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A Preview of The Stone of Power: Book 2

April 4, 2012

I am working on The Stone of Power: Ashandor Chronicles – Book 2, and here is a preview in the form of the prologue that I included at the end of The One Rider.  I hope you enjoy it enough to share it with your friends.  I am hoping to launch The Stone of Power around the middle of May, so check back often. If you would like to purchase The One Rider: Ashandor Chronicles – Book 1, it is available at the Amazon Kindle Store or click here.

The Stone of Power

by Daryl J. Yearwood

Prologue

“I am Krael, first-born of the first clan.”

                                    -from The Book of Sar

Waves pounded the barrier rocks and crashed onto the shore depositing broken crates, ship’s stores, and bodies upon the sand. Pieces of wood from the splintered ship’s hull littered the beach. Massive timbers snapped by the force of the pounding waves were tossed on the sand like children’s toys. Four of the crew members had gotten tangled in the sail. Their bodies bobbed under the heavy canvas that had drowned them. Others succumbed to the pounding surf. Dozens of bodies filled the surging waters, bumping and tumbling in the rolling waves.

The storm had overtaken them with little warning, and the ship floundered for three days at the mercy of howling winds. The ship’s final few moments were spent struggling against the violent breakup as the storm repeatedly threw her against the reef until her back was broken and her belly ripped open. The frigid, wind-whipped waters killed most of the passengers and crew. Only a handful of survivors made it to the safety of dry land.

Seven elves sat around the small fire in silence. The tragedy of their loss was still fresh on their minds. They were the only survivors of the wreck of the Sinhoan, the ship that was to take eighty-five clan dignitaries to the Fabled City for the annual war council. All of the eighty plus bodies of crew and clan that they could find had been recovered, and now the survivors warmed themselves by the fire while their clothes dried. No one was eager to begin the death rituals with so many bodies to consecrate.

“Maybe we should perform a mass ritual,” offered Sar of Clan Noh. He looked at the others for support.

The two female elves shivered in the cold breeze blowing off the ocean. The fire was too small to offer much warmth. Soh and Gos were sisters—both of Clan Tae. They kept their heads down and dared not interfere in the affairs of ritual. They knew their place and avoided eye contact with the warriors.

“Does that fit the law?” asked the ship’s helmsman. Poh of Clan Far had broken his arm against the rocks. He held it still with his good hand in an attempt to ease the pain. The grimace that covered his face distorted his clan markings and caused the dark lines that crossed his features to contort as his muscles reacted to the pain. “Can we do that?”

“Of course we can,” replied Sar. “These are extreme circumstances. Our survival is the most important thing. We can’t waste energy attending to so many losses. We must protect our own lives.”

“The rituals must be kept to the law,” complained Bur of Clan Lor. A fit of coughing overtook him. Bright pink blood gathered at the corners of his mouth. The black markings of Clan Lor ran perpendicular to his features, and the blood spilled over the design, changing its contours. “We must follow the law,” he repeated, his voice a mere whisper.

“Then ask the law,” said Sar. He pointed to an elf sitting apart from the others. “Ask him what we are to do.”

Krael sat cradling the head of his wife in his lap. Claer had nearly drowned in the pounding surf and Krael comforted her as she rested.

“Well,” snapped Bur. “What does the law say?”

“Burn them,” answered Krael without looking up. His voice was cold and distant. “Burn them and send them to the other side the way that they died—all as one.”

“Yes,” agreed Bur. “Yes. Burn them.” His voice raised in excitement. “Maybe a ship will see the smoke, and we will be rescued.”

Krael turned his head to face the others. “There will be no ships. There will be no rescue.”

“Of course there will be ships,” interrupted Bur. “When we do not arrive at the council, they will send out ships to look for us.”

“No,” said Krael. “Our mission was not sanctioned lest we fail and bring a bad light to the council. No one knew we were going, so there will be none to miss us. Besides, we were blown off course for three days. They would not know where to look. No,” he repeated. “We are on our own.” He turned back to his wife and gently ran his fingers through her hair. “We must find a passage inland and set up shelter from the coming winter.” Krael looked at the sheer face of the mountains that rose out of the sand and towered into the clouds. His voice softened. “Then we must learn to love our new home.”

Bur jumped to his feet. “I do not want to learn to love this place. You are wrong,” he shouted. “They will come!” He coughed again and red flecks covered his hand. Bur tried to look away, but Krael’s eyes would not allow him to turn.

“I am Krael of Clan Roh.” The timbre of his voice was different now and Bur took a step back as Krael continued. “I am the first-born of the first clan. I am the law that lives and breathes. It is I, Krael the Just, who decides right and wrong. It is I, Krael the Horrible, who decides life and death. It is I, Krael the Invincible, who deals vengeance. In three thousand years, I have never been wrong, and none who have accused me have lived.” Krael’s clan markings stood out in sharp contrast to his flushed face. Bur’s legs nearly failed him under the ancient elf’s gaze. “The only reason I do not kill you for your insolence is because you will not survive this day. Your life is flowing out as you stand there. You, Bur of Clan Lor, are already dead, and it shall be as though you never were. The law has spoken.” Krael turned back to his wife and placed his right hand on her cheek. His left hand gripped the hilt of his dagger under the cover of his wife’s body as he waited to see what Bur would do next. Claer looked at her husband and smiled. Krael brushed the sand from her chin and returned her smile. Claer screamed. A confused look covered Krael’s face as a dark shadow quickly fell over them. He looked up in time to see a massive shape plummet from the sky. It landed on Bur with a sickening thud.

The monster stood with outstretched wings of skin covering a structure of thin bones. The body was covered in thick scales of deep green, and its long neck ended in a horrible head lined in spikes from between its eyes to the top of its head. The gaping jaws were filled with teeth as long as a short sword. Its neck snapped and the head shot out, crushing Poh of Clan Far in its powerful jaws.

Krael was the first to react. He leapt to his feet and charged with his dagger drawn. The huge beast butted Krael with its head, the body of Poh still hanging limply from its jaws. The crack of breaking bones split the air as Krael flew through the sky, landing in a heap on the hard sand.

A second beast landed on the beach and began to tear at the bodies that had been recovered from the shipwreck. The surviving elves scurried to find cover in the trees between the beach and the base of the mountains. Krael struggled to his feet and staggered to join the others.

“There!” shouted Sar. The elves turned to see a cave set into the face of the mountain. They raced for the opening as the first monster flapped its wings and launched itself through the air toward them. Krael was the last to make it into the dark recess of the cave just as the massive creature slammed its shoulders against the rock sides—its neck snaking into the opening—monstrous jaws snapping at its prey. The elves scampered farther back into the shadows and cowered at the sight of the bloody teeth slashing wildly in their direction.

The monster soon gave up and returned to Bur of Clan Lor. It held the body down with its foot and tore at the flesh—swallowing in large gulps. The other creature was feasting on those killed in the shipwreck.

Krael and the other elves sat in stunned silence as they listened to the horrifying crack of bones and the tearing of flesh that reverberated off of the cave walls—made more terrible by the echoes that magnified and multiplied the sounds of carnage.

“Dragons,” said Krael, his voice soft and almost lifeless. “I have seen the drawings, and those things look like the dragons of the old myths brought back by sailors who had lost their way.”

“Those are just tales to scare small ones,” said Sar. “Dragons are not real.”

“They look real enough to me,” whispered Gos. Her face was pale and her voice shook. “What are we going to do?”

“We can’t stay here,” said Sar. “We’ll have to wait for them to leave. Then we can try to find a passage to the interior.”

“They will not leave,” said Krael. “The old stories say that once they have tasted blood, they will not give up until they have taken their prey.”

“Well, we cannot stay here forever,” said Soh. “And I am not going back out there.” The two sisters were shivering in the cold dampness of the cave.

“You are right. We cannot stay in here forever,” repeated Sar of Clan Noh. “We must try to find a way inland. The beach is too exposed. There must be a forest farther in where we can build shelter and take refuge.” He pointed out of the cave. “These beasts will not be able to attack us in the protection of a forest.”

“Sar is right,” said Krael. “You must try to find a passage.”

“What do you mean, ‘you’?” asked Sar.

“I am not coming,” replied Krael. “The beast has killed me.” Bright red foam filled the corners of his mouth. “That was a mighty blow. I am broken.” Krael coughed, and blood flowed from his nose. “You must find a way and make it to safety.”

“I cannot leave you,” said Sar. “You are the first-born of the first clan. I will not go without you.”

“You must,” replied Krael. “You will,” he said more firmly. “The Law has spoken and it will be done.” He coughed again and shuddered under the pain. “A wind draws through to the back of this place. If there is a way out for the wind, there may be a way out for you. Take the women and go.”

“I stay with my husband,” said Claer. “His fate is my fate.”

Krael nodded and took Claer’s hand. She laid her head on his shoulder and closed her eyes. Krael tore a piece from his tunic and tossed it to Sar. “Here. Make a torch. It is soaked in fine oils and should burn for a long time.”

Sar wrapped the cloth around the end of a stick and struck a spark onto the oil soaked material. The cloth caught. Sar blew gently to fan the glowing ember into a small flame. The flame spread quickly and was soon burning bright. Smoke blew back into the cave on the air currents.

Without turning back, Sar led the two girls farther into the cave. They quickly disappeared—their feeble light swallowed by the darkness. Krael and Claer sat and listened to the sounds of feeding that reverberated in the darkening cave.

“Why did you not give him the medallion?” she asked.

“It was for me alone to bear the burden of the prize,” answered Krael. “If they make it to safety, they should be free to live their own lives. They do not need a leader ruling with the power of the medallion.” He shook his head. “No. They should be allowed to govern their own destiny. Our own people will now have the same choice to make. When I fail to return, they will be released from the influence of the prize, and they will have to learn to live in a world of freedom instead of bondage to the holder of this.” Krael fingered a golden medallion that hung around his neck on a finely turned gold chain. He looked at the golden face cast in relief on the face of the medallion—his finger tracing the outline of the elven features in silhouette. Krael shuddered. “It is time for a new way.” He closed his eyes and groaned. Krael’s final breath hissed slowly away through his pale lips. Claer buried her face in his shoulder and wept.

#

            Sar pushed at the dirt around the tiny opening where sunlight streamed into the crawl-space. Moving on their bellies, the three elves struggle through the opening and tumbled down an incline—landing on their backs at the edge of another small drop. They had lost track of time in the dark underground passages. The elves had no idea how many days they groped their way through the twisting passages before they finally saw the light that led them to the opening. Sprawled below them was a vast forest that stretched far into the distance—disappearing in a mist at the limits of their vision. Gos gasped and pointed up. More than a dozen dragons were soaring overhead. The huge beasts turned in lazy circles while they scanned the ground below for prey. Their wings twisted and turned to catch the changing air currents. The skin of their wings, lit by the high, noon-day sun, held a network of red and blue veins that fanned out from the dragons’ shoulders like a spider’s intricate web. The three elves slid down the drop-off, took a last look above, and bolted for the safety of the trees.

Gos suddenly slowed to a stop and stood watching the dragons.

“Come on!” urged Sar from the safety of the trees. “What are you waiting for?”

Gos remained still—looking up in wonder. “Listen,” she said. “Do you hear it?” A smile crossed her glowing face. “They are singing.”

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