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Authors: Shawn E. Crapo

The Ascent (Book 2)

BOOK: The Ascent (Book 2)
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The Ascent

Book Two of

The Dragon Chronicles

By

Shawn E. Crapo

 

Copyright © 2013 Shawn E. Crapo

Cover and Map Art © 201
3 Shawn E. Crapo

www.shawnecrapo.com

All rights reserved. This book or any portion thereof

may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever

without the express written permission of the publisher

except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.

 

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

I have to give credit where credit is due. If not for all of the fantasy authors I’ve read over the years, this series never would have happened. Thank you all for keeping the genre alive despite the diminishing interest of the general public. We must always continue to live in our fantasy worlds and keep them in our dreams. I must also give thanks to my good friend Kumar Jadhav for assisting me with creating the Radja, a fictional analogue of Hindu/Sikh warrior culture. Also, thanks to Steve Smith for assisting with proofreading.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter One

 

Khalid stood before the throne of the Dragon in Tel Drakkar. The throne room was dimly lit, with only a few small rays of blue light that filtered in through the broken ceiling above. Around him, sections of wall and segments of columns lie in ruin, their black stone cracked and crumbled. Dust covered everything in sight, from floor to mid wall, and the odor of neglect hung thick in the air. The entire temple had been in the same state of disrepair, having been abandoned and uninhabited for ages, so the throne room’s condition was no surprise to Khalid.

The throne itself was empty, as it had likely been for thousands of years, yet remained unblemished and richly decorated. Its surface was smooth, reflecting the blue light that filled the chamber, and at its corners, various designs of silver, interlaced with purple gems, accented its strangely beautiful design. Something great and powerful once sat upon this throne, and the Sheikh could almost feel its presence as he stood before it.

Khalid was clothed in only a light pair of linen trousers, as he had been since he entered the temple’s grounds. He had felt the unexplainable need to cast away his clothes, feeling that the robes were, somehow, inappropriate for entry into the temple. Despite his lack of garments, however, he still carried the katana given to him by Angus, the blacksmith in Gaellos. Though a well-crafted weapon, it gave the former Jindala Sheikh only a minor bit of comfort as he studied the architecture and décor of the massive throne room, and its empty throne. Its dark and disturbing architecture unsettled him and filled him with apprehension.

Days ago, in a dream, he had been instructed by his Master, Imbra, to travel through the Southern Kingdom and present himself to the Dragon. He was not sure why, but he knew that his Lord had his reasons and, considering the blasphemies he had performed in the past years, he was in no position to resist. All of his life, he had served Imbra faithfully, or so he thought. He had learned through his dreams that a false God sat upon Imbra’s throne in Khem, and that this being had led Khalid and his people into believing that he was their one and only Father.

Khalid himself had served faithfully even though, in the back of his mind, his lifelong impressions of his Lord and Master did not match the reality. Since the God had supposedly appeared in the flesh, he was a different personality than what the Holy books had described. Gone were the scriptural ideals of his benevolence and love; replaced by a cruel reality that did not settle well in the minds of his people. But they followed his oppressive and murderous ways nonetheless.

The Lifegiver, as the false God was known, had bound and enslaved all of the Firstborn, including Imbra and the Dragon, within the Earth. He knew that, together, their power could defeat him. But, lying helpless and unable to take physical form, they were no match for his dark, primordial energy. Thus, the people would be no match for the bulk of The Lifegiver’s army; the Jindala.

They were a people enslaved, compelled to spread The Lifegiver’s word through murder, terror, and oppression. Khalid had murdered with them, following The Lifegiver’s orders to the letter. For this, he was unclean and his soul had darkened. He stood now before the Dragon’s throne to purge himself of this evil, and to rejoin the Firstborn. Through the Dragon, Khalid would be brought back to Imbra, and his path would change for the better. He would be whole again.

Though Khalid now stood before the Dragon’s throne, he was at a loss as to what would come next. Imbra had told him nothing other than to seek Tel Drakkar and present himself to the Dragon. There was no word as to what he would say or do once he arrived, or what would happen. This fact unsettled Khalid, leaving him lost and hopeless, standing before an empty throne in a strange land.

Khalid scanned the throne room nervously, awaiting some kind of sign that would suggest his next action. Throughout the chamber, there was nothing; no signs, no clues, no men or women present. There was nothing but rubble, the throne, and a large mirror that was attached to the wall behind it. From his side of the throne’s riser, Khalid could only see the grayish layer of dust that covered it, and for all he knew it was shattered and useless. Still, he felt the need to find out.

Khalid stepped onto the throne’s riser, glancing at the ornate chair as he passed by. From up close, he was able to make out various symbols and strange writings, none of which he understood. There were pictograms of warriors in battle, strange winged creatures that breathed fire, and men dressed in horned armor. He felt drawn to the carvings; as if he knew somehow he would eventually grow to learn their significance. But, for now, he would accept them as they were; mysterious and unimportant at the moment.

Khalid stepped in front of the mirror, using his hand to wipe away enough of the filth to see his face. He stared for several minutes, seeing himself sadden at the sight of his own image. His eyes were puffy with days of unrest, his hair disheveled and matted, and his beard unkempt and knotted. He reached out again, wiping away more dust, extending the clean area to cover the whole of his body. As the image became clearer, his shame deepened.

He was no longer the handsome, dashing young thief he was thirty years before. Through his years of sloth in the service of The Lifegiver, he had allowed his body to undergo a massive change for the worse. He was fat, soft, and looked every bit like a lazy, entitled Sheikh should.

He felt a lump rising in his throat, and his heart sank in sorrow. Tears welled up in his eyes as he sulked at his own image. He allowed himself to weep, covering his grotesque face in his hands, his body convulsing with his sobbing.

“What have I become?” he asked himself. “How did this happen?”

He knelt, afraid to see his own reflection. He no longer recognized himself, and the feeling was devastating to his already damaged soul.

Khalid,
a deep, commanding voice spoke in his head—or so it seemed.

Khalid turned quickly, scanning the throne room for any sign of who had spoken. There was nothing but darkness.

“Who’s there?” he shouted.

It is I, the Dragon
.

“Where are you?” Khalid asked.

I am here. But I do not have the strength to commune with you this way for long. You must sit upon the throne and enter my realm.

Khalid glanced at the throne again, unable to overcome his fear. “I cannot,” he said, “I am afraid.”

You must, my friend. Do not fear. I have welcomed you into my temple, and have no desire to harm you in any way.

“I fear myself,” Khalid sobbed, “and I am shameful.”

Fear not, Khalid, I have been watching you as your Father has. I saw how you rescued the children in Gaellos.

“You saw?”

I see all that happens in my land. You were very courageous. You saved those children from execution, and have begun a rebellion in the South.

“The Thieves’ Guild?” Khalid asked. “I saw them fight the guards. Was it they who freed the city?”

Yes, the Thieves’ Guild has eliminated the enemy presence in Gaellos and liberated the city. It was all because of you, and your courage. You are a hero, Khalid. You saved my children. You have redeemed yourself. There is no need for you to be shameful.

Khalid lowered his head in sorrow, thinking back at the life he had led. “I have done so many things in my life to be shameful for,” he explained. “One single act cannot make up for that.”

It was not a single act, Khalid. You started a whole chain of events that led to insurrection. Gaellos is free. Even now, the men there gather and lie in wait for the Onyx Dragon to lead them to victory.

“The Onyx Dragon?” Khalid inquired. “Who is this Onyx Dragon?”

He is my son. He has always been my son, since the beginning of the line of kings.

“He has always been your son?” Khalid asked. “What do you mean?”

Throughout history, when the lands were in danger, I have fathered sons among the daughters of Kings. These offspring have been the warrior Kings of legend. They have all been known as the Onyx Dragon, all the way back to King Daegoth II.

“I know that name,” Khalid exclaimed, “He ruled Eirenoch during the time of Sulemain, the first Prophet of Imbra.”

That is correct. And by the marriage of Daegoth’s daughter to Sulemain, our kingdoms were at peace for thousands of years, until The Lifegiver came and upset the balance. He has waged war on the entire world, and enslaved the spirits of the Firstborn. I felt it was time for me to bring back my namesake, to protect my land and, ultimately, The Great Mother. And so, many years ago, I went to Queen Siobhan of the Northern Kingdom, and she later gave birth to Eamon, my son.

“I see,” Khalid replied.

It is Eamon’s duty as The Onyx Dragon to protect these lands. He is the only hope I have to save The Great Mother. The Lifegiver steals more of her power every day, and she is dying. If her spirit continues to weaken, then there will be no hope for survival. Not for her, The Firstborn, or the mortals who inhabit this world. The Lifegiver will lead us to our doom.

“Yes,” Khalid agreed, “I see that now. But I still do not understand who he really is, or where he came from.”

The Lifegiver is nothing, Khalid. He is the chaos that existed before the Universe was born. Everything you see around you is part of the Universe, and thus, part of the Creator. The Lifegiver is the opposite. He is darkness and chaos, and his Universe is the same.

“I think I understand,” Khalid muttered. “He is the negative, the void. But how did he cross over into this Universe?”

Your Sultan, Tyrus the Blackhearted, was the conduit. He is, or was, the product of the two universes at the same time. He was born here, many thousands of years ago, and through dark magic, learned the secrets of matter and energy. Through this knowledge, he was able to project himself into the void between the two universes, and create a bridge between them.

“This knowledge is strange to me, Dragon,” Khalid said, shaking his head. “But I know that if I am to aid in this struggle, then I must learn all I can. I am willing and eager to do so, and I will live by your guidance.”

I know you will serve the Firstborn to the best of your abilities. And I know your determination is strong. Sit upon the throne, Khalid. You need not fear. I will make you whole again.

Khalid swallowed, mustering the courage to step onto the riser again. The stone felt warm and comforting this time, as if the Dragon’s spirit was infused within it. It calmed him as he stepped up and approached the throne, his bare feet absorbing the warmth as it spread throughout his body. He turned, placing his hands upon the armrests, and sighed. With one last look at the dark room around him, he sat, leaning back against the warm, black stone.

Within seconds, he fell into blackness.

 

Jodocus watched his apprentice, Farouk, gather herbs in the forest near Morduin. The former Jindala Captain seemed to enjoy the task, smiling and laughing to himself as he discovered many of the small plants that were detailed in the tome he carried. It was a book that Farouk cherished with all of his heart, and one that he never went anywhere without.

Jodocus had given him all the materials he would need to become a Druid; tomes, herbs, collection tools, and even a supply of minor spells that he would need for protection and healing. Druidism was a discipline that Farouk had longed for his whole life, having grown up in a land that discouraged anything that involved the natural world. It was not until Farouk had arrived in Eirenoch that he discovered his love for nature, and his wish to preserve it.

Jodocus had offered him this life after Farouk was injured in battle by a Defiler, an extra-dimensional creature that drew the life force from everything around it. Farouk, having rebelled against his master, The Lifegiver, led his men in battle against his former allies and the terrible beast that traveled with them. As a result, Farouk had been caught by the Defiler’s attack, and had lost much of his ability to fight. The injury had cost him his career as a warrior, but only served to encourage his love of living things. Jodocus sensed this love in him, and believed in his ancient heart that Farouk was meant to be a Druid.

He was right.

Farouk’s natural affinity for learning, and using the power of The Great Mother, was impressive. Never before had Jodocus sensed his level of ability in anyone he had ever met. This man, who came to Eirenoch to conquer, had turned out to be the greatest candidate for an apprentice that the old Druid could ever hope for. Farouk’s mastery of the discipline came quickly, and it was quite obvious that he would be an adept in no time.

BOOK: The Ascent (Book 2)
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