Friday, July 15, 2011

Special Excerpt from THE LAST ASCENSION

Azgharáth either loved or hated these moments. It had been over five fortnights since he had seen the sky, sitting and fasting in silence as he sought counsel from Ak’horos. Now he stood with his sons at the gates of Ak’horokaš, awaiting the arrival of General Yohukta. He had been charged with wiping out some of the less significant of the Watchers of Kôvudén, replacing them with men loyal to the High Lord. But Kalendu now held a Wolfstone, and it was unknown how this endeavor had played out until now.

Ecálos stood at Azgharáth’s right, while Ekannar maintained his place at his father’s left. A hundred years ago, Ekannar had tried to win his father’s favor by sending three hundred of his own men to their fiery deaths against the Wolven of Mekelir, attempting vengeance for his humiliating defeat at the hands of Oharion his captive. As a reward, his father had given him three scars that ran down the middle of his face and over his nose. His once-perfect visage, which Ekannar had prided above the rest of his possessions including his wives and mistresses, was now utterly ruined; and he was hard to look upon. Their defeat by the Wolven, on their own soil no less, over five hundred eighty years prior had driven Azgharáth nearly to madness. And though Ekannar still dared to defy his father, Ecálos knew better. He’d had over ten thousand years to learn from.

Azgharáth looked, and heard the trampling of a thousand Kânín and halfbreeds making their way towards their home. And before long with his powerful vision the High Lord saw them. Eight hundred werewolves accompanied by two hundred kânakáre in steel armor rushed en mass towards the Black City. At their head, untransformed, was General Yohukta, murderer of Ehóxar and by that right chieftain of the Northpacks. A pillar of a man with one eye and a shaved head, save for one black line that extended down his neck and braided at the end, he wore no armor and was covered head to toe in grime and blood, with an intricate patchwork of tattoos adorning his chest and arms and face. Azgharáth could only assume the majority of the blood was not Yohukta’s own.

The gates opened with a glance of the High Lord’s bloodred-golden eyes, and Azgharáth stepped out onto the barren terrain of the Freezing Plains to meet his general. Yohukta and his men halted simultaneously as if it were prearranged, and knelt before their lord and master.

“Rise,” Azgharáth growled. Yohukta avoided the High Lord’s eyes as he rose, and Azgharáth took notice of this.

“Why do you dishonor me, Yohukta?” Azgharáth inquired. Yohukta did not respond, and at this sign of disrespect Azgharáth growled deeply and rabidly. Quicker than any man’s eye could catch, Azgharáth grabbed Yohukta by the throat, squeezing the very life from the chieftain.

“Apologies, High Lord!” he gasped. “They were aware! Lehadi sent five thousand after us, we had no choice! I don’t know how he knew—”

“You lie,” Azgharáth growled. “Lehadi possesses the Wolfstone of Orú. You were careless! Be grateful that I don’t kill you where you stand.”

“I am, exalted one of Ak’horos,” Yohukta cowered. “But I am not without information, which I know the High Lord values.” Azgharáth rescinded his vise-like grip on the general’s throat.

“Speak,” he growled. Yohukta panted like a wounded dog as he spoke.

“We captured one of the Watchers and tortured him,” he said, “and he spoke of conflict within the Kingdom of Eredôn to the south. Two of the clans have turned their backs on their king, all but declaring open war on Avakaš.”

“And all the while, Tharion lies in the eyes of death,” Azgharáth smiled. “This is good news indeed, Yohukta, thank you for giving it to me. But nevertheless…”

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