Stavross D’Vinn is the quintessential young farm boy in love with the prettiest, and richest girl in town. His dark fate is sealed after a harmless prank goes terribly awry and he is expelled from the only home he’s ever known.
Far to the south, Tynaul and his friends search for the location of the elusive Banereaver, an ancient sword that was once the symbol of power for the Arcanian Sorcerer-Kings.
But the Arcanian Empire is crumbling; greed, sloth and corruption are tearing it apart. General Kyrar Lysis foresees this destruction, and launches a desperate plan to save his decaying Empire, a strategy in which these two disparate young men will figure prominently.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
J S Eaton is a forty-something writer of fantasy and the creator of the thrilling Aeonith series of novels. Mr. Eaton is the loving husband of a wonderful wife, and father of two darling children. His latest novel in the Aeonith series, Comes a Dark Heir, is the first in a planned series of three exciting novels.
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HERE”S A BIT OF THE BOOK TO TEASE YOUR MIND!
Prologue-The Shadow War
Disbelief formed a profound statement of bewilderment upon the young man’s face as he looked out over the weathered battlements. For years he had longed to be where he stood now, years he had dreamt of this day. And now that he was here, standing atop the highest tower of the old castle, Micas found that he might have made a terrible mistake.
He’d heard all the legends. As a child young Micas had listened to every tale and read every book he could get his hands on about the desolate landscape that now stretched out before him. As a boy, he’d been fascinated by all the descriptions, and believed every word of the fantastic imageries conjured by the storytellers and mythmakers of his tiny little village. As a youth, and a grown young man, he’d thought the tales a little too tall for reality; the truth had obviously been stretched. But as he gazed out over the dark sky and blackened lands before him, Micas thought that if anything the legends were too gentle, the tales not tall enough.
His favorite rhyme from childhood had been about the Plains he now looked over with wonder, and terror.
When the sky is blackest, the lightning strikes
Blacker upon the night
No life in sight
Dragons, ghosts, spectres and wights
Dance within the night
No life in sight
Horrors creep, and terrors leap
Deep within the night
No life in sight
“It never looks like we imagine, does it?”
The deep, sudden voice rose Micas from his reverie. The young man’s eyes gave away his surprise, and his fear. Alcon smiled, turning to look out across the desolate stretch of land they watched over. Not protectors, this man and his charges were guardians. Alcon Exector was High Commander of the North Guard, the name of both the castle and the men who manned its walls. He was an easier commander than most. Many lords of this castle had simply given new recruits their swords and armor, doled out their assignments and then wished them the best of luck. So had it been with Alcon himself. But as High Commander he wanted to do things differently, and so he had made it his business to spend a few hours with each new recruit, to at least try and ease their anxiety about their new life. And it was life; duty at the North Guard was forever.
“No, it doesn’t. I, thought all the stories were exaggerated.”
“I’m afraid not, son.”
“I can’t go back, can I?”
“No, never. And if you leave we have to hunt you down.”
“Why is that? No one’s ever really explained it before.”
“Well,” Alcon began, “people have gotten it into their heads that once you’ve been to the edge of the Plains you’ve been tainted somehow, and you might be contagious. A ridiculous notion of course, but that can be said of so many things that people take for granted now, can’t it?”
Alcon let that thought sink in for a moment. “We don’t go out there, if that makes you feel any better. We don’t patrol south of the castle, or the Barrier. No one leaves the fortress alone, day or night. Duty along the Barrier lasts two months each. Then you’re back at the castle for one.”
Micas’ eyes grew wide. “Two months?”
Micas’ stomach knotted at the thought of being out of the castle at all so near to this terrible place, much less for two whole months. And unlike the castle, the long wall known as the Barrier was not made up of quarried and mortared stone. The Barrier, which stretched from the shores of the Wide Sea on the east all the way across the Narrow Way to the Green Sea on the west, was made entirely of large and small stones that were simply heaped upon one another into a wall barely twelve feet high. It was as if the builders of old had simply gotten tired of construction after building the castle and just threw something together. It was a far cry from the lofty barricade sung about in taverns and inns across northern Bordelon.
“It’s better than the twelve months my predecessor had you walking it. You’ll get used to it, everyone does, eventually.”
The two men, young and old, stood silent a moment as black lightning struck amid a dark sky. Micas hadn’t believed it was real. After all, how could you see black lightning against a night sky? But see it he did, and it filled him with a profound terror for which he was totally unprepared. After a moment of contemplation, Alcon broke the quiet.
“What do you know about the War anyway?”
It was Micas’ turn to smile. He knew everything there was to know about the terrible conflict known as the Great Shadow War. At least he thought he did.
“The Sorcerer-King Toth-Gadal invaded our lands in the year 352 of our glorious New Age. He managed some early victories, but our ancestors eventually kicked him out, and in revenge he cursed the land with a terrible disease and caused the sky to be eternally dark.”
“Of course,” Alcon began, a mixture of pity and disgust on his face, “I guess they have to say that don’t they? If people knew the truth, we might not get as many volunteers for the Guard.”
“What do you mean, what do they have to say?”
“That half-truth you’ve just spouted off as known fact. The only truth to that was Toth-Gadal’s name, and that he invaded. You got the year right too, as near as I can tell. But the rest…”
Alcon trailed off as he watched another frightening display of black lightning dance across the eternally dark sky of the Black Plains. Suddenly he began again, educating his new recruit on what had really happened those centuries earlier near the place they now stood.
“Toth-Gadal actually came within days of winning the war. He took Thrice in just a few months’ time. He moved west into Telengard after that with half his forces, sending the other half east to conquer Sivilar and then Mylkar. The Arcanian’s stood outside the gates of Syre for nearly a month. They attacked the walls day and night, flinging spells and catapults and all manner of siege to try and break the gates down. Toth-Gadal was so intent on breaking the walls he failed to pay attention to the world around him. As it happened, the Telengard knew he was coming and had formed their army far to the north. Once the Arcanians were well entrenched in their siege, the Telengard army surged forward and routed the surprised Arcanians. It was a hard fought battle, but in the end the defenders managed to push the Arcanians back. Each day Toth-Gadal lost a little more ground and a few more men, until he was out of Telengard entirely. I’m sure it took a lot of the wind out of his sails too when he found out the army he’d sent east had been almost entirely wiped out by a huge counterattack.
“His forces were finally defeated after many long and costly battles. The Arcanian’s fell back until the Sorcerer-King drew a line in the ground somewhere in that dark place out there. It was then that Toth-Gadal had his necromancers curse the ground and ruin the sky. He’d only meant for it to be temporary. After he turned the tide of battle back to his favor, the Sorcerer-King had had every intention of reversing the effect and returning the land to normal. By that time his forces were outnumbered ten to one, and he needed this last advantage. I sometimes think that the Sorcerer-King might not have really wanted to use that weapon, his necromancers, but saw that he had no choice. And so his dark sorcerer’s used their magic, and transformed the once peaceful hills and rolling plains of the Narrow Way into the dread land you see before you now. This eternally dark sky and ground that’s cursed to walk upon, inflicts a serious disease if you set even one foot within. Toth’s army would have been immune to the effect of course, but the new Northern Alliance was not. The War started to turn in the Arcanian’s favor after that, and they would have won the Shadow War if it hadn’t been for the Order, and of course, the dragon.”
Micas looked up at his new mentor, his confusion apparent.
“The Order was at the Battle of the Black Death? And, a dragon? What, how? How do you know all this?”
Alcon looked at his young pupil solemnly, about to tell him a truth that would chain him to the Guard forever.
“Long ago, while the castle was being built, the first emperor, Mytar, ordered all the books, scrolls and written accounts of the War to be burned. Well, it was obvious the only reason for that was so he could write his own account. The forebears of your new brotherhood took it upon themselves to preserve the true knowledge of what actually happened, and so they gathered all the books about the War they could find and brought them here. They reside down in one of our lowest halls now. I suggest you peruse these tomes between your watches, you’ll be surprised at what you learn; how you really don’t know all the things you think you know.”
Micas stared out across the Plains, struggling to see the dread creature from the past upon the dark hills. “There was actually a dragon at the last battle?”
“Indeed there was, young man, indeed there was.” Alcon answered. “Virex was his name. A dragon-lord actually, thought long dead centuries earlier. It still was, by all accounts. The creature had been re-animated by some powerful wizard or another, probably more of Toth-Gadal’s nefarious necromancers. But instead of fighting for the Arcanians, the dragon began tearing through both armies. The monks from the Order finally defeated it, but there was nothing they could do about the accursed sorcery the black wizards of Arcania had inflicted on the landscape.
“After that last battle, the remnants of the Northern Alliance went home. What was left of the southern army did the same, as far as we know. Very little has been seen or heard from south Bordelon since the War. The chaotic nature of the Storm Sea makes it a difficult crossing, and no southerners have ever tried returning to our shores. So we sit separated by this evil chasm of death.”
“Do the southerners have a barrier or a castle such as ours on their side?”
“No one knows.” Alcon answered, “One would think it likely, but I’ve never heard for sure.”
The two men, young and old, looked out across the desolate landscape that was commonly known as the Black Plains. It had been eternally night there for hundreds of years, since the Great Shadow War had turned into a festering wasteland. Looking into that permanent blackness was like looking into the hells themselves, as if somehow a doorway had been opened and you could see into the eternal shadow. Sometimes, a dark shape would seem to rise from the desolate landscape and trudge slowly off into the eternal night. Even at this far distance, you could feel the hate in their sullen eyes.
The land was barren, save for what little plant-life had learned to survive in the ground that had been cursed so long ago by the foul magic known as necromancy. Such plants were twisted, evil reflections of the world outside. Boils of pus rose from the ground, as if the soil itself were stricken with some horrible, rotting disease.
And ever did the dark lightning strike, and the evil thunder roll across the dark and gloomy sky of the Black Plains.