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Sample Scene: P.O.D. Book One #3

This is pulled from the middle of the book and contains spoilers.

Sample Scene of P.O.D. Book 1

Eryk glanced down at the manacles upon his wrists, at the dark, pitted chains that bound him to the iron ring in the very center of the floor. He shook his head, studying each link for any weakness. How had he found himself there in the darkness? What was Grissom, some secret dark part of his own mind? No. No, there was no doubt in his mind that Grissom was no part of himself. He was something… different. Something old and sinister. He had merely been the window through which Grissom had broken through, nothing more nor less. There was no chance that evil… creature… was a part of his own personality. Of his own heart.

As his eyes fell upon the iron ring a smile lit his face. The stone it was fastened into was cracked deeply. He leapt up, planting his feet firmly as he grasped the ring and pulled back with all of his unnatural might. The ring came free with a sickening crack, leaving him with a foot and a half long spike dangling from the chains on his wrists. He gripped it like a weapon, the chains dragging on the stone as he crossed over to the massive wooden door. The sound of his guard was gone, only silence greeted him. When he pressed against the door’s bands it swung open as if of its own accord. He hesitated for a moment, wondering if it all was a trick. Surely his guard had heard the breaking stone. But no, there was no one, his senses told him as much. There was no scent on the air save the musty dankness that filled his cell. He slipped out into the hall beyond, the only sound that of his own breath and the chains as they scrapped behind him.

The halls were dark, the walls lost in shadow. The only light came from strange stones that cast a red glow, placed every so many feet into the center of the floor. Just so far apart that one was left in utter darkness for the span of a single step before emerging once more into the faint, eerie light. His leather boots scuffed against the floor, the chains scrapped, his breath puffed, his heart beat, those were the only sounds in all the world. There was no scent either, not since he left his cell. It was void, empty. It made him feel as though he had been partially blinded. He had never known a time when he could not rely on his superior sense of smell. Yet here he was, stumbling through the darkness and red glow.

He could not say how long he traveled that hall, always twisting and turning, but never branching. Minutes, hours, time did not matter there. But the time did come when he left them behind, stumbling into a massive open space so suddenly he nearly tripped from the shock of it. The outer edge of the space was so dark the blackness seemed to press against him like a living thing. But several feet in it was lit with the same red glow as the hall, the stones overhead and below foot. Dark stalactites spiraled down towards him like fangs, stalagmites rising to meet them. But at the very center of the massive space there was a soft, blue light.

Eryk strained to hear or smell something, anything. But only nothingness greeted him. So he ran to the center, hoping he had found his salvation at last. What he did find was a blue roof overhead, looking to all the world like the natural roof of a cave. It glowed brightly, streaks of white lacing it, matching perfectly the smooth floor beneath his feet. The space was not large, a circle twenty foot at the most. Carefully he stepped up into its center, glancing about him as something deep in his heart warned him to take heed. The hairs on the back of his neck rose even before he heard the laughter, as though he had known of it before it occurred. It echoed in the cave around him, making it impossible to tell the direction from which it came. Eryk lifted the spike and iron ring before him like a blade, slowly spinning in a circle as he tried in vain to locate the source.

“Tell me, boy, do you truly think it would be so easy to escape? Grissom was my toy before he became my master, and he was a far more… adept… toy than you could ever hope to be. It took him years to escape that cell and defeat me, you cannot hope to stand a chance. I will best you and back in that dank little hole you will go.” The speaker stepped out from behind a dripping stalagmite to Eryk’s left, his very form sending chills down his spine. There was no other word for him other than monster. He was a great, lumbering beast, twice Eryk’s own height. His torso and arms were those of a man, dark, scarred skin beneath coarse black hair. But his lower half… that belonged to the back end of an ox, his head stolen from the same beast. A rotten loincloth was belted around his waist, an unrecognizable skull pinning it on the side. Chains crossed his chest, hooked to a massive padded leather and iron collar. A ring emerged from the dark, damp nostrils, billows of steam clouding it as he breathed. Eight horns curved up and forward from that massive skull, each tipped with a sharpened steel cap that glistened in the blue light. Another chain, just as thick as the one that crossed his chest, attached the steel caps one to the other, the ends of the chain clasped onto his nose ring. Black cords of matted hair topped his skull, tracing his spine until it ended right above his whip thin tail that was tipped in stiff black fur. His knuckles dragged the stone floor, supporting his massive weight. A flail was clenched in his right hand, the spiked ball covered in bits of dried blood and leaving ravines in the marble whenever it was moved. But the most terrifying thing of the monster was his eyes. Completely white, devoid of life itself, the eyes of the dead.

The monster chuckled softly, the sound more bark than anything. He stepped closer on his cloven hooves, the ball and chain squealing on the floor as he lurched forward. Eryk had been studying him intently, so he caught the small twitch as the muscles on right arm began to bunch. He leapt to the side just as the monster’s flail came crashing down where he had stood, leaving a crater in its wake. Eryk twisted in the air to land on his feet, his chain striking him hard in the leg as he landed. The monster bellowed at him, his rancid breath filling the air in a thick mist.

“Stand still, boy! Least you want my steel to meet your woman’s hide!” The monster pointed his weapon to the massive stalactite over their heads, grinning from tufted ear to tufted ear. Eryk followed his gesture, the breath freezing in his lungs. A woman was suspended above them, her bloody and chaffed wrists bound above her head by manacles that were bolted to the stone. The stalactite itself was aglow, giving an eerie blue cast to her torn and bloodied white dress. Tears stained her cheeks and dripped down the gag that bound her. Her blue eyes were wide in terror and pain, begging him to free her. Eryk fell to his knees, powerless beneath that gaze.

“Saleana! No! This can’t be, what have you done to her?!” His gaze was so transfixed on those eyes that he did not see the monster sidle up beside him. Did not hear as he slowly raised the flail above his head.

“I told you it would not be easy, boy, you should have heeded my warning!” Eryk looked at him as he spoke, watching as the blood stained spikes raced towards him. Suddenly a wind encircled them, so strong and fierce that it tore the flail from the beast’s hand and threatened to pick up the both of them as well. Eryk rolled away from the monster as the wind stunned him, looking up to where the wind had came from, his heart skipping a beat at the sight.

There stood Saleana on the veined stone, her form clothed in a dress of thin blue silk that rippled like water. A white belt studded with silver was looped over one shoulder, a silver staff whose shaft was adorned with ornate carvings nestled within it. The head of the staff was a blade, carved from crystal. Her hair hung loose about her, the rich, dark curls being tussled wildly by the wind, the thin braids and beads dancing among them. Her sapphire eyes, normally so sad and thoughtful, burned with an intense anger that caught him off guard. Her face all the more beautiful for its fury.

Saleana lifted her ringed hand towards the woman still shackled above them, disgust playing on every inch of her being. With a snarl she spun her wrist, striking out at the air as though with a blade. The flail, still in the grasp of the wind, rose and struck the woman hard and fast right in the center of her chest. Before Eryk’s eyes she changed, her body shifting into a vaguely feminine form of the monster’s. The dress bulged and strained to cloth her new body, her six horned head crowned in the same steel and chain headdress the first wore. She snorted at them in fury, grasping the flail and landing with a loud crack beside the first beast.

“Do not tell me you cannot see through their illusions, Eryk! You are not so blind as that! Rise! Rise and come to my side!” Saleana dropped her fist and the wind fell upon the pair of monsters, biting and tearing their very flesh as they howled in anger and pain. Eryk leapt to his feet, swinging his chain over his shoulder as he rushed to her.

“This is trickery! Fight us fairly, boy!” Saleana snarled and the wind doubled in strength, carrying blood and bits of flesh upon it as though it bore leaves.

“You dare to speak of fairness when you taunt him with my visage? And a poor copy at that! Do you truly believe I would allow myself to be captured so easily?! Eryk knows better than to believe that for more than a moment! A Dreamer is not easy prey, beast!” Saleana pulled her spear from her shoulder, pointing it towards them as the wind roared and their screams filled the chamber. She trembled and Eryk grabbed her shoulder, keeping her upon her feet. Her eyes met his sadly.

“I cannot remain here, there is… something. Something is limiting me, barricading me. I am using too much strength to even visit this place. I am not even at my full power, I cannot remain.” She touched his cheek, her eyes soft and caring. “I came when you called out for me, Eryk, but I may not be able to do so again. I am sorry. But I am not wanted here and something is trying to tear me away. I will return when I can, but until then you must fight. This is all I can do for you, it is such a small thing, but it is my token. Carry on and fight your way out of this place so that we can stand together is the Waking World.”

Saleana drew back her staff, plunging it’s blade deep into his chest. He looked at her in shock for a moment, but realized there was no pain. The blade had not pierced his flesh, instead it had melted into his torso. He stepped back and Saleana collapsed to the ground in a seated position, panting heavily as she leaned against her arms. He moved towards her, but a light engulfed him and his veins filled with fire. Pain beyond measure coursed through him and he threw back his head and bellowed. But as quickly as it had begun it was gone, leaving him gasping for breath. He looked down at his body, gone were the torn and bloodied rags of clothing, the chain that had bound him. In their place stood a suit of silver armor so bright it seemed to glow of its own accord. A leather tunic lay beneath the silver and steel, dyed to perfectly match Saleana’s eyes. Her crystal blade was at his hip, bearing the hilt of a sword. She smiled weakly at him and he rushed to her, taking her into his arms. She shook her head, touching the dark manacles that still encircled his wrists. He watched in desperation as the edges of her form began to thin into a sparkling mist, wafting around his fingers.

“I could not rid you of it all, the hold is too strong. I know you cannot tell me what happened to you, Eryk, not that night when we were children nor that night six months ago.” Her thin, strong fingers touched his cheek then, a smile touching her full, beautiful lips. “I know. I know it was beyond your power, that it wasn’t you will that did those things. I do not understand why, I don’t know if I ever will be able to. But that does not matter, I already know all that I need to know. I forgive you, Eryk, for everything. Please, let that give you the strength you need. Return to my side, I need you, my Warrior. Return to me.”

With those words Saleana’s body burst into countless sparkling stars, the wind whipping over to him and lifting the glowing mist overhead. He watched as it carried her away, kneeling on the ground as though he still held her in his arms. He shook his head as the monsters climbed back to their feet, snorting at him as they picked up their weapons.

“Truthfully I have no idea what you are. My inner demons, creatures from a childhood dream. From another world entirely.” He rose to his feet, pulling Saleana’s crystal sword from his belt. “All that I do know is I have to escape this place. I cannot allow you to kill me, if I even can die in this world. No. No, I can die here. I know that as certain as I know that was Saleana and not a wisp of my own creation. No, I cannot allow you to kill me just yet, perhaps when this is all through and done, but not now. She needs me, your kind can do as they will with me after I aid her. Not a moment before. Until I can fulfill her wish I will fight you with every last ounce of my strength.”

Eryk raced forward, the crystal blade singing as he slashed and struck the air with it. It’s keen edge bit into flesh and bone with the greatest of ease, striking deep and true. He spun between the beasts, moving faster than they could hope to react. Muscle and bone gave way to him, steaming blood coating his silver and steel armor like water. The world came to a halt as he moved, his mind emptying of all thought save that of survival, his body moving as if it was controlled by another. Like an artist he moved, swift and graceful, blood his medium. A glowing blur, dancing and spinning, a force of nature. Unstoppable. There was not a soul that could stand before him.

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