The first sneak peek of book two, part of the Gray Sphere Saga! This is the prologue of the book for the book which is titled “Wisp’s Reverie”.
The art is also a sneak peek to the full cover. It’s done by the same artist as the last book, Michelle Ran. Check out her Deviantart!
I want to give special thanks to the patrons who’ve supported me thus far:
Hypermice, Sean Young, and Mister Artorias
Check back on Friday for more news, with another short to follow on Monday!
Prologue: Unknown Cause
Red-eyed creatures have always been a bad omen. Their presence has been linked to many acts of violence and terror throughout the land. Chieftain Bran looked to Dorn, his mind racing with thoughts as to why a red-eyed trushan now stood there among them, as a chieftain no less! Bran felt a shiver run down his spine, noticing the unfocused gaze of Dorn, the red seemingly staring off to nowhere. He forced himself to look away, blinking several times, his vision adjusting to the dim glow of the candles, the thick leather canvas of the tent blocking out the moon’s light.
Standing around the large circular table in the room were the other chieftains. Each one tall and bulky, with large shells on their backs and thick scales covering their bodies. Along the back of the shells were colorful slashes forming an assortment of shapes. The shapes formed patterns connecting along the shells to individualize each one, and symbolized the warband they originated from.
Bran looked around, taking notice in the other four chieftains, grimaces along their beaks, narrow eyes all focused on the map lying flat on the table. Bran looked back at Dorn, blinking as he caught movement in Dorn’s gaze. I don’t know what Thrak sees in him to invite his clan, Bran thought. He seems entirely stressed.
“The Ragnos soldiers are positioned to the east of us, their fortifications already established. They wish to drive us trushans out of this region. What would you suggest we do, Chieftain Bran?”
Bran looked away from Dorn and towards Chieftain Thrak on the opposite side of the table, a tired expression on Thrak’s aged face. “I already suggested earlier we should strike them directly while the sun sets, with our fresh recruits supporting us. The sun will blind them while we advance,” Bran said.
“The advantage of the sun will be short. Their heaviest fortifications are facing us, it’d be suicide,” another chieftain said.
“You overestimate the skills of this Ragnos battalion,” Bran spat, staring down chieftain Dovan to his right.
“And you underestimate them, as usual!” Dovan replied with crossed arms, returning the same leveled stare.
“What’s your plan, Dovan?” Bran replied coolly.
Bran waited for Dovan to turn before he relaxed his heated gaze. Bran looked towards the thick-accented voice to see Chieftain Dulk to the left of Thrak, leaning forward with a balled fist on the table, his brown eyes staring up at Dovan.
“I suggest we send in our best warriors from the north through the old ruins as a surprise attack. Once they begin their strike and have Ragnos’ attention, then we send in our main force to strike,” Dovan stated.
“We don’t have the experienced warriors for such a plan!” added a fifth trushan said. “As it is, Ragnos has proven enough times that their scouts are superior to our own. They’d see us coming.”
Bran looked to the right of Thrak to see Chieftain Zuvak’s yellow gaze, his arms folded and resting on a giant tower shield standing in front of him, far too big to strap to his back.
“I suggest we wait for Chieftain Saxxo’s forces to arrive from the east,” suggested Zuvak. “One of my scouts has already reported to her the location of Ragnos. With her we can surround them.”
“Saxxo? Haha! She waste of time!” Dulk exclaimed.
“I’d have to agree with Dulk on this one…” Dovan replied with a huff.
A glint in the corner of Bran’s eyes caught his attention. Looking to his left he saw that Dorn had shifted his large two-handed axe off his shoulders to stand on the floor, his hands resting on the top. Dorn’s eyes stared down at the large blade curved similar to the letter ‘S’, but backwards. He still stands there at a loss for words, and is now gawking over his weapon. Surely he’s gone mad.
Bran looked towards Thrak. “I still stand by my original strategy. We strike Ragnos and eliminate this battalion; it will force them to leave this region and scurry back east. Though, you have the majority of forces here, Chieftain Thrak. You have the final say.”
“You have all made fine suggestions my fellow shan. I will consider them all,” Thrak said, rubbing his chin in thought. “I would like to hear the opinions of our youngest chieftain to join us this evening,” he finished, eyeing Dorn.
Bran turned to Dorn, to see him swaying on his feet, his hands tightening their grip on the axe. What is wrong with him? Red eyes are a bad sign, but that doesn’t mean he should be crazy. So why is he holding his axe? Bran clenched and unclenched his hands, ready to reach for his spear.
“Dorn, please enlighten the gathering with a thought,” Thrak spoke again.
Bran glanced around the room, seeing the rest of the chieftains shifting on their feet, the noise of creaking leather and metal plating filling the silence. Then the silence was broken.
“We’re under attack!”
Bran looked back towards the thin space between the flaps of the tent where the distant sounds of battle cries echoed in the night air.
“An attack? Ragnos should not know our location!” Bran spat, looking to the rest of the chieftains.
“They may ‘ave use magic?” Dulk suggested.
“Possibly.” Thrak said, his head lowering in thought. “Return to your respective centurions we shall defen—”
“Bran, watch out!” Zuvak yelled, cutting off Thrak.
Bran looked to his left to see the red eyes. He gasped before it was cut off abruptly. The last thing Bran saw was the glint of candle light on an axe’s blade swinging towards his head.
Dorn stared into the yellow eyes of Thrak wide and full of fear. He listened to the final wheeze of air emit from Thrak. A shiver ran through Dorn as he took a step back, pulling the axe out of Thrak’s chest. How did this happen? He shook his head in disbelief, scanning the room to see the table shattered. Bran was on his back, his face nearly unrecognizable. Dovan was in the corner holding his side from a gash, his breathing coming quick. Zuvak was slowly getting up in a daze, his shield with several ax dents in it.
“Traitor!” Dulk roared.
Dorn jumped to the side, dodging the downward swing of Dulk’s hammer. “I… I didn’t mea—” Dorn muttered before choking on the words.
“You die, now!” Dulk leaped forward, hammer raised.
Jumping back a step, Dorn headed for the entrance of the tent, pushing through the flaps and entering the chaos of the encampment. Glancing back, he caught the sight of guards giving chase, Dulk was in the center pointing and yelling commands. What am I doing? Dorn easily shouldered his way through the throngs of soldiers around him, rushing towards the shouts of battle.
Why am I running? he thought, weaving in and out of tents, darkness hiding his figure among hundreds of other trushans running towards the battle or to other tents to grab equipment and supplies.
Reaching the edge of the camp he sprinted into the forest, the distant noise becoming muffled by the trees that now surrounded him. He slowed to a walk, taking deep breaths to control his heavy breathing. Looking around he recognized the marks on the trees made by watchers around the camp. Treading softly through the forest he kept his axe at the ready, his eyes spotting each and every mark. He knew the path he needed to take to stay safe, having been the one who created the marks earlier as part of his tasks as chieftain.
Reaching a clearing in the woods, Dorn stopped before an embankment of a river. Standing still, he closed his eyes and listened to the sound of the slow-moving water. Surely this is a dream. Why would I kill Thrak and Bran? Letting his axe fall to the dirt, he pulled free a dagger on his belt and opened his eyes. Looking down at his left palm he pricked a finger with the dagger’s point, a drop of blood forming. He dropped the knife into the mud by the water, staring at the blood. This isn’t a dream… I did it. Those lights though, my memory… It’s all so foggy. But there is no question I killed them, even if I don’t remember doing it.
He began to rip off his heavy plate armor, tossing each piece into the dirt. After he took off the last piece, he unstrapped the leather padding beneath, leaving only his undergarments. Stepping into the water, he slowly submerged himself in the deep, causing the red and black paint across his shell to wash off, revealing the brown of his shell. Walking back to the shallow end by the embankment, he reached for the dagger left in the mud and knelt. He raised the dagger to his heart, the point of the blade only an inch away, his body shaking.
He felt his heart pounding in his ear, a trickle of blood forming at the tip of the dagger, sliding in between his scales. He felt the dull pain of the cut, knowing that it would end if he pushed the dagger further.
A frustrated growl came out of him as he lowered the dagger and looked down at the water in shame. “I’m a traitor, without even the honor left to kill myself.”
Raising the dagger again, he brought the sharp end to his face on the right side and placed the point near his nose, right above the line of his mouth. Keeping his mouth closed he pushed the point into his scales and slid down, creating a straight line down to his jawline. Blood streaked into the water below as he grunted with pain. He raised the dagger again and made a similar line below where his eye was parallel to the first, down to his jawline again.
He breathed heavily, blood dripping from his mouth, the salty taste of it stuck to his tongue. He lowered the dagger into the water and cleaned the blood off. Standing up, he sheathed the dagger and returned to his leather armor and axe. He strapped on his armor and slung his axe over his left shoulder to sit against his shell. Dressed once more, he began to wade across the river to the opposite side, leaving the heavy plate armor behind. Reaching the other end, he pushed into the dense forest, vanishing into the dark depths.