Title: The Tower and the Assassin
Author: J. F. Parcher
Excerpt Heat Level: 1
Book Heat Level: 1
Buy at: Rogue Phoenix Press, Amazon, Barnes and Noble
An ancient society of wizards, a dangerous kingdom of assassins, and one average kid whose world is about to be turned on its head.
What started out as a simple trip to dusty, boring museum has become more than Tom Vogenson had bargained for. After a fateful encounter with a mysterious artifact, he finds himself kidnapped by a society of wizards and transported against his will to a world on the verge of reviving a centuries old war. While learning about his unique and mysterious abilities, he is also targeted for death by a mysterious kingdom of assassins who fear his powerful presence may upset their secret plans. Adding to the complexity, Tom finds himself forging a relationship with a young girl, who may or may not be the unwilling tool of the assassins herself. In order to save himself and his new friends he will have to master his newfound powers and figure out friend from foe, before its too late.
Then, from the darkness of the doorway, a black-cloaked figure emerged. Despite the dark cowl that concealed the face and the body, Tom could tell that the figure was imposing, wearing a suit of black leather, along with black gloves and boots under the cloak. The cloaked figure slowly turned, and even though he couldn't see any eyes under the shadowy hood, Tom felt like he was being watched.
After a few tense moments, the cloaked figure removed its hood, revealing the soft, graceful features of a woman's face. Dark curls spilled out from the hood, and the woman's intense green eyes gave the entire courtyard one more glance before she spun on her heel and melted back into the darkness of the doorway.
Tom leaned in towards Ashling without taking his eyes off of the doorway. "What's going on?" he whispered.
"Shh!" she commanded, giving him a cross look out of the corner of her eye. "Just stay put, stay quiet and if anything happens, get under the table."
Tom was about to ask what she meant by "if anything happens," but he didn't get the chance. Out of the doorway came the dark-haired woman in the cloak, but this time, she was not alone.
They marched in perfect time as they entered the courtyard, almost as if they were all parts of the same living organism. Their movements were quick, purposeful and precise, as if they had been rehearsed time and time again. They turned corners sharply, almost mechanically, on near-perfect angles. They walked at exactly the same time, their steps simultaneous. They were clad in dark leather and cloaks, and like their dark-haired leader, it was impossible to see faces under their hoods.
As they marched, Tom counted them. There were twenty of them, in two rows, both led by the woman with the dark hair. She led them around the full perimeter of the courtyard while the crowd looked on silently, their expressions cold and serious. Eventually, the group split when it came to the empty table, each line walking down one side. When they had traversed the entire length, the dark-haired woman stopped abruptly, her followers freezing in place. All except one, who took an extra step, and bumped into the cloaked figure in front of him, forcing him to scramble in order to regain his position.
Instantly, the dark-haired woman was on him. She rushed over to where he stood, and, extending her gloved hand, struck him open-palmed across the head with a blow so brutal that Tom winced as it connected audibly with the unfortunate person's head. The struck figure hit the ground, hard but quickly scampered back to his feet. Satisfied, the dark-haired woman went back to the head of the table and sat. This seemed to be some sort of signal, because her followers all uncovered their hooded heads as they also sat.
Tom looked at the faces of the cloaked figures. A few of them wore somber expressions, almost as if they were on the verge of tears. They kept their eyes on the table as they sat, not looking anyone in the eyes. Others were giving the crowd of tavern patrons angry, challenging looks. One of the larger figures uncloaked to reveal a leonine head, with skin the color of bronze and dark hair wrapped tightly in long, thick dreadlocks. He wore a thick beard and gave the entire courtyard a dismissive look as he sat.
The dark-haired woman rose, and sighting one of the servers, gestured forcefully for her to come over. The server, a young woman with long, jet black hair, crossed to the woman, who forcefully spat out a series of commands. The server listened but did not make eye contact with the woman, and when she was done issuing orders, the server nodded and headed back to the kitchen.
Gradually, the room sprang back to life and the dull roar of conversation slowly returned. People went back to their seats and continued about their business, but Tom could sense that the presence of the new arrivals had dampened the atmosphere. Conversations were a little quieter and less boisterous than before. He could even see that people's behavior was a little more reserved than they had been previously. The old timer with the violin had stopped his playing, and the tattooed man had put away his pipe and was now muttering under his breath with a group of similarly dressed toughs in the corner.
Ashling finally turned to Tom, the carefree glint back in her eyes.
"Well, that was quiet an entrance, don't you think?" she smirked.
"Who...who are they?" Tom sputtered, still looking on in awe-struck confusion.
Ashling nodded slightly in the direction of the table.
"You really are new. Necromancers. They are the guardians of the Dark Lords of the Cabal, the rulers of eastern Ralidore."
Hamilton finally returned to the table and, drink in hand, sat next to Tom and Ashling, his eyes locked on the necromancer's table.
"Yep, steer clear of them, kitten. They ain't nothing but bad times."