Starting today, ending the day after Christmas: Prisoners of Sorcery free!
After laying low and working toward a plan to get themselves out of the situation they found themselves in during the events of The Five, Aiden and his friends were scooped up by a vile sorcerer.
Split up and put into a maze-like dungeon for the sorcerer’s amusement, they have to fight their way to freedom… and then deal with the evil that is Ciel Aria.
Samples after the jump:
The heroes in the dungeon…
Aiden sat up with a start. He cursed under his breath and rolled to his feet, taking in his surroundings. Slate gray stones ahead and behind, above and below. Torches in sconces lined the walls as they stretched out to his right; the hall ended abruptly to his left. The cold, wet air chilled him despite the burning torches. The church in his dreams hung heavy in his thoughts; he could still smell the hymnals. After shaking his head as though to clear it, he took a deep breath and looked himself over.
Unarmed, but unharmed.
“Well this is great,” he whispered to the walls. They didn’t answer. He touched the medallion of the Champion. The spell Magnus linked to Zern and Aiden with the charm hummed in his head; she was near him, somewhere to his right. He grabbed a torch, yanking it free of its sconce, and trudged down the hall. Before long he found himself at a fork. One branch twisted around to his left and the grey stones gave way to brown, hewn rock, while the grey blocks dominated the other. Aiden closed his eyes and focused on the humming in his head.
He turned and walked toward the rock. Zern was near, so close, right there. All Aiden needed to do was navigate these strange halls. Aiden focused on that, telling himself it wasn’t any different from walking through a forest trail. Walk, calm. If Zern is so close, everyone else should be, too. Once they got together, they could find out just what sort of mess they were in, and Ryan could get through his “I told you so” speech. After that, a little planning, and then Rajan’s head on a plate for Kyenna and Eilis.
The humming in his head suddenly became a humming in the hall, and Aiden paused. Echoing, coming from somewhere in the distance. A buzzing, really. He tilted his head and closed his eyes. The familiar feeling that guided him twisted in his head, and his stomach mimicked it. This buzzing was angry, defensive, unpleasant. Aiden took a step back, opening his eyes again. A heavy, drowsy feeling still clouded his thoughts. He wondered how long it had been since his last cup of coffee.
Aiden put his empty hand on the smooth rock that made up the wall and leaned against it. He couldn’t focus. Zern. Forward. Aiden forced himself to take a step, forced himself onward. The smooth walls eventually gave way to a roughly carved tunnel, and he began to lose track of which way he was going. Turning, twisting, snaking tunnel, deep into the earth. The angry buzzing continued to grow louder and louder. The feeling in his gut twisted just as the path he took, working his insides into knots.
When the tunnel opened up into a cavern, Aiden found himself staring at the source of the buzzing. The cavern stretched at least two hundred feet in front of him, three or four times that as high, and nearly a thousand feet wide. Dozens of tunnels pocked the edges, twisting, reaching into the distance. In some, Aiden could make out torchlight. One near the top filled the cavern with sunlight. His own tunnel sat at least thirty feet above the bottom of the cavern, which was split lengthwise by a slow moving stream of water that nearly touched both sides.
But the source of the buzzing stuck to the top of the enormous cavern: a huge nest, made of what looked like bits of brown paper and dirt, connected to the ceiling by a half dozen thick strands of the same material. It very much reminded him of the nests made by paper wasps. Only this one could house a parking garage. Aiden stepped back from the cavern. The thousands of wasps that worked on the giant paper combs were nearly two feet in length each. Some were building new combs, others tending to large larval wasps, and yet more flying to and from the nest, going in and out of the tunnels.
After a few steps, she felt the stone move under her feet and heard a loud click, then the sound of metal scraping against stone coming from behind her. The way that led to the safe hall was now blocked by a door made of criss-crossing iron bars.
With no choice but to press on, she did, holding the torch out defensively. Anything that came at her would be burned before it reached her and she knew most creatures feared fire. The torches ensconced on the wall began to appear fresher as she moved down the corridor. Zern traded hers out for another. Nothing else changed. No signs of life, no new sounds or smells, and the hall seemed to go on the same way as far as she could see. Torches uniformly spaced out on the walls, one on the left, then a few feet later another on the right.
Eventually, the hall ended with a torch on the dead end. Zern blinked when she approached it. She searched the nearby walls for a switch, or a lever. Any sort of sign that there was a secret door. The walls, floor, and ceiling were all the same: large grey stones with lighter colored mortar holding them together. No cracks, no switches. The only decoration was the torch sconce. She blinked. Zern set her torch against the stone wall and removed the torch in the sconce. Nothing happened. Muttering, she began examining the sconce, poking at every bolt that held it on, rubbing all the spots where the iron looked warped or rusted. Nothing happened. She tried pulling on the sconce, first up, then down, left, and finally, right. It didn’t budge. With a grunt, she smacked the sconce with the torch that it previously contained, over and over. Nothing happened, so Zern took a few steps away and threw the torch at it.
Defeated and deflated, Zern retrieved her original torch and began to walk away. Then the sound of stone rubbing against stone echoed behind her. She spun to face the dead-end. The wall was moving. Zern backed away. In the darkness behind it, something metal glinted in the torchlight. The wall stopped moving with a mighty groan. A skeleton stepped out of the darkness, holding a short sword in its right hand. Another appeared behind it, this one with more flesh. Enough to grin at Zern.
She dropped her torch and ran the other way as fast as her body could go with one hurt leg and skinned knees. The sound of bones smacking stone echoed being her, like demented hail on castle walls. Over her shoulder she saw at least four different skeletons, each armed with short swords and at a different level of decay. Further in the distance more appeared, filing out of the hidden passage in a uniform fashion. Zern’s heart pounded in her chest. All of her nightmares were coming true. The pain in her legs no longer mattered.
She passed the iron bars blocking her safe haven without even giving them a glance.
And those on the outside…
Magnus and Duncan…:
Magnus just sat, staring at the message left for him. A single, black queen sat in the center of the chess board on his table, with the name Aria etched into the shined oak. The remnant trace of the magic was that of Kyenna, so he knew who left it. Once again, he left, and came back to find that Aria stole those he was meant to protect, and once again, he had no idea how to get them back. But this time it wasn’t just some off-worlder. It wasn’t one person he barely knew.
Aria had his daughters, and almost everyone he cared for. He realized that he had balled his fists when the knuckles started to hurt. Magnus stood up and rested his hands on the table, then threw it against the wall. The chess piece fell to the floor, broken in half. He picked up the checkered wooden board, roared in anger and threw it through the window. Then he upturned the couches and chairs in the room and hurled a round end table through the already broken window.
Duncan put a hand on his shoulder. “We’ll get them back.”
“How?” Magnus demanded. “Gods damn it Duncan. I’ve lost everyone. Everything I touch turns to dust. Nathan. Helen. Nathan. Finley. Now Zern, Kyenna, and Eilis. And Trevor, Aiden, and Ryan. I lost Sullivan, Donovan, and now William to the lure of the Beloved. You’re all I have left, Duncan. You and Aiden’s mangy dog.”
“Well, I have a feeling that dog is smarter than both of us. But that’s not true. There’s Edmund, and Cecil, and further south, Derrick Valois waits.”
He sighed. “What are we to do? Three old men, two young men, against the Beloved, and Aria, and Njaladin?”
“The Sword of Nalin,” Duncan said.
“And if Zern is right, and it doesn’t exist?”
“Then we’ll have to invent it.”