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The Apprentice Reborn (Paperback)

The Apprentice Reborn (Paperback)

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Book 3 of The The Immortal Apprentice Trilogy

Hardcover Version

Ebook Version

Audiobook Version


Montage City has fallen and the survivors are now prisoners of the Acolytes of Darkness


The only resistance is gathered in the Village of Alchemists.


They’re safe, but for how long?


The Acolytes will do anything to resurrect their master, including slaughter as many innocents as necessary to force their enemy’s hand.


With the final confrontation looming, can Harper get her long sought revenge and stop Acolytes  or will a new age of darkness fall over Montage?


Find out in the final installment of the Immortal Apprentice Trilogy: The Apprentice Reborn.


Set in Colt's Land ten years after the events of The Sanguine Scroll, The Immortal Apprentice Trilogy is a spinoff the popular Portal Wars Saga.


Paperback

 

Paperback

290 Pages

Dimensions

5.5 X 8.5

ISBN

978-1-68520-062-6

Publication Date

February 26, 2024

Publisher

Sand Hill Publishing

Look Inside

Barrett Boyd had seen some horrible things over the past month. First the ghouls murdering Dawson, then Dawson rising as a ghoul himself forcing Harper to kill him a second time. Not to mention enough corpses to fill several cemeteries. Suffice it to say this had not been a good couple of months.

When the refugees had finally reached the edge of the Great Forest, he’d thought, stupidly as it turned out, that the worst of the danger had passed.

Instead, not long after nightfall, into camp walked four bald wizards dressed in gray. Among them the son of a bitch that ordered Dawson killed. Despite the evidence before his eyes, Barrett didn’t want to believe this was happening.

When the priests of Branik ordered everyone to keep their distance, Barrett hadn’t argued. One of the few things he knew about wizards was that the smartest thing you could do was keep your distance and hope they didn’t notice you.

So far that plan hadn’t been working out for Barrett since everywhere he went he seemed to run into them.

Of course, compared to how well the priests did fighting them, his strategy had been a roaring success. After a brief discussion with the prince, the boss wizard ordered everyone to stay still and silent. The “or else” didn’t need saying given the many red-eyed shadows drifting through the camp.

Barrett didn’t even bother trying to sleep despite his exhaustion. The unnatural chill from the wraiths left him shivering and weak. He ended up leaning back to back with Tobias and silently praying for something, anything, to get them out of this mess.

His prayers went unanswered and after the longest night of his life, the sun slowly rose. But before it did, the wraiths sank into the ground. It was like they were burying themselves. Pity they wouldn’t stay buried.

“What do you think’s going to happen now?” Tobias whispered.

Barrett hadn’t the slightest idea and didn’t dare answer lest one of the wizards keeping watch hear him. Instead, he gave a silent shake of his head.

The answer to Tobias’s question came fifteen minutes later when the head wizard strode into the center of camp. Beside him, one of the ghouls, an especially large and ugly one, held the prince by the neck, its claws just short of digging into the boy’s flesh.

“Your attention, everyone,” the boss wizard said. “The time has come to begin negotiations for your release. I require a messenger to carry my demands to the village of alchemists.”

Barrett’s hand shot up at once. “Tobias and I will go.”

He spoke before he could think better of it. When the boss’s cold, dead eyes focused on him, he wished he hadn’t drawn the man’s attention.

“And who are you?” the wizard asked.

Steeling himself, Barrett said, “Barrett Boyd, sir. My friend and I have been serving the group as scouts. We’re hunters and can follow the tracks our team left right to the village, or at least close enough that someone will spot us.”

“You certainly look like a hunter.” The boss wizard strode over. “I suppose you’ll do. Though I only need one messenger.”

“Then send me!” a familiar, whiny voice said. It was the noble that had been complaining since they left the capital. “No one that matters will listen to a peasant. My father is a baron. The son of a noble has to be a better choice for this task.”

The boss frowned. “And are you capable of following the group’s tracks? You don’t look like much of an outdoorsman to me.”

“I’m sure I can. After all, if this lout can do it, surely I can.”

As the debate continued, the wizard that had killed Dawson walked up to his boss and whispered something.

“Is that right? If the hunter is known to Baron McCloud as well, then he’s sufficiently qualified.” The dead eyes turned back on Barrett. “You’re hired, but just you. As a token of my faith in your ability, I promise that your friend won’t be among the first group slain should the alchemists ignore my demands.”

Tobias clutched Barrett’s arm. “Don’t leave me here alone.”

Barrett had been hoping to get them both out of this mess, but now that he’d spoken, backing out wasn’t an option. Not if he wanted to keep breathing.

He patted Tobias’s hand then stood. Hopefully he could convince whoever was in charge at the alchemists’ village of the seriousness of the situation.

“You can’t be taking this fool over me!” the noble said.

Barrett didn’t think the man was especially brave, but it took a remarkable amount of stupidity to speak to these people in that tone. If he failed, Barrett hoped the useless fop would be the first fed to the wraiths. No one would miss him.

The boss wizard turned and pointed. Some unseen force picked the nobleman up and hurled him across the clearing. He slid through the mud before finally stopping when he hit a clump of people.

From the pained groans, it looked like he’d survived the impact. Pity.

“Does anyone else object to my decision?” the boss asked.

If anyone did, they were smart enough to keep silent.

“Excellent. You—Barrett was it?—come here. I’ll give you your message.”

Barrett looked back at Tobias and tried to send good thoughts. But he didn’t dare linger. After a moment he hurried over to the wizards and Prince Jackob.

“The message is simple,” the boss said. “I want the mithril urn. They have until sunset to give it to me. Should they refuse to obey, half these people, as well as the king, will die. A day after that, the rest will join them. Elgan.”

The wizard that killed Dawson pulled a dagger. As Barrett watched in horrified fascination the blade grew bright red.

Elgan grabbed the prince’s left ear and sliced it off, searing the flesh as he did so.

Prince Jackob’s scream would ring in Barrett’s ears for the rest of his life he felt certain. When it was done, Elgan wrapped the ear in a square of white cloth and gave it to Barrett. He accepted with a grimace of distaste.

“You may be the luckiest man in history,” Elgan said. “I can’t think of another person that’s been my prisoner twice and escaped to tell the tale.”

Barrett felt many things at that moment, but lucky wasn’t one of them.

“Tell them that tomorrow morning I’ll send a second messenger with the king’s head should they fail to obey my orders. Now go.”

Barrett didn’t need to be told twice. He hurried toward the edge of the forest. It only took a moment to find the path trodden through the snow. Such a large group, especially one consisting of mostly amateurs, would be simple to track. The idiot noble might even have been able to manage it.

He set a brisk pace just short of running. Barrett wanted to deliver the message and be relieved of his gruesome burden as quickly as possible. The sooner this was someone else's problem, the happier he’d be.

 

***

 

Despite her worries about the survivors from Montage City, Harper found she’d gotten a restful night’s sleep. She sat up and looked out the window. The sun hadn’t risen yet and probably wouldn’t for at least another hour. The dim light of the stars revealed almost nothing.

She hated that about this time of year. Short days left her depressed at the best of times. When it meant that many more hours that the wraiths could be active, it was even worse.

In the bed across from her, West snored contentedly away. He’d talked to her for hours last night about the new magic he’d learned. As always, his enthusiasm for his work never ceased to amaze her. Harper didn’t understand about half of what he described, but from the sounds of it, the magic would come in mighty handy during the battle to come.

And there was a battle coming, she had no doubt about that. Even without her desire for revenge, those wizards, the Acolytes of Darkness, weren’t about to wander off and leave them in peace.

She swung her legs over the side of the bed and into her boots, careful to make as little noise as possible. Hopefully she could rustle up some breakfast despite the early hour. Crossing the room on tiptoes, she shrugged her cloak on and stepped out into the cold.

The youth on duty, a girl today, bowed to her. “How may I be of service?”

Harper shivered. Too bad the light they set up outside the door only gave off light and not heat. “If it’s not too early, I was hoping for some breakfast.”

“Certainly. For one?”

“Yes, West is still asleep. In fact, if you could take me to the kitchen, I’ll eat there so I don’t wake him.”

The girl’s thin, arched eyebrows drew down as she frowned.

“Is that not allowed?” Harper asked. As far as she knew they were guests not prisoners.

“I haven’t been informed either way. The masters said we were to bring you whatever you wanted. No mention was made of bringing you to the food.”

“Harper?” The conversation was cut off when Prince Lachlan came strolling around the side of the treehouse. He wore a heavy, fur-lined cloak and his breath was visible when he spoke. “I didn’t expect to find you up this early.”

“Habit. I always wake up early. Something I picked up from my father. What about you?”

“Couldn’t sleep. Busy mind.”

Given that his brother and father were outside, likely surrounded by wraiths, Harper could understand his unease.

“Would you like to join me for breakfast?” she asked.

He shrugged. That was the least enthusiastic response he’d ever offered to the suggestion of spending time with her. Perhaps he’d finally made peace with the idea that she was only interested in being his friend.

At last he said, “Sure. Maybe it’ll distract me.”

“I guess I can take you to the communal dining hall,” the girl said. “That’s where all the villagers eat. It’s nothing fancy.”

That last was directed at Lachlan.

He smiled. “My last breakfast consisted of cold beef eaten off a wooden plate scrounged from a farm while I stood in the snow. As long as both the food and the dining room are warm and I have a place to sit, you’ll hear no complaints.”

The girl finally blew out a breath and said, “Okay, follow me.”

They crossed three bridges and walked around four raised sidewalks before she stopped in front of the largest building Harper had seen so far. It was easily three times as large as the guest house she shared with West.

Their guide pulled the door open and the most delicious aroma in the world, cooking bacon, wafted out. “Go on in and ask the servers on duty for whatever you’d like. I’ll return to my post in case your friend wakes up.”

“Thank you,” Harper said, her mouth already watering. “If West does wake up, tell him I’ll be back before long.”

“Do you not wish me to bring him here?” the girl asked.

“I don’t mind either way, but West isn’t good with heights. He’s liable to faint if he has to cross all those bridges.”

The girl’s stony expression finally cracked, making her look her age. “I’ll be sure to warn him should he wake.”

She trotted off, leaving Harper and Lachlan alone. Inside there were rows of tables and benches, about a third of them occupied. It seemed at least some of the locals shared her habit of getting up early. They all wore similar orange-and-yellow robes. Whatever else you could say about them, there wasn’t much variety in their wardrobe. Not that Harper was one to talk given her preference for wearing the same leathers day in and day out.

Along the back wall a trio of servers, all youths a bit older than her guide, waited behind a waist-high table covered with steaming dishes heated by glowing stones. Harper spotted a stack of plates on one end of the table and assumed that was where she was meant to start.

In addition to bacon, she collected a roll, eggs, and mixed vegetables along with a glass of water. She and Lachlan settled on an unoccupied bench and dug in. Neither of them said anything as they enjoyed the delicious meal. Since she’d been traveling with the survivors, she’d almost forgotten what a well-prepared meal tasted like. And this was even better than supper since it came directly from the kitchen.

A third of the way through she came up for air and said, “Whoever’s in charge of the kitchen knows their business. If I can eat like this every day, I might ask Lin to adopt me.”

Lachlan’s lips barely twitched into a faint smile. “The castle chef could cook anything and make it tasty. I suppose he’s dead now, along with everyone else in the capital.”

Harper debated trying to reassure him, but decided against it. They both knew the truth and nothing she said would change it. “I can’t imagine how big a job rebuilding will be.”

“Jackob said it would be the task of our remaining life. Even then it will be a wonder if we can complete it.”

“Don’t sell yourself short. You and your brother both seem pretty determined. If you put your minds to it, I doubt there’s much you couldn’t accomplish.”

He finally smiled though it still looked sad. “Thanks. I’m sure we’ll figure something out, assuming we both survive the current situation.”

The current situation. What a wonderfully bland way to describe it. Was that something they taught nobles to do? Harper didn’t know, but wouldn’t have been surprised.

They finished the rest of the delightful meal in silence. She was just about to excuse herself and return to her lodgings, when the kitchen door slammed open and a panting youth entered. The sun was up and bright behind him. Had they really been here that long?

“Prince Lachlan!” the youth said. “Your presence is urgently requested at the meeting hall.”

They shared a look. Whatever was going on, it couldn’t be good.

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