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Days of Dawn 7: The Stray Path - Part 1: Days of Dawn, #7

Days of Dawn 7: The Stray Path - Part 1: Days of Dawn, #7

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Days of Dawn 7: The Stray Path - Part 1: Days of Dawn, #7

Lunghezza:
272 pagine
4 ore
Editore:
Pubblicato:
Apr 24, 2020
ISBN:
9781393285441
Formato:
Libro

Descrizione

The world has survived the greatest threat it has ever experienced, and Ezra Genis has returned home. However, Adria's war still rages and the Drath still lives. As Adria recovers from Inferno, a new kind of conflict emerges in the city of Kereth as Malik Viss enacts his most diabolical plan to remove Ezra from his path. Part 1 of 2

Editore:
Pubblicato:
Apr 24, 2020
ISBN:
9781393285441
Formato:
Libro

Informazioni sull'autore

Thanks for reading!  My name is Steve Hanley. By night I'm a hospital security guard, and by day I work tirelessly to bring stories to life. I currently live with my folks and two crazy dogs in the grand city of Denver, Colorado. I've been a certified nerd as long as I can remember, with roots steeped in Star Wars, Marvel, and Lord of the Rings.  As a christian, I love how the layers of a world interact and feed into each other. Even the realms of fantasy have a way of exposing new truths!  If you have any questions or feedback, don't hesitate to shoot an email! You can reach me at stevehanleyonline@gmail.com

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Anteprima del libro

Days of Dawn 7 - Steve Hanley

Storms

INTRODUCTION

Destiny has failed. Since time immemorial, agents of purity and chaos have arisen against each other to wage everlasting battle. Bringers of darkness known as Draths have always sought dominion over the world for their various purposes, and could only ever be defeated by the champions of light chosen by the gods: the Auros.

It was these champions of light who defeated the greatest dark lords and saw the world through the Ethereal Night. Though all lived through pain in those evil days, the Auros sacrificed most for the promise of a brighter tomorrow. The most sacred of Auros was the Mighty Warrior Theolos who defeated the dark lord Malik Viss, ended the Ethereal Night, and brought about the Days of Dawn.

When the time came for the cycle to begin again, the gods chose Theolos’ heir, Orion Genis of Helvara, as the next hero of elvenkind. He fought bravely against the terror of Malik Viss, but in the end lost his life. Unchecked and unrivaled, the Dark Elf seemed unstoppable, but against that ancient evil arose Ezra Genis.

In spite of the odds she managed to defeat Malik in place of her brother and went on to protect her people. For her skill and purity, the goddess Linara chose her to be an Auro.

But destiny requires balance, and this new Auro came to have a Drath of her own.

For the first time in a millennium, a human stepped foot into the world. He set his sights on the little nation of Adria and the Auro who protected it. He took the title of Drath as his name, made its purpose his own, and brutally forged his place in the world.

Soon enough the two came to war, and the dance of Drath and Auro began once again. Armies clashed, the two agents of destiny fought, and all the while Malik Viss patiently watched and waited. His own war was a surgical one, and only at the perfect times would he strike.

Unbeknownst to god and mortal, a far more heinous being moved against them all. The dark lord Corpus Van Deth sent upon the land of Adria a curse the likes of which had never been seen - a rebirth of Nocturn. It was not the foul being’s goal to become a god or slay one, but to return everything to the dominion of the dragon goddess.

Ezra traversed worlds to save her home from the darkest of dooms, but in the midst of her absence, Drath found a way to surpass his own destiny. He gained the power to realize his true self and devour every last mortal beneath the sky. It was here, within the Inferno, that Ezra Genis stood. She alone wielded the power to defeat him and fulfill her destiny.

She should have killed him. She should have taken her Drath’s life and saved the Days of Dawn, but when the moment came she defied her purpose.

The Drath still lives to wreak his war across Adria and every land beyond. The cycle of destiny is broken, and the future is on the verge of disaster. What little hope remains still rests on the shoulders of Ezra Genis. Unless she can find the will to stop Drath once and for all, the world will burn.

PROLOGUE

His plan was a stroke of genius. It was devilishly simple, but sinister enough to bring an unnaturally wide smile across Malik Viss’ dark yellow tattooed face. He flew low to the ground, the snow just beneath sweeping in his wake as he sped across a winter wasteland.

The bite of the wind at this speed was lethal, but he couldn’t care less. He sped faster still, and his dark long coat flapped as he swerved back and forth on nearly visible wings. The white stripe in his black spiky hair was a bit wider than it used to be, but he hadn’t noticed. Instead, he kept the golden pinhole irises in his otherwise grey eyes scanning the winter.

The air was sunny and clear, and in the scenery whizzing by he caught glimpses of animals hibernating beneath feet of snow, a few dead trees, and the occasional rocky outcropping.

He had spent nearly a year now out of captivity with great effort and little yield, but that didn’t faze the Dark Elf in the slightest. If a little bad fortune was enough to defeat him, then he wouldn’t have managed two centuries of war before being trapped in the Monolith by Theolos. The drive to become a god was still very much set in his black heart. A goal as divine as his required oceans of tenacity and creativity - two resources of which he was never in short supply.

The revelation about other drow survivors drew only amused surprise from him, and the one thing that could have sent him astray was seeing his daughter again. He finally remembered what it was like to really love something, but it was too late to turn back now. He had a world to punish.

This particular idea came as something of a flash. A bolt of inspiration a few days after that nasty business at Kalioth. There were three or four possible places for his plan, but none of them screamed ‘victory’. As such, he kept searching.

His eye caught something to his left and he slowed his flight. It was a large outcropping about twelve miles away across crisp, flat land untouched by footprints of any kind. He stopped into a hover, then went for it.

It only took about five seconds to reach the rock before he suddenly stopped again to overlook it. He slowly circled the outcropping, inspecting its finer details.

The rock was a dull granite as wide as it was tall - about thrice his height - but held paltry shelter from the winter with only a single little cubby from the wind. Malik looked across the horizon to see no living thing in sight. This place was dreary, desolate, and perfect.

He set his black boots to sink into the snow and stretched out his gloved hands. First he inhaled the icy air through his nostrils, then exhaled through his mouth as he centered himself. He pushed the joy of his plan out of his mind, the excitement of what he was about to do. Around his arms and hands snaked swirls of black magic as he deepened his focus.Very soon, Adria would be all his.

CHAPTER 1: Inner Battles

The long year was finally drawing to an end with only a few months of winter left. Although the season was nearly spent, it still blanketed the world in snow, leaving the days quieted and animals in long slumber. There were no more stormbursts, but natural weather still kept the lands beneath a layer of soft white. This time of year more than any other was known as one of calm to elves, of gentle feelings and hibernation.

Even the people of Adria, gripped with fear of curses and stories of battle, had taken the hand of the season to ease their troubles. The war was miles away from most while the politics of home had their immediate concern. In spite of everything, the gentleness of winter persisted.

Then the sky went ablaze.

Inferno. It had spread to every corner of the world, shaken every god and mortal to their cores with its raw power - a fate far worse than death that was once only minutes away. It was now a silent knowledge for everyone, a truth seldom spoken, that not a single person should have been alive.

No one wanted to think of the shrieking hordes of husks or the endless landscape torched and burning. In the uneasy cases when someone did mention the Inferno, they only referred to when It happened.

Only the perseverance of Adria’s Sword saw them through, and everyone now knew the devastating potential Drath could gather. The human was a monster before, but had now become a pure abomination.

For those fighting against Adrath - Kerethan, Paladin, and Silverblood - that knowledge came with a sobering realization. They couldn’t make due with just weathering the war. They had to start winning it, and that meant taking back the Contested Line.

The Line was much farther north than it had been before, and not nearly as straight as it was. The rapid assault of Lieutenant Taur’s forces a short time ago had seen carnage on a grievous scale, and the crown jewel of his miniature campaign was a massive obsidian structure housed within a land of jagged rocks where no weather at all took place. That structure he fortified into the Igneous - a staging fortress from which he could directly strike out at the major Adrian bases.

While the Igneous was deep into Adrian territory, the rest of the Contested Line was considerably farther south. For Adria to retake control of the Contested Line, they needed to destroy the Igneous and overwhelm the other critical locations.

One such location was Rigel Mountain, a usually scenic getaway nestled into the Bonetails. This mountain was a bit shorter and wider than the rest, and had excellent views of both eastern and western Adria during the spring and summer, as well as a luxurious manor near its base. Rigel Mountain’s position made it a cornerstone of the new Contested Line - one that for the past month Adrath had firm control of. That, however, was about to change.

A thick lazy snow fell in blankets across its upper slopes, reducing visibility to mere feet in some places. This deep into the winter, snowfall came nearly every afternoon with winds guiding flurries above the trees in elegant paths.

One of the few places on Rigel protected from the weather was a shallow valley on its southern slope, just apart from where it connected to the adjacent mountain. The wind flew over the trees to either side of the valley, letting only a light fall in, and the snow it picked up acted like a veil covering the southern end. The clouds sped fast overhead, but there was still ample light to brighten the snowy ground.

Resting in this protected valley was a force of warriors of the Paladin Brotherhood all clad in heavy white coats over metal armor that seemed a bit more ornate than that of usual infantrymen. Elite swordsmen and archers by the hundred, plus a few mages, stood in wary wait within a hastily built camp that served as a command center for the force.

At their lead was an arcane lord named Nerus. He held a special place in the Paladin ranks, and had fought many a dark lord through his long years. While he officially came to Adria on request of Guardian Skrou Everheart, the truth was he would have ventured here anyway to help fend off the power of the human. He had only been in the country a week, but was settled in with good spirits among his men. Considering his status, it was only natural he would lead the advance through such an important part of the Contested Line.

Their timing beneath the heavy blanket of snow was exact, as they didn’t want to be noticed by a garrison of gros goblins housed in something of a shanty base some slopes down.

Nerus’ plan was officially known as The Spear. Once the Adrian scouts came back, he would launch a surprise attack and demolish the gros location, then take their momentum straight through enemy territory as fast and far as they could, then hold their line for a surplus force of Kerethans to occupy later. It was a straightforward approach proven in battle. If they were clever and lucky, they could get their troops near Van Deth Fortress before anyone became savvy to them.

Nerus stood within a large open tent beside a small travel table. He was of average stature, but well built for his age beneath a flowing white hooded robe embroidered with unique swirls of gold and blue, which easily served to set him apart from the standard mage. Stuck into the ground beside him was a mystical staff that had kept true through the fiercest adventures.

On the table was a map of the general topography of that stretch of the Bonetails, but he was more occupied by a short stack of papers from a courier that had arrived not ten minutes ago. They were reports from other points in the Contested Line, from strike teams similar to his. It wasn’t good news.

He stroked his thin white beard as he contemplated, and a gnomish Knight leaned against one of the tent poles. What do you make of it?

I think we need to be careful, Nerus glanced at the Knight with an old, strong voice, These reports talk about everything from arachne assassins to minotaur stampedes, and some new kinds of war machines spotted near the Igneous. There’s no telling what we might encounter.

Scouts incoming! came a call from outside the tent.

The Knight lifted off from the pole and smiled, Maybe some telling.

The two exited into the chill and made their way along the valley to the edge of the force. The weather was beginning to pick up, and the arcane lord could just make out the shape of two Kerethan rangers running into the valley from the snowfall.

One was a lean man with a brown crop cut and a longbow strung across his back. The other was a woman with shorter black hair and a bow of her own. The two were Dom and Vira, the archer siblings, who had volunteered to scout for this mission since they knew the terrain well. Both were madly sprinting back and Vira was trailing blood.

The two ran for Nerus, who gave them both nods, Blessings.

The siblings had serious, frightened expressions and only panted. Nerus overlooked Vira in a bit more detail. Her leg had been deeply cut by what looked like an arrow graze, and she was gripping another gash in her arm. Dom looked as if he had been dragged through snow and mud with how soiled his coat was. Both their quivers were half-emptied of arrows.

He looked back and forth between the two and groaned, Please tell me you had a tussel with some kind of wildlife.

They’re on their way, Dom gaped, The whole base is on their way here.

What? Nerus blinked, How did they spot you?

Vira squeezed the wound on her arm, The gros were already marching by the time we got to them. Nerus, they knew we were coming. Drath is leading them right now.

The Paladins who overheard them stopped cold. Soon everyone in the camp quieted to the name.

Nerus stepped back in nervous surprise. The human wasn’t supposed to be anywhere near here. He glanced around at his men with a look of apprehension, but held his staff firm. If the godslayer’s here, that’s all the more reason to push on.

I know what you’re thinking, but trust me, Vira urged, You don’t know what Drath is like. We have to get ou-

A flash of red lightning struck the southern end of the valley. The wind and snow there picked up speed in a sudden gale that ignited into a high wall of burning fire. Everyone turned in shock to the burst of heat and light. The two rangers looked back, and everyone spotted a sinister shape within the flame.

Out of the wall of fire emerged the silhouette of a figure taller than any of them. He donned a horned skull helm and a torn red leather cape that draped from his bare shoulders. His muscular chest and the X scarred across it, his knee-length hide skirt, and wild boots were all unburned as he marched forward. In his hand was Carrion, a twice-curved black blade as long as he was tall, and he held it with a murderous strength.

Marching behind him were rows upon rows of gros goblins all armed and armored for battle. While they were easily outnumbered and stood at only about half the height of the elves, their appearance was an imposing one.

It’s him! Nerus stepped back, The Drath!

Like lightning Vira was in a kneel with an arrow drawn back. She fired at Drath’s helm, but not a moment later was the arrow shot from the air by a glob of webbing. The next moment, another glob hit Vira straight in the head, knocking her hard onto her back and covering her face.

Vira! Dom knelt by her and drew a knife, carefully trying to help his squirming sister with the web.

The trees nearest to the Adrathans shook, and from them dropped no less than twelve arachne of various colorations. One of them was a black widow type sporting an ebony exoskeleton with red highlights and a scarlet serrated mouth. She flipped back her long oily braid and began from her sisters on four pointed feet.

Not a single Paladin in that valley moved save for trembling, and Nerus just stared at the human he had only ever heard about. The man who nearly killed the world, who had made the gods themselves grovel, was standing not a hundred feet from him. Dom managed to break the web off Vira’s face and she coughed a deep gasp of fresh air.

The black widow arachne Vyxyx paced past the goblins, eight eyes still locked venomously on Vira, until she came beside the human.

Drath nodded in his deep grain of a voice, Nice shot. It seems our tip-off was correct.

I’ve never seen Paladins like these, master, clicked Vyxyx, They look fancy.

Fancy doesn’t mean better, Drath looked over the Paladins with curiosity. Still… He panned the scene, judging just what enemies stood before him, until he came to Nerus. His search became a stare and he went visibly rigid. A feeling of power past the fire and wind shifted in a way all could feel. It was like a tremor behind the air, and it focused on the arcane lord.

Vyxyx immediately noticed the shift and could tell it came from Drath. She had only felt it a few times now, but knew it was his monstrous soul becoming agitated. With a hint of concern she looked up at him, Is all well, master?

He didn’t answer. From the black of his helm’s eyes, two pupils of bright crimson ignited a glow directly on Nerus.

You, Drath’s deafening rasp cascaded across the forest, but not from his body. Servant of the light.

Everyone stood petrified. The deeply shaken rangers looked back at Nerus, who seemed more absent than anything else. None spoke.

All those before me are ripe with fear, but I taste the greed in your heart, Drath lowered the mask of his helm, You want to claim me. You’ve wanted to take my life since the day you heard my name, so that the glory of my defeat may be yours.

Nerus gulped, then slowly stepped away from the rangers as he took his staff in both hands. As if admitting a guilt, he nodded with a slight whisper of a voice, I do. I’ll admit I hoped this day would come.

Drath’s glowing eyes narrowed as his voice boomed, You are not the first. Know that the path you walk is marked by the blood of the fools who came before you. Hope abandons all who enter here.

Master... Vyxyx clenched.

Nerus stepped forward, mustering himself as he snarled, There is always hope, godslayer.

So you walk, Drath raised his black blade, So shall you die.

Wild hoots and cheers came from the goblins behind him, and they charged eagerly at the bracing ranks. The wall of fire behind them dissipated as they ran into battle, but Drath walked calmly forward with Vyxyx beside trying, Master, he looks powerful. You know what could happen if you two fight.

That’s why I won’t kill him with magic, Drath’s glowing pupils looked down at her, Tell your sisters to keep on the edge of the fighting and pick off what archers they can. Leave the swordsmen to the gros, and leave the sorcerer to me.

The arachne stepped back with a hesitant smile, Yes, master. Have fun. She leapt away toward the trees while Drath faced forward.

Nerus was standing by the rangers, and Vira tugged at his arm, We have to get out of here!

Leave? Nerus kept eyes on Drath, I can’t. If we give ground to evil, what would be left for us?

Nerus, listen to me! Dom got in front of him, You haven’t seen what he can do! He can scrape this whole mountain off the map if he wants!

Don’t worry, the arcane lord stepped past the two with a slight grin, He’s right. I’ve been thinking on this day for a while. I’ve got a plan.

With that he charged forward, staff in hand. While the goblins and Paladins clashed, his eyes set on the great beast before him. Now not ten feet from the human, he leapt high and arched his staff back. An orb of gold manifested at the end of his weapon which he swung like an axe at Drath.

Drath sidestepped the attack that brought down a force like a quake through the ground, then he came at Nerus with a spinning chop that the arcane lord barely deflected before stabbing out another orb. Drath ducked back

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