Sequel to Imago Book Five: Destiny's End
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Imago Books Fantasy Realm
Imago Books Fantasy Realm
In this sequel to Imago Book 5: Destiny’s End, Markus’ coronation as the new King of Carcross unites the surviving members of the Order for a grand celebration. When a prisoner escapes from the dungeons of Darross Castle during the ascent of the Hunter’s Moon, it brings the festivities to an abrupt end. Not only is a madman on the loose, but a young prince is taken hostage and the evil Book of Spells has mysteriously disappeared.
In a race against time to unravel this secret and save the prince’s life, a new acquaintance threatens to destroy old friendships and a former Wizard is seduced by evil once more. Meanwhile, a long-forgotten entity promises to wreak untold havoc, threatening the mission and endangering the lives of all wishing to enter Spirit Wood, the haunted forest of the Shadow Mountains.
Chapter 1 Touched by Evil
“Nothing is as it seems… and what is, will be no more.” This solitary voice droned and echoed through the gloom.
“You will be no more if you do not shut your gob!” snapped the guard. His hand bashed against the bars of the prison cell as he shouted at the bedraggled man crouched on a heap of damp, filthy straw in the dark corner of the dungeon. “I have heard enough of your ranting, so shut the hell up!”
“You insolent, young knave!” cursed the prisoner. He stopped scraping at the wall of stone to glare menacingly at his captor. “You owe me your respect!”
“I owe you nothing.”
“I was once your captain. I demand respect!”
“Demand all you want. Captain Bristow is, and has always been, my captain; not you, Draven.”
“It is Captain Eldard to you, you worthless ingrate!” snarled the prisoner. He palmed the jagged stone he used to carve upon the cell wall.
“You are captain no more. And had I been on the other side of the battlement, I would have been fighting alongside Captain Bristow, instead of being bullied and coerced to follow your demented orders,” snorted the guard.
“Better to follow the directives of one with true military expertise than one appointed to captain an army by virtue of his bloodline,” grunted Draven, dismissing the guard’s words.
“Oh, shut up! You do not even know what you speak of. You have truly lost your mind.”
“And anyone with half a mind would know Bristow is captain by luck and happenstance. It was only because the most experienced knights deserving of this rank were killed in battle was he promoted. And lest you forget, he is cousin to the late and famous Faria Targott, the knight of Darross who accompanied Prince Markus to Mount Hope to defeat the Dark Lord Beyilzon.”
“This is the voice of envy,” scoffed the guard. “You are only jealous because the king decided you were beyond your years to lead a real army into battle. That is why you were relegated to the role of captain of the Royal Guards. And we all know it is a ceremonial position; nothing more.”
“Say what you like, you bumbling miscreant,” muttered Draven, resuming his work on the prison wall.
“I will! And you will stop that. If you know what is good for you, you will stop that damned scribbling!”
“You illiterate dog! If you could read you would clearly see I am not scribbling,” grunted Draven.
“It matters not. This is the king’s property you deface, so stop it right now!”
“Make me!” Draven snapped in defiance, scraping even harder and faster to further agitate his keeper.
Snatching up a half-empty, battered tin cup sitting near the prison door, the guard tossed the stale, murky water into Draven’s face before throwing the small container to strike the prisoner on his head.
The water ran down his angry face as he sputtered; the blow further aggravating the humiliation he was dealt.
As the tin cup clattered to the floor, in retaliation, Draven angrily hurled the stone clenched in his hand. The guard easily dodged the projectile, but he was forced to leap back as the prisoner, in a fit of rage, threw his body against the iron bars. Draven’s filthy hands thrashed about wildly in a desperate bid to seize his tormentor’s sword.
“You are as crazy now as the first day the king had you locked away,” grunted the guard, his hand on the hilt of his weapon. “Now back off or I shall run my sword through your miserable carcass.”
“No need for such hostility,” sniffed Draven, motioning for calm as he took a moment to compose himself.
“Then do not make me hostile!” snapped the guard.
“So tell me, young sir, where is King Sebastian as we speak?” queried Draven, his voice suddenly civil.
“That is none of your concern. And why should I tell you?”
“King Sebastian is long overdue in meeting with me. Now, I ask again; where is my liege?”
“The king is busy with matters of the nation and foreign affairs. He has no time to deal with insane prisoners like you.”
“Oh, he will make the time, for we have some unfinished business.”
“And just what business would you have with the king? It has been a year and a month since he imprisoned you. In all this time, not once has His Highness graced you with his presence. What makes you believe he will do so now?”
“My business is none of your concern,” grunted Draven. “I must see him! I demand an audience with him.”
“Good luck! Demand all you want. It will do you no good. The king had departed for Carcross long ago. And besides, the day King Sebastian comes here to see you in this hell-hole will be the day the Fairies return to this realm.”
“If not the king, then Bristow!” snarled Draven, his knuckles whitened as they rattled the iron bars. “I demand to see Cullen Bristow!”
“Dream on! Captain Bristow has as much desire to meet with you as I do keeping watch over you in this stinking hole.”
“So be it…” Draven sighed as he slumped down seemingly in defeat. His hand crept across the filthy floor to claim the cup the guard had tossed at him.
Satisfied his prisoner had finally given up on his demands, the guard turned away to return to his post.
With a deafening clatter, Draven began to run the tin cup against the bars of his prison cell as he raged like a madman: “BRISTOW! BRISTOW! I DEMAND TO SEE BRISTOW!”
The four prisoners incarcerated at the opposite end of the corridor added to the nerve-racking clamor by groaning and shouting in protest; ordering Draven to shut up and to cease with the racket. Instead, Draven became all the more belligerent, aggressively hammering and rattling at the bars with his cup as he ranted at the top of his lungs.
The senior guard posted to the prisoner receiving area dashed down the corridor. With hands firmly clamped over his pained ears, Haddon shouted at his partner: “What the hell is going on here?”
“Our lunatic friend has demands!” He shouted to be heard above the prisoner’s racket, kicking at the cell bars in a bid to make Draven stop. “He will not shut his mouth and stop with all this noise!”
“Well then, make him stop!”
“I tried!” insisted the guard. “Why do you not give it a go before we lose our hearing altogether?”
Unsheathing his sword, Haddon thrust the blade between the bars. Draven fell backward, retreating from the reach of the lethal weapon. But instead of desisting with his actions, he laughed maniacally as he shrank back into the dank, dark recesses of his cell. A small horde of rats nesting in the filthy straw scurried away as Draven began hammering at the floor and walls with his cup. His mouth frothed in rage as he continued ranting: “BRISTOW! BRISTOW! I DEMAND TO SEE BRISTOW!”
“Now what?” asked the younger guard.
“Find Captain Bristow. Maybe he can shut this madman up once and for all,” answered Haddon, as he clamped his hands over his ears once more.