Excerpt from Book 1: Awakenings


Breathing deeply to steady his rapidly beating heart, King Nek`krod finally stirred himself to action and stepped over the threshold into the Sleeping Savior's Tomb. Immediately, the guards followed him inside, forming a phalanx around him as their torches lit the way, casting elongated shadows on the walls and vaulted ceiling of the dark granite chamber. The footsteps of the guards and wizards, and the gentle whisper of the priestesses' gowns, were the only sounds he heard, the absence of any spoken words a silent testimony to the sense of awe and trepidation they all shared.

The dust of centuries, undisturbed for the better part of a millennium, lifted up around their feet as they walked, forming small clouds that rose several inches and then drifted quietly back down to rest once more after their passing. A deeper chill sent shivers through Nek`krod and his small entourage as they passed among the lesser pedestals, which now held only small mounds of dust and bits of tarnished metal—the last vestiges of the Sleeping Savior's fellow wizards, fallen in battle, but themselves bereft of any spells invoked to preserve their own earthly remains.

At last, they stood before the golden casket resting on the marble base some four feet high. No name or inscription marred the smooth, flawless surface of the Savior's sarcophagus, but none of those gathered before it harbored any doubt about who lay at rest within. Nek`krod gestured toward the guards, and several stepped forward, dressed in ceremonial silver breastplates and greaves, holding the five heavy braziers that would be needed in the Ritual of Flame required for the Awakening. When the braziers had been placed around the coffin, Mel`kanor waved his staff and called the flames to life. With the fire came welcomed illumination that banished the dark shadows nearest the coffin, lighting the faces of the men and women, and bringing their expressions of hushed anticipation into sharper relief.

At another sign from Mel`kanor, the seven wizards stepped to the braziers and began gesturing as they passed their hands in and out of the flames, chanting in a deep monotone the spell that would unbind Lord Rak`koth from his endless slumber. Moving as one, the seven priestesses followed Merelda down to the cold floor as she knelt and raised her hands in supplication to Shalloth, their soft feminine voices murmuring the sacred prayers in unison, calling on their beloved deity to hear their pleas for restoration of the Savior's power and glory in their time of great need.

Long, unbound feminine tresses caressed their shoulders as they lifted their heads and fixed their gazes upon the casket. The point and counterpoint of male and female, chant and orison, blended into a hypnotic harmony that reverberated throughout the chamber, lifting the king's spirit with a surge of hope and expectation.

As the vocal fusion reached a crescendo, Nek`krod heard the crack of a thunderbolt just outside the Tomb that smote their ears and left them ringing, followed by a mighty tremor in the ground, rocking the chamber to and fro, opening narrow fissures in the stone beneath his feet. It was as if some celestial force had torn the fabric of the sky and split the earth. Guards, wizards and priestesses were thrown down to the floor abruptly, dazed and unable to move until the terrible rumbling ceased. Struggling to regain his footing and his dignity, Nek`krod knew in his soul that something potent had been unbound and... Awakened.

For a time, there was only silence. Gradually, the others staggered to their feet, save for the priestesses who remained kneeling, leaning forward on their hands with hips raised, their heads bowed low in obeisance. Then Nek`krod felt a new presence in the torch-lit chamber, permeating the air with the touch of something powerful, alive.

A moment later, a low, grating sound of metal sliding against metal riveted their attention in the direction of the Savior's pedestal, as the lid of the coffin began to move. It shifted sideways slowly, inching forward, then fell to the floor with a jarring crash as a single hand, its long, graceful fingers bejeweled with emerald and ruby rings, emerged from within its dark recesses to grip the side of the casket.

Someone, perhaps Merelda, gasped as the upper portion of a body rose in one fluid motion to sit erect. A black velvet robe, perfectly preserved and threaded with mystical sigils stitched in fine gold filigree, covered the chest and arms of the raised figure. The cowl, woven from the same thick, dark material, slipped back to reveal the head of a man framed by dark, curling hair that fell to his collar. The handsome face was long and high-boned, with heavy eyebrows, a prominent nose, and full, thick lips. The eyes were closed, as if the man remained in repose. Then the eyes opened, two black irises with burning crimson centers that pierced the pall of smoke from the torches... and the world changed.