The writing is going well, and I just finished four more chapters, here is an excerpt from chapter 3
The climb to the lair of the lion was treacherous. The rocks were loose, the hand and footholds were tenuous, and they could see that people had fallen from the heights in the past. James was an expert mountaineer, he got all of them safely to the next ledge, the climb took six hours to make, and they still had to face the beast in its lair.
Tamara was armed with Sgiath, the one weapon that could pierce its hide, a weapon forged by the Dwarves in Mimir’s spring. The silver steel blade would cut through anything, and she was at the ready. Sebastian lit a torch, the wind was blowing violently against the mountain, and he had to use a flint and steel to ignite the flame, matches were of no use here.
Entering the lair, they found bones scattered across the floor. It didn’t smell of carrion as had the cave of the Sphinx, the bones were picked clean and cracked open to get at the marrow. This was the lair of a destructive and vicious carnivore, one that was nearly indestructible.
As they moved further into the cave, they found the lion, eating the hind leg of its latest victim. The Lion roared and launched into an attack as soon as he saw the firelight coming towards him. Tamara unleashed Sgiath, but on this mountain, she was unable to control the blade with magic, which meant she was going to have to use actual skills, thankfully, Ich Bin had spent months teaching her, and she practiced almost daily.
When the lion launched its attack, the others backed out of the way. They had seen Tamara in battle using Sgiath before, and she would need room to work and fight. The lion swiped at her with outstretched paws, and the talons raked the wall with a screeching sound like nails on a chalkboard and left considerable gouges in the rock. Sgiath spinning took off one of the front feet just at the hock, and the maimed lion became even more ferocious.
The only thing worse than a mad lion was a wounded and angry one. The lion limped on the maimed leg and was wary as it faced Tamara, she held Sgiath at the ready; facing the lion and waiting. When he attacked, she ducked to the left, bringing Sgiath up and following a distinct arc, gutted the lion. The lion roared and crumpled up on the ground. However, the fight wasn’t out of the lion yet. He crawled towards her roaring, fangs dripping with saliva, the fire in his eyes was far from out. The beast, pulling his hind legs under his body, prepared for to lunge. Tamara seeing him at the ready, mentally to herself laid out each step she would take to ensure the victory.
The lion lunged, paw outstretched talons open. Swiping at Tamara, she ducked to her left, went under his head and with a strong swing, slit its throat. The lion crumpled to the floor dead. She took out the dagger she carried, also dwarf-made, and skinned the lion, taking his hide as a trophy. It seemed a disgusting thing to do, but she wanted proof for Pythia.
Tamara informed the others that she wanted to make camp there for the night. It offered protection from the elements, and they burned the carcass of the lion. She was still concerned about Sebastian, and once camp was made, she sat next to James and shared with him what Sebastian had told her. He called Caladan over to them and discussed the situation with him. Caladan had been the Guardian of the Archives that Tamara had found, and was actually James’ ancestor. Caladan considered what James and Tamara shared with him and then said, “He is trustworthy and dependable, and fatherhood has made him more valuable to the group as when single. This is a good thing, let him be cautious, he will be an even greater ally than before.” With that Caladan went back to the fire and settled in to enthrall the group with a story from the times of the Crusades.
They were setting close to the fire when a form began to take shape. It coalesced into a figure, very dark, with gleaming yellow eyes, dripping fangs, and the odor of carrion was overwhelming all of them. It was a Strigoi, and it came to terrorize them. Being on the mountain prevented them from using magic to combat the vile creature, but all of them were armed.
The Strigoi stepped from the fire and materialized fully. The creature came forward with lightning speed, it might be one of the undead, but it could move at the pace of a spirit being. Strigoi are not the creatures of legend that everyone always thinks of. Sunlight doesn’t kill them, they aren’t terrified of religious objects, nor does Holy-Water burn them. The only way to kill a Strigoi was to remove its head or to destroy it by magic or fire.
The Strigoi was hissing and speaking in its native tongue. A very guttural language that was related to Romanian or Hungarian, but much more ancient. Tamara stepped between the group and the Strigoi, it began to shriek. It was cursing her and trying to attack her, but Tamara had run a spear through its heart, she lifted it from the ground. Out of nowhere, Sebastian leaped across the fire and in a single smooth stroke, separated the creature from its head. Tamara was suddenly aware of how precarious the situation was, Barnwell was attempting to prevent her from reaching the Oracle. He must be terrified of that outcome. How he got passed all the trials himself and got to the Oracle was something Tamara must know. Clyde was crafty, subtle, and could hide his true nature easily.
Once they had defeated the undead creature, Sebastian looked at Tamara, the pain and terror in his eyes were beyond belief, then she realized what the fear that was haunting Sebastian was, the Strigoi had visited his home. His family was in danger and being here with her kept him from protecting his family. She felt pangs of guilt coursing through her and deep in her gut, she knew she was risking everything to get this done.
Tamara went to Sebastian and spoke to him, and no matter how hard she tried, she couldn’t convince him to leave. He was determined to stay and see this through. Tamara told James what was up that night as they lay in their sleeping bags trying to rest and stay warm. He too was alarmed, the one thing they couldn’t risk was Sebastian going off and attempting to defeat Clyde on his own.
The night dragged on for all of them. The ascent from the base of the mountain followed by facing the two trials had exhausted them. Tamara and James McKenzie were fast asleep shortly after Sebastian dispatched the Strigoi that had appeared, the camp was quiet, too quiet. As they lay sleeping, even the nocturnal creatures were silent. No insects, rodents, bats, nothing was moving. The stillness of the night woke Caladan, he had experienced this in the Fifteenth Century shortly before sealing the archives. He was James’ direct ancestor, his son was the progenitor of the bloodline. James was Tuatha De Dunnan, of the ancient lineage, directly descended from Agnoman of Scythia, and through the ages had helped to form the Watchers.
Caladan rose with great stealth and determination. He was preparing for battle. Suddenly, out of the forest, they came, a hoard of foul beasts and creatures of fear. Hags mounted on Mara, Fomorians, all manner of fell night creatures came. The camp was galvanized into action. Tamara and her compatriots had to fight these creatures with skill, not magic. The Fomorians were deadly combatants, they were the equal of any Tuatha De, and were just as powerful. Their swords were sharp and fatal crescent-shaped affairs that they were able to wield with great ferocity.
James and Caladan drew the Swords of Legend. These two swords had been the personal weapons of Agnoman of Scythia, the father of the Tuatha De he alone had been able to wield the swords in eons past and the swords had been passed down from father to son for one-thousand generations. When Caladan was trapped in the Archive, one sword had remained with him. He had thrown the other sword through the door to his son just as the archive door slammed shut and it was spirited away to North America. James had been the keeper of that sword for almost twenty years now, and he was proficient with it.
Growing up, his father had pushed the training, sword fighting, hand to hand combat, the use of magic, understanding the ways of the Tuatha De, and he was the most proficient of all his siblings. James was the seventh son of a seventh son. His father, Thomas McKenzie was also the seventh son of a seventh son, and all those who were wielders of the Sword of Legend had been seventh sons as well. That distinction made them formidable warriors, they were unique. They alone could wield the sword and be inducted into the Watchers at the age of manhood, which was thirteen for them.
Having two seventh sons in the midst of the fight was more than the Fomorians wanted to deal with, and they had not even considered Sebastian who was also a watcher and a seventh son, but he was Sarmatian and descended from the Horse Lords. These three men all battle hardened and ferocious warriors were also bound to Tamara due to her own lineage of being Semiramis the Queen of Assyria’s direct descendant and heir to her powers.
They stepped into the fray with all the ferocity they could bring. The Fomorians and Hags were not prepared for the onslaught that was coming their way. With Sgiath, the Swords of Legend, and Sebastian’s own sword which was the Sword of Batraz, King of the Narts, the superhuman race and God-like leaders of Sarmatia; they began the attack.
The Fomorians were expecting normal humans not descendants of the supernatural beings that had helped form all the major civilizations since the beginning of time. They stepped into battle, and the fighting was intense. Ysbrid was a blur, the Swords of legend were bathed in blood. The ground eagerly soaked up the blood of the fallen and cried out for more. They fought them through the next several hours, the more they killed, the more Fomorians came out of the night.
At the first light of dawn, the four combatants sat down exhausted. Strewn about the camp was hundreds of bodies. The Fomorians had come to a stop them from reaching the Oracle and speaking with Pythia, which had failed. They searched the bodies of the Fomorians and Hags, as well as the Mara for clues as to who had sent them. All they found was a medallion and on it was the likeness of The Magus, yet ancient with a spider on the back. Upon seeing the emblem, Caladan and Sebastian looked at each other alarmed. This battle was far from over, they had discovered The Magus’ secret, He was one of Arachne’s descendants, and that meant that the Gorgon ahead that they would face was immortal and was Sthenno.
They had broken camp and packed, preparing for the day’s ascent and two additional trials, James made ready to start up the next cliff face when a loud clap thunder announced the visit of Ich Bin. He took Tamara by the hand and asked to see the amulet that they had found, his brow became furrowed as he stared at the likeness upon it. Turning it over to inspect the image of the spider, he dropped the coin. This was not the work of The Magus, this was the work of Fomorians. They had found the tomb of the Witch King and planned to go to release him, that is why the Magus needed the bow. It was the only weapon capable of breaking the enchantment and opening the prison where Apollo had placed him, the bowels of Tartarus, in the domain of Hades.