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The Shadow of Fate

By J.L. Scritchfield All Rights Reserved ©

Scifi / Fantasy

Blurb

In a world ravaged by Shadows everything hangs in the balance between oblivion and redemption. When whispers begin to haunt Alex’s dreams, he is led down from the Unspoken Mountains and onto the Old Road through the bones of long dead cities where he must search for answers. Confronted with an ancient artifact in the remnants of the old world, Alex must subject himself to ancient powers both great and twisted in order to answer the haunting voices in his mind. Only with the help of the very creators of the universe can Alex hope to restore balance to the world.

Prologue: The Time Before

The streets of Xia bustled with activity as the annual market opened for business. Performers and peddlers from all over the eastern coast had traveled in some cases thousands of miles to make a profit in the High Kingdom. From the top of his citadel, High King Xia IX adjusted the green gemmed silver crown he wore upon his head as he examined the busy the streets below.

“My king!” Queen Katherine, called to him for their quarters. “You need to hurry. We’ll be late for the opening ceremony and considering you must give the address…”

“I’m coming, my wife!” King Xia replied absently.

Something felt off about this year’s celebration. Something intangible he couldn’t put his finger on, but his intuition typically steered him right.

“My king?” The queen asked, joining him on the veranda. “What’s wrong?”

“Nothing, my queen.” King Xia answered, taking her hands and kissing her gently on the lips. “Just a chill.”

“Wear your cloak then, Michael. We can’t have you taking ill just as the tournament is set to begin.”

“I know, I know.” He said with a smile. “I’ll take my cloak.”

Without another word, the king and queen made their way through their quarters pausing only a moment for the king to grab his crimson cloak and to tie it about his neck. The moment they exited their room, they were joined by ten knights armored in pure white with golden trimmings. Each carried a spear and a sword at their side. With their processional in place, the monarchs strode regally down the hall into their throne room and took their places upon their lavish golden thrones, their clothing almost blending in to the red and gold decoration of their chairs.

“Sit.” The king said to the assembly, which had stood erect the moment he entered the room.

When everyone had seated, the king gestured to one his servants. The servant hurried forward with an electric sound amplification device and set it before the king. He tapped it twice with his finger and when he was certain it was working properly, he spoke.

“Friends. Family. Strangers from the distant cities. Thank you for joining us today on our first day of celebration. Know that our merriment is fuller because of your presence.”

The assembly applauded and the king held up his hands as if to receive their thanks.

“Today shall mark a momentous occasion for the future. For today shall be the day we remember, not as the last day of war, but as the first day of peace!”

Again, the assembly applauded and the king held up his hands.

“Although we have been at war for generations with our brethren in Center City and Rua, today we feast together, and today is the only day that matters. For the lives sacrificed on the altar of war, we pray mercy. May the Presence be with you-”

A cold shiver ran down the king’s spine. He looked around suddenly trying to catch a glimpse of what was amiss. The crowd sat in confused anticipation of his next words.

“Until the end of time!” Queen Katherine finished, standing beside him and taking his hand.

The applause erupted as the assembly stood to their feet.

“What was that?” Katherine asked through the side of her mouth.

“Something is wrong, my queen. I must see what it is.”

Without another word, King Xia strode back through the side entrance of the throne room catching his royal guard unaware.

“My liege!” One of his knights called after him. “Wait!”

Before the lone knight could utter a single word, the king turned a corner and was out of sight.

“Stay with the queen!” The knight ordered, as she rushed after the king.

The king was as quick and agile as any warrior on the Planet, and the knight knew she only had a few moments before following him would be futile. The knight rounded the corner just in time to see the king leap out a window.

“Damn it all.” She cursed, dropping her spear and sprinting.

When she reached the window, a drape hung limply against the side of the castle leading to the floor below.

This better hold true. She thought as she slipped over the edge of the window and down the drape. A few stitches snapped as she committed her weight, but it held firm as she swung down into the floor below. Directly in front of her, King Xia stood hunched in front of a door his finger pressed to his lips.

“What is going on?” She whispered hoarsely.

“Quiet, Rae Shel.” The king whispered back through slit teeth. “Listen.”

Crouching down beside him, Rae Shel pressed her ear to the door. She could hear voices within but couldn’t make out what they were saying through her helmet. Reluctantly, she took it off letting her curly brown hair fall to her shoulders. Day and sure were the only words she was able to make out before she heard footsteps. Clumsily, she tried to fix her helmet and hide as they drew closer to the door. Once her helmet was back in place, however, she realized the king had just stood to his feet. The door swung open to two surprised men from Center City, their drab gray clothing giving them away.

“Lord Carin and Low-Lord Bharr. I noticed your absence from the assembly and decided to welcome you personally.” The king spoke pointedly; making sure his subtext was caught.

“Xia!” The older man, Carin said smoothly. “How nice to see you! And where is your lovely wife and son this morning?”

“What were you discussing, Carin?”

“Cutting straight to the point, I see.” Carin said with a grin.

“It’s none of your business anyway.” Bharr added trying to walk past the king.

“But it is.” Xia stated, barring his way. “My kingdom. My business.”

“What are you two plann-” An explosion tore through the castle interrupting his words and sending the three men to the floor.

Bharr kicked the king in the face as he scrambled to the nearest door and fled. Blood poured down the king’s face onto his gold leather jerkin as he stood to his feet and dragged Carin up the wall to face him.

“What the hell was that?” The king asked, spittle mixed with blood flecking Carin’s maniacal face.

Carin gave no response. He just laughed. The king punched him in the stomach, feeling ribs snap as he did, but the man continued laughing. With one final punch, Carin fell unconscious to the floor. Rae Shel staggered over to the king as he wiped his nose on his sleeve.

“Your majesty, I’m sorry. I-”

“There’s no time for apologies, Lady Shel. You need to run. Take your family and run.”

“I don’t-”

“You don’t know what they’ve done!”

Screaming rang through the castle splitting through the marble like fire until the every part echoed the shrieks of the dying.

“We need to fight!”

“There is no fighting this, Rae! Now run!” King Xia screamed pushing her toward the door.

The moment her back was turned, King Xia drew his golden sword from its sheath. It was four feet long from pommel to point with diamond encrusted quillons. It caught the light from every side and reflected it at every angle. No sooner than he had drawn his sword a rush of black insect-like Shadows flooded down the hall shrieking as the light from his sword burned them.

“Katherine!” The King shouted as he rushed after the creatures, his sword burning with the yellow florescence of the morning Sun.

So long as his sword remained in the light, the creatures fled and he guided them out of the hall and back toward the throne room. When he arrived, the room was unrecognizable. The lavish interior had been turned into a blood-soaked nightmare with destruction as far as the eye could see. The queen stood surrounded by three blood soaked knights. The king was unsure if the blood was theirs or hers.

“Katherine!” He called again.

She looked to him weakly through the legs of one of the knights. The Shadow creatures continued to shriek as he ran toward her, handing his sword to one of the knights. Like the knights, she was covered in blood and looked pale.

“Are you hurt?” He asked, unable to find a wound.

“Just faint.” She replied. “Michael, what’s happening?”

“I don’t know how…”

“What is it?” She asked.

Before he could answer, a swarm of Shadows overtook the three knights from behind and crashed into the King and Queen. Before they could scream, they were dragged through the floor leaving behind King Xia’s golden sword shattered in two at the hilt. Screams of terror filled the streets and alleys of the city for hours. When they finally stopped, the only sound in all of Xia was the faint mourning of the few survivors watching in heartbreak as the Shadows disappeared as quickly as they came.


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