Free Book Excerpt - Chapter Nine of The Slayarians - Beyond the Memory of Man by J.M Barnes
A little intro is in order
I thought it would be fun to put an excerpt of my very first novel here on hubpages since I mentioned it on certain hubs. Particularly on Self Editing and Do you know if you are a good writer? There I told the story of how I got my first brutally honest critique from Elaine Cunningham, one of the greatest lady writers anywhere, and how it affected me as a writer.
This is book one to a trilogy written over a decade ago. I have written four novels since then and am trying hard to get published but in retrospect I find it more important that my books are actually read before I kick the bucket. If you like please feel free to critique or comment on this excerpt and if you would like to be a fan and read more you can find the link to this free downloadable novel on my profile page. If nothing else I hope you enjoy the read.
A DARKER PLACE
Somewhere other than Earth a creature of great power and intense evil laughed. Standing ten feet tall upon a serpentine lower half with scales the color of ash, his presence alone produced an aura of fear. Built like a gangly man his brows were accented by two stubby horns that were the color of blood. His eyes shined a malicious yellow while oversharp features presented a diabolical visage.
He stood looking over a bubbling pool that shimmered with the image of four hardy adventurers who had foolishly entered his realm. Surely they knew not what they’d done so he merely watched as one after the other they met his denizens and fought them. Three times he was sure one would perish but one among them possessed some sort of healing agent that saved them. Indeed the one whose mind was closed to him, from this distance at least, seemed somehow familiar. Was it the feral joy he revealed every time he slew a dark creature of the Abyss or was it his appearance that struck as something familiar? The entity had lived countless eons so would sometimes take days to recall a particular memory. Still he remembered everything quite clearly eventually. He would be patient, surely these mortals could not slay every denizen of this kingdom in the Abyss.
This particular kingdom was one of the largest and that was because this creature was one of the oldest and most cunning of demon lords. So cunning that his status had climbed well beyond many more powerful lords whom were not so cunning. Indeed he often dealt with evil gods of every pantheon and had often garnered their support when an opposing lord sought to throw him down.
Four mortals were of little concern for one so connected except for perhaps amusement. He often did in fact enjoy involving himself in human affairs in particular. Nothing satisfied him more than the turning of a servant of good to the darker ways of his kind. How he would laugh as a druid of Gaea would slay newborn children in her name yet grant the pure souls to him. Parents willingly brought the trusted druidess their beloved children thinking their sacrifice would bring them success and good fortune. Instead only sorrow and guilt would find them and kill them from within.
He had many names, known in a hundred cultures and there were few beings and fewer things he feared. His countenance haunted children’s nights and adults would jump at shadows, never forgetting their nightmares. Yes, he would enjoy this small entertainment while it lasted, for some time soon he would have much more to do. The last century on Earth had been a prosperous one for the cults of evil gods and demons alike. Also, the forces of good had been dealt a mighty blow. The backbone of mortal defense against demon kind was defeated and annihilated. It was due to the cohesion between his brethren’s forces and those of the evil gods that it was accomplished. No such union had ever occurred before since those very same forces often warred amongst themselves more than against the forces of good.
For ages uncounted Gaea’s children and their mortal brood were the thorn in the side of evil alliances and the poison in their wine. Always, no matter what pawns were involved, the thrice damned Demonslayers would cut down the leaders and liaisons between planes. That would never occur again since his kind had been victorious and only awaited the word of the evil gods before they would swarm the rest of Earth’s kingdoms. No more would the soft mortals take precedence over their own concerns. War would once again rage across the Earth where all denizens of all the dark dimensions would meet.
That though would not occur for some time yet for the evil gods enjoyed their mortal pawns and they desired time to corrupt the rest of Earth’s people to evil. Then they would use the twisted mortal fodder in a war so grand in scale only the gods themselves could comprehend it.
So, he would wait and watch. With the Scepter of Fire in his hands, and the Demonslayers extinct, waiting would not be so bad.
Darkon hadn’t been pleased since they set foot in that foul place. The arid, dark, rock covered terrain was bound to maim one of them. They had been forced to retreat already, after two days journey, several times. Two of those times they had simply been walking across the land when a quartet of demons appeared out of nowhere. Immediately Galen and Darkon charged the things.
Darkon was forced to hastily explain to his comrades that demons exuded a level of fear according to their power. They had to learn that the fear was unreasonable and the demons were ordinary foes that could easily be destroyed. That worked to some measure but the demons proved that they were not ordinary in the least. Their forms ranged from all kinds of deviations and outright impossibilities. The more intelligent the demon, it seemed, the more humanoid its physical form but more fearsome its aura.
Darkon quickly learned what it truly was to be a Demonslayer. The mere presence of demons made his muscles spasm and bulge as his adrenaline coursed swiftly through his veins. As he formed the sword that was his arm he saw that it seemed to change its shape of its own volition. Whether it changed due to the power of the demonic foe or the stress and danger of a particular situation he did not know for sure. Still, even with his added ability and his friends’ bravery they had sustained three severe injuries. The first was a gash across Galen’s face that revealed the entire right side of the inside of his mouth. The prince had been so incensed that he did not even acknowledge the wound until Sevele gasped in shock. Luckily the salve of Noor was capable of handling such a wound and it did so without leaving a scar. The other major wounds had been sustained by Sevele alone. With great agitation Darkon would apply the salve to her, all the while he recited to her that she had been drifting too close to his battle and that she must realize that he intended to take on the strongest of the demons due to his inherent powers against them.
Black clouds moved at a snail’s pace and no wind blew. On the horizon a violet sun was setting but it never caused a change in the clammy, dungeon like air. As the sky darkened Graton brought forth his light bearing spear for no stars shined in this night sky. There were no trees, only some weeds and a few areas had thorny black bushes. Once, Sevele saw such a bush slowly drinking the blood from a still living, entrapped cat-like creature that must have gotten too close. After that, none of the four ventured near the abominations again.
Darkon was beginning to think there was no end to this wasteland when a line of what looked like trees appeared on the darkening horizon. They already knew they could not rest during the night for they had found that the time to do so was in the early morning when the demons were less active. They had to keep moving to avoid being ambushed during the complete blackness and also avoid roving bands of the foul abyssal denizens. So far their tactics had not been very successful for they often stumbled across a lone demon or even a pair. Darkon knew that no more than two could get along at once without the proper motivation and leadership. Both times they’d met four of the beasts there had been a progressive thinking leader. As long as they avoided the armies of the pit they would survive, that is if they didn’t starve. For nothing in the Abyss seemed to be edible to mortals.
As time passed and they knew the tree line they had sighted was within a two mile distance they rested for a time. Graton's spear served as the only light they could see by but it was also a beacon to the native creatures that someone was passing through. Talking quietly they readied their gear for the mission ahead. They knew that soon they should be finding a keep Merleptus had said would be three days journey. Though the mage had said nothing about any forest Darkon trusted his direction sense. He had found that he truly did not care what the mages purposes were as long as he was rewarded for his efforts. The gold the mage had promised would be useful in helping him facilitate the finding of his lost brethren and begin, if necessary, the rebuilding of a city. Secretly he often fostered the vision of himself and the beautiful Sevele at peace and alone with nothing but children to tend to and enjoy.
He would not voice those thoughts though for Darkon the Demonslayer knew enough about loss to not open his heart in so dangerous an environment. He was too aware of the fact that any one of them could be slain at any time. He watched as Sevele readied her many daggers and small, sharp missiles. Her graceful movements were so elven and her eyes so bright and fanciful. He knew then the feeling that stormed through his heart but would not, could not, proclaim it. It would hurt so much more, he thought, to tell her then lose her. Better not to tell her anything in case he perished and she would perhaps be as forlorn, for he knew well enough the love she felt for him. She had proclaimed it during the group’s sojourn near Havoctown. He knew she would stay with him now no matter what, and loved her more for it, though a small part of him screamed in denial, or was it rage?
He almost felt that at any moment he might run from her screaming. No pain was greater than that of losing one you love so dear. Darkon had lost two pairs of parents, not to mention an entire city worth of his people. He was adamant in that he would not follow his emotions. He swore to resist this painful direction his heart had taken him in, at least not yet.
Leaving under some rocks extra gear they need not carry Graton took the lead, staying twenty steps ahead of the group. Traveling the two miles to what they assumed was a tree line they began to feel something before they saw it. At first there was a twinge of paranoia as their minds went through several horrific scenarios. Then as they grew ever closer the twinge became actual fear and Darkon had to reassure his friends just to convince them to continue onward. Eventually pure terror filled each of their hearts, including his own. It was the first time he had been affected by the aura of the demons, but was it demons?
They peered into the impenetrable darkness ahead and inched forward always knowing they moved toward danger but were too entranced to do otherwise. Darkon, Galen and Sevele waited with bated breath as Graton slowed to within ten steps of them for the light to reach the source of the dread. Already in their minds they expected dead black trees, gnarled and twisted into vile facsimiles of true life and among them some mighty demon that allowed no mortal to pass alive.
Then, as Graton stood frozen the others drew abreast of him and gaped in horror. While Darkon felt only a facsimile of the burning tingle throughout his spine and out through his muscles that aided him in battle against his eternal enemy. The hard warrior had only felt this new sensation since arriving here in the Abyss, during those times he had faced demons. As a Demonslayer this was the normal reaction when facing his peoples hated foes but now it seemed tempered in that he could actually sense that whatever it was that was waiting beyond the blackness was not demonic in nature. Every other time he had prepared for battle and engaged the enemy demons, yet now it was as if his body put him on notice that he may not need the extra help now, but he soon might.
Thus it was with trepidation that Darkon nodded when Graton said, “Demons, an army of them!”
This is book two, do not buy this since I will be rereleasing this soon for a much lower price as a download.
There were hundreds and hundreds of demonic beings standing in rigid formation as if prepared to march on an opposing land, but these beings were more uniform than the chaotic denizens of the Abyss that the four companions had seen so far. There was row after row of creatures with rusty red to coal black skin tones and small black horns that seemed to take the same shape for every separate unit. Clearly there were designated companies that bore specific weapon types and special duties.
Standing in front of the army was a nine foot tall, blood red skinned, muscle bound overlord. He carried a whip in one hand and a sword that was so huge in the other that only the largest of humans could have wielded it and then only two handed. It was clad in nothing but leather breaches and its face was bestial compared to its relatively humanoid body. Large ram horns grew from the back of his head and curved forward like a pair of scorpion’s tails prepared to strike. Tusk like teeth protruded straight from his mouth several inches away from his sneering lips. The most disconcerting thing though was his stare. His eyes had no pupils and resembled solid black entropy and when he called for attention fire leapt from those eyes to form a half halo around his head. This they discovered occurred whenever he spoke.
Truly horrified the companions would surely have run away, if not for the fact that they were gripped with fear and stunned into immobility. Escape of course would have been unlikely so Darkon silently thanked Throngaer, the Demonslayer God of storms and lord over emotion, for the fear that stopped them from fleeing. They therefore only stood and waited for the great creature to speak and condemn them to their fates. As it did so they instinctively flinched expecting explosive anger announcing their immediate deaths. Instead, the frightening, diabolical thing calmly snarled through its mouthful of sharp teeth.
“Greetings, travelers, it appears we have happened upon each other in the dark. I am the general of this mighty force and I must admit that I am surprised to see the likes of you four here in the Abyss.”
Finished speaking he seemed to be awaiting a reply, a reply that was not coming as the four shocked mortals could only stare in awe and fear. The general seemed amused at this and took no offense at all. In fact he was reassured by it. It had been a long time since Dreunivor Tivnilve’ had encountered mortals. Darkon was glad that the thing seemed willing to talk and he was now almost positive this was no demon. Evil incarnate, perhaps, but something other than demon. Yet still the bubbling warmth he felt had not abated.
Finally Darkon found the words he could not find a moment ago, “I am Darkon the Demonslayer and these are my friends, we meant no disrespect or harm to you.”
The general’s eyes widened at this for he had thought he was going to be forced to march his army right over the four befuddled mortals. Then to find one was a Demonslayer! What an eventful day this was turning out to be.
Seeming unsurprised the creature spoke calmly and confidently. “Good then, I chose the correct dialect, let us converse for a moment, Demonslayer.”
Sheathing his great sword the towering general rested on one knee upon the ground while signaling to his lieutenants to tell the troops to rest as well. At once after the order was relayed, the great horde relaxed. The clamor was enormous as hundreds set down weapons and sat down at once. Waiting several minutes before the noise decreased the four companions began to relax as well. After Darkon's reassurances they began to realize that the situation was not nearly as dire as it could have been. If these were demons, they knew they’d be filling bellies right now. Only Galen would not sit and rest, swearing he would not be slain without at least one swing of his magical blade. Dreunivor paid the mortal no mind, understanding the affect his presence must have had on the mentally weak creatures.
“Now, where was I?” The creature began. “Ah, of course! Understand Darkon, the first question I must ask is an obvious one. What are four mortals doing traveling the Abyss so openly?”
By the light brushing he felt in his mind Darkon knew this being was very skilled in the mindflow. Having only just regained his abilities he still had only a limited level of understanding and he did not yet know that he could easily block the general’s mental intrusions. He did suspect that any lies he told would be seen through and he feared those lies may be seen as an affront. So, he did the safest thing he could, he told the absolute truth. Why they were there, where they were headed and who they all were. His friends were gaping by the end of his telling, shocked that he had barely spared an ounce of their time together. The general was satisfied though, for he chuckled through much of it and gave condolences when necessary. Every bit was followed by a swift mind sweep that told the general what Darkon declined to mention, such as their pasts and how they became friends and their dreams and desires. Only the Demonslayer’s mind proved any challenge to the creature’s power even though he could not resist, being inexperienced as he was.
To all their credit they took this treatment quite well and merely looked to the son of the Black Tiger Clan, hoping he chose his next words carefully. Before he could continue the general abruptly stood and stared off into the darkness. Darkon began to ask him what was wrong but something caught his words before they left his throat.
Feeling then the touch of the mindflow he heard the mental voice of the huge warrior say, “Do not speak aloud, I sense an organized party of demons passing by about two miles away. Organized may be a strong word, more like a pack of wild beasts perhaps?”
Darkon returned, “Will you attack them? Is that why you’re here? Exactly what do I call your people anyway?”
He then persisted for he sensed the general was about to leave. Instead of answering in words the great red skinned creature answered all at once with images. Images were a much faster way to exchange knowledge and understanding and indeed in mere moments Darkon learned much more than he initially requested.
First he learned how long, long ago, when Earth was covered in rivers of fire the general’s people were merely one among demon kind and a handful of other diabolical races. Together they had dwelt on Earth serving their masters, the elder gods. The elders each had their own contingent of these creatures and used them to fight their battles for them. When a disagreement occurred between two elders, instead of fighting personally which would have destroyed the still developing planet, they conducted small wars. At first the wars settled everything, until elders like Set and Tiamat began to ignore the rules that had been set down. They had changed their contingents to suit themselves and further augmented their own ability to win the wars. Soon every elder god followed suit and thus the differences between the denizens of all the dark planes were pronounced. Demons were one of these products and the general’s people, the devils, were another. The enmity between them stemmed from the two elders who created them so long ago, thus they were bred for the purpose of killing each other. Both masters were now long gone from these realms but the creatures could not deviate from their very natures. They were programmed genetically to battle until the final day.
All of this Darkon soaked in and more, he also sensed the respect the devils had for his own kind, the Demonslayers, and the surprise the devil master had felt upon meeting him. The devil apparently was under the impression that the Demonslayers had been destroyed.
At that final thought the creature signaled to his lieutenants and began the preparations to leave. As the friends looked on an opening was made directly through the rigid lines of the devil army leaving room for the four adventurers. As Darkon and his friends walked slowly and carefully between the lines of soldiers, many of the devils seemed to contemplate ripping the throats from the presumptuous mortals. Still none followed through for they all feared the general and his cruel whip.
Sensing the building tension among the devil ranks Darkon did what a priest once told him never to do, he removed his headband. He then pledged to himself that never again would he conceal his proud mark while away from the lands of men. The devils that saw his mark broke into whispers and soon the entire army knew a Demonslayer still lived. No more thoughts of killing occurred now, only respect and what was most incredulous coming from devils, sympathy.
As the ten minutes needed to pass through the ranks went by and they left the army some steps behind, one and all let out a breath of relief.
Galen more than any it seemed realized how close they had come to a horrible end, yet it was he who relaxed enough to place an arm around Darkon's shoulder and say, “ I told Graton you were useful for something! I just didn’t know what.”
Everyone laughed at that, relaxing more as the sound of marching devils drifted to silence. They also found comfort in that the army had come from the direction they were heading in and surely any demons they had come across had been slain. Now, only the true destination lay ahead.