Soul Forge by Richard H Stephens is an epic story of a forgotten hero. Scorned by an ungrateful kingdom, unfairly blamed, for the demise of their beloved Queen, Silurian Mintaka decides he can't fight for his land anymore. To re-enter the hostile fray of his peers would probably end up with him killing them all.
A thunderous detonation rocked the land. The pile of debris they stood amongst lurched and collapsed upon itself, taking everyone down with it. To Jarr-nash’s relief they had tumbled into the relative calm of the shrine’s interior—the spot from which they had fallen, engulfed in fire.
They lay in disarray within a small chapel. The flames crackling from above cast an ethereal light upon a larger than life statue matching the one that had stood guard over the entrance. Jarr-nash’s eyes focused on the empty scabbard hanging from the statue’s waist.
He pushed aside the debris that had fallen on him and went to his queen. She lay half buried in crumbled rock but her even chest falls reassured him she was alive.
He freed her from the rubble and with Alhena’s help, stood up with Quarrnaine clutched in his arms—silt and small debris sifted from her limp body to the floor.
He traversed the nave and mounted the altar steps. Kneeling before the sacred presence, he gently laid Quarrnaine upon the dusty marble, altar.
Behind him, the bishop prostrated upon the top step, mumbling incoherently to the altar piece. The warlord remained amongst the dusty pews halfway between the cleric and the two knights who had remained at the entrance.
Alhena stood at the base of the chancel steps, glancing anxiously from warlord, to bishop, to the statue.
Jarr-nash shook the queen’s shoulders. “We are here, my lady. We found the shrine. We need you to wake.”
She didn’t stir.
A crimson flash illuminated the shrine, causing all but the queen to turn and gasp. One of the knights, framed by the flaming doorway, shouted, “It’s coming right at us!”
Jarr-nash’s eyes grew wide, his attempts to awaken the queen more animated.
The knights shrunk away from the doorway, yelling for him to hurry.
Jarr-nash reached over his shoulder. With a euphoric ‘swish’ the blade slid from its sheath. He jumped to his feet, facing the serene altarpiece staring back at him.
The light in the chapel increased, a harbinger of the fireball’s approach.
Jarr-nash raised the Sacred Sword Voil, positioning its gleaming tip at the small slit atop the marble scabbard.
Bishop Uzziah’s cry diverted his attention. “No, you fool! You’ll destroy the blade!” He appeared to be having an apoplectic fit.
Jarr-nash stared dumbly at the bishop, unsure what to do.
A frantic movement near the chapel’s entrance caught his eye. The knights were bent over, covering their heads with their arms. The unnerving whine of their approaching doom rose to a deafening roar.
Jarr-nash hesitated for only a moment longer before doing the only thing he knew to save his queen. With a loud clang, he drove the blade home. The sword’s hilt shuddered to a halt atop the dusty scabbard at the same moment the fiery globe impacted the shrine’s entrance.
Jarr-nash’s last images were of the knights disappearing in a wave of flame as it swept through the chamber on the heels of a powerful concussion.
The sound of grating rock sounded above the din as the granite roof collapsed into the bowels of the blasted shrine.
Soul Forge will be released tomorrow, August 21. Don’t miss it…
A Bite Of... Richard H Stephens
Q1: Would you rather be a hero or a villain?
I have always had a soft spot for people who get picked on or treated unfairly, so I would definitely rather be a hero. Nothing would satisfy me more than to intervene on an unfair situation and make it right, knowing that as the hero, no one would be able to gainsay my decision…at least without ramifications of course. 😉
Q2: Would you rather live in this world or the one you create in your books?
If it weren’t for the present situation in Soul Forge, I would much rather live in Zephyr with my characters and enjoy a much simpler, wholesome life, than having to deal with the fast paced, high-tech, ‘my cell phone is more important than you,’ society we live in today. Then again, now that I think on it, I would choose to live in Zephyr anyway, despite the…whoops, almost crossed into spoiler alert territory. 😊
Q3: Chocolate cake or coffee cake?
Chocolate cake, hands down. Give me a great big, honking piece of chocolate cake, preferably a corner so there is icing on three sides, throw in a tall glass of cold milk, and I will be your friend for life. The only thing that should be associated with the flavour of coffee, is coffee.
Richard H Stephens in his own words
Born in Simcoe, Ontario, in 1965, I began writing circa 1974, a bored child looking for something to while away the long, summertime days. My penchant for reading ‘The Hardy Boys’ led to an inspiration one sweltering summer afternoon when my best friend and I thought, “Hey, we could write one of those.” And so, I did.
As my reading horizons broadened, so did my writing. Star Wars inspired me to write a 600-page novel about outer space that caught the attention of a special teacher, Mr. Woodley, who encouraged me to keep writing.
A trip to a local bookstore saw the proprietor introduce me to Stephen R. Donaldson and Terry Brooks. My writing life was forever changed.
At 17, I left high school to join the working world to support my first son. For the next twenty-two years I worked as a shipper at a local bakery. At the age of 36, I went back to high school to complete my education. After graduating with honours at the age of thirty-nine, I became a member of our local Police Service, and worked for 12 years in the provincial court system.
In early 2017, I resigned from the Police Service to pursue my love of writing full-time. With the help and support of my lovely wife Caroline and our 5 children, I have now realized my boyhood dream.
You can find Richard H Stephens on Twitter and his website.