Susan Heim on Writing is pleased to be a stop on the book tour for A Scholar’s Journey: The Divine Tempest, by Herrick C. Erickson-Brigl! This no-holds-barred fantasy brawl begins when the God of Justice and Retribution opens The Abyss and unleashes a vengeful demon upon the mortal realm of Therra. Now it is up to scholar Penndarius Greyson and his tormented protector, martial artist Soren Luna Mortalitas, to stop a crisis that would send shockwaves through the very fabric of creation. In addition, Penndarius is waging an internal battle with a disembodied presence attempting to possess his mind. The two heroes must avoid death or capture, but there is a catch: They have only one day to solve a riddle older than history before a dark host of unstoppable demons is released into the world.
Enjoy the following excerpt from A Scholar’s Journey: The Divine Tempest!
Penndarius found himself in familiar surroundings. He was in the open, flat, gray plane again. Soothing monotone clouds decorated the horizon. He felt a presence at his side, looked over, and saw a majestic, white-furred creature from the strange incident in Ed's tower. It was Rhea.
The events from the past came flooding to the fore. “Where are we?” he asked.
Rhea shook her head in apology. “Not now, my dear,” she said. “Feel the air quiver with the coming storm. They are almost here.”
The scholar felt the slight pang of pain in his head as he turned, and then he noticed a swath of evil enter the realm around him and muddy it, as if the perversion were a stain on the pristine serenity of the flat land. Roiling clouds of indigo that emitted cobalt lightning blighted the peaceful gray sky, and their chaotic presence was mirrored perfectly on the ground.
Malicious alien intent reached out almost tangibly to make itself known through resonating vibrations in the air. The pain in the scholar’s head steadily worsened as the intrusion became more visible.
In the invading gloom, Penndarius and Rhea watched as two figures appeared from afar. They walked inexorably toward the pair and seemed to vanish several times, only to reappear closer instantly until they were in front of them.
It was Diametries, accompanied by a creature unknown to Penndarius. In this place they were separate entities.
The creature reached up and scratched a deep line into a seeping wound where a wing had been long ago. The other wing seemed still to be intact. He rolled his eyes upward in ecstasy as the pain filtered into his consciousness. “Yesss...,” he said to himself with masochistic delight.
Rhea wrinkled her nose as if a putrid smell had entered the air around her. “Kestrel, it is such a...” She paused, as the words themselves seemed to corrupt the air around her, and then continued. “...a pleasure.”
“Salutations to the one of the great betrayers. Rhea, it is so wonderful to see you. My claws are aching to repay the debt they owe you from when last we met,” Kestrel asserted and then laughed sardonically as his eyes glinted with danger. He flexed his long, sharp, deep blue claws to accentuate his meaning.
“What is he?” Penndarius asked as he examined the creature before him.
“I regret to say that he is one of my kind,” Rhea said with obvious distaste.
Diametries drew his hand diagonally across the air with disdain. “The history lesson is over,” he interrupted. “Erase their essences, and be done with it, creature,” he commanded coldly. “I tire of this banter.”
“Aye, my lord ... with pleasure,” Kestrel said as he grinned with excitement and began to crawl toward Penndarius and Rhea.
Rhea moved in front of Penndarius. “I will not allow this boy to come to harm,” she said, and her action surprised the scholar.
Kestrel sneered. “What reasons do you -- ah, I see ... a contract. You slipped up, didn’t you?” he asked, and his eyes betrayed his interest. “How surprising.”
“Come forward as you will,” Rhea said as she took up a protective stance, and a white barrier lined with a tinge of green formed in front of her and Penndarius.
“Aye, I will!” Kestrel roared in delight to the molten gold-and-azure sky and then bounded toward Rhea and clawed at her barrier with his hand. The attack left deep, jagged blue lines in her wall of defense, deep crevices that burned with residual sapphire-colored fire.
Rhea fought back with sweeping waves of her white-furred hands that sent shockwaves rippling along the pale ground.
As the two vaedziur met in battle, the pain in Penndarius’s head went from noticeable to debilitating and brought him to his knees, like a knife plunging through his temples and being twisted back and forth.
With maniacal laugher, Kestrel continued to hack and slash at random while Rhea dodged from left to right, throwing up her barrier to block his attacks. Whenever she could, she retaliated, but it became apparent that Kestrel was more than able to match her in combat, and more jagged lines appeared as he cut her barrier to ribbons.
Diametries smiled as he watched the fight unfold. “It will not be much longer,” he asserted with deathly calm.
Expelling a cry, Rhea threw a punch, slamming Kestrel backwards with a powerful wave of emerald-hued energy. Kestrel skidded along the ground, digging one of his clawed hands into the gray surface and leaving swaths of indigo fire in his wake. Then he rebounded to continue his assault.
The hacking and throbbing lacerated Penndarius’s mind repeatedly and seemed to increase in intensity.
“This is taking too long,” Diametries said with disgust. He raised his hands, and a golden glow emanated from the tips of his fingers. Five golden threads of energy extended from the Speaker’s hand, lashing out at Rhea and slamming into her.
Rhea saw the attack coming and had to cross her white arms protectively across her body. She was instantly forced on the defense.
Kestrel pressed his advantage and pounced on her, slashing against her barrier. All the while he laughed maniacally as he kept her backpedaling.
Rhea was unable to retaliate against either opponent through the continuous onslaught and was continually forced back. She turned her head toward Penndarius in agony as she struggled.
“I cannot hold!” she yelled frantically. “I need you, Penndarius!”
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