? That which he would use to illuminate Tordale, after he became “one”?

Unable to make sense of the dream, Alamor decided to forget about it for the time being. He instead set his mind to the task at hand.

When he finally did so, he and Tiroku had arrived at the spot where Raissa’s company had been ambushed. Faint rays of moonlight slipped through the forest canopy above, but most of the road was still shrouded in darkness. Alamor could only discern vague shapes through the gloom before Tiroku freed his sword from its sheath and summoned his magic.

The entire blade lit up with a brilliant white light, cutting through the shadows over the pathway. With the radiating glow reaching all the way into the screening of trees on both sides of the road, Alamor could better see the carpet of bodies that lay before him. Most were the empty suits of armor that had mysteriously come to life, but several were Tordalian soldiers and King’s Fangs who bravely sacrificed their lives defending their princess.

Alamor felt a chill run through his bones as he and Tiroku dismounted and began to navigate the sea of lifeless forms. Several hours earlier, Alamor was in the middle of the very same pathway that had been the sight of a horrible assault on an unsuspecting party. He vividly recalled the sights and sounds of the battle, of men crying out in horror as they were mercilessly slaughtered by the armored assailants and the monstrous Baroso warriors. His fists clenched as he recalled the chilling howls which flew from the armored wraiths whenever they were cut down.

Alamor strode through the mess of bodies until he came to the side of the road—the exact spot where the skull-headed warrior sent him tumbling down the incline. Tiroku’s light did not stretch into the forest, but Alamor could tell that the slope fell for a considerable distance.

He kicked a nearby stone and listened as it clattered on its way down.

After what seemed like an eternity, the noise finally stopped. Alamor realized just how lucky he was to be standing here after enduring such a fall.

“Alamor, look at this!” he heard Tiroku call out behind him.

Alamor turned to join Tiroku in the middle of the road. The Champion of Light knelt before a limp suit of armor whose chest plate had been broken open.

“Did you find something?” Alamor asked.

“I believe I have,” Tiroku answered ominously. He pointed at the inside of the armor. “Do you see that marking?”

Alamor knelt beside Tiroku and peered at the spot that the Champion of Light indicated. He discerned a strange insignia on the inside of the armor through a gaping hole. The insignia’s vermilion color was dull, making it difficult for Alamor to determine the finer details. It was definitely a symbol that he had never seen before. It looked like a closed fist that was clutching fire, as flames slipped between the fingers.

Suddenly, it glowed. Alamor nearly fell back in surprise. The marking pulsated with the intensity like that of a hot brand that had been sitting within fire. The light over the symbol eventually dissipated and its vermilion shade dulled, again.

“What is that?” Alamor gasped.

“Scourge.”

Alamor blinked. He was so stunned by the answer that he almost wondered if Tiroku was joking. There was no way that Tiroku could actually be referring to the cataclysmic evil that threatened Tordale ages ago.

“That can’t be.”

Tiroku didn’t even acknowledge Alamor’s disbelief. “When a living being was overtaken by Scourge, this symbol would appear over their bodies in multiple spots. It was said that the symbols looked as if they had been burned onto the skin. They marked the dark energy’s presence in whoever Scourge had afflicted. The more control that Scourge gained over someone, the more of these symbols were said to appear, and the brighter they would glow. Once Scourge completely gained control, the being ceased to be who or what they were before. They became Wraithlings—mindless, berserk pawns who acted only through Scourge’s malicious will.”

“But, Tiroku, Scourge was said to be wiped out hundreds of years ago,” Alamor said. “The legends all say that Ralu and Xogun defeated it, themselves.”

“Defeated, but not eradicated,” Tiroku corrected, his expression unflinching. “Scourge was not some living, breathing creature that could be killed. It was an intangible entity, an incomprehensible force that was exempt from the laws that shape and govern this realm of existence. Scourge is as infinite as time itself. So long as living creatures can conjure malice in their hearts and minds, it will always linger in our world.” Tiroku turned to Alamor, his gaze penetrating. “You know, just as I do, that Ralu and Xogun foretold this.”

The first verse in the Legend of Light echoed in Alamor’s mind.

When Scourge reawakens and casts its shadow over the land…

It still felt surreal that he was even having this conversation with Tiroku. “How could it have returned, though? And why now of all times?”

Tiroku’s dark eyes fell back to the broken suit of armor. He indicated the symbol inside, again. “Only the living were overtaken by Scourge during its rampage. It never possessed inanimate objects, such as what happened to this armor.”

“What does that mean?” Alamor asked.

“It means that Scourge, itself, likely did not turn this suit of armor into a Wraithling. Something, or someone else did this, using Scourge’s power.”

Alamor’s eyes broadened as the realization came to him. “Do you think it could have been another person?”

Tiroku only offered a grim nod in response to the question. He then pointed to a gash on one of the armguards of the suit they knelt before. On the very edge of the gash was the part of another symbol of Scourge, one that seemingly had been broken in half when the armor was damaged.

“See how part of this symbol is missing? That is why the armor became lifeless again; one of the symbols that was inscribed upon it was destroyed, so the energy that powered it was dispelled.” Tiroku stood, and his narrowed eyes carefully scanned the pathway. “Each one of the armored suits here will have multiple symbols on the inside. The only way to defeat them is to destroy the symbol, which will break the enchantment that allows Scourge’s presence.”

Alamor began to recall one of the lessons of magic he had been taught by Tiroku and the other Spiritcasters of the Dawnwatch. “If someone actually did this, though, they must be dead by now, right? Our teachings always said that granting life to the nonliving is a dangerous power, and that no Spiritcaster could achieve it without doing terrible harm to themselves.”

“It is a very dangerous power,” Tiroku emphasized. “The only way to command that kind of magic is to infuse life force into whatever object you hope to animate, whether it be your own life force, or someone else’s. If you use your own, you risk transferring too much and perishing in the process. Bringing a full suit of armor to life—and making it into a skilled warrior, no less—would surely kill any ordinary person.” Tiroku looked up from the hollow suit that they inspected. His grim eyes slowly crawled across all of the other suits that littered the road. “Someone was able to perform the act enough times that they managed to create an army of their own Wraithlings; maybe more than what remains around us. Whoever was behind all of this has a mastery over the forbidden ability to manipulate life, and Scourge’s power is what allowed them to attain that mastery.”

Tiroku went silent as he appeared to digest all of the ominous information that he had gathered. The whole time, Alamor tried to make sense of what he learned, but he found himself succumbing to a terrible feeling of dread as he reflected on their unsettling findings.

He felt no more at ease when Tiroku finally aimed a bleak countenance in his direction a few moments later.

“We must find the princess, at once.”

 

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