Sneak Preview: A Unique Sickness of Spirit

A Unique Sickness of Spirit, Book 3 of The Citadel of the Last Gathering, will be available for the Kindle on October 6th. You can pre-order now and get it delivered to your device the moment it's out.

Here's a short passage to hold you over until then:


Eventually, the path came to the remains of a stone bridge, which reached only a third of the way across a chasm several hundred feet wide. Alaji approached to examine the stonework.

"Careful,” Yemerik said. “I’m not sure that’s sturdy.”

“I won’t go far,” Alaji promised, taking a few steps onto the structure. Vines hung from the edges, and moss grew everywhere. “It’s beautiful,” she said.

“It’s a bridge,” Phaesha said dismissively. “Or it was one.”

“They had ones like this in Hathari, but they were smaller. The stones were less… smooth.” Alaji said, kneeling down to run her fingers over the rocky floor. She rose and returned to the others, who were peering into the ravine. “I’m sorry. It’s still new to me.”

“It’s a good sign. Even in this state, it means the area is important enough to warrant attention. There are likely other roads nearby. We just have to get across. Fortunately, the slope looks gentle enough. We’ll have to be careful, but I think we’ll make it down alright.”

“I can barely see the bottom,” Phaesha replied. “I’d expect you’d want to wait for morning.”

“I didn’t like the look of those tracks,” Yemerik explained. “I’d rather not wait around for whatever made them to find us.”

“You’re assuming it’s not waiting for us down there,” Phaesha said.

“Well, I don’t have a better idea.” He turned to the others in case they did, but he was only met with blank faces. “I’ll go first then.” He lowered himself over the edge and slid down in as controlled a manner as possible, knocking several rocks loose as he did so. “I’m alright!” he called up, once he’d reached the bottom. “The smell is awful, but other than that it looks fine.” He stood up and began brushing the dust from his back. Behind him, he heard the sound of stones shifting. He stepped forward to give Alaji or Phaesha room.

“Yemerik! Look out!” Alaji screamed.

He turned to see something emerging from beneath the ruined bridge, crawling from a hidden cavern cutting into the hill. He could tell it was large – at least twice as tall as he was – but beyond that, it was a dark shape shifting in shadows.

Yemerik started away across the bottom of the ravine. Then, ahead of him, he saw a large rock lift up as something pushed it out of the way from underneath. He turned back. The thing coming from the bridge was joined by another, slightly smaller but still more than eight feet tall. Now that they were in the open, he caught a bit more detail in the moonlight: long slender limbs attached to fat, round bodies.

With a quick incantation, Phaesha hurled a blast of fire at the two by the bridge. They shrieked and covered their faces, though they’d barely been touched by the flames. In that instant, the light revealed green flesh spotted in warts. Alaji stepped into the chasm and began sliding down. One of the creatures heard her and turned.

Alaji jumped as she slid and stepped back in time mid-leap. Once again, the creature’s back was turned to her. She buried her knife into the pale green skin on its back. It cried out in rage and pain and whipped around, throwing her off to one side. Alaji struck the loose stone hill and skidded down to the bottom. The creature turned toward her, baring its teeth.

With a twist, Alaji arced her hand upward, trailing fire behind. Once again, the creatures shielded their eyes and leapt back with a cry.

Phaesha gave a shout and charged down the hill, kicking her legs forwards as broken slabs of rock slid under her. One of the creatures turned to meet her. It swung a clawed hand at her head, but she ducked beneath the attack and sliced into its side with her sword. The monster screeched in pain but gave no ground. Instead, it grabbed for her. Narrowly, she avoided its reach and stabbed into its elbow, catching it in the joint.

The creature growled, then lifted its arm, throwing her backward. It lunged after her, but was turned back by flame.

“They’re afraid of fire!” Alaji cried out, a moment after hurling the flame that pushed back the creature.

“Not fire!” Yemerik yelled, running towards the two women. “Light! They’re trolls! Afraid of light!” He almost reached them when a hand caught his ankle and pulled him off his feet.

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