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by Jay Jones
Description: The time of the Dark Lord has almost come. Only Chalderon, the great wizard, and the power of Aridian's Torch can save them. But where is the Torch-bearer? Can he be found in time? The torch is well hidden, but it can be brought to light only in the hands of the true torch-bearer. A magical story reminiscent of The Lord of the Rings, this fantasy from down-under will amuse youngsters, the young-at-heart, and all those who love a good rousing tale where the forces of good are pitted against those of evil.
eBook Publisher: ebooksonthe.net, 2004
eBookwise Release Date: July 2005
6 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [272 KB]
Reading time: 194-272 min.
Beneath the fiery glow of Mount Desolation, deep underground, the Dark Master once again had grown to his full potential. His power reached out across the world. Black tendrils of evil invaded the towns and villages. Foul creatures long-forgotten by mankind, sinister creatures of myth, arose to plague the earth.
Across the earth his evil spread. The balance of light and dark swayed precariously. Now was the time for the Prophesy, revealed in the book of the Earth, to come to bear. Now was the time for the new guardian to arise. Now was the time when mankind's only hope rested in the Torch of Aridian. Forged by the life force of the Gods, the torch lay waiting under the protection of Truemount for the one born to wield its power in this age. Chalemon, the wizard of Rooftop Forest who was charged with the responsibility of bringing together the elements of the prophecy, searched in vain. Time was running out and still there was no sign of the one to become guardian of the torch.
Before his master's black throne Smerl cringed head and snout low to the rocky floor. What can he want of me? I have not done anything wrong, he thought. Above him, the red globes of the Dark Master's eyes glared down upon his minion. Orange light reflected off the bone of his skeletal face in the eyrie glow of the rock light torches that lit the audience cavern under Mount Desolation.
"The time of the Prophesy is at hand, Smerl," The Master's voice hissed in a rasping whisper from beneath the cowling of his robe. "My power has once again grown. Already it tilts the scales of light and dark. Soon my evil will dominant the world and all will bow down before me. Only the Prophesy stands to stop my corruption. Those that are connected to the Prophesy must be found and dealt with before it can come to bear. The one to be Guardian of the Torch of Aridian must be found. He must not grow to his full potential!"As he finished, the full power of his voice and mind crashed down upon the prone Smerl.
"Yes, Master." Smerl groveled still lower to the ground, his sinuous black body snaking from side to side in his agitation. His dull claws scrabbled for purchase on the smooth rock floor.
"You Smerl, will seek him out. He must be found quickly before he gains power and knowledge of what he must do. Find him Smerl, or face my wrath. Find him quickly and perhaps I will reward you."
Why me? Smerl thought. If I fail, he will blame me and I will pay dearly for it. Why didn't he choose someone else? I don't even know where to start looking. Quivering in anxiety Smerl raised his hairless snout, his coal black eyes bright with fear.
With all the courage he could gather he managed to speak. "Master where shall I search? The world is wide, and I am only one. How shall I find him?"
"Do you defy me?" The full weight of the Master's mind battered Smerl flattening his head to the ground with its force.
"No Master! Never! I am your servant, your slave. I have no will except yours! Forgive me, I seek only direction to accomplish your will," squealed Smerl, urinating in his terror.
The Master smiled his fangs dripping green poison. "That is good Smerl. You should wish to serve me well. I would not like to think you defy me. I would be angry." Slowly he decreased the pressure of his mind from Smerl's, relishing the way Smerl groveled before him.
"Yes, Master," Smerl groaned, his head throbbing and eyes blurred from the assault his mind had just endured. "I meant only to enquire of my Master's wisdom. Where would be the best place to search for the one you seek?" he said, cringing as he expected yet another assault. It did not come and he slowly raised his eyes to the Master above him.
The Master was not looking at him. His eyes were focused into the depths of his dark soul searching for the slightest trace that would provide him with a direction to send Smerl. His mind's eye searched, sweeping over the lands and seas, like a wolf scenting for his prey he cast his power out to scour the earth for the minutest trace of where to find the one he sought. Almost he missed the scent of the one and had to retrace his passage. There to the Southeast he sensed the presence for which he searched. That was as close as he could come to locating his enemy. He snarled in frustration. "He is to the Southeast, Smerl. Find him and bring me news of his whereabouts. He must not live. He is the only one that will have the power to stop me. Here, I will give you his scent that you will know it when you find it."
Smerl shuddered as the Master again touched his mind. This time a strange scent enveloped Smerl's senses and as the touch of the Master withdrew he knew he would forever remember that smell. It was the scent of a human youth. Mucous dripped from his snout as already his body responded to the call.
"Can I go, Master?" He begged release from the Dark Master.
"Be gone. See that you do not disappoint me and remember I grow impatient already for news of his whereabouts."
Smerl waited no longer. He flew from the audience chamber. His nails scrabbled on the rocky floor yet gained no purchase. Relief in escaping the Dark Master flooded his thoughts.
Outside the audience cavern he slowed his pace and regained a little of his self-control. Slowly his breathlessness faded. It took longer still to quiet his trembling body. At last he was able to continue on his way out of Mount Desolation, his composure restored. His Master's will still commanded him; he must search out the one to be Guardian of the Torch of Aridian and the scent of that one filled his mind. He felt better away from the vile touch of the Master. I wonder how I can use this task to my advantage? Smerl mused. What am I thinking! I have to find that youth and quickly, or the Master will end my life. Shuddering he imagined how pain-filled that would be. The thought sent him scurrying on his way through the tunnels. * * * *
To the southeast lay the great forest known as Rooftop and there his Master had said he would find the One. He could smell the youth's scent. It was etched in his brain. Smerl would not rest until he had found the one his Master sought. At last he gained the exit of the volcano. It was night, Smerl's favorite time of day. His vision already accustomed to the gloom in the passages under the volcano, he had no trouble adjusting his eyes to the darkness of the night. Before him the barren Red Plains lay. The foulness of his master had killed all life leading to Mount Desolation. Beyond the red Plains, the Broken-back Range stood proudly over the Central plains, once he crossed these he would at last come to the forest. There he would locate the one his master wished him to find.
Smerl wasted no time setting off across the Red Plains. Before him was a long journey. Even at the fast pace he set himself it would be two weeks before he entered the Forest. Driven by the fear of the Master, he rarely stopped to rest and when he did rest, he was always aware that the Master was waiting. There was no peace for Smerl. The scent of the youth grew stronger day by day as he traveled. Smerl knew every mile he traveled brought him closer to his quarry. By the time he reached the edge of the forest he knew which direction to take.
Smerl increased his pace. Somewhere not too far ahead, that was where he had to go, oh yes, he could almost taste the human, his scent was on the wind.