of the Three Moons is the first book in the God Wars of Ithir
Also available for Kindle
Ciarán woke in a place with no light. He reached out with his hands and touched rough, uneven stone. He was in a cave or underground passage. Placing his hands on the walls, he took a tentative step and almost fell. The floor was uneven and steeply inclined. A faint light came from below. Wariness seeped into him. Something was down there waiting for him, drawing him to it like a moth to flame. His world became bound by the task of keeping his feet beneath him and he was unaware of the cave’s gradual widening until he could no longer touch the walls. Only then did he notice the shadows cast from a sickly orange glow—shadows that seemed alive, flickering and dancing on the walls.
He wanted to move cautiously, but his feet hurried him in a shuffling run toward the light. As he went, the cave walls seemed to blur as they slid past. He turned his head toward them and they became solid, but everything at the edge of his vision remained indistinct as though he was seeing them through water. A disquieting thought came to him that only what was directly in front of him existed and even then only while he was looking at it. He rounded a sharp bend and found himself in the entrance of a broad chamber. Blinded for a moment, Ciarán narrowed his eyes to slits to shield them from the chamber’s brighter light. When his eyes adjusted, he saw his mistake. He was not in a chamber, but an enormous cavern.
It was not the cave's size that made his chin drop, but what was in it. A huge sphere glowed evilly in the center of a circular pit cut into the cavern floor. At the four cardinal points, wide stone piers jutted from the pit’s edge to the globe’s incandescent surface. Broad steps led down from the cavern floor and disappeared into a haze at the bottom. There was an alien wrongness about the sphere that made him want to howl with fear. Thin bands of black flashed jaggedly across it like dark streaks of lightning. Man-sized globules of yellowish light bubbled to the surface where they broke with a sizzling hiss, sending phosphorescent ripples racing across its ruddy surface. Over the sound of the iridescent spume, he heard a deeper roar coming from overhead. A thick column of the miasmic light swirled upward from the sphere, vanishing through a hole in the cavern roof.
Ciarán started into the chamber when movement on the nearest pier froze him. A huge man struggled across it on his belly. No, only half a man. The lower part of his body was missing. It was Naphtal Sul. “You are dead. I killed you,” he whispered, pressing himself against the rough stone. But his rebellious feet had other ideas and quickly carried him to the Ring Lord. Rage and triumph battled across Naphtal’s face before it hardened into a mask of hate. He gabbled something in a language Ciarán did not understand. “You are dead,” he said again.
TRUE. BUT MY HOUND FOUND YOU FOR ME AND THAT DESERVES A REWARD. A great voice said from above Naphtal’s shattered body.
Ciarán looked up and his soul froze. A huge disembodied head with red glowing eyes hung above him. He stumbled back, his breath hissing between teeth clinched in terror.
YOU CANNOT HIDE. THAT WHICH GIVES YOU STRENGTH IS A BEACON THAT LEADS ME TO YOU. YOU BELONG TO ME. SERVE ME AND RULE!
Ciarán tried to wet his lips, but his mouth had become a desert. “No!” he croaked. “I serve Danu. Never you! Battle Raven will sing my Soul Name first.”
FOOL! EVEN THE DEAD CAN SERVE ME. ALIVE OR DEAD, YOU ARE MINE. DEAD IS EASIER, BUT ALIVE IS BETTER. THE LIVING, YOU SEE, HAVE MORE CONTROL OVER MOST THINGS.
Naphtal gabbled something in the alien tongue and pointed at Ciarán.
YES, MY LOYAL HOUND, IT IS TIME FOR YOUR REWARD.
Two great hands scooped the Ring Lord up and carried him up over the sphere.
THE GIFT OF IMMORTALITY IS YOURS, NAPHTAL SUL.
The hands vanished and Naphtal fell headlong into the malevolent orb. His shriek cut off abruptly as he plunged through the sphere's roiling surface and disappeared into its depths. A moment later one of the yellowish globules of light rose up from its bowels. The Ring Lord was held rigidly within it, his arms spread wide. The light glob pressed him against the surface, but did not burst as those surfacing around it did. A thin harsh screaming, like a man dying under sharp knives came from him. Ciarán gagged. The globule turned red as Ring Lord’s flesh was torn in bloody strips from his bones and then reattached. Transfixed by the horror taking place in the sphere, he heard a voice chanting, “I serve the Light. I serve the Light. I serve the…” He clamped his mouth shut. The voice was his.
Naphtal screams stopped and he slid limply down the sphere wall, leaving a red smear behind him. Ciarán’s eyes followed him. A moment later a bulge appeared in the sphere's surface and a black shape was ejected onto the steps. It quivered violently and raised its head. Silver eyes gleaming dully from a jet-black face, the huge, obese creature rose slowly to its feet. It was Naphtal Sul. He was whole again.
The voice jerked Ciarán’s eyes from the reincarnated Ring Lord to the Dark God’s disembodied head. “No! I bear Danu’s mark. She will protect me.”
SHE HAS NO POWER IN THIS PLACE. BUT I CAN BE PATIENT. AS YOU BEAR HER MARK, SO SHALL YOU BEAR MINE.
A flaming trident flew from the eyes, striking Ciarán in the forehead, searing its way into his skull. He screamed, lurching backwards over the brink of a precipice into a maelstrom of darkness that swirled up and engulfed him. He screamed again.