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Bringers of Doom (Arc of Radiance Book 2)
 


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Bringers of Doom (Arc of Radiance Book 2)


  Bringers of Doom

  Arc of Radiance: Book II

  ***

  Blake Arthur Peel

  BRINGERS OF DOOM

  Arc of Radiance: Book II

  Blake Arthur Peel

  Copyright © 2018 by Blake Arthur Peel. All rights reserved.

  This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either products of the author’s imagination or used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental. All rights reserved. No part of this publication can be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, without permission from the author.

  https://blakearthurpeel.com

  Cover art by Rob Erto

  Table of Contents

  Title Page

  Copyright Page

  Dedication

  Arc of Radiance

  Prologue | Harbinger

  Chapter One | Owyn

  Chapter Two | Zara

  Chapter Three | Owyn

  Chapter Four | Zara

  Chapter Five | Owyn

  Chapter Six | Zara

  Chapter Seven | Owyn

  Chapter Eight | Zara

  Chapter Nine | Owyn

  Chapter Ten | Zara

  Chapter Eleven | Owyn

  Chapter Twelve | Zara

  Chapter Thirteen | Owyn

  Chapter Fourteen | Zara

  Chapter Fifteen | Owyn

  Chapter Sixteen | Zara

  Chapter Seventeen | Owyn

  Chapter Eighteen | Zara

  Chapter Nineteen | Owyn

  Chapter Twenty | Zara

  Chapter Twenty-One | Owyn

  Chapter Twenty-Two | Zara

  Chapter Twenty-Three | Owyn

  Chapter Twenty-Four | Zara

  Chapter Twenty-Five | Owyn

  Chapter Twenty-Six | Zara

  Chapter Twenty-Seven | Owyn

  Chapter Twenty-Eight | Zara

  Chapter Twenty-Nine | Owyn

  Chapter Thirty | Zara

  Chapter Thirty-One | Owyn

  Chapter Thirty-Two | Zara

  Chapter Thirty-Three | Owyn

  Chapter Thirty-Four | Zara

  Chapter Thirty-Five | Owyn

  Epilogue | One Week Later

  THE END

  About the Author

  For Brayden,

  Thanks for giving me a reason to keep writing. All the hugs helped, too.

  Arc of Radiance

  "Ranger's Oath"

  "Bringers of Doom"

  "War Echoes" - Forthcoming

  "Exiled" - Forthcoming

  "Prince of Darkness" - Forthcoming

  For more information about upcoming releases, please join my newsletter at https://blakearthurpeel.com

  Map

  Prologue

  Harbinger

  There is a chill in the air as I make my way through the deserted city streets of Tarsys, a frosty reminder that summer has ended and that winter is fast approaching. The night is dark and oppressive, much like the reigning monarchy of Tarsynium, and thick, heavy clouds obscure the moon and the stars, covering the glittering City of Mages in deep shadows.

  I pull my cloak tightly around me as I delve into a narrow alleyway. No citizens walk the streets at this late hour, but I do not want to risk being spotted by a city watchman.

  Treason is not generally seen in a favorable light.

  My foot splashes in a puddle of something foul, and for a moment I am grateful for the mask covering my mouth and nose. Tarsys prides itself in its cleanliness, the king himself enacting laws to keep the capitol as pristine as possible, but it is nothing but a superficial façade.

  One does not need to look very hard to see the grime in the crevices, the pain and suffering festering just beneath the surface.

  I continue past a pair of wretches cowering beneath some rags in a shadowed alcove. They huddle against the wall at my passing, no doubt fearful that I am some vagabond come to accost them. I pay them little heed, not even looking down at them as I walk by.

  They are merely symptoms of a greater problem. A sign of the end times.

  My duty is to aid them in the only way I can.

  The rendezvous point lies just ahead, and I find myself breathing a little easier knowing that I will soon be in a secure location. Slinking around in the darkness has never been something I have particularly enjoyed.

  A single wax candle sits on an open windowsill in the alley, dripping pale wax down the filthy stone and illuminating the steps leading into the building. Looking around to make sure I am not being followed, I stride up the stone steps and slip inside, closing the door behind me with a creak.

  I find myself in a large, musty room filled with dust-covered crates and boxes. A warehouse, I think to myself, cautiously making my way inside to an illuminated section near the back. As fitting a location as any, I suppose.

  My booted feet scuff loudly on the rough floorboards, the sound loud in my ears as I make my way deeper into the cavernous warehouse. As I near the back, I rack my brain for any details that might be pertinent to this meeting, preparing myself mentally for the coming conversation.

  It is extremely difficult to see, but as I near the meeting place it becomes gradually brighter. It is not long before I find myself in a clear section of the warehouse where the wooden crates had been mostly cleared away. More candles, perhaps dozens of them, rest on the floor and on shelves, bathing the area in a garish, flickering light that casts dancing shadows on the merchandise.

  A lone figure stands in the center of the clearing, waiting for me with gloved hands clasped in front. The figure is hooded and cloaked, his face shrouded in gloom, and even though his features are hidden I approach him without hesitation.

  Removing my mask, I fall to my knees and bow down before him. “My lord,” I utter reverently, “your humble servant awaits your command.”

  “Arise, child,” the prophet replies, his voice sounding muffled beneath the folds of his hood. “We have much to discuss.”

  I push myself to my feet and slide my mask into a pocket in my cloak. “I came as soon as I heard,” I begin, glancing up to the spot where I imagine his eyes might be. “Everyone in the brotherhood is talking about the news.”

  “How much do you know?”

  “Only that the Arc has been breached and that there has been an attack,” I reply, eagerness creeping into my voice. “My lord, this is it, isn’t it? The end times are upon us!”

  The prophet nods his hooded head. “This is only the beginning, my child. The beginning of the end. However, there is still much work that needs to be done before the Cleansing Fire can fully return. There have been... complications that we must address.”

  “Complications?” My heart sinks a little at the implications.

  “Yes,” the prophet continues darkly, his tone becoming tinged with anger. “The demon Moloch overplayed his hand, striking at our enemies before he was fully prepared. The army that he managed to sneak through has been all but destroyed, and Moloch now lies dead.”

  The revelation feels like a physical blow. “How did this happen?” The shock that I feel quickly turns to boiling red anger. “Who defeated them?”

  “Our sources tell us that it was the people of Forest Hill, led by a coalition of mages and rangers.”

  I resist the urge to spit on the ground. “Curse them,” I snarl. “They stand in the way of their own salvation!”

  “Your passion is commendable, child,” the prophet says after a moment, though his tone is one of scolding. “But all is not lost. The Arc of Radiance is faili
ng, and there will be ample opportunities in the future to bring the R'Laar inside the kingdom. If you have faith and listen to my words, all will be well.”

  It is a difficult thing, but I manage to swallow my vitriol. Taking a deep breath, I bow my head and ask, “Tell me what I must do, my lord, and I will see it done.”

  This seems to satisfy him, and I can feel my anger begin to cool. “Word will no doubt begin to spread quickly about Moloch’s attack,” the prophet declares, turning around and pacing the small, candlelit clearing. “Rumor and hearsay are not my concern. Let the common people whisper about what they see in the dark. However, it is imperative that we keep the Conclave from finding out the truth. The last thing we need is for the mages to tighten their grip on Tarsynium.”

  I think that I am beginning to understand. “The mages who helped defeat Moloch... they will need to be killed.”

  The prophet stops pacing and looks at me, giving me a single nod. “Yes. The Conclave suspects the Arc is failing, but none of them know the true scope of the threat. Your mission is to keep them in the dark.”

  “Understood,” I reply solemnly.

  After a moment’s hesitation, the prophet approaches me and places a hand on my shoulder. "I don't want you carrying out the assassination yourself," he says, lowering his voice. "Your position makes you a useful agent and I cannot risk losing you on such a simple mission."

  Despite myself, I feel my chest begin to swell with pride at his words.

  He continues. "You have all of the resources of the fellowship behind you. Make it efficient and discrete, and see that those involved never make it to the city alive."

  I bow my head. "Yes, my lord."

  "Do not disappoint me," the prophet intones as he removes his hand from my shoulder and steps away. "The future of our great cause depends on you."

  Something in his voice seems to indicate that our conversation is now finished, so I remove the mask from my pocket and step away. My thoughts are a whirlwind as I make my way to the exit, fastening the mask to cover my face and trying not to trip in the overwhelming darkness of the warehouse.

  Part of me wrestles to come to terms with the information just shared with me. The demon general Moloch is dead. He managed to get a small army of demons inside the Arc but was defeated by a handful of inbred farmers and woodsmen. The thought is so ridiculous that I can hardly believe it is true.

  And yet, those are the facts straight from the prophet's mouth.

  Madness.

  I push open the door and step out into the alley, gripping my cloak around me and hurriedly starting my long walk home.

  As I make my way back through the alley the wretches begin to cower again, sitting in their own filth under a mass of stinking rags. Miserable sods, I think as I hurry past them. Not so different from the rest of the human rats living in this city.

  That is what appeals to me about the fellowship. It isn't some false system of beliefs, deifying a mystical Light, but a movement of fervent and ambitious men seeking to make a difference in the world. To end human suffering and injustice once and for all. Never, in the history of all Byhalya, has there been a worthier cause.

  Ducking my head I exit the alley, keeping to the shadows on the empty city streets. I will not fail the prophet, I vow silently to myself. All those that stand in the way of the Chosen will be destroyed, and the paradisiacal end times will be brought to pass once and for all!

  The very thought fills me with rapture.

  I smile to myself as I pick up my pace. There is still so much work to be done before dawn. When the sun rises in the morning, holy assassins will leave Tarsys on a quest of utmost importance.

  Blood must be answered with blood.

  Chapter One

  Owyn

  Brittle leaves crunch beneath my feet as I sprint through the woods, my breath labored and my heart beating loudly in my ears. I scan the woods before me with a ranger's eye, searching as I run for signs of my prey. Something deep inside fills me with anticipation, telling me that the end of the hunt is drawing near.

  There, I think to myself as I catch a glimpse of a figure crashing through the brush ahead. I only see it for half a second but that is enough.

  I haven't lost him yet.

  "Ahead!" I call out, gripping my bow in one hand as I run with an arrow held in place with my forefinger. All around me I hear movement as the rest of my hunting party struggles to keep up. These men are woodsmen, who have spent their entire lives carving out a living in the Emberwood.

  But none of them are rangers.

  "Come on!" I urge, delving through the undergrowth in pursuit of our quarry. "We've almost got him! Just a little further!"

  The hunters follow me, sweat pouring down their faces and weapons held in their hands.

  They are a tenacious lot, eager to do whatever it takes to secure their homeland. I don't blame them, knowing what they have gone through and the things they've seen. I only hope that their determination will be enough.

  Pushing aside a low-hanging branch, I leap over a tangle of roots and land on fairly even ground, continuing my run on the other side. Already I have lost sight of it, but the rustling bushes ahead tell me that I am not far behind.

  As soon as I have a clear shot, it'll all be over.

  Sucking in air and pumping my legs as hard as I can, I press onward, ignoring my burning lungs and the sweat running down my face. All that matters right now is reaching my target. I'll not allow days of tracking to be wasted only to have it slip away from us again. Today it is finally going to die. Only then will we be able to rest easy again.

  The woods begin to thin somewhat and I am finally able to get a good look at what we have been chasing, no more than twenty paces away.

  It lumbers through the forest with a speed that defies its hulking size, thick, powerful legs propelling it forward without any signs of fatigue. Orange skin stands out in the green of the forest, and a great sword bounces noisily on its broad and armored back. A pair of curling horns sprouts from its head like a gnarled helm, identifying this creature easily as a being from the Hells themselves.

  A gorgon.

  Skidding to a halt, I raise my bow, pulling the arrow back and resting the fletching against my cheek. The world seems to slow down as I aim down the shaft, my ranger's training taking hold as I search for a weak point in the thing's blackened armor.

  Finding my target, I release, blowing out a breath as I let the arrow fly. It cuts through the air with incredible speed and plunges into the back of the demon's thigh with pinpoint accuracy.

  The monster roars in anger and pain, stumbling through the ferns and spinning around. It looks from its wounded leg to me, glowing red eyes flashing with intense hatred.

  I nock another arrow from my quiver and pull just as the other hunters begin flooding onto the scene. I loose, aiming for the demon's ugly head, but at the last minute it dodges to the side, the arrow disappearing into the woods behind it.

  Cursing, I throw my bow to the ground and remove my father's hatchet from my belt. "Surround him!" I shout, but the hunters are already ahead of me. Six woodsmen, huffing from their long run, fan out and begin to surround the gorgon, axes and spears held at the ready. I begin to move forward as well, closing in on the great brute like a stalking predator.

  The gorgon staggers back, the arrow in its leg preventing it from running away, and swivels its head back and forth to keep an eye on the seven of us. Anticipating a fight, it removes its great sword, hefting the massive weapon as easily as a child might hold a toy.

  The circle of hunters begins to close in, prodding at the wounded gorgon but keeping a respectful distance.

  With a roar the demon lashes out with its sword, catching one of the hunters by surprise. The spear he was holding snaps in half like a twig as the blade passes through, scoring a hit on the unfortunate man's shoulder and drawing blood.

  The hunter cries out in pain and falls back, landing heavily in the ferns.

  Lu
ckily, one of his companions lunges from behind with his own spear and pierces the demon in the side, puncturing its armor and preventing it from finishing the job.

  The gorgon lets out a shriek and spins around, slashing wildly with its blade as it desperately attempts to fend us off. It comes perilously close to decapitating the hunter, and its reckless attacks force the remaining woodsmen to hesitate in their attack and stay out of the monster's range.

  I need to end this so that nobody else gets hurt, I think to myself, quickly forming a plan in my mind. My bow lies in the grass behind me, out of reach, though I don't want to risk shooting one of the hunters by accident. I'll have to get close if I am going to kill it.

  Grasping my father's hatchet, I wait for the gorgon to spin around so that its back is to me. Then I rush forward, approaching the demon from behind and swinging my weapon as hard as I can. The hatchet bites deep into the armor and embeds itself directly in the flesh of the monster's back. It lets out an angry wail and twists, wrenching the handle out of my hand and bringing me face to face with its snarling visage.

  Somehow, I have the mental dexterity to duck out of the way before the gorgon can disembowel me with its sword, dropping to the leafy ground and rolling to the side.

  The great sword slams down, gouging the dirt and narrowly missing my head as I roll away. I offer a silent prayer to the Light as I push myself up and dash behind the orange demon, hoping that I won't be killed by my own hasty actions.

  One of the hunters has the presence of mind to throw a rock at the demon, hitting it in the chest and distracting it enough for me to sneak behind and attempt to pull my hatchet out of its back. Wrapping my fingers around the handle, I give it a mighty tug but it does not move. It is held fast by its mangled armor and bone.

  Not knowing what else I should do, I jump onto the gorgon’s back before it can turn around. Wrapping my arms around its meaty neck, I hold on for dear life and silently pray that it does not manage to throw me.

  The monster shrieks again and begins to thrash, trying to dislodge me from its back by twisting violently. It reaches a thick-fingered hand up and begins clawing at me, and I am forced to put my head down to protect my eyes. “If you’re going to do something, do it now!” I shout at the hunters, squeezing the demon’s neck as tightly as I can.

 
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