Radiant Fate Excerpt – A Maddened Beast Lashes Out

Work on the third and final book in The Legend of Light trilogy  is nearly complete. We’ve been diligently proofreading the preview copies of the print version for the last few weeks, making sure that everything is in order and that the book has one last coat of polish to make it perfect for publication.

In the meantime, I’d like to treat anyone who has already read the first two books in the series to another exclusive excerpt for Book Three, Radiant Fate. This passage sees Alamor, Raissa, and the rest of their allies traveling deep below the Tower Mountains through a labyrinth of caverns called Underpeak. At one point during their march beneath the earth, they encounter a massive creature known as a Gemthresher. Normally, these hulking beasts are docile, and only use their natural weaponry to dig for food or defend themselves against the mountains’ more vicious monsters. But something is off about this particular Gemthresher that the characters come upon, and they soon realize that it poses a great danger to them.

Below you’ll also find a rough sketch of what the Gemthresher looks like. I’ll be the first to admit I’m far from being a talented artist (although I am practicing and learning!), but hopefully the simple doodle will give you an idea what the creature looks like. 

* * * * *

“I’ve actually been wondering about that,” Alamor interjected. “Aren’t you ever concerned about what creatures may be living down here?”

Kamal did not show much worry over his face. “We certainly must be cautious,” he noted, “but even the largest beasts tend to shy away from an entire population of Baroso. As it is, most pay no attention whatsoever.” He stopped, and he lifted his chin just enough that his gaze bounded far over the fields of stalagmites and stone rises. “In fact, I think I see one out that way.”

Alamor and the Bachus looked out across the vast cavern in the same direction, trying to spot the creature that Kamal spoke of. At first, Alamor could not discern any living creatures among the rocky stretches in the distance.

He only noticed one when he saw what he initially thought was a pile of boulders actually move. He peered further, and was finally able to make out some details on the creature. It trudged about the cavern on four legs that were seemingly as wide as Alamor was from shoulder to shoulder. Those legs carried a huge body that was covered in a hide of taupe scales. The scales were so thick that they made it look as if the creature was encased in solid rock, which was why Alamor had mistakenly thought the creature was just a bunch of rocks at first glance. Each scale seemed like it was bigger than a knight’s shield, and was likely far heavier. The hide sprouted rocky protrusions across the length of its body, like tiny little mountain peaks over its bulky form. Many of the protrusions were topped by rose-colored crystal formations.

Its stout tail ended in a collection of similar protrusions, giving it the appearance of a spiked mace. The other end of its body wore an equally-menacing feature—a long, curved horn that rose from the tip of its snout. The rest of its head was dominated by a domed plate that Alamor guessed was as solid as any boulder in the caverns.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen a critter quite like that,” Pauma said, a bit of apprehension in her voice. “It looks awfully big and strong even from this far away. Not sure I’d like to see what it’s capable of up close.”

Kamal made his way up the slope to join them. “You don’t have to worry much about that one,” the old Baroso told them. When he crested the rise, Kamal set his hawthorn cane firmly into the ground and straightened as much as his hunched back allowed him to. “That’s a Gemthresher. They may look like very dangerous creatures, and they can be if you bother one enough, but they’re rather docile, otherwise. They’ll only put all of those spikes to use if they feel they’re being threatened. Leave them alone, and they’re completely harmless.”

“So, it’s not a predator, I’m assuming?” Joth asked.

“Not in the least,” Kamal answered. “Gemthreshers don’t hunt other creatures; they eat the lushest vegetation that grows in the mountains. Since that’s pretty rare out on the trails, and is more likely to be growing in these warmer, moist caverns, the Gemthreshers prefer not to be outside unless absolutely necessary.”

Hinton scratched the back of his head quizzically with one of the long nails on his paw. “That’s an awful lot of natural weaponry it has to be a beast that just eats plants,” he said. “Why, I bet that big horn of his could make a kabob out the biggest elk in Sleekleaf Forest.”

Kamal chuckled. “It probably could do just that, but it has other uses for that horn. The Gemthresher uses it to grind up and dig through rock here in the caverns to find vegetation. It’s also quite fond of certain minerals that grow here in the mountains, so it’ll cut apart clusters that it may find and eat those, too. If you notice those reddish crystals on its back, those tell you that this particular Gemthresher has a pretty substantial diet of minerals and other gemstones; he’s likely very fond of garnets and rubies.”

No sooner than when Kamal finished, the distant beast lifted its head from the cavern floor and looked out in their direction. Its body went taut. It held its gaze on Alamor, Kamal, and the Bachus for a few moments, like a startled animal that had just spotted a potential threat.

But instead of standing motionless, the Gemthresher began to stamp one of its front feet. Its heavy leg came down repeatedly with such force that the sound of its foot smashing into the rocky floor echoed across the cavern with each strike.

Alamor knew a creature’s warning when he saw one. “Kamal, we should probably back away, shouldn’t we?”

Kamal’s expression showed a lot more concern than it did just a minute beforehand. “That would be a good idea,” he said. He seemed very confused by the Gemthresher’s threatening behavior. “Just do so slowly; if it’s already hostile toward us when we’re this far away, there must be something wrong with it. I’ve never seen a Gemthresher so easily agitated as this one.”

“Then let’s not take any chances,” Joth implored sternly to the group.

The five of them gradually began to backpedal, never taking their eyes off the distant Gemthresher.

They did not make it halfway down the slope before the creature suddenly charged.

“It’s a lot more than just agitated, now!” Pauma exclaimed.

Kamal clearly knew that the aggressive Gemthresher posed a great danger to them. “Hurry back to the rest of the group,” he urged. “None of us will stand a chance if we’re separated while it’s attacking.”

The Bachus promptly turned and went bounding ahead on all fours. Alamor and Joth would have been right behind them, but they stayed behind and offered their arms to support Kamal, who could not possibly run on his own. As they helped the old Baroso along, Alamor looked over his shoulder more than once at the oncoming beast.

The Gemthresher’s charge was initially slow and dawdling, but once its legs amassed momentum, it moved with frightening speed, like a boulder rolling down a mountainside. It covered a great distance in what seemed like no time at all, and soon came to the very slope that Alamor and the others once stood upon. Instead of running around it, though, the Gemthresher simply smashed straight into the base of the slope. The rise shattered under the Gemthresher’s force, failing to halt its charge. A shower of broken rock jettisoned in all directions as the creature ran on.

Alamor quickly began to fear that staying in a group would not be much help for him and his companions.

The Bachus had already alerted the rest of the encampment by the time that Alamor, Joth, and Kamal made it back, but there was little opportunity for them to prepare before the Gemthresher finally caught up to them. The three were forced to duck out of the way as the creature surged past them. Panic erupted across the encampment as Baroso, Aesur, human, and Bachu alike ran amok in desperation to get out of the frenzied beast’s path.

Alamor felt his blood run cold as he watched his companions and allies scramble to escape the Gemthresher’s seemingly unstoppable charge. The creature did not pursue anybody specific; to the Gemthresher, anything in front of it was a foe that needed be annihilated. It narrowly missed multiple members of Alamor’s army, coming within mere inches of trampling someone or catching them with its horn and tail.

The enraged beast only began to slow after it slammed into a huge stalagmite. Just like the rise Alamor had stood on, the pillar of solid rock crumbled under the force of the Gemthresher’s momentum. The Gemthresher gradually slowed its advance after passing through the stalagmite, eventually coming to a complete stop once it was it was clear of the encampment. Several Aesur soldiers raced after the creature and began to harry it from all sides in an attempt to distract it and keep it away from the rest of the army. A few Baroso—including Sarrek—also ran over to confront it. Baroso warriors, she-bears, and cubs picked up the largest rocks that they could find and hurled them at the beast. Most bounced uselessly off of its thick hide; only those that found their mark on the Gemthresher’s head and its horn were enough to momentarily stun the creature.

The Gemthresher paid all attacks little mind, however. It slowly turned its entire body around until it faced the encampment and initiated another charge. Baroso and Aesur alike soon found themselves dashing out of the creature’s path, but not all were able to escape before being struck by an errant swing by the Gemthresher’s horn or tail. Even glancing blows threw Baroso and Aesur aside as though they had been hit by a cannon shot.

It was enough for Alamor to decide that he needed to lend his own efforts. He brandished his sword and called to his Serenity, engulfing the blade in a white light as he ran to meet the Gemthresher. He leapt onto the creature’s flank, simultaneously taking hold of it by one of the mineral-like protrusions across its back and driving his sword into its hide. On its own, the blade would not have even scratched one of Gemthresher’s scales, but the searing magic across its edge managed to pierce the beast’s mighty defenses.

The Gemtrasher came to a complete halt and as it bellowed an agonized roar. The sound was deafening, making Alamor grind his teeth together as he fought the urge to cover his ears and release his hold on the beast. His persistence proved to be a wise decision a moment later when the Gemthresher began to thrash about wildly in an attempt to throw him off.

As Alamor held on desperately to his sword hilt and the creature’s spike, he suddenly sensed a strange presence. He quickly discerned it to be some form of magic, but it was not his own, and he was certain it was not Tiroku’s, or Raissa’s. This magic felt deceptive and gluttonous, as though it had a mind of its own, and sought to consume all within its reach. It was a vile magic, one that could have only been conjured from a being filled with malice; one that could only bring harm to whatever it touched.

Alamor then noticed something about the Gemthresher for the first time. Its eyes were shrouded in what looked like a red haze, while blackish foam bubbled at the corners of its mouth.

This thing has been corrupted by Scourge… Alamor thought to himself.

Just as he made that realization, the Gemthresher finally succeeded in bucking Alamor off. Alamor’s sword dislodged from the creature’s hide, and his grip over its spike came free as he was thrown off the Gemthresher. He landed hard on the cavern floor. Just when he started to get back to his feet, the thrashing creature swung its spiked tail at him. He tried to roll, but the end of the Gemthresher’s tail caught him over his breastplate and sent him skidding across the ground several yards away.

Alamor’s whole body throbbed once he came to a stop. It was a struggle just to lift himself to his knees. He heard the Gemthresher’s thunderous footsteps nearing him even before he looked up to see the enraged beast charging in his direction.

* * * * *

See how this scene concludes when Book Three in The Legend of Light, Radiant Fate, releases on Amazon in print and Kindle format later this month!

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