LONG EXCERPT from UNDERGROUND: The Day of the Sun
Underground: The Day of the Sun Book Six in the Chronicles of Caleath.
The scent of death, a shrill wail of fury, and the icy caress of fetid breath hit him. The hammering of pressure building against his flesh brought him to a halt. He cried out, spinning to seek the source of impending threat. His hand dropped to grasp his sword but he no longer bore a weapon. Searching through the mines, he saw no need for extra weight and encumbrance. Now he missed the feel of steel in his hand. While the Aruven people watched him as if he had lost his mind, Caleath glanced around, seeking a weapon.
The feeling of encroaching danger increased. Caleath shouted a warning to Raul before he started to sprint toward the barbarian. Two solid pieces of firewood caught his eye. When he passed the fireplace, he grabbed them. At a run, he leapt onto a large boulder and launched himself through the air, twisting when he landed, to cover Raul’s back.
From the ground beneath the feet of the Aruven crowd, creatures emerged. Chitinous carapaces, armored legs, and sharp pincers flailed in a blind search until the dirt fell from smooth surfaces. Black scorpions the size of large hounds scampered across the ground and down the walls of the cave.
“You expect company?” Caleath shoved one makeshift club into Raul’s hands.
Raul grabbed Caleath’s offered weapon and began to swing as the strange creatures surged out of the cave floor and moved toward him. “Scorpions?”
“Adder’s spit. Look out!”
Caleath smashed his club onto an armored claw. Above him, a poisonous appendage arched and speared toward him.
He lifted his club. With a wild swing he severed the end of the scorpion’s tail. The creature wailed but offered no further danger. Caleath turned to face a dozen more emerging from the dirt. All converged upon Raul.
“Sorcery?” Raul dispatched another creature with desperate strength rather than skill.
“What else?” Caleath timed his answer between blows. “Where is the wizard?”
The Aruven crowd scattered. Weapons appeared. Those able to wield a blade or swing a club defended themselves. Men and women joined the fray. Blades cleaved armored shells. Burning brands kept the creatures at bay. Others used heavy clubs to smash the huge insects into pulp. The numbers didn’t diminish. More of the black carapaces rose from the dirt. For every creature the Aruven fighters killed, another took its place.
Caleath drew a breath. He could feel no telltale crawl of his skin, indicating the use of sorcery. Troubled by the anomaly, he hesitated between blows. Raul’s shout of warning brought him to his senses. He swung his club when one of the creatures caught his ankle between razor sharp pincers. Heavy wood glanced off the armored claw.
With his leg wrenched from beneath him, Caleath lost his balance. Three scorpions surged toward him, snatching at his limbs. He flailed with his club as he fell, beating off their attack.
Raul bellowed. The rattle of insect armor drowned his warning. A plethora of scorpions charged toward them. The barbarian’s curse reached Caleath through the high-pitched wail as the creatures sensed victory.
Caleath needed help. Inadequate mage training meant he didn’t have the skill to conjure spells without time for concentration. Willpower to wield forces beyond his understanding could not guarantee results or damage management. The price of using sorcery also limited his enthusiasm. Within him, a nest of evil vipers writhed, waiting for a moment of weakness when they could unleash dark magic and make him their pawn. Already carrying the title of renegade he knew the lure of dire power. Caleath left his request until he held no hope of overpowering the enemy by other means.
Desperate, Caleath called on the energy offered by the power of the elements, air, earth, water, and fire. He threw restraint to the wind and lashed out with fell forces.
Energy surged through his body. The air cracked with sorcery. The Powers answered his plea. Caleath’s hair lifted as the cavern pulsed with the energy of a lightning bolt and shook with the rumble of thunder.
Scorpions vanished, dispersed in a cloud of dust. The noxious scent of poison filled the air but dire battles ended in a puff of dust. Beneath his feet, the ground shook more than his trembling limbs. Caleath glanced toward Raul.
“You?” Raul grasped Caleath’s hand and hauled him to his feet as the Aruven fighters rushed for the cave entrance. The awful groan as rock struggled to balance energy forces made men yowl. Percussion tortured eardrums as air exploded from the deeper caves.
Offering support as Caleath tested his injured ankle, Raul dragged him after the panicked throng. Together they made their exit from the tortured mountain.
Once clear of the entrance people slowed, turning to watch clouds of dust and rubble billow from the mouth of the cave system.
“Dragon’s blood,” Caleath groaned, as the miasma settled. He collapsed to the ground and buried his head in his hands.
“Did you have a choice?” Raul dropped to his haunches. Caleath appreciated Raul’s perception. The Ruak native understood his aversion to using any magic, benign, or otherwise.
“Those constructs are not created by sorcery, Rami’san. I would know if they were.” Caleath took a deep breath. “Be thankful for their demise and give me time to consider what is going on. I know Nasith is here somewhere. While you enjoy a godlike status, let’s use that to our advantage. I have a dreadful feeling I destroyed our way home.”