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Lord Of Fire
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ISBN-10: 1-77115-194-3
ISBN-13: 
Genre: Fantasy/SF/Medieval
eBook Length: 206 Pages
Published: September 2014



From inside the flap

Brother Godfrey trained his whole life with the warrior monks of the Iron Mountain. He spent years honing his mind and body, preparing himself for the greatest test a monk could face, the test that would allow him to don the white robes of a senior monk.

He failed.

Now, cast out from the monastery, he is the guardian of a mysterious blue orb, the key to unimaginable power, to awakening the greatest dragon the world has ever known, the Lord of Fire. He's supposed to deliver the orb to a legendary monk named Father Methus. Godfrey doesn't know a lot about the outside world, but with the fate of the world at stake, he's determined to succeed.

The journey will not be easy. Others know about the orb and its power, and they will kill to possess it.

He didn't intend to assemble a team, but somehow they keep showing up. There is Gnarl, the bearman who is searching for his father. Everyone knows bearmen are savage killers, pitiless and unstoppable, but Gnarl just wants to be liked. Hazel has committed an unforgiveable crime, practicing magic without the permission of the Wizards' Guild. Her village wants to burn her at the stake. Helping a couple of lunatics save the world is no part of her plans, but with death as the alternative, she'll go along. Hunted by soldiers, tracked by a wizard with powers far beyond her own, and haunted by the dark side of her own nature, she is determined to carve out her place in the world or die trying.

Salim mucks out stables by day and dreams of adventure by night. He sees the quest to deliver the orb as the chance of a lifetime – until things go terribly wrong. With a dark magic invading his body, only death can save him from becoming the biggest threat of all to his companions. Carmina is facing the worst thing she can imagine – a forced marriage to a cold and scheming man older than her parents. Duke Marhan doesn't care if his new bride doesn't like him. He's got bigger plans, like getting his hands on the orb so he can take over the world. When he captures Godfrey's band of heroes, Carmina must decide where her loyalties lie, and what price she will pay to stand up for what she believes.

They are an unlikely group of heroes, but they are the only thing standing between an unsuspecting world and the devastating rise of the Lord of Fire.

Lord Of Fire (Excerpt)


CHAPTER 1

Brother Godfrey took deep breaths, searching for calm. A true monk is not afraid. He repeated the mantra under his breath, aware that it sounded more like a desperate plea than a statement of fact.

He was seated on the roof of the Tower of Silence. The tiles dug into his legs through the thin red cloth of his robe, but he had learned to ignore physical discomfort years ago. His hands rested on his thighs and he sat, back straight, breathing in through his nose and out through his mouth as he stared out into space.

The view before him usually brought a profound sense of well-being. He could see an astonishingly long way from the roof of the tower. There was a village at the base of the Iron Mountain, with a patchwork of farms fading off into the blue distance. On a clear day he could make out the distant line where green fields ended and the Blighted Lands began, miles away.

At fifteen he'd sat up here, legs cramping, dizzy from the height, homesick and lonely. By nineteen he'd become arrogant, sneering down at the little people below with their tiny little lives, wasting their time on this world while he trained and honed his mind and body and became something more. By twenty-five he was humbler, thinking about the children he would never have and wondering if maybe it was the people on this side of the wall who were fools, wasting their lives.

Today, all he felt was fear. Today he might be cast out to become just another tiny little man without a purpose.

"Brother Godfrey?"

Godfrey leaned forward to peer down over the edge of the roof. Four stories below him, a young man in a blue robe stood squinting up. "They're ready for you now."

Godfrey's heart thumped in a very un-monklike way. I am not afraid. For a moment he thought about opening the roof hatch and walking down the stairs. But there was a novice watching, and Godfrey had a reputation to maintain. Besides, it might be his last chance to do this.

He leaned farther forward, reaching his hands past the edge of the roof, feeling himself starting to overbalance. For a moment his hands touched only air. Then his questing fingers found the end of a roof beam where it extended past the wall of the tower. He grabbed the underside of the beam with both hands as his body slowly somersaulted forward.

In a moment he was hanging beside the tower wall. The key now was to make quick decisions without pausing to think. His fingers wouldn't take the strain for too much longer, and it was still quite a ways to the ground.

His toes touched the tower wall, providing guidance and just a hint of traction. His eyes flicked across the curving stone wall in front of him. The tower was well made. There were only the tiniest gaps between the stones.

He spotted a stone just a bit thicker than the others, and instantly let go. As he fell, his fingers caught the lump of stone. It wasn't enough to hang onto, and he lost his grip in an instant. He was sliding down the wall now, eyes and fingers and toes searching for gaps and lumps and tiny ledges. His fingers danced across the stone, tugging at every bump and crack as he fell past.

He couldn't stop his fall, but he controlled it. In seconds it was over, and he landed lightly on the grass. The novice was trying hard not to look impressed, but his eyes were very large. Godfrey nodded to him gravely. "Thank you for the message." Then he strode away to answer his summons.

A novice class was training in the grassy square before the Hall of Serenity. Training for the young ones was very physical. Their blue robes flapped around them as they slashed at the air with hands and feet, faces red and streaming with sweat. Brother Garth, regal in his red robe, moved among them, correcting them patiently.

Godfrey smiled to himself as he passed the novices. Their heads would be full of stories of the Five Heroes. They would dream of fighting the swordsmen of Mad Zur with their bare hands.

Closer to the Hall, half a dozen senior students stood balanced on one leg, eyes closed, unmoving. The longer you trained, the less you moved. Godfrey himself could balance on one foot atop a wooden post in the wind, and hold the pose from sunrise to sunset.

The hardest part of leaving the ranks of the novices to become a brother was letting go of dreams of adventure. Ha Ling, smallest and strongest of the Five Heroes, had founded the monastery generations ago to pass along the things he'd learned in his mysterious homeland.

Boys joined, eager to learn the way of the iron fist and become the new defenders of the world, the new heroes. As they became men they learned that true strength comes from within.

He climbed the steps of the Hall of Serenity and paused for a moment on the threshold. Behind him lay the only world he'd known since running away from a dairy farm at the age of fifteen. Ahead lay the unknown.

His hands touched the doors of the hall. The heart of the monastery was a deceptively simple structure of sandstone and cedar, a tall single-story building with elegant, graceful lines, a poem of stone and timber. The door was carved in the symbol of the monastery, a ring of five interlocked circles. His fingers traced the familiar outline.

The door creaked open and a wrinkled face peered out. Lips peeled back in a grin, revealing blotched, toothless gums. Two eyes peered up at Godfrey through crow's feet so deep they had crow's feet of their own. They were unusual eyes, one brown and one green, and it seemed to Godfrey that they glittered with malice.

"Well, Godfrey? Are you coming in, or not?" The old man cackled and stepped aside.

Godfrey sighed as he entered. Father Wizer was not his favorite person on the Iron Mountain. Bent and old and hairless, his face was a maze of wrinkles that always seemed to form a mocking, knowing sneer. He treated the brothers with the genial contempt you might show a puppy that still needed housebreaking.

Wizer gestured him forward. "Come in, come in! Don't be afraid!"

Godfrey bit back a sharp reply. It would just make the old buzzard happier. Instead he looked around as he followed the old man deeper into the hall.

He had been in the first chamber of the Hall of Serenity a half a dozen times. He'd been initiated as a novice here, then raised to full brother here eight years later. He inhaled, tasting dust and incense and something more subtle, almost a glow in the air, the residue left behind by a thousand young men sweating and breathing and waiting to learn their fates. Dreams were made real in this room, or crushed. Lives changed here.

Godfrey shivered, doing his best to hide it. His jangling emotions were a wind storm blowing the shreds of his usual calmness to and fro like litter, the scraps always tantalizingly out of reach. For Godfrey, the very air in this dusty room seemed to tremble with significance. Serenity was impossible in the Hall of Serenity.

Tightly-woven reed mats covered the floor. They rustled as he walked, bumpy and fibrous under his bare feet. There were no windows in the walls, but twin shafts of light came through a pair of skylights, making columns of glittering dust and faintly illuminating the rest of the room.

The hall was mostly empty, the walls undecorated, but the room had a stark beauty. Cedar panels rose to meet thick rafters that sloped upward to vanish in the gloom. A dais was decorated with a sculpture of the five rings. Beyond the dais, a pair of doors led deeper into the building. Godfrey had never been past those doors.

"Wait here. I'll get Father Oster."

Godfrey swallowed as Wizer disappeared through the doors behind the dais. Father Oster was legendary, at least within the monastery. Godfrey had seen him only once, a wizened old figure who had sat, barely moving, on the dais as Godfrey received his red robe.

He waited, bringing his pulse and breathing under control.

Hinges creaked. A door slowly opened. A faint gleam of white slowly resolved itself to become a man, tiny, shriveled, and ancient, wrapped in the white robe of a senior monk.

Father Oster shuffled slowly into the room. Godfrey almost expected the old man's bones to creak as he inched his way forward.

His voice was a dry whisper, a desert wind stirring dead grass. "Welcome, Brother Godfrey."

"Thank you, Father."