Into the Madness is out tomorrow and is the final instalment of the epic fantasy series, Soul Forge trilogy by Richard H Stephens.
The third book digs deeper into the lives and emotions of the main characters as they struggle to find a way to defeat a seemingly unconquerable foe. Just when they are about to make a difference, they suffer a crippling tragedy. Making matters worse, they discover the evil sorcerer has found the key to unlocking an ancient spell, that once enacted, will summon forth an obsidian nightmare and pitch the realm into the madness.
At fourteen, Melody had fled into the heights of Mount Cinder with Silurian to escape the fate of their parents. Her memory of her childhood before that day was of a simple, happy life. Her parents had kept to themselves, living off the land—growing enough to support their family with little else to spare.
Their only excitement used to come on the odd occasion a weary traveller found themselves in need of a place to stay for the night. Altirius Mountain trolls were not the type of creatures one dared leave themselves vulnerable to.
The sight of her brother’s reaction broke her heart as tears rolled down his cheeks.
She put a comforting hand on his thigh. “A sad homecoming, indeed.”
She spotted the charred remains of the big oak tree they climbed as children, their parents buried beneath its charred boughs. She said past the lump in her throat, “Come on. Let’s say hi.”
She dismounted and threw the reins around a shrivelled bush poking through the snow. Unlashing her staff, she spoke a few words, encouraging the hidden runes along the dark length of wood to life. “Get down here and I’ll warm us up.”
Silurian followed her lead. Arm in arm, with Melody’s staff glowing between them, they walked by the mound that had been their home.
They passed the ruined barn and stopped beneath the eerie remains of the oak tree.
Silurian knelt on one knee, brushing at the snow around its base.
Melody helped him clear away fallen pieces of the burnt tree to uncover the slight irregularity in the ground marking the graves. Of the two wooden crosses Silurian had fashioned from branches all those years a go, there was no sign.
Knowing what she did of their heritage, Melody found herself full of unanswered questions about her mother. Why hadn’t she told them of their lineage? If the Grimward could be trusted, and she saw no reason why the old spirit would lie, Mase Storms End had descended from a long line of magic users. Sure, her mother had good reason to be discreet with that knowledge. Had she been found out, the family would have faced persecution from the ignorant, idol worshipping, peasantry.
Melody sniffled, wiping wet cheeks on her robe. In the end, what difference did it make? Death at the hands of the people, or being murdered by Helleden’s minions? Either way, her parents were dead. They had lived in exile from their own people.
“It’s not fair.”
Silurian stopped clearing the unmarked graves and looked her in the eyes. “No, it’s not, but I’m damn well going to make someone answer for their deaths. They never did anybody wrong. Mother’s only crime was being born a Storms End. Father’s only fault was loving her.”
Melody put her arm around his shoulders and pulled him in close. His words sparked a feeling deep inside her she hadn’t known herself capable of.
A Bite of... Richard H Stephens
Q1: Why do you write?
I started writing when I was 9. At the time, neither publication nor the promise of money was in my mind. Around 18 or 19, I began dreaming of publication, but back in the 1980’s, you either landed a publisher or you didn’t get published. That process was so daunting to me that I never pursued it.
A few years ago, I came to realization that the extreme stresses I faced daily during my job was going to put me in an early grave so, with the loving support of my wife, I resigned and set my mind to both publication and earning a living.
I am about to publish my 5th title so I have achieved my goal of turning my fantasy into a reality. With regard to my passion bearing fruit, let’s just say, I have a few things to learn about marketing and promotion, but it’s coming.
Q2: What time of day do you write best?
I used to write my best in the evening and late into the night but as I have grown older, and especially since I now write fulltime, I’m usually most productive between lunchtime and supper.
Q3: Have you ever written somebody you love into a book?
All the time. My loved ones sneak their way into my writing without my knowledge. The story of Silurian and Melody share many inferences of two of my children. I hadn’t really thought about it until someone pointed it out.
I named the main character in my next series by combining my daughter’s name with my wife’s. Rebecca and Caroline became Reecah.
I’ve already picked out other name combinations of family members but those might prove to be spoilers, so I’ll stop right here.
Richard H Stephens in his own words
I began writing circa 1974, a bored child looking for something to do. As my reading horizons broadened, so did my 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.
I worked in a warehouse for 22 years, supporting my family, before I reattended school to complete my education. Graduating with honours, I joined our local Police Service.
In 2017, I resigned from the Police Service to pursue writing full-time. With the support of my family, I have finally realized my boyhood dream.
You can find Richard H Stephens on Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and his website.