Posted on June 20, 2008 by Matt-M-McElroy
The first Shadowrealm Preview was posted back in May here on Flames Rising. We also have an interview with Paul S. Kemp that tells us a bit about the novel. Shadowrealm is book three of the Twilight War and is available for pre-order at Amazon.com.
Today we have another snippet from the upcoming novel for fans to enjoy. The scene features the fallen paladin, Abelar Corrinthal.
Shadowrealm by Paul S. Kemp
As they started off, Abelar said to Regg, “If matters become dire, I want you and the company to double up with as many of the women and children as possible and go ahead. Without the wagons to slow them, the horses will outrun the storm.”
“You speak as if you would not come.”
“I wouldn’t. But I would want you to take Elden.”
“You ask me to do something you would not?” Regg smiled, and thumped Abelar on the shoulder. “You know I cannot do that. None of us can. None of us will. We will find another way or we will give our horses to the refugees. They can ride in twos. That gets more than four hundred to safety.”
“They cannot be left unguarded.”
“Then a small force will accompany them. But I think we will have to draw lots to determine who leaves. None of the company will want a spot in a saddle better filled by a refugee. You know this. You made us, Abelar.”
“The light is in you, Abelar. Rose or no rose. I see it.”
Abelar looked off into the rain. He did not feel the presence of his god in his soul but he did feel something akin to it. The sensation puzzled him.
“What is that?” Regg said, squinting into the rain.
Abelar followed his friend’s gaze into the southern sky. The rain and twilight reduced visibility, but he saw what had caught Regg’s eye. At first he thought it a cloud, but that could not be.
“It moves against the wind.”
“Aye,” said Regg, pulling Firstlight to a stop.
Abelar did the same with Swiftdawn and studied the sky.
Behind them, the caravan slowed, then stopped. Above the patter of rain, above the constant low roll of thunder, Abelar heard the murmur of questions turn to cries of dismay.
The object continued to close, looming larger, darker.
“It is immense,” said Regg.
“Get Trewe to sound the muster and form up.”
Regg spun Firstlight and rode back into the caravan. The clarion of Trewe’s trumpet sounded. The company began to assemble around Abelar and all eyes watched the sky.
A floating, inverted mountaintop closed the distance. A pall of shadows enshrouded it, leaked from it like fog. Hints of buildings—towers and spires—poked here and there from the swirling darkness. Winged forms wheeled awkwardly about its craggy, conical bottom. Abelar marveled at the power that must have been needed to keep an entire city afloat.
“Shadovar,” he said, as much puzzled as alarmed.
The caravan huddled in the plains, exposed, caught between a Shadovar city before and the Shadowstorm behind.
The city stopped a few bowshots distant, on the other side of the Mudslide.
“They are near the Stonebridge,” Regg said.
Abelar nodded. The Stonebridge provided the only means of crossing the Mudslide for leagues.
The rain continued. Eyes moved back and forth from the Shadowstorm to the Shadovar city. The tension thickened. The city hovered ominously in the air, hovered ominously in their future, a lesion on the sky.
“What do they want?” someone shouted from the caravan.
“We cannot just remain here,” shouted another.
“If they meant us well, we would have heard already,” Regg said. “Let us go knock on their door.”
“I won’t leave Elden,” Abelar said, and felt Regg’s gaze on him.
“Then we wait a while longer,” Regg said softly. “After that, I will take a party forward.”
The sun sank low on the horizon and night crept over the plains.
Regg turned to the company. “I want twenty swords to ride forward to the city. Volunteers?”
Most everyone in the company indicated a willingness and Regg started ticking off names.
As he did, the darkness ten paces before them started to swirl and deepen. Abelar grabbed his friend by the bicep and turned him around.
Swords rang from scabbards. Shields were unslung. The soft sound of spell casting carried through the rain, Roen asking for Lathander’s blessing.
The darkness expanded and eight or nine score Shadovar warriors materialized from the darkness. They wore archaic black plate armor that featured points, studs, and spikes in abundance. Their large, oval shields, enameled in black, showed no heraldry and looked like holes. Helms with nose guards obscured most of their faces, but the gray skin Abelar could see reminded him of a corpse. They bore bare swords in their fists, the blades made of black crystal. Shadows leaked from all of them. They seemed part of the darkness.
“Shades,” Abelar said. Like Erevis Cale.
Leather creaked. Horses whinnied. The two forces regarded each other across the grass, the rain thudding off of armor.
One of the Shadovar took a step forward and in that single stride moved from the darkness in which he stood to within a few paces before Abelar and Regg. Firstlight and Swiftdawn did not buck. Abelar and Regg did not start.
The Shadovar removed his helm to reveal a bald head and black eyes.
“By order of the Hulorn, ruler of Sembia, you are prohibited from crossing the Mudslide River.”
A rustle went through the company, the murmur of anger. It took a few moments for Abelar to reconcile the words with reality.
“The Hulorn does not rule these lands,” Regg said. “His power extends to Selgaunt and its environs. No farther.”
“You are mistaken,” said the Shadovar.
“The Hulorn and Selgaunt are allies of Saerb,” Abelar said.
“If it were otherwise,” the Shadovar said, “you would all be dead already.”
Regg took a step forward. Abelar stopped him with an arm across his chest.
Regg said, “You should hope your blade is as sharp as your tongue, shade. Should it come to that.”
The Shadovar did not take his gaze from Abelar. “Matters are as I have stated. You will not be allowed to cross the Mudslide. Go back. Stay. Neither is of any moment to me. We will prevent with force any attempt to cross the Stonebridge or otherwise ford the river.”
The company murmured angrily.
Horses inched forward. The tone grew uglier than the weather.
Shouts carried to them from the caravan.
“What does he say?”
“What is happening?”
“Have they come to aid us?”
“We must cross,” Regg said. “Whatever the Hulorn may say.”
Following the Mudslide would hook the refugees back in the direction of the Shadowstorm. And mountains blocked them to the north. Their only hope was to cross.
Abelar dismounted and approached the Shadovar. The shadows around the shade swirled.
“Look behind us, man,” Abelar said, working to keep his voice calm. “These people cannot be caught in that storm. We must get across the river. We are trapped against it. I will answer to the Hulorn for you allowing us passage.”
The Shadovar looked past Abelar and into the sky, to the Shadowstorm. When his gaze returned to Abelar, Abelar saw no pity or understanding in it, just darkness.
“You have heard my words.”
Growing anger put an edge on Abelar’s tone. “My son is in this caravan.”
Shadows spun around the Shadovar. “The more pity you.”
Day after day of constant tension had drawn Abelar’s emotions taut and they snapped at the Shadovar’s words. Sudden rage stole his sense and he punched the Shadovar in the face with a gauntleted fist. Bone buckled and the man’s nose exploded blood. He fell to the ground, groaning, shadows whirling. Abelar drew his blade and advanced.
“The more pity me, you say? The more pity me?”
Ten Shadovar appeared around their fallen commander, blades bare. Arms closed around Abelar from behind, lifted him from the ground, and turned him around. His entire company looked ready to ride the Shadovar down. Trewe’s horse reared. Others whinnied and tossed their heads.
“Calm heads!” Regg shouted. It was he who had hold of Abelar. “Calm heads! Think of the refugees!”
Regg was right.
“All right,” Abelar said to him. “All right.”
“All right?” Regg asked.
Abelar nodded and Regg set him down and released him. Abelar turned to see the entire Shadovar force had stepped through the shadows and assembled around their commander in a bristling arc of steel. The bald Shadovar rose, and as Abelar watched, his nose stopped bleeding and the broken bones squirmed back into place. The Shadovar sniffed loudly and spit a glob of blood and snot.
“Attempt to cross the Mudslide and you all die.”
The shadows engulfed him and his troop and they disappeared into the darkness.
Curses made the rounds of the company. Lightning ripped the sky behind them.
“Gods damn it,” Abelar said.
“What the Hells is going on here?” Regg asked.
Visit Paul S. Kemp’s website for more free fiction and updates about his upcoming novels.