* * * * HERE'S REBECCA! * * * *
Harpies, Book Two of Seraphym Wars series by Rebecca Ryals Russell comes out soon. But you might wish to read the Prequel, Prophecy first.
For centuries the residents of Solsyl lived in peace and harmony with the planet. Then the dragon-demons arrived, causing the Great Shuddering. Majikals from everywhere scurried to find shelter from the evil while humans hid. Laud regretted his rash decision of exiling the demons on Solsyl and asked one of his advisors, a member of The Conscientia, to protect his people. Jeremiah Holyfield agreed to leave the peaceful world of Revrum Natura for a life of constant strife and fear on the newly renamed planet of Dracwald. But Narciss, ruler of Tartarus and King of the demons, desperately wants what Jeremiah has sworn to protect—a Prophecy of Narciss’s future doom. And Narciss refuses to take no for an answer. But Jeremiah discovers allies along his path and even true love, which he never dreamed possible.
But forever is a long time to protect something without ever letting down one’s guard.
Journal of Reverend Jeremiah Holyfield
500 yl Toxicorru Epoch
Haazbul Village, Season of Torridaesta
Laudday, 15th Sun Turn of Torridaesta
The flaming village blazed high into the night. Those who could escape, screamed in their search for family members. Others, trapped, shrieked, burning to death.
Alarmed by the cacophony, I jolted out of my meditations, heart pounding. What had happened to our peaceful community? Throughout the village, building timbers groaned, thundering in collapse under the licking flames. The stained glass windows of the church, sitting high on the mountain many paces from the village, nonetheless rattled with the vibration. Children wailed. Mothers yelled. Victims shrieked. Monsters roared.
Dodging pews, I ran toward the heavy, carved doors of the church. Rough brown priest’s robes flapped behind me like angel wings, sandals slapping time to my steps. With slow caution, I pushed the door open a crack to peer out. Banshee wails and leviathan roars filled the night air. Acrid odors of charred flesh and wood burned my nostrils. It wasn’t possible that this was happening again. Throughout the village, confusion reigned; screaming people scattered, seeking shelter, desperate for safety.
But it no longer existed. Once any of the row houses or shops in this tightly packed community caught fire, the entire village began to burn. If only we’d built the church closer to the village, it could have provided shelter now. But who would have guessed, after so many centuries, they would return to wreak havoc. The setting of the church on the mountainside, for the villagers to gaze upon, had provided peace. Until now—there was no place to hide. Too far away to provide assistance, I had no hope of making my way to the village. The flying beasts of carnage saw every movement despite the darkness of night.
Tears rolled down my cheeks. My parishioners, loyal and loving, always there when I needed them, now needed me more than ever, and I couldn’t go. There might as well be a sea between us. Through the smoke and flames, I scanned what was left of the village, recalling its construction. Hundreds of years ago, we harvested wood from the surrounding forest. But being built of wood made the village vulnerable. Villagers’ flats and cottages clustered along a narrow dirt path interspersed with taller buildings, the living quarters above, the shops at street level. Sobbing openly, I observed flames now shooting from the roofs of the taller buildings, tinder and ashes falling onto the shorter dwellings, lighting them aflame.
Outside the sanctuary of my church, standing on the high stone steps, I watched the horror. My heart quivered with each shriek or building collapse. Orange, yellow, and red, the flames’ chaotic dance wove mesmerizing designs against the black backdrop of night’s theatre. Clouds of purple smoke billowed upward obliterating the full moon—hiding the moon’s face as though horrified.
Wailing, his body engulfed by flames, a young child ran toward the church. Behind him, his family’s small cottage collapsed in a shower of sparks and groaning wood. As I raced down several steps, a deep voice filled my head.
“You must guard what must never be destroyed.”
“But the boy, Lord, he must be saved.” I continued down several steps, aware of the danger overhead but driven to save this one life. Movement caught the red eyes of the aggressor who circled in my direction. Head swiveling side to side, he changed direction—apparently seeing something of more immediate interest.
Eyes wide, heart drumming against ribs, I watched as the beast clasped the boy’s shoulders in its long claws of malevolence, lifting him high. The boy screamed and wriggled. Hot, fresh tears of anger and frustration soaked my cheeks. Angrily I swiped them away with back of my hand, wishing it was the demon instead. Leathery wings whooshed like a blacksmith’s bellow feeding the devouring flames. Moments later, a small leg and arm thudded in the dirt. My head dropped. Tears flowed unimpeded.
“There is no shame. You could not have saved him. He is safely home with me now, happily rejoined with his family.”
“Why, Lord? Why must these good people endure such agony?” I screamed at the sky. “There are others who are yet alive—who need saving.” Villagers’ screams echoed across the rocky mountain face.
Down the wide stone steps I stumbled, determined to rescue those still alive and help the others to their eternal rest. The dragon, his black scaled silhouette crossing the full moon, must have seen me—his arch enemy’s servant.
As the monster dove toward me, Laud, Lord of Love and King of the Megaverse, roared through my head, “No! You cannot save these children; it is too late. Their home is with me now. You must save yourself and what you guard.”
“How? I am powerless against these leviathans!” The beast hurtled toward me, neck outstretched, mouth open wide to release a flaming stream of death.
“You must run—hide. Take what is precious. Find no shame; if it saves my children, it is honorable.”
“As you say, Lord.” Filled with sorrow, a stone in the pit of my stomach, I turned my back on the burning village and ran back inside the church. Outside, the screeching roar filled the night. The building vibrated. Surely the demon had lit it aflame.
Trembling hands that faltered the locking mechanism several times, finally opened the hidden door behind the altar. Here, a secret room contained irreplaceable parchments and artifacts. Anxiously adjusting to the dimness, I frantically searched for the particular parchment in my charge. It only took a second to secure it beneath my robes.
The bitter odor of smoke drifted down from the burning belfry.
Knowing there were mere minutes left, I added any artifacts or parchments that would fit into the rucksack. Back in my chamber, I threw on my rough brown cloak, clasped the brooch, and grabbed what few personal items I desired. Several roars reverberated throughout the empty sanctuary. They must have tired of the village, or there was nothing left. Now they would destroy the church. I glanced around at the hand-hewn log walls and rough pews built by loving hands. Running my hand across a piece of wall, I discovered evidence of teenagers in love, their initials carved inside a heart. It was not smoke that burned my eyes as I eased open the heavy door again.
For centuries we’d been happy, left alone by the Tyrant of Darkness. We lived under the wire, kept quiet about celebrations, about business dealings. No one bragged. No one left the village in search of greater riches. We raised our families and kept our noses clean.
Then they came back. There must have been a spy. A gypsy or traveling salesman we didn’t notice carrying stories of our village to who knows whom. Perhaps the spy embellished the tale to their benefit. No matter, now, the poor villagers paid the price. If any survived, it would take decades to rebuild the village—centuries to grow it back to its current heyday.
Peering skyward through the crack in the door, I watched for the beasts to be distracted so I could get away.
The belfry collapsed. The church quickly filled with smoke. Soon flames flickered along the massive beams in the upper rafters. I was out of time.
Overhead dragons glided through the darkness, gloating as they languidly circled. Red eyes, glaring at the hysterical residents, pierced the murk and smoke. Throaty laughter filtered down to the shocked villagers. They stopped running, turning sooty faces upward. The demons flew past the full moon—their sinister serpentine shadows slithering on the charred ground.
Some people dropped to their knees in supplication, praying to the beasts of darkness to be left alone. I cringed, knowing they were lost the moment their knees hit the dirt. In the shadows, a few brave villagers searched for survivors, praying I’m sure, for deliverance by their beneficent divinity.
Creeping out the barely opened door, I crouched on the top step. Inside, the crashing continued as beams collapsed from the flaming roof. It was now or never. My cargo was too precious to lose. I ran down the many stone steps.
The sulfuric blast of flames overhead drew my attention. My eyes widened in terror; the largest of the archfiends stared at me. His tiled lips peeled back to reveal long, dripping fangs that oozed a thick substance. Death in scales. He growled. Wings folded, he dove.
I jumped, rolling beneath the stone and logs of the stairwell, to hide. Craning my neck, I looked up at the massive church set on the mountainside, majestic and intimidating. Inside, beams and rafters continued to crash, ash shooting out through shattered windows. Protection of this stone building was of no importance compared to the loss of life this day. It would be rebuilt. Those lives could not. Neither were the parchments I carried replaceable. Especially the one beneath my robes. I must, at all cost, keep it safe. I swore an oath to Laud when I volunteered for this duty.
Before I could pull my head back to safety beneath the steps, a flaming beam flew out of a window directly at me. Moments later, I collapsed under a crushing, burning pile of debris. Agony screamed through me as the searing flames licked greedily at my flesh. Through shear force of will, I bit back a roar, realizing it would mean certain death. I pushed the burning beam off my shoulder and face while trying to slide out from under it. Nerve endings on my face and hands shrieked in my brain as their lives ended—echoing the villagers’ screams. Once free of the still burning, charred beam, I looked frantically around. Village herbalists had used a certain plant for burns and skin eruptions. Stiff, pointed leaves indicated a clump of aloe growing beside the steps.
With hands that felt as though they would split open any moment, I broke several of the tough spiny leaves off the main plant. The sticky gel spread across my face, neck and hands with a cooling effect. It stopped the burn. My shoulder, protected by the singed but wearable tunic and robe, felt only bruised. My right eye, however, had begun to swell shut.
The remainder of the plant easily pulled free of the dirt in which it grew. After shaking the loose dirt from the roots, I tucked it into the rucksack. Looking up from my hiding spot, beneath the stone steps, and surrounded by masses of shrubs, I realized Narciss, the large black dragon and leader of the demons, had gotten his last revenge on me.
Red eyes narrowed into angry slits blazed in triumph as he roared, lighting the front of the church on fire. He flew by several times more with his gaping jaw spouting flames until the church was a blazing inferno.
“Now, that is better,” the demon bellowed, rising to circle with the other laughing dragons.
For hours, flames continued to flare, sparks popping high into the jet sky. Cottages, shops, and church burned. Whenever the fire diminished, a dragon descended, blazing a new trail of flame accompanied by roars that surpassed thunder, as he swooped across the village relighting it. Screeches and wails again filled the air as the renewed flames discovered hidden survivors, ending their search for sanctuary. As the moon crept across the smoke-filled night, the dragon dance continued, circling wider in search of missed victims.
Eventually the sound of wailing faded into whimpering and crying until life succumbed. Only the crackling and crashing of the collapsing wooden structures mingled with the laughing roars of the dragons. On the ground, the few terrified survivors huddled together crying or dying.
A rosy glow streaked across the horizon before the dragons turned toward home, their sinuous shapes silhouetted black. The largest swerved back spewing one final trail across the smoking demolished village. Survivors scrambled again for safety, scampering wild-eyed through the mud and soot, cowering behind anything still standing.
Once the dragons again became interested in the village, I scrambled from my hiding spot under the steps. Staying close to the mountain, using shrubbery as cover, I made my way toward the desert, away from the village.
A few miles away but close enough to witness the final blow, with tears racing down my sooty cheeks, I watched from an outcropping of rock.
The black dragon bellowed before departing, “Perhaps next time you will do as you are told!”
Here are the links and topics detailing where I’ll be all month. Check them out and win PRIZES.
Seraphym Wars Series Summary May 2
Seraphym Wars and Stardust Warriors Series Blurbs May 10
Who are the Vigorios? May 4
The Prophecy of the Vigorios May 7
EXCERPTS AVAILABLE TO READ
Harpies Chapter One May 12
Harpies Chapter Two May 15
Harpies Chapter Three May 16
Prophecy Chapter One May 23
Prophecy Chapter Two May 25
Prophecy Chapter Three May 28
Odessa Chapter One May 29
Odessa Chapter Two May 30
Odessa Chapter Three May 31
Comment on EACH of my postings (listed above with links) showing you read the posting. Commenters will acquire ONE point per comment. At the end, fill out the form on my blog, Under the Hat.
The prize? This lovely Phoenix medallion and a bag of swag including Odessa notepad, Seraphym Wars pen, Mind the Signs bookmark, coverart Postcards for each book in both series AND an eBook copy of my newest release: Harpies, Book Two Seraphym Wars Series.
Catch Rebecca at any of these links:
Under the Hat
Tween Word Quest
Teen Word Factory
Barnes and Noble
She is a fourth generation Floridian having lived all over the state. The daughter of an Elementary-school principal and school secretary, she always knew she was bound for the classroom and for fourteen years she taught Middle Grades, preferring English and Creative Writing. She had several students’ works published in anthologies as well as her own poetry, photography and stories.
Her main interests are her four teenaged and young adult children and Irish hubby of many years. She enjoys spending her time writing, drawing, going to movies, reading, discussing philosophy and politics with her college-aged son.
Be sure to check out the special interactive Middle Grade Reader website Tween Word Quest for tons of information about Stardust Warriors as well as the other projects Rebecca has in the works and Under the Hat for all of her other works.