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Matt-M-McElroy

Sneak Peek at Paul S. Kemp’s Shadowrealm

Posted on May 9, 2008 by Matt-M-McElroy

When I interviewed Forgotten Realms author Paul S. Kemp recently he gave us the slightest tease regarding the upcoming Shadowrealm novel.

Now, he has offered up a snippet from the book for us to enjoy. Shadowrealm is book three of the Twilight War and is available for pre-order at Amazon.com.

Shadowrealm by Paul S. Kemp

They left the corpses of the giants behind them and walked the streets of Archenbridge. Shutters and doors flapped in the wind, banging like wardrums against the sides of buildings. Murky water overflowed catch barrels and horse troughs. Plazas stood empty, forlorn, haunted only by the past.

Hints of a rapid evacuation littered the streets—loose sacks lay strewn about. Stacked barrels, coffers, chairs, divans, and other household furnishings had been left outside on the walks but never loaded onto carts, all of it a testament to lives disturbed, changed forever. A cooking pan lay half submerged in the mud of the street; Cale could not take his eyes from it.

They found no survivors but also no human bodies, though the carcasses of dogs and cats haunted doorways, curled up as if the creatures had fallen asleep and never awakened. Perhaps they had scratched at the doors for owners long departed before the life-draining storm had finally taken them.

Riven noted each dead dog, his eye hard, and Cale imagined him keeping a count in his mind, a ledger for which he would ultimately hold Kesson Rel to account.

The buildings of Archenbridge struck Cale in a way that the twisted plains had not, in a way that the bodies back on the Dawnpost had not. The empty structures represented not just a loss of life, but the loss of a way of life. The areas affected by the Shadowstorm would never be the same. Emerging from the wind and rain and darkness like the gravestones of titans, the buildings seemed like monuments to a lost world. By the time they reached the edge of the town and the graceful stone arch that spanned the Arkhen, Cale felt exhausted. Archenbridge was Sembia, was all of Faerûn, if they did not stop the storm. The realization weighed on him.

They passed the bridge’s toll gate and walked the arch side by side, saying nothing. The churn from the storm had turned the Arkhen’s waters brown. They seethed under the rain’s onslaught. Hundreds of dead fish floated in the current, gathered in the shallows.

Halfway across the bridge, a flutter in Cale’s stomach stopped him. His mouth went dry and he found it hard to breathe. The shadows around him roiled.

“Feel that,” he said to Riven.

Riven tried to speak but failed, and nodded instead.

Both of them slid their blades free and sank into the darkness on one side of the bridge. With an effort of will, Cale deepened the shadows around them.

“Kesson?” Riven asked.

Cale shook his head. He didn’t know.

The dread grew palpable, thicker and more oppressive than the rain. It weighed on Cale’s chest, stole his breath, and set his heart to racing. Shadows boiled from him, from Weaveshear. Beside him, Riven looked as tense as a bowstring.

What in the Nine Hells is causing that? Riven signed with a shaking hand.

Both of them peered out over the bridge, across the water, into the darkness. Even with his shadesight, the rain prevented Cale from seeing much on the other side of the river.

The dread intensified, rooted in Cale’s mind. Tremors shook him. He stared across the river for the source, unable to move, unable to blink. He knew it was supernatural fear, that he had to fight it, but it overwhelmed his will.

A barrage of lightning flashed in the distance and Cale saw the source of his feeling, saw its silhouette framed for an instant by the sickly vermillion of the lightning bolts.

“Gods,” Cale said.

In form it had the shape of a man, but stood as tall as three shadow giants, looming over even the tallest buildings in Archenbridge. The blackness that composed its immense body was more than mere darkness; it was a hole, the night brought to life. Cale knew it was not Kesson Rel. It was instead the embodiment of fear, terror made manifest.

It stalked silently along the riverbank with the slow, methodical stride of a predator that had nothing to fear from other creatures. Supernatural terror leaked from it the way shadows leaked from Cale.

Cale held his breath as the creature paused before the bridge. It turned a featureless black face toward Archendale. Its head bobbed as if it were sniffing for spoor.

Prepare yourself, Cale signed to Riven, and the prospect of a battle helped clear his mind. His heart slowed. His breath came easier. He put both hands on Weaveshear’s hilt, and readied himself.

The creature put a foot on the bridge, seemed to think better of it, and turned and continued its path along the riverbank. Cale and Riven watched in relieved silence until it disappeared into the darkness.

“Dark and empty,” Riven said.

Cale agreed. There were darker things stalking the Shadowstorm than mere shadows and giants.

“We need to get to Ordulin,” he said.

Visit Paul S. Kemp’s website for more free fiction and updates about his upcoming novels.

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