So normally the Christian Sci-Fi Fantasy Blog Tour features a new book each month for the group to review. For August this year we’re doing “Favorites”. Favorite books, favorite authors, or other works related to the subject matter regularly covered by the tour. One of the choices was to post on our own book.
I’ve debated whether to put this out to the world or not for a while now. Looks like it’s time.
So for the first time to the general public, here’s an unedited copy of the prologue of my first book in the “Cutblade” series… “Rise”!
(At the end of the post you will find links to the other members of the tour. Be sure to check out their favorites too!)
The sun was shining bright, and the day was still early. The music, which had been very lively, was now hushed. All was quiet. The people were focused. Anticipation was thick in the air. They couldn’t believe their eyes. It was almost there!
He grunted loudly, with a final burst of energy.
The ends of the bar connected loudly.
Wild cheers began to rise up through the crowd. People applauded and whistled. The strong men were howling deeply in pride. The children screamed happily in amazement, as they circled around each other in victory dances and songs.
“No way!” a man yelled out.
“The bar really bent!” said another.
“He actually did it!” screamed a woman in joyful surprise.
Ivan Cutblade bent the iron bar, 2 feet long and 5 inches thick, with his bare hands. There on that stage, in front of all the competitors and many of his fellow townsfolk, Ivan met the challenge. The brothers in the church he preached at would have the trophy for years to come.
And what better place to so mightily champion the Friendly Brotherhood Games, than in front of the biggest crowd the games had ever seen, right here in his hometown village of Scottsbluff?
It had been 10 years since they last hosted the games, and Scottsbluff had not seen much victory in that time, except in the spearing competitions. All of their hunting and fishing was by spear, and the guard had a handful of elite throwers, able to strike targets up to 100 feet away in the open with deadly accuracy. They were thankful for their skills in spearing, but it seemed that they could not find any victory outside of this category of games.
But it would be different now, and everyone knew it. Ivan had entered the games, and the competitors for the next ten years would worry about the strongman events, trying to escape the shadow of IronBender Ivan.
And what better time for such a victory than on his son Floriken’s 5th birthday? This attempt of strength was mostly a birthday present for Floriken. Now his son stood on stage with his dad. Well, Floriken would be standing, except that when he went to lift his dad’s hand up in victory, Ivan grabbed the boy’s hand lifted him up into the air. Ivan held his son up high, bellowing out a deep joyful laugh at his boy’s excitement.
Floriken hung there by his upraised hand, with as happy of an expression as a boy could ever have. He pointed to all his friends, bragging at the top of his lungs “That’s my daddy! IronBender Ivan!”
This had to be the best birthday ever!
Then Floriken was dropped to the ground by the weight of something falling from the sky. He heard the crowd go silent in shock.
As Ivan looked down to his son, there he saw his wife on top of the boy… bloody, broken, and dead. She had two holes in her head; it looked like she had been gorged by bull horns. He watched as his son, still pinned to the stage, began to shake the body, crying out to her “Wake up mommy!”
Then Ivan looked up just in time to watch a foot long bone spike fly into his belly. He looked down at the spike, and his face contorted in confusion. As he began moving his hands to grab it, three more spikes flew through his gaze, thudding deep into his large chest. A moment later the floor pulled him to his knees. Then he fell forward, the darkness swallowing him up.
A loud, horrible shriek shattered through the sky, and the crowd screamed in reply. There in the sky hung four black Boneshard Dragons, vicious dragon demons that love, above all else, to dramatically strike terror into human souls. These four in particular were very skilled at doing this, and now they were drunk on the fruits of their labors, the crowd below screaming and scattering in a frenzy of fear.
Nobody needed time to figure out this surprise attack. Everyone knew as soon as they saw the demons what was going on.
Ivan and his family had been fighting for the freedom of human souls as long as they had been married. They returned to Scottsbluff a few years back, having helped defeat a great evil far to the North West. Ivan and his wife had heard of the growing evil in the East, and how it was creeping slowly towards their hometown that they so dearly missed.
After returning, they believed the only way to keep the demon horde out of Scottsbluff was to push into the corrupted territory with the gospel. So they began a missionary work over the northeastern border of their country, where the darkness was very deep. It was very dangerous, but the couple would not be deterred by any fear. Their lives had been given over to God a long time ago.
Unfortunately their work, though still very small, had somehow caught the ears of a great demon general in the east. The village had been warned that this might happen. But they supported the ever loving and helpful Cutblade family anyway. Some of the villagers were Christians, also willing to sacrifice themselves for the Lord’s work. Most of the rest of the villagers were kindly people; they thought the cause noble and worth while.
But now the worst was upon them.
The Demon Empire of the East has come to conquer new lands.
Suddenly, a massive, dark red demon leaped over the crowd, 700 pounds of bulging muscle crashing loudly next to the dead man. Many of the floorboards exploded where he landed, destroying the large, and once beautiful stage.
With its oversized back to the people, the demon reached down and moved the body of the dead woman, looking for the boy she had landed on. Finding nothing, the beast grabbed the woman’s corpse in anger. It uncurled its back as it slowly straightened up, towering 10 feet tall. Suddenly, the demon jerked its body into a spin as it threw the bloody and limp body of the woman into the still dispersing crowd. The demon belted out a horrifying roar, louder than anything any of those people had ever heard.
It turned back and picked up the body of Ivan, then turned again to the crowd. The demon held the man’s dead body up to terrorize the village some more, though most were running for their lives and not daring to look back. The few that did turn looked to see an angry demon, devouring the body of the mighty IronBender Ivan.
Ivan, the great Christian warrior of Scottsbluff, was now a martyr. He fought for his God. He knew Morax would eventually come. They all knew. But in his faith he did not fear the death that he came to receive.
A score of Boneshard dragons came flooding into the sky from the northeast, joining the four that had announced the coming doom. Boneshards came raining down from the tails of the dragons, laying many people low. With well over 8,000 people present, it was too hard for the people to quickly vacate the city center’s large gathering grounds that they had all come to for the festivities. The demons were glad for that, having as a result a thick crowd for target practice.
When their quills were spent, the invaders formed a circle above the town, filling the air with their horrid stench and frightful noise. They hung there for a minute, enjoying the chaos they were causing.
Then suddenly, as one, they dropped down into the confused villagers. They began to snatch the children and young women from the grips of their protective parents, and then fly back up into their circle 60 feet above the ground. Three of the demons were cut down, but none of the rest went up with empty claws.
The men of the crowd, driven by the protective love they had for their children, began to organize when they saw the first dragons flying back up with prisoners. They realized that if they didn’t fight back now, they may not get a chance to save their young.
Jobo, the leader of the village guard, took the lead and called out orders. “We need our best spearmen armed now!” Before he even finished, the arm bearers were already struggling to work their way through the crowd to the weapon racks. He thought he should’ve been frustrated by their slowness, but he wasn’t sure how slow they were going. The sense of urgency and the fear Jobo felt seemed to make everything move in slow motion for him.
But he would not succumb to the fear. “All strong hands to the drapery” he called, pointing to the large thick curtains surrounding the gathering grounds. “We’ll need them to safely catch the children.” The men responding to this call seemed to move a little quicker, possessing enough strength to force their way through the diminishing crowd.
Jobo’s mind began to clear a little now, thanks to the progress of the stronger group. After a few moments, he was no longer seeing things in slow motion. He became more confident in his impromptu plan, seeing both groups of men at their supplies. It wouldn’t be long till those makeshift safety nets were guarding the children from the ground. And once his men got their hands on their spears, not even the agile Boneshard demons would be able to escape their wrath.
But then every ounce of Jobo’s determination melted away when he looked up in response to the screaming humans in the sky. All at once, the large and frightening demons forcefully threw all the children even higher into the sky. The poor kids painfully smacked together above the center of the dragon circle, their bones snapping from the impact as they screamed even louder in pain and terror.
The crowd stopped and watched helplessly as their children dropped in a screaming cluster, falling over 70 feet to hit the ground with sickening slaps and thuds. There, in the middle of town, was the future hope of the people.
A mangled mound of death.
Jobo sank down to his knees. The wickedness he just witnessed stole all of the desire to live from his heart. The agony of seeing those helpless children, desperately reaching out to him for their very lives… with such terror in their eyes… it was more than even he could bear. Overwhelmed by grief and despair, he passed out.
The other men began to shout “Retreat! Everyone flee for their lives!” The brave men, who had once stopped to fight, were fleeing now, not even taking up the spears for a throw. There was too much fear in the mob now, and no one was willing to lead them out of the fear. There were too many tears of sorrow, and none had the strength to fight past them.
They all ran for shelter. Every building was packed, and though the demons appeared to pursue, they were merely corralling the villagers. Every person they saw alive they chased inside somewhere.
This flock of Boneshard dragons, whose biggest joy by far was to terrorize people, was the perfect group of demons to send in for this mission. They put the village off guard, and into a complete fear that drove these hardy people into hiding.
Huddling under every roof, the villagers waited and listened. Soon, the only sounds they heard were the agonizing cries of their own scared people. They began to hope that this episode was over, that maybe this was just a warning to reject people like the Cutblades. Maybe the demons would bargain with them, and somehow this horrible situation would leave some hope at least for survival.
Then the horns came.
The sound was not a natural one, the horns mixing in high pitched shrieks and deep resonating booms. Vibrations began to travel along the ground, and buildings began to slightly shake.
Then the sound of marching could be heard, and it too vibrated the ground. An army was coming.
It all slowly intensified. But the frightened people now shook more than the ground did.
Those horrible horns blew again.
Some of the men braved looks outside, but were not able to find the voice to tell those near them about what they saw. Never had they seen this many demons. Many of the kinds of demons present had never even been seen by people before. They had the town surrounded.
Again, the wicked horns blew.
Then, in a low pitched demonic harmony, the horde began a slow chant.
The people could hear it. Fear intensified.
The chant gradually picked up to a slow to medium pace, but never faster than that. And then some of the demons began to dance. More people were looking outside now, and more than a few fainted at the sight of their town’s doom. The number of dancing demons grew, and in short order the whole town was filled with demons. If any of the villagers thought before that there was any chance of escape or fighting back, they knew now that nobody would live through whatever had come upon them all.
Sounds of shattering glass rang out in the center of town. The building that the sounds came from released the screams of the tightly huddled women inside it. Smoke began flowing out of the windows. Then flames started to shoot out of the windows too, and shortly behind them the women came running out, fire devouring their bodies.
But as if that wasn’t a horrible enough sight, some were unfortunate enough to see what happened to the women when they came upon the demons outside. They couldn’t believe that things could continue to get worse. But as they witnessed the tortures upon the women, they knew new limits of horror.
The ritualistic dance of destruction continued through the whole town. Some were so horrified by the tortures of the demons that they chose instead to die in the burning buildings. Some of those found no reprieve though, as more than one flaming home was invaded by demons not caring if they themselves were burned. They wanted to torture humans.
There were a handful of men who somehow found the courage to come out fighting, and a few of the invaders were indeed cut down by them. But the demons made examples of those brave men. They killed them and cut them up, throwing their mutilated body parts into the houses where the demons thought other men of arms might also be thinking courageously.
Eventually all the buildings were burned down, and all the animals and crops were even destroyed.
The terrible horns blew one last time
Four evil locals watched excitedly from the appointed safe place, applauding the carnage that they saw unfolding. They were a wicked bunch, and they especially hated Christians. The four men had informed the minions of Morax that this village was supporting the evangelist who dared to come into Morax’s territory.
Shortly after the town’s destruction began, Morax came to meet them as agreed. As he came near, they became giddy. At least, they were as giddy as they could be in the presence of such an evil being. They were anticipating being brought into this wicked flock of the mighty demon. They bowed down, worshipping the demon.
“You are my worshippers?” Morax asked, the demon’s deep double voice vibrating down to their very bones.
“Yes!” the youngest of the group stated. “We do all that you bid, my lord!”
The other three cheered.
“Let us test you then!” the demon said with a wicked smile, its long tightly braided beard adding to the demon’s sinister look. “I happen to have the ability to read minds, and am disturbed by what I’ve found. I’m disturbed, because only one of you is truly faithful to me.”
He paused, as the men looked around at each other, scowling at their comrades for ever considering betraying the new mighty leader. “I know who you are, my faithful friend. And what glory and power you shall receive from my hand! However you must show your zeal to these… imposters. You must show them the punishment of treachery” Morax said, looking back and forth to all of them. None of them caught the double meaning.
He threw a pile of knives onto the ground before them. The knives were not simple blades. They were made for torturing, having jagged spikes sticking out in random places. “I have foreseen… that the one who is faithful to me will be the only one who will survive. He will kill you other backstabbers here, before me… NOW!”
They were at the blades at once, and swinging at each other with wild abandon. Each man was faithful to the demon. So each man considered himself to be the one who would live, and figured that the others would die by his hand. The demon was clear about that, after all. So they all fought with reckless abandon. Morax laughed wickedly, watching intently with bloodlust filled eyes. None of the evil men could survive their terrible wounds.
Being very please with the little charade, Morax turned and watched the rest of the attack on the town. The demon was so very glad the Cutblades crossed the path of Morax. This was a great way to begin the push into new lands. And all because the foolish evangelist and his family dared to face the mighty Morax. Morax knew that soon the only sound that would be left, other than that of the howling demons, would be the crackling of the fires they were setting. The destruction of the town would be complete.
Deep below the ground, a man and a boy were riding in a small cart, quickly and roughly, down a dark mining shaft that eventually emptied far from town. The boy was in shock, with visions of his dead parents dominating his thoughts. He thought he was still with them.
The man wasn’t in the least oblivious to his surroundings though. His eyes were wide open, watching for any obstacles. He was frantic and hurried, though he did a good job at keeping his overwhelming worry hidden from the distant boy.
When they were a few minutes away from town, the man activated the tunnel collapsing mechanisms. The man made sure that they were far enough away from the town that the murderous invaders wouldn’t notice the ground rumbling. The tunnel was filled with a crash of boulders, and the path behind them became impassable.
Many of those tunnels were collapsed by the man that day. Some were not even on their path, tunnels leading only to abandoned mines and gathering chambers. But he hoped that if somehow they were followed, it might mislead their pursuers.
Late that evening they came to the end of the path. They were in a cave, far from the village, on the other side of the Choy-Tzu Mountains. But the man would not take any chances of being caught. They stayed in the cart that night. None pursued.
The man couldn’t sleep. Too many tears flowed down his face as he watched the boy. He tried not to watch. He tried not to listen.
Little Floriken spent the rest of the night shaking the air, crying desperately to his parents.
“Mommy?… Daddy?… Wake up…”
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