The Illusion Conundrum, Part IV: Excerpt

Here’s a short excerpt from the first scene of the revised version of my WIP. We’re starting with Dranna Qorin, an Ice elf trying to find her missing brother, and Felthar Casterai, her friend who has agreed to help her do research at the Great Library of Torryn, the biggest repository of knowledge in the known world. They are searching in the oldest texts for the entrance to a place called Galithnia when they begin to hear strange music fill the library. Then enters … a monster.

Felthar beckoned her forward with that spear as he peered around a shelf. Dranna could now clearly see the . . . thing. It was monstrous. Although it may have once been human – two arms, two legs, roughly humanoid gait – the pull of skin back from its rictus, gaping, drooling maw and long, clawed hands dragging on the floor as it stumbled forward divested her of the thought. Its flesh was pallid, drooping off its body.

As it moved, it made a long, pained noise deep in its throat. If Dranna had to guess, she would have said it was moaning in deep agony.

Then everything happened all at once.

A man – tall, blond, beautiful – leapt from the shelves and into the line of sight of the . . . thing, wielding two bright swords. Blue and gold lightning snaked up and down the blades, reaching up even to his elbows, skittering across his skin as though trapped by his aura. The blond man – Merickh Freln, Thunder Warrior and old friend, who she had run into earlier that day, and who Dranna was absolutely sure she had left back at that tavern – slashed upward with one of his swords, connected with the demon’s jaw. Black blood spurted on the nearby books.

A young woman stepped into the room. She held a golden flute to her lips.

The song that Dranna had been hearing in the background grew to a deafening crescendo, no longer something to ignore. The demon shrank back from the sound and from Merickh’s blow. It thudded against the bookshelf, scattering old tomes to the floor. The pitiful whine it released from its decaying throat filled every corner of the room.

“What in the name of everything holy . . .” she heard Merickh mutter before he drew back to land another hit. The Light Root in her mind-grasp wriggled, itching to join the fray.

“Merickh, what are you even–”

“Don’t think that’s important right now, Dranna,” he said in a light, conversational tone as he brought the sword down.

Before Merickh’s blade could find purchase in the thing’s face, however, and before she could more than acknowledge the Roots, the demon slumped over and screamed. The sound reverberated around the room, too shrill to be absorbed even by these old books. It echoed over and over in Dranna’s mind – and the Shade Root, the dark elemental power lurking at the corner of her mind, shrieked with it, sending shuddering waves of energy flowing through her skin, her bones. The pain in her head doubled, tripled, and her vision went white. She stumbled again, and thought she felt Felthar’s arms around her, but she barely noticed. Dranna’s couldn’t feel her hands, couldn’t breathe, couldn’t do more than grasp feebly at the man’s shirt and try to remain standing.

Gods, make it stop!

The music ceased. Just like that.

The world returned slowly to Dranna Qorin. First, the light. She blinked away the bright flakes of pain that swarmed her vision, dissipating now that the splitting agony had dulled to a mere ache behind her eyes. The demon was nowhere to be seen; instead, a strong gust of wind scattered clumpy ashes around the room. Dranna noticed that Felthar was trembling as he held her – the wind whipped around them forcefully, and she looked up at his face. It was twisted with rage and fear.

Felthar snarled – an ugly pull of his lips, especially on his boyish features – and looked at her for a brief second with a wild rage in his green eyes. The wind battered the room. “Something wrong here,” he said, the words clear as a calm day to her ears. “Something . . . sending me . . .”

And then he was gone, along with the wind. The silence in the library was deafening. Shock rocketed through her body with his absence. Felthar. A few stray sheets of paper fluttered around the room in the sudden stillness.

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