Sneak Peek at the first TWO chapters in A Chosen Path, book 3 in The Chosen Chronicles!
© COPYRIGHT 2017 K.A. Parkinson
PROLOGUE: THE KEEPER
THE MOMENT OF HIS DEATH DREW NEAR.
He could hear it in the echo of paws thundering toward him across the forest floor, and in the shrieks of the demon Raksasha carried on the winds of the Shadow storm.
Eamun Woodlore, Watcher and Keeper of the Last Shard, did not have long.
He dropped from his vantage point in the trees and glanced up at the darkening sky as tears splashed onto his cheeks.
There would be no stars this night.
He crushed the herbs between his palms, blew them into the wind, and closed his eyes to Watch them trickle into every footprint he had left behind. With his eyes closed, the nightmare became too real. The echo of terrified screams filled his ears and his eyes snapped open. He could not save them, but at least his son Sashan had escaped.
He pushed his feet forward, his own sobs mingling with the howl of the wind.
He paused beside a towering pine. His fingers trembled as he tugged the blood-red shard from its cradle within the scepter. It glowed red-gold in the dim light. He knelt at the base of the tree. Tears dripped off the end of his nose as he dug his hands into the cold earth, deeper and deeper. With a silent plea, he gently dropped the shard beneath a thick root, placed his hand on the rough bark, and whispered so that only the tree could hear. He pulled his hand away and a gleaming, golden symbol burned brightly in the wood and then disappeared.
With a surge of fierce relief, Eamun pushed the dirt back into the hole and waved his hand over the mound of earth. Thick grass sprouted around the tree until the ground surrounding it appeared undisturbed. He sprinkled another handful of herbs through the grass. His waist-length gray hair whipped around him as he paused to listen.
The shrieks of the Raksasha and the howls of the DéHool wolves were too close. He couldn’t lead them here.
He waved his hands behind him as he ran back, careful to match each step. The grasses stood upright as he passed, hiding his footprints.
The howling grew louder and he felt an unnatural cold layering the air around him.
The Shadow Wraiths were almost upon him.
He emerged from the thicket to see the first line of DéHool. Their red eyes flashed to the trees behind him.
He clenched his teeth and dropped to his knees in front of them.
The wolves howled in victory and flung themselves on him.
Eamun threw his arms up toward the sky. “Radi! Y’na hi y’takra!” A burst of white-hot light engulfed him, and then all was silent.
The fire burned out as quickly as it started. The black, skeletal Raksasha uncovered their yellow eyes. The second pack of wolves rushed forward, but where Eamun had been, nothing remained but a dozen dead DéHool and a pile of ash.
A long, mournful cry echoed through the sky as the clouds released their rain and washed away the grisly scene. A silver great horned owl circled low over the destruction before spreading its vast wings and soaring through a hole in the clouds.
* * *
“Eamun is dead.”
Forrest Bastian looked up at Zarin, leader of the Guardians—those charged with watching over the affairs of earth—as he scanned the scroll in his hands, his wings dragging on the ground behind him as he paced.
“I am sorry, Bastian. Word has just reached the citadel. His village was attacked.” Zarin sighed and sat down. “Our Sight over the village has dimmed, but as far as we can tell, there were no survivors.”
Bastian tugged on his long, white ponytail, his sapphire eyes bright with worry. “Do we know who is responsible?”
“The owl did not see him there, but Daemon’s symbol was burned into the heads of the bodies of the slaughtered villagers.”
Pain lashed through Bastian’s chest. The Demon Master, back in the earth realm. Eamun Woodlore was Hidden-kind—like Bastian, like all the Guardians, and most who dwelled here in the Light Realm—a race of beings who exist outside the knowledge of humans and are behind all the worlds myths and legends. He was a gifted follower of Light and goodness, the speaker of the Prophecy of the Ninth, and Keeper of the immensely powerful Last Shard. “Eamun’s whereabouts within the earth realm have remained a secret from the Dark for centuries. How did Daemon find him?”
Zarin shook his head. “We do not know.”
“The Last Shard?”
“No sign.” Zarin rubbed a hand over his eyes. “I am certain we would know by now if the Dark had it. The owl tells us Eamun sacrificed himself before the DéHool could take him.”
Bastian stood and began to pace.
“We just sent word to the closest Hidden village off the island.” Zarin’s voice held the strain of leadership. “We have asked them to send spies to gather more information so we can plan how to proceed.”
“If the Last Shard is still on that island, we need to go there, now.” Bastian stopped mid-stride and turned to face them. “We must find it first.”
“Sit down, friend.” Zarin waved his hand toward Bastian’s chair and waited for him to sit before he continued. “You know it isn’t that simple for the Guardians to venture into the earth realm. Especially now as the Dark’s power there increases daily. We will see what we can learn. We will trust in the two-fold protection over the Last Shard. A Seeker and Keeper. If the power works as it should, only the Seeker can find it.”
Bastian’s eyes narrowed. “You speak of the growth of darkness. Ancient power has been fading all over the planet. What if the protection guarding the Last Shard also fails? With the Keeper dead, the Dark will only have access to a fraction of its strength yes, but yet still too much power in their hands.”
Zarin placed the scroll on the table in front of him, his face strained, his eyes weary. “This news has hastened our need for the Ninth Chosen. The fate of both Hidden and human kind is at stake. It is time to talk to the children.”
Flashes of the future cut across Bastian’s Second Sight and he raised both palms up. “I will speak with them . . . alone and separately.”
Zarin’s eyebrow rose.
Bastian kept his hands up but ducked his head as his eyes continued to shift for several minutes, shoving the truth of what was to come into his mind. As the Watcher for both Tolen and Macy, he had the ability to see small pieces of their future. A gift that aided him in the task of teaching them the ways of Hidden kind, training them in their gifts, and helping them understand the missions the Light asked of them. In his mortal life he had acted as a mentor and loved them like a father.
Not quite six weeks had passed since Bastian and his sixteen-year-old ward Macy had found Tolen Parks, a skinny, clueless seventeen-year-old boy, and told him that his true race was Hidden-kind, not human as he’d believed. They also began his training as a member of the Chosen, a group of children gifted with a single power from the Light. Children tasked with protecting the oblivious human race from the monsters of the Dark. But an unforeseen attack had forced Bastian to sacrifice himself to save Tolen. It had then fallen to Macy to guard the child of prophecy. Something that enraged her until their relationship took an unexpected and somewhat dangerous shift. Macy and Tolen had fallen in love.
Less than a month had passed since Tolen had discovered his destiny as the Ninth Chosen—wielder of all the Light’s gifts and the prophesied final hope for all life on earth. Just days ago, Tolen and Macy had ended up here, in the Citadel of Light, understandably shaken after a terrifying, yet successful trip to the Shadow Prison to save Tolen’s parents. They were pleased to find upon their arrival that Bastian had joined the Guardians at the end of his mortal life—that he had been and still would be watching over them from a distance.
Distant guidance, but not physical protection. A fact that increased his concern as he watched glimpses of their entwined futures flash by.
He must speak to Tolen first. Since Tolen also had the gift of Second Sight, the ability to see the future for those he was meant to protect, he must understand what he had been seeing in his dreams and accept the truth. As the Ninth, his ability to Watch for Macy will be much clearer, his feelings for her deepening the connection.
Macy . . . A burning, tearing sensation blossomed in his chest. How could he send her out there to face the uncertain, dangerous future alone? His life ending, ripped and slashed away by the DéHool’s monstrous claws, had felt soft as feathers compared to this.
When the vision finally ended, Bastian raised his head and met Zarin’s worried expression. “As their Watcher you must trust me,” he said, his voice bleak, broken. “This is about more than just the Last Shard. The Dark is after the Relics.”
A collective gasp passed through the group. “The Relics were hidden by a power even greater than what we wield. There is no way the Dark can find them,” Zarin whispered.
“Just as there was no way for the Dark to find Eamun? The Light’s power in the earth realm is fading. We are running out of time.”
The leader of the Guardians took a deep breath, and for several uncomfortable seconds stared into Bastian’s eyes while the tension in the room layered thick and heavy as mud.
Finally, with a slow sigh, Zarin nodded once. “Very well.”
July 6 Four days until Transcendence
Chapter 1 Poisonous Truth
MACY TUCKED A STUBBORN STRAND of her thick, blonde hair behind her ear, her emerald eyes glancing at the clock in the hall. 7:15 AM. Everyday for the week they’d spent in the Citadel of Light, Tolen had come to her room at 6:45 so they could have breakfast together before training. Now with just four days until Tolen turned eighteen and completed Transcendence—the moment when his gifts would reach the height of their strength—the Dominant trainers were working him extra hard. It was no wonder he had slept through his alarm. She’d decided to pick up their breakfast and bring it back to his room rather than wake him up to eat together down in the cafeteria.
In three days they would leave the Light Realm and head for the Zenith, the stronghold within the earth realm where Tolen would complete his training and his Transcendence—something she both looked forward to and worried about. The Zenith was supposed to be strong enough to shield him from being discovered by the Dark, but so far they’d underestimated Tolen at every turn. He was so powerful already that the Spheres here, who had the ability to shield people and places from detection of the Dark, struggled to hide him. If they were struggling, how could anyone possibly hide him once he transcended?
The closer she got to Tolen’s room, the more her Radia shard, the source of her gifts, zinged with familiar energy.
She clutched the handle of the bag holding their pastries and milk tighter in her fist and picked up her pace. She turned the corner to see Bastian standing in one of the many tall windows lining the hallway.
“Bastian!” He stepped down and she threw her arms around his waist. His heavy wings twitched beneath her hands.
Her Watcher put his huge hand on her hair. “Hello, LaUnahi, my little bird.” His voice sounded strained, sad.
She looked up into his face and her stomach turned at the agony she saw there. “What’s happened? Tolen—?” she dropped her hold on his waist and took a step toward Tolen’s room, but Bastian grabbed her arm.
“Wait, Macy. I need to speak with you. Now. It cannot wait.”
Heart pounding she followed Bastian into one of the many private thinking rooms in the hall. Her hands shook and the bag of pastries rustled in her hand. Bastian gently took it from her, sat it on a small table, and guided her to one of the two cream-colored overstuffed chairs.
“What’s wrong?” The Kuna—her gift of fire—heated her chest and tingled in her palms.
Bastian knelt at her feet and took her hands in his. The tingle slowed, but her heart raced from the look in his eyes. “Macy, how are you handling the weight of my shard?”
Her eyebrow rose. She’d been wearing his shard since his “death.” She’d tried to give it back when they’d arrived and learned he was now a Guardian, but Bastian told her it was hers now. “Its power seems to be growing, but it’s not that noticeable. Jonas told me it will get harder to manage once I am back in the human dimension, that the Light’s power here helps to control it.”
“He is correct.” Bastian squeezed his eyes shut. “I must ask you to do something. It will be something extraordinarily difficult, almost impossible, but I know you are capable. Will you do it?” He opened his eyes but didn’t go on.
“What is it that you want me to do?”
“I need you to trust me.”
“Bastian, you know I trust you.” The heat increased in her palms. Soon it would become an unbearable burn and have to be released.
“This is different, Macy.”
Macy swallowed loudly. “You’re starting to freak me out.” She twisted her hands out of his and clenched them in her lap.
Bastian gripped her hands again. “I need you to trust that I will only ask something of you that I know in my heart you can do, but it will be incredibly dangerous and difficult.”
“Well, that’ll be a change.” She tried to smirk. As a member of the Chosen, she was responsible for protecting ignorant mankind from the monsters of the dark, something that made every day dangerous and difficult.
He didn’t crack a smile. “You and Tolen must leave the citadel today. But you cannot go with him to the Zenith.”
“What?” Macy jumped out of her seat. “You’re joking, right?” Anger boiled up inside of her and a thin trickle of smoke curled from her palms. She shoved her hands into her pockets and took three deep breaths.
“Macy, you promised.” He stood up and reached his hand toward her but she ignored it.
“The Light has a vital mission for you and Tolen must complete his training. As the Ninth he will need the protection of the Zenith as he transcends. He cannot go with you and you cannot wait for him.” He gently put a hand over her lips before she could argue. “LaUnahi, I am still your Watcher. Please trust me.” His voice trembled and Macy’s stomach twisted.
“W-what is the mission?”
“The future is too hazy for me to know the exact details. But I have seen that leaving today is best. Safest for both of you. You must hurry. Trust the Light to guide you. Focus on my shard. It will watch over you when Tolen and I cannot. It will link you to him even more strongly than your own.”
She barely heard his last words. Her lungs were burning, her heart slamming against her ribs. It felt like someone was holding her to the ground and stepping on her chest. “But . . . the prophecy . . . I’m Light’s Aid, and Tolen’s trigger for his gifts. He needs me.”
Bastian sighed. “And you need him.” His eyes shifted black to blue swiftly, searching the future.
Her heart sank. “But it doesn’t change anything, right?”
He barely shook his head. “Jonas wishes to speak with you before you leave, but it must be very brief. You need to be ready to go within the hour. I’ve had some food delivered to your room. Eat. You’ll need your strength.” He wrapped his arms around her in a final hug. “Goodbye my little bird.” He touched her cheek, spun on his heel and left.
Time ceased to exist as Tolen lay on the floor beside the open balcony doors. He didn’t remember how he ended up on the floor. It could have been hours or minutes ago that Bastian had left to speak with Macy, to deliver the blow to her as well.
Macy was like a daughter to Bastian. He’d been extremely upset when he flew off Tolen’s balcony. Would it be up to Tolen to break the terrible news of their necessary separation? He needed to get up, but he couldn’t move. His concrete body had become part of the floor, the thick carpet like razors against his cheek. Nothing, not even the warmth of the Citadel of Light, could ease the pain of this moment.
Soft blue light emanated from the Radia Shard he wore around his neck and he felt his gifts stir within him. Other Chosen received their gifts from their shard, as the Ninth Chosen his gifts were born with him and right now they too were reacting to his pain. Kuna, one of his strongest gifts and the one most affected by emotion, heated his chest and flooded his palms. He must contain it, but as his thoughts continued, the heat intensified. His shard pulsed, echoing his agony as his mind raced through the events of the past few weeks.
When he first met Macy he didn’t like her very much, but it didn’t take long to fall for her once he got to know the real her. The time spent in Jonas’s training camp had brought them together in more ways than one. While there he’d learned he was the Ninth Chosen, a child of prophecy meant to lead the Chosen in a Final Battle against the Dark, a prophecy in which Macy would play a vital role. Then one week ago she had helped him infiltrate the Shadow Realm, the Dark dimension where demons and evil thrive, and rescue his parents from the horrors of the Shadow Prison. They’d stormed through a literal hell on earth, fought against Daemon the Demon Master—a creature more terrible than any of Tolen’s worst nightmares, scores of Dark servants, and survived. He’d believed the prophecy determined they would remain together as they moved forward into the future, but it had been a dream, a fantasy, as unattainable as grasping smoke.
Bastian’s brief visit had begun as a conversation about how well Tolen was doing in his training with the Dominants then morphed into a poisonous snake of torturous truth that had wrapped itself around his heart, squeezing and sucking the life from him.
Macy must take a different path, and no matter how much Tolen wanted to, he couldn’t follow and protect her against the evil that would be shadowing her every move. For days he’d pushed away the images of Macy he’d been dreaming about, refusing to acknowledge them for what they were—actual glimpses into her future. But Bastian had confirmed Tolen’s nightmares. Being both Tolen and Macy’s Watcher he’d also seen it.
As soon as Bastian left, the vision Tolen had been fighting against forced itself upon him.
His hands trembled where they sat curled into fists beside his head as the worst of the images returned.
Daemon was back in the earthly realm, trying to find a way to free Darsapean—leader of the Dark and the single most evil creature to ever walk the earth—from Misery, the prison kept by the Guardians. Bile rose in Tolen’s throat. He swallowed hard and squeezed his eyes shut as the rest of the vision cut again through his thoughts. The slaughtered village, the sense of urgency on the side of the Dark.
A knock sounded at his door and he forced his body off the floor, but it wasn’t Macy waiting for him on the other side. It was Keytleen—his emissary to the Guardians.
“Your parents wish to speak with you before you leave.” She offered him a sympathetic smile before motioning for him to follow.
He glanced over his shoulder as he left the room to see Bastian leading Macy the other direction into a thinking room.
The relief at not being the one to have to tell her was fleeting. Tolen knew what he had to do, but he was afraid it would kill him to do it. Heat waves rolled off his hands. Whether because of the power she held over Tolen—the Ninth Chosen—or something more sinister, one thing was for certain.
Daemon was hunting Macy.
© COPYRIGHT 2017 K.A. Parkinson
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