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Black Opal
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ISBN-10: 1-77115-363-6
Genre: Dark Fantasy/Fantasy/SF
eBook Length: 253 Pages
Published: May 2017

From inside the flap

The Black Opal, a mysterious gem of great power.

A city-kingdom hidden for centuries faces its greatest peril.

Princess Corrine the only heir to the throne is unprepared to deal with the many threats that face her kingdom. Demonic forces, the denizen army forming below, powerful undead, the machinations of disgruntled nobles, and a city sector given over to criminals and corrupt officials.

True evil confronts Corrine and her protectors. With a broken heart, she must dig deep to find the necessary courage to recognize her enemies, hold her throne, save her nation city and overcome her naivety.

A tale of deep shadows and flickering light await within Black Opal, with struggles between good and evil, man and monster, sword and spell, decadence and poverty by brave warriors, faithful knights, noble ladies, wizards that command splendid magic, and rogues that live by their wits. Black Opal is a journey of hatred and vice, redemption and honor, and a vision of blood and snow.

Black Opal (Excerpt)

1 Angel

The sweet smell of burning oil filled the room, the lamps illuminated one side of the basement leaving the other half pitched in darkness. A pouch full of coins had recently been paid to have this lower level dug, twelve feet floor to ceiling. The construction was devoid of worked stone. The floor was dirt, with thick wooden beams supporting the ceiling. An ecosystem of worms and roots grew out of the walls lending to an already damp, earthy smell. Mirrors of different sizes and shapes hung from long iron nails driven into the walls. There were racks holding mundane weapons of wood and steel and special ones forged with blades of silver, gold, iron and bronze. The ground had been swept clear of loose debris leaving tiny long legged spiders to creep across it. On the center of the floor at the apex of light and darkness was a three-foot diameter circle drawn with silver dust and filled with a complicated series of arcane symbols scribed with bone powder. An earthen staircase was the only exit.

Garthadon's team of undead hunters waited quietly upstairs. An archer, a ranger and a priest sat in quiet readiness. They waited, occasionally getting up to pace, as they listened for any indication of something gone awry below. They knew what the mage attempted and were careful not to disturb him. The trio had complete confidence in their leader, nevertheless nerves and boredom tested their patience.

Garthadon put his face to the ground and checked to be sure that there were no breaks in the circle and that the thickness of the silver powder was consistent along its circumference. All the sigils and diagrams were prepared. He began his casting making slight movements with his wrists, arms, and hands. He softly chanted incantations. The wizard's brown eyes narrowed and a ray of red light streamed from his hand. The magic circle held the light causing the silver dust to glow with a soft red hue. Then he increased the rhythm of his archaic chant. He continued for nine minutes, thrice repeating a lengthy chorus as wisps of prismatic light fell off him. Garthadon's focus was intent, outwardly he would have seemed a man possessed. He sped up, his voice beckoning with an authority that was not his own, "Megeara!"

An outline of crackling red energy began to take shape within the circle, vaguely human, with large wings protruding from its back. Inside the outline the emerging features of the summoned creature swept aside the darkness. Skin moved over emptiness, arms and legs took shape. The great wings became pure white as they stretched slowly to a magnificent wingspan of fourteen feet, exceeding the boundary of the silver ash, taking on the substance of a beautiful feathered bird. Garthadon ceased his casting, and beheld his summoned creature with awe. His knees were somewhat bent, his head somewhat lowered, his eyes stared up.

The Angel stood before him, encircled by the silver powder that still glowed with colored light. The energy that formed her, or rather transported her, was now gone. Burning red irises quickly faded, leaving her with kind violet eyes set in a face that was perfectly serene. Her skin was flawless with a golden tone to it, accentuated by long golden blond hair. She wore a two-piece suit of exceptional steel armor. The top piece was a shapely metal plate that fit seamless around her breasts and shoulders. The lower half was a scalemail skirt that seemed to hang on her hips, with a silver encrusted scabbard and gold hilted longsword attached to her wide, tough belt. Slung over her back she carried a quiver and a mighty composite longbow. She folded her wings down, without a thought, and tilted her head in discernment. A long moment passed as the mage stared at his summoned creature. At first struck with awe, Garthadon's attention fixed on the angel's lips as she spoke to him in a voice every bit as beautiful as she. Beguiled, his mind filled with carnal fantasy until the room was forgotten, and he wanted desperately to touch her. He could hear the melody of her voice but not decipher the words. It took all of Garthadon's concentration to bring his eyes above her neck. His imagination soon went wild and he was unable to make eye contact. He let his gaze fall, his eyes drinking her figure greedily.

"How did you discover my true name?" Her voice finally pierced him, driving the wizard out of his lustful imaginations.

"Huh?" He turned flush, ashamed of his lewd daydreaming about a holy being in her very presence. The mage was astonished with the momentary perversity of his mind. He normally regarded himself, as one that did not dwell on base passions.

She smiled at him with a sympathetic look which further embarrassed him and caused him to wonder if she had been privy to his thoughts. "You used my true name in summoning me. I will know how you came about this knowledge; It is quite forbidden," she said.

"Yes. Please forgive me calling upon you, holy daughter of the heavens." He faltered for the right wording, and smoothed his faded blue cloak with a tug as he sought in his character to have strength in dealing with a creature that impressed him as she did. "I will tell all you ask of me, but first I must tell you why I have called upon you, and if you can forgive my boldness, perhaps we can make a pact."

"My attention is committed." She replied.

"I am a vampire hunter. One of no little accomplishment I might add, though I do not mean to be boastful. There is a particular member of the in-denial-dead I have sought for quite some time. Most of my exploits of the past few years have been leading up to this." The old mage took a breath as he reached for confidence then exhaled. "That is where you come in. I stumbled upon the secret of your name, and the spell for summoning you when my company and I made our last kill. I have finally been able to pinpoint the location of the master vampire I seek."

"What deal do you propose?" The celestial asked, with a voice of consideration.

"The pact is this." He went over the wording in his head. Garthadon knew he should choose his words carefully when making pacts with extra-planer beings. However, this was a creature of law, summoned from the fabric of goodness, and carrying with her the very spirit of honesty. He had assurance that she would not search the terms for a loophole and he did not wish to insult her with undo caution. "You will accompany me to a village called Willowview. There we will confront the master vampire together. You are free to return to the heavens upon his second death, the moment his empty corpse no longer walks in this world. In return for your assistance, I will give you this locket upon which I discovered your identity, and I will not share your name with anyone." He looked at her, waiting for her answer.

"I will accept your terms with the addition of but one clause," She said. The angel let her words hang as she looked over the summoner, increasing his nervousness before returning her gaze to his face and locking her eyes with his. "I shall be obeyed without question."

Her demand startled him. "I don't think so. I would have to discuss that with my fellow hunters"

"You are their leader, and now you must prove it by making a hard decision. I am the only one worthy to lead as my very body is a holy symbol and I have the most at stake," she said, absent a trace of vice in her voice, drawing attention to her form with a gesture of her hands and a deep breath.

His eyes followed her motion and glanced up at her chest as she respired but he caught himself and looked quickly away revolted of his own irreverence. Garthadon lowered his eyes to her feet clad in black leather sandals, interlacing around her calves, to just below her knees. He began to question in himself if he was not in fact unworthy. Looking to the side unwilling to make eye contact he tried again to assert himself. "I know your true name I can compel you to... "

"Careful mortal!" Her voice crackled as she interrupted him with new sternness, spreading her wings to their full glory. The sudden extension of her wings caused him to recoil. "Do not threaten one from the host of heaven."

Her wings slowly receded. "Make your choice without reluctance, for I will consider you equally bound." Her temperament lightened and she spoke softly to him. "I want to help you, dear Garthadon. I would help without condition, just for the sake of righteousness, except that I have so much at stake, and you have driven a hard bargain."

It startled him somewhat that she knew his name, though it shouldn't have been much of a surprise. He stared at her, taking in the compassionate look she wore on her face, all the sensuality gone, just kind violet eyes mixed with supreme beauty. He resolved to trust her.

She could read in his demeanor the choice he had made. "You may call me Imarra, do not use my true name again."

He marveled at her a moment longer his gaze coming to rest on her eyes. "The deal is sealed according to both of our terms." He said a few words in the language of magic and with a wave of his hand, dismissed the pale light that encircled his new leader.

Imarra stepped towards him, the ring of silver powder gone, consumed by the magic that summoned her. She held out a slender hand, "The locket please." He hesitated before pulling it out of his blue robe, and grasped it in one hand, as it remained fastened around his neck. She moved slowly toward him, reaching her strong slender arms around his neck, bringing her face close to his. "We will find this evil that torments you so, dear mage," she whispered. Her breath smelled of lilacs. The old mage bowed his head as she removed the locket and chain, the smooth skin of her arms warm against his neck, and fastened it around her own.