If you have been following my blog for awhile, you may remember author Brett Armstrong from last summer. I’m excited to have his newest book, The Gathering Dark, on my schedule to read and review in the near future but didn’t want you to have to wait to learn more about it.
Read on for an excerpt and a trailer along with the song referenced in the excerpt. Brett also gave me some character sketches and actually sketched the characters!
Quest of Fire: The Gathering DarkSeries: Quest of Fire #1
by Brett Armstrong
Published by Mantle Rock Publishing
Publication Date April 23, 2019
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Written for: High-School, Young Adult
Jason is an expert at running from his past. When it catches up, he finds himself hiding in a peculiar inn listening to a tale from centuries past.
The story is Anargen's, a teen who is pulled from all he loves to follow his oaths of loyalty to the fabled King of the Realms. Together with his mentor, Cinaed, he rides north on a special quest to mediate peace talks between ancient foes--the men of Ecthelowall and the dwarfs of Ordumair. Nothing goes as planned. Many on both sides of the dispute despise Anargen's Order. Worse, an arcane evil has returned to the North. This "Grey Scourge" seeks to ruin the peace talks and ensure a lost treasure held by the dwarfs is never found by those for whom it is meant.
As Anargen's story unfolds, Jason begins to wonder whether it is truly just a fable. He soon finds himself drawn into the conflict Anargen faced--a battle which has shaped and can destroy his world.
There’s quite a bit of action and suspense in the book, but this scene has a lot of heart to it. Here the protagonist, Anargen, hears a familiar song from his homeland, but this time it’s different. I chose the scene because it represents Anargen’s continual choice to keep pressing on, in spite of how desperately he hurts for home. The song in this passage, which I completed later out of the book’s text, is what you hear when you watch the trailer for the book. And if you get a chance to read the prequel novella (coming soon), you’ll understand why this scene has layers of significance to it.
author Brett Armstrong
Anargen ducked a low hanging tree limb. As he passed under it, he felt its gnarled branches rake over his back like fingers through hair. Spurring his horse on a little faster, he worked his way past the offending tree. Rain continued to fall on the stand of trees in a steady downpour. It was as though the Knights were walking through curtains of rain suspended before them rather than it simply falling from the sky.
xAfter days journeying across a rolling plain of tall, verdant grasses, Anargen should have been glad for this forest. It was, after all, far more evocative of the home he’d left behind. Before entering it, however, the wind took on a boisterous bluster, buffeting them as if trying to push them back to the coast. Then came the rains, which persisted ever since. Today marked a full day of rain. A full day of rain in a wood lacking most of the beauty to which Anargen was accustomed. This stand of spindly ironwoods and other gangly trees was bereft of most of its leaves already. Coarse bushes and thorny vines filled out the spaces and complicated the passage. The scent of multi-flora rose was heavy here, almost sickly sweet.
Somewhere in the distance a limb broke loose and crashed with a muted cry to the ground below. Anargen wanted to spur his horse on faster, but the forest passage was too narrow.
At the head of a single file column, Sir Cinaed cut the path. Into the dark, he trilled the notes of a song.
“Will you be home, will our wait ever end?
What friend may we seek, for our hearts’ rends?”
Cinaed’s voice was clear and mellifluous, the best Anargen had ever heard. But the song was about a family waiting for a father who would never come home. It was the saddest song Walhonde’s mountains ever bore.
“When all our journeys’ ways mend,
Will you be home again?
Will you be home again?”
The songs words pierced between the plates of Anargen’s armor. Passing his mail coat unopposed to strike his heart. Memories of a fire, warm and low in his home’s hearth beset him. His father’s laughter as he told familiar stories with fresh mirth. Mother cooking a savory stew from the autumn garden gleanings.
Then there was something new to the scene. Seren’s smile. Her hand soft and sure in his own as they sat by the fire. It was no longer memory but a longing. Hiraeth. Cinaed’s song was more than words now, it was in his very bones.
Anargen shook his head and refocused his thoughts on where he was. In the unfamiliar wood, dark and cold, riding to the unknown. The storm masked the sky and only the luminance of their armor afforded any light.
Amidst the sea of dreariness, the rain drops sticking to their armor did not extinguish the faint flames. As the drops slid down, they glowed. Ahead, Sir Cinaed looked like a body of earthbound stars gliding through the ebon night.
Of a sudden, the song and stellar migration halted, hovering in wait. Sir Cinaed had reached a wider point in the path. The sound of rain striking the softened soil was like the roar of a small waterfall. Over it, Sir Cinaed boomed, “We’re only a mile or so from a village. We’ll stay there the night and head out tomorrow. Pair up so you don’t get lost, the path becomes rather winding soon.”