Ashes to Embers
Excerpt from Chapter 01
“Why is it so bloody hot out here?” Liam complained. Reven only snorted,
stepping over a fallen log. He used a staff to balance himself, Liam following along with
groans and complaints.
“This is your fault,” Reven said. “Nearly five years I’ve known you, chivalrous is
never a word I’d have thought to describe you but suddenly you grow a set when
Mahrvain is involved?”
“Shu’ up,” Liam groaned. They remained silent for a time after that, stopping
occasionally to rest their legs or drink from a canteen that needed refilling.
“How much further?” Reven asked while they sat against a tree. He was tired
already, his left leg cramping uncomfortably. The jungle was beautiful but stifling in its
heat and humidity. The air felt like a wet blanket and, despite the sun, both men walked
in little more than small clothes through the living sauna.
“Eh…Just over that small ridge. There’s a network of caves, I guess. That’s where
this treasure’s s’posed t’be.”
“Do we even know what this stupid treasure is?” Reven countered.
“Jewel,” Liam shrugged, tucking the map away in his sack. “Red one. Ishaq said
we’d know it when we saw it.”
“Glorious,” Reven grumbled. “Who in all the hells is Ishaq?”
“Guild master,” Liam answered, pushing off the rock he leaned on. “C’mon.”
Reven only made a confused face and followed. Liam knew too much, kept too
many secrets. It was not worth an argument now.
By the time the two men reached their marked destination, Reven wanted to
hang himself in one of the tall trees. The cave was so blessedly cool compared to the
outside he nearly wept with joy. He even went so far as to plaster himself against the
cave wall for several minutes just to cool his aching skin. It was dark inside the cave,
with a sharp smell of fresh mud. Somewhere there was a water source that trickled
through, leaving tiny puddles inside the cave or creating slick falls along the walls. It was
the most glorious thing he’d seen all day.
“Now where?” Reven asked, cautiously stepping further into the cave. The
ground angled down, the tunnels narrow but damp, with a few vines growing overhead.
“He didn’t give me a map o' the cave, just how t’get here,” Liam admitted. Reven
stopped, turned, and fixed the other man with a glare that could shatter
stones. Liam only grinned. “Maybe we’ll see one o'them mortal gods they all
“I’m going to hit you,” Reven intoned. He was about to do just that, raising his
fist, when he stopped. Liam flinched, expecting the blow to land, but Reven ignored him,
turning back toward the darkness of the cave tunnel. He felt something that made the
spot between his shoulder blades tingle uncomfortably and his stomach twist into
The thought came to him in an instant. There was something terribly Powerful
nearby. It pulsed through the ground, the energy of it running up through the soles of
the bard’s leather boots, all the way to the tips of his burnt ears. It robbed him of
breath, making him sway in his stance enough that he would have fallen backwards
were it not for Liam’s steadying hand.
“You a‘right?” Liam asked, with genuine concern in his voice. Reven shut his eyes,
frowning as he ‘listened’ to the Power beneath them sing its terrifyingly beautiful song.
It sounded oddly familiar to him, like the echoing voice he kept hearing in his
nightmares. It made him cringe and take a step back right into Liam.
“Fine,” he managed to breathe out. “I’m fine. There’s something Powerful
“Oh dandy,” Liam quipped. Reven glared at Liam but kept moving, following the
pulse beneath his feet rather than exploring at random. If there was something
Powerful, chances were good that there would be treasure nearby. He had his theories
about the mortal gods that the people of Kalaegh worshiped.
Dragons were very Powerful beings and known to hoard all manner of things. He
could see how the uneducated might look to the large mythical beasts as gods. It sent a
thrill down his spine, followed by a shiver to think of it that way. He did not want to face
off with a dragon. Or get too close to the Power making the terrifying song in his head.
Liam followed, muttering to himself. He was always muttering. It was a nervous
habit of the thief- taker that Reven had not yet puzzled out. Nervous ticks and deep
secrets. He was an odd man, Liam.
“Where are we goin’?” Liam whispered against the back of Reven’s burnt neck.
“Toward the source of the Power,” he whispered back.
“Why? I thought we was supposed t‘be findin’ treasure?”
“We are,” Reven sighed. “If I can find the source of the Power, the treasure might
The last of his statement was wrenched from his lungs and throat as the ground
beneath him gave way into a steep, jagged hole. The flesh tore off his back and sides as
he fell, Liam’s voice echoing after him in desperation to help, without the ability to do a
damned thing. It was desperation Reven felt as acutely as each jab of rock or slice of
stone raked across his bare skin. The hole ran deep, all of it black as pitch until the very
end when a rush of bright blue light blinded him just before his feet collided with a loud
crunch onto the stone beneath him. Pain radiated up through his legs. They gave out
from beneath him, landing him face first on the floor. He had no breath, no strength to
move, and just groaned, listening to his partner holler his name from above.