Authors: Steven A. Tolle
Tags: #Teen & Young Adult, #Science Fiction & Fantasy, #Fantasy, #Sword & Sorcery
THE ETERNAL DARKNESS
(Book 3 of the Jake Thomas Trilogy)
Copyright ©2014 Steven A. Tolle
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form, physical or digital, without the express written permission of the author.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
1017 L Street, #532
Sacramento, CA 95814
Cover by Roy Migabon
Maps by Cleta Gidcumb
I must again thank my friends and family for all of their support and encouragement, especially my beautiful wife, Emily, who, with good grace, put up with the long hours while I worked to complete this book.
My deepest thanks to all of you who took a chance on an unknown author, overlooking his initial stumbles, and honored me with your support.
To those who reject the Darkness
and embrace the Light
Looking down at her, Jake saw that she did not respond to his soft call. She was kneeling near the remains of Daca. He stepped closer and knelt next to her. He saw the tears on her cheeks, reflecting the light of the sword and his own shining form. He softly laid his hand on her shoulder.
"We need to start moving," he said gently.
Hailyn nodded sadly, wiping away the tears. “I knew he should not have come,” she said brokenly.
“I’m sorry that he died, but I don’t know what would have happened if he had not attacked Bruce,” he said sympathetically. “He probably saved my life.”
“I will always remember him for that,” Hailyn said, sniffling. She gave herself a little shake, and then stood. Jake rose as well, his hand still on her shoulder.
“Can you watch over Anale?” he whispered, glancing over at the girl that Bruce brought. He had only gotten her name before he had turned to Hailyn. “I will need to focus on the demons as we escape.”
“Yes, Jake,” Hailyn said, giving him a wane smile. “I will keep her safe.”
Nodding, Jake went over to the girl. “Anale, we are leaving now. You need to stay next to Hailyn. She will make sure you are protected. Do you understand?”
The girl nodded and clutched Hailyn’s arm when she offered it. Hailyn gently touched her forehead, her power suddenly radiating, and sent a surge of healing into her. The girl shuddered, and then tears sprang from her eyes. Hailyn whispered reassurances to her as Jake turned to leave.
He brought up the sword, its blade glowing faintly. He led the girls back the way he and Hailyn had come. Pausing at the narrow passage, he listened for any sounds of demons. Rather than take chances, he sent a blazingly bright blast of his magic, its power magnified by the sword, racing down the passage. He heard the sounds of demons exploding into ash.
With a quick look back at Hailyn, he unleashed another surge of sapphire might down the opening, and then raced after it. He sensed Hailyn and Anale behind him, trying to keep up. When he reached the end of the passage, he leapt out into the connecting hallway and launched his magic, sending it radiating out in all directions.
As he landed and spun around, he saw several Imps fall to his power. Several feet away, two of the red male demons were staggering back, their forms smoking. They separated, trying to come at Jake from two sides.
He did not hesitate. He sent a bolt of his power into one, sending it tumbling away. He closed the distance with the other one, deflecting its dark magic as he moved. As soon as he was close enough, he swung the sword. The sword sliced into the demon, cutting into its mid-section, right under the ribs. The demon screamed as the blade flared intensely. It shuddered, and then exploded into ash, the concussion driving Jake back.
Just as he caught his balance, he was struck by the other demon’s power as it rose from the floor. The impact knocked him into the corridor wall, but his armor absorbed most of the impact. He sent a blast of azure might back at the demon, which leapt away and deflected the power. Jake righted himself, bringing the sword up and moving forward.
The demon, its cruel face wary, fixed its focus on Jake as it approached. It never saw Hailyn emerge into the corridor, her form gleaming golden-white and the runes on the bracelet shining brightly. She sent a blaze of clerics’ fire into the demon. The demon was unprepared for the assault and her power tore through it. Its form seemed to ignite for a moment, and then it collapsed noisily into ash.
Once they were sure that no other demons were nearby, Hailyn coaxed Anale into the corridor and nodded to Jake. He turned and led the small party back the way they had come in, retracing their steps. He concentrated both his sight and hearing, desperately seeking any signs of approaching demons.
Despite his caution, they ran into several other groups of demons as they made their way back towards the hidden door that brought them in. With Hailyn shielding Anale from harm, Jake took the lead in fighting them, the sword making him greater than the demons that opposed him. Hailyn kept the demons from getting behind him, attacking any that slipped past his magic. Despite the odds, they fought their way through the demons, destroying them or sending the survivors fleeing.
They finally reached the secret door, quickly exiting the fortress and going back out into the swirling snow and wind. After all of the exertions from the fighting, Jake’s form steamed in the cold. Sharing a quick look, both Jake and Hailyn released their power to hide their escape. They moved back towards the defile they had climbed with only the now-faint glow of the sword lighting the way. Soon, the fortress was lost in the darkness and snow flurries.
They found the defile in dark of the night and slowly made their way down. The cold, dark stones were slick from the snow, sending them sliding down several times. With the sword in one hand, Jake was hard-pressed to keep his footing. Despite the challenges, they made it to the bottom without any serious injury.
They quickly made their way to where they left the horses. Jake patted Dontas as the horse nudged him with its head as he passed. He pulled out a waterskin and drank deeply, the water cold and bracing. He handed it to Hailyn as he did a quick check of the horses.
After he finished, he went over to where Hailyn was standing with Anale. “We need to continue on. I don’t want to stay this close to the fortress,” he said quietly to Hailyn. “We will have to lead the horses down. Can you manage it with Anale?”
“I can mange, Jake,” she replied confidently.
Nodding, Jake went back to make sure the packhorse was tied off to Dontas, and then handed Hailyn the reins to her horse. With the sword in one hand and Dontas’ reins in the other, Jake headed off towards the path that had brought them up.
They found the cave by chance.
They had led the horses down the pass, finally reaching more level ground so they could ride. Jake had checked the packhorse’s reins as Anale climbed up behind Hailyn on her horse. Once he was on Dontas, he and Hailyn had a quick discussion on what direction they should head.
“I don’t think we should return the way we came,” Hailyn said as she leaned close to Jake to be heard over the wind blowing through the cracks and crevices of the surrounding mountains. “Once they get organized, the demons will be hunting us. We should head to the southeast, the most direct path to the plains of Beragan. We will not find any help in the valley, but we may find some if we can make the plains.”
Jake mulled it over as he pulled his cloak tighter against the cold. He was more comfortable backtracking since he had at least a familiarity with the land, but what Hailyn said made sense as well. They needed to get the sword to Tomaris as quickly and safely as they could manage.
“I agree,” Jake said. He gave her hand a quick squeeze before he headed in what he hoped was a southerly direction.
The darkness of the night and the wind-swept snow made it a difficult ride, even with the soft glow of the sword. Jake was forced to keep the pace at a slow walk as he struggled to see the way ahead. Even with his caution, he had almost ridden off the path into a steep ravine. The path had curved away to the left, leaving only empty space ahead, and it was Dontas’ instincts that stopped them from going over.
His heart suddenly pounding and cursing under his breath, Jake slid out of his saddle. He went back to Hailyn.
“I will need to lead the horses,” he told her. “Keep the pack horse in sight.”
“Be careful, Jake,” she replied slowly. In the light of the sword, he could see that she was fighting sleep, her use of power catching up with her.
“Are you going to be all right?” he asked.
“I am just tired,” she said with a feeble smile. “I can stay awake.”
“We can’t go all night, but I want to get some more distance between us and the fortress before we stop,” he stated. “Maybe we can find somewhere that has some shelter from the wind.”
Turning back, Jake took Dontas’ reins in his left hand while he kept the sword in his right. Using the sword to light the path, he started forward.
He lost track of time as he fought to keep his footing on the slick stone while scanning the surrounding rocks for any sign of movement in the limited visibility. As he continued forward, the wind whipped around his face and, even with the hood of his cloak up, the cold seemed to sink into his bones. Just when he thought he could not stand it any longer, the sword gave a quick flare and a surge of heat spread through his body, cutting the cold.