This week I’ve got a sneak peek at Exiles of Heaven, Book 2 in the Chronicles of Outremer series. I’m in the editing process so some of this may change in final form, but I thought it was a good segment to include. If you’re a newsletter subscriber you saw this in my 1st quarter update (and if you’d like to get an early look at my work and other early insights, promotions, discounts, musings, sign up for the newsletter!)
“Paulson, what’s going on? What’s happening?” a groggy voice said.
“Well first off, you’ve got brimstone stuck to your mail. Hold on.” Paulson’s dagger tore into the links, and momentarily the heat lessened. What kind of rock did that? Brimstone? The pain was sadly still there. “That’s better, although we’ll have to mend it later. Let’s hope there’s a later. Come over—”
Paulson’s words were swallowed up in his mouth, and Hart’s breathing stopped cold. The forest had reached almost to the shoreline when they arrived. No longer. Trees were cast aside like twigs, their trunks crushed against one another. Through the newly formed clearing the men could see a nexus of light and energy. The pulsing brilliance drew their attention. Atop a crumbling stone foundation stood a gateway. This arch, what appeared to be the remains of an old church, rose higher than six men and could accommodate at least ten riders abreast on horses. The stones framing the archway were worn with age, but certainly of this world. Everything Hart and Paulson saw bound inside of them was certainly not.
A fabric of undulating light stretched across the arch liked a rippling silk sheet. Its milky color shifted subtly. Hues of blue and purple caught their eyes. It reminded Paulson of the ocean at daybreak, deep at sea, riding blankets of grays and blues, tranquil and mesmerizing. Whatever this thing was, its nature became apparent quickly. Like a toad’s head rising out of the lily pads, an enormous serpentine head emerged from the center of the portal. Intelligent eyes flicked back and forth, taking in the surrounding view. Villagers renewed screams of terror and ran in progressively disparate directions away from the arch. Steam rose from the creature’s nostrils, then a sharp intake of breath preceded an ear-piercing trumpet call. A thousand dying souls mixed with equal parts anger, sadness, despair, grief, rage, hopelessness, all flooded the air together. Malignant wine, mulled with spices of sorrow.
Hart grabbed Paulson’s shoulder and dragged him backwards, the pair stumbling through cast off fishing nets and baskets, “To the boats priest. We must warn them.” Then he turned his head side to side, trying to find their leader, “Fallondon! Where are ye? To arms men of Breckshire. En garde! Prepare for action!”
Pale gray smoke lofted up from the opening, masking just how wide it truly was. Small bits of scorched earth lay before us, blasted from the gateway as it erupted in power. Sizzling sounds caught in my ears at the red-hot stones scorched grass. Brimstone. Staring at us through the portal was a serpentine head the size of a horse. Green scales, iridescent in the fiery glow of the arch, covered the thing’s head. Tendrils drooped from its lips, covering teeth like sharp knives, yellowed with age. What drew my attention more than anything were the eyes. Vertical slits blinked over its pupils, but there was an undeniable intelligence, a greatness, behind those eyes. The neck emerged pace by pace, followed by sleek shoulders and lizard-like legs finished with wicked talons.
I broke my gaze and turned from side to side. Time slowed for me. Silence filled my ears, although I saw men and women screaming in fear, pain, and shock. Hart and Paulson were behind me but backing towards the boats. Good idea. Why were we so in awe of this thing? It was just a dragon. We’d all seen them in the luminaries at chapel, filling the pages of Revelation.
Without warning the creature threw back its head; a deathly call bugled from its toothed mouth, breaking our revere. The cry shot across the landscape around us, dropping men and horses alike. Our hands shot up and attempted to plug ears. A hopeless gesture showing how powerless we were. Great leathery wings stretched across a horny spine, ending in a long serpentine tail tipped with knife-like spikes. The spurs on its clawed feet gripped the edge of the foundation before tensed muscles launched itself into the air above. I followed it up for a hundred feet before noticing what my narrowed attention had missed. More creatures were coming.
Hell had opened up before us.