Strife of the Mighty
by Julius Bailey
Series: The Lael Chronicles, #1
Genre: Epic Fantasy
Release Date: January 15, 2015
A HUSBAND. A LIQUOR LOVER. A STRANGER. THE DIREST ADVENTURE OF THEIR CENTURY.
For over fifteen hundred years the kingdom of Vrandalin has withstood the might of the one enemy they had need to fear. Now a new threat arises. In the southeastern part of the land, a grim-looking newcomer arrives in the village of Varalel, bringing with him a warning of imminent ruin. Shortly afterward, Varalel is stormed, its folk scattered, and one man is separated from the woman he loves.
Little else matters to Allon Bracken than reuniting with his wife. With nowhere else to turn, he must place his faith in a gruff, mysterious man he knows little of, and an unexpected comrade. But his road is a hard one, and will lead him into dangers and discoveries that will change everything.
It is likely safe to assume that the silver-haired man did not expect events to take such a swift turn when he hasted to Varalel with his warning. But there is no time to curse ill fate. Extenuating circumstances compel him to share Allon’s road—unless it is the other way around—but he quickly finds himself with another goal: the capital must be warned. An army out of legend stamps through the land, goaded by an age-old enchantress with designs of destruction. Time is short. But he must look to himself as well, for a hunted man is rarely at rest, and the terrible creatures that pursue him do not sleep.
And for a former traveling trinket seller deemed village ‘softhead’ by his peers, things are suddenly very horrible indeed. Or are they? It seems that chaos brings folk together. Joined to Allon’s path by an inner impulse, he discovers a companionship he did not expect to find. He will need it.
Enter Vrandalin; a land where ancient powers stir, dark beasts prowl, forgotten lore returns, and those who are thought weak discover their strength.
Brandegan quickened his run. Ahead of him the lights had begun to recede, melting into the night like wraiths. There were no more shouts either. All around silence again crept forward. Just before he could reach them, the last of the fires vanished. Brandegan was just about to dash after them, but something halted him. The heavy forestry round about was still, too still. Brandegan became aware of an intense watchfulness, and as he listened, a shroud of dread descended upon him.
Suddenly he felt, rather than saw, a shadow shift beside him. Next moment, he was hurled forward, heaved from the earth as though he was weightless, and tossed like a wind-blasted reed. Hardly had he struck the ground when a dark weight fell on him, crushing him down. He heard a snarl, and then four enormous claws, sharp as blades, raked his side. He fought back, lashing out with Rithlir, but a great, hirsute paw gripped his arm and, with a massive strength, pinned it to the ground.
Then Brandegan saw the eyes. Hovering just before his face, they shone as red fire, feeding the darkness with their terror and harboring within them the insatiable spirit of the Dread Palace. Even as they gazed down on their prey, the malice behind those eyes was kindled to sudden wrath, for here at last was their scourge, here at last was the thorn long sought.
But just before teeth as deadly as the edge of Rithlir found their mark, there was a dazzling flash. Shadows leapt up and fled, the darkness was pushed back, and in that moment Brandegan’s adversary was revealed. Greater in stature than any beast of the wild stood Daugruil. As other Gragmarr, his forelegs loomed up, broad and strong. His back, arching downward near his hind-legs, was covered in coarse, crimson fur, and his great muzzle was lined with dagger-edged teeth. Now he stumbled backward, thwarted from his intent by the blinding, silver flare.
Brandegan leapt to his feet as soon as the weight was lifted. His side throbbed in agony, and blood had already soaked through his raiment. But he heeded it not. The insatiable spirit of malice that burned in the eyes of this Gragmarr he knew.