Struggling to survive and desperate to find a way home, they must confront the dangers of this savage land—a dark wizard and his army of undead—a warrior queen and her horde of fierce Neanderthals that stands against him—and a legendary treasure with the power to open the gateway between worlds, or to destroy them all: the Eye of the Storm.
Kerr watched the horror unfold beside Azreth.
Down from their perch among the jagged stones and hills, the approach to Storm Crag Pass had been transformed into a black inferno. Shrieks echoed through the skies, as the lightning wraiths struck down warriors and raptors of dark flame soared through the ruined heavens. The beasts climbed in killer sorties, their fiery wings scorching everything in their path. Scalding talons skewered men, carrying them through the air as they died, burned alive and then cast aside like carrion.
True fires stoked by the wreckage of chariots and war machines painted the sky in livid hues of gold and orange. Columns of smoke churned up from the fighting; black plumes on the helms of war gods. Across the burning plain, men encased in shells of hot iron, half-mad from the heat, slashed and tore at each other in a blind frenzy.
It was a death feast. Bodies ravaged by all manner of calamity lay strewn upon the rocky terrain; charred remains that were unrecognizable for the twisted grotesquerie of flesh melted into metal.
Everywhere across the battle-plain the Hordes of Tulkoras fell back. Split into pockets, some were surrounded by the black knights of Tvath, who moved without fear of the dark flames that ravaged the steppe-warriors. Penned in like animals, the trapped hordes-men were slaughtered without quarter.
“The day is lost,” Azreth muttered. “Tarquin has bested my summoning.”
Kerr scoffed at the mystic. He was about to do more, when he saw a figure scrambling up the hill toward them. In a moment he realized it was Slade.
The former SEAL was covered in blood and soot. His chest was heaving as he rushed up from the lower reaches, struggling to make it to the heights of the pass.
Kerr grabbed a jug of water and limped to meet him, leaving his cane behind. When the two met neither said a word. Kerr handed the water to Slade. The warrior took it, nodded and drank every drop.
By the time he’d finished, Azreth had made his way down the hill to join them.
“What happened?” he demanded. “Where is the Queen you swore to protect?”
Slade scowled at the holy man. Instead of an answer, he smashed the clay jug on the rocks at Azreth’s feet.
“We got separated,” he said. “Black smoke. Black knights. Black fire. You can’t see a goddamn thing down there. One minute she was beside me, the next…”
Azreth shook his staff in anger, pointing it at Slade like a school teacher.
“The Queen must not be lost, despite this disaster she has wrought,” he said.
“This is your doing,” Slade said. “If anyone is to blame for this it’s you.”
“I did my part,” Azreth answered. “If only you had…”
Slade didn’t wait for the shaman’s reply. He turned back to Kerr.
“What do we have left to work with here in camp?” he asked.
“Very little, I’m afraid. The reserves have all been called into the fight,” the leper said. “There is nothing but a rearguard.”
“How many men?” Slade asked.
“A hundred, at most,” he said. “And that’s counting the couriers and their lizard-wing mounts.”
“Lizard-wings?” Slade asked, recalling the high flying dinosaurs he’d once witnessed by chopper. “You’re talking about pterosaurs?”
“That may be a word my father did not know,” Kerr answered. “We keep them behind the lines, in a separate camp. How does that help us?”
“You can ride them, can’t you?” Slade asked.
“If you need to, but they’re only for relaying messages.”
“Not anymore they aren’t,” Slade said.
“You’ve never ridden one before,” Kerr replied. “It is not easy.”
“Then I’ll have to be a fast learner,” he answered.
Kerr shook his head. He looked out toward the battle, and then turned his back.
“There isn’t enough time,” he replied. “Tarquin has already won. We cannot prevail. Honorable surrender is now our only option. I’m sure his terms will be fair.”
Azreth scoffed. Slade moved in closer to Kerr, grabbing him by the arm.
“You have a problem with me…fine,” he said. “But this is isn’t about winning. It’s about saving her. Which one do you care about more, hating me or helping Threya?”
Kerr looked at him for long, quiet moment, then back out toward the chaos. Finally, he nodded. Slade shook him by the arm.
“Let’s get to those winged lizards,” he said.
Khurghe was back on the high ground overlooking the fading battle, Threya beside him again.
“So it comes to an end,” he said.
A messenger came upon them in a rush, dashing up the hill.
“My Queen, if you are to withdraw it must be done now. The wizard-king presses the attack,” he warned. “We’re almost overwhelmed.”
Khurghe looked to his queen, who tightened the buckles on her armor.
“There will be no retreat,” she said. “Already our best thanes have fallen. I will fall with them.”
“My Queen,” he protested. “If we stay, the whole army will be destroyed. At least call down the rearguard so we might have a chance to escape.”
“No. It ends here,” Khurghe said. “I will ride out with you. You will not…”
Khurghe did not notice that the messenger no longer paid him any mind.
It was only when Threya called out that he looked up. What he saw stunned him, and left him unable to utter even a word. The scream of a pterosaur peeled across the burning plain. A giant aerial lizard skimmed the rocks from the east, its forty-foot wingspan carried upon the wind. Upon its back, an azure-cloaked rider held a long-bow, launching a hail of arrows upon the Etruscans as his mount swooped through the smoke and flames.
A second winged war-lizard charged against the tide alongside him. Another warrior rode forth upon it, carrying a red-stained scimitar. The shield-less thane was garbed in the armor of a Tulkoras horde. It was Slade. Kerr rode beside him, Azreth seated behind.
The lizard-riders dove down toward the trapped Queen. Flying in a single-line formation, they split the Etruscan ranks, opening a clearing in front of Threya and Khurghe. Hacking and chopping from the back of his pterosaur, Slade led the charge, carving a bloody swath through the wall of black iron, warrior after warrior brought down by his scimitar.
The screeching, enormous aerial reptiles cleared the ground a hundred feet in front of Threya, as the surprised Tvath knights fell back. They broke to either side, yielding a space at least half as wide between their divided lines.
Then, Slade pulled up on his mount, rearing in mid air. He banked hard to the right. Behind him, Kerr and Azreth cut in the other direction. The shrieking lizards circled, leaving the shattered Etruscans behind them as they curled back toward the Queen. One hoplite remained behind, and he charged toward Threya, whose back was against a boulder. Khurghe, seeing an opening, dropped his shield and ran for the safety of Storm Crag, disappearing into the smoke.
Slade brought his lizard down in a dive-bomber fashion, hurtling toward the single remaining Etruscan. When he was within reach, he pulled up, again rearing the animal as it spread its wings like giant sails, braking its momentum.
The knight turned, just in time to see Slade’s sword cut in an arc, splitting the shield of the Tvath thane, cleaving his chest and his throat in one strike. Pale flesh and bone splinters spat outward.
Kerr and Azreth brought their reptiles down beside Slade’s. The beasts folded up their wings as they landed on all fours, where they stood as tall as three men. Looking down from his great mount, the former SEAL sheathed his sword, reaching his hand out toward Threya.
“Need a lift?” he said.
About the Author:
Horror and dark fantasy author Frank Cavallo’s work has appeared in magazines such as Another Realm, Ray Gun Revival, Every Day Fiction, Lost Souls and the Warhammer e-zine Hammer and Bolter.
His latest novel, Eye of the Storm, was released in August 2016 by Ravenswood Publishing.
“In Eye of the Storm, I try to bring back some of the elements that I like from old time pulp fiction,” says Frank. “It is a throwback to old school adventure stories, combining the pacing and the feel of those classic tales with some newer elements that are not all that common to typical fantasy fiction.”
Frank’s previously published works include The Lucifer Messiah, The Hand of Osiris, and the Gotrek & Felix novella Into the Valley of Death. He is currently working on a new novel, The Rites of Azathoth, with Necro Publications, due out in February 2017.
Frank was born and raised in New Jersey. He graduated from Boston University with a degree in Communications in 1994 and he earned a JD from the Cleveland Marshall College of Law in 2001. He currently resides in Cleveland, Ohio, where he has been a criminal defense attorney for fifteen years.
Readers can connect with Frank on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads. To learn more, go to http://www.frankcavallo.com/