Barnes & Noble.com
Michael R. Robinson
When the wizard Clinox, using ancient draconic magic, accesses the Plane of Shadow, Jason Shadowgrass begins the day as he would any other next to a beautiful woman and hung-over. That changes when the government that knighted him, and then cast him out, drags him back. The dark events following the meeting spiral him down a road labeled by others as destiny. However, these others see the events as a prophecy and begin manipulating both Jason and Clinox. Forced in many directions by enemy and ally alike, Jayce takes matters into his own hands to save the ones he genuinely loves.
As Clinox prepares to strike darkness upon the world, his inability to control those handful of people allows Jason time to acquire allies to assault the plane of shadow. Unknown to both, something else awakens within the realm of shadow, banished there hundreds of years ago by the god Eteliwyth for betrayal.
It was a typical May morning in the land of Ine’iss as the sun lifted to the sky. However, when Cat Foster, Norrelle Friedman, Shae Kruschler, and Jason Shadowgrass awoke that sunrise, their lives were set on a course by an elfin prophecy.
For Captain Catherine "Cat" Foster her career amongst the 'pirates' was blossoming, as she now was in command of one of the largest and most powerful ships in the fleet. This morning, she was en route to arrest the man she loved, Jayce Shadowgrass. His betrayal to her and her employers, the noted Pirates of Port Alexi, marked his death and she was to deliver that sentence.
For General Norrelle Friedman, she again stood at the edge of a scene where men died the night prior protecting unknown cargo with signs that the same mastermind that devised a skirmish for her band of knights eight years before committed the attack. This was the first portent of many too come that forces were in motion to allow her to reveal her secret to the world.
A former mercenary with a deep secret, assigned to protect Jason Shadowgrass years ago, now must put her loyalties to the test. Her friends trust her, but those who truly command her may have other plans.
Jason awoke hung over next to his lovely lady and it began as a typical day for him. That was until the summons, back to the castle he left some eight years ago when the rogue tossed away his title and noble status.
For each of them and their companions, this was the day that darkness begun its reign, as Clinox, a wizard from centuries past uses ancient spells and draconic artifacts allowing him to open a doorway to a plane that none thought to exist. A corner of existence where a god banished and imprisoned dragons that betrayed his will over five centuries prior. A portal to a Realm of Shadow now opened, so he could unleash darkness upon a world that he ruled once before and vowed to again.
The light that lingered in the night sky subtly illuminated the road below him as the ancient undead mage stood on a ledge. The common human could not see the events unfold nearly a hundred yards down by the river but with his magically altered vision, all on the gorge base was as if it were day. Clinox could distinguish the dirt road from the canyon floor. He saw the roaring river and the white capped waves that flowed violently over rocks hidden like icy razor claws in the depths. The old mage had no use for eyes, for in the sockets of his skull the soft moist optical devices had long since decayed. In a battle of epic proportions over two hundred years ago, his body had died. Some may say a poor ending for him, though they could not be further from the truth.
The same battle began a cataclysm that ended not only a civilization, but also a world, which suited him just fine. This fragile structure most called a body was a mere vessel, just a necessary tool. His true soul was safe; somewhere he tried not to think of to prevent revealing its location. Powerful magic linked it to this animated skin and enhanced arcane skeletal body. Its only function was to support the detached self; in lay terms, his soul possessed this otherwise useless piece of flesh and bone to do its bidding through powerful yet forgotten necromancy.
He chuckled as he watched the road and the unsuspecting caravan approaching. The poor merchants, manipulated by him, continued to push on as the sun fell. Normally, they would have stopped several hours ago, camping further north along the river gorge—this waterway eventually ended at the Southern Sea and the city of Islesen to the south. Hinting to them through various subtleties that there were dangers about, he pushed this unsuspecting merchant caravan southward. Not only using illusions of sound and shadow in the cliffs and crevasses of the canyon, but he also had a few Lyrumu lookouts posted at the roadside waypoint and permanent campsite. The creatures were in a position to spot easily; the soldiers anticipated the worst and tried to make Islesen before it was too late. In essence, the caravan leaders were right, danger was afoot, and his Lyrumu would have attacked whether they camped or not. He just wanted the attack here, at this point, for it was significant to those involved in his devious little plot.
The mere thought of those involved fueled the anger and hatred in his stowed soul. Come the morning, their eyes would be wide open. Oh, how he loved twists and striking at this location, intertwining events past and present would send a well-understood message to Norrelle and Shadowgrass. In addition, he must include the rest of Islesen’s fallen knights. Islesen’s best, humph, he thought, Islesen’s misfits were more like it. Those fumbling and bumbling servants of the city were mere puppets for him even back then, eight years ago. They did his research, his footwork, his theft, his bidding all around. Arrogant fools, all of them, and their time grew short. No, death for them was not in his mind; far worse was.
He looked down at his skeletal hand. It had been too long since he felt flesh around his animated body. How he longed to live once again! No longer did he wish to have his soul held captive in that hateful soul jar. It had its uses, its benefits, and longevity ranked highest among them. It held many disadvantages as well. Once he completed the tasks laid out before him, he would have the best of both worlds. Immortality, a free soul, and his own living body; again, he could indulge in life’s simple pleasures. Touch, smell, and taste, senses taken for granted by most mortals. He had gone without them for over two centuries.
He needed one more piece to complete his ritual and in the caravan below, guarded by men in the service of elves, was the life-giving item itself, destined for that damned Ewryon Baelathkai Araeaine, the elf prince. In addition, it was the final key to complete control over his new kingdom, his new existence, his new home. Clinox sighed as only he could with no flesh, blood, or working lungs.
Clinox, he thought, that name would no longer do. It represented another man, a being long since dead. He needed a name that held terror in the past and future. He needed something else, something that defined him. His cohorts referred to him with terms like the “Dark Lord”, the Shadow lord, the King of Shadows, and the Lord of Shadows; no, he hated all of them. They were so melodramatic and he was above that. His current puppet name was not useful, it did not capture him, it was simple and pleasing, the image of his puppet. No, he needed something stronger, but for now, one eluded him.
“Dark Lord,” the man beside him said. “They are near position.” Clinox shivered in repulsion of the title.
He turned and looked at the dark hooded figure, “Well, councilman, order the attack.”
“Yes,” his apprentice acknowledged.
The man raised his right hand and fluently spoke the ancient elf words. When the sentence ended, his hand began to glow a green hue. Below the Lyrumu—a race as old as the elves, but not as eloquent, sleek, or graceful, but are a mix of lizard like features with a bit of elfish grace, a dab of human stubbornness, and a splash of dwarven strength, created merely for use as foot soldiers—watching saw the signal and savagely rushed the front of the caravan.
“Perfect,” Clinox whispered.
The front guard rode ahead to meet the assault; the troops at the rear of the caravan rode to the middle to guard the wagons. As soon as all the soldiers shifted as predicted, the larger force of the brutal Lyrumu and Maersyls, his newly created shadow men, hiding in the cliff face now behind the wagon train—who passed by them—rushed the unsuspecting rear guard. The guard was strong, as Clinox anticipated, but not strong enough. If he had flesh, his companion beside him may have notice a grin of satisfaction. Yet this was not all he had designed for this night. It was time to introduce the human world to the realm of shadow; it was time to bring death. He outstretched his arms and uttered a line in forgotten ancient draconic, summoning another of his creations, the deadliest.
What followed was nothing less than a massacre.