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The Black Mountain
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ISBN-10: 1-77115-188-9
ISBN-13: 
Genre: Fantasy/SF/Medieval
eBook Length: 109 Pages
Published: July 2014

From inside the flap

Dagen and his companions have left the elven city of Rasha far behind as they continue on their way to the Black Mountain. And the future has never looked more bleak. All Dagen's questions have been answered except one. The most important one. And as he struggles to come to terms with his fate while trying to keep his friends from sharing it, that unanswered question burns bright in his mind. How can a fourteen year old boy, even one with the combined experience and magic of six past lives, ever hope to kill a god?

The Black Mountain (Excerpt)


CHAPTER ONE

Dagen leaned back against the rough canvas side of the wagon and stared out at the green meadowland rolling away behind him. The constant bouncing and jouncing was starting to get on his nerves but the sun was setting and that meant they would be stopping soon to make camp for the night.

Jes was curled up beside him with his head resting on a pile of blankets. The ride never seemed to bother the younger boy any, but then he had been used to riding in a wagon when his father was alive. Not like Dagen, who much preferred his own two feet to any other mode of travel.

The wagon came to a stop. Dagen unlatched the half door and lowered it, then grabbed his crutch and swung his legs over the side. He carefully lowered himself to the ground. He'd not taken one step from the back of the wagon when he saw Cassia dismount from her horse. She strode toward him with a determined look on her face.

"We need to talk," she said when she reached him.

Dagen nodded. He'd known this day would come, though he would gladly have continued putting it off if she'd let him. Two weeks had passed since they left the hidden elven city of Rasha and he supposed he should be thankful she had let the matter rest that long.

He glanced over his shoulder at Jes. The boy was still sleeping but it wouldn't do for him to wake and hear any part of this conversation. "Let's talk over here." With the help of his crutch, Dagen limped several feet away from the wagon. Cassia followed him.

"All right," she said. "I think I have some idea of what happened at the Waterfall. The way you've been acting it's not too hard to guess. But I'd like to hear it anyway. Whatever it is, we'll get through it."

Dagen found it impossible to look into her green eyes. She might have guessed at part of the truth, but there was no way she could have guessed at all of it. Once she heard everything she was bound to look at him differently and that was the very last thing he wanted. But he knew she deserved the whole truth. He sighed. Where were his past lives when he really needed them?

"I'm the last one," he said. "Madduke's reincarnation spell ends with me."

"Okay." She gave him a smile that trembled at the edges. "I thought as much. We...we'll figure it all out. Somehow. It'll be fine."

But it wouldn't be fine. Nothing had been fine since the moment he first laid eyes on the Dragonstar lying there under glass in a stall at the Flag Fair in Durst. The magical amulet hung around his neck now, under the collar of his shirt and against his skin. It was shaped in the form of a silver dragon with its wings spread and its tail curled around a flawless red ruby. The source of all his trouble, it was also the world's only hope of salvation.

Created ages ago by Madduke, the amulet was meant to someday aid its future bearer in slaying Badan, the mad sorcerer-god he had imprisoned in the Black Mountain. And, according to the vision Izet had been given by the waters of the Crystal Waterfall, someday had come.

"There's more." He hated to tell her the rest, but she had sworn to stand by his side no matter what. Even if things got really crazy. Even if it looked like they were all going to die. If he knew something that might change her mind he owed it to her to tell her now, before it was too late to turn back.

"What is it?" she asked. "You know you can tell me anything."

"It...it's about the tracks. I found out what they mean." After having been bitten by a wyvern, Dagen had developed a webwork of green tracks that covered his skin on the entire right side of his body. No one had been able to figure out what that meant. But when Dagen went under the waterfall he had learned the truth. And what a terrible truth it was. "I'm descended from Badan. His blood runs in my veins. That's what the tracks mean." There, it was said. If she recoiled from him now it would hurt, but he would certainly understand.

But she didn't recoil. She smiled. "Why do you look so upset? This is wonderful news."

"It is?"

"Of course." Her eyes brightened with excitement. "None of your past lives were descended from Badan. This changes everything."

Then he understood. They knew that all his past lives had died simply to keep Badan locked in his crystal prison and it seemed a foregone conclusion that the same thing would happen to Dagen. Cassia had never believed it had to be that way. All this time she had been searching for some hope to cling to, something to prove this time would be different. Dagen supposed she thought he had just given her that hope.

He could have pointed out that Madduke-who started this whole thing-was Badan's half brother and he had still died putting Badan in his prison. He could have told her that in his heart he knew there was no changing the course of his fate. But he knew how it felt to live a life without hope and he would not be the one to take hers.

"We should tell the others." She turned toward the wagon.

"Wait." He caught hold of her arm. "Please don't. I'd rather everybody not know."

"But why... Oh, right. Nobody wants to be the great some odd grandson of a madman bent on destroying the world. I understand. I told you there are always bright points in life. This has to be the brightest one yet."

Somehow, somewhere inside of him, he managed to drag out a smile for her. He could do that because she was the only person he had ever loved. And she loved him in return, despite his many flaws. That meant a lot to someone who had been thrown out with the trash when he was born, someone who had grown up under the harsh hand of the worst kind of monsters. The human kind.

By this time, the others had started to make camp. Cassia gave Dagen a smile and then went to help Marsida with the fire. The days and nights had grown steadily colder the further north they traveled and it was only bound to get worse by the time they reached the mountains.

Dagen stood alone for a moment, watching the others and feeling like an outsider. Then he joined them, in body if not in spirit. Rophel settled down near the fire and began cleaning the rabbits he'd shot with his bow and arrow, Shadel unsaddled the horses, while Izet stood a little apart from the others, her black eyed gaze fixed on the horizon. A dying shaft of orange sunlight struck the water-filled vial she wore around her neck and made little rainbows across her golden skin.

Once the rabbits were roasting nicely, Jes climbed down out of the wagon and approached the fire. "I don't know what you're cooking but it sure smells good."

"Rabbit," Marsida said. "Courtesy of Rophel's fine aim."

"I thought we could all use the fresh meat." Rophel spoke to them, but his silver-blue eyes watched Izet. "It was nothing."

"Far from nothing," Shadel said. "I've seen some good shots in my rather long lifetime but few there are who could hit a rabbit while riding at a full run on horseback. Impressive."

"Thank you," Rophel said.

Dagen stretched his legs out toward the fire, thinking for perhaps the tenth time that if Shadel wanted to make friends with Izet he should talk to her instead of acting all birds of a feather with Rophel. It seemed to him that the blonde elf was going about things in a far too complicated way, but then who could understand the mind of a god?

They ate in a companionable silence as the stars thickened overhead. When the fire had burned low, Marsida stood and asked, "Who will take first watch?"

"I will," Dagen said.

Marsida frowned. "I'm not sure that's a good idea."

"But my foot feels much better. Really."

"No. We can't risk you coming to further harm," she said. "The rest of us are expendable; you are not."

Dagen made a face. He didn't much like to hear Cassia and Jes being referred to as "expendable."

"I'm the one with magic of the Dragonstar at his disposal. I think I can take care of myself better than any of you."

"So I've noticed," Marsida said dryly. "Suppose you get another memory from one of your past lives and pass out again? You could be killed."