Excerpt from Power Unimaginable

Ahead of the release of my new book, Power Unimaginable, I’m giving you a little sneak preview with this post. Enter Oron Amular, if you dare…

***

Inside the Mountain the darkness was complete. For the first few steps they had been aided by the faint moonlight outside, long enough to see that they were in a tunnel, but very soon they must have turned a corner, for even that small light was lost, plunging them into utter blackness. Roujeark’s eyes strained uselessly against the darkness, but he couldn’t even see his hand in front of his face. He could hear, though. Hear the sounds of others blundering blindly up ahead, of feet scuffling and armour clinking, of curses muttered under various breaths and the nervous calls of one to another. Yet even those sounds seemed to fade after a while, as if the various parties were being separated and devoured by the terrible darkness, one by one.

Roujeark reached out his hand to feel for the tunnel wall, but it was further away than he thought. Straining for it, he nearly fell over before coming to rest against it. To his surprise, the rock wasn’t rough, but smooth to touch. Feeling with fingers and feet, he found that both the wall and the floor were smooth as polished gems and flat as paving slabs. No blemishes or snags could he find. But he had only gone a few doubtful steps when he bumped into something. It was one of his companions. Clutching the arm, Roujeark felt the armist quivering.

‘Who is that?’ he whispered, hearing his words vanish in the swallowing darkness.

‘Aleinus,’ came the barely audible reply. In fact, they were all there, stopped dead in the middle of the tunnel. Groping darkness was before them and behind them, above them and below them. The very air was thick with potency, harsh to taste and seeming to tingle on the tongue and fingertips. In the face of this invisible barrier the lion-hearted armists faltered, unnerved and uncertain. Here, normal boldness was of no avail. Even Curillian was at a loss. When Roujeark discovered the king by touch, he found him still and tense, staring into the impenetrable darkness. Long moments passed in silence, with only the sound of shallow breathing hanging in the air. Slowly, Roujeark stepped forward. The air seemed to be full of whispering spirits, murmuring long-forgotten secrets and creeds. He was terrified, but the feel of this place, heavy, forbidding, mysterious, was slightly less daunting for him than for his companions. He felt some sort of affinity with it.

He stepped forward into the watchful air, having to drag himself against unseen resistance. Even with so little a step he had moved out of sight of his companions, but after a heartbeat or two the king moved up behind him. Curillian was completely out of his comfort zone, but his courage was conquering his fear. Lancoir defaulted to sticking as close to his king as possible, and each armist followed suit, all afraid of being left behind in the gloom. Roujeark had them link hands and stretch out so they could fill the tunnel, touching it on either side. Yet it was wider than any of them had imagined, a vast corridor fit for princes. The wide space quite belied the sluggish movement of the airs and cheated noises, which seemed not to behave as normal. But stretched out, and hands joined, they felt slightly more at ease, and proceeded cautiously forward.

Reluctantly, the blanket darkness gave way before them. Now and again they felt the tickle of some wind filtering down from an unseen vent above their heads, and occasionally they caught muffled sounds from ahead. With a veritable army ahead of them, they might have expected to hear more, but the sounds just weren’t carrying. Nerves tautened like harp-strings and hairs stood on end as each member of the company began imagining what end had already befallen their competitors. Their powers of reason and deduction seemed to have been left behind outside, like their courage, so they found themselves at the mercy of their senses, quite convinced by the distortions that were being reported to them by eyes, ears and noses. The cool night from outside had been replaced by a stuffy heat, such that beads of sweat started to form on their brows and hands, and they twitched and crackled as if toyed with by delinquent sparks in the air.

They followed the tunnel, feeling it bend and twist in slow, deliberate curves. The darkness seemed to lessen an iota, or so their hopeful eyes claimed, but still nothing definite could they see. Their feet were more certain in reporting a gradient and, following that long smooth slope, they came to a place where the tunnel walls gave out on either side. The air suddenly felt very different. Still queer and laden with intent, it now scurried about and carried sound more easily. They began to hear other groups about them. Suddenly sounds seemed to be all round them, boots scuffing and scabbards banging, leather creaking and mail clinking, heavy breathing and sniffing. The place was teeming with life. Voices began to call to each other, some in fear and some in suspicion. Then an almighty clatter split the air as two metal objects collided. The armists drew close and stuck together in a tight group, but even so, they bumped and jostled with unseen neighbours.

Roujeark felt the tension ratcheting up inside him as he groped blindly in the intolerable darkness. He felt enclosed and exposed at the same time. With every passing second he feared a collision, or a sly knife sliding out of the jet black air. Panic was building up within him, ready to burst out in a shrill scream, when all of a sudden a silver flame burst into life. Poof! Up above them, it seemed to hover in mid-air. Then another joined it, and another. Poof! Poof! Poof! In the blinking of a suddenly seeing eye, there was a ring of silver fires up above them. In their velveteen light, the inhabitants of the hall might have seen one another, except they were all straining their eyes upward. Glimpses they caught of ancient grandeur, carvings, friezes and sculpted vaulting, all dancing in a firelit ceiling high above. The fires seemed to burn out of sconces set on some sort of raised gallery.

Just as the contestants were adjusting to take in this vague information, a blinding light filled the roof like sheet lightning. A moment later there came a multi-layered boom like rolling fireworks, then cascades of iridescent sparks were falling among them. Those who had the presence of mind raised their shields to ward off the hazard, but still many eyes were dazzled and not a few burns caused. Yet the sparks had not been without purpose, for their passing had ignited wall-torches all around the place, and now there was enough light to see by. Not enough as could be wished, but enough to fit everything else together. The contestants were now able to take one another in, resuming their uneasy acquaintance after what seemed like an eternity. Together they found themselves in a vast and glamorous cavern, like the anteroom of a strange old palace. It was a perfect circle, flat and smooth and painted in a colour that one moment seemed terracotta and then mahogany the next. There were portraits and engravings everywhere, depicting strange scenes of wizards and magic. Above these murals, which were uncannily lifelike, there swept a lip of bronze, crowning and encircling the walls. Beyond that lip there seemed to be a circular walkway, lost out of sight. The only thing marking the head of the chamber was a little indent in the bronze lip, where a small balcony jutted out. So awed by their surroundings were they that it was some time before the contestants noticed the figure standing there, still as stone…

***

To find out what happens next, order your copy of Power Unimaginable today. Available at all good booksellers, and direct from the author. Get in touch today if you’d like to reserve a signature copy. And please join me for the virtual book launch on Thu 5 Nov at 8pm. Find it on Facebook Live at:

World of Astrom’s Facebook page.

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