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The Army of Darkness (Hardcover)

The Army of Darkness (Hardcover)

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Book 2 of The The Immortal Apprentice Trilogy

Paperback Version

Ebook Version

Audiobook Version

 

Harper Gale has gotten half of her revenge.


She’s also gotten herself mixed up in a serious mess.


The Acolytes of Darkness now have an army of wraiths at their command. Numbering in the hundreds, virtually invulnerable to non-magical weapons, and able to kill with a touch, the wraiths are a threat to all of Montage.


Harper is dispatched from the legendary village of alchemists with a warning for the capital.


Little does she know that the Army of Darkness is already on its way.


It’s a race against time with thousands of live on the line.


Find out who makes it to the capital first in The Army of Darkness, Book 2 of The Immortal Apprentice Trilogy.

 

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.

Hardcover

 

Hardcover

245 Pages

Dimensions

6 X 9

ISBN

978-1-68520-059-6

Publication Date

February 27, 2024

Publisher

Sand Hill Publishing

Look Inside

Harper Gale sat back in her chair and took several deep breaths. She, along with her best friend, West, and Baron McCloud had arrived at the village of alchemists a few hours ago. They’d been meeting with a woman named Lin that Harper assumed served as the village mayor when a messenger burst into the meeting room shouting about an attack. Mention was made of an army, but Harper didn’t get the details.

Now Lin was deep in conversation with two other villagers dressed in flowing gold-and-orange robes. The huge, nearly empty meeting room now seemed far too small. Harper badly wanted to get outside and enjoy a lungful of cool, fresh fall air. She suppressed the feeling. Whatever was going on, she needed to know about it.

A quick glance at West confirmed that he looked every bit as anxious as she felt. He was chewing the inside of his cheek and constantly smoothing his ponytail. Of the three of them that arrived from outside the village, only Baron McCloud seemed at ease. Or maybe he just hid his feelings better. As a Montage noble, that was certainly a skill he’d have perfected over the years.

Hoping to distract herself Harper asked, “Do you know anything about this army she mentioned?”

The baron ran a hand through his gray beard and frowned. “No. The histories mention a war long ago with a powerful wizard, but the accounts I read were painfully vague. The idea that a wizard powerful enough to survive getting reduced to ash exists beggars the imagination and I say that as someone that studied Lord Colt’s history extensively. Hopefully, once Lin gets done with the new arrivals, she’ll give us an explanation.”

“I don’t know much about the nobility and ranks and stuff,” West said. “How exactly do these people fit into the kingdom’s power structure?”

Baron McCloud snorted a laugh. “The answer to that is more complicated than I care to think about. I suppose the best way to describe it would be as separate, but still within the system. The village answers to no one but King Irving. They treat me with respect, but more because I married a villager than because I’m a baron. Though to be fair, they treat everyone with respect as long as you don’t give them a reason not to.”

It was too complicated for Harper and she found the first signs of a headache forming across her forehead. Fortunately, before West and the baron could get any deeper in the political weeds, Lin bowed to the people she’d been speaking to and came to rejoin them.

“I apologize for the interruption. Our enclave overseeing the reclamation of the Blighted Lands has been completely wiped out by a wizard leading a pack of ghouls.”

Harper’s jaw tightened. That had to be one of the bastards responsible for killing her father. “Where is this enclave?”

“Far to the west of the village.” Lin’s dark eyes seemed to pierce all the way to Harper’s soul. “You seek to continue your quest for revenge.”

“I certainly do.”

“I don’t recommend it. By the time you arrived, the wizard will either be long gone or in possession of the Apprentice’s army. Either of those results will lead to your failure. And in the latter case, your certain death.”

Before Harper had a chance to snarl that she’d be happy to take that chance, the baron cut in. “You mentioned the army before. An army of the dead you called it. What did you mean?”

“I meant exactly what I said. Sometime after the Apprentice arrived here from Amet Sur’s nation—what is now called the Dead Lands—and before the war started in earnest, he summoned an army of wraiths from Astaroth’s hell.”

“How?” West asked. “I’m no expert on that sort of magic, but don’t you need to offer something from this side to get a bunch of undead or demons in return?”

“Indeed.” Lin’s face twisted in a bitter scowl. “He offered the lives of several hundred men, women, and children taken by force from villages near the border of the Great Forest. In the process of summoning the wraiths, he destroyed a section of forest half a hundred miles in diameter, a place that came to be known as the Blighted Lands. At the center of the ritual, a perfectly round cave appeared which he named the Oblivion Deep. After his defeat, the remains of his army fled to the cave, recalled by some magic beyond our understanding.”

“Why not just destroy the cursed things in the cave?” Harper asked. Even as she said it, she realized that if the task was simple, the people back then would’ve done so.

“That was precisely their plan, but some spell of his protected them. All the wizards and alchemists combined couldn’t break through. The barrier is powered by a hell portal at the center of the cave that feeds it endless amounts of corrupt energy. Our ancestors decided that the best thing to do would be to erase all mention of both places from the history books, then work to restore the Blighted Lands in the hope that no one would ever find the Oblivion Deep again. Our efforts were clearly in vain.”

“I realize I’m showing my ignorance to a painful degree here,” the baron said. “But what, exactly, can an army of wraiths do?”

“They can kill with a touch to the heart or head,” Lin said. “Even a grazing blow will cause a limb to go numb. Normal weapons of steel and wood can’t harm them; only magic or mithril can kill a wraith. Their insubstantial bodies pass right through metal armor.”

Harper shook her head. “Heaven’s mercy! They’re unstoppable. How did the people of that time defeat them?”

“With great difficulty. Weapons treated with special alchemical compounds to make them temporarily magical proved effective, but in the end, it was the Sun Sword that turned the tide. With its power, the king burned a hole through the wraiths’ defenses, allowing an elite strike force to reach and ultimately defeat the Apprentice, though at the cost of many lives.”

“I need to reach the capital and warn King Irving,” Baron McCloud said.

Lin shook her head. “No, you must stay here. Should one of the enemy get their hands on you, they could compel you to show them the way to the village. We can’t risk it.”

Baron McCloud leapt to his feet. “I can’t just sit here while the kingdom is at risk.”

Lin just stared at him. “You can and you will. The village cannot be put in danger.”

“I’ll go,” Harper said. “Though how I’ll get a king to speak with me I have no idea.”

Lin’s gaze shifted and she offered a soft smile. “Have no fear. There are ways of getting the king’s attention. We set up a means of identification precisely for moments like this. Preparations need to be made. You should eat and rest. Morning will be soon enough for you to depart.”

“I’ll be going too,” West said.

“That is one option,” Lin said. “Another is that you remain behind and we teach you magic that will be of great use in the coming battle. As ever, there will be far too few true wizards, especially given the prevalence of magical engineers.” She added those last two words with a hint of distaste. 

West looked at Harper then back, clearly conflicted.

“No need to decide now. Talk amongst yourselves and let me know in the morning.” Lin stood, a clear indication that the meeting was over, and led them to the door.

Outside, a very young man without a hair on his head, dressed in the same orange-and-gold robes, bowed to Lin.

“Guide them to the guest cottage and make sure they have whatever they need,” Lin said. “If you have any requests, just ask Shin. Oh, could you leave the demon amulet with me? I’d like to show it to our head alchemist.”

West quickly dug the box out of his pack and handed it over. “Be careful, the demon likes to make promises.”

Lin’s smile didn’t reach her eyes. “Don’t they all. I’ll see you in the morning.”

Harper and her companions followed Shin along several raised walkways that connected the various trees and formed a sort of road through the village. West kept his gaze directed firmly at the sky, drawing a smile from Harper. She’d never had a problem with heights, eagerly climbing the highest trees as a child only to get yelled at by her mother.

Dad, on the other hand, had just smiled quietly when he watched her. He’d only gotten upset with her once, when she first started hunting. Harper wounded a deer and gave up the chase before finding it. He hadn’t yelled, but the disappointment in his eyes had hurt worse than getting screamed at. She never abandoned a hunt again.

Shin finally stopped in front of another round house, this one a bit smaller than the building where they’d had their meeting with Lin. He opened the door and bowed to them. “I will bring food shortly. Please, make yourselves comfortable.”

Baron McCloud strode through first followed by Harper and West. Unlike the meeting house, this house had a proper living room, with chairs, a table, and a bookcase that held decorations rather than books. A number of doors led to other rooms, but Harper ignored them for now and dropped into an empty chair. Sitting before the baron was rude, but she was too tired to care.

When the others had settled in Baron McCloud said, “What does everyone think? For my part, I hate being stuck here, but understand where Lin is coming from. The fewer people out in the world capable of finding the village, the safer it’ll be. If you could let my men know what’s happening and that they should return and tell Whist and Mila, I’d be grateful.”

“I’m happy to do so.” Harper turned to West. “The final question is, will you be staying or coming with me? I saw the look in your eye when she mentioned new magic.”

“I can’t deny my curiosity,” West admitted. “But I’m with you until the end.”

Harper smiled. That was a sweet sentiment. “I think you should stay. Much as I appreciate you wanting to come with me, learning magic capable of killing the monsters that might be coming against us is important. I plan to avoid as many people as I can until I reach the capital. For now, at least, fighting is to be avoided.”

West chewed his lip. “Are you sure?”

Harper nodded. “I’ll do my best to return quickly, assuming the king wants to send an envoy. If not, well, I’ll see you when I see you.”

West finally nodded, his expression still conflicted. “I’ll do my best to get stronger so I can be more help when the time comes.”

She had no doubt that he’d do his absolute best. West always did his best. She was also surprised to find that the thought of leaving him behind filled her with apprehension. Despite the fact that she always intended to seek her revenge alone, they’d been a team from the beginning. Going their separate ways felt wrong.

Hopefully they wouldn’t come to regret it.

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