Sneak Peek - The Protector's Resolve

The below is a scene from The Protector’s Resolve, Book 6 of The Tales of Caledonia. Sirius finally gets his chance for revenge as he battles the Ghoule Overlord.

“I have been waiting for this, Magus,” growled the Ghoule Overlord, “for a very long time. But rather than making you suffer, I will kill you quickly. I have more important prey than you. A combat that truly matters.”

The beast flicked his staff and sent a bolt of the Curse speeding right toward Sirius’ chest. If the energy struck, the Magus would be destroyed, the power employed so potent that it would turn his flesh and bones to ash in an instant and then continue on to tear through the shield wall of gladiators who stood behind him.

“As have I,” shouted Sirius, having to take a few seconds to decipher some of the words his adversary spoke in the common tongue.

Unfazed by the Dark Magic shooting toward him, with a curl of his hand, a stripe of the Talent, blazingly bright, burst from Sirius’ fingertips, the energy slashing right through the Curse, the slivers of darkness negated and sent twisting away on the strong winds that gusted across the top of the monolith.

A murderous smile cracked Sirius’ thin lips. He had been waiting for this opportunity. For quite some time, in fact. Ever since his much too short duel on the white sand in which Bryen thankfully had intervened. And based on that humbling experience, as he had waited, his worries about his ability to manage a combat effectively with the Ghoule Overlord had festered, seeding his mind with doubts.

He realized now, as he battled the monster who had consumed his thoughts for centuries, as he called upon the Talent on a level that he had rarely done so in the past, that there had been no cause for his concerns.

Sirius recognized that he had wasted his time and energy by giving in to his fears.

Because he was doing what he feared he wouldn’t. He was protecting the Protector. For as long as he could.

He realized that it wasn’t the combat that worried him. It was the anticipation of the duel. With that gone, he had adopted the fatalistic perspective so frequently demonstrated by the Protector.

Kill or be killed. And even though this was a fight to the death, even though he did not dispute that the Ghoule Overlord facilitated more power than he could ever hope to manage, Sirius felt good. He felt more alive now than he had in quite some time.

He was in his element now. There was no more contemplating. There was only doing.

What would be would be.

Wanting to keep the Ghoule Overlord off balance and put him on the defensive right from the start, Sirius continued his motion with his hand. Adding more power to the Talent, he launched a stream of crackling energy toward the beast.

The neat maneuver caught the Ghoule Overlord by surprise, forcing the Master of the Curse to hurriedly form a shield of swirling black mist that solidified just in time. The large, shadowy buckler blocked the blindingly brilliant energy, though not before a sliver of power thinner than a hair slid over the edge of the barrier and cut across the top of the Ghoule Overlord’s shoulder, leaving a long, smoking slash of burnt flesh in its wake.

“You will pay for that, Magus!” spitted the Ghoule Overlord, his rage driven more by his embarrassment at being struck than from the pain of the wound. “Now I will kill you slowly because of that! You will feel a torment that you never before imagined. A pain that will make you beg for your death, and even then, I will not give it to you. I will keep you alive, no more than a plaything, and I will not let you go until I am done exacting every ounce of agony from your flesh and your spirit that I possibly can.”

Sirius was about to reply, a savage grin twisting his lips — he might die this day at the hands of this beast, but at least he got one good strike in, and he believed that he could get in a few more — when movement to his left kept the words in his throat. His eyes widened when he saw the Ghoule rushing toward him, spear extended, about to drive the blackened steel into his hip.

Worried that stopping his assault against the Ghoule Overlord to deal with this unanticipated attack would leave him open to the beast’s reply with Dark Magic, Sirius tried to twist out of the way and avoid the sharpened steel. He recognized too late that there was nothing that he could do. The Ghoule was about to skewer him like a pig on a spit.

Sirius’ eyes widened, his body tensing, as he prepared to absorb the blow. His eyes widened even further when, shockingly, Declan appeared.

The Sergeant of the Blood Company, pushing himself through the shield wall and sprinting across the stone, knocked the Ghoule’s steel away from Sirius right before it pierced the Magus’ flesh. Not allowing the Ghoule to recover, Declan advanced toward the creature, his blade whistling through the air and slicing deeply across the beast’s shoulder, cutting through muscle and tendon and leaving the Ghoule with only one arm to fight.

The Ghoule shrieked in disbelief, stepping back across the stone as he tried to keep Declan away from him. The beast found the task increasingly difficult because of the unwieldiness of employing his large spear with just one clawed hand.

Sirius nodded his thanks to Declan, breathing a welcome sigh of relief as well. The Magus assumed that the gladiator probably didn’t see it, Declan still focused on the wounded Ghoule, the beast continuing to back away slowly. With every step, the beast’s movements slowed, rivulets of thick black blood gushing from the wound.

The old Magus had no doubt as to how that combat was going to end. Sirius instantly turned back toward the Ghoule Overlord, a feeling of dread settling in his stomach as he saw what was waiting for him.

The Ghoule Overlord grinned at him now, his black eyes blazing with hatred and anticipation. The Master of the Ghoule Legions had kept his shield in place to prevent Sirius’ stream of Talent from striking him, adding more Dark Magic to the barrier over time so that the white-hot power became no more than an annoyance. That challenge under control, now a new cloud of the Curse spun atop the black diamond, the black mist forming into several spheres of pitch-black energy.

Sirius had a choice to make, and less than a second to do so, understanding that with a flick of the beast’s wrist those orbs would shoot right toward him. Continue with the stream of energy with the hope that he could break through the Ghoule Overlord’s defenses, although with the ease with which his adversary had blocked his attack that didn’t appear likely, or release the flow, craft a shield as quickly as he could, and hope that his defense would be strong enough to keep those menacing orbs from blasting through his barrier and then into him.

He chose the latter strategy, abruptly ending his attack and working as fast as he could to form his shield. His work was forgotten for just a heartbeat when a massive blast of energy that rocked the sandstone pillar made him duck.

A handful of lightning strikes slammed down into the cracked stone of the summit right in front of the Ghoule Overlord. Dirt and shattered pieces of translucent rock blasted up into the air, the power of the blows, one after the other, ten in all, so strong that they forced the Ghoule Overlord to move back a dozen feet so that he could avoid the worst of the barrage.

Sirius looked behind him. Aislinn stood protectively over Lycia near the entrance to the Sanctuary, still guarding the fallen gladiator. Apparently, she was protecting him as well, because his student likely had just saved his life.

The Lady of the Southern Marches missed her tutor’s nod of thanks, Aislinn already having shifted her attention toward the Elders Rafia was battling to a standstill on the far side of the hollow. She was preparing to send several lances of energy toward the beasts, hoping that even if the Elders blocked her attack, her assault would demand their full attention, thereby leaving them open to the inevitable attack that Rafia would be more than ready to initiate right after hers.

Thankful for the unexpected assistance, Sirius’ grin turned feral when he spun back toward the Ghoule Overlord. He appreciated the timely support, but he knew the truth. He didn’t have the strength or the skill to defeat the Ghoule Overlord in a fair combat. If he allowed this duel to continue much longer, he was in all probability going to die.

That didn’t bother him as it might have centuries before. No, he had seen enough of the world to understand that his time was coming to an end, and he was at peace with that because he was finally doing what he had promised his brother that he would do. He had watched his brother die a thousand years before, right on this very spot, in fact, and in the heat of the moment, Sirius had vowed to seek revenge for Viktor. Yet that vow remained unfulfilled.

That memory fixed in the back of his head, for the first time in a very long time he felt calm, as if all his worries and fears had melted away, those anxieties replaced by a certainty that filled him with a much-needed infusion of energy. If he was going to die this day, he could think of no better way for it to happen.

He might not gain the revenge he sought, but he would give everything he had to attain it.

-An excerpt from The Protector’s Resolve.