Authors: James A. West
Tags: #Epic Fantasy Adventure
WRATH OF THE FALLEN
Copyright © 2013 by James A. West
First edition: November 2013
Published by: James A. West
Cover art by: Darko Tomic
All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book, or portions thereof, in any form.
Produced in the United States of America
This is a work of fiction. All the characters and events portrayed in this book are fictitious, and any resemblance to real people or events is purely coincidental.
Also by James A. West:
WORKS OF FANTASY
Heirs of the Fallen:
Book One: The God King
Book Two: Crown of the Setting Sun
Book Three: Shadow and Steel
Book Four - Final Volume: Wrath of the Fallen
Songs of the Scorpion:
Book One: Reaper of Sorrows
Book Two: Lady of Regret
Be sure to join the Scorpion in upcoming volumes!
Emerald City Protocol:
Book One: Beasts of the Field
Thanks to my first readers and fantastic editors—you know who you are, and you are awesome! To my fans, I cannot thank you enough for joining me on this adventure. As
Heirs of the Fallen
comes to a close, I hope you will join me in further adventures! Again, thank you so much for sticking around, and I hope I succeeded in providing you with a few small entertainments!
Be sure to check for updates and new book releases at: http://jamesawest.blogspot.com
Leitos squinted against the screaming white gale, but could not hide from the splinters of snow scouring his cheeks and brow. Brutal cold unlike any he had ever felt stiffened his fingers, but that did not keep him from wrapping them tight around the throat of his unconscious grandfather—the Faceless One and Bane of Creation, the man who had betrayed the world.
Kian’s jaw sprang wide, his eyelids fluttered, then his vibrant blue eyes flared open. Nothing of humanity or mercy shone in them. Leitos matched that glare with his own, and pressed his thumbs against the knob of Kian’s throat. Gristle and sinew crunched, skin began to tear. Kian’s gaze bulged, but instead of pleas for mercy, rasping laughter squeezed out of his constricted windpipe. Leitos bore down harder, enraged, a snarl stretching his face. His thumbs burrowed deep, until a hissing red froth erupted from the torn flesh of Kian’s neck.
His grandfather’s fist suddenly cracked against Leitos’s ear, left it ringing, feeling half-ripped off the side of his head. He bellowed into his enemy’s purpling face. Kian roared in answer, spraying blood through his teeth. Another blow rocked Leitos, and another. Doggedly he clung to Kian, but his grip began slipping through the crimson flood, and the tide of battle began to shift against him.
Frantic with fear, Leitos rammed the top of his skull against Kian’s nose, crushing it. A sucking gurgle sounded from the ragged hole in Kian’s throat, as he redoubled his efforts. One fist after the other battered Leitos, the iron blows making the world spin madly. Then a hand tangled in Leitos’s hair, yanked him off balance, and his fingers slid from his enemy’s neck.
“All you seek to gain is already lost, boy,” Kian spoke in a harsh wheeze, each gasping word pumping scarlet foam out of the rip in his neck. “Submit, and I will show you mercy.”
“Never!” Leitos abruptly reared back and jammed a thumb into one of Kian’s eyes. The warrior squealed and thrashed, flinging him aside.
As Kian roared curses into the white storm and fought to gain his feet, Leitos floundered through the snow. Thinking to gain a moment’s respite, a moment to calm his thundering heart and plan his next attack, Leitos scuttled up and over a snowdrift. His blood and Kian’s soon became an icy sludge coating his skin. Each time he attempted to stand he sank to his knees. He gave up and crawled, but his movements were sluggish. The frostiness of this place was draining his strength.
Leitos didn’t know how he had gotten here, or where
was. He had been fighting his grandfather in the Throat of Balaam’s throne room, on the isle of Yato. And then, for a bare moment, Leitos’s mind and body had seemingly been in two different places. Then the darkness of the Faceless One’s chamber vanished, and this howling white world had taken its place.
None of that matters. Flee!
The unspoken command seemed born of a feverish mind. But he had no fever. He was colder than death. Leitos shook off the rising delirium and concentrated on getting away.
Behind him, Kian’s bellows had deteriorated into racking, blood-clotted coughs. Leitos flung himself forward, kicking and scratching for every inch. Every foot gained left him panting and shaking all the harder. Over five strides and then ten, the going never got easier.
Without warning he fell flat. He commanded his limbs to move, but their disobedience was stronger than his will. Rapid breaths scalded his throat, burst past his teeth like smoke.
A moment of rest. Just one.
The thought was mesmerizing.
Just one moment
As he lay there, the bitter chill crept from his limbs, leaving him warm. He chuckled deliriously, knowing it could not be so. His fingers, curled before his slitted eyes, were a faint blue beneath a crusted layer of ice. The tip of his tongue licked at lips that felt layered in crushed glass. Frozen glass. Yet inside he was warm ... so warm ... as if bathing in the jade waters off the rocky shores of Witch’s Mole....
Home ... going home... to the sanctuary ... to be with my brothers ... the Brothers of the Crimson Shield ... Ba’Sel and Ulmek, Sumahn and Daris.
He also imagined he saw Belina and Nola, then Adham, his father.
Just a moment ... of ... sleep....
“So, will you die like a spitted cur too weak to lick his wounds?” The woman’s voice, both wry and affectionate, burrowed into Leitos’s mind.
He cracked his eyelids and saw a pair of booted feet which didn’t sink into the snow. Then his gaze climbed up the slender leather-wrapped length of her legs. More leather and sable cloth snugged against her torso like a second skin, accentuating the narrowness of her waist and the swell of her breasts. Besides her hands, neck, and head, no other part of her was uncovered. The wind neither fluttered her dark cloak, nor the glossy black braid hanging over one shoulder. His study ended at vibrant green eyes. They glowed like emeralds lit by an inner fire.
he said in disbelief. The last time he had seen her alive had been mere seconds before she died, his dagger buried in her heart. The pain of the memory drew an agonized sob from his throat. She had come to him in dreams often enough, and he guessed he must be dreaming now.
Zera glanced back the way he had crawled and focused on Kian, who was still flailing about making thick gagging sounds. “If you stay here,” she said to Leitos, “more than the cold will kill you.”
“Rest,” Leitos murmured, annoyed that even a vision would not allow him a moment of peace.
“These days,” she said flatly, “the grave provides no rest. Now, drag your wretched arse off the ground, and come with me to the tower.”
“Gods good and wise,” Leitos pleaded, face dropping into the snow. “Leave me be.”
“I could leave you alone,”Zera said, “but he will not. He will not only kill you, but take your soul. After all you have done to prepare for this day, will you just surrender?”
Her words and a series of inhuman growls brought Leitos out of his stupor. Neck stiff, his brow covered with globs of bloody frost, he looked over his shoulder. Kian stood not far behind, hunched over, hands held against his throat. Scarlet streams dripped off his fingers to bloody the snow at his feet. One of his eyes was a cratered mess leaking gore over his stubbled cheek.
Leitos looked back around. Zera was gone, not even a track left behind. Why would he have expected otherwise? After all, she wasn’t real. Yet below the steady gusts, he heard the whispery remnant of her command. “
To the tower
He peered beyond where she had stood and saw the tower rising firm and dead-black against curtains of iced wind. He knew in his gut he could reach it, but feared it would be more of a trap than a refuge. If the dark energies that allowed him to travel to this frozen wasteland still filled his veins, there might have been another way. But those powers had come and gone, without him knowing how or why.
Kian retched once and again. He sounded closer.
Leitos shook off the lie of warmth and began crawling. He struggled to his knees, sank down. He kept going. A few paces on, he got one foot under him, then another, and stood. He immediately sank deeper, swayed into a cutting gust to avoid falling.
He chanced another look at his rival, and found Kian kneeling. The man glanced at Leitos with one terrible blue eye. His mouth worked, making a harsh, bubbling noise. It might have been laughter, or a string of curses. The sound cut away Leitos’s terror and doubt, exposed a throbbing vein of hate.
He had to end this, or die in the attempt.
Leitos began wading back along the track he had made. He tried to yank his sword clear of the scabbard, but ice had welded leather and steel together. His stiff fingers fumbled to unbuckle his sword belt, then freed it from the loop in the scabbard. A truncheon would serve.
When he stood over Kian, the man looked up, and Leitos walloped him with a sidearm stroke. Padded though it was, the scabbarded sword split Kian’s skin along one cheekbone. Blood flowed freely. Leitos reversed the stroke and clubbed him again, ripping a gash into his temple. Kian laughed, and crimson foam spilled over his lips, froze on his stubbled chin.
Again and again Leitos struck, the blows to the man’s skull bringing a sting to his frozen fingers. Once more he struck, splashing blood, rending flesh. Again, tearing off a swath of scalp, the dark hair clinging to it steaming and red. Again, and the crack of bone was unmistakable. Leitos did not stop battering Kian until he lay face down, his skull broken and leaking.
When the scabbard slipped a few inches down the blade on a backswing, Leitos ripped it free and chopped his sword into Kian’s neck. Six strokes it took. Six desperate, hacking strokes to separate head from body, and so end the Bane of Creation.
Sucking frozen fire into his lungs, Leitos kicked the mangled head of his enemy. It bounced away, its blood-washed skin collecting snow and obscuring slack features.
The closeness of so much carnage made Leitos’s guts churn, but he swallowed the bile, for there was also joy in him, dark and hard as old iron. It was over—
A squirming thread of black vapor oozed from the corpse, growing larger by the second. Leitos staggered, knowing what he was seeing before he put a name to it. He also knew what he was seeing should have been impossible. Demonic spirits, Mahk’lar, had no power to possess those born of the Valara line, or anyone else washed in the Powers of Creation.