Today is my stop on the blog tour for ‘God King Rising’ by Jeffrey L. Kohanek organised by Storytellers on Tour. This is the first book in the Fall of Wizardoms Series, and today I have an extract to whet your appetite as well as the chance to win a copy of the book for yourself.
*Disclaimer: ‘I was given a copy this book in exchange for an honest review, all views are my own.’*
A stirring rebellion. Unrelenting assassins. Conspiracies abound.
One rules by fear, her citizens laboring to fund the lavish lifestyle of the wizard class. The other believes in justice and compassion, earning her the love of her subjects…and the enmity of her wizard peers.
Both will die.
In one wizardom, a secret rebellion brews. A hero to the people rises, fueled by a mysterious sorcerer’s blood magic. But at what cost?
Conspiracies and assassins lurk in every shadow, threatening the throne of another nation. The scheming wizard behind it will stop at nothing to claim the crown. Yet, even he is a pawn.
What force is behind it all? What is their endgame?
When I look back on my life, I marvel at the things I experienced…and those I survived.
My youth was difficult and troubled, hardening me for what was to come. Later, as a pirate, I fought beside men as apt to stab you in the back as to buy you an ale. Yet, I thrived, eventually rising to captain my own ship.
A woman in a role dominated by men, I chose to venture where only the courageous or foolish might, charting waters previously thought impassable, and earning myself the moniker Queen of the Shoals. Even so, I discovered there was much I had to learn of the world.
Tales of Urvadan, the Dark Lord, prevail throughout the Eight Wizardoms, often told around the fire at night. The source of all evil, his darkspawn stalking the darkness – these tales conjured frightening images and stirred nightmares unfounded in truth. Or so I thought.
In a frantic, horrible clash in the dark of night, my crew and I fought off a goblin squadron led by a shaman wielding unknowable dark magic. My ship was torched. My crew, slaughtered. I would have died as well had a wizard not appeared. Casting fireballs, lightning, and ferocious twisters, he destroyed the darkspawn and saved my life. This man was known simply as Chandan, and it was through him I was recruited to the Order of Sol.
It was a secret society based in a hidden oasis valley amid the desolate deserts of Hassakan. But the Order had members strewn throughout the Eight Wizardoms – tendrils of influence to apply toward their ultimate objective: To end the threat of the Dark Lord.
As a member of the Order, I worked in secret for three years, until, miraculously, a squad of heroes guided by our hand, vanquished Urvadan. The battle against the Dark Lord came with a price. It cost our world the other gods as well. Thus, a vacuum was created, for without gods to worship, without a higher power for spiritual guidance, mortals are doomed.
Thus begins my greatest adventure, one that would see a realm destroyed, hope lost, a world ended…and another reborn. This tale, I now share with you.
Queen of the Shoals
Gravel crunched beneath Tranadal’s feet as he crested the ridge. Approaching the edge of the cliff, he drew his cloak hood back and stared down into a narrow canyon occupied by a hidden city. A chill clung to the dry night air, welcome after the treacherous journey across the Hassakani desert. During the daylight hours, Tranadal had hidden in the shade of rock outcroppings amid sand dunes and in gorges carved centuries earlier by rivers that no longer existed. As a dark elf, his eyes were attuned to darkness, allowing him to travel at night with little risk of injury. The journey had consumed nine long nights of walking from dusk until dawn, taking him from Domus Argenti, the underground home of his people, to the Valley of Sol. Neither place could be found on any map – one thought lost for millennia, the other unknown to the rest of the world.
The round moon, forever bound to the eastern sky, shone down on the valley and caused the surrounding cliffs to cast dark shadows. Somewhere below him, water ran from a fissure in the cliff wall, spilled over a rocky shelf, and flowed into a narrow lake with a bridge at the far end. White foam bubbled at the bottom of the falls. The reflection of the moon and starry sky wavered in the ripples that drifted across the lake.
Not far from the falls, a massive pyramid loomed over the lake, its crystalline tip shimmering in the moonlight. While the structure’s peak stood five hundred feet above the valley floor, it remained a good distance below Tranadal’s position.
Along the opposite side of the lake, clustered between the shoreline and the opposing cliffside, were buildings of varied shapes, sizes, and designs – circular and square towers, flat, peaked, and bulbous rooftops, pyramid-shaped buildings, and structures shaped like cubes. The settlement was unique – the result of all civilizations coming together in one tiny Maker-built city. Light came from a handful of village windows, but nothing moved.
He turned and continued along the ridge, circling from the northwest edge of the canyon to the northeast. As always, he carried Ichor in one hand, its smooth black shaft reassuring him, and the soft hum of the souls bound within the weapon constantly singing to him, even while he slept. Should he call upon that song, it would roar like thunder. Many years had passed since he had done so, but that would soon change. While eager to unleash the naginata’s power, he could wait. Unlike humans, the Drow were a patient people, their lives spanning centuries rather than decades.
Once above the city, he descended a narrow path along a rock ledge, each step sure and balanced. He knew many humans feared heights, an idea he found ludicrous. Those confident of their footing should discount such fears. Falling was falling. So long as you did not fall, the distance of the fall remained irrelevant.
When the ledge ended, he slid his naginata through loops on his pack and began lowering himself down. The wraps around his feet gripped the jagged rock, while the tips of his fingers found cracks, edges, and lips where none were visible. For hundreds of feet, he descended in a practiced manner, as if born for it.
At the bottom, he followed the cliff wall, careful to remain in the shadows and keep the buildings between him and the shoreline. Soon, he came to a dark tunnel and faded inside. Even with his enhanced vision, the tunnel was nothing more than pale edges of rock amid gloom, the darkest patches leading him deeper into the earth.
A soft light appeared ahead. He rounded a bend and came to a section where striations in the walls glowed with blue light, revealing a door with a sunburst carved into dark-stained wood.
He knocked, the rap of his knuckles echoing in the tunnel.
Noises came from inside, and the door opened to reveal a female. She stood only a few inches shorter than Tranadal, her shaved head revealing tattoos of symbols and spells that ran across her scalp and down her neck. Like him, her skin was ashen in tone, her eyes dark and angled, and her ears pointed. She had long thin fingers with nails painted black. Wearing the golden robes of the Order of Sol, she appeared exactly as she had when Tranadal had last seen her, three seasons earlier.
“Welcome back, brother,” she said.
“It is good to return, Dai-Seryn. Is Xavan present?”
“While the humans sleep? Where else would he be at this hour?”
He walked past her. “Good. We have much to discuss.”
The doorway led to a domed cavern occupied by furniture – a sitting area consisting of a sofa, loveseat, and low table. A dormant fireplace stood to one side of the room, a long table encircled by chairs to the other. Tranadal crossed the room and ducked into a tunnel, following it to the first room. A bed, a nightstand, and a wardrobe filled the small room. For a hundred years, half of his existence, he had slept in this space. Over that time, he had come to think of it as his own. Of course, it was not truly his, for nothing in the valley belonged to anyone save the Order itself.
He set his pack on the bed, stood Ichor against the wall, and draped his cloak over a hook before following his sister. They soon came to a door at the end of the tunnel, the dark wood pulsing with a malevolent red glow.
Dai-Seryn closed her eyes and placed her hand on a panel beside the door, the ominous light fading. She then knocked.
A musical, lilting voice came from within. “You may enter.”
She opened it and led Tranadal inside.
The chamber was as he remembered, perfectly circular in shape, the floor inlaid with thin gold strips forming an eight-pointed star. A desk covered in books stood to one side of the room, where a middle-aged Drow, three centuries old, sat, his finger tracing the pages as he studied a massive tome. Behind the desk was shelving filled with hundreds, if not thousands, of books. Tranadal did not understand how Xavan could be so enthralled by words. I am a letalis, not a singer. That very statement said all there was to say on the subject – why Xavan obsessively studied magic of all natures and why Tranadal needed none save for the soul magic of his weapon. Ichor belonged to him, and he to the weapon, bonded for life and paid for in blood. There were times he wondered what it would be like if his own soul had been claimed by the weapon. Sometimes, he wished it had.
Xavan raised his head. Like Tranadal’s sister, the singer was covered in ink, but he lacked her natural beauty. With a long face and a slim seven-foot frame, Xavan looked as if he had been stretched by a tool of torture until his proportions were irrevocably distorted.
The singer sat back in his chair, his long elegant fingers flowing as he spoke. “You have returned.” As always, Xavan’s musical voice lilted when he spoke.
Another female Drow entered the chamber. She stood nearly as tall as Tranadal and, like him, was stout for a dark elf, her frame covered in long lean muscles. As a warrior, few were Arci-Aesha’s equal, even without the enchanted naginata at her side.
“Arci.” Tranadal gave her a respectful nod. Although unrelated, she had become a sister to him since their exile.
“I am pleased to see you have returned,” she said. “I have missed our duels. Humans lack the speed and finesse of a proper warrior. Even Tempest offers little challenge in the sparring yard.”
Before Tranadal could reply, Xavan interrupted.
“You two can speak later. First, I would hear of your journey.”
Tranadal dipped his head to the singer. “As bidden, I traveled to Domus Argenti and met with the Coven to share what has occurred. When I informed them of the Dark Lord’s demise and disappearance of the other gods, they were reluctant to believe. For breaking my penance and returning, they confiscated my weapon and locked me in a cell, holding me until they could prove or disprove my claims, while simultaneously planning my execution.
“Isolated, I remained while they sent scouts south to ferret out the truth. Many weeks passed, causing my hope to dwindle. Finally, those scouts returned, each confirming that the gods of the wizardoms were absent, their towers dark, and their crystal thrones dormant. In the east, Urvadan’s tower has turned to solid crystal. It gleams with raw power, a crimson beacon in the dark Murlands. Only then did they free me and truly listen to your plea.”
Xavan tented his fingers. “So, they now believe.”
“The Coven could no longer deny the truth or ignore the signs. As you requested, they have begun preparing for a return to the surface world. However, they remain reluctant. Unlike the humans, the Drow remain few in number – their wizards greatly outnumber our singers.”
Leaning back, Xavan smirked. “I have foreseen their response and am already taking action. The war last year reduced the human armies and altered the power structure that upheld them for millennia. Pull the right bricks free and the rest will crumble.” The singer stood, his height exceeding that of Tranadal. “Without gods to Gift wizards with true power, the wizard lords are no more. Humans are sheep without a shepherd, ripe for slaughter. Our people will soon return to the surface to reclaim our rightful place.”
With gliding steps, Xavan floated past, his golden robes swishing like curtains in a soft breeze. Mounted to the wall was a staff, the wooden shaft six feet in length and one end capped by a pointed crystal. Xavan reached up, gripped the staff, and freed it with a pop. He stared into the crystal, his eyes filled with a desire not for flesh but for power. An unfamiliar sensation ran down Tranadal’s spine, twisting his innards. Fear.
With a nod, Xavan spun toward the door. “Come.”
Tranadal shot a questioning look at his sister and whispered, “Where would we go at this hour?”
Xavan paused at the door and smiled, revealing a mouth with too many teeth. “Is it not obvious? It is time to visit the vaunted leader of the Order.”
While Dai-Seryn and Arci-Aesha followed Xavan toward the exit, Tranadal stopped in his room to retrieve his weapon. Unlike the others who wore the golden robes of the Order, he was still dressed in his dark travel clothing. But there was no time to change. They were unlikely to come across any members of the Order at this hour anyway.
As Tranadal emerged, he found Arci-Aesha holding a weapon identical to his own – a naginata with a shiny black shaft, with a metal cap at one end and a razor-sharp blade the length of his forearm at the other. Silver runes marked the shaft. Others etched into the metal. Unlike most letalis weapons, those wielded by Tranadal and Arci-Aesha had been augmented by magic, forever capturing the souls of their victims and giving them abilities far beyond those of other warriors.
Once everyone was outside, Xavan led them down a shadowy path winding between buildings and bordered by palms whose fronds swayed in the soft evening breeze. The path brought them to a road, and the road to a circular tower on the shore of the lake.
Xavan opened the door and entered the tower, followed by the two females. Pausing, Tranadal glanced up and down the road but saw nothing moving other than palm fronds. He stepped inside and closed the door before trailing his three fellow Drow up the curved stairwell.
A few levels up, they came to a closed door. Rather than knock, Xavan entered. The rooms on the level were vacant, the light of the moon streaming through east facing windows. So they continued up to the fifth level.
The bedroom was unoccupied; the private study dark and silent. Xavan approached a closed door, his arms extended before him and a soft aria arising from his throat, but while his lips moved, the words were unintelligible. The knob turned, and the door creaked softly until it stood open to reveal another curved stairwell.
Xavan turned toward them. “Do not touch the door. You’ll not enjoy what occurs if you do so.”
Ascending the stairs, his robes swishing with each step, Xavan led them toward the top floor. Moonlight streamed through an arched window at the midpoint, and another closed door lurked at the top. Again, Xavan sang. This time his tone wavered, rising in pitch until the door clicked and swung open to reveal amber light.
Xavan climbed to the top and entered, the two women close behind, and Tranadal entering last.
A single circular room covered the entire floor with eight arched windows spaced along the wall. The space between windows was occupied by shelves filled with books and pedestals topped by odd contraptions. In the room’s center was a table with piles of open books and a flickering lantern on one corner. The lantern’s amber light revealed a man with black hair and a black beard.
Rising to his feet, the man demanded, “What is the meaning of this intrusion?”
“I have urgent news, Master Chandan,” Xavan said in his musical voice.
Chandan’s white robes marked him as the leader of the Order of Sol, a mantle he had earned less than a year ago. More notably, the man was both a passable sorcerer and a skilled wizard. When Arci-Aesha positioned herself at one end of Chandan’s table, Tranadal circled to stand opposite her with the butt of Ichor on the floor. Sensing the tension, he called upon the souls trapped in his weapon, bidding them to arise. A hum stirred inside of Ichor, longing to be unleashed.
Narrowing his eyes, Chandan stared at Tranadal. “So, you have returned after your mysterious disappearance. Care to explain?”
Tranadal cast a glance at Xavan, who nodded. “I returned to Domus Argenti to inform my people of what transpired.”
“And what did you tell them?”
“The Dark Lord is dead and gone, and the gods of men are no longer of this world.”
“To what end? The dark elves have remained apart from the rest of the world for two thousand years. Why would they care about such things?”
Xavan waved his long fingers before his face. “The time nears for the Drow to reclaim their rightful place.”
Chandan turned toward the singer. “Which is?”
“We were once the preeminent of beings, destined to rule all…until Urvadan broke the world. The new gods arose in the wake of the Cataclysm, the wizard lords with them, shifting the balance in favor of the humans.” The music faded from his voice and he snarled. “But no longer! We will crush the humans and rule the world. And the Order will help us do it.”
About the Author:
Jeffrey L. Kohanek grew up in rural Minnesota where comic books sparked his young imagination, inspiring fantasies of heroes with super-powers saving the day. His tastes later evolved to fantasy epics featuring unlikely heroes overcoming impossible odds to save worlds born from the writer’s imagination. Now residing in southern California, Jeff uses that imagination to weave tales of engaging characters caught in fantastic plots to inspire young adults and the child within us all.
Prize: A copy of God King Rising by Jeffrey L. Kohanek
Signed physical copy (US Only)
Choice of ebook/audiobook (International)
Starts: August 11th, 2021 at 12:00am EST
Ends: August 18th, 2021 at 11:59pm EST
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