Quest of Fire: The Gathering Dark
by Brett Armstrong
Genre: YA Epic Fantasy/Christian Fantasy
Release date: April 2019
Barnes and Noble
Jason is an expert at running from his past. When it catches up, he finds himself hiding in a peculiar inn listening to a tale from centuries past.
The story is Anargen’s, a teen who is pulled from all he loves to follow his oaths of loyalty to the fabled King of the Realms. Together with his mentor, Cinaed, he rides north on a special quest to mediate peace talks between ancient foes–the men of Ecthelowall and the dwarfs of Ordumair. Nothing goes as planned. Many on both sides of the dispute despise Anargen’s Order. Worse, an arcane evil has returned to the North. This “Grey Scourge” seeks to ruin the peace talks and ensure a lost treasure held by the dwarfs is never found by those for whom it is meant.
As Anargen’s story unfolds, Jason begins to wonder whether it is truly just a fable. He soon finds himself drawn into the conflict Anargen faced–a battle which has shaped and can destroy his world.
Anargen and his three friends are asked to wait behind by their mentor Sir Cinaed. He leaves them in aroom he procured at an inn he claims to know well. Something is off about it all, but no one can saywhat. At length they decide to take shifts onwatch with Anargen being the first. After a few hours heneeds a break.
Anargen wasn’t sure, but he felt he had waited up long enough. Sleep pressed down on him heavily, its allure stronger than desserts to a man dying of hunger. Looking over the others for his replacement—Bertinand was out cold and probably willing to fight to keep it that way. Terrillian would at least be willing, was further away, and deserved a rest.
Caeserus beside him would have to do for now. “Caeserus,” Anargen whispered.
“Caeserus,” he said louder, waving at the other Knight.
At last, Anargen reached over and tapped Caeserus on the shoulder. An immediate grumble came forth, and Caeserus swatted without aiming at his irritant. “Hey, it’s your shift. I need some rest.”
Another shake and run through of his narrative was required before Caeserus mumbled an, “All right, all right.”
Stretching out in his corner, Anargen closed his eyes, took a few shallow breaths, ignoring the minor discomforts without much difficulty. Seconds later, Anargen was asleep.
Anargen’s eyes snapped open. He had been asleep, but something was wrong. He did not hear Bertinand’s noisy breathing any longer. Nor could he hear any of the others. The room was totally absorbed in a nebulous mist, lightless except Anargen’s own armor, and he had to strain to see a strange yellow beacon in the room’s midst.
The beacon’s station in the room was not fixed as a candle’s, but instead roved nearer to Anargen, becoming more distinct with every bouncing move. Then he was able to hear the low snarl and make out the pronounced muzzle and teeth, glistening with moisture illuminated by his armor’s shine. The yellow beacon narrowed into an angry sliver, and Anargen could feel a thrill of terror chilling him to the core. From somewhere beyond the approaching glower of the massive wolf’s baleful eyes, he could hear faintly the words Bertinand had spoken earlier.
“Doors locked tight,
Fear at its height,
Dread fangs in the night,
New Moon’s bane,
Full Moon’s gain . . .”
As Anargen’s eyes opened, it took some time to focus his thoughts after the vivid dream and reorient himself to the real world. There was still the faint light offered by the lantern several feet away. Much of the room was garbed in shadows all the same, but it was enough.
Though it took several seconds to get his bearings, whether leftover from his dream or something more, Anargen had an immediate sense of dread. Something was amiss. Still wearing his armor, he didn’t want to move much and make any noise that would unduly wake the others. It was Caeserus’s watch now, but Anargen could give him a few moments, particularly given how he had dozed some of the time himself.
The nagging sensation of something being off still gripped him. Glancing around the room opposite him, he could not see anything amiss. Bertinand had slumped to the floor and was sprawled across it, and Terrillian, though more difficult to see for the room’s bed, appeared to still be dozing soundly.
Anargen turned his head slightly towards Caeserus. The door to the room was ajar. Not totally open, but enough that someone could slip through it. The locks they had used were undone but not broken.
Tracing from the opened door to where Caeserus was propped up in his corner of the room, Anargen’s eyes widened. A startled cry of terror rose in his throat and hung there. Hovering inches from Caeserus’s face was a creature all too similar to the dream Anargen had just woken from.
He blinked several times, trying to rid the room of the monster or convince himself to wake up, but the sound of the steady rain on the roof above, the musty odor of wet animal fur emanating from the creature, and, most pronounced of all, the pressure of his heart pounding in his chest told Anargen he was very much awake.
Across the room, the creature’s long canine-like muzzle split to reveal wicked teeth that caught the light of the lantern. But it was the eyes, those evil eyes that seemed pupil-less and regarded Caeserus less like prey and more like an object of contempt, that sent chills through Anargen’s frame.
What could he do?
Nothing in his life seemed a sensible preparation for a confrontation of this sort. Nor was there time to sort it out. This was not the time to evaluate. He had to act. Quickly! The creature was leaning in to snap at his friend’s throat.
Help me, Great King!
Anargen sprang to his feet, sidestepped the door, and leapt at the creature. He didn’t have time or room to draw his sword, so he swung out his shield as he crashed into the beast’s side.
I ‘m a Christian, a writer, a full-time programmer, a husband, a dad,and quite often sleep-deprived. Not necessarily ranked in order of importance, except #1.