Demon Raider The Death Stalker<br/>

Author: David Andrew Crawford
Publisher: Assassins Inc.
Published: 2015-07-15
ISBN(s) 978-0-9876773-3-4
Language(s): English
Category: Fiction
Audience: Adult
Genre(s): Fantasy, Action, Action Read Excerpt >

Now...where was I...ah yes I remember now.

          When Dark awoke the next day, it was just dawn, the time that marks the beginning of the twilight before sunrise.  The faint red and yellow slivers of sunlight had crept slowly over the land of Sommerset and as Dark made his way down stairs he saw his grandfather resting peacefully in his favorite chair.  The tall dark figure sat there motionless, his deep set eyes black beneath his great brow.  Dark knew Mephisto must have stayed up all night without any sleep.  It almost seemed impossible that the old mage could be rested at all, yet he rose without stretching and still somehow the grim face of his grandfather looked relaxed and alert.

          “Are you ready for this?” Mephisto asked at last.

          “Just tell me the Styg was able to get me the information I asked for,” his grandson replied anxiously.

          “He has indeed,” the old magus declared shortly.  “And I think you will be quite pleased at what he has obtained.”

          Without warning Mephisto took hold of Dark’s arm with urgency and propelled him through an opening in the cave wall that magically manifested itself upon their approach.  Together they hurried through the still glowing stone archway and down a long hallway lined with magic sigils and symbols that glowed a deep red.  They continued down the long, high corridor of his grandfather’s cave and up a winding staircase as the walls echoed with the rapping of their boots on the worn stone floor.  Finally, when at last they were atop the stairway, he found the entrance was surrounded by a litter of blackened rocks, and what stood closed before them were two gigantic wooden doors, with no apparent handles or visible locks of any kind. They featured a pair of beautifully carved ferocious looking dragons, set here to guard what lay beyond. They crouched on clawed feet underneath enormous coils, their scaled sides slightly gleaming. Their large leathery wings were folded and their huge heads rested on their wooden perch as hooded membranes were closed over ancient eyes. Smoke curled from blackened nostrils, and as Dark watched, the two dragons both exhaled a ribbon of blue flame. All-seeing and ever alert, the dragons awoke and slowly they peeled their heavy heads from their wooden confines and both turned in unison to stare directly at the two intruders.

“Who dares to approach us?” The dragons gave a grating hiss, swaying over them, crested heads erect, as their golden eyes flamed and smoke shot from their nostrils.

“I am Mephistopheles, the Silver Dragon,” he shouted triumphantly. “Now let me pass and open the door, then rest your weary heads and slumber once more.”

Immediately the dragons obeyed and retreated.  Spurting flecks of foam and smoke, they lurched back and both resumed their initial position on the huge doors until at last they were still, and slumbered once more.  Mephisto’s great library opened slowly in front of Dark; he stared guardedly at the dragons, but both lay motionless as the flames in their eyes now burned out.  After some hesitation, the young grandson of the Silver Mage moved forward and entered the massive chamber, his elven eyes quickly noting the ancient austerity of the library as he moved into the multi-colored light that slid down tired streaks through a mass of large stain glass windows.  Nine wide marble steps led down to the gallery floor.  On each side of the staircase, Greek and Latin letters described the life of one Mephistopheles, the ancient silver dragon.

          “Is that new?” Dark exclaimed.

          “Sure is,” was his grandfather’s casual response.

          “Nice touch,” his grandson added thoughtfully.

          “…Thanks,” he smiled faintly in the darkness.

          Along the inner walls, four recesses contained female statues of solid gold representing wisdom, knowledge, intelligence and virtue, eerily each one turning their head in procession, as stone eyes began to follow Dark’s every step.  The vaulting, two-story gallery was lavishly decorated with ornate ornaments and carvings.  The floors and walls were faced with colored marble with low Ionian pillars supporting small reading tables.

          “You going to tell me any time soon what we are doing here?” snapped Dark irritably.

          “Patience my young impatient apprentice,” his grandfather advised lightly.  “All in good time.”

          They walked through another set of double doors, separated by yet another corridor where rolled up manuscripts were stored in square niches along the inner walls.  Down a narrow walkway they came where stairs in this cavity lead to the upper level.  In here, the upper level contained a collection of fine paintings and artifacts, a pair of confidantes with matching arm chairs and a large circular rowan mountain ash tree table with a specimen marble top inlaid with the Silver Dragon’s Coat of Arms.

          They moved past numerous clay tablets and dusty leather bound books until they stood at the far end of the room under a glittering tapestry.  What was depicted on the hanging was a fool wearing black and gold parti-colored garments with a matching eared and belled hood.  The jester’s hosiery was footed with exaggerated curling points at the toes; he played a pipe and rode a sort of hobbyhorse with a man’s head.  In the fool’s hand he carried a bauble with a small head on a thin black rod and concealing the character’s features was a black expressionless mask.

          “This is what you needed to show me!” Dark exclaimed in disbelief.  “I don’t even know what this is...”

          “This is what I spent all night waiting for,” his grandfather continued quickly.  “This is the only known historical record of Giacomo the Jester and it lies, not in a library and not even in Ravenherst its last known home, but in my own specially-built... personal...library...”

          “I’m going back to bed.”  He started to move away from his grandfather.

          “All right get back here, I’ll tell you what this is.”  The Silver Mage motioned for him to come back, then he began to speak.  “Reputedly he was the first court jester in the Northern Kingdom of Ravenherst.  He is by all accounts a devil character responsible for a number of deaths during his time at the King’s court.  Some say he is even responsible for the murder of Sir Conall Kernach, famed Knight of the Red Branch Order.  One of his ideas of a ‘joke’ was directing anyone asking for directions to Ravenlock towards the hidden quicksand and bog marsh by the River Esk.  Some realized in time, while many did not and were never seen again.”

          “And what exactly does this have to do with me?” he questioned.

          The old sorcerer frowned and shook his head, a look of consternation registered on his hardened face.

          “This is your passport into Duergar and your way into the Assassin’s Guild.  On this wall hangs an extremely rare embroidered tapestry done entirely by hand from the world renowned weaver Ficini, whose skills and trade have been passed down from generations.  He used an ancient technique that attached gold and silver threads on magically infused backing cloth and decorated it with real jewels and gem stones.  His tapestries are quite rare and exclusive to only royalty and the very wealthy.”

          Dark opened his mouth and glanced questioningly at Mephisto in objection but was cut short.

          “The reason the Styg picked this particular scoundrel is for two reasons.  The first, Giacomo has already been chosen worthy by the Black Council to gain membership into the Assassin’s Guild in Duergar, a feat not so easily gained.  As you know, the Regent or Head Guild Master only allows ten new hopefuls to join the Guild each year.”

          “And the second,” Dark asked curiously.

          “Giacomo is famed for never removing his mask, not even for Kings or Queens.  In darker circles they say you will never see what lies underneath his fool’s mask, but when he does remove it, it usually means death is nigh for the viewer.  His face has never been seen by a living soul able to tell the tale...until now.”

          The wise wizard slowly brushed his right hand gently against the gold and silver threads of Ficini’s magnificent creation.  Only then, after the briefest of moments, did he speak the arcane words that activated the spell.

Demon Raider The Death Stalker   by   David Andrew Crawford   |   See Bio >
This is the second novel in the Dark Saga series entitled ‘Demon Raider the Death Stalker’ and it continues where Book 1 left off.

This is the second novel in the Dark Saga series entitled ‘Demon Raider the Death Stalker’ and it continues where Book 1 left off.  Now with the first leg of his quest over, the second book starts out with Dark finally finding himself in the Dwarven City of Duergar, an instrument of revenge, seeking redress for wrongs done to him and his family as he begins to set his plan for vengeance in motion.  Aided by the powerful artifact, the Eye of Dagda, he enters the city under the guise of Giacomo the Jester and sets out to destroy the Halflings’ Guild and its leader Sneak Longfoot, the Grand Master of the Guild.

Dark, using all his skill as an assassin and his powerful arsenal of magical items, causes murder and mayhem throughout the fortified City of the Dwarves.  One by one the leaders of the Guilds and their followers will pay for the injustice carried out against his parents.  Then and only then will Dark have peace in the knowledge that his parents have been avenged and all those responsible have paid with their very lives.

Darkness will fall upon the Kingdom of Duergar and one lone assassin will rise up against the sinister forces who have gone, as of yet, unpunished. On his quest for vengeance, Dark must face his first of many terrifying tasks that poses as much risk to himself as it does to his target. Any doubts he may have he will bury with the dead as he puts into play a plan that will have him hunt down his numerous adversaries and in the end his shadowy blade will drip with the blood of his enemies.

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