Friday, December 7, 2012

World of Wonder Author Hop Day 2: Spirit of Fire Excerpt!

Here we are on day two of the Worlds of Wonder Author Hop, and today I am excited to be able to present an excerpt from Spirit of Fire, the third book in my epic fantasy Fires in Eden Series. Containing an ensemble cast, loaded with action, featuring diverse cultures, set in an extensively developed world, and carrying a balance of inventive, uncommon, and traditional fantasy elements, my Fires in Eden series has been near and dear to me ever since I began working on it in the mid 1990's.

 Crown of Vengeance started the this fantastical journey, and landed me my first literary award with the Pluto Award for Best Novel in 2010 (an award centered on speculative fiction in small press/indie press). The second step of the series was taken with Dream of Legends, and the third step with Spirit of Fire. As of now I project about seven novels in the series.

I will be presenting a little more about my series during the author hop, but I think it would be good to give you a taste of the book itself. I do have to give you a minor spoiler to help you place the setting of this sample, which I also chose because you do not have to know too much of the story to enjoy this particular section.

This excerpt starts off Spirit of Fire, and gives you a feel for some of the more dangerous elements in the book. A malevolent and powerful being called an Arcamon, a servant of the Unifier, prepares to unleash a deadly and terrifying weapon against an underground dwelling society of creatures called the Unguhur, who intervened on behalf of the human Saxan kingdom during an invasion by forces loyal to the Unifier's will. I hope you enjoy this sample, and if you do I invite you to begin your journey with Book One, Crown of Vengeance, which is available in softcover and eBook formats!

 -Stephen Zimmer

Synopsis of Spirit of Fire: A maelstrom of war engulfs the lands resisting the designs of the Unifier to bring about a new order, of a kind that has never existed within Ave. Battered by a massive invasion force from Gallea, the tribal people of the Five Realms and their Midragardan allies are being driven eastward, towards the sea, while the Saxan lines are wearing down ever thinner on the Plains of Athelney. Time is running out quickly, as an ancient creature of legend soars through the skies with a brave young Saxan. They carry the desperate hopes of two realms sorely beset by a voracious enemy. Diabolic entities conduct a great hunt, as a malignant darkness deepens across all of Ave. The exiles from another world must gain refuge, or find themselves ensnared by the long reach of the Unifier. The very nature of creation itself stands in the balance. It is a time when the honor and fortitude of many are put to the test, and terrible prices are paid for resisting great evils. It is also a time of awakening for many, old and young alike, some of whom may yet discover the spirit of fire that lies within. The third installment in the Fires in Eden series, Spirit of Fire is richly imagined epic fantasy with a diverse ensemble of characters that offers a new world to explore for the readers who enjoy large-scale tales along the likes of George R.R. Martin, Brandon Sanderson, Steven Erikson, and J.R.R. Tolkien.

Excerpt from Spirit of Fire:

To the northeast of the Plains of Athelney, a motley assemblage sprawled across an expanse of open ground. Located adjacent to a lake, upon the outskirts of an extensive range of forested hills, the gathering was not too far removed from the place where one tendril of the invasion force had already run into stout Saxan resistance.
The surface of the water was choppy, buffeted frequently with brisk surges of wind. A considerable tension clung to the steadily cooling, evening air, empowered by what had taken place, and what was to come.
The earlier thrust of the Avanoran invaders had endured an unexpected, thorough destruction. Battered survivors trickling back spoke with shaky voices, and wide, frightened eyes, telling of brawny, non-human warriors with gray hides. A horde of the creatures had emerged seemingly out of nowhere, without warning, to shatter the Avanoran encampment and slaughter all but a remnant of the force.
The Saxans that had been arrayed in the hills presented no threat anymore, having been broken and scattered just prior to the deadly ambush. But the brutish interlopers that had decimated the Avanoran force were still an obstacle to be wary of, and reckoned with. They were about to be countered with a most chilling solution.
The deepening unease gripping the assemblage was enough to rattle the nerves of even the most seasoned, hardened of veterans, whether Trogen or human. The disquiet had a single, dreadful source, one that was living, or at least animated to a mockery of life. It was hard to discern which, as the normal vibrancy of life was not present within the hooded being standing tall among the throng of warriors.
The grave apprehension was deepened even further by two huge objects borne into the midst of the warriors, at the dark figure’s command. The winged monstrosities that had carried the pair of elongated shapes to the lakeside now rested on the ground, their vast wings tucked in.
The two Darroks were intimidating sights to behold on any occasion, but they were not the cause of the elevated alarm and distress pervading the scene. Between the Arcamon and the hellish cargo of the Darroks, the gathered warriors were truly caught between a hammer and anvil of cold fear. Mounted upon the Darroks’ backs were immense cages, fashioned of timber and iron. The interior of the cages was hidden from view, with long horizontal planks of wood affixed to their frames, the timber lengths fully covering the sides.
The cages themselves were of a respectable height, enough that the tallest amongst the Trogens could walk into them with ample headroom to spare. But the great length of each cage was what made them most unusual.
The ongoing work involved with the pair of enclosures was conducted with extreme diligence and focus. The assiduousness was bolstered by the fact that most of those laboring with the cages wished to keep their attentions diverted from the foreboding entity silently watching over their progress.
With the ends of its long, dark cape undulating in the winds, the Arcamon sat astride its infernal steed. Exposed so prominently atop a small rise in the middle of the host, the entity conveyed an image of authority. The Arcamons raised hood was a mercy to the surrounding warriors,  shrouding  the  entitys  nightmarish  face  within  caliginous
The glowing embers of the Arcamons gaze were fixed upon the mass of individuals handling the makeshift network of ropes and pulley-driven cranes, the latter similar to those used on ships at quays, to lower the giant cages.
The Arcamons  grotesque  winged  steed,  scaly,  sinuous,  and     serpentine, followed its masters every directive with rigid discipline.          It was now brooding and silent, patiently awaiting its masters next command.
Though the shrouded figure appeared impassive to all eyes, a mounting impatience was welling up within the Arcamon. Of the four of its kind loosed at a tremendous expenditure of energy from the fiery depths of Jebaalos realm, two were now aiding the assaults upon the Saxan kingdom.
That alone  reflected the  tremendous  importance  the  Unifier placed upon subjugation of the Saxan lands. The invasion was a pivotal element of the final series of conquests, which would bring all of Ave under one authority; outwardly that of the Unifier, though truly, through the Unifier, Jebaalos.
The Arcamons fury had soared throughout the report informing of the sudden Unguhur attack, which had blunted the Avanoran efforts to break through to the northeast of the Plains of Athelney. The force should have been able to hook around through the mountains, to pour down and ambush the main Saxan forces on their exposed right flank, out on the Plains of Athelney.
The worst aspect of it was that the Saxan ranks arrayed to oppose the Avarnoran maneuver had been dislodged and broken, leaving the way clear for all aims to be achieved. All had been thwarted by a horde from a brutish race that now held the Arcamons malefic ire.
At the moment, the battle at the Plains of Athelney should have been over, and the interior of the Saxan lands left wide open. The Kingdom of Saxany had likely exhausted itself in the musters for the Plains of Athelney, and for the smaller force deployed to face the woodland incursion.
Unlike the Trogens, humans, and others around it, the Arcamon knew much about the Unguhur. The primitive creatures had emerged from the depths of their underworld dominion, having been well-hidden from the extensive scouting from the skies and on the land. The human and Trogen leaders had been confounded. To the few that had even heard of the underground race, the Unguhur existed only within legends, or as wisps of tales. Things of legend and myth were certainly not foremost on the minds of the invasion forces command.
In a practical sense, the existence of an underground population of Unguhur, right under Saxan lands, was something entirely unknown; and altogether unaccounted for.
Nevertheless, the Arcamon had confronted many of the Avanoran lords after the terrible debacle. Its dark presence had driven each one of the fierce, haughty commanders to become sniveling, groveling fools in mere moments. Mortals confronted by an immortal from the afterworld itself, its very existence boggling to their minds, several had broken out in cold sweats. Others had openly trembled, unable to stifle the terror wracking their spirits
Failure for any reason was never to be lightly taken, whether in the infernal realms or in Ave. The Arcamon had faced the Avanoran lords  as if they were going to be made to answer fully for the considerable losses.
Using mystical arts from the abyssal depths, the Arcamon had implanted stark images directly into the minds of the Avanoran lords, one by one. Shadows of madness, visions of monstrosities in chasms of sentient blackness, and searing vistas of blood-drenched infernos filled the thoughts of the Avanoran lords, as they were given the briefest of glimpses into the nether kingdom of Jebaalos.
They were unable to avoid the terrifying spectacles by shutting their eyes, forced to endure the waking nightmares for what threatened to be an interminable ordeal. A couple openly wept, others shook as the cold sweats streaked down their faces, and still others collapsed to the ground in quivering, sobbing heaps. The Arcamon knew their minds
were not equipped to handle such sights for very long.
After their humiliating, terrifying experience had reached the very edge of a place from where it could not return, on the brink of madness, the Arcamon finally, and suddenly, withdrew its hellish grip. The entity consigned the horrific visions to the subconscious regions of their minds.
The Arcamon knew every thought going through their minds as they were loosed. The seeds of many future sleepless, nightmare-flooded nights had  been  sown,  but  the  Avanorans  had  blinked  and  gasped in surprise, and relief, as they were released. They quickly regained their focus, but found to their great agitation they had absolutely no recollections of the previous several moments.
For them it was as if time itself had skipped forward. Greatly disconcerted, their hearts still beat rapidly as an icy fear danced on the edges of their awareness. The Arcamon had then turned immediately to the issue set before all of them, breaking the defenses of the Saxans, and those that aided them. Whether the main invasion force had broken through or not out on the Plains of Athelney, it was advantageous for the Avanorans to secure an open passage into the northern lands of the Saxan kingdom.
The Unguhur were the only real threat standing in the way. To confront them, and root them out from their underground domain, the Arcamon quickly settled upon a strategy that would exact a terrible vengeance in the process of achieving their aims.
A summons had been sent by way of another of the Arcamons dark, mysterious arts back to Avalos itself. Two young Darroks were being harnessed shortly thereafter, on open grounds just outside of the great city. Though not fully trained, the pair of Darroks were the only ones out of the Unifiers brood not currently committed elsewhere.
A small crew of fiercely loyal, carefully selected Avanoran warriors had then guided the giant winged beasts to a faraway, hidden place. It was a location known to very few, and all of those were beholden to the Unifier and Jebaalos.
To  assault  something  of  the  underworld,  the  Arcamon  had chosen to send something from the darkest depths of the underworld. The creatures granted to the bidding of the Arcamon were not entirely unknown to the surface world.
Their subterranean  kind  had  risen  up  before,  making  their presence known many times over the long ages of the world of Ave. They had reached the surface through deep lakes and rivers, ascending from the gaping depths of the underworld itself, becoming creatures of great myths and legends themselves.
Two of the creatures had been obtained to serve the Arcamons bidding, each one of them a veritable juggernaut. Their bodies were akin to enormous serpents, covered with hardened scales that were collectively as good as a solid sheath comprised of the finest crafted armor.
Of massive girth, their bodies were as thick as the trunks of the oldest, largest trees in all of the Saxan forests. Neither of the fully-grown monstrosities was less than seventy feet in length.  Their appearance was also as beautiful as it was terrifying. The scales forming their natural armor were themselves comprised of a variety of vibrant colors, amid others that seemed to blaze like tongues of fire when caught by the light.
The deadly beauty reached its pinnacle atop their great heads. As if kings and queens among the ancient race of snakes, they were crowned with natural diadems. Great, sharply pointed horns sprouted up from each side of their massive heads. In the center of their broad craniums, at the forward end of a fiery red crest, was what looked to be a radiant, sparkling, crystal, bisected by a prominent, blood-red streak.
Their enormous heads contained a gaping maw lined with an arsenal of spiky, rear-curving teeth, forming an inescapable prison for anything caught within the creatures awesome bite. Two massive fangs, like  gleaming,  deadly  sabers  being  pulled  from  scabbards,  extended downward whenever the creature opened its mouth with the intent to
Just a few tiny drops of venom from one of the creatures fangs were more than enough to kill the strongest of humans. One full injection from  the dual fangs imparted a comparative torrent of lethal poison, which no creature living on the surface of Ave could withstand.
In the abysmal reaches of the underworld, the beasts could pass through great depths of water, navigate the most powerful of currents, and weather the greatest turbulence. Their bodies could handle great extremes of temperature, and withstand exceptional pressures. On solid ground, they moved with tremendous bursts of speed, dizzying to behold.
There were very few creatures in all of Ave that had the kind of size and power to even have a chance to contend with the colossal serpents; and most of those were now regarded in a mythical state themselves.
Yet  they  were  not  invincible,  having  one  major  place  of vulnerability on their bodies. Located seven spots from the base of their heads was a susceptible point where a solid, penetrating strike could instantly incapacitate the giant beasts. The knowledge of the location was largely delegated to obscure lore, known currently only to a few handfuls of people whose ancestors had encountered the horror of the deadly creatures in past times.
The Uktena were virtually without rival, exactly the kind of formidable creature the Arcamon could use to beset their underground adversaries.
In a shrouding darkness secure from the reach of the sun, the Unifier was keeping a number of the fearsome creatures. Tended closely by the Unifier’s Sorcerers, the Uktena were controllable. Using their secret arts, the Sorcerers had lulled the creatures into a deep, trance- like slumber, before a cadre of highly-unnerved Gigans had laboriously gotten them into the lengthy cages.
The creatures had not stirred in the least, as the cages were then mounted up onto the young Darroks’ backs, but the huge flying beasts instantly sensed the nature of their deadly passengers. It took a highly concerted effort from their flyers and Sorcerers alike just to calm the surge of agitation in the Darroks. The titanic steeds rumbled and snorted, loosing short, sporadic bursts of fire, even after they had been brought under an outward semblance of control.
Two of the exalted Sorcerers of Avalos accompanied the beasts on the ensuing journey, keeping the Uktena in an unconscious state throughout the entire flight. At the moment, a Sorcerer attended each cage, as they were tediously lowered and angled off of the backs of the Darroks.
Under the increasing weight of the Arcamon’s spectral gaze, the small host of men and Trogens, augmented by horses, and a pair of the powerful Gigans, continued to strain with ropes secured to the cages. The wood of their assembled cranes creaked and groaned with an unnerving tenor, the ropes taut as the tremendous weight of their burden drew the
hempen cording to the limits. Just alongside each team, the stoic form of a Sorcerer kept a wary
eye out for even the slightest sign that the Uktena might be awakening from their deep slumber. The Arcamon paid no heed to the nerve- wracked state of those handling the cages, who feared that the serpentine monsters could be roused at any moment by the jostles, shakes, heaves, and lurches that the enclosures endured. The noise generated by the effort was considerable as well, as both man and animal grunted in their exertion, and those in authority shouted out orders, whenever sudden adjustments were needed.
When the cages were completely free from the Darroks, and were finally resting upon the ground, the handlers mounted the huge sky beasts and guided them away from the lakeside. The two creatures were given a wide berth as they lumbered forward, many scrambling in haste to avoid being caught in the titanic beasts’ path.
The agitation in the Darroks, which had emanated ever since they had taken to the skies with their fearsome burden, finally ebbed as they gained distance between themselves and the cages occupants.  Yet the Darroks gazes returned to lock upon the extended contraptions, when their handlers drew them to a halt and allowed them to lie upon
the ground again.
Like a shadowy wraith, the dark figure on the rise then spurred its scaly steed to flight, and glided down to land close to one of the cages. A number of men and Trogens shuddered reflexively, as if an icy chill had abruptly fallen upon them. With the Darroks in their place, the Arcamon signaled for the cages to be fully disassembled. Only the Arcamon could have elicited the assiduous response of the apprehensive laborers, transcending the grave dread that permeated the vicinity of the cages. 
Trogens and humans opened the locks that secured iron chain links running between the long, modular segments of the great cages. Slowly, the sides of the cage sections were lowered on their hinges, the latter affixed at the bottom.
The dropping of the sides bared the lengthy, gigantic forms within to the eyes of all gathered, exposing the bodies of the Uktena to a host of individuals seeing the creatures in their entirety for the very first time. Expressions of fear and awe filled the faces of the hushed observers. Only the terrified whinnies and stamps of the frightened horses broke the silence, as their handlers labored to keep the wide-eyed equines under control.
The Arcamon felt no pity for what the Unguhur were about to be subjected to. In his view, the Unguhur should have stayed huddled below the surface, and let the matters of the surface world take their own course. The Unifier would probably have even tolerated the existence of the foolish creatures, if they had chosen to remain sequestered away from the upper world.
Their fateful decision to take the side of the Saxans in the war was now going to bring a terrible wrath down upon them. The Unguhur would reap the lethal harvest of what they had sown.
The two immense, serpentine forms, now still, would soon be brought back to full awareness. It would not be much longer before the Unguhur were introduced to the two creatures of legend, and experienced what they were capable of. The Arcamon savored the thoughts of the Unguhurs impending doom, with malice-drenched pleasure.

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1 comment:

Kym said...

Thanks ! Merry CHristmas ~